County plans public safety complex in Rifle
RIFLE – It was a “square-table” meeting instead of a round one, but the goals of the Rifle City Council members and the Garfield County Commissioners were essentially the same – to foster good relations regarding issues facing both the city and the county.A special meeting between the two entities last week included plans for a potential public safety complex in Rifle; an update on the new county services building being built at the Garfield County Fairgrounds; and an economic opportunity analysis study of the area.”We need to do this so we can continue to have a good rapport with each other,” Commissioner John Martin said at the beginning of the meeting.Public safety complexA new public safety complex housing a branch of the Garfield County courts and the county sheriff’s office, as well as the Rifle Police Department, is on the books for construction in 2007.”That’s where it is on our radar,” Martin said. “We plan to turn dirt in April ’07.”The facility, with high-end electronics, steel and other materials not found in a typical building, is expected to cost about $104 per square foot – an estimated $5.5 million to build. According to Martin, the county is prepared to kick in $2 million. Where the remaining $3.5 million would come from is unknown. Mayor Keith Lambert later said the city has not committed to any funding for the complex.A location for the new complex has also not yet been determined.Despite the unknowns, the county believes the complex will eventually be mandated.”We’re going to be forced by the courts to do it,” said Commissioner Larry McCown. “It’s not an option.”Martin agreed.”It makes sense for us to share a facility,” he said. “We want to work with you and get the facility done.”County Administrator Ed Green pointed out that combining the services in one building would probably be cheaper for everyone.”The next step is to define and see what our square footage needs are and visit other organizations to see how they’ve done this,” Green said.Health and Human Services buildingThe walls are up and workers are busy painting and carpeting the new county building at the Garfield County Fairgrounds, which is slated for completion in the next two months The Department of Social Services and Garfield County Public Health, currently located on Taugenbaugh Boulevard, are expected to move in on Sept. 15. The Veteran’s Service, now at the county courthouse in Glenwood Springs, is also expected to move into the new building in the near future.In March, commissioners voted 2-1 to locate the building on Airport Road, three miles outside of city limits – much to the dismay of Rifle city officials, who wanted to keep the building within city limits and pointed out there was no public transportation access to the Airport Road site.In May, commissioners changed their minds and agreed to construct it at the fairgrounds on the site of the Cooper Field ballpark, with the condition that the ball field be moved to Deerfield Park.The total cost of construction is $2.8 million.Rifle councilor Alan Lambert commented that it was a nice-looking building.”It’s the result of good communication (between the county and city) and making it happen on both sides,” Martin said.Focus groups/economic development studyWith two meetings already held, the county is continuing to conduct focus groups throughout the western part of Garfield County to determine what direction the county should be taking.”We want to know what folks in your municipality are thinking,” Green said.Participants, made up of homeowners and registered voters, are being solicited through a random “numbers generator” and asked to respond to the invitation, according to Green.In the same vein, both the county and the city of Rifle are conducting economic development studies to determine how to encourage more local job opportunities and what the economic future might look like.The city of Rifle recently awarded a contract to Chesney & Associates of Colorado Springs to conduct a study and identify economic opportunities in the Rifle area. The study is part of the council’s strategic plan to avoid the “boom and bust” cycles of the past. The study is expected to begin during the first part of August, with a completion date in January 2006.”We want to take the bull by the horns and start thinking about primary jobs in Rifle,” said city planning director Matt Sturgeon. “We want to expand our commercial and retail base and overall industrial activities.”The county is conducting its own economic development study of local governments in preparation of another possible oil shale boom and suggested that maybe information could be shared.”I’d hate to see a duplication of studies so we’re not re-inventing the wheel,” McCown said.Mayor Lambert echoed his thoughts.”We hope the county would be willing to partner up with us,” Mayor Lambert said. “If we partner on some of these things, we can both meet our goals.”Martin pointed out that the number one issue everyone is facing is growth and having infrastructure in place to handle it. He then thanked the city for the meeting and they agreed to keep the lines of communication open.”The more successful the cities are, the more successful the county is as a whole,” Martin said.
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