Medical Lake candidates say more study is needed before changing course on law enforcement

Both candidates for position 4 on the Medical Lake City Council say more study is needed before abandoning the city’s partnership with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

Don Kennedy, a resident of 21 years and retired attorney, said that as debate continues about a possible end to Medical Lake’s contract with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, his main objective is maintaining an economically responsible budget.

Tony Harbolt, a officer at Airway Heights Corrections Center, said there are several benefits to maintaining the police contract with the sheriff’s office.

“What I propose is the city undergo an in-depth analysis of the current contract, including a legitimate feasibility study,” Harbolt said. “After which, I believe the topic should be put to bed so the city’s work can be done again.”

Kennedy also supports completing a financial analysis for the police contract. He said he’s unsure if the city would be able to offer large enough salaries to attract qualified applicants for an in-house force. Medical Lake disbanded its police department in 2009 when the City Council opted to contract with the sheriff’s office.

“We could not find and retain qualified applicants for what we could afford to pay,” Kennedy said. “We had other applicants apply, we sent them to school and get trained, and as soon as their commitment was up to Medical Lake they left.”

Harbolt, who was the last chief of the Medical Lake department, said his highest priorities in running for City Council are public safety and code enforcement.

In addition to an analysis of the police contract, Harbolt said he wants to add more lighting for public safety, clean up commercial and residential areas to increase property values and add resources like a dog park and children’s splash pad for city residents and families.

Kennedy also said he would like to see increased business in the city, and that council members should help pave the way for small business owners.

“It would be nice if we had a vibrant business community in Medical Lake,” Kennedy said.

Harbolt said his work and life experience make him a strong candidate for the city council, and that he has an ability to work well with others.

“I want folks to know they can count on me to represent everyone, not just the folks who voted for me,” Harbolt said.

Kennedy said he thinks his educational experience will help him to understand the complexities of city government needed for the position.

“Medical Lake is a wonderful town,” he said. “ I am thinking in order to maintain the quality of our city, there needs to be a certain attention to fiscal matters and responsible spending, and I believe I can contribute to that.”