TUSAYAN, Ariz. - Coconino County Sheriff Bill Pribell addressed Tusayan Town Council June 15, putting to rest issues concerning the Coconino County Sheriff's Office's (CCSO) law enforcement contract with the town, as well as presenting, in detail, what the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant would mean if the town is selected.
In past council meetings, some council members, believing the town's law enforcement contract was binding until 2012, grew concerned as moving forward with the town's own police force became one of the town's priorities.
Pribell addressed their concerns and said the Sheriff's Office, like the council, want what is best for the town.
"I know that I have read with interest over the past couple months, to some dismay, about some of the issues centered on the agreement that you have with the Sheriff's Office," Pribell said. "I know that there has been some consternation on your part about the contract and the belief that since there was no out clause, you are now locked into a contract for another year."
After contacting the Sheriff's Office's attorney, Pribell assured the council the contract is open to dissolve whenever both parties decide.
"So, I think that is something to keep in mind, we are not going to hold you to a contract that you don't like," he said, adding the CCSO understands the desire of the town of Tusayan to have their own law enforcement and wants to help them achieve their goal.
Pribell suggested the council seek guidance from the Arizona Chief's Association, an organization suited to assist with the formation of marshal services. Also, he confirmed the CCSO is willing to reduce their contract as the town transitions to their own police department, until there are "boots on the ground."
"And, so I would like to say that if there is a desire on the part of the city council to form their own police dept or marshal's office, as I imagine you would call it up here for the taste of the Canyon type of thing, we are more than happy to work with the Council to make that happen," Pribell said.
Applying for the COPS grant would be advantageous, giving the town two more dedicated officers for three years, but if the town is awarded the grant, they must allow CCSO to provide the service.
The question remains if and when Tusayan forms it's own law enforcement service, what happens to the officers awarded by the grant.
Pribell said the answer is still up in the air.
"We are dealing with the federal government," he said. "But, we commit to you that we will do everything in our power to advocate that those funds that be turned over in the name of the town of Tusayan. Now we obviously don't have the end say."
According to information on the COPS website, www.cops.usdoj.gov, community policing is a philosophy that promotes organizational strategies, which support the systematic use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques, to proactively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues such as crime, social disorder, and fear of crime.
Pribill also discussed potential housing for officers. The CCSO recently learned they will be losing their officer housing inside the Canyon and are still weighing future options. One option would be two vacant lots owned by the CCSO in a National Forest Service (NFS) campground. Pribell said the Sheriff Department's long-term goal, if they were to stay involved, would be to place doublewide trailers on those lots to attract officers.
As a long-term relationship with the town looks unlikely, Pribell said he would like to see the two lots transferred for Tusayan's use.
"Here is the other caveat, we tried that with the fire district. The Forest Service basically said 'can't do it. We own the lots, you don't and you can't sell it,'" Pribell said adding in the interest of public safety, he hopes the Forest Service would reconsider the agreement.
As one of the issues raised by the council in previous meetings was CCSO's inability to provide a monthly cost summary of services for the council, Council member Bob Blasi asked Pribell if on could be provided.
Pribell said their sum is based on calls received in the area, broke down by four percent of the overall budget and then averaged over five years.
"Now, as far as the service you are getting, we are keeping track in this town of Tusayan," Pribell said. "So when we have officers respond to anything in Tusayan or patrolling in Tusayan we can show you how much activity we've had in the town of Tusayan. And that is all activity. Those are not directly related to the contract."