Editorial Board, June 2009 to September 2009
- Suzanne Schlicht, general manager
- Brent Boyer, editor
- Mike Lawrence, city editor
- Tom Ross, reporter
- Grant Fenton, community representative
- Paul Strong, community representative
Contact the editorial board at (970) 871-4221 or email@example.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.
To better serve and protect its residents, the Oak Creek Town Board should heed the advice of its community focus group and re-establish the town's police department.
It appears the town is heading in that direction, if slowly. Oak Creek town officials and their counterparts in Yampa are discussing a shared code enforcement officer position. The code enforcement officer would be available to respond to many of the typical calls for service in South Routt, from dogs off leash to other routine code violations. Although such a position would help fill some of the gaps in the law enforcement coverage being provided to Oak Creek by the Routt County Sheriff's Office, it doesn't go far enough.
The Sheriff's Office has provided the only law enforcement coverage in Oak Creek since Chief Russ Caterinicchio, Sgt. Erik Foster and code enforcement officer Tony VanDeventer resigned in September amid tension and controversy within the community. Recently, Sheriff Gary Wall told the town his office would provide more substantial law enforcement coverage in Oak Creek, but at a cost of $300,000 a year. The town has only $120,000 budgeted for a police department.
Provided Wall's cost estimates were reasonable, we can't blame his stance. Oak Creek has struggled with providing its own consistent police force for at least the past decade, so why would Wall want more of his deputies spending time responding to calls in an incorporated town that can't seem to figure out what it wants from a policing standpoint?
Since 17-year Chief Reggie Mayes left the Oak Creek Police Department in 1999, the town has cycled through six full-time chiefs, a couple of interim chiefs and more than a half-dozen officers. Town residents often express conflicting views on how they want to see the law enforced in Oak Creek, and the result is constant turnover in the police department.
The absence of a stable police force hurts the town and its residents, who should expect that their health and safety is a top priority of town government. For too long it hasn't been, but there are signs that town officials could be headed on the right track.
Some current Town Board members and a community police focus group have acknowledged that a hometown police force is preferable for Oak Creek, and we agree. Now it's up to the Town Board to make it happen.
Oak Creek also has applied for a federal law enforcement grant that would give funding for three law enforcement positions for three years, provided the town could pay for a fourth year of salaries on its own.
The outcome of the grant should not influence the Town Board's commitment to aggressively rebuilding Oak Creek's police force, which the town funded in previous years through its general operating fund.
It's high time those elected representatives come up with a successful plan for staffing and maintaining a police department that will protect and serve the residents of Oak Creek.