Oak Creek Again without any law enforcement officers, Oak Creek town officials are considering hiring part-time officers and advertising for a new police chief. In the meantime, they hope to rely on the Routt County Sheriff's Office to respond to local emergencies.
During an Oak Creek Town Board meeting Thursday, board members and residents overwhelmingly agreed the town needs its own police department, but they differed on what form the department should take.
Oak Creek resident and business owner Janine Pierce said she thinks it's imperative the town act quickly to replace former police Chief Linda Koile.
"We need a police force in this town," she said. "It's been a sweet, lovely ranch town for years. I wish it was going to stay that way, but it's not. We have business owners, private residents, young families that need to be protected, and we're going to want someone with the talent, knowledge and expertise to say what's OK and what isn't."
Town Board members Dave Fisher and Chuck Wisecup, who also are the town's police commissioners, presented an option to hire two part-time officers - former Routt County Sheriff's Office deputy Brian Rogers and former Oak Creek police officer Eileen Rossi.
"As police commissioners, we felt it was our obligation to put together a plan in the interim," Wisecup said.
Wisecup said if the part-time officers are hired, they would work a combination of on-duty and on-call hours and would be paid between $20 and $25 an hour.
As part of Thursday's police discussion, Routt County Undersheriff David Bustos made a brief presentation to the town explaining how the Sheriff's Office can help until the town rebuilds the police department.
"I'm here to give you a warm fuzzy feeling that you'll be taken care of," Bustos said. "We want you to be convinced that all your emergency calls will be answered. You'll be taken care of."
Bustos said the Sheriff's Office might not immediately respond to non-emergency calls such as code enforcement issues if there are not enough available deputies or if the deputies are in other parts of the county.
"However, there are several Sheriff's Office deputies that live in Oak Creek and Stagecoach that could be roused if they were needed," he said. "They do take their vehicles home. We're on 24/7. We never sleep."
Board member John Crawford questioned whether the town could afford a police department, given its financial status.
"Based on what the undersheriff said tonight, I don't even think we need these other people," he said. "I'd rather rely on the Sheriff's Office. The town can't afford a police department the way it's set."
But board members agreed Oak Creek can't rely on outside help forever.
"I'd like the community to know that Chuck and I have been very proactive with this," Fisher said. "We're not going to drop the ball. We've been exploring all possible options. We'll make sure there's peace and quiet."
Koile began working for the town in September 2002 and resigned from the police department to move to Southern Colorado.
After being thanked by the board and applauded by the audience for her work, Koile turned over her keys and walked home.
"Ciao, everybody," she said. "It's been real."