Voters reject new jail; county still seeks financing for facility
In Tuesday’s election, Grand County voters resoundingly opposed a .2% sales tax increase to help pay for a new $28 million public safety facility, which has sent the county back to the drawing board to figure out how to finance the project.
County Commissioner Rich Cimino said he was disappointed voters did not want to share the burden of the cost but that doesn’t negate the urgent need for a new facility.
“There was a very strong message that the voters were very opposed to additional sales tax or did not feel a new public safety facility is necessary at this time or both, so we need to respect what the voters said yesterday,” Cimino said.
Sheriff Brett Schroetlin echoed Cimino’s disappointment. Schroetlin added he would continue to try to educate the public about the need for a new facility and the dangers posed by the existing building.
“We obviously have a jail that’s failing, so the commissioners and I need to meet and come up with what this means for Grand County,” he said. “Right now, we are spending a lot of money to keep the facility operational, and we know that every year we delay building costs, it potentially cost the taxpayers a lot more money.”
Since the county has already invested in a facility needs assessment and conceptual designs for the project, Cimino expects the county to utilize that information moving forward and consider certificates of participation to help fund the facility.
However, without the revenue from a sales tax increase, Cimino explained that the county will begin to build up a savings account for all of the facility needs, including the jail, a health and human services office and new EMS facilities.
“The responsible thing to do is to work toward those already identified solutions rather than redoing them and start setting money aside each year to a buildings savings account and work toward satisfying our building needs within existing resources,” Cimino said.
The county’s 2020 budget, while not yet finalized, already has a roughly $400,000 surplus that Cimino expects to be the start of the buildings savings account.
He added that the county would probably try to build the fund up before spending any of the money, so a new public safety facility would likely be delayed by years.
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