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Walsenburg council to set work session on police contracting issue

by Eric Mullens

WALSENBURG — The five members of the city council present for the meeting this week were in agreement with a suggestion by city administrator Leslie Klusmire that a work session concerning the possibility of the city contracting municipal policing services be held in the near future so elected officials could be educated further on the issue.

The item appeared on the city council’s finance committee agenda Tuesday night as ‘discussion of financial move of county taking over police department’. The topic was placed on the agenda by Walsenburg Mayor Pro Tem Craig Lessar, a sergeant with the county sheriff’s office.

Lessar said he asked for the agenda item because so many people were asking him about the topic. Lessar said he received a message just prior to the start of the meeting from Huerfano County Administrator John Galusha (who is attending the Colorado Counties Inc., summer meeting) saying the county could provide city policing on a two year contract for $700,000 per year providing 12 officers. Walsenburg Finance Director Carolyn Tice, in response to a question from council, said the police department budget currently is slightly over $750,000 per year.

Former city councilman and current Walsenburg Treasurer Jim Moore, reminded the city council this issue was a continuing topic over five years ago in Mayor Bruce Quintana’s administration and the major issues identified then, still exist now. Those being; how police services could be administered by various sheriff’s; how citizens would have no higher recourse than the single elected official if they had complaints about policing services, and that, in a governmental budget sense, cost savings to the city would be nearly a wash.

Lessar did not indicate if the information he received from Galusha meant there would be 12 deputies assigned specifically to Walsenburg or not.

Klusmire said Lee Merkel of DOLA could facilitate the work session and Colorado Municipal League staff member Meghan Dollar would provide information on the general issue of municipalities contracting with county sheriff’s offices for police services. Dollar is a legislative and policy advocate at CML.

A tentative date of Tuesday June 28 was discussed as a possibility for the public work session. Klusmire said she would like to understand the issue better and asked the council what they wanted from law enforcement. A date for the work session will be announced by the city in the near future.

Councilman Greg Daniels said, “for the record, never have I proposed the sheriff take over the PD”. He said he had never brought up the subject and has done everything he could to avoid conversation on the issue. Rumor Roundup:

Klusmire told the city council she wanted to address a rumor that was making its way around town that says Love’s is pulling out of developing a truck stop at the south end of the city adjacent to the Interstate. She said she had recently been in contact with Love’s corporate officials who say the Walsenburg project is third on its list of priorities and they expect construction to begin on their convenience store/truck stop in 2017.

WPD Chief Tommie McLallen addressed rumors that a city officer was injured in a training incident last month due to negligence or in a dog bite incident (see story page 15). McLallen also reported city officers had been dispatched by the 911 center 566 times for service in May.

In other business:

• Council approved the liquor license renewal for Silver Dollar Inn;

• Approved business license renewals for the Bud Hut’s retail and cultivation operations;

• Approved a vehicle donation of a 2002 Dodge Durango from the police department to the Huerfano County Ambulance Service (the vehicle was originally obtained via donation from the Colo. Springs Police Department).

The recent CDOT transportation studies, including the final bike/pedestrian study will be presented at the June 21st meeting of city council.