Park County Sheriff Tom McGraw was invited to a regularly scheduled meeting of the Board of Trustees for the Town of Fairplay Monday evening to discuss Ballot Initiative 1A, a proposed measure that could provide as much as $3.2 million for the PCSO if approved by voters.
The sheriff happily accepted the invite and took the opportunity to discuss an array of specific ways in which sales tax funds would be utilized if the measure passes Nov. 3.
First, however, McGraw conveyed some alarming information about staff shortages within the PCSO, primarily as they pertain to sheriff’s deputies.
“We just had two deputies resign, so we are down about five people on the road and down about eight people at the jail,” McGraw said.
McGraw also explained that certain tasks such as working accidents, making arrests or doing paperwork can take a deputy off patrol for extended periods of time. When those types of scenarios occur, as few as one or two patrol cars are left to cover the vast expanses of the county on any given shift.
McGraw then proceeded to enumerate the needs of his department and the ways in which Ballot Initiative 1A would help to resolve them. The list of potential benefits for the PCSO, and Park County as a whole would be considerable if the initiative passes. That list includes: 1. More deputies to patrol county roadways; 2. Safer work conditions; 3. Providing a living wage for deputies, 4. Retaining deputies; 5. Funding for Park County Search and Rescue team; 6. Funding for specialized units such as traffic units; 7. Funding for state-mandated body cameras; 8. Specialized computer equipment to allow deputies to remain in the field instead of having to work from substations; and 9. Mental health personnel to deal with mental health issues in the field.
McGraw also reminded those in attendance that the penny sales tax has nothing to do with property taxes, and that it does not include groceries, gasoline, medication or energy.
The tax will apply to short term rentals, which McGraw says will provide a substantial amount of funds.
McGraw noted in a previous interview with The Flume that there are more than 2,000 short term rental properties in Park County, and that the number could be closer to 3,000.
The sheriff said that if the initiative passes, he would like to see starting salaries for deputies increase to somewhere close to $60,000 annually.
Currently deputies start at about $43,000 annually — about $15.000 less than deputies in comparable counties.
Jefferson County sheriff’s deputies, for example, typically start around $60,000 according to www.glassdoor.com.
Before wrapping up his presentation, McGraw stated that he had seen faulty information in a flyer that was distributed to residents urging them to vote “no” on Ballot Initiative 1A. (See staff shortages story at bottom of Page 1 for details).
Finally, McGraw stated that he was optimistic that the penny sales tax would be well received by voters Nov. 3, and that Park County residents were typically extremely supportive of law enforcement.