An unexpected e-mail sent Liberty Lake Police Chief Brian Asmus on a last-minute trip to speak to the City Council Tuesday.
He had just learned that day that his department was eligible to apply for a federal stimulus grant that would pay 100 percent of the salary and benefits for new police officers.
The grant, through the Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services program, would fund the officers for three years. The city would be required to fund the officers’ salaries in full in the fourth year. It’s a much better deal than a previous grant a few years ago that only funded a steadily decreasing percentage of two officers salaries for three years. “It’s a great opportunity,” Asmus said.
The application is due April 14 and is expected to be lengthy and complicated, Asmus said. He was seeking permission to apply for two new police officers.
“Do we have a need for two additional officers?” asked council member Judi Owens.
Asmus said he had planned to hire a new officer at the end of 2008 and another officer at the end of 2009. “Neither one of those happened due to budget constraints,” he said. “I guarantee that three or four years from now we’re going to need more officers.”
“I think we’d be ignorant not to do this,” said council member Dave Crump. “It’s a huge savings.”
Crump also asked why the chief was only asking for two officers. “I want to make sure we’re in a financial position to support that,” Asmus said. “I’m fairly comfortable with two. We want to make sure it’s sustainable.”
The council didn’t take an official vote on the matter, but gave Asmus the nod to start the process of applying for the grant. Asmus said he would have more details on when the positions would start and the other “fine print” at the council’s next meeting.
Adding two police officers would also allow the department to have two officers working on every shift.
In other business, the council approved a contract with HiTechnique to provide IT services for the city. The council also approved a change order on the library and police station remodel that brings the cost of the project to $6,000 more than planned but still $2,000 under the $675,000 approved by the council last year. “We made it under budget,” said Mayor Wendy Van Orman.