Hayden Police Department chief seeks funding

Ray Birch applies for grants to supplement budget and add a full-time officer

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Ray Birch

— With an already tight Hayden Police Department budget, Chief Ray Birch is looking for alternatives to fund programs and services.

On Feb. 18, he presented two grant requests to the Hayden Town Council. The requests would provide the department with additional funding, enough for at least another full-time police officer.

The catch: One of the grants would require a match from the town, which Hayden isn’t in a position to provide.

But given looming deadlines, Town Council members directed Birch to apply for the grants, Mayor Lorraine Johnson said. If they’re approved, Johnson said Hayden would re-evaluate whether it could provide matching contributions.

A grant from the Office for Victims Programs from the Colorado Department of Public Safety would require a 25 percent match from the town for a two-year period between Jan. 1, 2011, and Dec. 31, 2012. If fully funded, it would pay for a police officer and an investigator at a cost of about $53,000 a year for two years. If only one of the positions was funded, it would cost Hayden more than $26,000 annually.

The second grant, from the Office of Adult and Juvenile Justice Systems of the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice, doesn’t require a match and would cover the cost of one police officer for a year, from Oct. 1, 2010, to Sept. 30, 2011.

Hayden Town Manager Russ Martin said the Police Depart­ment was budgeted for 5.5 full-time-equivalent police officers in 2009. It was reduced to 4.5 full-time-equivalent officers in June, when the town instituted a furlough program, reducing staff hours by 10 percent a week, from 40 to 36 hours.

That one officer position was not restored in Birch’s 2010 budget. Although the furlough program was discontinued in December, Martin said each town department — administration, parks and recreation, water and sewer, and police — has one fewer full-time-equivalent employee than in 2008.

Birch has four full-time officers, including himself. Three part-time officers fill in when the full-time officers take vacation or are out sick. And most of Birch’s work has been shifted from administrative to patrol, he said.

“It’s not anybody’s fault,” Birch said. “It’s a sign of the times that money is really tight right now. The current economic situation is compounded in a small community such as ours.”

He said the department must find different ways to do things and different ways to get the most out of the officers during each shift.

Because he’s down an officer, Birch said the department has had to prioritize calls. He said officers first address the calls that have the most impact on the community and that will continue for a while.

“That’s the hand we’re dealt,” he said. “It doesn’t mean we won’t be effective and efficient because we are.”

But he doesn’t want members of the community to think the department isn’t doing its job. Birch said his officers always would find a way to do their jobs, especially in more severe cases.

It’s helpful that the Hayden Police Department works closely with the Routt County Sheriff’s Office, Birch said. During a Dec. 29 trailer fire in which 88-year-old Hayden resident Carmen Northrop died, he said a few deputies spent three to four hours assisting his officers with the investigation. Birch said the camaraderie among area law enforcement agencies in his 15 years in the county has been amazing.

“As times get harder, that relationship gets more important,” he said. “As everybody gets somewhat limited with their resources, I’d hate to see that mutual aid stop.”

Birch said he and Police Clerk Bonnie Carrico began researching grants — he thinks the department has obtained one grant in the past 16 or 17 years — about four months ago. At the time, there weren’t any the department could apply for but several opened up last month. Since then, Birch said, they’ve been trying to apply for everything they can.

Whether the town can afford to match the grant will be determined by sales and property tax collections, Johnson said. She said the town might not have an idea about what 2010 tax collections could be until March or April.

“It’s a tight budget no matter what,” she said.

Last year, sales tax collections came in at nearly $859,000, down from more than $1.1 million collected in 2008.

Martin said council members are supportive of the Police Department’s desire to add an officer but are taking a conservative approach to the town’s finances. He said Hayden doesn’t want to be in a position to implement another furlough program.

“Every dollar counts in a small community like this,” he said. “We want to make sure (furloughs) don’t happen again. Every day that goes by, we’ll get a clearer picture of where things will be.”

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