CALISTOGA — The Calistoga Police Department is at a crossroads. At the city budget meeting May 9, Police Chief Mitch Celaya told the city in no uncertain terms that funding and staffing issues have been ignored and are now coming to a head.
As a result, the department is below the status quo in Napa Valley and the city faces some tough decisions, he said.
Staffing is currently at 40 percent and recruitment is a continuous challenge due to a lack of up-to-date equipment and an unstable environment because of the turnover in the city manager position. The department is also facing the retirements of Chief Celaya, whose contract is up at the end of June, and Sergeant Tim Martin by the end of the year.
The department is also lacking in up-to-date technology such as vehicles with computers, especially with more demands from the state to report statistics on stops.
Given the situation, recruiting a new chief would not resolve the problem, Celaya said.
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One option the chief and council discussed would be to contract the department out to the Napa County Sheriff’s Office. This option would be more expensive by about $1 million, Celaya estimated. With this option, there are also potential problems with a delay in dispatch time, said Fire Chief Steve Campbell.
Another option would be to partner with the St. Helena Police Department for shared services.
At the request of council, Celaya agreed to stay on until the end of the year to provide the city with viable options going forward if given administrative support to gather financial and technical information.
“I’m willing to hold on if there is a reason to do it,” he said. “I’m not interested if it’s just hanging on with no movement forward. We need to take big steps to improve the department. The status quo is not working. We need to be able to grow.”