Sheriff candidates concerned
County retention, recruiting problems discussed at forum
Hayden — Having as few as two deputies — sometimes only one — patrolling the 2,400 square miles of Routt County has the sheriff’s candidates concerned.
That much was clear at a Republican candidates forum held at the Hayden Town Hall on Tuesday night. Candidates Ray Birch and Garrett Wiggins shared their concerns with the limited number of deputies and the retention of staff, but each had different ideas about how they would approach the problems as Routt County’s next sheriff. Another candidate forum will be held tonight.
Birch and Wiggins will face off in the Aug. 8 Republican primary. The winner will go up against Democratic sheriff candidate Gary Wall in the November general election.
Birch and Wiggins said it is important to realize the other county departments have needs as well. The sheriff’s department needs to make a strong case to the county for more funds, the candidates said.
“You can’t just walk in and say I want … give me,” Birch said. “Lay it out there in terms that everyone will be comfortable with.”
Birch argued that hiring the right people is key to making sure the department runs efficiently with limited resources. He said it is a “cop-out” to blame the current administration or department heads for what Wiggins has called a high rate of turnover.
“I ask you who has not worked in a place where they haven’t gotten along with an administrator,” Birch said.
Birch said half the staff in the sheriff’s office has turned over in the past two and a half years. Of the 25 people who left, nine went to work for other agencies, Birch said. He said that number stuck out.
“There are better ways to recruit people who are more suited to work at the sheriff’s office,” Birch said. “It’s a very complex and different type of police work.”
“The first thing we have to do is implement some employee retention programs,” Wiggins said.
He said the office should explore finding additional sources of revenues to increase the size and efficiency of the sheriff’s office. His ideas included adopting ordinances within the county that would steer more money collected from fines back toward the county. He also said the department should more aggressively pursue federal grant money.
“It may behoove us to hire a grant writer,” Wiggins said.
Wiggins said the county shouldn’t be expected to absorb the cost of jailing prisoners. He said prisoners should pay the $42 each day that it costs.
Wiggins also said he would entertain the idea of citizens voting on whether to implement a tax to support the sheriff’s department.
“We have to put our heads together and figure out ways to generate revenue,” Wiggins said. “We can’t keep on taking out of the pot and putting nothing back in, or else we’ll go broke.”
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