Avalon seeks assurances on merger

Avalon officials are looking for some assurances from Bellevue that they won’t be wasting their time to begin a police department consolidation study, as requested by Bellevue.

A letter from Avalon Council president Josh Klicker was sent to Bellevue Mayor Paul Cusick, enumerating a number of concerns by Avalon officials, and seeking answers from their Bellevue counterparts before committing to a lengthy consolidation study.

Cusick presented those questions to Bellevue Council at its regular meeting Tuesday.

Topping the list presented by Klicker in the letter were questions about whether Bellevue would, or could, follow through with any consolidation recommendations produced by the study. Specifically, he asked whether a majority of Bellevue Council favored consolidation, and whether the borough’s home rule charter would require another visit to the election ballot.

An initial attempt to consolidate the departments years ago was thwarted because Bellevue’s charter required voter approval of a referendum amending the home rule charter to allow for police services to be provided by an entity other than the police department. Since that time, the charter has been amended, with voter approval, to give Bellevue Council the authority to approve consolidation with other North Boroughs municipalities only.

As for how many officials in Bellevue support at least the study of a possible consolidation, council voted unanimously at Tuesday’s meeting to proceed.

Klicker also asked for assurances from Bellevue that neither department would increase its number of full-time officers while talks were ongoing, and that each borough would be responsible for its own debts and liabilities -- specifically those related to pensions -- accrued prior to any actual consolidation.

Cusick said that he doubted there would be any reason to increase Bellevue’s 15-man department, and officials agreed that it would make sense to maintain past debts.

Cusick asked council president Mark Helbling to name a consolidation committee to represent Bellevue.

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