Oak Creek resident Gulya Paraketsova walks her dog, Ruby, with her grandson, Andrey, on Wednesday on West Colfax Street in Oak Creek. Three quarters of respondents to a recent Oak Creek policing survey said code enforcement such as leash laws and parking is an important need in town.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Oak Creek resident Gulya Paraketsova walks her dog, Ruby, with her grandson, Andrey, on Wednesday on West Colfax Street in Oak Creek. Three quarters of respondents to a recent Oak Creek policing survey said code enforcement such as leash laws and parking is an important need in town.

Oak Creek split on police issues

Survey: Residents want code enforcement, unwilling to raises taxes to fund it

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Oak Creek's community police questionnaire results

Do you feel Oak Creek needs its own police force?

Yes 49% No 51%

Do you feel Oak Creek should have 24-hour-a-day/7-day-a-week coverage?

Yes 26% No 74%

Are the current law enforcement services (emergency calls only) provided by the Sheriff's Office satisfactory?

Yes 63% No 37%

Do you feel code enforcement is an important need in Oak Creek?

Yes 72% No 28%

Would you be willing to pay additional property tax/rent to get better policing?

Yes 30% No 70%

Do you feel Oak Creek should contract with the Routt County Sheriff's Office for additional law enforcement if possible and economically feasible?

Yes 66% No 34%

Would you like to see a citizens review board set up to be a bridge between the community, the police force and the Town Board?

Yes 52% No 48 %

Opinion in Oak Creek is split nearly 50/50 on whether the town needs its own police department, according to the results of a survey conducted earlier this month.

"It's very close as to whether people think we do or do not need a police department; however, there's a wide majority that thinks we definitely need some kind of code enforcement," Police Commissioner Dave Ege said.

Nearly three-quarters of the 94 survey respondents said code enforcement was an important need in Oak Creek. Code enforcement includes areas such as parking, leash law and the town's nuisance ordinance.

The survey results enumerate the differences of opinion displayed during discussions about Oak Creek's past and future law enforcement during the past year. Three of the department's four employees quit in September, and the Oak Creek Police Department went out of service in mid-October, after its remaining seasonal officer left Routt County.

"There were honestly quite a few people who said we want a police department that is not like the last one: to serve and protect, not intimidate and belittle," Ege said. "We had two or three who said we chased the best police department we ever had out of town.

"We're not going to make everyone happy, we know that. I'm hoping these forums give us a real good idea of which way people want us to go," Ege continued.

In December, the Town Board appointed a citizen police focus group to gather input about what residents want from a law enforcement presence in town, if any. That group intends to use the survey results to help guide discussion at its first public forum at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the South Routt School District offices in Oak Creek.

'Resounding no'

The town currently relies on the Routt County Sheriff's Office to handle emergency calls but would have to forge a contract with the Sheriff's Office for long-term services at a still undefined cost. An in-between idea that has been floated has been contracting with the Sheriff's Office but having at least a code enforcement officer employed by Oak Creek.

The police focus group has examined what the legalities of such a scenario would look like, Ege said. Some other small towns operate code enforcement through their public works department, he said.

No matter what the Town Board ultimately decides, any law enforcement scenario for the town has to fit into Oak Creek's $120,000 police budget.

"We want to do what the people want, as long as we can afford it," Ege said. "We can't have five full-time police officers like Hayden, because we don't have that airport. : Our budget is terribly limited."

Survey respondents came back with a "resounding no" when asked whether they would be willing to increase property taxes to pay for a police department, Ege said. Only 30 percent said they would be willing to do so.

David Bonfiglio, a member of the police focus group, said it was disappointing that only 94 surveys were returned. Ege said he had hoped for higher turnout but was ultimately pleased given the town's usually low response rate for such surveys.

"As big an issue as (policing) was only a few months ago, I thought we'd just see huge numbers of people respond. Everyone was complaining and talking about it - why wouldn't they now be part of the process from where we go forward?"

Bonfiglio also said it was his "gut feeling" that people most motivated to return the survey are those who have strong feelings one way or another as to whether Oak Creek needs a local police department and that everyone in the middle may be underrepresented.

