Council studying cost for new police officers
Extra police officers to meet Glenwood Springs City Council’s desire to add more summertime foot patrols downtown is one of the last issues to be worked out as the city weighs what’s now a proposed $78 million spending budget for next year.
Council last week authorized a resolution approving the city budget for next year following the required public hearing, during which no members of the public commented.
However, final approval of the budget still hinges on some decisions regarding Police Department staffing and other city personnel that need to be made by next month when funding allocations for the coming year are officially appropriated.
During a summer tourist season that brought renewed concerns from business owners and tourism officials about vagrancy and sometimes aggressive panhandling in the downtown area, council authorized overtime to allow for more regular police foot patrols.
Rather than continuing that policy next year, the city is looking at the cost to hire additional police officers that would allow for more routine police presence, and to return the Police Department to pre-recession staffing levels.
A $3.6 million police budget already contains the addition of two police officers, including a second code enforcement officer.
“If council wants to increase the probability the department will be able to field regular foot patrols, an additional three police officers would be needed beyond the two positions proposed in 2016,” City Manager Jeff Hecksel indicated in his annual budget letter to council members in September.
Doing so would cost an additional $255,000, he said.
Even then, “adding those people is no guarantee they will be available for full-time foot patrols,” Hecksel said in a follow-up interview Wednesday.
“You can never predict when some major emergency is going to occur,” he said of a concern shared by Police Chief Terry Wilson, who has pointed out that officers can be called away from their regular patrols at a moment’s notice if the need arises.
Mayor Mike Gamba said he and council have requested more information about the cost to add even more police officers, and where that money might come from in the budget.
“It is something we are still considering. We just need to look at what the budget impacts are going to be to do that,” Gamba said. “We have to consider that it’s going to be an ongoing expense every year if we do this.”
It could also mean not hiring other positions that have been included in the 2016 budget, he said.
Among those would be a new position in the Fire Department to help keep up with the increasing ambulance call volume, especially at times when multiple calls come in at the same time.
The city is also hoping to hire an assistant city manager to help oversee the large volume of public works projects that are being planned over the next few years in conjunction with the state’s planned replacement of the Highway 82/Grand Avenue Bridge.
In addition to $1 million of the city’s overall $3 million commitment to the bridge project itself, the city is planning more than $8 million worth of planning, engineering and construction of other public infrastructure projects.
Among those projects are to be a $700,000 bike and pedestrian trail link along west Midland Avenue, for which the city recently received a $375,000 Garfield Federal Mineral Lease District grant to offset.
Other projects that are in the works include $550,000 for relocation of the existing Grand Avenue pedestrian bridge to a new location across the Roaring Fork River near 14th Street, $3 million for continued engineering and planning for the Eighth Street connection to Midland Avenue, and $1.75 million to begin work on reconstructing part of South Midland Avenue.
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