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Weld County Police Departments React to Tax Hike Defeats

November 11, 2018

Mead police officers Jack Ross, left, and Joseph Schreiner go over a report at the police station on Friday.

Police departments in two small but growing Weld County towns had hoped voters would pass ballot measures that would raise taxes and fund public safety.

Voters slashed those hopes on Tuesday, as both initiatives suffered narrow defeats. In Frederick, 55.4 percent voted against the ballot issue and 44.6 percent voted for it. There was a difference of 505 votes. In Mead, 50.8 percent voted against the ballot issue and 49.2 percent voted for it. There was a difference of 31 votes.

Both of the departments’s chiefs said the additional money was needed to ensure adequate police services to residents as the towns grow. But some residents wondered why their towns, still relatively small, needed to raise sales and use taxes by 1 percent for one town department.

Mead will continue to grow, just slowly

Mead police Chief Brent Newbanks has been in the position for less than two months. The short amount of time he had to campaign, he thinks, may be part of the reason the ballot measure failed.

“We made some strong efforts to get out and meet the public and let them know what our plans were,” Newbanks said. “But it was a fairly short amount of time that we had to do that.”

The ballot measure would have raised an estimated $904,000 for the town. In 2019, most of that amount would have gone toward the police department. The town would have used some of the funds in subsequent years for road repairs as well.

Despite the ballot failing, Newbanks said the department will continue to grow toward operating 24 hours each day, but now at a slower rate. It so far has six officers, a number of whom are still in training, and operates from noon until 10 p.m. A school resource officer also works during school hours. The Weld County Sheriff’s Office handles emergency calls outside when Mead police aren’t available, but they refer non-emergency calls back to the department during its open hours.

To reach its goal of 24-hour operation, Newbanks said he needs at least 10 officers. If the tax increase had passed, the department could have reached that goal in one year, but it will now likely take a few more.

“The Mead Police Department’s going to continue to grow, and we will eventually get to the point of providing 24-hour services,” he said. “I think we’re in a very good spot.”

The department is relatively new, so it also has greater costs as it grows because it needs to buy new equipment and supplies. Because the ballot measure failed, the department will this year forgo new patrol cars, a more efficient records management system and some supplies, like the forms that officers use to make reports.

Former interim police chief Brian Cousineau emphasized that Mead needs its own full-time department because of its growing size . The town’s population has increased from 3,470 in 2010 to 4,575 in 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau annual population estimates taken in July each year.

Cousineau also gathered 2015 crime data from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, which shows that Mead has the highest per capita offenses and calls for service per officer, as well as the second-highest per capita arrests, compared to Platteville, Johnstown, Milliken, Frederick, Dacono and Firestone. At the time, the department had only three officers.

Cousineau attributed that to the lack of police in the town, which he said made criminals feel safer.

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