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Chris Malanka has retired as Idaho Springs’ police chief, and is looking forward to spending time on his farm in Wisconsin and visiting Colorado every winter.

His successor, Nate Buseck, will take over the role on April 5, with the department’s second-in-command acting as interim chief until then.

City Council recognized Malanka’s contributions during his five-and-a-half years as chief with a proclamation at its Feb. 22 meeting, and city staff displayed the plaque Mayor Mike Hillman scheduled to present to Malanka today.

“He has accomplished 99.9% of what we were looking for (in a police chief),” Hillman said at the Feb. 22 meeting, adding that Malanka has not only transformed the department but has also become a visible member of the community.

Malanka, who was hired Oct. 1, 2015, said working at Idaho Springs has been the pinnacle of his career. He thanked present and former City Council members, the community, and his wife, Cara Welk, for her support over the years.

The biggest accomplishment, he said, was reinventing the police department, emphasizing that he couldn’t have done it without his officers and the community.

“There was no communication between the public and the department; people were reluctant to seek services,” he said. “ … We decided the manner in which we immerse ourselves in the community was going to change, and it did. The officers took that on themselves.”

His only real disappointment, he said, was not having a bigger impact on Idaho Springs’ methamphetamine problem. However, he was glad to see that local stakeholders are beginning to address mental health and drug addiction differently by focusing more on restorative justice and rehabilitation.

Malanka’s last message to the community was one of gratitude to the larger Idaho Springs community for everyone’s support during his time as chief.

Downtown skating rink a go

Also during the Feb. 22 meeting, the City Council voted in favor of hosting the rec district’s synthetic ice rink at Citizens Park from mid-November through early January.

The Clear Creek Metropolitan Recreation District will assume all the liability and costs in exchange for retaining all the revenue, project lead Samantha Dhyne said at the Feb. 22 council work session.

The rink, which is currently on Golddigger Field, could be reconfigured to fit in the middle of 16th Avenue. Meanwhile, the rec district and city will have to figure out how to store the skates and complete maintenance at that location.

The hope is that it will provide people something fun to do and encourage them to visit downtown businesses during the winter holiday season, both the rec district and city officials described.

Councilman Chuck Harmon said he was “all for it,” and he and council gave the go-ahead for city and rec district staff to refine the plan.

Councilman John Curtis was initially concerned about closing 16th Avenue between the parking lots and Miner Street, but Police Chief Malanka was confident that the city could make it work.

“We made (street closures) work for the summer; I don’t see why it wouldn’t work for the winter,” Malanka said.

By then, the city should have its downtown parking spaces back after construction crews complete the express lane project, he said. Plus, the rink will bring in more foot traffic and encourage businesses to stay open later.