Police, fire chiefs raise staffing concerns

Castle Rock Town Council to discuss new revenue streams in coming months

Thelma Grimes
tgrimes@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 4/6/21

The Castle Rock Town Council will be taking recommendations from staff to find new revenue streams to increase staffing levels for the police and fire departments. In a March 30 study session, Fire …

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Police, fire chiefs raise staffing concerns

Castle Rock Town Council to discuss new revenue streams in coming months

Posted

The Castle Rock Town Council will be taking recommendations from staff to find new revenue streams to increase staffing levels for the police and fire departments.

In a March 30 study session, Fire Chief Norris Croom and Police Chief Jack Cauley expressed concerns over staffing levels falling behind today and as the town continues to grow. Both public safety chiefs said if something does not change, they do not feel they can keep providing the high standard of service that has come to be expected.

Croom said growth concerns are not just limited to Castle Rock town limits. The longtime chief explained that the fire department covers 34 square miles in town limits. However, they are also required to cover an additional 32 square miles outside of town limits as part of the Castle Rock Fire Protection District. With both areas, the fire department is responsible for a population of nearly 80,000.

Fire and Rescue has 97 personnel across all five of its divisions. Croom said the department will be requesting a total of 15 positions over the next five years. Croom said this year, the department needs to add at least six more staff members to keep up with demand.

“We will see a decrease in service if we don’t start addressing some of these issues,” Croom said. “Biggest challenge going forward is funding. Currently, we need additional people today. We have to find an alternate revenue stream to help justify and fund these positions.”

The current fire department budget is $17.6 million.

Town Manager David Corliss said there was not enough funds to hire any new firefighters or officers in 2021. Corliss said it is a concern, and new revenue streams must be found to allow the public safety agencies to keep up with current demands and future growth.

“Last year’s budget did not efficiently meet the needs of these departments,” he said.

Chief Cauley said the police department is in a similar situation, needing more staff today. With current staffing at around 82 police officers, Cauley said as growth continues, they are protecting more people, taking more calls, and responding to more car accidents on the roadways.

Looking at results of the annual community survey, Cauley said the police department consistently earns high marks for approachability, confidence, and trust.

“We work efficiently, but at some point, you do not want to lose that level of service,” he said.

In reviewing the data, Cauley said the department is currently on track to fall behind the one officer per 1,000 residents by 2022. While not a set standard, it is a data point Cauley used to explain the situation.

The police department’s 2021 budget is $16.5 million. In presenting a five-year plan, Cauley said the department will need more officers and administrative staff continually through 2026.

Both Croom and Cauley said another issue as growth continues is addressing the need for more public-safety facilities. Cauley said the current police station was built in 1999 and has been updated over the years, but a new station will need to be considered as the town’s population increases.

Croom said the fire department will likely need to find funding and start discussions for a new station in the next decade.

After Cauley and Croom presented the status of the departments, Corliss said everything is on the table, including sales taxes, property taxes, increasing impact fees for developers and more.

“Everything and the kitchen sink that's in there,” Corliss said. “I just want you to know we are looking at this broadly.”

Corliss said more in-depth discussion are expected in April and May council meetings. If the council decides to move forward with a special tax that requires citizens approval through an election, Corliss said time is of the essence as it must be ready to go by at least Sept. 1.

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