Mistake on budget request figures

Sheriff’s office asks for around $235,000 over 2012

Keywords: Poll question,

The Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office’s recommended 2013 budget to the county commission increased slightly more than $235,000, not $900,000, as the Cortez Journal reported in Saturday’s edition.

The overall budget for the current year is $5.16 million, and the proposed 2013 budget will grow to $5.39 million. That includes $724,449 from a 1.45-mill levy Montezuma County voters agreed to in 2007 to pay for five patrol officers and related costs.

Independent of jail costs, Montezuma County Sheriff has asked for a budget increase of just $13,150, reflecting increased fuel costs up to $4.25 per gallon for gasoline, and professional legal counsel.

Spruell said that whenever civil litigation becomes a possibility, his office will seek legal advice. The county recently was sued by the Denver Health and Hospital Authority for the $158,000 hospital bill of Zachary Sullivan, shot when he pointed a gun at MCSO and Cortez Police officers in 2011. Sullivan was recently sentenced to 48 years in prison after being convicted of attempted murder and several other crimes related to the March 2011 incident.

A much larger component of the 2013 total budget request of $5,394,543 was the $268,153 increase for four of the 39 employees who work at the jail. That request does not reflect a proposed increase in spending; instead, it continues to fund the positions of four detention center employees whose salaries have been covered by a grant received by former Sheriff Gerald Wallace. That grant will expire at the end of 2012, but the four employees are still needed.

The detention center technically is not part of the Montezuma County Sheriff’s office; however, the sheriff is tasked with managing it for the county. The proposed detention center budget for 2013 is $2,425,139.

Spruell said the jail runs between 93 percent and about 110 percent of its capacity, which is 104 inmates. Spruell said the cost of housing an inmate is $54 per day.

Some inmates are housed on behalf of the other jurisdictions, including federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). That, along with commissary purchases made by inmates, produces between $430,000 and $470,000 in revenue each year.

Spruell said that one strategy for reducing the detention center population is a pretrial services program that his office began on Jan. 1 in conjunction with local courts. Bond amounts have been reduced, which enables inmates who have been accused of a crime but not yet convicted to leave the jail, thus saving the cost of incarcerating them.

However, those people aren’t home free. A judge can require a combination of weekly contact, drug and alcohol monitoring at the defendant’s expense, and GPS ankle monitoring.

“We hold them accountable for their actions,” Spruell said.

“It’s holding their feet to the fire, which hasn’t happened in the past” added Undersheriff Robin Cronk.

“It makes the community a safer place,” Spruell continued. “That is the good side effect of pretrial services that we didn’t expect. “

Although the pretrial services population has not significantly reduced demand for jail space yet, Cronk said he expected that to happen within a year, as word of the program spreads among repeat offenders.

“Usually what they’re violating on pretrial services is what they’re already in trouble for,” Conk said.

“Two percent of the poulation causes 98 percent of (the county’s criminal justice) problems,” Spruell said.