Oak Creek replaces 20-year-old police car
Editor’s note: This story has been reflected to indicate an accurate amount of how much the U.S. Department of Agricultural covered for the vehicle in a grant.
OAK CREEK — Oak Creek Police Department has replaced one of its aging, unreliable vehicles.
The department recently purchased a 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe to replace its 2001 Ford Explorer. With only three vehicles, Oak Creek Police Chief Ralph Maher said the decision was largely based on the department’s proximity of calls.
“We are surrounded by ranching and agriculture, and we help the sheriff’s office respond to calls on ranch land and agricultural land all the time,” Maher said.
Serving a ranching hub like Oak Creek allowed the town to apply for a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which covered 55% of the new SUV’s $51,700 price tag. The town used its general fund to cover the remaining 45% of the cost.
In addition to the previous vehicle being old and run down, as Maher explained, it wasn’t truly built for the needs of a police department. That often led to difficulties when transporting people who were arrested.
Each of the department’s three officers has their own vehicle, but Maher said that’s an issue when one of the vehicles is out of commission.
“Not having a car (for each) person makes it difficult to shuffle resources, which we’re having to do right now,” Maher said. “It’s not a challenge we can’t overcome, but it’s a challenge.”
Maher said the Ford Explorer did not have trouble responding in the snow or on unplowed roads but did have issues with its battery system, which is still the case with the department’s other vehicles. Officers have to disconnect the batteries in their patrol cars when they sit for long periods of time. If they don’t, the cars won’t start in time, which is an issue when responding to an emergency.
“We don’t get called out in the middle of the night as much as somebody would think that we would, but that was the issue with it not being able to be responsive,” Maher said.
The older Ford had also been involved in minor crashes, according to Oak Creek Town Board member Bernie Gagne, who voted to purchase the vehicle. He acknowledged the department’s difficulties having one of its vehicles out of service while getting repaired.
“What we’re hoping to do is, every four to six years, kind of get into a cycle to replace police cars due to mileage and wear and tear versus buying what we can whenever we can get it,” Gagne said.
Though the department’s official jurisdiction is the town of Oak Creek, Maher said officers have an agreement with Colorado State Patrol and the Routt County Sheriff’s Office, where they help respond to calls across South Routt County. If the call occurs in the middle of the night, the departments rotate over who will respond.
“We know that resources in South Routt are limited,” Maher said. “There’s no sense in both of us being awake and coming all the way down to South Routt for something Colorado State Patrol is going to handle anyway.”
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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