County considering ballot question to raise taxes for new public safety facility, mental health programs
With $55M in facility needs, commissioners focus on sheriff’s office, jail
With almost $55 million in facility needs, the Grand County Board of Commissioners is having to make difficult decisions on what to prioritize and how to fund any upgrades.
The county had previously identified the need for new or upgraded public safety, public health, human services and EMS facilities in the 2018 Grand Results strategic plan and began planning how to address those concerns.
However, after months of conversations, the County Commissioners have decided it’s likely too cost-prohibitive to invest in the needed infrastructure all at once and are now prioritizing the public safety facility, which houses the Grand County Sheriff’s Office and the county jail.
“The public safety, i.e. the jail and the sheriff’s office, is number one just because that particular facility is the most run down and damaged from use,” said County Commissioner Rich Cimino.
An earlier facility needs assessment by Denver-based Reilly Johnson Architecture estimated the new public safety building would need over 50,000 square feet and would cost roughly $33 million, but the commissioners will likely be returning to the drawing board for a new building design to hopefully lower the cost.
“We definitely are going to shrink that design because we feel that we need to design something that is effective, but not overbuilt,” Cimino said.
Even with a smaller building, Cimino said voters can probably still expect to be asked for a temporary tax increase to help cover the costs.
Former county manager Lee Staab had estimated that a .5% sales tax increase or a property tax increase of 3.85 mills would cover costs for the public safety and health and human services office.
Until the commissioners get an updated design and cost plan for the public safety facility, it’s unclear how much they might ask the voters for, but Cimino emphasized that whatever question ends up on the ballot the county isn’t asking for the project to be entirely taxpayer funded.
“We discussed that we want to share in the costs,” Cimino said. “We would use existing budget for part, but we would likely need to ask for a short-term, additional new taxes, that we would intend to sunset once the jail is paid off.”
Cimino also added that because the public safety departments are currently so entwined with the county’s mental health system, the ballot question could also include funds for new mental health programs.
“The safety net for mental health is often our sheriff or the town municipal departments and our jail, (…) so we think it makes sense to see if the public will support a public safety facility to also support some new mental health programs in Grand County,” Cimino said.
A few of the financing options the county is considering include state and federal money, existing property taxes and funds from the 1% county sales tax, which is designated for infrastructure needs.
Moving forward, the county will be consulting with financial planning experts and a political consultants to lay out the plan for constructing the building and asking voters to raise taxes.
As for the public health, human services and EMS facility needs, Cimino said commissioners are still looking into what upgrades can be done and if any of the departments can be moved to property the county already owns.
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