Two weeks ago, when the Edmonds City Council began debating a proposal to buy the vacant Skippers Restaurant property for $1.1 million, Councilmember D.J. Wilson expressed many reservations, not the least of which was how the purchase might impact funding for the city’s police department.
As it turns out, Edmonds Police Chief Al Compaan also has concerns about the timing of the Skippers purchase, and its implications on the police budget as well as the city’s general fund.
In an interview Monday, Compaan reflected on funding cuts and the additional workload impacting his department in recent years due to city budget constraints, including the elimination of the crime prevention officer (along with the neighborhood block watch program she coordinated), as well as two part-time employees who oversaw the city’s vacation watch program. The department now has one member of its clerical staff devoted to handling public records requests — which range from police reports to training and personnel records — which have nearly doubled in the past five years.
“We’ve kind of gone back to the basics without a lot of frills,” Compaan said. “We’re going to do the very best that we can to provide excellent, responsive 911 service, but our ability to be proactive in the area of crime prevention in particular has been unfortunately diminished because of the cuts.”
With 56 commissioned police officers, Edmonds’ ratio of 1.37 police officers per thousand population is one of the lowest in the Puget Sound region, a figure that Councilmember Wilson cited when he argued against the Skippers purchase two weeks ago.
“We need more help,” Compaan agreed. “A staff assistant, more police officers, a crime prevention unit of some sort. “We’ve had an excellent group of employees who have been very dedicated to the department and the community. Because police staff have been willing to wear a variety of hats, the department budget cuts haven’t been visible to general public, he said, “but that’s become increasingly difficult. You can only do so much before it gets tiring.”
Regarding the Council’s vote that could potentially cost the city $1.1 million, “I’m concerned about the potential impact that (the Skippers property) purchase or any other significant purchase will have on the general fund,” Compaan said. “I mean, $1.1 million for the city in the financial position that it’s in right now is a fair chunk of change. It’s a fair chunk of change even on a good day.
“I’d be just as concerned if mayor said, ‘I need 10 additional parks department people,'” he continued. “It all may be needed, but is it the right time?”