Jun 2, 2014 8:54 PM by Greg Dingrando

Unions try to get 1/2 cent sales tax on Pueblo ballot

PUEBLO - Police and firefighter unions in Pueblo are pleading their case to get a half cent sales tax initiative put on the November ballot.

The unions say they are severely short staffed and making do with old equipment, all while crime rates are sky rocketing.

Timing is everything when it comes to asking taxpayers for more money. A shortage of staff is certainly not what you need during a crime spree, but Pueblo police and fire say it's exactly what taxpayers need to hear. They believe it's a matter of public safety tied directly to staffing and response times.

Its no secret that Pueblo is dealing with a serious rash of crime. Its something Mark Wyatt sees in his neighborhood everyday.

"I've seen a huge increases in break-ins. Brazzin break-ins. People have motion sensor lights or dogs and they're still breaking in," said Wyatt.

Police said they know its happening, they just don't have the man power to stop it.

Kenneth Roads is a detective with the Pueblo Police Department.

"Until people are incarcerated and put away, its going to continue," said Roads.

When crimes do happen, they often go on a wait list; a list that can grow as high as 40 calls on a busy night. Its led to extreme wait times for citizens, spraking a lot of jokes at the police department's expense.

"A comment was made the other day that you can order a pizza and get it quicker than a police officer. That's true and that's the way its been," said Roads.

"It makes me ashamed of the city," said Wyatt.

Police said the tax increase would make a huge difference and for people like Wyatt is a no brainer on which way to vote.

"I'm willing to pay for protection. Other wise I gotta rely on neighbors and under organized watch programs," said Wyatt.

But not everybody likes the idea of paying more in taxes, especially when you look at Pueblo's track record.

Becky Mizel is the chairman of the Pueblo County Republican Party.

"There's wasted money in funds like trash services and recycling. They don't even have good handle on where that money is going. I think citizens are getting fed up with that," said Mizel.

And that's aside from Pueblo's on going struggles with the economy.

"All you have to do is look around. I was born and raised here and you can see middle class is getting squeezed," said Mizel.

The fire department would receive half of the money if the tax increase is approved. They said their shortages are forcing firefighters to work hundreds of hours of overtime. They fear if this doesn't get put on the ballot and pass it could mean some stations have to close. It's just one of many arguments the unions will be pitching to city council in an attempt to get it put on the ballot.

If the council says no, it could still end up on the ballot if the union workers collect 2,200 signatures.



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