"I think had we gotten 300 or 400 surveys in, we might have gotten a more clear picture one way or another, but we might not have. I don't know," he said.

Additional surveys still are trickling in, and Bonfiglio pointed out that residents who have not yet responded still are welcome to fill one out and take it to Oak Creek Town Hall.

"We really need huge numbers in order to feel like we're really doing what the town wants," Bonfiglio said. "That's what I've promised to all the people that complained to me, is that we would do this as a community - figure out where we go from here and make sure we do this right, whatever 'it' is."

The focus group will hold a second public forum in two or three weeks before giving its recommendations to the Oak Creek Town Board. In January, the group gave itself a self-imposed deadline of April 1 to present its findings and come up with a town-specific job description if it recommends hiring any new officers.

- To reach Melinda Dudley, call 871-4203

or e-mail mdudley@steamboatpilot.com

Comments

Duke_bets 5 years, 9 months ago

oldskool - You never really answered the question.........When was OC school on lockdown? And, when did the OC school have a police presence. Russ being parked on the highway a 1/2 mile away is not a presence at the school. Do you really think that the kids behavior at the high school is affected by law enforcement that resides in the city limits............Watch out for the meteor and wild monkeys!

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flotilla 5 years, 9 months ago

LTFO, Were you at the meeting? I was. I was also at the town meetings where Rob Douglas showed up and wrote his columns about the police. You surely weren't- since you think Becky was the initiator of the police resigning? Clearly you live no where in South Routt. Why don't you spew your rumor mill somewhere else.

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Scott Wedel 5 years, 9 months ago

At last Fall's Oak Creek business owner meeting there was a letter from the school district saying that Chief Russ was at the school interacting with students and it was good.

Though, I know a few kids thought he was trying to get them to say something incriminating about their parents smoking pot and so on.

The other bit of news at the forum that I thought would have had a follow up article in the paper was the exchange of letters between the Town and the County. County was taking the attitude that the Town needs to stop freeloading and start paying and that a deal comparable to that between the County and Town of Yampa is not available. And the Town has a letter from the Town Attorney saying that Sheriff's dept has to keep the peace.

It sounded like the County was going to ask for a whole lot of money to do basic law enforcement. And Oak Creek thinks that the Sheriff has to do that if they pay or not. There is no dispute that the Sheriff's dept is not enforcing the OC municipal code. The County gets property and sales taxes from within the Town limits so the citizens of Oak Creek aren't freeloading any more than Pburg, Stagecoach, Clark or Hahn's Peak.

I wish the Sheriff's dept and County would look at OC's budget and say that if the Town hires someone as a liaison officer (possibly not POST certified) that enforces the municipal code and does the community involvement stuff then the Sheriff's dept will work with that person and charge the Town some prorated formula based upon Yampa's contract that leaves enough for OC to hire that liaison officer.

After the meeting, I was very surprised that a notable pro establishment person said that OC could deincorporate and be replaced by an utility district and then there'd be no question that the Sheriff had to provide law enforcement for no charge.

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Duke_bets 5 years, 9 months ago

oldskool - 'until teachers can pack heat'............That would cause many avoidable tragedies.

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oldskoolstmbt 5 years, 9 months ago

scott- read my post from the 3rd...i feel yampa needs some sort of protection as well...maybe when your daughter gets older you may share some of my feelings duke- the police were in the parking lot almost every morning when kids/teachers/parents were driving in and most afternoons after school...and yes, the kids (and adults) quit speeding through the lot and smoking behind the building and i even overheard kids make good decisions about not piling a bunch of kids in their car during lunch when they were legally only supposed to have one passenger..so yes, duke..it was making the kids THINK about their actions before doing them! i'm not sure what monkeys, meteors or dingos have to do real life safety issues...keep making your ignorant comments and the rest of us will try to find solutions....as for the lockdown, i don't have exact dates for you, i can however tell you in the time i've spent there (part-time employee for the past 6 years) we have had 2 incidences at the high school and one at the elementary.... i want to say i'm not friends or supported chief russ...i never had a 'run in' with him...he left me alone, i guess i never broke the law to give him a chance to.

