Because Challis city officials didn’t formally request the Custer County Sheriff’s Office provide extra law enforcement during the Braun Brothers Reunion festival, they wondered why they were billed about $6,000.
According to Mayor Mike Barrett it was the first time, at least recently, the Sheriff’s Office charged the city for extra security during the big three-day event. The law enforcement contract between Challis and the county states extra services need to be requested, the mayor said.
“I don’t think we owe this,” Barrett said to City Council members at an Aug. 26 meeting.
After the meeting, Sheriff Stu Lumpkin confirmed the city hadn’t sent a formal request. Surprised by the bill, Challis council members said they couldn’t help but feel like it had to do with the current negotiations over the city’s contract with the Sheriff’s Office.
Lumpkin and Custer County commissioners have been negotiating new law enforcement contracts with Challis, Mackay and Stanley officials since July. Stanley and Mackay leaders have committed to increasing their annual payments, but not to the $80,000 the Sheriff’s Office wants from each city at some point. Mackay has agreed to pay $40,000 and Stanley increased its payment to $56,000. Challis city officials chose to keep their payment the same as it was last year — 58,625. According to the county, law enforcement costs continually increase and more money is needed from the cities.
The Braun Brothers bill isn’t retaliation for not getting an increase from Challis officials, County Commissioner Wayne Butts said, but a necessary change.
At a July Challis council meeting, Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Justin Mitchell pointed out the Sheriff’s Office hasn’t historically charged for deputies working extra hours at county public events. However, because of the rising costs for gear and maintenance and the need to retain trained deputies, Mitchell said that practice couldn’t continue.
At the time, Barrett said the city has to request extra services before the Sheriff’s Office can bill them for extra hours worked. After the music festival, Barrett said the only time a city official asked that a deputy enforce Challis codes was on Thursday, Aug. 12. Barrett called the Sheriff’s Office dispatch center because someone complained about a fifth-wheel trailer parked on Fourth Street.
Barrett explained to council members in August another reason to not pay the bill is that it could potentially set a bad precedent. It wouldn’t be fair if people can bring bills to City Hall without proof of a formal request, he said.