|2/26/2013 11:29:00 AM|
Sheriff shares thoughts, concerns with citizens
|Mirror photo by Vince Lovato|
Sheriff Brian Burnett, right, with David Severance (far left) and Tom Martin.
Chelan County Sheriff, Brian Burnett sat in front of a computer, operating a Power-Point presentation and talking to a dozen community members as a row of deputies stood diligently along the wall nearby.
A group of men and woman in chairs listened intently, switching their attention between Burnett and the presentation on the wall.
The annual Sheriff/community meeting, held Feb. 20 at the Chelan PUD Community Room offered the chance for all area citizens to interact with law enforcement authorities.
About a dozen citizens and a few politicians took the department up on its offer.
Burnett scrolled through his presentation that showed that the Sheriff's Department operated within its $8.3 million budget. He broke down the numbers for citizens and explained all the jargon that defines the department's goals.
Burnett talked about his staff, upcoming hires and various programs inside the department.
When it was time for the community to speak, south shore resident Diane Rittenmeyer relayed a harrowing story about an emergency call to the Rivercom Dispatch center last year.
"Late in the fall there was a large sail boat out on the lake," she said. "It was really windy and stormy."
The boat was bobbing wildly in the weather. Rittenmeyer said she and her husband, Gary, were looking at the boat to see if anyone was aboard the vessel. The couple was unsure if the boat broke loose in the weather or if someone was on the boat and in medical distress. So they called Rivercom for help.
"When we called, they said there's nothing we can do," Rittenmeyer said.
Stunned that no Sheriff's deputies were coming to help and concerned for the boat and its possible crew, Diane and Gary gathered up some neighbors, boarded the Rittenmeyer's boat and headed out to help.
"The boat was bobbing up and down and all over the place," she said.
The Rittenmeyers and their neighbors knew the danger of getting close to the sail boat but took the chance, got a line on the boat and brought it to The Cove.
It turned out that the boat was abandoned and had torn loose from its mooring. The owner lives in Kennewick.
"What if someone was on board that needed help," she said.
Chelan County Sheriff Sgt. Rob Huddleston, who is the acting Marine Patrol Coordinator said that the Rittenmeyers have a right to be upset. The incident should have been responded to.
Though there is no excuse for what happened with that call, Huddleston said that a few factors may have come into play during that time.
One of those concerns the department's boat. Last summer vandals caused serious damage to the Sheriff's boat, forcing the department to take it out of the water for some pricey repair. Regardless, Huddleston said the Sheriff's Department understands how important policing Lake Chelan waters are, and are already planning for this year's Memorial Day Weekend crowd.
Huddleston is filling in temporarily because Sgt. Randy Foltz retired Feb. 1 and the new Marine Patrol Coordinator, Sgt. Andy Zimmerman, won't begin his official duties until April 1.
Huddleston said anyone with concerns about the Marine Patrol can call him any time. Last year the Marine Patrol responded to 150 incidents, issued 144 citations and 173 marine violations. The department has a total of 15 certified marine deputies on is staff, most of which respond to the north end of Chelan County, Burnett said.
The county also has a strong volunteer marine program, which consists of volunteers enthusiasts who are at the ready in situations like the sail boat torn loose last fall.
The breakdown in communication and help between the Rittenmeyers and the Sheriff's Department's Marine Program last fall won't happen again.
The annual Sheriff's Department and community meeting was coordinated by the Sheriff's Department Citizen's Advisory Committee.
Past Zone Chairman David Severance, of Leavenworth was on hand to answer questions about the Citizens Advisory Committee.
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