Palmer Lake will try a novel approach to budget balancing in 2013 — eliminating its police chief.
Police Chief Keith Moreland, who has had the job for three years, will spend his last day patrolling the streets Dec. 6.
“There is no bitterness on my part,” said Moreland, whose salary is about $60,000. “They’ve treated me very well. I’ve enjoyed my time here.”
Palmer Lake Mayor Nikki McDonald called Moreland “a great guy. I’m sure he’s going to find a good job.”
McDonald said eliminating Moreland’s job was “totally budgetary. We’re limping along, so to speak.” The town has about 2,500 people and just a handful of retailers and restaurants. McDonald said the sales tax base hasn’t grown much since she first moved there 32 years ago, when the population was about 500.
Palmer Lake’s fire chief resigned recently and the plan is to hire a public safety director to oversee the police and fire departments.
“We’re going to take three months and take a look,” McDonald said, adding that a strong mutual assistance arrangement with Monument will continue to benefit Palmer Lake residents.
A town without a police chief might sound shocking, but Palmer Lake still will have nine part-time officers, and there hasn’t exactly been a crime wave. Moreland said that so far this year, there have been no murders or robberies, nine burglaries, two assaults, three sex crimes, eight domestic violence calls and one auto theft.
Moreland acknowledged that Palmer Lake is mostly crime-free.
“There are times in the last three years I have felt fortunate,” he said. “At times it feels like they don’t need us.”
“We felt we were over-policed up here, anyway,” said Jeff Hulsmann, owner of O’Malley’s Pub, one of the bigger businesses in town. He questioned why the town ever needed to begin 24-hour police coverage, saying “I’m not sure why we haven’t gone back to the marshal and deputy thing.”
Like Mayberry, you mean?
“Yeah, we’re Mayberry,” Hulsmann said, chuckling.
It may be symbolic that the lake from which the town draws its name has been dry for a while. But the fact that refilling the lake is one of the town’s major challenges also speaks to how quiet and peaceful it is there.
Bill Fisher, who operates an architectural firm out of his Palmer Lake home and plans to open a restaurant in town, said “This is a safe town. It was before and it still is.”
Moreland, who served with the Los Angeles Police Department for 30 years, said he’s applied for a law enforcement job elsewhere and joked that if all else fails, “I was offered the night shift at a local convenience store.”
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