Steamboat Springs Oak Creek officials will look to Teller County and the historic gold mining town of Victor for a possible road map as they continue discussions about how they can meet the South Routt community’s law enforcement needs on a budget.
Town Administrator Mary Alice Page-Allen told the Routt County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday that she is looking into a finalized intergovernmental agreement between Teller County and the town of Victor that maps out the terms under which the county supports Victor with law enforcement services.
Page-Allen and Mayor Nikki Knoebel were encouraged after leaving the meeting.
“For me, it was the first step toward brainstorming a solution,” Knoebel said.
Oak Creek saw its only law enforcement officer resign in May, and the Oak Creek Town Board has sought a more formal arrangement with Routt County and Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins to provide additional backup for a new town policeman or perhaps even take over the job of policing the town of about 850 on a fee basis. In the meantime, Routt County Sheriff’s Office deputies have been dispatched to cover emergencies and crimes in progress. Undersheriff Ray Birch told Oak Creek trustees and the commissioners that that would continue.
“Anything that compromises public safety, we’re rolling to,” Birch said. “We have no issue with that. We feel that’s our responsibility.”
Town officials say that ideally they would employ two police officers at an estimated cost of about $200,000. Trustee Bernie Gagne said Oak Creek needs the sheriff to provide personnel to undertake criminal investigations.
“Currently, we have multiple car thefts — mostly joy rides — but now it’s turning into destruction of vehicles,” Gagne said. He added that the town is contending with drug-related crime.
Referring to dispatch logs, Birch said his department has responded to 21 calls in Oak Creek in the preceding 14 days. They include a burglary, a report of domestic violence, an unattended death, a report of shots fired and a civil disturbance.
Wiggins has estimated that the cost of providing Oak Creek with greater long-term police presence would cost the town a little more than $50 per hour.
Board of Commissioners Chairman Doug Monger said Sheriff Wiggins runs his department and the commissioners’ role is to fund its operation. And he made it clear that the county has its own financial woes and wasn’t in a position to simply assume the burden of paying for law enforcement in Oak Creek.
“We’re still sitting here with employee wages 5 percent off 2009,” Monger said. “We’ve laid off 24 employees altogether. We’re not doing a hell of a lot better that what you guys are talking about.”
Knoebel said Oak Creek doesn’t expect the county to pay for its police force but needs help from the commissioners to reach the best solution.
Monger and Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said they are open to exploring more options but urged the Town Board to be more thorough in describing the level of law enforcement services it desires and thinks it can afford prior to its next round of discussions with the Sheriff’s Office.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com
Oak Creek Police Department timeline