Minturn paying a price for extra law enforcement
Minturn, CO Colorado
MINTURN, Colorado “-For the last 10 years Lorenzo Martinez has been chief of police in Minturn, the Eagle County deputies have given him support and services at no cost.
They’re all in it together, he said, and working towards the same goal. But recent county budget cuts have forced a small but costly change in the way the two agencies work together.
The Town Council Wednesday night authorized $48,836 to be reimbursed to the Sheriff’s Office for about 850 hours of coverage in Minturn between April and November.
“We’re in it together, but last year, budgets started getting tighter, and they had to take another look,” Martinez said. “Last year, (Sheriff Joe Hoy) was forced with some cuts, and he had to start charging us for services.”
The money headed to the Sheriff’s Office will come from unspent funds budgeted for hiring two additional officers in Minturn, which exposes the reason why the town needs county support.
“We’ve always had a staffing problem, getting qualified police officers on the street,” Martinez said. “This is pretty much a Band-Aid for our manpower shortage.”
At full staff, Minturn would employ four officers. In a memo to the council, Martinez said that for most of 2008 he split duties with the department’s only other officer, working 10-hours a day for four days and often being on call for the time they weren’t out patrolling.
The department recently hired its third officer, but still needs the help of county deputies in order to take vacations or attend training.
“We’ve always had cooperative law enforcement services from the county,” giving the stretched-thin officers a needed break, Mayor Hawkeye Flaherty said.
A concern among the council Wednesday night was how much money should be expected to go to Eagle County next year for its services.
“I’m hoping near zero,” Martinez said. “We’re trying to recruit other officers. I’m hoping to have a staff of four so we can minimize that number substantially.”
The county didn’t and won’t charge for back-up, Martinez said, and the charges are only for service calls when the Minturn department is inadequately staffed.
So the council didn’t have many options but to enter into the agreement.
“It seems appropriate to fill in the holes of our system,” Mayor Pro Tem George Brodin said.”
Dustin Racioppi can be reached at 970-748-2936 or firstname.lastname@example.org.