Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Discovery Bay residents to offer input on increased law enforcement funding

With more than $1 million available for additional law enforcement, Discovery Bay residents will meet tonight to offer their suggestions on how the money should be spent.

The meeting will focus on how Contra Costa Sheriff Warren Rupf should propose to spend a portion of $1.2 million in P-6 District funds — a special tax on certain areas within the county for increased sheriff's services.

Rupf frustrated a number of residents when he made a proposal to the county board of supervisors without consulting the community, Discovery Bay resident Bob Mankin said.

"I've asked him at least three times," Mankin said. "I said, 'Please, when you get the plan, bring this before the community.' And I've been blown off. The community's been blown off."

The town-hall meeting will be moderated by Community Services Director Dave Dove at 7 p.m. at Timberpoint Elementary School, 40 Newbury Lane.

Rupf's proposal was removed from the board of supervisors agenda until the community could offer input, Supervisor Mary Piepho said in a letter to the Discovery Bay Community Services District board. The supervisors must approve Rupf's proposal before any money is spent.

Rupf said he received direction on the proposal from previous county public protection committee meetings, which residents are encouraged to attend.

"I don't do anything without seeking advice from the (committee)," Rupf said.

The tax was adopted in 1989 by the board Advertisementof supervisors as a way to provide funding to maintain and extend police services to unincorporated areas of the county. The tax came to one community in Discovery Bay in 1995, and has since accumulated to a point where the town can make use of it for the first time.

Rupf proposed spending $357,815 for two resident deputy sheriffs, one patrol car, and a crime specialist, as well as $40,000 toward a town surveillance camera project.

Critics of the proposal said it didn't offer many details, leaving residents in the dark as to what exactly they were getting for their money.

"There are not many ways to apply this kind of money," Rupf said. "There's not a sophisticated strategy. It's pretty basic."

Rupf said two resident deputies operating primarily in Discovery Bay would be much better than the town's current level of service: one deputy serving Discovery Bay, Byron and Knightsen.

Mankin said residents are unsure how often the deputies would be in Discovery Bay. Some are worried about the town losing its base level of service from the county, which Rupf didn't rule out.

"That beat deputy could be let go of," Rupf said, "depending on the budget situation."

Another issue is the surveillance camera program.

Mankin said the program was initiated by residents who live in an older area of Discovery Bay and don't pay the tax. He assumes the cameras would be placed in the older area but needs more information to be sure, he said.

Only five communities in Discovery Bay pay the tax. The money is supposed to be "returned to source" but definitions of "source" have differed.

While Mankin said residents in the P-6 zone are open to the entire community benefiting from the money, he defines "source" as the individual communities that pay the tax. Regardless, Rupf said he will strive to make proposals that benefit all of Discovery Bay.

"Our primary responsibility is to serve the people and their property," Rupf said. "I will continue to make the best decisions that I can to protect Discovery Bay and all of its citizens."

Although there has been some disagreement among town residents, Mankin said the community should focus on what happens with the money at the county level.

"This isn't about an 'us versus them' mentality," Mankin said. "The bigger issue is with the sheriff's accountability to the community."

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