County planning $55 million for new jail, EMS, health facilities | SkyHiNews.com

County planning $55 million for new jail, EMS, health facilities

The Grand County Sheriff's Office was identified as a priority facility to be replaced or updated in the Grand Results strategic plan.

Grand County is currently planning for almost $55 million in facilities construction over the next several years to replace several buildings that house various county services, including the county jail and EMS.

County commissioners, however, are still discussing exactly how the new projects would be financed.

Through the 2018 Grand Results strategic plan, the county identified the sheriff's office, the EMS facilities in Granby and Fraser and the Grand County Public Health and Human Services offices as having the greatest need for new buildings.

"The county, as part of the Grand Results strategic plan, developed a strategic result that said to assess the county's facilities and then determine what it would take in order for us to update some of the county's facilities," said former county manager Lee Staab during a commissioners' meeting Feb. 12. "So, over the last few months, we've been going through that process."

To address the needs, the county is considering building a new public safety office to house the sheriff's office and jail, which is currently located next to the county courthouse in Hot Sulphur Springs; new EMS facilities in Granby and Fraser and a consolidated, co-located office for public health and human services.

"I think it would be much better customer service for health and human services if they were all in one professional building," commented Grand County Commissioner Rich Cimino. "Our employees themselves have got to get out of these decrepit buildings and into a professional building. The public is going to most, in my opinion, notice the health and human services improvement."

Using a facility needs assessment from Reilly Johnson Architecture, a firm based out of Denver, the county estimates that the public safety office would cost $32.7 million, the EMS facilities would cost $15.2 million and the health and human services office would cost $6.75 million.

The county has several financing options for the buildings, including asking voters to raise local sales or property taxes, applying for grants and taking advantage of certificates of participation, which is a type of financing where an investor purchases a share of the lease revenues.

According to Nate Eckloff of RBC Capital Markets, which is an underwriting service based out of Denver, the current standard certificate of participation rate is $70,000 per year for 20 years buys $1 million in construction.

Within the existing budget, the county could afford around $14 million in construction using a certificate of participation that costs around $980,000 per year for 20 years, Cimino explained.

"(The county) figured that we could probably devote a million dollars a year to paying off a project and (…) that would buy you about a $14 million building," he said.

But that would only cover one of the building projects, so the county would likely turn to its other options to obtain the remaining funds — potentially asking voters to increase taxes.

Should the county ask for an increase in taxes, a .5 percent sales tax increase or a property tax increase of 3.85 mills would cover the estimated costs of both the public safety office and the health and human services office, according to Staab.

The facility needs assessment found that, with future growth in mind, the county will need around 88,000 square feet for a public safety office, including a new jail, the two EMS facilities and the health and human services office.

However, as the commissioners consider financing options, plans for the new buildings may need to shrink to be affordable, Cimino cautioned. Once a financing decision is made, then commissioners will need to decide a construction timeline and finalized location for the facilities.

"I think it's pretty much at the decision point," Cimino said. "We need to decide what's the final size, what's the final scope and how we're going to pay for it."

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