Coupeville Town Council to talk police Tuesday

The Coupeville Town Council Tuesday will continue discussions about the future of law enforcement in the historic town.

The five-member elected board will hold a workshop to talk about how to structure the small department. Town officials have been looking at new ways to staff the department since three of the four deputies working for the town resigned in the fall of 2012.

Coupeville Mayor Nancy Conard during Monday’s “State of the Town” address highlighted the challenges of retaining officers. She said the town of Coupeville pays a lower salary to its officers than any other jurisdiction on the island. Other officers may not stay with the small department for long because “there isn’t a lot of excitement in Coupeville.”

She outlined during her address, which took place at Christopher’s on Whidbey, three options that could be considered to improve the town’s situation: increase revenues by asking voters to sign off on a tax increase, re-allocate existing resources, or contracting with an outside agency, such as the Island County Sheriff’s Office, to provide law enforcement services.

Conard said during the meeting that staff explored the possibility of running a property tax levy increase before the voters. Before that proposal is finalized, it would be best to examine other departments within the town and address those needs too. She thought it would be best to hold off on a tax levy and reconsider it in two-to-three years.

By re-allocating resources, the town could staff three deputies plus a chief. The salary of the fourth position would be used to bolster the salaries of the remaining officers, Conard said. Gaps in service would be handled on an on-call basis by the marshal’s office.

Town leaders are also examining the possibility of contracting police services to the Island County Sheriff’s Office. Conard said that the town would benefit from the depth the sheriff’s office has. A draft of the contract will be available during the meeting.

Law enforcement officers from the Oak Harbor Police Department and the Island County Sheriff’s Department are chipping in to staff the Coupeville Marshal’s Office.

When the office is fully staffed, the marshal’s office offered 24-hour patrol. Conard described the current level of service as “24-hour response.”

Conard said it is ultimately up to Coupeville Town Council to approve any change to how the marshal’s office is structured. The town council is scheduled to meet in a workshop next week to discuss the marshal’s office and any decision will be made at a later meeting.

The Coupeville Town Council meets 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 28 in the Commissioners’ Hearing inside the Annex Building on Northeast Sixth Street.


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