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County steps in to possibly help alleviate Asotin’s budget constraints

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The city of Asotin is trying to figure out ways to bring in more money by raising property taxes. Tuesday night the city held a town hall looking for input on the upcoming levy lid lift.

A few months ago, we broke the news that the City of Asotin Police are severely understaffed. The city asked the Asotin County Sheriff’s Office for assistance, and Tuesday night a county commissioner unexpectedly answered that call. He said it could help with the city’s budget, but it does come with a cost.

The City of Asotin is facing major budget problems, getting only around $178,000 a year in property taxes.

Asotin Pro Tem Jennifer Bly said, “That goes for the general fund and streets. It’s split between the two of them. That’s not a lot of money.”

If a change doesn’t come soon, services will see massive cut backs starting with a return to a volunteer fire department without the help of the Asotin County Fire District #1.

“If we don’t get a grant this year, we’re going to be in a world of hurt,” said Asotin Co. Fire Dist. #1 Chief Noel Hardin.

More funds would help restore outdated equipment.

“Next month ends our lifecycle. Everything we do from that point on with those bottles is going to be in-house, unless we get the income to fix that problem.”

But it would also mean a reduction in police services. The grant that pays for a school resource officer has already ended.

“We don’t know if we will need another SRO or not,” said Asotin Mayor Vicki Bonfield. “We are going to apply for that, but we don’t know if that will happen.”

That’s why County Commissioner Chris Seubert is offering an olive branch to help the city’s budget. “We came up with something we hope will maybe save you between $75,000 and $125,000 a year,” Seubert said. “The county would like to consider a contract for all encompassing services.”

That means a complete takeover of the Asotin Police Department by the county. Sheriff Hilderbrand does want to add two new deputies to patrol the city of Asotin.

“Think we can save a bunch of money, you’d have full services, we’d have to sit down and negotiate everything,” Seubert said.

Seubert said the county would be open to the idea of bringing on Asotin Police Chief Monte Renzelman as one of those deputies.

Police Chief Renzelman has no comment at this time about a county takeover.

This doesn’t mean a takeover will for sure happen, but the city and county will begin negotiating what that would look like. And while it would save the city between $75,000 and $125,000, Commissioner Seubert said it would likely end up costing the county between $225,000 and $240,000.

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