Sheriff will no longer help Oak Creek

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— Sheriff John Warner will no longer provide law enforcement services to Oak Creek as of 4 p.m. today.

On Wednesday afternoon, a deputy hand delivered a letter to Mayor Cargo Rodeman at her home giving her 24-hour notice of Warner's decision to terminate a law enforcement contract entered into with the town on Sept. 4.

After 4 p.m., "the Routt County Sheriff's Office will only respond to 'Keep the Peace' calls concerning in-progress violent misdemeanors and felonies," Warner wrote.

Warner and Routt County Commissioner Dan Ellison signed the letter.

Warner's decision came after a disagreement between Rodeman and Warner over a bill from the Sheriff's Office for services from Oct. 3 to Nov. 4.

The town of Oak Creek was to pay $4,162 for 83.75 hours of deputy time at $50 an hour.

The bill was hand delivered to Rodeman on Nov. 9 along with time sheets, Warner said.

On Tuesday, Warner said, Rodeman called him with questions about the bill. She interpreted the explanation of billable hours in the contract differently from the Sheriff's Office.

"I expected to pay around $200 a week," Rodeman said.

According to the contract, the Sheriff would "provide basic law enforcement services necessary to keep the peace, and : additional, basic law enforcement services on a scheduled office hours basis."

The Sheriff and the town of Oak Creek agreed that deputies would be available in Town Hall on Wednesdays for two hours and on Saturdays for two hours to handle any complaints.

Originally, Rodeman and Warner agreed to resolve the confusion by sending the contract and the bill to their respective attorneys.

But on Wednesday morning, Warner decided the only way to resolve the matter was to cut off Oak Creek.

In part, his decision came after a Tuesday night Town Board meeting in which board trustees voted not to fund the Grand, Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team in its 2003 budget.

"I came into the office at 8 a.m.," Rodeman said. "I intended to spend an hour in the office, then I spoke to Warner on the phone, and he was really angry about GRAMNET."

Warner agreed that GRAMNET was a part of the conversation, but there were many other factors to his decision, he said.

"I have serious credibility issues with the mayor," Warner said. "She always changes things midstream. I can't continue like this. I sent her the bill, but they want something for nothing."

No matter the reason, Warner's decision leaves the town back where it started without a police force.

The town has hired a police chief, pending the results of a background check by private investigator Gary Wall, but the earliest he can start is Dec. 27, Rodeman said.

The town has also interviewed Tim Willert to fill a police officer position.

Willert works as a self-employed carpenter and comes highly recommended for his experience with youths. He is available to start next Monday, Rodeman said, but the Town Board must hold a special meeting to vote on whether to hire him.

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