Steamboat Springs A contract proposed by Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall states that complete law enforcement coverage for Oak Creek would cost more than $300,000 per year, far exceeding the $120,000 the town has to spend.
Since the dissolution of the town's police force at the end of 2008, the Routt County Sheriff's Office has provided basic coverage, mostly in emergency situations, but deputies have not responded to small thefts and code enforcement issues.
"We don't have any (coverage) except with the exception of if it is an absolute emergency or if it is a domestic disturbance, which by law the sheriff has to take care of," said Oak Creek Trustee Dave Ege, one of the town's two police commissioners. "We pay county taxes, but we don't get as much law enforcement in Oak Creek as somebody would on the furthest reaches of Twentymile Road."
Wall said that because the town is an incorporated municipality, deputies are not required to respond to all calls if the town does not pay for it.
As a part of ongoing discussions between the town, the sheriff's office and the Routt County Board of Commissioners, Wall's office developed an estimate of the cost of compete coverage if the town and county were to enter a contract.
In a report compiled by Sgt. Miles De Young, the cost of complete coverage of Oak Creek by deputies would be $306,428.11 per year.
They reached that figure by adding the estimated $54,958.75 spent by the office in 2008, plus the $251,469.36 it would have cost for deputies to respond to all calls received by the Oak Creek Police Department in the same year.
"That's a starting point," Wall said about the figure. "It depends on the level of service that they want."
The commissioners would be in charge of coming to an agreement with the town, Wall said, and his office would honor any agreement made.
"Once we get a level of service that they want, I think the financial issues are between the town of Oak Creek and the county commissioners," he said.
Oak Creek Mayor J. Elliott said the town doesn't have the $300,000 that would be required for full service.
"We probably have $120,000 in our budget, so we're going to have to sit down and discuss," Elliott said. "What we'd like to do is trim back, where we'd have a code enforcement and dog-catcher type situation that we pay for, and then pay them for additional coverage. Obviously $300,000, that's considerably over our budget. That is our budget, basically."
Trustee Chuck Wisecup, the second police commissioner, also submitted a grant request to the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services for about $769,000, he said.
If the grant is approved, the town could pay for three police officers for three years. If not - the decision should be announced by Sept. 1 - Wisecup said the town wouldn't be able to pay for full coverage but might be able to rebuild a local police department.
"Basically we budgeted money, hopefully, to hire at least one officer," he said.
Wisecup said a community focus group indicated that a separate police force would be preferred, if possible.
The Oak Creek Town Board will take up the issue at its next meeting May 14.