A sign posted on the railing in front of the Blue Lake post office yesterday. (Photo by Frank Onstine.)

The small town of Blue Lake nestled in the foothills of Northern Humboldt used to have its own police force. But, after a scandal in 2008 allegedly involving guns, drugs, and sex which resulted in the police chief being arrested, the community contracted with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s office to provide deputies dedicated to working in Blue Lake at a substation there instead of hiring a city police force.

The most recent contract with the Humboldt County Sheriff expired June 30th, 2013.  The deputies continued to staff an office in Blue Lake without a contract for many months but, towards the end of the year, the Sheriff’s Department, reportedly worried about insurance liability issues, refused to continue without an agreement. A meeting was held on New Year’s Eve which included Sheriff Mike Downey, the city manager, John Berchtold, a representative from the public safety committee, and Supervisor Mark Lovelace.

According to Lovelace, the city “approved a contract contingent upon five points.” The disagreements, he said, were small and some areas just needed clarification. However, without a contract, the Sheriff’s Department would no longer staff an office in Blue Lake itself. They would respond to all calls just like they do in unincorporated areas of the county, but they would no longer have deputies assigned to work in the town substation.

Acknowledging the situation, the city posted the information about the closing of the Blue Lake office on their homepage.

Without the day to day presence of Humboldt County Sheriff’s deputies, some residents approached the Lost Coast Outpost expressing concern about a series of incidents in the area which included, among other crimes, break-ins at the Blue Lake School on New Year’s Day and the Mad River Brewery soon thereafter.

The sign pictured above was posted in front of the Post Office yesterday and expresses a growing sense of frustration on the part of some residents with the situation.

Paula Wyant, superintendent/principal at Blue Lake School, noted that in October the community held a meeting in which most residents had expressed support for the Sheriff’s substation and renewing the contract. The recent break-in at her school resulted only in a small loss of about $400 worth of cash and goods but, as a result, the school has decided to install an alarm system which will cost even more.

She said that, in light of the break-in, the system was now a necessity. Wyant noted that “when people know that there is not [law enforcement] readily available,” they are more likely to commit a crime.”

She hopes to attend tonight’s meeting and see the council reach an agreement to sign the contract.

According to John Berchtold, the Blue Lake City manager, the meeting tonight will “look at whether we can come to terms with the sheriff and, if we do, they should be restoring services tomorrow… . I think we are very, very close to an agreement.”