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Chief Ernie Roberts seeks balance after end of Estacada law enforcement contract

As of Oct. 1, the Sandy Police Department no longer serves the city of Estacada.

With that in mind, Chief Ernie Roberts, the city Financial Director Tyler Deems and City Manager Kim Yamashita months ago started crunching numbers to see how the loss of the Estacada contract might affect the police budget.

Serving Estacada took three full-time patrol officers and one part-time code enforcement officer. When the contract ended, Roberts didn't want to lose those people. Sandy needs the additional manpower on its police force.

"The last thing we wanted to do was lay off officers who we desperately need here," Roberts explained. "(Those officers) have families — they have groceries to buy and they have kids in school. To me, it was a no-brainer, but it creates a debt service for the police department, and you have to look at how that affects the next budget cycle. It's my intention that when we get to the end of the biennium, we don't have any layoffs. For now I'm just relieved."

So the city created a supplemental budget and issued an interfund loan of $356,272 from Sandy Transit and transferred $102,449 of the general fund to the police.

"That's how much it took to bring them back here and balance the budget for this cycle," Roberts noted. "It's important for people to know it's a loan — it has to be paid back. We're lucky in the fact that the city's been really good at budgeting its money. I'm very grateful to Andi Howell with Sandy Transit and the job she's done."

Roberts hopes to pay the loan money back as quickly as possible, but also must take into consideration how he'll keep the officers he's brought in in the next budget cycle and into the future.

"I'm confident we're going to be able to fund those officers through the next biennium, but at the same time, we're working with tax dollars," Roberts explained. "You never know how much you're going to get until you do."

Another supplement to the police budget that came at the right time was the contracting of an additional school resource officer by Oregon Trail School District.

"They were interested a long time ago in having an additional SRO," Roberts said. "The timing of this was excellent. It helped a lot. When Aaron and I were meeting before, I knew this contract was going to end."

The department also offered an incentive package for early retirement, so one officer will be retiring. However, the department will hire and fill that position, bringing the number of sworn officers to 15, with one code enforcement officer, two support personnel and three volunteer reserve officers. Ideally, the number of sworn officers to serve Sandy is 18, in order to have two officers on duty at all times. This is still a goal for the department.

More important than keeping the budget in check though, Roberts noted, is keeping the city and the school district safe. With the addition of the three Estacada patrol officers and part-time code enforcement, he envisions the city getting better coverage.

"Safety is always a huge concern, and that's been a goal for a long time," he said. "It was a bit overwhelming to be responsible for the public safety of two cities rather than one. There's a lot of goals we have as an agency here we could get to now."

One goal has been to reinstate a traffic officer, which by the end of the month the department will have. Officer Dale Wilcox will take over traffic duties within the next few weeks. With this change, the Sandy Police Department will once again be able to participate as active members on the county crash reconstruction team — another goal they've had for quite some time.

"For us, it's a big step in the right direction to be able to help out with that," Roberts said. "Having the traffic officer not only takes care of traffic issues, but frees patrol officers up to address thefts and other (domestic incidents)."

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