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The St. Helena and Calistoga police departments are exploring a deeper shared-services partnership, as Calistoga struggles to fill vacant officer positions.

Both City Councils recently approved a shared-services agreement clarifying the terms under which one police department can help the other during staffing shortages.

On Tuesday, St. Helena City Manager Mark Prestwich told the council that Calistoga is also getting ready to launch a study that will analyze three alternatives: keeping its standalone police department, contracting with the Napa County Sheriff’s Office, or teaming up with St. Helena to share command, patrol and/or dispatch services.

St. Helena and Calistoga have historically stepped in to help each other out on a short-term basis when one of the cities has a staffing shortage. Since late 2018, St. Helena officers have been working overtime shifts for the short-staffed Calistoga Police Department.

A relatively meager compensation package makes it hard for Calistoga to attract quality candidates who can pass an extensive screening process, Acting St. Helena Police Chief Chris Hartley told the St. Helena City Council on Tuesday. Calistoga is short three officers, with a fourth opening anticipated by the end of the year, according to a staff report by Calistoga Police Chief Mitch Celaya.

The fully staffed St. Helena Police Department has been able to help, and the shared-services agreement approved by both councils will make that process more seamless. But the deeper merger being contemplated by Calistoga would require a lot more discussion, possibly at a joint St. Helena/Calistoga City Council meeting, Prestwich said.

The prospect of sharing police services comes at an opportune time for St. Helena, which is looking at replacing the dilapidated building that houses City Hall and the police station.

The council has talked about moving City Hall to the Adams Street property, but consideration of a new police station is on hold as St. Helena and Calistoga explore the shared-services model.

St. Helena has recently reorganized its fire and public works departments, and now the time is right to evaluate the police department, Prestwich told the council.

Other action

Also on Tuesday, the council:

  • Approved its responses to a pair of Napa County Grand Jury reports, one on St. Helena’s financial management and infrastructure and the other on water quality throughout the county.
  • Approved a two-year, interest-free, $450,000 loan to Our Town St. Helena, helping fund the purchase of 963 Pope St. for an affordable housing project.

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