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Jackson City Council votes to move forward with county law enforcement contract

JACKSON -- With a 5 to 1 vote and in front of a full house, the Jackson City Council voted to move forward with pursuing law enforcement services from the Jackson County Sheriff's Office, taking a step toward disbanding the Jackson Police Department.

Within the first 15 minutes of the meeting, Councilman Dennis Hunwardsen provided the only dissenting vote on the motion.

Moments afterward, Councilman Gary Willink asked Mayor Wayne Walter to clarify what exactly the vote entailed.

"We voted on the concept -- we did not vote on the contract," Walter stated.

The final vote on the contract, according to the council, will take place June 21.

Ironically, the vote that will effectively cost several police officers their job comes during National Police Week, just shortly after Walter signed a proclamation calling upon all citizens of Jackson to observe Thursday as Peace Officers' Memorial Day at the request of Jackson Police Chief Anthony Legnani.

Legnani told the Daily Globe he and his officers will continue to serve Jackson's citizens with "professionalism, dedication and distinction, as we have always done."

In his three years as the chief of police in Jackson, Legnani said he has seen great support from the community, businesses and schools, and has encouraged his officers to do everything they could to protect and serve the citizens of the community.

His officers, he said, are top-notch at what they do.

"Good things will happen down the road for them because they are all quality people," he stated.

He said he has the greatest respect for Jackson County Sheriff Roger Hawkinson and his deputies, and has no doubt they'll do a good job.

"I want to thank the citizens and the council for giving me and my men the opportunity to serve Jackson," he added.

Legnani also offered thanks to the fellow police chiefs around the area who had offered their support.

Before the vote, Walter reminded the room full of people that the special discussion item -- the law enforcement issue -- was not a public forum, but if anyone wanted to speak who had new ideas or questions would be given a short time to do so.

Only two citizens stood -- one to question what would happen to equipment such as guns and computers if the contract was not renewed in three years, and the other to question exactly how much the saving to the city would be.

Jackson City Administrator Pat Christopherson said the savings would vary between $100,000 to $135,000 per year, but it was the savings from not building a new police station that would be especially significant.

"It will be close to $2.5 million," he stated.

According to the latest contract draft, the services from the county would cost approximately $536,000 by 2013.

Payments would be made to the county on a quarterly basis, and by no later than July 15 of the third year of the agreement, the city would have to notify the county in writing of its intention to accept increased costs for the next three year period.

If the parties would not agree in writing by August 1, the contract would expire Dec. 31 of that year.

"In the event that the city does not intend to reinstate its police department and layoffs are necessitated due to the termination of the agreement, the city agrees to reimburse the county on a monthly basis for unemployment compensation costs charged to the county due to county deputies places on layoff," the contract states.

In the event that the agreement is terminated for any reason within 20 years of its effective date and the city reinstates its police department, the city shall offer to re-employ each licensed peace officer who is currently employed and is employed by the county as of the date the contract is terminated.

Regarding fines, the contract states that prosecution for violations of state statutes or county ordinances, along with disposition of all fines collected pursuant to the statutes or county ordinances, shall be in accordance with state rules and judicial orders.

Funds resulting from violations of ordinances and statutory violations within city limits for the proceeding calendar year shall be remitted to the city on or before January 15, but the county would retain any funds received as the result of forfeitures.