Steamboat Springs police officer Kevin Craig uses a radar gun to check the speed of traffic on Maple Street in front of Steamboat Springs High School. The Steamboat Springs City Council was briefed on the Police Department's speed limit enforcement strategies at a meeting Tuesday night.

Photo by John F. Russell

Steamboat Springs police officer Kevin Craig uses a radar gun to check the speed of traffic on Maple Street in front of Steamboat Springs High School. The Steamboat Springs City Council was briefed on the Police Department's speed limit enforcement strategies at a meeting Tuesday night.

SSPD lacks manpower

Chief: Staff shortages put traffic enforcement on back burner

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Steamboat Springs police officer Kevin Craig writes a ticket on Fish Creek Falls Road on Tuesday.

By the gallon

Location of traffic citations and warning issued by the Steamboat Springs Police Department

- Lincoln Avenue: 836 (2008*), 1,869 (2007), 1,398 (2006)

- Steamboat Boulevard: 30 (2008*), 150 (2007), 167 (2006)

*through June 30

Source: Steamboat Springs Police Department

— The Steamboat Springs Police Department lacks the resources to devote any officers strictly to traffic enforcement - a result of the same staffing shortages plaguing other city departments and the community at large - the city's top cop said Tuesday.

"Traffic enforcement kind of takes a backseat to what's going on," Public Safety Director J.D. Hays told the Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday night. "We don't have a particular officer dedicated to traffic enforcement. : When we are fully staffed, we have the person-power to dedicate someone specifically to traffic."

Interim City Manager Wendy DuBord said the department is short two officers, and Hays said that in his nearly three decades with the city, he can recall a period of about only eight months when the department was fully staffed.

"That's concerning because that's one department I'd like to have fully staffed," said Councilwoman Cari Hermacinski, who initially requested the department's briefing on traffic enforcement practices.

In a memo prepared for council, Capt. Joel Rae wrote, "The Police Department typically has two or three officers on each shift and patrol officers are directed to conduct traffic enforcement when time allows and when they are not handling calls for service. : There are periods of time when patrol officers are handling calls for service and there aren't any cars available to enforce traffic during these times."

Hays said the department is on pace for 10,500 calls for service this year.

Hermacinski and DuBord noted a recently completed salary survey that showed the city was not keeping pace with other municipalities in paying a number of employees, including police officers. They expressed a hope that higher salaries might cure staff shortages. But in a break later in the meeting, DuBord acknowledged that in a year when the city is facing declining revenues and painful budget cuts, implementation of the salary survey's recommendations is no guarantee.

"More than the salary, there are housing issues," Hays added.

Tuesday's meeting lasted about seven hours, and council also had lengthy discussions on the 2009 budget and the city's regulation of secondary residential units such as the one in which Steamboat resident David Engle died earlier this year after a grease fire ignited in his converted garage apartment downtown. For additional coverage of Tuesday night's meeting, see Thursday's issue of the Steamboat Today.

Comments

Ed Miklus 6 years ago

Ah..ha, your government at work. The old self perpetuating bureaucracy line: "We're not fully staffed." Let's see....the Sheriff's Department, CSP, SSPD, Oak Creek PD, Hayden PD(anybody else out there?) for a county with a population of 16,000( yes, I know about the tourists). I think if you polled Steamboat taxpayers they would say that SSPD doesn't have enough to do much less be worried about them being under staffed. Does anyone in county or local government know what regionalization of services or intergovernmental services agreements mean? How about having SSFD beome P.O.S.T. certified and do dual duty as public safety officers. I'm all for emergency services but do we have to act, and spend taxpayers dollars, as though we live in a crime ridden city of 100,000.

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callguinness 6 years ago

UMMM.... Did you ever think that maybe the limited number of SSFR members have better things to be doing while at work, than playing police officer. For example... taking care of your mother/daughter when they need an ambulance, or cutting your dad/son out of the car that just rolled over, or putting out the fire in your garage so at least not everything you own is a total loss... cops should be cops... firefighters should be firefighters.

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Fred Duckels 6 years ago

I'm shorthanded too. obligations to meet, but I have to suck it up with no excuses or finger pointing. My customers are not likely to go for the runaround.

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callguinness 6 years ago

I don't think this is about the "runaround." I think the point is that you get what you pay for. If you want to have an officer dedicated to running traffic then you need to spend more on you police officers, as it stands right now there are simply not enough of them to cover the calls for service and do traffic. Its simple really if you want the platinum service, then you need to pay platinum prices. The city, and the tax payers, has for quite some time been paying bronze prices and wanting platinum for it, sorry but it doesn't work that way.

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