REDMOND, Ore. - Redmond residents are speaking up about a potential public safety fee that would allow the police department to hire six more officers. But those officers are not cheap.
Residents would pay $6 a month on a utility bill. That averages out to about $72 a year per person to increase the size of the police department.
According to police, staffing levels have not kept up with the growth of the city. In the last 10 years, the department has added one officer.
The fee would allow the department to increase an average patrol team from 3.2 officers to 4.4 officers per shift.
Police say they could solve crimes quicker, institute a downtown foot patrol and establish a dedicated drug enforcement unit, among other things.
The city has held 14 meetings so far, including two town hall gatherings. City Manager Keith Witcosky said the public understands there is a need for more officers. However, they don't know if they want to pay for them, or how they want to pay for them.
A total of 37 percent of those who attended the town hall meetings said they don't support a fee.
"We are lucky in Redmond, where there is a great trust in government, and I would never want to inadvertently have council make a decision that erodes the trust in government," Witcosky said. "So, I don't think it's about, do a majority of the people support the fee or not? It's how many people are concerned about it, that know about it?"
Witcosky said the city has talked to about 150 people at these meetings, and there is a lot more work to do. Redmond resident Daniel Toneges said attending a town hall meeting helped him understand just how many calls officers answer a year and he thinks the fee is not too much to ask.
"Being a retired law enforcement officer of 40 years, I know how important it is to have officers on the street," Toneges said. "I have worked in communities where we were short-handed, and it makes it very difficult to answer an important call when you're busy with something else. And then you can't respond, and a citizen doesn't understand why it's taking you so long."
Redmond Police Lieutenant Curtis Chambers, said field officers are feeling the heavy demand of trying to keep up with the growing size of the community each day. He said the department feels truly supported by the community, but the funding aspect is still an important conversation.
"The support for the fee is just like anything else, when it comes to one's pocketbook, because no one wants to let go of money they've worked hard to earn," Chambers said. "The public safety fee is very important for the entire city of Redmond, and it represents a significant investment in what people believe is very important."
Another town hall meeting will be held in January, as well as another update with city council.
Witcosky said they're hoping for council direction by February. Meaning, councilors will decide if the proposed fee is a no-go, something they could adopt by city ordinance, or request it be placed on the May ballot.
For more information: http://www.ci.redmond.or.us/government/departments/public-safety-fee-faqs