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11/21/2012 4:15:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
State legislators hear about rising law and justice costs
Kacie Thrift
Staff Writer

Cashmere City Councilman Skip Moore expressed the council's concerns with the rise of law enforcement and justice costs at the last study session on Nov. 13.

State Senator Linda Evans Parlette and State Representative Cary Condotta recently visited with the Cashmere City Council members to have an open discussion on a few legislative issues. One of those issues was the contracts for law and justice.

Moore said he has discussed the issues of law and justice with Condotta and Parlette before as the County Auditor but he wanted to give them the aspect on the smaller side of things.

"We can't afford it," Moore said. "We are reaching a point where we will have to maybe not have a city government just so we can have a cop in town. Things have somehow got to change."

Moore told Condotta and Parlette he is unsure of how things will need to change but he suggested people at the state level sit down and discuss an approach. He said the law enforcement cycle with incarceration and court costs have gotten to the point where it is soaking up too much of the small town's budget.

Kay Jones, Cashmere city treasurer, said the city paid $90,000 to incarcerate only five people last year.

"It's going to reach a point where it would be money ahead for cities to talk to cops and say if someone calls on a shop lifting, grab the guy, take him outback, yell at him, and let him go. We will give the merchant 500 bucks because it will be cheaper than booking him, running him into the courts, and putting him in jail," Moore said.

Cashmere Mayor Jeff Gomes said at a meeting with the mayors of Chelan County, Entiat Mayor Keith Vradenburg said they had recently received a bill for $6,000 for one incarceration. That amount is their budget for the whole year.

Moore said regionalism has been discussed but not enforced. But that may not be the answer to the problem. He suggested legislation could allow a new type of district for law enforcement, such as a law enforcement district where four counties can come together to form a district and have a jail board elected. The four counties would have the ability to tax authorities so they would have equal partnerships.

The issue with the county being in charge of law enforcement is they are not an equal partner to those cities they contract with, Moore said.

"I think if we approach it from more of a way to locally control it and get away from the these interlocal agreements, and I'm not a fan of bigger government, but if you were going to regionalize it in a way you could form a law enforcement district then at least the folks can decide straight up how they want it ran," Moore said. "They could make a board accountable specific to that issue and then maybe there will be a steady and flat way to pay for it."

Currently, the money for law enforcement is being taken out of the city's general fund. Moore's worry is the city of Cashmere doesn't have a whole lot of revenue so they don't have a very big general fund.

Parlette suggested the council bring the issue up to the Association of Washington Cities (AWC). She told Moore she has heard this same conversation over the past few years from multiple cities but this is the first time someone has thrown out a suggestion to fix the problem.

"Talk about that with other cities because you are closer to the situation than we are," Parlette said. "Those ideas are valuable and I would encourage you to share that but this really is an issue we have to look at."

Gomes said he recently met with the new Chelan County Jail Director, Curt Lutz, and he is trying to figure out why the city is in charge of paying for a shoplifters prior or suspended sentences. He said once he figures costs out with Lutz and gets the facts together he wants to take the issue to the AWC.

Moore said he is worried about how the city will pay for the increases in public safety. For 2013, there was a $100,000 increase for public safety.

"You start looking at revenues you have and we don't have any. How can I pay for police and put people in jail? We are going to tax people out of the city if there isn't a drastic change in how services are delivered or how they are spread out," he said.

Condotta told the council there are many different ways to approach this situation and it starts with the cities.

"Those of you on the front lines, we need to hear about them [ideas to fix the law and justice expense issues]. Develop them amongst yourselves and when someone comes to us with a good idea it will get some traction," Condotta said.

Kacie Thrift may be reached at 782-3781 or

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