Gunnison City Council considering if unified police department can be done without Mayfield support
GUNNISON—The Gunnison City Council is mulling over its involvement in creating a unified Gunnison Valley Police Department now that has Mayfield tabled its participation.
Blane Jensen, Gunnison City councilman and former police chief, has been Gunnison’s representative during drafting of an interlocal agreement that would dissolve both Centerfield and Gunnison’s police departments to establish a unified force.
“With Mayfield’s withdrawal, the way the agreement was originally written, it is my belief that we cannot move forward if we hire an outside chief,” Jensen told the council.
Under the original agreement, Jensen said Mayfield would have contributed $15,000 to the unified department budget during the first year, $30,000 during the second year and nearly $65,000 the third year.
Jensen explained that without Mayfield’s participation and funding contribution, if Centerfield and Gunnison still moved forward with the combining their police departments, the cost levied on them would be significantly higher.
“If we hire one of the two chiefs we have now (Centerfield’s Brett McCall or Gunnison’s Trent Halliday) instead of an outside chief, the first year you would save $5,000 and the second year it would cost an extra $10,000, ” Jensen said, “so it’s still feasible, and me and Trent (Halliday) have talked about some additional savings we might take advantage of as well.”
Gunnison City Councilman Blake Donaldson asked Jensen, “Would this bring it down to a four-man force?”
Jensen if things moved forward without Mayfield’s participation, the plan would still be to operate a five-man department.
“We could do a four-man team if you wanted,” Jensen said. “I’m certainly not the only voice in this, but I am not sure that would bring any increased service to the community over what we already have.”
Donaldson responded, “I know a five-man team is what you really wanted in this.”
Jensen said he believed the only way to make the plan work financially is to hire one of the current four fulltime officers as the chief.
“It does not work if you go outside,” Jensen told the council, “unless you pay the outside chief, or new chief, less than at least two of your current employees. In order for the budget to work, it would be significantly less than what either of the two current chiefs are making now.”
Current Gunnison City Police Chief Trent Halliday said, “I’ve been working over the budget some with Blane, and there are some ways we can get creative and save some money. It might keep us budget neutral.”
One option is leasing police vehicles rather than purchasing them, which could save a substantial amount on payments and maintenance.
Donaldson asked if, after the two current police departments are dissolved and the new one formed, their pay rates could be changed. Jensen said yes, they could technically be changed, and people who had been drafting the agreement had discussed that possibility.
“The two cities could decide to dismiss the current chiefs,” Jensen said. “They are at-will employees, but no one in the discussion wanted that to happen.”
Jensen said it would be possible to could move forward with the agreement, hire either McCall or Halliday as chief, and make the change budget neutral, or even save a small amount.
“After talking with several of the others, we could start over—which I don’t recommend—or we can just remove Mayfield’s name from the documents we send the lieutenant governor and just move forward,” Jensen said. “We have already voted on the agreement, and I think we should just create an amendment to the current agreement and continue with it.”
Jensen said the amendment to the agreement would have the governing board of the proposed unified force made of up the mayors of Centerfield and Gunnison, two citizens-at-large chosen by each mayor or his respective council, and a fifth member, to be agreed upon by the two mayors, who lives outside Gunnison or Centerfield. The new chief would sit on the board as an advisory member with no power to vote.
“Technically the fifth voting member could be from Mayfield, or anywhere else in Sanpete, as long as they do not live in Gunnison or Centerfield,” Jensen said.
Blackham said, “I don’t want to throw it [the agreement] away yet. If we don’t strike, this will never happen again. Let me talk with Tom [Centerfield Mayor Tom Sorensen] and see what he has to say.
The council tabled the matter pending further discussion and research. The panel plans to readdress it at their next meeting.