County, City close to locking up jail agreement
Glenwood Springs and Garfield County officials reached a tentative agreement Tuesday on where to temporarily jail people arrested by local city and town police departments. In a bimonthly meeting between the Glenwood Springs City Council and Garfield Board of County Commissioners Tuesday, the two entities decided that those arrested by local police departments can be booked into the Garfield County Jail for up to 48 hours after their arrest. But Glenwood Springs police are still frustrated that the jail has been open since last year and they still have to wait at least 30 days to bunk prisoners there. “All I know is we’re not able to put people in jail yet,” said Glenwood Springs police Lt. Lou Vallario in a phone interview after the meeting. Vallario is campaigning against Tom Dalessandri for Garfield County Sheriff. “Personally, I’m frustrated. We’ve had to deal with this for years. … Everybody worked hard to get this jail built,” Vallario added. At present, those who need to be held after their arrest are transported to Rio Blanco County Jail in Meeker, about 65 miles each way. “Our primary problem is being able to hold presentence prisoners, which is 90 percent of our need,” explained Glenwood Springs Mayor Don Vanderhoof. “Why can’t we expect that?” A presentence prisoner is someone arrested for a municipal crime who hasn’t yet appeared before a judge for sentencing. Garfield County Sheriff Tom Dalessandri told Vanderhoof he always has intended to allow presentence prisoners into the jail, but he first wanted to let his jail staff become comfortable with the facility, which began housing prisoners in late December. “We wanted to get a feel for what the sentenced population was going to be,” he said. “When we started this process, we had no idea what the population would be.”It was never our intention not to allow presentence prisoners.”Another reason the sheriff’s office has been reluctant to start letting presentence arrestees into the jail is because they’re more complicated, he said.”There are liability issues,” Dalessandri said. “If a prisoner is brought into the facility, the judge needs to see them within 48 hours.””We’re the holder of the key,” jail administrator Dan Hall said. Also, presentence prisoners cannot be strip-searched, so jail administrators need to watch them more closely to be sure they have no contraband such as drugs or weapons. “Also, they’re more prone to suicide,” Hall said. “It’s a pretty costly affair we’re getting into.”The previous contract drawn up between the city and county, rejected by City Council at its June 20 meeting, will be rewritten to reflect these changes. It could take effect within 30 days, Dalessandri said. “From a cop-on-the-street perspective, it’s frustrating,” Vallario said. “I think it will eventually happen, but I think `eventually’ is the operative word.”To make the new arrangement more manageable, Glenwood Springs police chief Terry Wilson, Dalessandri, Hall and others planned to create a standard jailing form to be used by each municipality when holding a prisoner at the jail. “We don’t want to have to do this six different ways,” Dalessandri said. The ability to jail some of the city’s frequent offenders could change their attitudes about committing crimes and make them take police more seriously, Vanderhoof said. “The jailing does allow you to get better compliance,” Glenwood Springs municipal judge Colleen Truden said.The County Commissioners and City Council discussed other issues at the meeting.-After two evacuations during the last week – both of which turned out to be false alarms – Garfield County Sheriff Tom Dalessandri said residents in Mitchell Creek are ready for the possibility of a destructive mudslide and flood in their area. “We were able to get everybody out. There was great compliance,” he said. “We’re trying to balance displacing people from their homes with erring on the side of caution.”In both evacuations, there were flash flood warnings in the area, but the storms fortunately avoided Mitchell Creek. “We’re re-evaluating our call-out position, but we’re still going to err on the side of caution,” he said. “I think the community should feel really good about where we’re at.”-Garfield County Commissioner John Martin said if the city annexes Red Feather Ranch, formerly Four Mile Ranch, they must also annex the portion of Four Mile Road that runs along the property. “Simply because it is surrounded, Four Mile Road needs to be annexed, as well,” Martin said. He also requested the fire station proposed to be built at Red Feather Ranch be annexed. City leaders expressed concern that drainage problems along the road could be passed along to the city. “Are we inheriting your problem?” Councilman Don Gillespie asked.Martin said past drainage problems have been solved, but city officials asked for confirmation of the county’s solution. The issue will be looked at further if the city decides to annex the property. As of Tuesday, the city planning board had made a decision to recommend approval of the subdivision, but it hasn’t yet come before council. -Councilman Gillespie raised questions about parking at the county’s new lot north of the courthouse. As of Tuesday, the lot was marked for permit parking only, barring tourists and others from using the lot at night when it’s empty. The commission said they would consider adding time limits to the signs so they say, for instance, “Permit parking only, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.”The whole parking situation could change, however, when the old municipal operations center parking lot opens across Seventh Street. -On behalf of the Glenwood Springs River Commission, Gillespie requested that the Prehm Ranch road, which runs between the Glenwood Springs Municipal Airport and Westbank, not be given to developers by the county. The road could be used as a possible trail access and could become the only route out for those fleeing Three Mile and Four Mile roads during an emergency. “I just think it’s a shame that that’s been given up,” Gillespie said. At this point, Martin explained, settlement talks between the county and the developer have hit a snag, so the fate of the right-of-way is unclear.
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