City considers hiring one extra police officer
Glenwood Springs City Council will look at adding at least one more police patrol officer to the city’s 2016 budget besides the one that’s already budgeted, in an effort to step up downtown foot patrols during the busy tourist season.
Council member Kathryn Trauger has been leading the push to increase police presence due to concerns about the increase in vagrancy, panhandling and related criminal activity during the summer and fringe months.
“I can’t emphasize enough the request we’ve had from businesses, residents and our visitors for more police presence during our summer season,” Trauger said during a council discussion Thursday night.
If it’s possible to add two more officers, in addition to the patrol position and second code enforcement officer that are already in next year’s budget, all the better, she said.
City staff presented cost options ranging $81,290 for one officer to $243,871 for three additional officers. But, the more money the city spends on police, the more will have to come from other areas of the budget, City Manager Jeff Hecksel said.
That could include not hiring an assistant city manager as planned next year, or eliminating a firefighter/EMT or finance department sales tax coordinator that are also included in the 2016 budget.
If council doesn’t want to cut those positions, it could look at closing the Community Center one day a week, cut recreational programs, or not give raises to all city employees as planned, City Manager Jeff Hecksel and Finance Director Charles Kelty suggested in a summary of the options.
Any of those options are “likely to create some controversy,” Trauger said.
But she and other council members said the would like to continue the conversation about how to add at least one more police officer without making significant cuts.
“It seems we need to look at this in the simplest terms and don’t go overboard,” Councilman Stephen Bershenyi said.
That would be one additional patrol officer at a cost of $81,290, including benefits, training and other related costs, according to the staff summary.
Hecksel reiterated that, just because it’s in the budget doesn’t mean the city will be successful in filling the extra positions next year given wage issues and the time it takes to get a new police officer trained and ready for patrol.
The city will also be taking a look at its overall salary schedule for all city employees after the first of the year, to see what adjustments should be made to keep the city competitive in hiring and retaining.
Council may also look at increasing some sort of formal presence downtown during tourist season through the use of seasonal ambassadors, which could be either paid or volunteer, similar to towns like Durango.
“A uniformed officer does not necessarily have to have a gun, and the price difference is enormous,” Councilman Steve Davis said.
Hecksel also noted that, with the start of construction on the new Grand Avenue Bridge, including what will be a temporary pedestrian bridge crossing next summer, the vagrancy situation could change next summer.
“I think you will see a difference in where people congregate,” he said. “It’s not going away, but it is probably going to change.”
Council will continue the discussion about extra police officers during a Dec. 3 work session, prior to the regular council meeting that night when final approval of the 2016 city budget needs to take place.
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A restriction on outdoor water use for Glenwood Springs city water customers is in place Saturday night until 8 a.m. Monday following heavy weekend rains over both the Grizzly Creek and Lake Christine burn scars.