Pierce County Council members are concerned the Sheriff’s Department didn’t consult with them before deciding to move its Mountain Detachment three miles to Eatonville’s Town Hall.
To prevent the problem from occurring again, council members have agreed to make it clear when they must approve new leases for the departments that report to them.
Council member Stan Flemming, R-University Place, said the council needs to be in the loop.
“I think it’s important, especially when you have leases like this that have a potential significant impact on the community,” Flemming said. “I think the council needs to know about it.”
The detachment headquarters will move in April or May from a leased building outside Eatonville at 40407 Eatonville Cutoff Road E., where it’s been for 16 years.
Town Hall, which also will continue as the base for the Eatonville Police Department, is located about three miles southeast at 201 Center St. W. Last spring, the Eatonville Town Council rejected Mayor Ray Harper’s proposal to disband the police force and hire the Sheriff’s Department.
The Sheriff’s Department has agreed to pay $2,500 a month for five years for about 1,200 square feet in the basement of Town Hall. The county also will pay up to $40,000 to remodel the leased premises, the agreement says.
The Mountain Detachment has two sergeants and 18 deputies who provide 24-hour coverage.
Sheriff Paul Pastor said in an interview last week that the Mountain Detachment needs to move because the current location is deteriorating and has a leaky roof. He said the department will save about $30,000 annually after the first year.
Pastor noted that the County Council was in transition in November – with four positions on the ballot – when his department was working on a new location.
“I’ve told them I probably could have communicated more,” Pastor said. “What I was focused on during this time was taking action because action was needed and saving the county money.”
Council member Jim McCune, R-Graham, was initially concerned that the detachment base was moving farther from the area’s growing population in Graham. Pastor alleviated some of his concerns by saying deputies based at a new precinct scheduled to open by the end of this year in the Parkland-Spanaway area could help respond to calls in Graham. So could the existing precinct on South Hill.
McCune also said Pastor apologized to him for not talking with the council in advance about the move.
The county charter says any lease longer than a year needs to be part of a capital budget ordinance approved by the council.
Council Chairwoman Joyce McDonald, R-Puyallup, said Pastor told her that provision didn’t apply to the Mountain Detachment lease because it can be renewed or dropped annually.
“I think it brought to light we need to have better communication,” McDonald said.
“All along I think there’s been a communication problem,” said Council member Rick Talbert, D-Tacoma. “They should have known this was going to be an issue of interest.”
Council attorney Susan Long said the next step is to draft an ordinance requiring all new county leases longer than a year to be approved by the council, implementing the charter.
McDonald said she asked Pastor to meet with the council once every three months “so that we improve our communication between us.”
“He said he would really like that,” McDonald said.