Park County Sheriff Tom McGraw told the commissioners that his bottom line does not include any cuts from the 18 detention deputies needed at the jail.
“I am more concerned about the safety of deputies than about money,” McGraw said. “Sometimes you just can’t put a square peg in a round hole.”
He said after last week’s meeting he talked again with Colorado Peace Officers Standard and Training Director Erik Bourgerie and Park County Detention Commander Nathan Fidler about cutting staff at the jail by four as commissioners wanted.
Using two per shift instead of three would cut about $240,000 from the 2020 jail budget.
Both men again insisted that safety of both the deputies and inmates would decrease if staff decreased.
After discussing several options to cut the jail budget with County Manager Tom Eisenman and Assistant County Manger Cindy Gharst, it was decided the options weren’t feasible.
McGraw decided not to fill two patrol deputy vacancies and an animal control deputy vacancy.
At the jail, a vacancy will be filled by the state-mandated case manager. She will overlap duties of a detention officer and her case management position.
Not filling the four vacancies will reduce the overall sheriff’s budget by about $250,000.
The commissioners had wanted $1 million in cuts for the 2020 budget.
They had increased the 2019 budget by over $1 million for badly-needed salary increases and new vehicles.
McGraw said he didn’t want to cut the three school resource officers, as the commissioners had suggested, for several reasons.
Safety at the schools is most important, plus SROs will become patrol deputies during school vacations.
That also overlaps with an increased need for patrolling the roads during the summer and Christmas and New Year’s weeks.
He said it is important for the students to see deputies in positive role model situations and also see them as real people, not just someone who arrests others.
McGraw said the effects of not filling the vacancies will be seen in both animal control and patrol.
The current increased workload per deputy will need to continue to cover 24/7/365 with two 12-hour shifts per day.
The deputies are tired now from working so much overtime, but services can’t be cut, he said.
When a call comes in, no matter how trivial, by state law, it must be investigated, whether it is an animal control call or patrol call.
He said that if $250,000 plus some change for lower operating costs isn’t enough reduction, then the commissioners will have to decide what to cut.
“The budget is a bare bones budget now,” McGraw said.
Gharst was asked to give cost and savings details. She talked for a few minutes, but the recording system did not pick up any of what she said.
Commissioner Dick Elsner said he likes having the SROs in schools, but a lot of the public doesn’t think the county should be paying any of the cost.
Eisenman said the cost was prorated with the schools, so in reality the schools are paying the costs when the SROs are pulling duty at the schools. When they are not in the schools, the county is paying their salaries.
McGraw said needed jail repairs will be band-aided in hopes of avoiding major costs.
The roof is leaking and one pod has been shut down due to past damage. The sewer is also not functioning properly and is ready to fail, he said.
The computer-controlled lock system didn’t work last week in one area of the jail. Four inmates were locked in one cell for eight hours before the system became operational again.
McGraw said that would have been a major lawsuit if a medical emergency had occurred when the locks wouldn’t open.
He said 70 percent of all government lawsuits are from detention facilities. The county has not had one lawsuit filed against the Sheriff’s office this year. He said they were common in the past.
He credited Fidler’s leadership and management skills for no new lawsuits.
Commissioner Mike Brazell commented that they had one a couple of years ago that cost the county $4 million. He wanted the focus to be on reducing liability.
Elsner said he hoped the county could build a new justice center in a couple of years that would just house Park County inmates.
Elsner said that to convince the public of the need, the total jail costs, including utilities, needed to be itemized.
All county utilities are currently budgeted under facilities and not individual costs per department.
Elsner said he is sure a new building would be much cheaper to operate.
On the income side, McGraw said Lake County will need to house inmates with neighboring counties for at least two to three years until a new jail is built. Lake County’s jail was shut down this year due to mold.
Elsner said the Sheriff’s revenue and expenses would be closely monitored in case changes needed to be made during the year.
Elsner encouraged McGraw to keep trying to find inmates from other law enforcement agencies to add revenue.
McGraw said he has been, but would not take any violent inmates or ones with mental or health issues.
He has not accepted a few this year. The required medical exam showed medical issues not disclosed by the agency that sent them, and he sent the inmates back.
2020 draft budget with changes
Gharst presented the 2020 draft budget with changes that have been made since October. The commissioners reviewed changes during a work session.
No details were given on any of the changes or the revenue and expense totals of funds or the overall budget totals.
Eisenman said the budget would be posted on the county website for residents to review before it is adopted on Dec. 19.
As of Dec. 16 at 11 a.m., it was not on the website.
The Flume asked for a copy and did not receive one. Gharst said a computer problem had prevented her from emailing a copy to The Flume.
The fourth quarter 2019 budget supplemental appropriations was postponed until Dec. 19.
The Lake George Library lot was rezoned from mixed use with a condition to mixed use without conditions.
The neighboring lot, which was at one time the school, was also rezoned from mixed use with a condition to commercial with no conditions.
The commercial lot is owned by John Eshelman. The building is used to manufacture school science kits and also for church meetings.
The condition of both mixed-use zoned lots was a requirement to have a shared use contract for the well to provide water to both buildings.
The new zoning with the shared use condition removed will allow a water well to be drilled on the library lot.
Before the rezoning, lot lines were adjusted so the library now has room to drill a well. The library lot was increased to 1.7 acres and the other lot was reduced to 2.4 acres.
It was not disclosed why the county lot was zoned mixed use instead of conservation recreation, which is a zoning for all government lots.
Final abstract and certification
Assessor Monica Jones said some mistakes were found in the property abstract and certification after it had been approved and signed in August. It was sent to the state before the mistakes were found.
She did not say what those mistakes were or how they had been found. She said they had been corrected and resent to the state.
Erin Smith, county attorney, said since changes were made, the August certification signature of Elsner needed to be ratified.
A motion was made to ratify the abstract and certification signature.
Gharst said the Equal Employment Opportunity Plan was updated. She requested approval after she said what the changes were. The recording of her voice did not pick up what she said.
The document was not made available to The Flume.
The total vouchers approved were in the amount of $142,397. The general fund spent $58,273.
The sales tax, human services and public works funds spend between $22,000 and $26,280 each.
Fleet fund spent $9,860 and conservation trust fund spent $1,049.