Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Salida Police Department Incident Breakdown 2022 – image courtesy of City of Salida

Work session hears Police Department annual report

The Salida City Council (SCC) had a work session as well as a regular meeting on February 21. At the work session, the SCC heard crime statistic reports from Police Chief Russell Johnson and held a discussion about whether or not to continue the summer “F Street Plaza” begun during COVID.

Johnson reported to the SCC that there had been 8,047 calls to the Salida Police Department in 2022, up slightly from 2021 and up sharply from 5,381 calls in 2019: “Based on the way the year is starting, we are going to top 8,000 calls again this year.”

In response to questions from Mayor Dan Shore, Johnson reported on staffing levels, saying that the Police Department had been short-staffed for most of the prior two years.

“Hopefully in two more weeks, we will have another Community Service officer on the streets, two are going through Police Academy. We should be 100 percent staffed by October. When you are full staffed, you can be more proactive [with community policing] – when you are down officers you are going call to call to call,” said Johnson. “There were 12 calls for service on a shift with two officers – if you get anything complicated like a domestic violence case, you can have an officer out for three to four hours, and then you only have one to deal with all the other calls.”

Johnson reported that officers had written 419 parking tickets in 2022, but “they are very time-consuming – typically we are spending more [in officer time] on them than we recoup – if we had a full-time person doing it our number of tickets would be higher.”

With regard to traffic citations, he said, “We tend to write more warnings than tickets – we could use them as a revenue generator, but I would be out of a job if I did that!”

Arrest numbers were down to 390 in 2022, compared to 432 in 2021. “A lot of drug charges and other charges are misdemeanors now instead of felonies – so arrests are down,” Johnson explained. K-9-assisted drug arrests have been complicated by decriminalizing substances such as cannabis and now mushrooms: “Drug law changes mean dogs need to get de-certified [released from service] – we are now training “walk pasts” for mushrooms, so a lot of agencies are going to push back on decertification – it might depend on a court case, but that’s better than spending another $20,000 on a new K-9 agent.”

Delving further into call breakdowns, Johnson reported that “theft, criminal mischief, and domestic violence calls have gone up – theft and trespass often go together. DUIs were down.”

He also emphasized that Salida Police Department officers had each gone through 180 hours of training in 2022: “That’s pretty big – the state only requires 24.” He wrapped up with a look at incidents by zone within the city limits: “A lot happens downtown just because of the sheer numbers of people.” (The complete report can be found here.)

F Street Plaza Discussion

Next up was a discussion of the F Street Plaza (pedestrian-only access), which started in the summer of 2020 in response to COVID-19 restrictions, allowing for merchants and restaurants to set up spaces in the street for dining and shopping. Calling it “an important conversation,” Shore said that a survey had determined that 80 percent of the respondents “were in favor or strongly in favor” of continuing it.

“We’re beyond the necessity of closing it for COVID-19,” said City Administrator Drew Nelson: “but questions are popping up about the city’s commitment to it now, and whether there should be some sort of fee paid to the city from businesses using parking spaces and sidewalks, so I’m turning it over to Council to discuss. The costs [involved] are relatively nominal – it’s really around maintenance, watering plants and washing the streets.”

“With support from residents, it’s a no-brainer,” said Harald Kasper: “We should close F Street again [to vehicles]. I thought we came to a widely-accepted compromise last year. I think it makes sense to collect a bit of a fee – the main reason is fairness.”

“Fairness and covering costs,” said Justin Critelli: “We’ve already opened up this process; I don’t want to be a part of the council that takes it back – businesses expect it, it seems to be overwhelmingly popular. A thing that I hear a lot is whether or not there’s going to be a sunset [on the street closures].”

“I haven’t heard anything negative about it except for businesses that aren’t on F Street,” Nelson said: “The fees would be for equity…Last year we did a resolution [for the closure], this year we will do something similar. Last year, we had a problem with blocking off between Second and Third – that part was underutilized.”

“Food carts in the upper half block [between Second and Third  Streets] might be a way to spread the wealth out a little bit,” suggested Treasurer Merrell Bergin.

“The equity piece is really important,” said Shore: “What if we used some of the fees to pay for signage to point people towards other locations on other streets?”

After some further discussion, including the possibility of city programming for the [F Street Community] stage, council began its regular meeting.

Regular Meeting Items

During their regular meeting, the council voted to approve Ordinance 2023-03, dealing with stormwater management, after second reading; approved Ordinances 2023-04 (Plastic Pollution Reduction Act measures) and 2023-05 (Small Cell Facility Fees) on a first reading and setting a  public hearing at their next meeting March 7; and passed Resolutions 2023-08 (Annexation of Groover property at 7285 CR 160); 2023-09 (Amendment to the Holman Court Inclusionary Housing Agreement); and 2023-10 (Salida Crossings Subdivision Improvement and Inclusionary Housing Agreement).

The liquor license hearing for Riveting Experience Jewelry was postponed until March 7. Resolution 2023-08 declared the Groover annexation to be in compliance, with a public hearing date set for April 4. Resolution 2023-10 established that 24 units of a planned 92 units in the Salida Crossings development on Highway 50 would be deed-restricted as affordable housing. Both these resolutions passed unanimously.

Salida Crossings site map. Image courtesy of City of Salida.

City Attorney Nina Williams introduced Ordinance 2023-04, regarding the state’s recent passage of the Plastic Pollution Reduction Act. It established a $0.10 fee for plastic bags at retailers with more than three Colorado stores such as Ace Hardware and Safeway.

Williams explained that $0.60 of the fees collected go to the city, $0.40 to the retailer: “The bill allows us to have penalties for violation, and the ordinance is to establish where to allocate the funds collected – some cities are using them for renewable bags… there is also staff time involved in making sure the right stores are charging, for collecting money and moving it along – we can use the funds toward education or renewable bags or something environmental.”

After discussion regarding amendments to the penalties section, a motion to approve the first reading of that ordinance, with a second reading and public hearing on March 7, passed unanimously.

Williams also introduced Ordinance 2023-05, regarding small cell phone facility fees. (Small cell facilities enable small carriers to piggyback onto existing utility infrastructure.) “Whether we pass this ordinance or not, we are required [by federal and state regulations] to support small cell facilities and not prohibit them,” Williams explained.

“This is the most restriction we can impose within the parameters of state and federal law … we can say that they need to be certain sizes, certain numbers – these are standards to protect the city once applications start coming forward,” she added. The motion to approve on first reading and to set the second reading and public hearing for March 7, passed unanimously; as did Resolution 2023-09, updating the inclusionary housing agreement for the Holman Court development.

During staff reports, Treasurer Bergin reported that city sales tax revenue during the month of December 2022 showed a 9.3 percent increase over December 2021, with the City portion of County tax up 11.9 percent over December 2021. Robust growth in Accommodations and Food Service drove the increases.

Development Director Bill Almquist reminded the council of a Land Use Code (LUC) update meeting coming up on March 27 at the Salida SteamPlant. The complete Council packet can be found here.