Oak Creek police questions linger | SteamboatToday.com

Oak Creek police questions linger

Failure of referendum means town to forego hiring 2nd officer

Nicole Inglis

— The failure of Oak Creek Referendum 2D on Election Day means the town will forego hiring a second full-time police officer for the foreseeable future.

The referendum proposed raising the town's sales tax rate by 1 percent to help fund the police department. Town Board members previously said they would work to hire a second full-time officer regardless of the vote's outcome, but budget concerns appear likely to prevent that.

"We wanted to do it if it fit into our budget," Oak Creek Mayor Nikki Knoebel said Thursday about hiring another officer. "At this point, with having to replace the town clerk, we feel that is our most important situation right now."

Current town clerk Karen Halterman resigned effective Nov. 18.

Law enforcement "is still a priority and we're very happy with what we have and Lance is great, and we can't just keep working with a one-man crew," Knoebel said. "But at this point, the town clerk has just taken priority."

On Thursday, the Town Board held a budget work session and a regular meeting. Town officials now are prepared to explore other options to expand their police coverage. Police Commissioner Dawn Smith doesn't want anyone to forget about the issue, despite the sales tax increase failure.

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"I don't think they said they didn't want another officer," Smith said about the result of the vote. "I think they didn't want to pay extra money for it. I don't think we're going against the wishes of the town by still wanting to do this. I want to make sure it's something we continue to talk about."

One aspect of the issue that came up Thursday was reviewing seasonal police officer Eileen Rossi's contract. This past year, Rossi was paid $35 an hour during her summer work shift and $750 a month in the winter — when she lives in Arizona — for supporting Officer Lance Dunaway, who was relatively new to the department.

The Town Board revised Rossi's contract to eliminate her winter pay. Board members also decreased the amount of notice they must give Rossi before terminating her contract from 30 days to 14 days.

The revised contract was approved, 4-1, with Trustee Chuck Wisecup opposing.

Town Board members also discussed replacing Rossi's position with a year-round, part-time officer responsible for code enforcement. Also discussed was finding areas of the budget to cut expenses in order to hire another full-time officer.

As of now, Dunaway is on his own — aside from support from the Routt County Sheriff's Office — until Rossi returns June 1, 2012.

"We're far from a perfect situation, but I think it will work out like this," Dunaway said.

To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com

In other action

The Oak Creek Town Board:

■ Approved, 5-0, a liquor license renewal for the Elks Tavern.

■ Delayed without a vote the decision on a land use change of minor impact for the downtown building that used to house the Depot Day Spa. The applicants did not properly provide public notice about the hearing on their building. The hearing will take place at a special meeting Nov. 29.

■ Approved, 5-0, Mary’s Medical’s proposal to move its medical marijuana grow operation from its current location, where the land-use code prohibits agriculture, to Skyler Hartman’s medical marijuana grow operation at 240 Arthur St. The proposal was originally a land use change for Mary’s to grow at 209 Nancy Crawford Blvd., before Mary’s partner Josh Scruggs worked out a plan with Hartman to move his operation to the Arthur Street location that was already approved for such a use.

■ Approved, 5-0, accounts payable for October 2011 for a total of $322,995.07 in expenses.

■ Approved, 5-0, paying outgoing clerk Karen Halterman retroactively for a raise she would have received last March for completing professional training. The amount, $1,440, will be paid to Halterman as a bonus.

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