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New community corrections facility considered

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$17 million facility would replace aging structure

By Emile Hallez

A new $17 million community corrections facility is being considered to replace Jefferson County’s existing 105-year-old building, which county officials said Aug. 23 is crumbling and could be pushed to capacity in coming years.

Currently, both men and women are housed in the 32,000-square-foot community corrections facility at 1651 Kendall St. in Lakewood, the operations of which are administered by Intervention Community Corrections Services, a private nonprofit.

Though a new building could theoretically be placed just about anywhere, constructing it on the county’s own land provides a financial benefit. Further, the stigma attached to community corrections has made local municipalities roll up welcome mats, reacting to such a program with a “not-in-my-backyard” mentality, officials said.

As of a 2007 assessment, the current building, nicknamed “the New York building,” required between $3 million and $4 million in maintenance, virtually none of which has since been done, as county officials have for years been looking for a replacement.

Engineers and architects have already started early work on early plans for a 300-bed, 55,000-square-foot men’s program building that would be located directly east of the county jail. A preliminary design of the building also includes a two-story parking garage.

The women in the program will be relocated in December to a new 28,000-square-foot building also in Lakewood.

“(Inmates) actually get a transition from being in jail to being back in society. … I for one am open to talking about this,” said County Commissioner John Odom, who sits on the community corrections board. “I think we need to have some pretty in-depth conversation between the county and ICCS to see how we can make this work.”

Part of the project’s approval could include coordination with ICCS in paying for the new facility, through rent or other fees, a proposition to which the organization is open to discussing, a representative said.

Of the project’s cost, $9 million would be funded through certificate-of-participation funds approved in 2009. The remaining $8 million would come from the county’s general fund.

The current building could also be sold for about $2 million to help cover the cost, officials said.

Commissioner Don Rosier expressed concern about the high construction and maintenance costs of a parking garage, directing county staff to consider a parking lot. The sheriff’s impound lot, which is nearby, could be relocated to increase land available for a lot, a suggestion to which Sheriff Ted Mink said he was open.

About 200 men are housed in the community corrections program at a given time, and most leave the campus during the day to go to work or look for jobs, Mink said.

“If you get here at 5 a.m., you see a mass exodus out to the buses,” he said.

Separating the men’s and women’s programs is necessary, an ICCS worker said, as studies indicate gender segregation is linked to higher success rates in the program.

Though the existing Lakewood facility could be remodeled, the permit issued to the county for the program would likely not allow an expansion of the building’s capacity, officials said.

“I do not want to put one cent into the New York building,” Commissioner Faye Griffin said. “It’s a building that needs to be completely redone.”

The Jeffco campus location would also be ideal, as a light-rail line will be available in 2013, officials said.

Men in the community corrections program are not allowed to drive cars to their jobs during the day, so they rely on public transportation.

Construction a new building would take more than two years, officials said, putting a potential opening date near the expiration of the county’s current contract with ICCS. The contractor is nonetheless eager to pursue another contract, a representative said.

Though Rosier also directed County Administrator Ralph Schell to contact local municipalities about whether the program could potentially be relocated to their cities, Mink said previous talks indicated it was a long shot. Though local cities are part of an intergovernmental agreement in support of the program, community corrections does not appear welcome in any municipalities, he said.

“If I might, commissioner, I’d like to wish you good luck on that. … We went through this with the sex-offender group home,” Mink said. “No other community wants it, (but) I could be wrong. … I can’t imagine any community in Jefferson County opening their arms to a facility like this.”

 

Contact Emile Hallez Williams at emile@evergreenco.comor 303-933-2233, ext. 22. For updates, check www.ColumbineCourier.com.