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Town, county haggle over facilities

Darin Olde, Sierra Sun

THE MAKING OF A POLICE DEPARTMENT

A three-part series

o Today: Working with the county

o May 17: Where the money is going and where it comes from

o Last week: Laying the groundwork

Locating a suitable station for Truckee’s Police Department was a difficult step for the town’s police consultants to predict.

Town Council had voted to purchase the new Town Hall building on Airport Road a few months prior to the release of the Lewis-McCrary Partners report in May, 2000.

According to the report, Town Hall was the second choice for a police station. Sharing the existing Nevada County substation was the best fit. The Nevada County facility had an existing jail and office space and planned to maintain a small eastern county presence.

A tentative timeline presented to Town Council last July listed discussions between the town and the county over transition issues, lease of facilities and joint services as a primary step.

Town Manager Stephen L. Wright later referred to the facility acquisition as one of the most important considerations in forming the department.

On February 12, 2001, seven months later, Wright informed Town Council that a shared arrangement had not been reached with the county.

“The (Nevada County) Sheriff indicates that he has a continued need for space in that building for existing jail services, existing dispatch services, and office space for up to six deputies,” said Wright in a staff report. He added that Nevada County was discussing contract services in the existing substation with other interested agencies.

Acquiring or sharing the Nevada County substation didn’t look good, and eventually Town Hall was selected to house the new police department.

The situation, recalls council member Bob Drake, came as no surprise.

“I assume that the lack of ‘hey we’ve struck a deal (with the county) and that’s going to occur and this is going to occur’ was a sign,” said Drake. “I thought well, it sounds like they haven’t been able to make any progress. And at some point Boon or Wright had to say ‘hey, we’re running out of time.'”

All of the current Town Council members save Bob Drake stated that the Town Hall building, less than a stone’s throw distance from Placer County, was planned only as a temporary home for town government. This further complicated recommendations by the town’s consultants.

Town Council members also expressed concern and frustration over lack of progress in negotiations with the county.

Regardless, sharing the substation became less of an issue than shared dispatch or jail services.

“It continues to be the town’s preference to contract out both jail and dispatch services with either Nevada or Placer Counties,” wrote Wright Feb. 12.

The discussions continued, but underlying the entire progress were concerns that the county would not cooperate with the town over facilities.

According to the Lewis-McCrary report, “shared facility, jail services, cooperative records management, communication and dispatch services presented by us to the (Nevada County) sheriff and staff resulted in their expression of doubt that such joint effort would be feasible.”

It wasn’t clear where the discussions were, and what was standing in the way. Town officials simply reiterated to council that efforts were being made and that alternatives were available if no agreement could be reached.

Meanwhile, moving the police department to Town Hall would mean that current Town Hall tenants would have to move.

Two tenants in the building would need to be relocated, said Wright. The other businesses have already moved or had planned to move.

“For some time we have been looking for a place to relocate, to build equity,” said Scott Ryan of Ryan Group Architects, an architectural firm based in Town Hall. Ryan Group Architects is also the architectural firm contracted to do the internal remodeling of the police station. “We are not under duress because of what the town is doing.”

“For us it hasn’t caused a problem at all,” said tenant Lisa Dobey, president of the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation, last Tuesday. “This was a time limited lease and we knew that coming in.”

Dobey announced that her office had secured new office space only a day before.

“We just got the space,” she said, which is located on West River Street. “I’ll be sad to leave. I liked being near the town (offices).”

Town and county

Nevada County Superior Court judges are bringing law enforcement representatives from the eastern portion of the county together with representatives from the west.

On Monday, May 7, Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal and County Administrative Officer Ted Gaebler met with representatives from Truckee including Town Manager Steve Wright, Truckee Police Chief Dan Boon, Nevada County 5th District Supervisor Barbara Green, members of Truckee Town Council and others to discuss how the county and the town can work together to make ends meet.

“It was not a negotiating session, it was more a briefing to make sure we were all on the same page,” said Wright from Town Hall Tuesday.

Signs of improved communication, however, have been on the horizon.

On April 19, Police Chief Dan Boon gave an oral report to Town Council and stated that “Sheriff Royal is very committed to keeping the Truckee jail facilities open.”

He also said that dispatch facilities at the Nevada County substation are closely tied to the jail facilities, and that negotiations with the county are a big part of how those issues will be resolved.

“We have been moving forward. I’m optimistic we’re going to come to a solution,” said Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal last Tuesday.

Both the county and the town are in the their budgetary consideration stage, which Royal said will be critical in whether or not the Town of Truckee and the county will be able to secure the funds to keep the jail and dispatch station open.

If the town and the county can’t reach an agreement, detainees will have to be transported to holding facilities in Nevada City or neighboring counties.

“It’s not a good use of time to transport detainees to Nevada City,” said Barbara Green. “If you are removing a deputy to drive someone down to Nevada City they are removed from patrol in Truckee and that is not a good use of person-power.”

Royal agrees.

“I think the best solution is to find the funding necessary to keep that jail open in Truckee. And that is what we are working toward,” said Royal. “I’ll be the first to admit that having the jail in the eastern end of the county is beneficial to the law enforcement services that serve those areas.”

Barbara Green said that short term and long term needs are being discussed as the judicial meetings.

“It really makes sense to have a regional facility. This part of the county has different issues because of the weather and road closures,” said Green.

For the short term Green described what she hopes will be a smooth transition from county to municipal service if a local facility can be maintained in Truckee.

“I sensed a strong commitment to finding a solution by everybody at the meeting,” she said.

“There are some advantages to having the same agency operate the dispatch and the jail,” added Steve Wright. “We are still looking at bottom line issues. Where can we get it cost effectively and providing as good if not better levels of service?”

Next week: budget issues


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