The revamping of the Green Mountain Falls’ town government is boldly underway in what has become a regular tradition every two years following an election.
The newest pursuits involve hiring a town administrator/clerk and eliminating the police department name and returning to an old-fashioned marshal’s office. In addition, the new town elected leaders are continuing non-stop in introducing new resolutions and ordinances that deal with ways to operate more efficiently and address key financial issues.
Last week, Mayor Pro Tem Cameron Thorne turned a few heads when he announced a desire to aggressively pursue the hiring of a new town administrator/clerk. The movement to have a town manager to oversee most municipal operations practically stirred a local range war several years ago. Also, during the recent campaign for the trustees and mayoral races most candidates retreated from the former concept of having an official GMF Town Manager.
That stance, though, has apparently changed since new elected leaders have taken office. Under the newest plan, GMF leaders, through a committee, would try to compile a job profile for a head town administrator/clerk position, and get the ball rolling for picking a person to fill this spot. It also would delay temporarily the hiring of a new full-time clerk and expand this job title.
Surprisingly, this announcement didn’t spark any complaints, with most leaders favoring the idea. But a few questioned the logistics, since the town has started receiving resumes for a new clerk. “A clerk/administrator position is not unusual,” said GMF Mayor Jane Newberry. “For us it is new, but not for the state.”
Thorne echoed similar sentiments, noting this combination of duties is common for towns the size of Green Mountain Falls.
A meeting was scheduled Monday evening for a new committee to evaluate the town’s clerk and administration situation in more detail.
No More GMF Police Department
While the new council was on the same page regarding the possible addition of a new town administrator/clerk, they differed on the idea of restructuring the marshal’s office and the police department.
Both Newberry and Thorne made a strong pitch for eliminating the idea of a police department altogether, and returning to the traditional, almost rural image of a marshal’s office. With this plan, all logos, law enforcement vehicle signage and various identification symbols would change.
Plus, the focus on ticketing speeders and doing aggressive traffic enforcement in the downtown may change, along with other law enforcement actions taken in the last five years.
Moreover, this move reverses the trend advocated by the most recent police administration, headed by former chief Tim Bradley.
Bradley, who first took the reins of the agency in the summer of 2011, warned of a lack of respect by motorists and outside visitors with the marshal logos and vehicle signage and opted to turn the image of law enforcement into a local police agency.
But the new board, with several new elected leaders, wants to turn the tide back to that of previous years.
“It is consistent with a small town look and feel,” said Thorne, in reference to the new law enforcement name change.
Both he and the mayor stressed that they are responding to the demands of local citizens, who prefer the image of a marshal’s office, rather than a police department. “The towns’ people like the idea of having a marshal,” said long-time resident and former trustee Mac Pitrone. And according to Pitrone, several former marshals, with the exception of Bradley, “had no problem with the term marshal. I think the term police is really irrelevant.”
Thorne explained that the new change would mainly just deal with the primary identification of the marshal and his/her officers and with their uniforms, business cards and vehicles.
However, the plan got a cold response by several trustees and even by town attorney Matt Krob. Krob suggested that the board delay such a decision and seek input from their new marshal, expected to be on board in early July. “We are putting the cart before the horse,” added Trustee Dave Cook. Cook agreed with the attorney and hinted that the trustees may be micro-managing its future law enforcement too much.
Veteran trustee Tyler Stevens strongly objected to this extent of a change, and believes the policy could put law enforcement personnel in danger. He cited the importance of the term “police,” when law enforcement officers are dealing with a difficult person who may be in an altered state of mind, during an arrest or tactical operation. “It is too dictatorial…It is not needed at this time,” said the trustee.
Stevens advocated getting more input from the law enforcement community. Another point raised at last week’s meeting dealt with the decline of marshal departments throughout the state, as the previous policies enacted by Bradley are becoming more prevalent.
The mayor, however, said she believes the timing is right for the change. She noted that the current police lineup of vehicles for the town is pretty much non-existent, so expenses for vehicle changes wouldn’t be an issue. And with the huge amount of resumes the town has received for a new marshal, she stated that applicants need to know the direction the leaders are seeking in the law enforcement arena.
According to Newberry, applicants “were all over the place,” with some referring to themselves as retired law officers who wanted to live in a small mountain town, to others who wanted to head a full-fledged police agency.
The town trustees voted 4-2 to make the policy change, stripping the agency of its affiliation to a police department.
In other law enforcement action, the trustees did appoint a new committee to review applicants for its marshal position and to finalize an application process. This committee consists of Newberry and Cook from the board and a number of citizens, including Pitrone, Dick Bratton, Mark Knowles, Don Hubschmidt and Sean Ives.
According to the timetable proposed by the mayor, GMF hopes to hire a new marshal by early July. The mayor also said she had a meeting with law enforcement leaders in El Paso and Teller counties,, and received much support in assisting the town during its current police-less plight.
But that said, she indicated that these agencies want GMF to hire a marshal. For the next 60 days, El Paso County will be doing regular patrols in GMF. If residents have concerns or need assistance, they are encouraged to call the El Paso County Sheriff Department’s dispatch center and not the old office of the marshal’s office.