North Logan citizens and others are taking sides as city officials consider the future of the North Park Police Department. The mayor and council members are asking for residents’ input about whether the citizens want to continue paying for the police department, or contract with the Cache County Sheriff’s Office.
A public meeting will be held Wednesday, May 9 at Greenville Elementary School, beginning at 7 p.m.
North Logan Mayor John Bailey said the debate started after the police commission submitted a proposal, where North Logan’s share of funding the department would be $1.1 million, a fifth of the city’s operating budget. He explained city officials aren’t just focusing on the police department though, but are also looking at other city operations, whose needs are exceeding current revenue sources.
“There are clear advantages that we see to staying and keeping our own police department,” said Bailey. “There are disadvantages to that, and there are potential pros and cons of looking at alternatives like contracting with the sheriff’s office, which actually most of the municipalities in the county do.”
In addition to considering a contract with the sheriff’s office, city officials have also considered combining with Smithfield. They claim either option could save between $200,000 and $300,000 a year, allowing them to share officers and support staff.
North Park Police Chief Kim Hawkes disputes that the city would save that much money. He claims the advantages for residents are greater in having their own police force, shared between North Logan and Hyde Park.
“The city has direct opportunity to hire the chief, to be involved in deciding which police offers are brought onto the force that mirror the values that they have in the community and what they want,” explained Hawkes. “The philosophy and style of enforcement within the city can be directed through the commission, which is represented by both the city councils. So I think there is some real benefit there and our officers do a great job.”
Despite the size of the department, data shows North Park patrol officers in 2017 responded to an average of 678 calls for service per officer, compared to 586 for the Smithfield City Police, 525 for the Logan City Police and 357 for the Cache County Sheriff’s Office.
Hawkes admits they have a small department. He said the increased budget request is to help establish a competitive wage structure in the form of a career ladder.
“It’s not particularly fair that we say that it’s the police department or fire department that’s creating this fervor about raising property taxes,” said Hawkes. “I know it’s an issue, but it’s a combined demand of all the departments of North Logan City that have brought about the fact that they may have a financial impasse and have to decide, either we cut to balance our budget, or we consider raising taxes, or looking at other revenue sources.”
Without the increase, they will have the lowest paid police department in the valley.
Baily said he would love it if the citizens said they valued the police department and were willing to pay for it, without shorting other vital services in the city.
“Quite frankly, I’ve been receiving more comments in support of keeping our own department,” said Bailey. “What’s been missing is that commitment to do whatever it takes to support it financially. So I think that we need to put those two pieces together and see whether the sentiment is still the same.”
The city projects the cost to fund the police department’s budget would require a property tax increase of $50 to $60 per year.