ROCK SPRINGS — The Rock Springs Police Department (RSPD) will have to make do with its one parking and nuisance control officer for the time being.
The Rock Springs City Council decided not to fill a vacant the police department’s parking and nuisance control officer position this week. While the Council agreed there is definitely a need for the position, some had a problem with filling the position now.
Those who voted in favor of the motion to fill the vacant position were Councilors Tim Savage, Tim Robinson, Jeannie Demas, and David Halter, while Mayor Tim Kaumo and Councilors Rob Zotti, Brent Bettolo, Keaton West, and Larry Hickerson voted against the request.
Councilor Hickerson said his biggest concern was how the city was going to pay for the unbudgeted position.
“That’s my sticking point. I understand the need for it. It’s definitely there, but with us not being budgeted for it and the benefits kicking in, that’s really my hangup with it,” Hickerson said.
Councilor West agreed saying the timing of it is an issue for him. With funding and revenues down, the city couldn’t offer raises to the employees this year. The city has already told employees it review the budget again in October to see if it can do something for them. West said this isn’t the right time to be filling vacant positions. He added he’d be fine with the Council revisiting this in the spring.
Councilor Savage said the nuisance position covers a lot of areas, such as providing traffic control, escorting funeral processions, writing tickets at the high school, acting as a bailiff in court, and fingerprinting.
“There are all these things that are going to get done regardless if a nuisance officer does them or not. So then, you have a patrol officer doing those things,” Savage said.
He said other things will not get done or the city will be looking at paying more overtime. With only one person, they still have sick days and vacation days and their work will still need to be done.
“When they are not there, someone else is doing that work, so I’m not sure we are necessarily seeing a savings by not filling it,” Savage said.
Councilor Robinson added he used to work for the police department and he personally knows just how much time one parking nuisance call can take. He referred to those calls as “time vampires” because they just “suck time away from you.”
He said sworn officers are being taken off of the street to respond to parking and nuisance officer calls. Robinson said the nuisance officer usually makes about 2/3 or 1/2 the amount of what a patrol officer makes. He believes paying patrol officers overtime to cover the nuisance officer positions will outweigh filling the position.
Demas agreed with Robinson adding, “I would like to say, that in the long run, this is going to save us money.”
Chief Dwayne Pacheco said the current nuisance and parking officer has 62 cases and is getting them completed as quickly as she can, but other areas are being sacrificed.
Mayor Kaumo said the city hasn’t filled other positions and offered early retirements to save jobs, so now is not the time to fill the position.
“I support the need. I know it’s there. It’s very hard for one person to cover a city the size of Rock Springs,” Mayor Kaumo said.
However, he voted no and asked the Council to look at the request again in the spring when they have a better idea about the next fiscal year budget.