Blue River group submits petition to reinstate marshal
BLUE RIVER – Some Blue River residents are circulating a petition asking the town’s Board of Trustees to consider re-establishing the marshal position – and reinstating former Marshal Steve Ford.
Ford left to take a job at a security firm overseas and returned to the area two weeks ago. When he departed, the town board decided to contract law enforcement services with the Sheriff’s Office rather than replace Ford, which most residents agreed would be a difficult task.
The contract with the Sheriff’s Office expires in January, said Mayor Darcy Lystlund. She and other town trustees received a letter Tuesday night from a group calling itself Concerned Citizens for Local Control of Law Enforcement asking the town board to reinstate Ford as the marshal.
According to the letter – spearheaded by resident Jo Busse – problems with loose dogs and people illegally using the Goose Pasture Tarn have escalated since Ford left. Busse said someone was even seen swimming in the tarn recently. Other complaints include that the sheriff’s officer doesn’t patrol the area as much as some residents would like and doesn’t have a vested interest in the town.
She said she and others have collected about 75 signatures.
“Despite the best efforts of the sheriff’s department, many residents report rarely seeing a patrol of their neighborhoods,” the letter reads. “Dog control is nonexistent, and the Goose Pasture Tarn appears to have been overrun by nonresidents. The arrangement Blue River has with the Summit County Sheriff’s Department is not working satisfactorily.”
Resident Don Sullivan agreed.
“I think we might be getting lost in the shuffle of Summit County,” he said. “There’s no great dissatisfaction with the Sheriff’s Office; it’s just that Steve always had that hands-on personal involvement. We’re just a cog in the wheel here.”
Town Trustee Cleve Keller reminds residents that Ford went above and beyond his duties, helping people chop firewood or get microwave ovens working again – jobs in which law enforcement officials don’t typically engage.
“There are obviously things the Sheriff’s Office doesn’t provide, like chopping down trees or picking up your garbage a bear got into,” said Town Trustee Cleve Keller. “I think we’re addressing all the issues.”
One reason the town board turned to the Sheriff’s Office last year was because they believed it would be hard to replace Ford.
“One of the biggest problems is finding someone qualified who really wants to live here,” Busse said. “Steve is qualified, people like him, he’s very visible in Blue River, and he wants to be here. So, why not reinstate him?”
Lystlund said the board will conduct an informal mid-year evaluation of law enforcement services at its next meeting, Sept. 17.
“I think we’re still in an adjustment period,” she said. “He’s only been there five months, so it’s pretty hard to get a reading on it. Even if we’d gone the route of hiring a new marshal, the learning curve would have been the same. I have mixed feelings about it. When this whole thing started, I was kind of leery about it, but I want to give it a chance to work. The board thought it was the best thing for the town. There have been a lot of people who are fine with it (the change), and others who are not.”
She hasn’t received any phone calls and has received only one letter expressing concern about people using the tarn. The tarn is reserved for use by Blue River residents only.
“Ninety-nine percent of people he (sheriff’s officer) contacts are residents,” Keller said. “I think the abuse is perceived and not real. I don’t think there’s wide-open abuse.”
“I think there’s been a little bit of injustice toward the town board,” said Bruce Bundy, who originally signed the petition and since has heard both sides of the story. “People need to sit down and work things out instead of going around saying the situation is a lot worse than it used to be. I don’t think it is.”
Lystlund said she is unsure which method of law enforcement costs less.
The town currently pays the Sheriff’s Office $70,000 a year to patrol the town and respond to incidents around the clock, Lystlund said. That cost includes wages, overtime, benefits, training and insurance. The town paid “a little over $50,000” to maintain the marshal’s position, including benefits, workers’ compensation and other requirements. That didn’t include a housing allowance, she said.
Lystlund said she’d like to hear from concerned citizens.
“If someone has a problem, they need to come talk to us,” Lystlund said. “It’s not like they’re going to fall in a trapdoor and be eaten up.”
Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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