NORTH BEND — In an emotionally-charged city council meeting, North Bend councilors voted 4-1 to approve the adoption of a $15 public safety fee set to begin July 1. The fee, which will be collected each month, will help cover operation costs for the city’s police and fire departments as well as restore cuts made to their budgets.
The $10 increase, which was added on top of the existing $5 fee, will allow for public safety departments to continue providing optimal services throughout the city. With the increased fee, the North Bend Police Department will be able to afford and retain their four newly-hired officers.
North Bend Police Chief Robert Kappelman spoke at Tuesday’s meeting and gave an emotional overview of how the increase in officers has impacted his department in a positive way. Kappleman provided councilors with a list of statistics on how his department was functioning before and after the new hires.
Among those included the decrease of pending cold cases, which reduced from 15 to 1, a decrease in investigative delays, which fell from 28 days to 24 hours and an increase in officers per shift.
Kappelman said after moving to North Bend five years ago, he sat in front of community leaders and asked what they wanted to see from their police department in the next 5-10 years and what goal’s did they have in mind?
“The overwhelming and consistent answer is we want to see community policing at the next level,” said Kappelman. “It was because of the research I had already done of the people who were working in this department as well as the answer to that question that made me realize for me this was a perfect fit. I still feel that way.”
At the end of his presentation, Kappelman once again pleaded with councilors to pass the resolution as a way to continue on providing critical services to the community.
North Bend City Administrator Terence O’Conner reminded city council members that the city has not been able to cover the costs of providing public safety service with property taxes alone since 2002. Over the past 16 years, with inflation and service adjusted the deficit has grown to $1.3 million.
“We think this is a reasonable approach,” said O’Conner. “I submit to the council that no one likes fees, no one likes to raise fees, but in the same token it’s a reality of how we’ll survive.”
The increased fee is estimated to generate an additional $540,900 to the operations of public safety departments. According to O’Conner, the total monthly public safety fee of $15 can be broken down to costing each household and business in North Bend an estimated 49 cents a day. The fee will be collected through each resident’s water and sewer utility bill and will appear on its own line.