Grand Lake leaders seek heightened policing

How the town might get there is a hard question as local officials weigh town marshal service

Grand Lake might be a long way from creating its own police department, but local officials are calling for greater policing in town.

On Monday, Grand Lake trustees talked about what it would take to install a town marshal after town staff analyzed some of the prerequisites Grand Lake would have to satisfy before making such a move.

Their reasons for considering it were clear. Trustee Ernie Bjorkman said that he loves the local sheriff’s office, but Grand Lakers have been seeing open drug deals in alleys, drivers speeding through town, bar fights and all kinds of crimes being committed without anybody there to stop it. Other trustees echoed his comments.

According to a memo prepared by town staff, because Grand Lake approved a measure in October 2009 allowing for the creation of a police department, which “shall consist of one town marshal and as many policemen deputies as may from time to time be deemed necessary for the safety and good order of the town,” trustees need not vote on the measure now.

But if Grand Lake chooses to go that route, trustees would likely have to decide how many law enforcement officers Grand Lake should have, how much they would earn and what equipment or supplies the officers should be given.

Currently, Grand Lake contracts law enforcement through the Grand County Sheriff’s Office. Per the agreement, the town pays the sheriff’s office about $145,000 a year and buys the department a new vehicle every two years. The town then gets the vehicle back after four years.

Based on what’s already written in town code, a town marshal would be charged with keeping the peace and have the authority to make arrests, along with executing all writs and processes directed to him by the mayor or a municipal judge in any case arising under town code.

Town staff’s memo adds that a marshal would be different from police officers in a handful of ways, including that many town marshals actually receive up to 5% of the money collected from the citations they write, as opposed to police officers, who do not receive any portion of their tickets’ proceeds. What compensation a marshal might receive from the tickets he or she writes could be another consideration for trustees.

Then there’s the salary. Looking at other town marshals in comparable towns, town staff estimated that one in Grand Lake would need to make $100,000 to $130,000 annually, plus any benefits included with the position. That wouldn’t include operating costs or any additional town officers to back up the marshal, which would both increase expenses beyond the initial salary.

Additionally, a town marshal would have to be P.O.S.T. certified, a requirement for all law enforcement officers in Colorado that’s obtained by undergoing a series of new and updated mandatory training. As a result of certification requirements, law enforcement officers must be trained every five years in proper holds and restraints, and anti-bias techniques.

They must also receive training in DNA evidence collection, community policing and de-escalation tactics. Other certification requirements — such as specialized training for reporting the exploitation of elders or for a school resource officer — require that at least one officer at a department has that training.

“The costs are an issue,” Crone said, estimating that a two person department would run Grand Lakers at least $200,000 annually and that level of staffing wouldn’t give Grand Lake full-time police coverage.

One concern raised by trustees centered on the costs, or residents twice or thrice paying for local law enforcement services, with their taxes going to the sheriff’s office, paying for the contracted law enforcement services and then having to cover a town marshal as well.

Town officials also worried about the perception that installing a town marshal would send a message that Grand Lake doesn’t need the sheriff’s office’s coverage, and they said that’s not a message they want to send.

During public comments, residents voiced concerns about how much backup a town marshal might need to cover things like time off and festivals, and suggested that a local police department would cost $1 million or more.

At any rate, it’s pretty clear Grand Lake couldn’t replace what it receives from the sheriff’s office without spending significantly more than the town is currently paying.

The idea that Grand Lake might rework its agreement with the sheriff’s office — possibly paying more to get more patrols — or install a marshal as an added layer of law enforcement on top of the sheriff’s office contract seems more plausible than Grand Lake going out on its own.

On Monday, trustees instructed town staff to look into what it might take to start a satellite office in Grand Lake for the sheriff’s office or find other ways to increase patrols and the police presence in town.

On Thursday, Sheriff Brett Schroetlin said that police coverage contract in Grand Lake has been adjusted over the years based on the town’s wishes, and he would be agreeable to revisit the contract if the town wants to do that.

“I’m definitely happy to re-evaluate the contract and see what (Grand Lake’s) current desires are,” Schoetlin said. “We can work with them on those desires to make a contract for the current board.”

During his remarks at Monday’s town workshop, one local suggested that while much of discussion revolved around illegal drug use, he didn’t hear anyone talking about the underlying issues related to drug abuse.

“There’s clearly a drug issue in town,” the man told Grand Lake trustees. “Something has to be done with it, but the only thing I’ve heard from every single person is the solution to that is arresting people, and I’d just like to hear something about prevention.”

That was followed up with a suggestion the town should work with TAME, a local group that is working to help people overcome drug and alcohol addiction.

On Wednesday, Crone said that town staff has reached out to the group, and they will be coming to Grand Lake in October to discuss opioid issues with town leaders.

In other business:

• During a StreetScape update, Crone said that a paving crew is looking to finish Park Avenue on Oct. 4, adding that they were scheduled to start work next week but were delayed due to another job.

• There will be a ribbon cutting ceremony for electric vehicle stations on Sept. 28 with an event featuring electric vehicles to test drive.

• Trustees appointed independent election judges to oversee the Oct. 5 mayoral recall ballot. Ballots have been mailed out and should be received soon, if not already. Voters who do receive a ballot should contact town hall.

• Trustees unanimously decided to waive $1,000 in rental fees for the Grand Arts Council’s use of the Community House during the Christmas bizarre on Thanksgiving week.

• Trustee Tom Bruton reported back on his communications with Trinidad officials regarding the ArtSpace project there. During Monday’s discussions in Grand Lake, trustees heard that there were about $2 million in cost over-runs related to the ArtSpace project in Trinidad, but those were a result of a 20,000 square foot community center that was built with the project at the town’s direction.

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