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flotilla 5 years, 9 months ago

Right. My comment said "Becky was the initiator of the police resigning" which, she wasn't. There were plenty of people who tried to be heard well before the petition circulated. And every other business owners besides the Select Super jumped on the numbers being down. SO yes, please stop your own rumor mill. Posting random quotes from a 6 month + ordeal doesn't make your insight correct. And I have trouble thinking that if you were at any meeting you would realize the people of Oak Creek have valid and ethical concerns.

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Scott Wedel 5 years, 9 months ago

The real life safety issue is that crazed ex with gun are not a serious threat to children's safety at school. Just because something has happened somewhere does not make it a serious threat requiring a police officer to be stationed nearby. And how much good would a single officer be? One shot from the crazed ex would mean no police until Sheriff arrives anyway. So, by that logic, obviously OC needs a full time SWAT team to protect the kids at the school.

If that is the sort of stuff you worry about then how do you manage to live so far from a 24x7 emergency room? Someone there could die on the way to the hospital from any sort of everyday type of accident.

And babies in all of this area could die because we don't have a top level neonatal care facility.

Aren't you worried about monkeys after that monkey attacked that woman back east. And didn't dingos steal a baby in Australia? And meteors keep falling from the sky. hitting things and sometimes killing someone. Aren't you also afraid of those scary things?

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Duke_bets 5 years, 9 months ago

oldskool - Have we seen a rash of illegal or criminal activity at the school since the OCPD resigned? No, we haven't..........That's my point.

Scott Wedel's last post, although a little over the top, is truly thought provoking and makes a lot of sense.

Every place in the world needs some sort of law enforcement to be able to respond within reasonable time limits. However, not every 800 populus town has the need for a full time police department of its own.

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oldskoolstmbt 5 years, 9 months ago

I was just giving one example for the reason I feel we need some sort of law enforcement IN the area..and i really could care less if you, scott or duke agree with it. i'm flattered with your couriosity for what i worry about...after burying friends and friend's children in this valley for the past 25 years, i'm well aware accidents happen and sometimes end in tragedy..i'm also aware some tragedies are avoidable w/ police presence, and until teacher's can 'pack heat'....ANYWAY, i don't live in Austrailia and have never seen a dingo here and i don't live on the east coast and here again, have never seen a crazed monkey (only crazed ex's) and i probably give the whole killer meteor thing about 2 minutes of thought after i hear a story about them...my god, it's a miracle i'm not on any medication for my phychotic level of worrying i seem to do (hehe if you only knew me), yet i've managed to raise a college student who graduated top of their class and just made the dean's list and a high school student who is on the honor roll for the fifth year in a row and a 9 year old who reads at a sixth grade level...thanks for making it personal scott, so i could bragg.....

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Scott Wedel 5 years, 9 months ago

It is bad history to suggest Becky's petition was an important step in getting rid of those bad OC police officers. The timeline just does not suggest that is true. That petition was given to the Town before the first community and police forum. After those events the OC Town Board voted to keep the OC police dept and censured Mayor J for bringing that issue to a vote. The OC police dept survived that storm.

The sequence that resulted in their resignation was the botched arrest of Cargo, the lack of a credible review of the incident by the Chief, the series of articles by Rob Douglas, the apology ad started by Annie and signed by the OC business community, the Town Board asking the business community for their recommendations, business community overwhelmingly suggesting the police officers be terminated or resign and then that issue being scheduled for a Town Board meeting. The officers resigned hours before that Town Board meeting was to start.

I think it is fair to say Becky wished her petition had a greater impact at the time and that it had caused Chief Russ and officer Erik to quit. But at the time she was pretty frustrated that it had no apparent impact. And now she thinks it is funny that someone is blaming her for doing what she cannot claim credit for having accomplished.

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Scott Wedel 5 years, 9 months ago

Photo caption is wrong. That is Nancy Crawford Blvd, not West Colfax.

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Scott Wedel 5 years, 9 months ago

As the positive responses to the current policing by the Sheriff's dept indicates - the underlying issue in OC is not with law enforcement itself.

