With just three Council members attending the August 8, 2017 Biggs City Council meeting, all three praised the Gridley-Biggs Police Department and stated the delay was never about the level of service given to Biggs.
"I've seen the Facebook posts," Mayor Angela Thompson told fellow council members, staff and the audience. "This is not a matter of us not wanting the Gridley-Biggs Police Department. I love the service, speaking on my behalf, It's the cost, a big jump from what we are paying now."
The City of Gridley had increased the three-year agreement for the first time since 2013 from $460,224 to $507,452 annually, nearly a 10 percent increase.
"Biggs is short on funds and does not have money for an increase. It's never been about the service," Mayor Thompson stated.
The agreement does include a cancellation clause with six months’ notice if desired.
GBPD Chief Dean Price told Council members Thompson, Roger Frith and Nate Wilkinson that he had researched and reviewed several California cities with police services contracts. Some cities with similar population bases to Gridley and Biggs would have brought a contract price of $1 million.
"Not all agencies in Butte County are comparable. Butte County Deputies are as equally skilled as our (Gridley-Biggs) officers. We are equal in our ability to provide basic police services. Their (BCSO’s) leader is exceptional bar none. They have a lot on their plate with the Oroville Dam Incident and their consideration of providing services to the Oroville Police Department. Gridley has a geographical advantage in its delivery of services. It makes sense Biggs stays with Gridley. We are at $460,000 now with an increase to $507,462 for the past four years."
Councilman Nate Wilkinson stated his opinion was the same as the Mayor. "This is not about the service. Our City has not received any other bids. Our current relationship with the City of Gridley is strained at best. We were threatened with a lawsuit. Us being treated in a professional manner is not an issue with the Chief or the Department. They (PD) work for the City of Gridley. On a budgetary side, I am frightened. Chief Price is very receptive to our concerns."
Councilman Roger Frith stated the City of Biggs used to pay nearly $800,00 a year in the beginning back in 2001 before the contract was re-negotiated in 2013 to $460,224, which expired June of 2014. The amount did not change in four years, no cost escalator with many costs going up.
Chief Price stated the next day, "I am grateful for the opportunity to provide and lead the police services to the community of Biggs and we look forward to the next three years fostering a safe community in Biggs."
GBPD responded to 166 incidents in June, but 235 in July, a 40% increase. Chief Price stated on Wednesday that crime is on the rise in many California cities. AB109, California's realignment plan and Proposition 47, Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act have both contributed to some of the crime increases.
Councilman Frith stated it was hard for the City to have meaningful negotiations with totally false information being spread on social media. We are still much lower than the original $800,000 we used to pay. I wanted to move on with this a month ago. I would loveto see CSO's to help with volunteer opportunities to not only help us but Gridley and Biggs both. We cannot drag this out forever."
Members of the audience spoke in favor of GBPD officers and the job they have done protecting the citizens of Biggs.
One woman stated she currently has a restraining order for her protection and when she has called for help the police have arrived at her home within five minutes.
"I don't know what I would have done without them. I would be very scared and not feel safe walking down the street if we didn't have the officers in our town. I don't know what I would do.”
One man stated he leaves his house at 3 a.m., every morning for work and often sees a patrol car.
"if we had to call the Butte County Sheriff's it would take at least 10-20 minutes for them to arrive. I see the officers in our town. I have had to call them and they show up. I think we should keep the Gridley officers. I understand it's more money," he stated.
The Biggs Police Services Agreement will be presented to the Gridley Council at their regular meeting on August 21, 2017 for ratification. If Gridley City Council ratifies the Agreement then the new Agreement will begin on September 1, 2017 and expire on June 30, 2020.