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Victims Assistance Office receives funding help from City of Holyoke PDF Print E-mail
Written by April Peregoy   

Lending a helping hand, Holyoke City Council agreed to donate some much-needed funds to Phillips County Victims Assistance Office.

The decision was reached after director Shawna Bergstrom approached the council with the request at the regular Holyoke City Council meeting Tuesday, Feb. 3.

Bergstrom began by informing the council about the history of the Phillips/Sedgwick County offices and her involvement with the program. There are currently four other trained advocates working or volunteering for the offices in Phillips and Sedgwick counties.

Funded through VOCA, VALE and VAWA, the Victims Assistance program is on-call at all times in Phillips and Sedgwick counties to help and support victims through the legal process and the emotional stress that can result.

While Victims Assistance advocates are obligated to help victims of crimes, Bergstrom said they will respond to any incident where law enforcement feels they are needed. One of the main advantages of having an advocate available, she said, is the advocate can take care of the victim, thereby freeing up officers to handle the criminal aspects of the situation.

“We can usually create a bond with the person and then act as a liasion between them and the police,” she said.

According to Bergstrom, an advocate spends, on average, 40-50 hours on one case. This is because of the many services the office provides. Along with trauma counseling, advocates also provide information to the victims on victim’s compensation, their legal rights and updates on court cases and custody.

She added if these services are not offered, a person can file a formal complaint against the court. She then reported an example of one that happened recently to Kit Carson County. “We want to keep doing a good job to keep that from happening here,” said Bergstrom.

Even though the state of Colorado requires law enforcement agencies to provide victims of crimes with advocates, state funding for Victims Assistance programs has been repeatedly slashed over the last few years. Which is why Bergstrom is approaching all the local governments in Phillips and Sedgwick counties for help.

After some consideration, council members agreed to the $2,500 request, noting Victims Assistance is used by Holyoke Police Dept. for many things, is good for the community and is required by state statutes.


State issues addressed

Upon receiving counsel from City Attorney Al Wall to do so, council members agreed Tuesday night to send a letter of support, on behalf of RRWCD, to the commissioners of the Republican River Compact Administration regarding a Colorado resolution to approve an augmentation plan and accounting procedures for the Republican River Compact Compliance Pipeline.

This issue was addressed at the council’s Jan. 20 meeting, but had been tabled due to Wall’s absence.

The city attorney told the council it would be in its best interest to support the Pipeline Project, as it keeps Colorado in compliance with its Compact Allocations without having to shut down any wells in the area. He added though people in Holyoke may think the problem only concerns those in Yuma County and farther south, if a drought were to occur in the future, wells farther north may have to be shut down as well if the pipeline is not built.

Councilman Orville Tonsing brought up another state issue that is of concern to the City. In order to balance the current fiscal year budget as well as the next year’s, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budgeting has outlined priorities for budget reductions.

The cuts have to be approved by the General Assembly in the form of legislation originating from the Joint Budget Committee; however, it is likely the committee will follow most of Gov. Ritter’s suggestions.

The suggestion Tonsing is concerned about is one calling for the suspension of state payments to the Fire and Police Pension Association (FPPA) through Oct. 2011. The legislation reads as follows:

“The state will make up the payments starting again in FY 11-12, as well as retain responsibility for the additional unfunded liability that will accrue at the eight percent actuarial assumption rate. The $34.8 million reduction each of the next three years, assuming the state resumes the statutorily required payment of $25.3 million in FY 11-12, mean the state faces a final payment in FY 14-15 of nearly $84 million.”

According to City Clerk Kathy Olofson, DOLA matches the amount of funds the City of Holyoke puts into the FPPA, which last year equaled $5,084. If this legislation were passed, it means over $5,000 would be reduced from local firefighter and police pensions every year through the suspension.

Tonsing recommended council members and the public write their local legislative representatives, asking them to reconsider the legislation. He added he believes the legislation would burden everyone because of the huge $84 million payment that will be due at the end of the suspension. 

The council decided to take his suggestion one step further and will write a letter on behalf of the City of Holyoke to both Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg and to CML.


Street Dept. to get pickup

According to City Supt. Mark Brown, the street dept. is well past due for a new pickup. The current one, he reported, is a 1993 Chevy with over 180,000 miles on it. At the meeting Tuesday he presented a quote from Burke Chevrolet for a new one-ton pickup.

Councilman Ray Bailey asked Brown if the purchase is necessary, noting the council may “get some heat” for it from the public at a time when it is raising prices for services.

The City Supt. said the new truck is necessary as he does not feel comfortable having employees drive very far distances in the old one. He added, he believes the cost of the new pickup will offset future maintenance expenses that would be needed to keep the old one running.

It was also pointed out that the city has been saving money in the equipment replacement fund for years, specifically for this expense, and the money will not be coming from the 2009 fund.

Hearing this, Bailey said he would be willing to support the purchase and the council agreed to go with the quote presented by Brown.

Other business

In other business, city council members:

—approved the 2008 year-end transfers.

—granted a travel request for Olofson to attend the CEBT Regional Renewal Conference.

—approved a travel request for Olofson and Bailey to attend the Understanding the Colorado Common Grant Application Grant Trainings in Sterling.

—agreed to purchase a DeWalt Combo Tool Kit from Holyoke General Store for $739.99.