The City of Las Animas council met in a work session on July 28 with the discussion mainly focusing on law enforcement.
The main discussion was on the possibility of restoring the Las Animas Police Department, which had not been in existence since April, 2012. Since them, the city had been patrolled by the Bent County Sheriff's Office through an Inter Governmental Agreement (IGA).
"Within 90 days at any time that IGA could be ended by any of the entities," said LA mayor Jim Collins. It was initially set up year-to-year every year. What if tomorrow any body in that window says 90 days from now we want the end of the Inter Governmental Agreement. What is the process we need to talk about. In this case it's not would we, can we, are we going to, it's how would we?
"We don't have a transition plan in place and that's what I'm suggesting that we need to take a look at," Collins added. "Where does the money come from? Where can we move money from and what department could we shut down? How many officers, where do we locate them, where do we house prisoners, what vehicles, what training, what equipment."
Collins said that this is only a council discussion and no action was taken.
"This isn't saying that we're going to do this or we're thinking this a good idea," Collins said. "The reality is that may be an idea that we're faced with."
The council also discussed the possibility of bringing in a consultant to look into what it would take to start a police department.
The city pays a contribution of $369,000 to Bent County for patrolling Las Animas, which is approximately 35% of the city budget.
It has been estimated that it will take almost $600,000 for the city to get started with a police department. That includes hiring personnel including a chief, a sergeant, three officers and an administrative assistant. That also includes a significant sum for dispatch.
That would also result in the Sheriff's Office to lose about five deputies.
Sheriff Jake Six said that there would be a great amount of money for the department to start.
He has a total of 14 deputies with nine of them living within the Las Animas city limits and the rest living within the county. Six said that all deputies are required to live in Bent County.
Six also commented on how difficult running a law enforcement agency is.
"If you think running a law enforcement agency may seem simple, come see me," Six said. "I’ll let you have my desk for a week."
Tribune-Democrat reporter Ken Hamrick can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Help support local journalism by subscribing to the La Junta Tribune-Democrat at lajuntatribunedemocrat.com/subscribenow.