The West Yellowstone Town Council met on Tuesday evening to look at the possibility of getting rid of the West Yellowstone Police Department.
Town council members, Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin, and the public discussed what would have to happen if they let the Gallatin County Sheriff's Office take over in West Yellowstone.
Among what was discussed at the meeting, Sheriff Gootkin said, included crunching the numbers to see exactly what it would cost.
He said the financial officer calculated it would cost West Yellowstone $600,000 to contract out Gallatin County.
That's about the same price, he added, that it would cost to keep the West Yellowstone Police Department and build it back up.
Gootkin said he answered a lot of questions at the meeting, as council members and the public looked at the details- like hiring, court services and coverage areas.
The Town Council is looking at the decision after firing former Chief Gordon Berger. A state investigation found he violated court orders and selectively enforced the law.
That left the Department without a Chief, and with just two officers.
Now, as the department scrambles to get back on its feet, the Gallatin County Sheriff's Office is helping out, but West Yellowstone taxpayers will have to foot the bill.
Mayor Brad Schmier explained they're weighing the pros and cons of contracting the Sheriff's Office before making a decision.
"Just make our job easier to get rid of that to give it to the sheriff's department, but a con would be a loss of local control," he said.
Residents have mixed feelings -- some saying, while they know something needs to be done after Berger was fired, they worry getting rid of the police department might not be the best solution.
One resident told NBC Montana he thought it would be good for the sheriff's office to take over.
But West Yellowstone business owner David Winter explained he's not excited about the idea of losing the town's police department.
"It's nice to see a police presence walking the streets and I don't think we'll see that with the sheriff's department," he said.
Winter is so adamantly against it, he signed a petition to keep the police department intact.
But Schmier said it's a real possibility, and an option they need to weigh as they work to make the best decision for West Yellowstone's future.
"Our local police department has gone through some troubles the last few months," Schmier said. "A few citizens have come to council members and suggesting that we look into contracting out with Gallatin County for law enforcement."
Sheriff Gootkin said if council members ultimately decide to draw up the contract, it would be a complex move.
For example, they would have to work out handling 911 calls. Right now, West Yellowstone has its own dispatch center with six employees, and doesn't use the county's.
While the town council considers contracting with the sheriff's office, West Yellowstone is still actively searching for a police chief to take Berger's position.
Gootkin said council members are set to make a final decision on September 9.