Sheriff pitches idea for government services building in South Jeffco

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By AJ Vicens

Jefferson County Sheriff Ted Mink thinks it's silly for the county to make more than $170,000 in lease payments each year in South Jeffco when it could buy the space.

"We're paying $171,000 on leases right now," Mink said. "Wouldn't it be a better use of taxpayer dollars to invest that in a permanent structure?"

Mink wants to team with Clerk and Recorder Pam Anderson. Each has a presence in South Jeffco: The clerk and recorder leases 4,000 square feet at 6004 S. Bowles Ave., and the sheriff's south precinct is at 8100 S. Shaffer Parkway. The sheriff pays $130,000 in rent per year, and the clerk and recorder $41,275.

Mink wants to buy the building that houses the sheriff's south precinct. That building would then hold the precinct facility, the clerk and recorder's southern satellite office, and some functions of the Jefferson County health department.

In an April 9 memo to the county commissioners, Mink said his leased space takes up 11,500 square feet of a 29,000-square-foot building. When the county leased the space in March 2005, it negotiated the right to purchase the building for $3.8 million. He said in the memo that the building could be bought today for between $2.7 million and $3.2 million.

"The square footage of the building (29,000) appears more than adequate to meet current demand for space of the sheriff, clerk and recorder, and health department services," Mink said in the memo. He said the total of the lease payments the county makes in South Jeffco "will substantially pay the debt service of the balance, if required."

In an interview April 23, Mink said that a consolidated government services building is needed in South Jeffco.

"Our premise is to (create government service hubs) in the most populated area of unincorporated Jefferson County," Mink said.

Anderson said she's not familiar with specific details of the plan, but she supports the idea of a government hub.

"I support the concept of gaining efficiency with multiple government uses," Anderson said.

Mink said he hasn't had any feedback from the commissioners on the proposal, which they received three weeks ago. The commissioners gave three different answers in separate interviews on the subject April 23.

"I'm very supportive of it," said Commissioner Faye Griffin. She knows how small the clerk and recorder's space is in South Jeffco, as she was the clerk and recorder from 1998 to 2006. "Every time you keep renting stuff, that's just money out the door. I'd hate to see how much money we've spent over the years on rent for facilities."

Commissioner Kathy Hartman said she supports the idea "in principle, but I need to know the pay-back period."

"The sheriff put the numbers together, and I have not had an opportunity to ask the budget office to run the math on them," Hartman said.

Commissioner Kevin McCasky seemed to endorse the idea but wants a detailed review of how much money the county would spend.

"In general, the consolidation of our facilities is a cost-efficient and effective way to deliver government services," McCasky said. "However, given that the substation is in the (Law Enforcement Authority) district, a much more detailed analysis needs to be conducted."

The Law Enforcement Authority, commonly known as the LEA, is a statutory taxing authority that funds some sheriff's functions in unincorporated areas. All Jefferson County taxpayers pay into the fund, including residents of cities like Golden, Morrison and Lakewood.

A debate has been going on among county leaders for years on whether residents in unincorporated areas pay enough for the LEA, since city dwellers pay for municipal police and for sheriff's deputies in the unincorporated areas. Two-thirds of the LEA funding comes from the county's general fund, while one-third comes from a tax specifically paid by residents in unincorporated areas like South Jeffco.

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.