Since July 1, Baker City households have been paying $3 per month and businesses $6 to help avoid layoffs in the police and fire departments.

At least that’s what city officials told us was the purpose for the Public Safety Fee that was added to our monthly water/sewer bills.

Except now, barely three months later, we learn that the city, at least temporarily, won’t replace a police officer who resigned. City Manager Fred Warner Jr. told the City Council Tuesday that the city will leave that position vacant for three months, and during that period decide whether the police department can get by without filling that slot. The overriding goal is to save money to help the city afford to accept a federal grant that would pay more than half the cost to hire three new firefighter/paramedics for three years. The grant would pay $426,000, and the city’s share would be $264,000.

We wrote in this space last month that we think the city should accept the grant.

But we also remember that this spring, when the city was discussing the public safety fee, the sole purpose for the fee, according to multiple staff reports to the City Council, was to avoid layoffs in the police and fire department. The fee was not intended to raise money to partially cover the city’s share of the grant, which the city at that time had only applied for.

The city, after imposing a fee that many residents opposed, has an obligation to ensure that people are getting what they’re supposed to for their money, including avoiding cuts, even of the temporary variety, in the police department.

From the Baker City Herald editorial board. The board consists of publisher Kari Borgen, editor Jayson Jacoby and reporter Chris Collins.

18460337