Big boxes strain police manpower | VailDaily.com

Big boxes strain police manpower

Christine Ina Casillas

NWS Avon Police BH 12-23

Avon police say their force isn’t big enough to patrol the town and the big-box stores -The Home Depot and Wal-Mart Supercenter – thanks to budget cuts and manpower shortages.

The town is now seeking other ways it can be reimbursed for police patrols at the sprawling Village at Avon and wants to change the agreement with the shopping center’s developer, Traer Creek, LLC.

“We need to do whatever it takes to change the agreement,” said Larry Brooks, Avon town manager. “It’s an unintended consequence of the agreement we had with the Village at Avon. We need to sit down and reconcile our deficiencies in the agreement.”

When Traer Creek, who brought The Home Depot and Wal-Mart Supercenter to Avon, annexed the sprawling project into the town, the town agreed to provide police services based on what Brooks called an an “invoice services agreement.”

But payments aren’t covering the town’s current costs for police services, Brooks said. The property wasn’t “wholly assessed for taxable value this year,” Brooks said.

“All along, we wanted development to pay its own way. Unfortunately, the deficiency stays there, and we have up to $500,000 a year to lose,” Brooks said.

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The county assessed the property value last year when the big-box stores were half done, Brooks said. That lag in the calculations for police services at the Village at Avon could end up costing the town more than what was originally assessed. And because of that assessment, the town is providing services to a project that is complete, but using an old assessment value, Brooks said.

“We’re not providing services for what the county saw last year,” Brooks said. “We’re providing services for what we see now.”

The town cut two police officers from the budget for 2003 because of financial strains, town officials said. And Avon police officials say the shortfall on the police force has been difficult.

“The town’s concerned about it,” said Avon Police Chief Jeff Layman. “It’s a practical consequence of a shortfall – providing service that we’re not staffed up for this year.”

Avon has 15 police officers compared to 17 last year. The resulting manpower shortage caused by the opening of the village was inadvertent, Layman said.

“It’s not intentional,” Layman said. “The shortage was just an oversight when the town was putting the budget together.”

The police are providing the same number of patrols as they were before the annexation and building of the Village at Avon, but with fewer officers on the street, Layman said.

“We now have Avon and the Village at Avon – with fewer officers,” Layman said.

Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607 or at ccasillas@vaildaily.com.