Sheriff responds to county’s letter about policies | SteamboatToday.com

Sheriff responds to county’s letter about policies

Alexis DeLaCruz

— Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall will not be making any policy changes that interfere with the county’s budgetary authority, and will continue to comply with all county, state and federal laws.

“We are in the process of reviewing all the policies and procedures of the Sheriff’s Office. We hope to complete this process in the near future : There will not be any changes in the policies that will affect what I have stated above,” Wall stated in a letter he sent to county officials Friday.

Wall’s response comes two weeks after County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak wrote Wall asking him to clarify which county policies he thinks apply to the Sheriff’s Office.

Stahoviak sent the letter in the wake of Wall’s June announcement that he would allow deputies to use their patrol vehicles for personal use. Wall’s policy runs contrary to county policies that prohibit personal use of vehicles.

Wall reiterated his position that allowing his employees to use their vehicles for personal use is of benefit to Routt County residents because it increases law enforcement presence on county roads for a minimal cost.

“It has always been an accepted procedure for (deputies) to take their cars home,” he said. “I have authorized them – if they’re armed and dressed appropriately- to use their vehicles for personal use to increase our presence. If one of my officers sees something dangerous or comes across an emergency, then they already have everything the need with them to handle that situation.”

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Wall said he does not have any intention to change other county policies that would interfere with the county’s budgetary process or the Sheriff’s Office participation in payroll or compensation programs.

“My office is, of course, happy to conform to policies relating to federal and state law, policies relating to the county’s insurance and policies relating to the payroll process. We are also very happy to continue participating in the pay and compensation system,” he said.

Stahoviak previously said Wall’s positions could affect his 2008 budget.

“We strongly believe that the failure to comply with these policies could result in the board’s refusal to pay for purchases and contracts not made in compliance with these policies,” the letter states. “We ask you state in writing whether you believe you are not subject to these policies.”

Stahoviak said she had not received Wall’s letter because she was out of the office Friday, and could not comment until reviewing the letter with the board and other county officials.

“We will need to see if the questions we asked were answered as clearly as we requested so we can evaluate (Wall’s) position,” she said from her Oak Creek home Friday.

Wall said he thought his letter was clear.

“I’m not challenging anything that has to do with the county’s budgetary authority, any state or federal laws or the county’s insurance,” he said. “As I’ve always said, I am more than happy to meet with them, or anybody, about what I’m doing.”

Wall said his office is working on creating a Web site where “all policies and procedures relating to the office” will be posted “since they are a matter of public record.”

Wall hopes to add more officers, equipment

Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall’s 2008 budget requests include two new deputy positions, three truck winches and a six-month lease for two snowmobiles.

Wall on Friday explained the requests will help cover patrol gaps in law enforcement coverage and provide additional tools for officers to assist Routt County residents.

“From 3 to 7 a.m., we don’t have a law enforcement presence in the county,” he said. “Our goal absolutely is to get 24-hour coverage. It’s long overdue.”

Between 3 and 7 a.m., deputies only respond to emergency calls. Non-emergency calls are held until more officers come on at 7 a.m.

Wall said he is hoping to change that.

“I think the public has a right to know that we don’t have any guys out there during those hours,” he said.

In addition to the extra positions, Wall is hoping to lease two snowmobiles that would allow deputies faster response times to some situations in the winter.

“This county is covered in snow six months out of the year,” he said. “There are some areas of this county where there is no way in except on a snowmobile.”

Wall said he expects leasing two snowmobiles to cost about $8,000. The machines would have Sheriff’s Office decals, lights and sirens, he said.

Purchasing three winches also is on Wall’s radar. The winches, which cost less than $1,000 each, attach to a truck’s hitch and can be removed for use on another vehicle, Wall said.

Outfitting patrol vehicles with winches would allow deputies to assist stranded motorists and with other situations, he said.

“Everything we’re doing is to better serve the residents of Routt County,” he said.

Wall said he hopes the Board of County Commissioners approves the requests.

“I know it’s a budgetary issue,” he said.

The county already has approved Wall’s request to allow deputies to begin collecting overtime pay after 40 hours, like other county employees, instead of collecting overtime after 44 hours, which historically has been the policy at the Sheriff’s Office.