BY FREDA MIKLINGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER
On July 23, the Arapahoe County Long Range Planning Committee held its fifth meeting since May. Facilitator Callie King of the Keystone Center explained that the group was “brought together to give advice to the Arapahoe County Board of County Commissioners on the jail and court complex.”
She reminded them they would also review the county’s transportation and open space needs after the justice center.
In response to committee members’ questions, Todd Weaver, Arapahoe County budget manager reviewed the estimated cost for each of the components: $464 million for the jail and the booking and release facility, $425 million for the courthouse complex, and $42 million for a three-story addition to the district attorney’s building on Revere Parkway.
The booking and release facility is planned to be the first building, with construction expected to begin in 2020 and be completed in 2023. The budgeted capital cost is $196 million. The detention facility would be built next, commencing in 2022, to be completed in 2025 at a cost of $268 million. The total $464 million capital cost is projected to be financed over 30 years. Operating costs for the combined facilities are anticipated to be $21 million per year. Facility and Fleet Management Director Dick Hawes explained the steps he and his staff use to estimate operating costs, including staffing, utilities, supplies, etc. He noted the new facility will be cheaper to operate per square foot due to the condition and updated design.
A new six-story courthouse is planned for construction beginning in 2024 and ending in 2029. Its estimated cost of $425 million is likewise expected to be amortized over 30 years.
Committee members asked Detention Bureau Chief Vince Line to describe efforts to reduce the jail population. Line emphasized the ongoing work of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee, a group comprised of governmental, law enforcement, and court personnel from throughout the county, who are seeking reduced sentences and better programs for inmates, including education and counseling to reduce recidivism. Line pointed out the ongoing need for a safe and secure jail facility for inmates and staff.
In response to a question, Line estimated that 40 percent of Arapahoe County jail inmates have mental health challenges. He said, “I believe that is a conservative estimate, because many inmates don’t report their condition to staff unless they receive medication for it.”
He added that if those inmates with substance abuse disorders were considered, the percentage would double.
County officials explained that it is not possible to fund these projects from existing revenues, thus new funding sources will be needed. The cost of funding the booking and release center and the detention center could be paid with an increase in property taxes of $65 annually on an average priced home in Arapahoe County, or paying $82 each year in additional sales tax. The cost of all three projects, which would be built between 2020 and 2030, would be $101 per year in property tax or $116 per year in sales tax. The average home price in Arapahoe County is $380,000.
The committee will hold two more meetings before making its recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners after August 6.
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