The Elma Police Department is going through some changes. Their Police Chief left last summer, another officer left to become a Deputy with Grays Harbor County, and the mayor demoted their second in command to a patrol officer. Mayor David Osgood says “We’re looking for an interim Police Chief, and I have a couple of leads.”
After Police Chief Jeff Troumbley left in August to take a position in Idaho the Mayor chose not to appoint another, instead hiring a consultant to evaluate their department. When Patrol Officer Steven Beck left for a position in the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Department, Osgood filled his position by demoting the only remaining administrator Lieutenant Richard Fletcher to a patrol officer and eliminated his position. Fletcher has been with the department for 37 years. While Osgood said he could apply for the open chief’s position, Fletcher is also eligible for retirement next month.
Mayor Osgood said they needed the changes to upright a bad budget trend “We’ve got to quite taking money from – our street fund used to be 29% from the General Fund, and now it’s down to 9%. We keep taking from that area to back fill the police [budget] and that’s what we’ve got to stop doing.” The police department’s budget has ballooned to about 64% of the city’s budget with 2 administrators and 5 patrol officers. Since the administrator positions are appointed by the mayor he said he doesn’t plan to fill both of them. Osgood said he’d like to get closer to 50% of the overall budget with 1 administrator and 6 patrol officers.
The County Sheriff’s Department has talked with the city about contracted services, but the annual cost is almost the same to Osgood and his city council is not convinced. Although Osgood said one big difference is litigation, noting that a big lawsuit could break a small city like Elma.
The mayor has already contacted the county and says he hopes to get a levy proposal ready in time for the April ballot. Although he wasn’t sure exactly how much he guessed they would seek in the ballpark of a $300,000 levy. He also plans to appoint an interim Chief for 6 months, while they shop for a permanent chief and decide how to fund the department.