Tuesday, October 10, 2000
Steamboat Springs The candidates for the Routt County Board of County Commissioners took a few verbal bullets from members of the sheriff's department and citizens Tuesday night.
"The county commissioners should be ashamed of themselves," said Deputy Patrick Akers during a question and answer session with candidates Doug Monger (D) and John Shaw (R).
"I think the Routt County Sheriff's Department has the lowest paid officers around.
Officers in the tiny town of Hayden make more money than our deputies," Akers told the candidates during a packed room at the community center.
A year ago, that was true. But a raise this year, put the deputies' pay about even with the small towns of Hayden and Oak Creek.
Pay for sheriff's deputies was the top issue at the candidates forum, which was organized by the employees of the Sheriff's Department.
Moderator and Sheriff Investigator Ken Klinger made it clear that Sheriff John Warner and Undersheriff Dan Taylor, along with Lt. Fred Johnston, had nothing to do with the forum.
"We believe they were too politically polarized to participate," said Klinger. He was referring to the three men's publicized comments about the department's employee shortage and other woes.
Audience members made it clear they felt their pleas for more money were being ignored by commissioners Ben Beall, Nancy Stahoviak and Dan Ellison, and wanted to know what a new commissioner could do for them.
Candidate John Shaw said a short-term solution would be to supply a bonus for deputies by cutting back or postponing projects in the sheriff's budget.
"I would be willing to look at the capital budget to see if some item can be postponed for a year," Shaw said. "It's not a permanent solution."
Monger told the crowd he had no short-term solution, but followed much the same line as the board of commissioners.
"A full-employment economy is our problem," said Monger, who pointed out that government can't compete with a private sector that can raise its wages and prices at will.
But Monger's practicality was ignored by an audience that had heard much the same line from the board of commissioners.
Monger made it clear in his answer that he believed Sheriff John Warner didn't do enough homework when he went to the board of commissioners.
"We need to work on presentation," Monger answered as he held up an information packet provided for the forum. "The stuff we got here tonight was more informative than what we got at the budget hearing."
The packet of information included salary comparisons with other sheriff and police offices, along with a list of 30 deputies that have left the sheriff's department in the last five years.
"I believe 98 percent of those leaving gave the reason as salary related," Klinger told the candidates.
Shaw appeared more aggressive in a promise that the sheriff's department would receive long-term help, but not without a study.
"We need a comprehensive review of staffing requirements. What does it take to hire and keep people," Shaw asked.