In an effort to make the services provided by the Custer County Sheriff’s Office more equitable in their contracts with Challis, Stanley and Mackay, mayors of the three towns decided to work together to have identical contracts.
Mike Barrett in Challis, Wayne Olsen in Mackay and Steve Botti of Stanley said each city will present a separate contract to county commissioners, but the language in all three will be the same. With Olsen writing the first draft, Barrett and Botti said the three of them will go over it to make sure each town gets equitable law enforcement.
According to Botti, this is the first time representatives from the three cities which contract with the Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement have come together on the issue. The mayors decided to work together after county officials asked each city to pay more for the services, Botti said.
Mackay Mayor Olsen informed council members of the plan at their Aug. 10 meeting, during which he also said the amount paid for Sheriff’s Office services will increase from $35,300 to $40,000. Stanley council members are OK with a similar increase, Botti said, with a bump from $53,600 to $56,000.
According to Barrett, Challis council members won’t increase the $58,625 they paid last year because the city budget came in tight. In his public audit of Challis’s 2020 finances accountant Gary Merkle said last summer’s $4 million airport improvement project was a “bit of a goose egg.” The city still managed a surplus in the budget, but replacing the airport’s runway and instrument approach system cut into that money, Merkle said.
“We have to fight for every dollar we have in rural cities,” Barrett said.
Barrett said there are “unnecessary differences” in the language of the contracts now in place between the cities and the county. Stanley and Challis currently have enhanced code enforcement contracts, Barrett said, and Mackay has a contract that specifically states it’s for law enforcement. All the mayors want the same services from the sheriff, he said, another reason for a standardized contract.
All three mayors have stated that a common complaint residents make about county law enforcement services is the lack of presence. Deputies need to monitor city streets more, people in all three towns have told the mayors, especially for reckless drivers in residential areas.
Sheriff Stu Lumpkin and county commissioners counter that if each city paid the county $80,000 a year, more patrol could occur. Because costs continue to increase for everything, including fuel, gear and wages, county officials say eventually all the cities will need to pay that $80,000 per year. Botti explained when county commissioners suggested $80,000, they knew it would most likely be a years-long process to get there.