A candidate running for Millwood mayor says it may be time for the town to consider forming its own police department.
Jay Molitor, who is challenging incumbent Kevin Freeman, argues that the service the town gets from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office is inadequate for Millwood’s population of nearly 1,800. He points to the police department of Reardan, a town with one-third the population, which has one full-time and several part-time officers.
He said there should be law enforcement specifically for Millwood, either in the form of its own police department or a sheriff’s deputy dedicated to the town.
Freeman said it would be difficult financially to establish a police department for the town. He said it would cost far more than what the it pays for its contract with the sheriff’s office.
“There’s a lot more going on there than just saying, ‘We need a cop,’ ” he said.
Molitor said he feels the city was fiscally irresponsible in purchasing land along the Spokane River, potentially for a new park, when the money could be used to improve existing parks and boost law enforcement.
“We have so much green space in Millwood,” he said, “that we don’t need to spend $1 million on two residential lots right in the middle of a residential area.”
Freeman said city officials have not decided how the land, which cost about $330,000 to purchase, will be used. Even with developments, he said, the total cost would never reach $1 million, because the city could not afford it.
He added that the money the city spent on the lots was a one-time payment for the long-term benefit of extra public river access, whereas funding for a Millwood police force would be an annual cost. He said the sheriff’s operation, allocating resources as necessary, is more efficient than other options.
“The sheriff provides an extremely valuable service that the city on its own could never hope to replicate,” he said. “We don’t have the tax base for it.”
Molitor has lived in Millwood for more than four decades, he said, and he feels that over the years most elected officials have handled the city’s money well. But he worries this is no longer true, and wants to “hammer home the point of fiscal and fiduciary responsibility.”
Both candidates acknowledged speeding problems, as traffic on the main roads tempts drivers to race recklessly through residential areas. Freeman said the city can use construction methods, like speed bumps, to slow people down, but Molitor said without a dedicated police force, there is no one to enforce speed limits.
Though Freeman said he could not remember the last time Millwood saw a violent crime, he said car prowls and thefts are not uncommon. He believes the solution lies in working with the sheriff, while Molitor feels that an officer specifically for the city would be more effective.
Freeman said that while he has been mayor, over the past four years, the city’s primary focus has been public safety with regard to roads and the Union Pacific Railroad that runs through the city’s center.
Despite Millwood’s size, Freeman said, major transportation routes like Argonne Road, Trent Avenue and the railroad pose a challenge for pedestrian, bicycle and even vehicular traffic.
He said the city has added sidewalks and parking around the Millwood Kindergarten Center, developed parking for the West Valley Playfields, and installed a crossing gate at what was one of the most dangerous railroad crossings in Washington.
To increase pedestrian safety, Freeman said the city has designed and acquired funding for a trail to run from West Valley High School to Millwood City Park.
Molitor said though most of Millwood’s streets are in decent condition, some need attention. He added that some areas need additional sidewalks, pointing to a recently completed project on Grace Avenue.
“They did a beautiful job,” Molitor said. “We just need more of that in the city.”
He also would like to fulfill the city’s commitment to the Walk Bike Bus program, he said, particularly by creating bike lanes.
As a long-term project, Molitor said Millwood’s business district could benefit from a replication of the recent improvements to Spokane’s run-down East Sprague area.
“I’m not saying that Millwood is in that type of shape,” he said, “but I think that kind of addition would really enhance our little city.”
Freeman said he would like to see increased commercial and multiuse development along Argonne Road as well, and he hopes infrastructure improvements will lead to more interest from businesses. He noted that a microbrewery is currently in the works.
“We’re looking at this as a sign that what we’re doing is starting to attract some new folks,” he said.
This article was changed on Oct. 23, 2017 to correct the reporter’s name, which was incorrect due to an editor’s error.
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