Sheriff not giving up on Clifton, Fruitvale

Mesa County commissioners say they anticipate scaling back some county services to the east end of the Grand Valley after residents there shunned an effort for annexation by the city of Grand Junction.

But Sheriff Stan Hilkey insists he has no plans to reduce his department’s response to calls for service in Clifton and Fruitvale, saying he “intends to do the very best I can with what I have.”

The county two weeks ago pulled the plug on a petition that sought to extend city limits to much of Clifton and Fruitvale, encompassing about 18,000 residents, after it became clear organizers wouldn’t be able to gather enough signatures and submit them to the City Council by next month’s deadline.

As a result, Commissioners Craig Meis and Janet Rowland indicated the county likely would revert from providing urban-level services to those unincorporated areas to rural-level services. County officials repeatedly have asserted the county can’t afford to provide the degree of infrastructure and code enforcement that municipalities do.

Hilkey said he hasn’t spoken with the commissioners. But he said that aside from having a statutory obligation to respond to calls for service, taking a measured step to pull back law-enforcement resources could compromise public safety not only in Clifton and Fruitvale, but other areas of the valley as well.

“It’s one thing to not put a sidewalk in. But if you weren’t to provide law-enforcement services, that criminal element or apathy gains a foothold. And there are no guarantees that apathy or the criminal element stays in that neighborhood.

“We have to hold the line in order to keep this entire county a good place to live.”

Hilkey said the Sheriff’s Department already is operating below nationally recommended staffing levels. He said the department’s current ratio of 1.04 full-time deputies per 1,000 residents is nearly half of the Grand Junction Police Department’s ratio of 2.0. The Department of Justice recommends a ratio of 1.6 to 2.0 for law-enforcement agencies, he said.

Should Clifton and Fruitvale continue to grow in the future as projected, the Sheriff’s Department’s ratio will decline, effectively reducing resources, Hilkey said.

Rowland previously said Clifton and Fruitvale residents make up 17 to 19 percent of the unincorporated county’s population. Hilkey estimated 40 percent of the calls handled by the Sheriff’s Department originate in Clifton and Fruitvale, although he said he doesn’t know how much of the department’s budget is dedicated to responding to those calls.


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