Sheriff Garrett Wiggins’ 2017 budget calls for new patrol deputy, investigator
If you go
What: State Sen. Randy Baumgardner meets with the Routt County Board of Commissioners to discuss the 2016 and upcoming 2017 legislative sessions.
When: 10:05 a.m. Sept. 27
Where: Commissioners Hearing Room Routt County Courthouse, 522 Lincoln Ave., Steamboat Springs.
Steamboat Springs — When Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins presented his draft 2017 public safety budget to the Board of County Commissioners Sept. 26, a second K9 unit was high on his list to support the ongoing efforts to help reduce the supply of heroin coming into Northwest Colorado.
Wiggins said Boomer, the German Shepherd Belgian Malinois mix who joined the Sheriff’s Office in early April 2015, is in high demand.
The drug-sniffing dog racked up four heroin arrests in his first month and has aided the Sheriff’s Office on other calls. In February, when a speeder was pulled over on Rabbit Ears Pass and found to have a fictitious registration, Boomer was called in and alerted to 28.8 grams of methamphetamine.
“He’s become a high-demand product,” the sheriff said of Boomer. “Heroin has really become an issue in our community. The people who are bringing this poison into our community, we want to do everything we can to stop them. If we get another canine, it may not be as good as Boomer, but if we can have a dog on for 75 percent of our shifts, I think it can make a difference. “
The acquisitions, training and care of a second K9 unit, about $38,000 including costly training, is part of the sheriff’s proposed 2017 public safety budget of $3 million (above revenues). The draft budget also does not include health benefit costs, which are yet unknown.
The proposed public safety budget is $186,425 more than the 2016 approved budget of $2.82 million. Those figures do not include the budget for the detention center.
The board of commissioners will spend the next four weeks massaging the proposed budgets from all of the county departments in time to come up with a final draft in mid-October that will finally be adopted in mid-December.
As much as he values a second K9 unit, the sheriff told the commissioners his highest priorities are adding a new patrol deputy and a new criminal investigator. Wiggins said there are periods in every week when just one patrol deputy is available to respond to calls across the 24,000-square-mile county, and there are even brief periods in a 24-hour cycle when there is no deputy on duty.
“These two positions are something I cannot in good conscience come in here and not ask for,” Wiggins said.
The sheriff said it’s virtually impossible to have two deputies on duty at all times, even with his staff staggering four 10-hour shifts each day. He said adding one more deputy alone won’t get his department all the way there.
“We have adjusted our schedules numerous times to try to keep two deputies on at any time, but currently, there are times when only one deputy is on duty,” Wiggins said. “We don’t like doing that,” from a safety standpoint.
The sheriff’s patrol department comprises 15 officers including a lieutenant, a corporal and a deputy/corporal. There are 12 full-time patrol deputies earning between about $53,000 and $67,800 annually.
Complicating the situation are vacations, sick days and court appearances that disrupt the schedule.
The sheriff is equally concerned that his two-person investigative staff, bolstered by pulling over a patrol deputy with relevant experience in times of high volume, is showing the strain.
County Commissioner Doug Monger reminded the sheriff that the board is searching for room in the budget to participate in the construction of a new shared law enforcement facility with the city of Steamboat Springs.
“We’re trying to do all we can for the facility, and these (new employees) would come with a car and benefits,” Monger said.
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