Gilpin Sheriff pleads case for not de-funding police

Commissioners discuss ability to transfer property development rights

By Randy Beaudette

On July 7, 2020 Gilpin Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) held a special online meeting that featured topics such as an emotional plea from Sheriff Kevin Armstrong to reconsider cuts from the Sheriff’s budget and a lengthy discussion on zoning issues. Board-Chair Gail Watson opened up the meeting at 9:00 am along with Commissioners Ron Engels and Linda Isenhart. Also online were County Manager Abel Montoya, County Attorney Brad Benning, Deputy Clerk Sharon Cate, members from the Senior Leadership Team, and over 70 members of the community.


Planning Commission President Laura Jeaney commented that about ten properties around the Corona Heights subdivision have been added to that subdivision on or around January 2020. “How can Corona Heights expand to include these other properties without proper notifications to the affected property owners?” Board chair Watson replied that the Commissioners will follow up on this matter with Community Development to better understand what and how this happened.

Online participant Jessica (No last name or address) commented on her opposition to the Sheriff’s office budgetary cuts.

Sheriff’s Workforce Reductions

Gilpin County Sheriff Kevin Armstrong led the discussion on workforce reductions in the Sheriff’s office.  Sheriff Armstrong stated “I would like to thank the Board of County Commissioners for the opportunity to discuss the proposed cuts. The Board of County Commissioners have always supported the Sheriff’s Office. I would like to take this opportunity to help everyone understand the depth and capacity and to explain why the cuts to the Sheriff’s Office are too deep. There are many differences between the public safety and private sector. Private sector has the ability to adjust their business model or walk away from their business if economic cuts are too deep. The Sheriff’s office cannot do that. A private business may be able to operate with less but this model is not conducive with the mission of the Sheriff’ office or safety to the community or visitors to the County.

I want to share with you a few of the functions that the Sheriff’s office performs, some of which are required by State statutes while other are performed in service to the community. Statutorily the Sheriff’s office provides patrols both proactive and reactive. Custodial duties relating to the jail, prisoner transport, court security, school resource officer, and victim services. Our Records Section handles all of the civil filings, sex offender registration, concealed weapons permits, court ordered civil standbys, and also working with our District Attorney’s office on discovery issues for cases that go to court. Also required are our Evidence Section and the Office of Emergency Management. On the community side (not statutorily required) are the Meals on Wheels and Senior luncheons which are prepared in our jail kitchen. Victims Services provides death notifications in emergency response and civil protection orders. We also provide business and vacation checks, civil standbys to keep the peace, and vehicle identification number verification inspections. As a member of our community and partnered in our community, I anticipated the Sheriff’s office would be impacted by the severe financial crisis the County is experiencing. The 12.5 cuts in personnel that have been mandated will severely impact the safety of our deputies and will put our community at risk. In retrospect, in 2018 there were 58,166 law enforcement officers assaulted in the United States. The top five call responses were disturbances, (domestic or other), making arrests, prisoner transports, investigating suspicious persons, and traffic stops.

Best practices in law enforcement is to send two officers to certain calls for service. Due to staffing levels we are not able to do that on a regular basis. Multiple deputy responses include crimes of violence, assaults in progress, burglaries in progress, barricaded subjects, physical/ verbal disturbances, robberies, suicidal subjects, burglar alarms, intoxicated subjects, mental health subjects, suspicious persons in vehicles, and violation of protection orders. How does this reflect the calls in Gilpin County? In 2018 dispatch received 50,000 calls for service in which our deputies responded. 22% of those call should have had at least a two-deputy response, however, due to financial restraints we are not always able to do that. With the less and less model it would lead to no response. My reduction in deputies put other deputies at risk which in turn puts our community at risk. Gilpin County patrol and detentions deputies are placed in situations where they are required to respond to highly volatile situations in which they must manage. My deputies are trained and have the ability to de-escalate the situations, however handling these situations alone will increase the threat to the deputies and increase liability to the County.

With gaming there are a number of visitors that enjoy the casinos. This also attracts the criminal element that the Sheriff’s office must deal with. At any one time 93% of the inmates are not Gilpin residents. Gaming is not the only activity that impacts the Sheriff’s office. There two National Forests and the State Park. Back country skiing, ATVs, hiking and camping activities also require service from the Sheriff’s department. As a result of COVID-19 we have been taking measures to reduce the number of arrestees we accept at the jail. This is at the blessing of the Chief Justice of the First Judicial District. This order will soon expire and will require the Sheriff’s office to accept more arrestees.

Our deputies are required to have mandatory training that equates to five shifts away from their regular duty to maintain their post certifications. Training is one of the many circumstances that requires the Sheriff’s office to maintain its current staffing. Other impacts that effect staffing are injuries, vacations, court appearances, days off, FMLA, and sick leave. When this occurs, other deputies are required to fill these shifts often utilizing overtime.

