Steamboat Springs For the first time in a long time, the Steamboat Springs Police Department and the Routt County Sheriff's Office have their ranks filled.
It comes as a relief to the department supervisors and employees who have had to be flexible, juggle schedules, squeeze in time for training and restrict vacations. Last summer, the 25-officer Steamboat department was down six officers, and employees were working 12-hour shifts to try to keep a minimum of three officers on at a time.
Steamboat police Chief Joel Rae said that in his 16 years at the department, it had been fully staffed one time for about six months.
Routt County Undersheriff Ray Birch said being short one deputy can create a burden for the department, which has 15 deputies assigned to the patrol division.
"Every position is critical for us," Birch said.
Rae said officers leave the Steamboat police department because of the cost of living in Steamboat and higher-paying positions available in bigger cities. It then takes time to fill the vacancy.
"It's a significant amount of time that's invested in an individual," Rae said.
Rae and Birch said it has been difficult to maintain staffing because of the time it takes to search for applicants, test them, hire them and train them.
"It's basically a one-year process," Rae said. "We don't hire anybody. We can be fully staffed if we want to be, but we're only going to hire the best patrol officers to work here."
Since the beginning of the year, the Sheriff's Office has hired three patrol deputies, all of whom have completed their field training and now are handling calls on their own.
■ Deputy Bryan Wojtkiewicz was promoted from the jail, and the Sheriff's Office put him through the police academy. The 2006 Moffat County High School graduate and Craig native started at the jail in July 2011 and was hired on to patrol in January.
"I really enjoy the Yampa Valley," he said. "Steamboat's a good community, and I wanted to be close to home."
■ Before coming to the Sheriff's Office, Deputy Stewart Curcio was in California and had been with the U.S. Marines since 2001. He served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. Curcio said he came to the Sheriff's Office because he wanted to find a small town to settle down with his family.
■ Deputy Juan Berber was on active duty with the U.S. Army for 13 years and has worked in law enforcement for 16 years.
Four Steamboat police officers have been hired since April.
■ Logan Baumgart started in May and came from the Buena Vista area.
■ Matthew Gadbois also started in May. He graduated from Steamboat Springs High School and Colorado Mesa University.
■ Jonathan Laundy started in April and came from Arvada.
■ Shane Musgrave is the newest hire. He relocated from Cordova, Alaska, and started at the Steamboat department in July.
To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com