Mad River Union
McKINLEYVILLE – The McKinleyville Community Services District is wading into its latent powers, and may even look at collaborating with law enforcement to maintain and improve police services.
The district’s authority was discussed Feb. 3 by the MCSD Board of Directors, which oversees sewer, water, streetlights, open space maintenance, parks and recreation in the unincorporated community.
The district, however, could take on additional powers under state law. The MCSD would first need approval from the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo). Then the MCSD board would need to pass an ordinance. No voter approval would be necessary unless there was sufficient written protests during a protest hearing.
The MCSD could take on police powers and create its own police department, although that’s highly unlikely due to legal, political and financial reasons.
“Based on conversations with LAFCo staff, it is unlikely that LAFCo would approve the district providing law enforcement services to McKinleyville, due to the overlap of powers that would result between MCSD and the Sheriff’s Department,” states a Latent Powers Committee Report prepared by a MCSD sub committee.
LAFCo oversees municipal services in Humboldt County and tries to avoid overlapping services, boundaries and other conflicts.
Even if LAFCo allowed the MCSD to have its own police department, the district would have to figure out how to pay for it.
The budget for the police department in Arcata, which is similar in size to McKinleyville, is about $6 million a year. If all of the MCSD’s 5,800 water customers equally paid for a similar size department, each customer would pay about $1,034 per year in additional taxes to fund police.
“The committee in no ways thinks that the district should adopt full Law Enforcement powers and thinks that the current arrangement with the Sheriff’s Department is satisfactory,” states the Latent Powers Committee Report.
Rather than creating a police force, the committee wants the district to craft a resolution that would allow the district to collaborate with law enforcement agencies to provide adequate police services to the residents of McKinleyville.
In some ways, the MCSD already does this. It owns the Sheriff’s Office at Pierson Park and leases it to the Sheriff’s Department at a discounted rate.
“The committee is concerned that if future Sheriff’s or the County decided to further cut the Sheriff’s staffing at the McKinleyville Substation, it would be good if the District had the ability to assist in funding additional law enforcement staff or support the Sheriff’s Department in other ways. The District needs to be able to provide security for district property, buildings and board meetings if law enforcement is unavailable,” states the committee report.
“The committee recommends that the district adopt a resolution that allows the district to enter into collaborative police service with the Humboldt County Sheriff or other parties, and such other appropriate police service so as to provide safe and adequate police services to the citizens of McKinleyville,” the report states. “This includes but is not limited to providing physical facilities, leasing to the Sheriff Department, providing police equipment, reviewing and monitoring police efforts in McKinleyville, entering into convict work programs (e.g. SWAP or other convict work or community service programs), communication sharing and the hiring of personnel, and providing for the protection of district property, buildings, board meetings, community parades or events if law enforcement is unavailable. These enhancements to authority are to supplement County law enforcement, not replace it.”
District staff intends to work with Fifth District Supervisor Steve Madrone and Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal as it crafts a resultion.
The committee is also recommending that the board adopt a policy statement clarifying the district’s role in helping homeless people.
The district doesn’t have any specific authority to set up social services. The committee is recommending that the district restrict its activities to leasing its properties who have the necessary experience and insurance to run programs for homeless people.
Such requests should be reviewed by the board on a case-by-case basis, according to the committee.
The committee also asked the board to support the McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee and provide it with $3,000 in the coming fiscal year. Some of the funding would come in the form of in-kind contributions from MCSD staff making photocopies.