MONUMENT — This November, Monument voters will decide on whether to move the town to municipal home rule and to raise the local sales tax to fund police services.
The Monument Board of Trustees voted Monday night to move forward with both ballot initiatives aimed at bettering the community.
"We've always had a reputation of being a great and safe town, and we want to keep it that way," said Terri Hayes, President, and CEO of the Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Corporation, and Visitor's Center.
"We direly need both of them to pass, it's very important," said Don Wilson, Mayor of Monument.
The first measure is known as the Public Safety Funding Increase which would ask voters in November to raise the local sales tax by half a percent to address critical needs in the police department.
"We met town staff, town manager, myself, and the officers when I first got to Monument and addressed several critical needs. I remember the first week I got here, and I got the chance to ride with the officers in the community. I came in on a Saturday and I was trying to decide which officer to ride with, but I had one option because we only had one officer on the street that day. My first question was where's your backup, and he said well if there is a deputy in the area then I would use that person. I met with my commander that Monday and said that can never happen again," said Monument Police Chief Sean Hemingway.
It would allow the department to hire eight more officers, fix or replace patrol cars, hire a second sexual assault detective, two civilian personnel, and adhere to un-funded state mandates from the passing of the Accountability Bill.
"I call them three buckets. Once we bring the mandatory bucket to industry standards then I look at the very important bucket which is bucket 2. Bucket two is how do we investigate crime and talk to Colorado Springs and El Paso County. How do we share analytics, how do we share data, and how do I make sure there isn't suspect information sitting on a detective's desk in Colorado Springs and we are out looking for the same suspect but don't have any idea that they've already identified him," said Hemingway.
He says these are just some of the top priorities needed to help improve the department.
"My top priority in bucket one is to add eight officers in the street and add a second detective. Not at an alarming rate, but I do have some concern with the number of sexual assaults cases in Monument. That's a very specialized type of investigation, there's a very important need to identify the victim's perception of what happened but also to investigate it in a certain way. To get a second detective trained specifically trained in sexual assaults, and truly understanding the need for how a victim feels with who they talk to when they become a victim," said Hemingway. "The goal of the measure is truly to provide more officers on the street, make the streets safer, and address some of the states mandates through training."
"The police department has met with me over the past two years to explain how hard it is to find some of the programs they need. We need more officers, more equipment, and when I've met with them recently we've started talking about the safety equipment and the lack of funding for it. Also, the reliance on the private industry to help us fund that," said Mike Foreman, Town of Monument manager.
If approved in November, the second measure would move the town from Statutory Rule to Home Rule.
"Currently, we are ruled by the state. We are a statutory town, we aren't a home rule town. When you look at the benefits of becoming a home rule town, the main benefit is local control," said Foreman.
For Home Rule towns, residents have more authority over how the government is run.
"It would allow us to have more participation of our citizens, more participation of our board on zoning issues, other tax opportunities for us with outside entities. Tax the hotel and motel industry, just like other cities and how they tax those to have the revenue go to programs, roads, and police," said Foreman. "The critical need is the board being able to rule the citizens with their own voice. We want our citizens to choose how they want to be governed, we don't want citizens outside of our municipality governing us."
According to a community survey, the most important town services were residential and commercial permitting, land planning, and development as well as police and public safety.
"It's not just the amount of people moving here but it's the amount of traffic going up and down I-25. Monument surrounds I-25 so it's very easy and it has happened where people come off of I-25 commit a crime, and then they are gone before we know it. We need the police presence to be able to discourage that, and help combat against it," said Hayes. "Traditionally, our community isn't super positive on taxes here however they are very smart and supportive of what is needed. The great reason why it was chosen to be a sales tax versus added on to property taxes is that everyone who shops in the town of Monument is helping to support the town."
Another town survey showed that voters would be extremely likely to approve both ballot initiatives.
"We may very well make some of the same decisions as the state, but there could be a few that we must make sure benefits us," said Hayes.
There is a third ballot initiative that would allow the town to de-bruce. They've been educating the community on the measures and will continue as election season approaches.