Vale sheds deputy to cut down on costs

The Malheur County Sheriff’s office will assign two, rather than three, deputies to provide law enforcement services to Vale after budget constraints forced city leaders to trim costs. (The Enterprise/File).

VALE – Vale elected leaders are moving ahead on a plan to cut one of three sheriff’s deputies assigned to the city.

Katie Lamb, Vale city manager, said last week the Vale City Council directed her to amend the current law enforcement contract with the sheriff’s office to drop one deputy.

Going from three deputies to two will save the city about $100,000 a year, said Lamb.

Lamb said the decision to downsize wasn’t easy but budget constraints forced the city to make the move.

The city hired the sheriff’s office to provide police coverage 10 years ago. Since then the three deputies shared the duty, focusing on the city and the school district.

Lamb said the 2019-2020 city budget is approved and will be less than last year. Lamb said the city budget for 2019-2020 is about $7.1 million, down from $13.2 million. The drop is the result of finishing the city’s water upgrades, said Lamb.

Lamb said the budget is conservative.

“It is tight. We don’t have a lot of excess to spend,” she said. “We are holding our own and will stay in the black but we have to do things like cut budget line items.”

Lamb said police services were the Vale budget’s “biggest line item.”

Lamb said the impact of the cut to public safety is “always a worry.”

“This will be a trial. If it simply doesn’t work for the city or for the sheriff’s office, the contract gets renewed in 2020 and we can renegotiate,” said Lamb.

Brian Wolfe, Malheur County sheriff, said the elimination of one deputy will have an impact on public safety but to what extent remains uncertain.

“Obviously it will decrease the level of service, if for no other reason than that if there is not a deputy on during that time period that service will have to wait,” said Wolfe.

Wolfe said while he doesn’t “like it anytime we are reducing levels of service” he understands the city’s budget constraints.

“Public safety costs money. Everyone wants the service but no one wants higher taxes, which I get,” said Wolfe.

The deputy cut from the city will go into the sheriff’s office regular patrol rotation.

Undersheriff Travis Johnson said the city and the sheriff’s office are cooperating to come up with a police coverage plan for the future.

“We are still working on what it is going to look like,” said Johnson.

The number of calls the deputies assigned to Vale receive each month varies, said Johnson.

“Not all calls are created equal. Some calls might take 10 minutes and some may take 10 hours,” said Johnson.

Johnson said in March the deputies assigned to Vale responded to 44 calls and made three arrests. In February deputies responded to 53 calls and arrested three people while in January they answered 62 calls and made 14 arrests.

 Johnson said the sheriff’s office will still “try to provide the best coverage possible.”

News tip? Contact Reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected] or 541-473-3377.

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