Carbondale receives grant for extra police officer | AspenTimes.com

Carbondale receives grant for extra police officer

John Stroud
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE – The town of Carbondale has accepted a $239,331 federal grant to pay for an additional police officer over the next three years.

However, town trustees are wary of one grant provision that says the police department must maintain its current staffing level for four years, or risk losing the money.

Although no staffing cuts are planned for 2011, with ongoing volatility in the town’s general fund revenues, the future is still a bit uncertain.

Carbondale Police Chief Gene Schilling recently received word that his department was awarded a COPS Hiring Program grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.

COPS stands for Community Oriented Policing Services. It’s the fourth time that the Carbondale department has been awarded one of the annual grants in the last 15 years, Schilling said.

Currently, the department is budgeted for 14 patrol officers. The grant will allow the force to expand to 15 officers, he said.

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However, at a special year-end meeting Tuesday afternoon, Carbondale trustees wanted to make sure that accepting the grant doesn’t put the town in a budgetary bind down the road.

“There are a lot of catches with this, and we need to consider it carefully,” Trustee John Hoffmann said.

In particular, acceptance of the grant does mean that the town would be unable to lay off any police patrol personnel for four years, Schilling explained in a memo to the board.

“If we needed to lay personnel off, we may have to refund a portion of or all of the grant funds that will have been paid to the town,” he said.

The department actually already has 15 officers on staff, although two of them remain on extended medical leave. The grant would allow the department to maintain that staffing level, Schilling said.

The town board OK’d acceptance of the grant on a 4-0 vote Tuesday. However, Mayor Stacey Bernot acknowledged that the town’s revenue situation will still need to be closely monitored.

“We could always decide we have to give the grant back if things get worse,” she said.

Another stipulation of the grant is that the officer paid for using the grant money must be retained for at least 12 months beyond the three-year funding period.

One other area police agency, the Rifle Police Department, was also awarded one of this year’s COPS grants.

jstroud@postindependent.com