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Mt. CB first responders are concerned about police coverage in north valley

“We will have coverage”

By Toni Todd

Mt. Crested Butte paramedics, Tina Kempin and Erin Renfro, shared concerns with Gunnison County commissioners Tuesday over the lack of a contract for service between the Mt. Crested Butte Police Department and the Gunnison County Sheriff’s Department. The first responders are worried that too few sheriff’s deputies at the north end of the valley could leave them, and their patients, vulnerable.

“I know it’s a big luxury that we do have law enforcement respond with us,” said Kempin. “I know not every community has that. But when there’s a call that’s outside of the town of Mt. CB or CB, I really appreciate the fact that Mt. CB police meets us on scene. I appreciate it for the safety of myself and of my patients. I just fear with the termination of this contract, that response times could be delayed, effecting the safety of my crew.”

County commissioner John Messner clarified that the sheriff is an independently-elected official, and while the county budgets for and supports the sheriff’s department financially, the Board of County Commissioners does not have operational control over the sheriff or his deputies. “Certainly, we take your suggestions to heart. Sheriff Besecker is currently working with the town.,” Messner said.

“The sheriff knows it is his jurisdiction,” added Gunnison County manager Matthew Birnie. “We will have coverage. We’re hiring four new officers.”

Renfro offered a hypothetical scenario, describing something big happening on Monarch Pass, and all the deputies called to respond. “Then what happens at the north end of the valley?” she asked.

“There will be dedicated law enforcement at the north end,” assured Birnie.

“This discussion with how to cover the north valley has been an ongoing discussion for years,” said Gunnison County commissioner Jonathan Houck. “There’s going to be coverage for the north valley, the south valley, and the rest of the county.”

“They’re still working out the details for the transition and the agreement for mutual aid,” said Birnie.

Renfro asked, what happens in the middle of the night between 2 – 7 a.m. “I personally have witnessed a situation when a call came and had there not been anyone up at our end, that person would have died.”

Birnie suggested that’s a problem during the wee hours now, as well, and always has been a risky time.

“Hiring more officers gives the sheriff more capacity to respond countywide,” said Houck. “More and more, there’s a need to respond to places like Gothic.”

“We’ll push to help the sheriff’s department to have what they need to do their job,” said Chamberland.

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