County, tribe settle up bill for law enforcement

The Suquamish Tribe will reimburse Kitsap County $16,000 for the impact of the Clearwater Casino on law enforcement and other services.

The agreement was ratified on Friday when tribal representatives met with the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners.

The amount represented a compromise, with both sides walking away with less than they wanted. The county — most specifically the Sheriff’s Department — felt entitled to a greater share of the $40,000 set aside for this purpose. The tribe, meanwhile, felt its own police force was enforcing most of the necessary laws and deserving of the money.

“The resolution was not what I would have hoped,” said Sheriff Steve Boyer in a statement. “However, it now allows me to focus my energies on important safety issues which affect all of Kitsap’s citizens.”

The agreement covers 1999 through 2002. Disbursement of funds for subsequent years will require another agreement.

A statute known as the tribal-state compact requires the tribe to withhold and disburse a maximum of 2 percent of the net winnings for the Class III gaming operations to assist local agencies. But the statute requires documented costs, which aren’t easy to determine.

The compromise, hammered out by a committee including Central Kitsap Commissioner Patty Lent, Gambling Commission Director Rick Day and Tribe Chairman Bennie Armstrong, allocated half of the funds — now in escrow — back to the tribe.

After the county’s $16,000 share, the rest went to police and fire departments in Bainbridge Island, Poulsbo and North Kitsap.

“Many calls are handled by the tribal police,” Lent said. “But there is still impact on the roads as well as traffic accidents and 911 calls that are hard to separate. All this takes considerable staff time.”

Said Kitsap County Under-sheriff Dennis Bonneville, “You can’t always judge the impact of the casino because people who are arrested don’t always tell the truth about where they started.”

For instance, the Sheriff recently broke up a forgery ring, which used the casino to pass bad checks.

Here, it would be impossible to separate the cost of the investigation by region or jurisdiction.

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