By Nina Crowder
After months of consideration, the Superior Council last week narrowly voted to end negotiations with the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office for police coverage for the town. Instead the town will now seek to hire a new chief of police to head the small town department.
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu was in attendance and spoke to the council following the vote.
“We would be happy to support you in the process of a selection committee and have a committee advise the council about who it will be to rebuild your police department,” he said. He urged them to advertise immediately for a new chief. PCSO, he said, had assigned Sgt. Pat Ramirez to Superior to act in the capacity of chief. “Pat Ramirez will immediately report back to the Sheriff’s Office and we will continue support in ways that we can,” he added. “But this is your responsibility and I appreciate the fact that you finally made a decision.”
Councilwoman Mila Besich Lira, who made the motion, thanked Ramirez and the Sheriff’s Office for their support during the time of transition.
“One of my reasonings,” Besich Lira said, “was I don’t think our residency should be taxed twice because we are paying for property taxes to fund the Sheriff’s Office and we would be paying for your services twice. That is one of the major reasons I voted for this. I really appreciate what you have done and I think this will help us in making decisions in finding a Chief of Police that will take us to the level we need to be at.”
Councilman Gilbert Aguilar, who voted against the motion, said, “I really hope all of you are happy. You know we have a gang problem here and you people don’t see it. There are problems here. We continue to have problems, but it’s fine. When they break into your place or they hurt you, don’t cry.” Aguilar walked out of the meeting after his comment.
Councilman Michael Alonzo commented that the townspeople need to be proactive and help the town solve its crime problem. He suggested community watch programs and helping the town make a stand.
Sgt. Ramirez told the council that it has a way to go to bring the department up to modern standards and spoke at length about a recent shooting and countless crimes that go unreported because victims are afraid. Besides officers, he said, there is a need for equipment, vehicles, dispatchers, training, digital cameras, digital recorders, scanners, policy/procedures need to be updated and many countless other items.
Alonzo, Besich Lira, Vice Mayor Olga Lopez and Councilman Steve Estatico voted in favor of ending negotiations. Mayor Jayme Valenzuela, Aguilar and Councilman John Tameron voted against the motion.
The next regular meeting of the Superior Town Council will be held Thursday, Nov. 21, at 7 p.m. at the Superior Senior Center. Mayor Valenzuela and the Town Council Members encourage members of the community to attend.