by Lisa Cyriacks

A bi-partisan committee met with the County Commissioners to present a proposal for a sales tax initiative to better fund Saguache County law enforcement. If the Commissioners approve the initiative by resolution, the question would be presented the voters on the November general election ballot.

Funds raised by a one (1) percent sales tax would be used to directly fund the public safety needs as identified by the County Sheriff—more specifically the areas of a justice center, Sheriff’s office, jail, law enforcement and criminal justice.

The committee, comprised of citizens from both parties, worked with Saguache County Sheriff Dan Warwick to identify the needs of his office. According to Sheriff Warwick, the County has statutory obligations to all county residents that his office struggles to fulfill due to insufficient funding.

Monies could potentially be used for additional staffing, conducting investigations, replacing obsolete equipment, acquiring additional equipment, and addressing security, operations and maintenance costs at the current jail. Current funding for the Sheriff’s office is apportioned out of the General Fund of the County. Committee members stressed that these funds are intended to supplement that current funding, not replace it.

The Commissioners suggested revisions, and the matter will be re-visited at the Commissioners’ July 5 meeting.

Additionally discussed was the viability of pursuing funds to update, enlarge and improve court functions with the construction of a new justice center. Both the committee and the commissioners have pursued research for funding options for a new facility, including grant funds. A new facility would combine the court with holding cells, a new jail, and sheriff’s office in one center.