Gunnison says yes to interlocal agreement, but Mayfield backs out

Gunnison says yes to interlocal agreement, but Mayfield backs out


Robert Stevens

Managing editor




GUNNISON— The Gunnison City Council  last week voted unanimously to participate in the interlocal policing agreement. But the day after the vote, a hurdle was thrown in the way of the unification efforts when the Mayfield Town Board voted not to participate.

That means Gunnison and Centerfield’s leaders will have to decide if they still want to move forward with the plan to combine their police departments.

The Gunnison vote on Wednesday Sept. 7 followed a public hearing to find out how local citizens felt about unification. Two citizens expressed concerns during the hearing.

Clark Bown said he could see how there would be some benefits to the agreement but was worried that in the long run it would cost the taxpayers more than it would save them.

Gunnison Councilman  and former police chief Blane Jensen, who represented Gunnison on the panel that drew up the unification proposal, explained to the meeting attendees that the city is projected to save more than $5,000 in the first year alone, although Jensen says the final conclusion on how much or little can be saved will come after forces have been unified long enough to have hard dollar figures.

“Coming together will save money on overhead and more. In fact we are saving money and adding coverage at the same time, because we would be adding the extra full-time position, making five in total.

Jensen continued, “That extra position will allow us to fill empty shifts with our local guys— not part-timers from out of town— and will reduce the amount of overtime we pay as well. It is a balancing act, hiring the right number of people, but in the long run it can really save us a lot, while increasing safety.”

Current Gunnison City Police Chief Trent Halliday said, “Blane has been working towards a setup like this for 17 years now.”

Bown added, “My other concern is that our police officers now live here and know us, and I like the way the police force is handled in Gunnison now. I like the attitude of things right now where we are friends or neighbors, and we get along together. Right now , we are kind of like Mayberry. I am afraid if we get new cops coming in, it’s going to make that hard.”

Jensen explained that the policies for the proposed Gunnison Valley Police Department will be decided by a governing board made up of the mayors of the participating towns, three citizens-at-large and the new chief that the board members will hire to run the force.

He also explained that the current full-time Gunnison City Police Department officers will be guaranteed their jobs and their current salaries, although their exact positions cannot be guaranteed.

“We are not really bringing in a whole lot of new,” Halliday said. “We already have a pretty good idea of how things are going to go and how our guys work together. I think the governing board and the new chief they will hire will play a huge role in the attitude of the department. There are just some times when we need more bodies. Over the summer, injuries turned us into basically a one-man department. Communities grow too.”

A second citizen, Jay Clayton, said, “I really like the setup we have now, and the police department we have now is great. I think what we all want is a police force that wants to do police work and get along. I definitely do not want to see Centerfield’s Good Landlord Program come over to Gunnison. I’m not trying to hate or make offense to anyone, but that’s just how I feel.”

Jensen told Clayton, “I encourage you not to be politically correct; sometimes it just doesn’t do the job. I think if you look at the base statute on that program (Good Landlord), it’s not a bad thing. It just hasn’t been implemented the way it should have been.”

Gunnison Councilman Thayne Carlisle said, “I don’t really expect things to change much from how they feel now.”

Mayfield withdrawing their involvement could mean the still-interested parties might have to start the planning process over from square one, or at least make some major revisions to the language of the agreement and structure of the proposed governing board.

The original agreement said that the governing board would include the mayors of Gunnison, Centerfield and Mayfield, three citizens-at-large and a new chief. The chief position would be publicly advertised, and the chief selected by the governing board.

In addition, the new full-time officer position being  planned for the unified police force was, in part, to help cover the Mayfield territories that are currently being policed by the Sanpete County Sheriff’s Office.