BERTHOUD — When the Berthoud police chief retires in August, the town has two main options.
One: Hire a new chief.
Two: Dissolve the seven-member department and pay the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement.
Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden said he sent a letter to the Berthoud town administrator last week to let town officials know his office could contract its services to the town when the police chief retires.
“We wanted to make them aware we’d be willing to do that,” he said. “It’s an option they should consider.”
He also said the town has received after-hours dispatch and records services from the sheriff’s office at no cost. But as the town grows, it might be time for Berthoud to kick in and help pay for some of those services, he said.
The sheriff’s office has a better-trained staff and a more stable work force than a small town like Berthoud can provide, and it would reduce the town’s liability, Alderden said.
On the other hand, contracting with the sheriff’s office might cost the town more.
Berthoud budgeted $470,000 for its police department this year. Though Alderden said he didn’t know how much the sheriff’s office would charge Berthoud, he said each deputy, including a car and equipment, costs about $100,000.
So if the town keeps its current roster of seven law enforcement officers, it could cost about $700,000.
The sheriff’s office would enforce municipal, state and federal laws but wouldn’t be in charge of code enforcement, Alderden said.
He didn’t know if the Berthoud police tackle code issues, but he said police in Wellington used to lock the post office and cut weeds before the the sheriff’s office took over law enforcement there. That’s not something deputies would do, he said.
Larimer County manager Frank Lancaster said it’s not unusual for small towns to contract with sheriff’s offices; Timnath and Wellington both do.
But a municipality doesn’t have to be small to use county law enforcement services. The city of Centennial, with more than 100,000 people, is served by the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, Lancaster said.
Berthoud town administrator Jim White said he hasn’t talked with the sheriff and hasn’t discussed the option with the Board of Trustees or town staff.
The trustees ultimately will decide what to do after the police chief retires, “but we’re not even at that stage,” White said. “The ink hasn’t even dried on the chief’s retirement plans.”
It’s a preliminary step, but “a new idea, and it’s one that we will listen to,” he said.