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Royal City OKs funds for police car, park survey

by JOEL MARTIN
Staff Writer | July 20, 2022 4:02 PM

ROYAL CITY — The Royal City City Council Tuesday evening considered buying a patrol car from the Soap Lake Police Department to fill a need identified by Royal City Police Chief Rey Rodriguez but decided against it, instead budgeting available money for a vehicle already on order. Another vehicle is sorely needed, said Royal City Police Chief Rey Rodriguez.

“Right now we only have three vehicles,” Rodriguez said. “And we have four of us who are working right now. We have Hannah (Soelter), who just started yesterday in Moses Lake, she's taking her personal car now. We reimburse her for her mileage, obviously … So, if we don't get at least a temporary one, we're going to be shuffling vehicles, and right now we have take-home vehicles because when we go out on calls, we've been taking our stuff out, putting the other stuff in.”

The police department currently has a Ford Explorer on order from the state, explained City Finance Director Shilo Christensen in an interview later. The vehicle was previously expected to be available in July, but its current estimated availability date is September, and even that is uncertain.

In the meeting, Christensen pointed out that the city has funds from a federal program that could be used to purchase the vehicle outright. The money would come from the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund, part of the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill passed by Congress last year.

“We received the COVID money from the federal government,” Christensen said. “Right now we have $624,000 that's been allocated to us … Those funds could be used for police vehicles. So this vehicle that we're purchasing, what do you think about instead of using general funds, which we can use on anything anyway, we can use these COVID funds that we have to use? We have to commit these COVID funds by 2024, or else we lose them. Personally, as a finance person, if I have use-it-or-lose-it money or money I can spend on anything, I want to use the use-it-or-lose-it money first.”

The council ultimately voted to budget $65,000 from the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds - also known as SLFRF - for the new vehicle.

The council also voted to allocate up to $7,000 to engineering firm Anderson Perry & Associates, based in Walla Walla, to survey the land east of the existing city park and determine exactly where the lines are between city-owned and privately-owned property, as a step in the process of expanding the park. The city has applied for two grants to help cover the cost of the expansion, but won’t find out until next June whether those grants are approved.

Joel Martin can be reached via email at jmartin@columbiabasinherald.com.

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