WALLACE - Two Shoshone County cities are not currently paying for law enforcement, Sheriff Mitch Alexander said Wednesday.
But that doesn't mean law enforcement response to either spot will lag, he added.
Alexander's comments came during the monthly luncheon of the Wallace Chamber of Commerce. He said that financial hardships for Mullan and Smelterville have prevented the municipalities from paying for law enforcement service, as they have in years past.
"A couple of cities say they're broke and can no longer pay for services," Alexander said.
Mullan hasn't paid for law enforcement since 2008 or 2009, but Smelterville just recently sent Alexander a letter about the issue.
Alexander said he received a letter on Jan. 7 from Smelterville stating they would no longer be paying for law enforcement. Their contribution last year was $1,500 a month, or $18,000 a year. That was a drop-off from the previous year when they paid $2,125 a month, or $25,500 a year, Alexander said.
"I told the mayor of Smelterville, 'It puts me in a bind,'" Alexander told the crowd. "It's a hot topic.
"We want to meet with the mayors and commissioners," he added
Reached by phone on Friday, Alexander said services to those areas wouldn't be affected, and that was part of his message at the chamber luncheon, too.
"Morally and ethically, we have to take care of the citizens," he said. "I'm not going to let anybody get trampled on."
The situation does put the department in a difficult situation, he added. Wallace pays $102,000 a year for law enforcement.
"It really throws me in a catch 22, because morally and ethically I have to take care of people," he said. So "what's going to prevent (Wallace) from saying, 'why should I pay for anything?"
He said he has talked with representatives with other towns to see what can be done.
"Money is tight," he said. "Hopefully, this is just a short-term deal."
Smelterville's mayor could not be reached for comment. Mullan Mayor Mike Dunnigan didn't return a message on Friday.
Pinehurst, Osburn and Kellogg have their own police departments.
Press staff reporter Tom Hasslinger contributed to this report.