Central City Council approves police coverage plan

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Central City calls special meeting for MOU with Sheriff’s Office

By David Josselyn

The Central City Council and City Staff met for a special Council Meeting on Friday, February 26, 2016, at 7:00 pm. All regular council members were present including freshman Alderman Jeff Aiken. Also in attendance for Staff were City Clerk Reba Bechtel, City Manager Daniel Miera, Fire Chief Gary Allen, and Police Chief Terry Krelle. Other prominent community members in attendance include County Human Services Director Susie Allen, Undersheriff John Bain, Captain Tom Ihme, and County Coroner Zane Laubhan.

After reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, Mayor Ron Engels asked for any amendments or additions to the agenda or if any agenda items presented a conflict of interest. There were no proclamations of amendments, additions, or conflicts of interest.

Public Forum

Mayor Engels opened the floor to the public for anyone who wished to speak to the solo topic on that night’s agenda. No one took this opportunity.

County Covering Central City Gaps in Law Enforcement

City Manager Daniel Miera introduced Resolution 16-11 which would establish a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Gilpin County and the City of Central to provide law enforcement services during times when the City of Central is unable to do so. The MOU would be effective immediately upon approval and there were representatives from the County at the meeting to sign the MOU that night if approved. Manager Miera made a point to say this is not in any way related to the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) that has been discussed ad nauseam the prior month not only at special meetings, but also on social media and on the street.

The City then played a fifteen-minute video produced by the Colorado Municipal League. The video highlighted multiple shared services in other municipalities across Colorado. Unfortunately, there were difficulties with the audio in the room and some of the video was unintelligible. It is evident that the video was designed to impress the positive aspects of shared services.

Manager Miera informed the Council that there were three days for fourteen hours each that week in which the Central City Police Department did not have coverage. The County Sheriff’s Department filled in those gaps as an emergency situation. This week was an example of the difficulties the City has had in maintaining consistent and adequate law enforcement. The MOU of Resolution 16-11 would keep the County officers in the area during times when the Central City officers cannot patrol.

Miera stated that the shortage of officers, due to two of them leaving the force in the recent weeks, led to the emergency situation. The City Manager also made it clear that for both those officers that left, they had applied in other jurisdictions prior to being hired by the City of Central and they were hired with the understanding that they were in the application process for other entities. This had nothing to do with the future of the Police Department issue of the past month.

Public Forum

Mayor Engels opened the floor for public forum, but no one signed up to address the council. When the mayor asked if anyone who had not signed up would like to address the council, no one took the opportunity.

Council Deliberation

Alderman Aiken noted that there were “two gentlemen from the County; I wonder if they could say something.”

Undersheriff John Bain addressed the Council saying “For twenty-plus years we have been working with victim services, so this is not completely new to us.” The County and City have also been sharing 911 services for many years.

Captain Tom Ihme next addressed Council saying “Simply put, we will provide services during hours the City cannot provide.” Manager Miera clarified the type of coverage the County would provide saying “This would not provide any municipal code enforcement.”

The compensation for the County officers would be $25 per hour which is the low end of the Central City police force. The City owns five vehicles and the County would be able to use one of those vehicles during their shift. At the time of this meeting, there are four Central City officers on staff out of a possible total of eight.

Alderman Aiken asked if there was a window to hire more staff to the City while the future IGA is in discussion. Manager Miera replied that recruiting during a time of flux is very difficult if the applicant does not know the future of the position. “All we can do is accelerate the process so a decision could come about sooner rather than later.” Miera also explained “Even if we can hire all eight (officers) tomorrow, we still have not solved the twenty-four seven (24 hours a day, seven days a week) coverage problem.”

The budget for the Central police force is in the neighborhood of $700 thousand providing funding for eight full-time staff plus overhead, and the Manager estimates that the cost for complete and total coverage for 24 hours, seven days a week, would be twice that. The property tax mills alone ($305 thousand budgeted) does not bring in half of what they need for just the police department. Miera added his concern that if they raise gaming taxes, it will be even harder to fill the long-vacant spaces and it could encourage existing casinos to leave.

Alderman Heider said “I don’t see we have a choice for the MOU and I am pleased that the County is willing to do this and for the proposed cost.”

Mayor Engels directed staff to be thorough, but expeditious with an IGA with the County so they can make a well informed evaluation and decide which way to go.

Chief Terry Krelle gave the council his recommendation to continue talks with the County. “This is a Band-Aid. You have no police coverage; I cannot provide it. I can’t stretch the bodies I have across the hours of service needed.”

Alderman Aiken stated “I’ve known John (Bain) and Tommy (Ihme) for years and years and this is a good way to test out how a future IGA would look like. I’m ready to accept this.”

Alderman Laratta said, “I think it’s very necessary also and immediate.”

Alderman Heider moved to approve Resolution 16-11 and was seconded by Alderman Laratta. The Resolution passed unanimously.

Mark your calendars

The Council meeting was adjourned at 7:52 pm. The next regular Council Meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 15, at 7:00 pm.

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