by Kara Laws
Crime appears to be up in Blanding, and the Blanding Police Department is struggling to meet the demand. Details were discussed at the Blanding City Council meeting on March 13.
Police Chief Jason Torgerson reported the department statistics for the month. He stated that calls continue to rise.
Compared to February, 2017, arrests are up 24 percent, issued citations are up 39 percent, and general incidents are up 22 percent.
Blanding City has the highest crime rate of the three reporting police departments in the county.
Under previous Police Chiefs, the City Council approved a sixth police officer as well as a part time dog catcher.
However, in recent years the council has not funded a sixth officer. Torgerson said he does what he has to to handle the increased need with fewer officers and more responsibilities.
Torgerson said in a separate interview, “…Blanding City used to have six officers. It is important to me to get back to that point. Things are only getting more busy for officers. There has been more traffic with tourism… We are spread thin.”
The Blanding City Council asked for clarification of the increase in citations and calls.
Torgerson discussed issues with increased tourism and spoke specifically about speeding issues through the zone through Blanding Elementary School.
Torgerson said the school crossing zone on Main Street recently received a sign with flashing lights. This new and improved sign was purchased in hopes of gaining the attention of residents and tourists.
Torgerson explained that many tourists are not even hitting the brakes through the school zone on Main Street. He is concerned about the safety of the children.
Council thanked him for his work to fix the problem and asked for updates on the issue.
In related news, Officer JJ Bradford was presented with the Blanding City Police 2017 Achievement Award. The award was presented to Bradford by Chief Torgerson.
Bradford was recently made a detective for the Blanding City PD. As well as his patrolling duties, Bradford also spends time looking into the bigger and unsolved crimes in the community. Bradford also handles animal control for the police department.
The City Council commended Bradford on his achievement award.
In other news, City Engineer Terry Ekker gave reports on the sewer/storm water systems, as well as on city streets. Ekker showed council the areas in town that flood during heavy rains. He covered the plans in future years to help solve the issues.
Ekker talked about problem areas in town, such as the road in front of the Tri-Hurst Construction offices, the flood that gathers around the post office, and the large puddle that forms on Main Street and 200 East.
Some people know these areas as the best place for rainy day puddle jumping. However, Ekker’s department is trying to prevent property damage, reduce traffic problems, and get water into the storm system as soon as possible.
Ekker also talked about the city streets, showing council where unpaved roads are and walking them through the next several year plans to take care of problem roads.
He also talked about the correlation between the roads and the storm water system. If the roads are not cleaned, the storm drains get clogged. If the roads do not have curb and gutter, the heavy runoff is not correctly directed to the drains.
In relation to Ekker’s reports, the council adopted the Infill Development Participation Agreement. This agreement states that the city will help residents pay for the cost and work to install sewer and water main lines. This is done in an effort to ensure the work is done correctly and the city systems continue to run smoothly.
The City Council also briefly discussed the economic development plan as put together by the city planning committee. The plan discussion was tabled until the next council meeting.
Councilwoman Cheryl Bowers requested more specific and measurable goals for the next meeting.
The economic development plan currently covers eight areas, including foundation/leadership, quality of life, infrastructure development, workforce development, housing, existing business development, entrepreneur development, and recruiting new business.
City Planner Brett Hosler is scheduled to present the full plan at the next city council meeting on March 27.