FORKS — As Forks Police Department Administrator Rick Bart sets his sights on retirement at the end of the year, city officials are looking at what to do about the top leadership position in the department.
Hiring a uniformed police chief — a position absent from the department’s ranks since 2013 — is not out of the question, said Mayor Bryon Monohon.
The biggest factor at this point, he said, is: “What can we afford?”
Bart was hired as police administrator April 2013 and most recently signed a three-year contract from April 1, 2015, to Dec. 31, 2017.
He took the position after Chief Douglas Price stepped down unexpectedly in 2011 after being chief for less than a year.
Monohon said the city is now in preliminary discussions about what to do next.
If the city wants to hire a police chief in time to take over when Bart leaves, the city would need to begin advertising within about two months, Monohon said.
“We’ll keep talking about it for the next couple meetings,” he said.
He said it doesn’t hurt to at least advertise for the position, in case the city does decide to hire a chief.
The hiring process is lengthy and can last nearly a year, Monohon said.
“In this day and age, if you can do this in eight months, you should get an award,” he said.
Whether the city will hire another administrator, hire a chief, contract with the county or find another option isn’t known yet, Monohon said.
The city hasn’t yet checked to see what other cities about the size of Forks are paying chiefs.
The numbers are available; the city just hasn’t gotten that far in the process, Monohon said.
“We have to figure out what police chiefs are getting paid,” he said.
The city council will have to weigh the benefits of having a uniformed police chief who can carry out police duties against the savings of just having an administrator, Monohon said.
“A lot of people would rather have someone doing officer duties,” he said. “But it will come down to what we can afford.”
He said it’s far too early to know whether the council would even consider asking taxpayers to help fund the position. He said if there’s a way to fund it that “wasn’t awful,” it could be considered, but recently the city has not raised taxes.
“We’re just trying to get the most we can with what we have,” Monohon said.
Bart said that whatever the city decides to do, he still plans to retire at the end of the year.
“I think it’s the right time,” he said.
He was hired as a temporary employee and his contract evolved into a part-time position.
He was originally working four days a week at $44.50 an hour but scaled back his hours to save money for the budget, he said.
“I’m on call,” he said. “I can come in if they need me.”
Bart said that while he will leave his position, he has no plans to leave the area.
“We live in Freshwater Bay. I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “We enjoy living where we’re at.”
Bart said he’d recommend the city hire a chief but said the biggest issue in making that decision will be the city’s budget.
“They should leave their options open and talk about everything from A to Z in what they want to do,” he said. “The police department is an expensive proposition.
“They need to look long and hard at the budget.”
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].