Monday night, the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) held a public hearing on the county’s Facility needs. Approximately forty members of the community turned out to learn more about the project and give input. At the end of the two hour hearing, in a 2-1 vote, the commissioners decided to move forward with a 2019 ballot measure asking for a .2% increase in sales tax to help pay for the new Sheriff’s Office and Detention Center. 

The commissioners have spent more than a year looking at existing facilities, identifying the needs and prioritizing. Many hours of staff and commissioner time has been spent with architects from Reilly, Johnson and Associates (RJA) as they sought to refine facility needs. Included in the process were Grand County EMS, Human Services, Public Health, Animal Shelter and the Sheriff’s Office and Detention Center. RJA applied formulas to project future needs through 2038.

RJA’s initial cost estimates for replacement of all facilities came in at well over $50 million. The commissioners and staff sharpened their pencils and prioritized the needs of each facility. With structural, safety and compliance concerns, the Sheriff’s Office and Detention Center was identified as the county’s top priority. 

The commissioners requested RJA work with the Sheriff’s department to create a design that would meet future space requirements. By reducing bed numbers and square footage, they managed to whittle projected costs from $32 million down to about $27.5 million. Due to construction deficiencies in the existing building, the costs to build a new facility on the adjacent parking lot came in about $1 million less than to remodel it.

At Monday night’s meeting, Bob Johnson, with RJA, presented an overview of the project to those in attendance at the public hearing. Johnson estimated it would take a little more than two years, from design to construction for a new facility to be completed.

Alan Matlosz, with George K Baum & Co consultants, explained the methods the county could utilize for financing the project. Of the 3 options presented, a Certificate of Participation will likely be the vehicle the county uses. Paying the debt off in twenty years (or sooner) would result in less overall costs to the county.  

Sheriff Brett Shroetlin explained the building design would not be much larger than the existing facility. He pointed out that a new facility would eliminate the continued maintenance needs and would provide better safety and security for staff. The sheriff told attendees that a staff member had been assaulted several weeks ago. Another staff member, located nearby, was unaware of the assault due to poor radio communication. On the lower level of the building, where the administration offices are located, there have been repeated episodes of human waste floating down the hallway due to ongoing sewage issues. 

Commissioner Chair Richard Cimino told attendees revenue from the 1% sales tax that had been approved in the early 1980s would help cover about half the costs of the new facility. However, the Sheriff’s Office and Detention Center is not the only capital project the county has. He said he would like to put aside $500K – $1 million per year, depending on the economy, to fund future projects. 

A .2% sales tax is estimated to bring in about $1,030,000 annually. The measure would sunset in 20 years, when the facility is paid off. Cimino suggested that maybe a portion of the tax could go toward mental health services.

Most of the community members that spoke during public comment were in favor of the county funding mental health services, but the general consensus was that it should be a separate funding effort, not mixed with a vote for a public safety facility.

“If you want us to finance the jail, ask us to finance the jail,” said Eden Recor.

Commissioner Kris Manguso stated, “Mental Health is not an issue that is going to sunset. Let’s just address it. I would be more in favor of funding mental health separately and build a jail, if we can get a sales tax passed.”

Commissioner Linke said, “I would agree somewhat, but we don’t have a plan B.” He added, “If it becomes a separate question, guess what, we still have to do it.”

Chairman Cimino said, “It sounds like we are 2-1. I think it should be combined, but we will take out resources for Mental Health.” He added, “I am going to try to get a fund to support mental health services. It does fall on county government to take care of the people. I am going to push hard.”

Louise Powers recommended, “To look back when 1A (Open Lands, Rivers and Trails) was on the ballot, you need to have a good strong education campaign, so the community knows what’s expected and where the money is going. You’re really close to that timeframe. Campaign, Open Houses, Rotary, Lions Club, anything you can do to get the word out.”

The commissioners recognized the need for communication and education. Chairman Cimino asked everyone in the room to help educate the public on the intent of the ballot measure as well. 

The commissioners thanked everyone who attended the meeting. The next step is to finalize ballot language, approve it and begin the process of adding it to the 2019 ballot.

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