Task force eyes detox center tax, location | PostIndependent.com

Task force eyes detox center tax, location

Ryan Summerlin
rsummerlin@postindependent.com

Though a new tax may be necessary to pay for a detox center in Glenwood Springs, a new task force is weighing what type of tax would work best.

At the same time, Garfield County officials are eyeing a location the county already owns for the facility.

Initially officials were considering a new countywide sales tax, perhaps of half a percent, which would have to go to a vote of residents.

But at a meeting Wednesday, Rifle Chief of Police John Dyer suggested an excise tax on marijuana, alcohol and possibly tobacco to pay for the detox center.

County Commissioner Mike Samson stressed that the task force needed to determine whether a new tax would even have a chance to pass.

“We don’t want to put our hearts and souls into this and then get our butts kicked at the polls,” Samson said.

County Attorney Tari Williams was unsure whether an excise tax needed to go to a vote, but she said that levying a new sales tax or even reallocating existing sale tax revenue would require a ballot question.

If officials move fast enough to get the issue on the November ballot, the money would start to be collected in January 2017, said Williams.

The task force was also considering applying for a Garfield County Federal Mineral Lease District grant for the detox center.

A new tax is the long-term solution for what should be a two-pronged approach, said Samson. The second prong would be a short-term solution.

But Terry Wilson, Glenwood Springs police chief, said he wasn’t as interested in a short-term fix. He feared that focusing too much on the immediate solution would lead to the permanent fix never coming to fruition.

Finding the right location for the center is the second big hurdle for the project. Officials discussed the possibility of working with River Bridge Regional Center, a child advocacy operation that’s looking for a new location.

Using the River Bridge location would cost the county to help the organization relocate, but it would also reduce heavy capital costs of buying land and a building. In addition, Garfield County already owns the River Bridge building, which is adjacent to Valley View Hospital.

Glenwood Springs Mayor Mike Gamba said a new sales tax would be a hard sell in Glenwood because of other tax questions that will already be put to voters, including the renewal of the city’s acquisition and improvement sales tax, which would sunset otherwise.

Gamba added that Roaring Fork Transportation Authority will likely ask for a tax increase to get more buses.

The devil’s in the details, the mayor said about a detox tax question — details such as how much the tax would cost residents and what the region would get for the money.

The task force is also looking at how big of a facility to build, and most of the talk has been about either a two-bed or six-bed center.

Once you’ve built a facility bigger than two beds, the operational costs of a four- or six-bed detox center are largely the same because the staffing requirements are the same, said Jackie Skramstad, regional director at Mind Springs Health.

The task force also must decide whether to back an on-call model or 24-hour service. Wilson pushed for a 24-hour facility that would be able to service overlapping behavioral problems stemming from substance abuse and mental health issues.

The task force must rely on medical and detox professionals to identify what the community needs, and then send it to voters, said Wilson.

If any kind of tax increase is going to pass, the task force will have to sell the public on the center, Samson agreed.

The next detox center task force meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. Jan. 26


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