Posted by Sam Pittmon
Undersheriff Hamilton opened with her concern with misinformation that circulated on social media about the situation with Archuleta County sheriff office and detention facility. They are now on a campaign to inform the public of what is needed and the plans for the future including a new ballot initiative this November 6. She admitted that the ballot initiative last year was preceded by a “miserable campaign” and that was why it failed to gain public support. This year they have created pamphlets and leaflets with questions and answers to inform voters of the reasons why a new Sheriff Office and detention facility is needed.
Among the main reason that a new jail is needed is the fact that the present jail was closed in April 2015 due to flooding and the detection of toxic gases such as hydrogen sulfide and methane and mold in the building. This has required that the sheriff’s office be moved to a different location and that arrested persons and prisoners be transferred to another jail facility. Most have been transferred to La Plata County jail and a few to Alamosa.  Since 2015, La Plata county has been paid over 1 million dollars to house Archuleta county prisoners. It cost $54.00/inmate/day. Add to that the cost of overtime pay to Archuleta county deputies and transportation cost that includes vehicle maintenance and fuel.
She talked about the reasons why we need a jail in Archuleta County referring to Colorado Revised Statute 17-26-101 that states: There shall be maintained in each county in this state, at expense of the county, a county jail for the detention, safekeeping and confinement of persons and prisoners lawfully committed. Nothing in this article shall be construed to compel the erection of jails in counties having a population of less than 2000 or when the county owns a jail erected in any other place in the county.
She went on to say that there has been a significant increase in the number of people arrested in Archuleta County and has been steadily increasing since 2000. In the past year more than 600 arrests have been made. There have been 10 homicides in 8 years including 4 this year. There have been 14 attempted murders since 2010. The point is that there have been more crime and more serious crimes in Archuleta county during the past 8-10 years and this trend is expected to continue due to several factors including the passage of Amendment 64 (marijuana legalization), the increase in transient population, more vehicular traffic, increase in home and business burglaries, the increase in the number of illegal growers of marijuana as well as increased crimes related to other drugs and alcohol.
Since year 2000, the jail has been over capacity a total of 1615 days, which is about 4 ½ years and this is the reason why there is a need for a larger detention facility. With this reality, the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) in mid-2018 made a final decision that remodeling and repairing the old Sheriff’s Office and jail was no longer an option. They commissioned a new Jail committee to help make recommendations to the Board regarding the sheriff’s office and detention facility. That committee recommended the following:  1. That Harmon Park is the best location available to construct a new Sheriff’s Office and jail. 2. Not to put any more money into remodeling the old Sheriff’s office or jail. 3. That a sales tax increase is the best option available. 4. That $5000.00 be awarded to the Committee to help campaign for the jail. 5. That the same floor plans as before be used and not to spend any more money on making changes to it at this late stage.
As it stands now, the BOCC and the Jail Committee are in agreement and will be campaigning throughout the county for support of a ballot initiative this November 6 to build a new Sheriff’s office and detention facility financed by a 1% increase in sales tax in Archuleta County.
Undersheriff Hamilton fielded several question at the end of her presentation.