By Ernie Over, managing editor, county10.com
Part two in a series
(Riverton, Wyo.) – In January of 2012, the Riverton Mayor and City Council established a goal for the beautification and safety of the city’s existing assets during an annual council retreat. Part of that goal was to address the public intoxication problem especially along North and South Federal Boulevard, that had grown over the years. At this year’s retreat, Councilors noted that a Solutions Committee, driven by Police Chief Mike Broadhead, had been formed and is working on solutions to the problem, but that it still existed.
This year the Mayor and Councilors decided to target public intoxication as a separate goal, to include a pathway to treatment and creating a culture of intolerance to public intoxication. One suggested solution was to employ a security guard at Riverton’s City Park, to keep the area safer for families so someone who just wants to go there and take a nap or read a book under a tree would not be panhandled or hassled.
“I say our top priority should be taking back City Park because people say it can’t be done,” said Council Member Rich Gard. “If we were to accomplish that, it would be viewed at a great accomplishment, and I think it is doable,” he said.
Councilor Todd Smith remembered the days when there was a ball field in the park, and Jonathan Faubion, the newest member of the council, said the more activities that could be scheduled in the park, the better.
Gard agreed with his fellow council members, but he also said he would like “to stop making it so easy to use alcohol in Riverton. “I want responsible use of alcohol,” he said. “I don’t use it myself, and I don’t want people thinking I want to shut it down,” although he said closing drive-up windows may be one solution. He also said the band shell at city park should be booked as much as possible.
Mayor Ron Warpness agreed with much of the conversation and he said the idea of closing the city’s alcohol drive-ups had been suggested once before, with a huge pushback from liquor establishments. Warpness said he’d like to see the tax raised on beer “so we can have funds to deal with some of these issues.” The mayor said the tax on beer hadn’t been raised since the 1930’s and was only five cents a gallon.
The Fremont County Alcohol Crisis Center was discussed during the retreat, and the possibility that it may be merged this year with Fremont Counseling. Council members and the mayor agreed that could be a good thing, as long as the city still had the opportunity to transfer intoxicated persons there, instead of incurring the cost of transporting to jail in Lander. Council Member Lars Baker said keeping the Detox center as a jail alternative was critical, but he also said there needed to be a pathway to treatment for the sixty some individuals who make up the bulk of the center’s admissions. He suggested the council could do a better job reviewing liquor license permits when they come up for annual renewal, and he asked if the Police Department could provide statistics on the number of calls the police have answered to each license holder.
On that latter point, at this past Tuesday’s city council meeting, Chief Broadhead did exactly that. In a PowerPoint presentation, he spelled out how many calls were made to the city’s 32 liquor license holders. Broadhead, however, said the numbers do not necessarily indicate problems. He said many of the calls for service were for such incidents as shoplifting, reporting a drunk driver, a fake ID that was confiscated, or for intoxicated persons on or adjacent to a license holders property and, in the case of convenience stores with liquor licenses, gas drive-offs.
Of the RPD’s total 13,750 calls for service during the past year, he said eight percent of them were at liquor license locations, or 1,087 calls.
He said the most calls generated by a liquor license holder was at the South Federal Maverick, which generated 226 calls for service. He said that business was located on a pathway where most intoxicated persons walk during the day, and the number of calls reflected activity outside of the store.
“With one exception, the police department currently has no concerns with individual liquor license holders or their businesses,” Broadhead said. “The police department is not requesting that the council take any action against any liquor license at this time.” The exception was for The Landing in the 200 block of East Main, where the chief said there had been 11 recent disturbances. “I’m a little alarmed at the number and I need to talk to them about that,” he said.