There are some interesting numbers within the numbers. Only half think that there should be a police force and yet almost 3/4ths think code enforcement is important. That means half of those that think there shouldn't be an OC police dept think that code enforcement is important.

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Dave Ege 5 years, 9 months ago

My biggest hope and request is that we can fill the forums with thoughtfull people. The goal of the focus group is to LISTEN to what the towns people of Oak Creek want. Another inportant item to read into the survey is that of the 50 / 50 split on Oak Creek law enforcement is the fact that 66% feel we should contract for additional coverage with the Sheriff's Dept. These are the type of dirrection we need from the people. We are here to Listen and respond within our budgetary confines. Call your neighbors! Speak your peace! Dave Ege Police Focus Group Chair Oak Creek Trustee Police Commissioner

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oldskoolstmbt 5 years, 9 months ago

we now have 7 grade levels attending the public schools in OC....we need a police force!!!

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flotilla 5 years, 9 months ago

where are the school board offices for the meeting tomorrow?

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Scott Wedel 5 years, 9 months ago

What does the school have to do with Oak Creek having a police dept?

I'm serious. Yampa has the elementary school and uses the Sheriff's dept. I don't see student gangs from the school causing havoc in Oak Creek.

Please explain why the presence of the middle and high school means that Oak Creek needs to have a police dept.

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oldskoolstmbt 5 years, 9 months ago

it has alot to do with it....having some assistance within 5 minutes, not 25-35 (if your lucky) when a distraught parent calls "warning" everyone they just got out of court and their ex is pissed and on their way to the school and not sure if they are in posession of a weapon...lock-down is a band-aid until law enforcement arrives...this is just ONE example out of thousands...yampa should have some form of policing as well!! do you have kids, scott? having 200 kids in a confined area sounds reason enough to me...but what do i know i've only spent about 100+ days there every school year for the past 12 years

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Duke_bets 5 years, 9 months ago

oldskool - Never heard about the Oak Creek school being on lockdown. And, please give us the other 999 examples. Have you been chatting with former Chief Russ?

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oldskoolstmbt 5 years, 9 months ago

i work in the school district duke, how many hours have you spent there?....no, i don't know chief russ, but i do know the kids were on their best behavior most of the time with police presence...i will not bore the other people of this forum with every example i could come up with, if you spent one week at the school, any school for that manner, you could see for yourself why law enforcement is important...you never heard of OC lockdown because where would they list it?? the OC police blotter, when we had no police force at that time???

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Dave Ege 5 years, 9 months ago

Since Scott is the only one on this blog who will use his real name, how many of you were at last nights meeting?

I was, Scott was, it was a very interesting meeting and many concerns and suggestions came foreward.

The SAD part was that only +- 30 people attended.

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Scott Wedel 5 years, 9 months ago

So if you are worried about a crazed ex going to the school in Oak Creek then what about the elementary school in Yampa? Aren't those kids at just as much risk? And even worse, Yampa is 10 miles further south than Oak Creek.

And yes, I have a young daughter and no, I do not worry about things like that. I know the difference between real dangers that statistics show have a chance of happening as compared to stuff that happens on TV shows. I also do not worry about a meteor killing her. Nor do I worry about dingos or monkeys.

And to the question of response time regarding obvious bad guy invading someone's home that was asked at the forum, there are plenty of hunters in OC. In half the houses the bad guy has been killed before 911 was called. The other half call their neighbors to shoot the guy.

A domestic between a couple that both have alcohol problems = they are going to have to wait for the police.

An innocent person being attacked by an obvious bad guy = dead bad guy.

A home invader in OC would not expect to have 20+ minutes before the police arrive to do their stuff and then get away. He could expect only a few minutes before facing instant justice.

The sentiment at the forum and what I've found from talking with tenants and customers is that very few people feel safer by having a local police dept because they already feel safe in OC. The justifications for a police dept is more along the lines of handling the small stuff before it escalates and gets out of control.

And 25 or so people is not a bad turnout. That is over 10% of the electorate. That'd be comparable to a few hundred showing up for a similar event in SB.

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oldskoolstmbt 5 years, 9 months ago

duke- google 'teachers packing heat'..this is a debatable idea...and i don't really care to take this up any further with you

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