OURAY – Members of the Ouray Police Department sent a clear message to the Ouray City Council at a work session last week that they are not at all happy with a new schedule which has been imposed upon them.
Police Chief Leo Rasmusson said he implemented the new schedule on City Administrator Patrick Rondinelli’s directive which came on the heels of a recent assessment of the Ouray Police Department conducted by the consulting firm KRW Associates.
The assessment resulted in a number of recommendations to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the OPD. These recommendations were presented to council in March by KRW’s Dr. Fred Rainguet.
One suggestion was to switch to a new schedule allowing for an overlapping day once a week during which all officers are on duty at the same time, providing more opportunities for group training and alternative patrol strategies.
The old schedule, which had been in place since prior to 2000, was a four on, four off model, with alternating day and night shifts. That schedule allowed officers to roll through the days of the week during which they worked so that occasionally they would get a full weekend off to spend with their families.
The new 4/3 schedule (four days on, three days off) does not allow for this flexibility; officers stick to either day shift or night shift, and work the same days every week, with everyone on duty on Wednesdays. No one gets a full weekend off.
Apart from this issue, “The main problem with the new schedule stems around scheduling for time off, or shift coverage for off-site training,” Rasmusson explained.
There are also tangible costs associated with going from the old schedule to the new one. Under the new regime, police officers’ total work hours for the year will escalate from 1,825 hours to 2,080 hours, plus an additional 183 hours of on-call time, Rasmusson said.
The police chief stressed that the new work schedule is not a good fit for his small, understaffed department which optimally should have five full-time officers, but for the past three years has been getting by with only four as council has repeatedly been unable to find funds for a fifth full-time position.
“I have been advocating for a fifth officer for three years,” Rasmusson said.
Rondinelli, meanwhile, expressed frustration that OPD officers weren’t willing to give the new schedule more of a try. “It has been two weeks and five days,” he said. “We haven’t given it a chance; it is worth trying it for a period of time.”
OPD officer Crandall disagreed.
“It is affecting our families; no officer gets a complete weekend off,” Crandall said. “We either have Saturday off, or Sunday off. If you work nights you don’t even have that. Is this schedule addressing any of the problems that we have? No, it is not.”
Councilor Michael Underwood expressed surprise that the new schedule had been implemented without any formal council discussion, particularly because of its budgetary implications.
One thing was clear at Thursday’s meeting. As voiced by Underwood, “Implementation of the 4/3 schedule has taken a human toll, and is a hardship on the officers.”
But for now, the schedule will remain in place, as council takes a new look at its budget to see if funds for a fifth officer can be squeezed out of it.
ALPENHOF LAWSUIT RESOLVED
The City of Ouray announced in a press release last week that all ongoing litigation between the City and Alpenhof LLC has been resolved.
Alpenhof, whose principals are brothers Rod and Galen Rasmussen (unrelated to Ouray Police Chief Leo Rasmusson), sued the City of Ouray in August 2011, after the company’s development plans for a problematic parcel of land in north Ouray were thwarted by action of the Ouray City Council, which cited safety concerns stemming from the flooding danger to the proposed subdivision posed by the nearby Skyrocket Creek diversion.
The case was technically divided into two separate lawsuits. The so-called Rule 106 case regarded the procedural process by which the city denied Alpenhof the right to develop its property. The other lawsuit regarded a takings claim, in which Alpenhof’s attorneys asserted that the City of Ouray, in denying Alpenhof the right to develop its property, had essentially taken the property by means of inverse condemnation.
The Rule 106 claim was dismissed by the Ouray District Court last year. An appeal to the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld councilʹs decision to deny the preliminary plat.
The second claim, for inverse condemnation, was dismissed by a stipulation of the parties, at Alpenhofʹs request, meaning that Alpenhof cannot bring future litigation on the same issue with similar facts.
“The City believes that Alpenhof’s dismissal of its claim and the decision by the District Court and Court of Appeals are vindication of the City’s position regarding the dangers posed to potential development on the alluvial fan and confirms the City’s authority to impose hazard mitigation as a requirement for development on that fan,” the press release concluded. “Although it is unfortunate that Alpenhof choose to take the route it did and file suit, it was essential that the City defend its decision in this land use matter.”