Budget woes may force Vale to cut back on police services

Vale is looking to slash one of three sheriff’s deputies assigned to cover the city in an effort to cut costs. (The Enterprise/File).

VALE – Budget constraints may force elected leaders to slash one of three sheriff’s deputies assigned to Vale and the impact on public safety remains uncertain.

Katy Lamb, Vale city manager, said last week the decision to cut one of the city’s assigned deputies would be on a trial basis.

The city inked a contract with the sheriff’s office 10 years ago to provide police services. Since then, three deputies shared the duty, focusing on the city and the school district.

Climbing city expenses means a cutback must be made, said Lamb.

“Everything is just aggressively going higher and the money coming into the city is not meeting that increase,” said Lamb.

Each deputy costs the city about $100,000 a year, said Lamb.

“It is our single highest line item in our budget,” said Lamb.

Lamb said the issue isn’t the quality of service.

“If we could contract for four (deputies) and keep us going around the clock we would but we can’t,” said Lamb. Travis Johnson, Malheur County undersheriff, said his office is committed to working with the city.

“Obviously we are concerned and disappointed. We’d like to have, in a perfect world, at least four deputies for the city of Vale,” said Johnson.

Johnson said there would be some impact to Vale residents if the deputy slot is cut.

Right now, a deputy patrols Vale every day until 2 a.m.

“We will obviously lose some coverage time. The sheriff’s office won’t provide fill-in coverage, but we will respond to priority crimes, especially person crimes. There will likely be calls that will have to be held until a deputy comes on,” said Johnson.

Johnson said the sheriff’s office will “work with the city on a plan going forward.”

“We will look at our best options to cover the city with two guys,” said Johnson. “We will work hard to provide the best coverage with those two deputies that we can.”

Johnson said a deputy assigned to Vale would instead go into the sheriff’s department regular patrol rotation. The sheriff’s office, he said, has an open slot now because one of its deputies resigned to take a job with the Ontario Police Department.

The elimination of city funding for the deputy won’t be final until the city finishes its budget process. A meeting of the Vale Budget Committee on the city’s 2019-2020 budget is scheduled Monday, May 13, at Vale City Hall.

Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.

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