Reduction in the number of employees greatly impact the ability to backfill these shifts and overtime will be required. Other downsides to staff reduction will be staff burnout, higher personnel costs, and fatigue.  Operating under these conditions can result in poor judgement in split second decisions during life or death situations which raise the risk of litigation to the County.

The Sheriff’s office has already cut $169,490 from our budget through vehicle replacement, training and other line items. This was done in April in an effort to be proactive in this budget crisis. Not immediately filling the existing vacancies, there will be an additional savings of $771,359. With any additional loss of staff, the public faces extended periods of time in which there will be no law enforcement officers in the County. Those losses could create low moral which could lead to a higher turnover rate which could spiral out of control. I have great concern that a position was added to the County Manager’s staff, but the Sheriff’s office and other county departments are required to cut. The Sheriff’s office provides public safety to our community and was asked to cut 12.5 positions or $930,000. The Sheriff’s office did apply for a COVID-19 grant for ten staff. This grant application will be discussed on July 15 or 16 with an awarding of the grant soon thereafter.

The County Manager has asked the Sheriff’s office to cut $93,000 from its budget as has been explained above, and this brings considerable concern. I have shared all this information today to illustrate the broad range of the roles and responsibilities of the Shariff’ office and why these cuts are too extreme. I feel these cuts proposed by the County Manager are short-sighted for the reasons I’ve laid out today. I do not feel that there’s a lack of support from the Board of County Commissioners, but there is a lack of understanding of what is required of the Sheriff’s Office. I want to continue with the Sheriff’s office goal and mission to provide professional services with honesty and integrity in partnership with our community. We are partners in the community and we need to work together to find an answer that works for everybody to maintain this mission.”

Human Services Contract       

Human Services Director Laura Solomon presented the Health Care Finance Policy. This is a County Incentive Contract Amendment between Gilpin County and Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF). HCPF oversees and operates Health First Colorado (Colorado’s Medicaid Program), Child Health Plus (CHP+), and other public health care programs to Coloradans who qualify. Each year, The HCPF updates its Statement of Work’s performance benchmarks and deliverables to align with HCPF’s priorities and to address audit findings. Gilpin County BoCC approved the Policy unanimously.

Ms. Solomon also announced that Gilpin County was recently awarded a grant of $43, 550 from the HCPF to help meet incentives.

Colorado Communities for Climate Change (CC4CA)   

Gilpin County Board of Commissioners approved the ratification of the CC4Ca policy Statement as follows:

Colorado Communities for Climate Action is a coalition of local governments advocating for stronger state and federal climate policy. CC4CA’s policy priorities for 2019-2020 reflect unanimous agreement among the coalition members on steps that should be taken at the state and federal level, often in partnership with local governments, to enable Colorado and its communities to lead in protecting the climate. CC4CA generally focuses on legislative, regulatory, and administrative action, supporting efforts that advance the general policy principles and the detailed policy positions described below, and opposing efforts that would weaken or undermine these principles and positions.

The following general principles guide the specific policies that Colorado Communities for Climate Action advocates for:

Supports collaboration between state and federal government agencies and Colorado’s local governments to advance local climate protection.

Supports state and federal programs to reduce carbon pollution, including adequate and ongoing funding of those programs.

Supports analyses, financial incentives, and enabling policies for the development and deployment of clean energy technologies.

Supports locally driven and designed programs to support communities impacted by the clean energy transformation.

Supports prioritizing policies that put people at the center of decision-making, do not exacerbate or create disparities in growing the green economy, and enhance equitable outcomes for all. (CC4CA Website)

Transfer of Development Rights (SBE 19-02P)

  Community Development Director Stephan Strohminger presented a Senate Bill Exemptions (SBE 19-02) Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) on behalf of Florian Freymuth for properties located near the Corona Heights Subdivision. The applicant owns a ten-acre partial on North County Road. The applicant is requesting to transfer the TDR from a property along Hwy 72 which is 3/4 acre in size, which he also owns to the ten-acre partial on North County Road. After a long and informative discussion and an Executive Session, the Commissioners agreed to table SBE 19-02 until the July 21, 2020 regular meeting.

Legal Issues

Gilpin County Attorney Brad Benning announced that the Attorney’s Office is currently working on several zoning complaints.

554 Old Hughesville Road, camping violation; but the defendants are out of state until July 15th or 17th so they cannot be served until that time.

200 Hacker Drive, illegal structure; defendants will be allowed to inquire into the building permit process to reduce or eliminate this violation. Staff continues to send warning letters to violators of the County’s zoning codes.

County Manager’s Report

Gilpin County Manager Abel Montoya informed the online audience that zoning and land use violation cases will be available online so complainants can view the status of those complaints in real time.

Clerk & Recorder Appointments

The County Clerk and Recorder’s office is requesting that residents not use a computer system to make appointments, but rather call in to confirm appointment availability and confirmation.

Executive Session 

Gilpin County Commissioners moved to Adjourn to Executive Session for a conference with the County Attorney for the purpose of receiving legal advice on specific legal questions.

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