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Sheriff’s Office short deputies

Susan Cunningham

The Routt County Sheriff’s Office will be short four patrol deputies by the end of this month and could lose a fifth in the coming months, which would cut its patrol force in half.

Also recently, a patrol lieutenant and one of two patrol sergeants resigned from the Sheriff’s Office.

Undersheriff Dan Taylor said the resignations, which have happened during the past few months, have been for various reasons, from employees who want to change careers to those who have a hard time making ends meet because of Routt County’s high cost of living to those who may have philosophical differences with the direction the department is going.

“It’s not just one thing,” Taylor said.

The department has been short-staffed to this level before, he said, and is dealing with the shortage by having employees work overtime, putting fewer people on each shift and putting investigators and Taylor in uniform and on the road when needed.

“We’re going to continue to carry on like we have,” Taylor said. “We’ll still be out there, and we’ll still be handling calls as always.”

The office also is short two detention deputies, out of the 16 it usually has.

Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said he had faith in the Sheriff’s Office and had seen similar shortages before. He said he guessed salary and benefits played a role in some of the recent losses of employees.

Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak agreed that salary is often an issue and said other county employees who have resigned in the past often cite reasons such as moving or changing careers.

Taylor praised the county commissioners’ efforts to increase law enforcement salaries, along with salaries for all other county positions, to market levels. Still, he said, some employees find it hard to make ends meet because of the area’s high cost of living.

The Sheriff’s Office is considering ways to retain employees, but officials do not have any specific ideas at this point, he said.

“We try and give them the best that we can give them within budgets,” Taylor said. “I think we’re going to look at it every day, and we’re going to make changes to try and make it more attractive to stay at the Sheriff’s Office.”

Meanwhile, the Sheriff’s Office has advertised the open positions and is working to fill those spots with qualified candidates. A testing process is scheduled for Feb. 9, and if the Sheriff’s Office finds a candidate it is interested in, officials can consider the applicant more seriously.

Even if someone is selected Feb. 9, it probably would take another month before he or she is hired, and then the new deputy would have to go through the department’s field training program, Taylor said.

It’s a priority to hire people who have years of experience on the job, as well as those who are new to it, Taylor said, making it important to start some people off above a typical starting salary.

The Routt County Board of Commissioners allows an employee to be hired one or two steps above entry level, but can increase that starting salary even further for exceptional candidates on a case-by-case basis.

— To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203 or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com


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