Council OKs police, fire staff | SteamboatToday.com

Council OKs police, fire staff

Alexis DeLaCruz

— Christmas came early for the Steamboat Springs police and fire rescue departments when the City Council approved the hiring of six new firefighters and two new police officers.

The additions came Tuesday when the City Council voted to approve its 2007 budget.

The additions are necessary to keep up with increases in call volume, officials with the departments said.

Police Capt. Joel Rae said the police department plans on asking for two more officers in 2008 to increase the department’s staffing by a total of four officers in the next two years.

“We’ve basically had a 25 percent increase in the calls for service in the past 10 years where we haven’t increased our staffing at all during that time,” he said. “We need four officers, I think, just to get to a manageable point where we can focus on all aspects of law enforcement instead of just responding to calls and squeezing in everything else when we can.”

Assistant Fire Chief Bob Struble echoed Rae’s concerns.

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“Getting six new full-time officers is excellent news for us because it will allow us to handle our (calls) better and improve our response to the public,” he said.

Struble said call volume is around 12.5 percent higher than it was in 2005 and even higher for second and third calls. Second and third calls are the calls for service the fire department receives while responding to a first call.

“Those are staggering numbers,” he said. “This is a growing county and nearly every other fire department in the county is showing an increase in calls for service.”

Council President Ken Brenner said Wednesday that approving the department’s requests for new staff was a no-brainer.

“This was really only the next step to provide these essential police, fire and EMS services to the community,” he said. “Tuesday night was simply us getting caught up. We still have the obligation to look to the future.”

In the next five years, the city likely will need to build a new fire station west of Steamboat Springs to accommodate the projected growth there, Brenner said.

Council approved $344,000 to help fund the six firefighters, and $170,000 to hire the two new police officers and purchase a new patrol car.

Both Struble and Rae are striving to fill the new positions as soon as possible.

“We hope to have the positions filled by the end of January or the beginning of February,” Struble said.

The police department is already down one officer, which Rae hopes to fill along with the two new positions before summer.