Oak Creek hires second police officer

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The Oak Creek Town Board hired a second full-time police officer Thursday to help keep the department functioning in the absence of a police chief.

That means that when a police chief is hired, the department will have three full-time officers.

For some Town Board trustees, three officers is one too many.

"I will not go back to three full-time officers," Trustee Mike Kien said before he voted against hiring Linda Koile as a police officer. Trustee John Crawford also voted against hiring Koile, while the five other trustees voted to hire her.

Koile has been working 20 hours a week as the town's code enforcement officer and recently finished her certification to become a police officer. She will continue to serve as a police officer after a police chief is hired. Officer Felipe Nardo is the third officer.

The former chief officially left his job Aug. 20 after announcing he would have to move from Oak Creek because of family reasons.

Five potential chiefs will be interviewed Sept. 10. Even if one of those is hired, the town may have to wait two to six weeks for the chief to come, Oak Creek Mayor "Kathy" Cargo Rodeman said.

Nardo said having Koile would be very helpful, not only because she is a hard worker who deserves the job, but also because a second officer is needed.

He recently had to respond to a call on his own, and Trustee J. Elliot walked over to the situation to provide "back-up."

Trustee Karen Halterman said she thinks a third police officer is needed because no other town department is asked to run efficiently with only two people.

"I don't understand why we have a constant thought in our mind that this particular department can do its job ... on a skeletal crew," she said.

Crawford said he opposed a third officer because Nardo could call for backup from the Routt County sheriff if it was needed.

Koile is finishing her required 150 hours of work with a police officer by assisting Nardo.

Without a chief, Nardo is on call full time every day, so on Thursday, the Town Board agreed to pay him time and a half for his overtime, even though he is a salaried employee. His hourly wage was determined from his yearly salary to be about $17, so for overtime, he will earn about $25.50 an hour.

"I want you to be compensated for the fact you're on call now 24-7, until we have a chief," Rodeman said.

After the Town Board agreed to the overtime, Rodeman thanked Nardo for his hard work.

Nardo has been responding to all calls since former chief Tim Willert left and said he feels it's his duty to do so, regardless of the pay.

"I'm a police officer, and I'll do whatever it takes," he said.

In other business, the Town Board approved an annexation plan for several homes on South Arthur Street, the first step of the annexation process. The Town Board also agreed to host the fifth-annual Soap Box Derby, an event that previously has been hosted in Steamboat Springs.

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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