More funds for the shelter?

Court costs and citations to include extra money to support the Bridge

The Bridge Emergency Shelter could be in line for some extra funds from the city of Cortez.

Earlier this month, Bridge board chairwoman M.B. McAfee gave the Cortez City Council a presentation about the shelter and its financial situation.

City attorney Mike Green, at that meeting, proposed putting a surcharge on police issued citations and increasing the low municipal court costs with the extra funds possibly going to the shelter.

City staff researched the proposal to determine what the costs could be and how money could be generated.

City Manager Shane Hale told the council in Tuesday's work session that he thought the court fees could be increased from $22 to $30 while adding a $5 to $8 surcharge on citations issued by the police department.

In a typical year the Cortez Police Department issues between 1,100 to 1,200 tickets. Hale estimated doing both of these would raise $8,500 to $9,000 that could be given to Bridge.

Hale pointed out that the penalty fees for infractions in the city were generally much less than what the county charges for the same offenses - even if surcharges to citations were added.

Council member Karen Sheek proposed increasing the surcharge to $10 a ticket to generate more funds.

Green said most people will pay the traffic fines without going to court because paying early usually means fewer points on driving records.

He also pointed out that not everyone who receives a citation will pay - some just refuse to pay the ordered amount and others choose jail time over the fine.

Sheek said if the city had to fund the shelter, the amount would be well above what it provides or donates to the shelter every year.

For this action to take place the council would have to adopt an ordinance, which it plans to do at the next meeting in February.

"I think it's great," said council member Matt Keefauver. "It gives them money now."

Council member Bob Archibeque agreed with increasing the surcharge to $10 because of the valuable service the shelter provides for the Cortez area.

"It's a small drop in the bucket," he said. "A lot of people are down on their luck. It's our chance to stand up and help solve the problem."

Hale said funding the shelter makes a lot of sense when considering the bills the hospitals and other agencies would incur if there was no place for the homeless to go to get out of the cold.

"You are saving lives," Green added.

michaelm@cortezjournal.com