The days of a traditional marshal’s office in Green Mountain Falls, with a fully-funded local police force, may be screeching to a halt.
So if you want to cruise through downtown in this Ute Pass community at a higher rate of speed, now is your chance to hit the gas pedal.
Despite a record number of applications for a local law enforcement chief, and the announcement of a committee to review resumes, a bevy of questions surround the future of the GMF Police Department.
Last week, the GMF Board of Trustees held a lively discussion on the town’s finances, with the marshal’s office taking center stage The options currently mulled by town leaders include rehiring a marshal/police chief and operating this agency in a status quo, but more cost-effective manner; turning this position into a local code enforcement officer and contracting out certain law enforcement duties with EL Paso County or another entity; transferring all law enforcement over to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office through an intergovernmental agreement and turning the current police station at town hall into a sheriff’s substation; or putting this decision in hands of a new possible clerk/town manager.
No decision have been rendered, but the board may decide what action it wants to take regarding law enforcement at its next meeting, slated for May 17.
Discussion on this issue was extremely vocal at last week’s board meeting, with several residents expressing distaste over the town’s reputation as a speed trap. “That reputation is out there,” said resident and business owner Craig Peterson, when complaining about too much police supervision. Instead, he and a few other residents requested reallocating the town’s financial resources. “The parks look like crap,” added Peterson. “We do not need to put this much money into law enforcement,” said another resident. There is just not that much going on.”
Former trustee Mac Pitrone asked the board to examine the possibility of having a sheriff’s substation in the area and doing a contract with El Paso County, instead of continuing a debate that has been ongoing for years.
But former mayor Dick Bratton, a big supporter of the marshal’s office, questioned the response time citizens would receive under this arrangement. “Law enforcement is not like it was in the old days,” said Bratton, in citing the trend towards a mobile operation, with police officers using their cars as a mini-office. He doesn’t believe a substation in Green Mountain Falls would work for the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department. “The response time is not going to be 15 minutes,” added Bratton, in advocating having a marshal’s office. He also cited the recent spree of burglaries as an example of the need for a marshal’s office.
Michael Lohman, president of the Ute Pass Triangle Chamber of Commerce, meanwhile, suggested turning the agency into more of a code enforcement office. During a previous presentation, a representative of the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office contended that their office could enforce state laws, but not local ordinances, such as dog complaints. For example, an inquiry into the recent death of the town’s ambassador, head goose Roy, due a canine attack could not be handled by the sheriff’s office.
If Green Mountain Falls does contract out services with the county through an intergovernmental agreement, it won’t be cheap.
Mayor Pro Tem Cameron Thorne estimated that for 24-hour coverage, the price tag could nearly hit the $400,000 range. But for limited coverage, he noted it may just cost the town $64,000 under a more affordable plan.
Those figures are based on what the town of Victor currently does with the Teller County Sheriff’s Department. Thorne sees Victor as a good comparison with Green Mountain Falls, when it comes to law enforcement.
nother idea that may further complicate the marshal scenario involved a possible plan to hire a full-time clerk/town manager. The town is currently looking for a clerk, but may expand the scope of this position.
If the trustees hire a city clerk/town manager, that person would have more authority over how GMF handles the marshal’s office. The idea of a town manager sparked much controversy two years ago.
“We need to weigh out the priorities,” said GMF Mayor Jane Newberry.
Forming a Marshal Review Committee
At the outset of the discussion, Newberry conceded that town hall has been flooded with more than 30 letters and resumes of interest in the marshal’s position, even though the board hasn’t advertised for the position. This level of interest was attributed to the publicity surrounding the recent exit of Marshal Tim Bradley, and his entire reserve crew. This situation commanded much coverage in the local and regional media.
Bradley quit due to personal reasons, but most government observers believe his decision was highly impacted by the recent election, and the selection of a new mayor and several trustees.
Newberry said a committee would be formed to review the applications. This committee will include two citizens, two board members and a law enforcement expert. Applications for the committee, which can be picked up at town hall and viewed in the post office, are due on May 10. Newberry stressed that the committee would mainly deal with reviewing applications, and not focus on policy changes.
“The board will decide what we can afford,” said the mayor, in a later interview. She admitted that the town has to deal with the loss of $12,000, paid to the formal marshal for vacation and overtime monies owed to him by the previous leaders. “That money is gone,” said Newberry, who previously questioned this expense.
Also, leaders don’t believe the town can obtain the fine-related revenue from traffic tickets and other violations projected in the 2016 budget. The town had estimated ticket and court-related revenue of nearly $60,000 which is practically double from what is projected in Woodland Park for 2016. “I don’t believe that is the type of atmosphere we want in Green Mountain Falls,” said the mayor, in mentioning this level of fine-related revenue.
The fear of GMF regaining its reputation as a speed trap was a theme that dominated last week’s discussion regarding the marshal situation.
Despite the plethora of ideas regarding restructuring the office, or even doing away with it, the mayor cautioned that these are just ideas. “We don’t know if El Paso County would want to do an IGA (intergovernmental agreement) with us.”