Highway Patrol office could close

Locals appreciate authority's presence
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The stretch of Interstate east of Colfax has a series of twists, turns and uphill ascends that can cause congestion and delays for travelers, and in case of an accident, for first responders. With recent discussions about the California Highway Patrol Gold Run Office being on a closure list, residents of the mountain communities are expressing concerns about losing services the CHP provides all the way to Kingvale.

According to Lt. Andy Williams, commander of the CHP Gold Run Office, the proposed facility move – possibly further west on I-80 – could take place in the next 3 to 5 years. Various factors will go into the decision process of relocation of the new CHP building, he said.

“One of the main factors is that the building needs to accommodate our growing staff,” Williams said. He manages three sergeants, two clerical staff, an automobile mechanic, a janitor, and currently 14 patrol officers and two special duty officers, who include the public information officer and front desk officers.

The Gold Run station is located at Canyon Creek Road, just off the Dutch Flat exit on I-80. It has easy access on and off the freeway, which is vital for responding to incidents needing law enforcement, but it is also convenient to local residents who appreciate the presence of some sort of authority located minutes away if there is a need.

Nancy Hiebert, a clerk at the Dutch Flat Trading Post, said the town’s people rely on the CHP. “They have always serviced Dutch Flat,” she said, “like one time a guy accidentally shot himself in the leg here in town, and CHP was first on scene.” Whenever there is a need to call the Placer County Sheriff’s Office, the CHP is “always the first to respond, because they are close,” she said.

Hiebert has worked at the Trading Post for the past 20 years and has been a resident in Alta since 1967. One of her concerns is that with an increase of recent home break-ins throughout the area, taking the CHP’s presence out of town might increase the possibilities of more break-ins. Her feelings regarding the possibility of the relocation of the CHP are the general census of residents in the area.

Up the road in Alta, the owner of Hometown Deli Angela Seller believes it is important to have a CHP station somewhere in the region, where law enforcement is with in reach.

“I’ve been hearing an increase of robberies in the area, and we never locked our doors, now we have to lock up,” Seller said.

Across the street from Hometown Deli is the Alta fire station, run by volunteers. Rich Thickens, chief of the Alta Dutch Flat Fire Department, knows the demands of being a first responder. Often, firefighters are called out to a traffic accident on the freeway. One of the benefits of having the CHP located closely, he said, is the benefit of officers taking control of traffic so the firemen are able to do their job quickly and safely. Local firemen rely on other first responding teams like CHP, Cal Fire and on occasion CalStar to secure an accident scene. According to Thickens, when one element is missing, it can create an imbalance and safety can be compromised.

“We are a high reliability system – CHP, Cal Fire, CalStar and Alta Fire – and if you remove a component, it jeopardizes the structure and integrity of a working system,” Thickens said.

Although there is currently no decision on a new location, Williams said he realizes that a new and upgraded building – which will meet all requirements – is in the station’s future and that the decision will be made by those at CHP headquarters.

Williams said a new location will also have to accommodate needs such as flat and abundant parking, above ground gasoline storage as opposed to the current below ground, and snow operations with a priority surrounding the ingress and egress of a freeway access.

The existing CHP building was constructed in 1964 and was originally was slated for a two-story building, but was scaled back during the construction process to a one-story building because at the time it was suitable for staffing needs. With the growth of Placer County, the building will no longer sustain the needs of the growing staff. Also the current location is on unstable ground with possible sliding, Williams said, so a new building at a different location is necessary.