A preliminary proposal by the Routt County Sheriff's Office to place a deputy at Steamboat Springs Middle School has stalled because of budgetary concerns. It's unlikely the position will be implemented anytime in the near future, officials said.
"In the economic times that we're witnessing right now, it's out of the question for us," Undersheriff David Bustos said. "We would much rather have a patrol deputy if we were allowed to have a slot."
Because the middle school is outside Steamboat Springs city limits, it falls under Sheriff's Office jurisdiction. The Steamboat Springs Police Department also has an agreement to respond to the middle school and Strawberry Park Elementary School if needed.
When the idea for a resource officer was first discussed in late June, middle school Assistant Principal Jerry Buelter said the school would like to have an officer on staff but that the position isn't needed immediately.
"We've requested it for years, but it's not that we have many issues that would require officers," Buelter said. "It's probably more of a person you can count on and go to with problems."
Steamboat Springs School Board member Lisa Brown said she would have been "pleasantly surprised" if a resource officer was made available at the middle school, but she agreed there isn't an immediate need.
"We definitely have safe schools, and that's something that we value in our community," she said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to continue to provide adequate resources at both schools within reasonable (costs)."
Sheriff Gary Wall agreed the program would be a benefit to the
district but was not a top priority.
"For example, the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Educa-tion) program was cut a year and a half before I got here, but those are the kinds of things that get cut in bad economic times," Wall said. "They're good programs, but when you don't have the money, those are the first to go."
Wall and Bustos praised the school resource officer at Steamboat Springs High School, Steamboat Springs Police Officer Josh Carrell, and said they would like to implement a similar program if funding becomes available in future years.
Wall's department has exceeded its budget for the year and recently received an $80,000 supplemental budget from the county. County commissioners have told Wall that if he further exceeds his budget, they will consider "taking further action, without limitation, instructing the Accounting Department to not process vouchers, prohibiting overtime and restricting the use of county vehicles."
"Based on what I know about our financial situation, that's not an issue I'm going to fight for," Wall said.
The city and the school district are in the midst of determining how to fund Carrell's position at the high school. The city usually has paid for the high school's resource officer, but budget cuts have prompted it to request splitting the cost with the school district.
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