Mammoth Police Chief Dan Watson confirmed that a tentative agreement between the Town of Mammoth Lakes and the Police Officers Association has been reached and will result in the loss of one position in his Department, a cut of nearly 50% of his overtime budget, and a roughly 16% cut in officers’ benefits. The Chief added that civilian employees have agreed to 10% in concessions.
As part of mediation with creditors and employees to balance the budget, Town officials had negotiated with employees, even though contracts were in place. Chief Watson said that both police and civilian employees had reached tentative agreement to pay their own contributions to the Public Employee Retirement System. That’s 9% from police and 8% from other workers.
The tentative agreement includes cuts to deferred compensation and a freeze on another retirement plan. It is expected that all employees will sign the agreement with the Town, although Watson said it is not signed yet. Earlier other sources close to the situation had indicated that agreement was close.
Chief Watson underscored that the Department already functions with the minimum number of patrol officers and four other officers – Detective, grant-funded MONET Officer, School Resource Officer and Traffic Enforcement.
The Chief said that the position of Traffic Enforcement will definitely end. He said he will hold staff meetings to work on different schedules to see if he can keep the School Resource Officer with a split of duties including patrol. The Chief explained that all patrol officers are responsible for traffic enforcement. “One officer has been assigned to traffic enforcement as his primary responsibility. He works various hours and focuses his time on specific traffic problem locations. He also conducts traffic safety presentations to the schools, coordinates a traffic rodeo (just did it at kidapalooza), and provides traffic data to the other officers. The officer currently assigned to that position (David Scobie) will be reassigned to a patrol position. No doubt, he will continue to focus attention on traffic enforcement, but not to the extent he has been in the past,” said the Chief.
In a press release issued Tuesday, June 26, the Chief had more to say:
Chief Dan Watson said, “I appreciate that the members of the POA respect and understand the very difficult position the Town is facing with its budget and are willing to be part of the solution. Once again, they have stepped up and voluntarily agreed to substantial concessions to help the Council balance the budget.”
The Chief also said that the elimination of the police officer position means that the least senior officer will be laid off. The officer will be offered a position as a reserve police officer and as soon as a vacancy occurs, he will be offered a full-time position. This may occur in the near future since at least one officer is processing as a lateral transfer to another police department.
The Police Department will also lose 46% of the $200,000 overtime budget. Next fiscal year, overtime funds will amount to $107,000. Chief Watson said dealing with this cut will be a challenge. He said that most overtime is in shift coverage. Watson said the Department currently has the bare minimum on patrol and so when someone is sick or absent, that means overtime.
Watson said he will make some radical decisions to deal with the large overtime cut, including cuts of discretionary programs like the Police Academy and Honor Guard. Those programs use up overtime money. So does coverage of special events. In the new fiscal year, the Police Department will require reimbursement for extra officers on major events in Mammoth Lakes.