Scott Wedel: County should help |

Scott Wedel: County should help

I do not want the Town of Oak Creek to dissolve its municipal government (“Oak Creek weighs future of law enforcement,” June 29 Steamboat Today). I want Routt County government to be more interested in helping the small government of the town of Oak Creek. I think the only way to convince Routt County government of the value of working with Oak Creek is by considering the consequences of there not being an Oak Creek town government.

Sheriff Garrett Wiggins is forcing the issue by requiring the town to pay $200,000 — an increase of $80,000 — for police services. It is unfair that the sheriff is proposing denying the citizens of Oak Creek the same level of law enforcement service that is provided to residents of unincorporated Routt County, which includes Stagecoach, Phippsburg, Milner and Hahn’s Peak.

Oak Creek does not have the money to increase police spending by $80,000 while facing declining property tax revenues of $40,000. That means half of the remaining general fund budget would need to be cut. The town already has only a few employees. The required budget cuts would leave Oak Creek with too few resources to provide essential services.

If the county is suggesting that Oak Creek raise revenues, then Oak Creek would need to increase its sales tax from 3 percent to 9 percent or quadruple the town’s property tax to 45 mills. That is an outrageous rate of taxation that will not be approved by local voters.

What Oak Creek needs is for the sheriff and county commissioners to give it the same deal for law enforcement that they currently give to the town of Yampa. Yampa has no police department, and Routt County has long charged an amount far less than actual costs. Instead, Yampa is charged what is affordable within the constraints of its limited general fund. Unfortunately for the town of Oak Creek, Routt County and the commissioners repeatedly have stated that Yampa is grandfathered in and that they will not make a similar deal with Oak Creek.

The only way to scare sense into Routt County government is to have the county calculate the costs of there being no Oak Creek town government. Suddenly, instead of a town contributing $100,000 or more toward law enforcement, there would be no contribution. Suddenly, the county would be responsible for snow removal, street maintenance, zoning and responding to all citizen complaints. Only then will Routt County see the value and cost savings in partnering with the town of Oak Creek.

Scott Wedel

Oak Creek property owner

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