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Another new home eyed for community corrections

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County looking at land near fairgrounds

By Ramsey Scott

Jeffco has identified another piece of property that could serve as a new home for the county’s community corrections facility, though nearby residents are uneasy. 

The land, at 15650 W. Sixth Ave., is in unincorporated Jeffco next to Foothills Animal Shelter and the Jeffco Fairgrounds. It’s currently zoned for industrial use, which is why the county didn’t consider it at first, said County Administrator Ralph Schell. 

“When I talked to the landowners and described what I was looking at the property for, they became very supportive and interested in the idea,” Schell said. 

Schell said the landowners don’t want to sell but are interested in a long-term lease with Jeffco. The landowners own a foundry next door and currently employ several residents of the community corrections program. 

Schell said the lease, at $20,000 annually, would be for 40 years with the option of Jeffco extending it twice for 15 years. 

“We’re going to proceed with due diligence and inspect the property to see if it’s feasible,” Schell said. “We’re early in process, and nothing has been decided.”

Schell said any lease would include an option of first refusal for Jeffco if the property owners decided to sell and some form of compensation if a county-built structure is still usable at the end of the lease.  

Jeffco for years has been trying to find a new home for the facility that houses some offenders and parolees and monitors them while they transition back into society. The center provides an alternative to prison for certain inmates who pass a three-level screening process.

The current facility, commonly referred to as the New York Building, on Kendall Street between West 16th and 17th avenues, is in need of $5 million in repairs. That building has been identified for potential redevelopment due to its proximity to the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design. 

“If we don’t move from where we’re at on Kendal Street, we’re going to have to put $5 million into that building to bring it up to a better standard. I personally don’t want to do that,” County Commissioner Faye Griffin said.  

The county has run into resistance from residents near several of the previously proposed sites. Schell said people recognize the value of community corrections but don’t want it in their backyards. 

That’s what Jeffco heard last week when details of the latest plan were presented to the Mesa View Homeowners Association, which is south of the property. 

“The residents were very respectful but made it clear they didn’t want it next to the animal shelter,” said Commissioner Casey Tighe, who was at the meeting. “I think they understand the project is a good project, but they’re afraid of the impact the building would have. I don’t blame them.”

Tighe said Jeffco might have to consider a new community corrections model that uses several smaller facilities to house residents, as opposed to one large building that could hold 250 people. 

Schell said the county plans to host another informational meeting for nearby homeowner associations. He said he didn’t expect to change residents’ minds but hoped to at least dispel some of the misconceptions about community corrections.

He said most residents near the Kendall Street location don’t even know community corrections is in their neighborhood.  

“We wanted them to understand the facts versus the perception of community corrections,” Schell said. “I would love to change minds, but the reality is people are going to have concerns.”

 

Contact Ramsey Scott at ramsey@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22, and follow him on Twitter @RamseyColumbine. Check www.columbinecourier.com for updates.