Portola gets a good deal on law enforcement

The city of Portola is getting a good deal on law enforcement, according to the Plumas County Board of Supervisors. At its regular meeting Sept. 4, the board approved a $100,000 contract paid by Portola for the use of the Sherriff’s Office for law enforcement in the city. In a 3-2 split decision, the county passed the agreement, but not without hesitation from county representatives.

Portola does not have its own police force, and has been paying the sheriff’s office to provide law enforcement services for years. Sherriff Greg Hagwood and Portola City Manager Leslie Chrysler presented a new contract for the department’s services. Though both parties worked together on the contract, Hagwood said the amount the city will pay was well below the cost for services.

“I think $100,000 for the cost of services the sheriff’s department provides to the city is exceedingly generous,” Hagwood said. “From a percentage point, Portola is 10 percent of the county’s population, however they utilize a disproportionately larger amount of services.”

Hagwood cited an effort to aid the city and show goodwill as his reason for approving the $100,000 fee. However, the city is not using any general fund money to pay the contract, and only using grant funds from the state to pay for its law enforcement.

“That is relatively unheard of,” said Hagwood.

“I really question if $100,000 is enough to fund the services,” said District 3 Supervisor Sherrie Thrall. “I am really concerned the county’s general fund is paying for Portola’s services.”

Chrysler responded, saying the county collects 51 percent of Portola’s property tax to pay for services like the library and senior nutrition. Portola is contributing to the county’s general fund.

“When a city incorporates, it is their right and responsibility to provide law enforcement services,” said County Counsel Craig Settlemire. “The sheriff can go inside and provide services, but they are not obligated to.”

Settlemire explained that the sheriff’s budget is about $5.5 million a year. Since Portola represents 10 percent of the county, a proportionate contribution would be $550,000 to the county.

“The county supplementing the city,” said Settlemire. “It all comes down to, what is the city and the county willing to agree to?”

Despite the low funding, the board approved the contract. Thrall and District 5 Supervisor Jeff Engel voted no, and Supervisors Goss, Sanchez and Simpson voted for the contract.