Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Mattawa sets pay scale for police chief

by Rachal Pinkerton, For the Columbia Basin Herald
| July 21, 2021 1:00 AM

MATTAWA — Depending on experience, the new Mattawa police chief could receive $98,000 to $117,000 per year, plus benefits, as the Mattawa City Council approved the pay scale during a meeting July 15.

Mattawa Mayor Maggie Celaya said the position hadn’t been advertised yet because there was no approved pay scale.

The contract with interim Mattawa Police Chief Mike Williams, who is filling the position of police chief temporarily, will be up at the end of July. Moses Lake and Mattawa entered an interlocal agreement April 27, allowing Williams to be interim chief for three months.

With no timeline on getting a new chief in place, Celaya said the city will have to see if it can borrow Willams “for a few more months.” However, there was no further discussion about that or when the city would advertise the open position.

Williams, a captain in the Moses Lake Police Department, recommended a pay scale for the new chief of $117,000 to $127,000 per year, which would increase the Mattawa Police Department’s budget for the year.

“You will need to increase the bottom line of the police budget if you adopt that salary scale,” Williams said.

Council member Tony Acosta opposed increasing the police budget because of the amount of money the city has had to pay this year.

“The general fund has taken quite a few hits this year,” Acosta said. “It’s scaring me.”

Acosta suggested eliminating one police officer position to free up the money necessary to pay the new chief the wages that Williams suggested. However, Williams was opposed to that idea because it would be a backward step for the city.

“The city of Mattawa is in a position where it needs to keep going forward,” Williams said. “Going forward, you need a strong leader. Strong, experienced leaders cost money. You need someone familiar with the unique issues Mattawa faces.”

According to Acosta, the police department is currently in a hiring freeze because of the instability of revenue.

“The police department is going to deplete the department with vacancies,” Acosta said. “If we give more money to the chief, we’re going to deplete the budget by 2022. Then what are we going to do? I agree we need to pay. I wish we could pay, but I don’t see it.”

After listening to the other council members express their opinions on the pay scale, council member Alex Heredia proposed adjusting the pay scale to $98,000 to $117,000 per year. This would be above what former police chief Joe Harris started with at $62,000 per year, after which his pay increased to $88,000 per year. The council passed Heredia’s proposal, with Acosta opposed.