February 12, 2024 |
Photo – Medicine Bow Marshal’s Office logo – Bigfoot99 file photo
In the Town of Medicine Bow, a large budget shortfall has the governing body considering whether to eliminate the marshal’s office.
During the January 8th Medicine Bow town council meeting, Mayor Justin George said the current town budget, passed under former Mayor Lucy Schofield, is illegal and used incorrect budget totals. Mayor George said the council will hold a series of special meetings to create a new, legal, budget as quickly as possible.
Last week, the Medicine Bow town council began the process of setting a new budget. Speaking at the February 8th special meeting, Mayor George said the council had questions about the marshal’s budget. The mayor said in its first two years of existence, 2019 through 2020, the marshal’s office cost the town over $335,000.
Mayor George said in fiscal year 2021 through 2022, the marshal’s office lost $133,080. The mayor said in the most recent fiscal year, having a dedicated in-town law enforcement agency cost the town over $230,000.
Mayor George said the town pays $304,000 to maintain a single full-time marshal, a full-time deputy, and the clerical and court expenses associated with law enforcement. The mayor said that price does not include the additional $20,000 spent on officer training and fuel for two marshal’s vehicles.
Mayor George said the minimum cost to run the marshal’s office in its current form is $324,328 a year. The mayor said eliminating the deputy, all overtime, and splitting the cost of benefits would save the town roughly $123,000. Mayor George said the price does not factor in vehicle and training costs.
Last October, Marshal Roger Hawks asked then Mayor Lucy Schofield to hire a second full-time deputy using a Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, grant through the US Department of Justice. Despite the COPS grant being denied, Mayor George said former mayor Schofield still allowed Marshal Hawks to hire and equip another deputy. The mayor said adding the extra employee ate up a substantial amount of the marshal’s budget.
Councilman Trevor Strauch said the marshal’s office could sell unneeded equipment for roughly $100,000. Councilman Strauch said if the cost to run the department stays the same, his calculations indicate that the town can only afford to keep the marshal’s office open for another two years.
Mayor George said the council must make the decision based on the numbers.
The mayor said he is considering contracting with the Carbon County Sheriff’s Office to provide law enforcement services in the town; the same as Hanna and Riverside have. Mayor George said a Memorandum of Understanding with the sheriff would cost the town about $80,000.
Mayor George said at that price, the town could afford to pay for nearly six years of sheriff’s department coverage. However, the mayor said the sheriff is unable to enforce town ordinances.
Hanna pays the sheriff’s department approximately $60,000 a year to have a deputy patrol the town for 60 hours a month. Councilman Strauch said Marshal Hawks typically spends 160 hours a month patrolling Medicine Bow. The councilman said the town must decide if the additional patrol hours of having an in-town officer is worth the added cost.
The council members expressed their unhappiness at having to make such a difficult decision.
Mayor George said he will ask for public comment during tonight’s town council meeting. The final town budget will be set on Thursday, February 15th.