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Sequim city council wrap-up

A busy city council session Monday night left the city with a clearer idea of where it stands for the rest of 2013.
Councilors received three reports regarding the state of the city’s information technology services, a review of police services for 2012 and a financial report for the first quarter of 2013.
Additionally, councilors voted to take out a loan for the purchase of new wastewater treatment equipment and passed an ordinance that will affect the cost of operating for new businesses.
The two big-ticket items on the council’s agenda for the night were police reports from Chief Bill Dickinson and Mike Montgomery from Presidio IT consulting services, who both informed the council on issues facing the city internally and externally.

IT woes
Montgomery detailed several of the city’s successes and failures in its IT department, including technical and operational issues. Technical issues ranged from poor computers to data connections, while poor technology training and excessive time spent on activating new IT systems illustrated operational problems. The list continued through a litany of issues raised by the ad hoc nature of the city’s IT setup, such as a lack of redundancy in backup systems.
“Depressing” was Mayor Ken Hays’s word of choice for the state of the systems. “My plan for a data server collapse is to scream hysterically and leave work early to go out for a drink to forget about it.”
Presidio’s report, for which the city paid $25,000, concluded by suggesting the city hire a permanent IT specialist to supervise its transition through new technologies. For IT infrastructure projects, they suggested that the city utilize interns to keep costs down.

Crime and no punishment
Also of issue in the meeting was Dickinson’s annual report of the police service in the city. Dickinson’s report was telling in the kinds of crime faced by Sequim, as well as the city’s overall crime rate. At 49.2 crimes per 1,000 people, Sequim comes in 10 points higher than the state average, although six points below Port Angeles. Much of this elevated rate is due to theft, which outnumbers all other crime in the city.
According to the report, most of Sequim’s crime comes down to theft, which is committed four times as often as assault, the second highest offense. Dickinson said one reason that thefts are so high in the area is that repeat offenders are no longer incarcerated or prosecuted due to diminished county and state resources for prosecuting offenders. According to City Manager Steve Burkett, the cost of incarcerating a theft offender is $75 per day, which ultimately can cost the city as much as $300,000 per year.
During discussion, Dickinson pointed out that substance abuse drives most property crime in the county. Unfortunately, the DA’s office simply doesn’t have the resources to prosecute each case and often settles for plea bargains to keep costs down. When asked why the county hasn’t put forward an additional sales tax or other levy to raise funds for public safety, Dickinson said he believes commissioners are hesitant to put the question before voters.
“I think they’re cowards,” Councilor Ted Miller responded.
The annual report also detailed the police department’s community involvement, which translated to almost 4,000 hours of community service from installing and inspecting child safety seats to serving subpoenas and checking on vacation houses.
Read the full story online at www.sequimgazette.com.
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