The city of St. Maries pays less for police services than previously reported – making the cost of implementing its own police force higher.
That’s the word from Sheriff Dave Resser following a report in this newspaper that Mayor Tom Carver questioned whether the city of St. Maries received the coverage from the sheriff’s department for which it is paying.
The city disbanded its police force in February, 2017 and opted to contract with the county to provide law enforcement for St. Maries.
The city pays the county $336,595 annually for the service. The city budgeted $436,000 the last year it operated its own police force. That means the city saved $99,405 under the contract.
Sheriff Resser, however, said the savings is greater than that.
“It was probably a mistake on my part, but I included the dispatch fees in the contract with the city,” he said.
If the city hired its own police force, in addition to the costs of operating its own deparment, the city would have to pay the county some $70,000 annually for dispatch services, Sheriff Resser said.
“If the contract with the city was null and void right now, the $5,885 a month for dispatch would continue,” he said.
Sheriff Resser said that means the city would pay some $170,000 in additional costs should it opt to launch its own police department.
Mayor Carver questioned the charge. He asked why St. Maries pays for dispatch when Plummer does not.
Sheriff Resser said the county has not charged Plummer for dispatch because it had far fewer calls than St. Maries. He added that St. Maries ambulance, which has a greater need for dispatch services, pays $1,000 per month to the county.
“Even though the cost of operating our dispatch service increases yearly, we have not added to the city’s charge,” Sheriff Resser said.
The real issue, Mayor Carver said, is whether the city gets the service for which it pays.
Under the contract, the county must provide a deputy designated to city patrol for 16 hours every day. Mayor Carver does not believe that is happing now.
“We really don’t want our own police department, we just want them to do their job,” he said.
Sheriff Resser said his department fulfills the contract. He has shift schedules that show deputies assigned to city patrol per the agreement.
Mayor Carver remains skeptical. He said he rarely sees deputies patrolling in the city.
“I keep telling him that we are not seeing the patrons through St. Maries,” he said. “I just want them to give us the coverage we’re paying for.”
He said he has asked the city crew and city residents to be aware of the police presence in the city limits.
“We are watching to make sure the deputies who are committed to St. Maries are actually in St. Maries,” he said.