Gold Hill disbands police department

GOLD HILL — The Gold Hill Police Department will disband in one month.

Council members during a special meeting Wednesday night voted unanimously to disband the controversial department effective June 30.

Public Works Director Royal Gasso confirmed the decision Wednesday night, though council members present were unable to comment because they were attending a dispute-resolution workshop that began right after the meeting to discuss the police department.

City officials and residents have been debating the fate of the department for months. The city's issues with having its own police department have spanned years. Most recently, discussions centered around concerns that the city's insurance provider, City County Insurance Services, had voiced about liability.

Had the city opted to keep its police force intact, liability coverage could have been denied or premiums raised by 50 to 75 percent. Currently, four lawsuits have been filed against the Gold Hill Police Department, requiring $40,000 in deductible payments from the city.

Setting the official date to disband as June 30 will allow the city to provide a 30-day notice to department employees that is required by the union. It will also prevent the city from entering into a new fiscal year, which begins July 1, which would have required renewed employment contracts.

Budget Committee member Christine Alford, a critic of the police department, called the decision to disband "anticlimactic."

"Ironically, it only took about five minutes to disband the police department. (Council member) Jan Fish made the motion, which was unanimously approved, then it was over," Alford said.

Council members reportedly did not discuss law enforcement alternatives, which could include contracting with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department for specific coverage levels or opting for "emergency only" protection, the same as county residents receive.

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