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Cooper makes Fed. Way final fourCity officials are exploring ways to keep the chief on Bainbridge.

"City officials, anxious to keep Police Chief Bill Cooper on Bainbridge Island as he pursues the same post in Federal Way, went so far as to explore the possibility of using city funds to purchase Cooper's house in Olympia.That, and other economic incentives explored by city officials, however, were abandoned as either unconstitutional or in violation of state laws, city Administrator Lynn Nordby said this week.We're continuing to investigate the things we can do, but we've got to be careful, Nordby said.The efforts come at a time when Cooper, who has led the Bainbridge department since January 1999, may be closer than ever to leaving the island. Earlier this week, Cooper was named as one of four finalists - from among an initial field of 72 applicants - for the top cop's post in Federal Way. Though he said he's happy with his current job, Cooper also said he's tiring of his semi-daily commute from his home in Olympia - a commute he's made since being hired away from his deputy chief's position in Tumwater. His home has been on the market for most of that time, and hasn't sold even as the price has been reduced from its market value, he said. And as he yearns for more time with his family and a closer commute to work, his patience has grown thin with the two-to-three-hour drive he makes, both ways, three or four days a week.It's a pretty long distance to keep your life together, and we understand that, Nordby said.The state's sixth-largest city, with a 146-member force protecting a population of more than 80,000, will bring Cooper and the other three finalists in on Dec. 6 for a question-and-answer session from interested citizens. A firm hiring date hasn't yet been set for the job, which paid $93,700 to its previous chief out of a $14.5 million budget, according to Federal Way city manager David Moseley, but the new chief is expected to be at work by January.Cooper's salary with Bainbridge Police is budgeted for 2001 at $79,296, out of an overall department budget of just over $2.5 million. City officials aren't ready to concede Cooper's possible departure, however. They're anxious to keep the chief who completely reorganized the department's hierarchy, and is said to have boosted the morale of the rank-and-file and raised the standards of officer training and performance to big-city standards.We're looking into contractual arrangements, to get him to agree to stay for a time if we somehow can augment his salary, said Nordby, who, along with Mayor Dwight Sutton, planned to meet Cooper next week. We believe he's sincere, that he likes working here. We hope he doesn't leave. It would be a loss and a disappointment. "

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