Summit County gets approved for almost $1 million in federal funding |

Summit County gets approved for almost $1 million in federal funding

Federal spending approved by Congress will provide support to 2 local public safety projects

Summit County Rescue Group President Ben Butler, from left, speaks to Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons, Congressman Joe Neguse and rescue group spokesperson Charles Pitman on Aug. 8, 2021, at the group’s facility in Frisco. Neguse was one of three members of Congress who requested $500,000 for Summit County’s new search and rescue facility.
Lindsey Toomer/Summit Daily News archive

As part of a multimillion-dollar request for Colorado projects, two Summit County initiatives have secured a combined $923,000 in federal dollars coming to the community.

Of that amount, $500,000 coming from the Department of Housing and Urban Development will go toward the county’s contribution to the new search and rescue facility that is planned in Frisco. The funding was requested by Rep. Joe Neguse and Sens. John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet. In a statement, Neguse said the current storage and training facility was in dire need of repair, which is why he helped request the funds.

“Building a facility to safely store vehicles and centralize emergency response training is absolutely essential, as Summit County sees a rising number of search and rescue calls due to high tourist traffic and a robust outdoor recreation economy,” Neguse said in the statement. “The $500,000 in federal funding we have secured in this year’s omnibus will support their new training and vehicle storage facility and help meet the needs of Summit Count’s search and rescue operation.”

Last August, Neguse toured Summit County Rescue Group’s current facility and met with search and rescue leadership about the state of the facility after the request passed through the House Appropriations Committee.

“We’re excited that there’s money going toward the overall objective and to have that validation from (Congressman) Neguse,” said Anna DeBattiste, spokesperson for Summit County Rescue Group. “There’s still a lot of money left to raise.”

In total, the project to build the new facility will cost $6 million, funding that will mainly come from the county and fundraising efforts. The current facility does not fit all of the equipment it has, and adequate heating is another part of the new facility’s improvements.

Summit County Rescue Group is one of the busiest rescue groups in Colorado, prompting lawmakers to support the capital project.

The other $423,000 is going to the Summit County Sheriff’s Office Systemwide Mental Assessment Response Team from the Department of Health and Human Services to help support and expand the team, according to documents from the House Appropriations Committee. The response teams — which respond to emergency and non-emergency crisis calls — consist of an officer and a behavioral health specialist collaborating with a case manager, who connects those in need with community resources.

Bennet has requested multiple projects that are centered around mental health resources, including SMART. He told the Summit Daily News on Monday that he wants to help improve how crises get a response.

“As I travel around our state, I hear from nearly every community about the challenges they’re facing with addressing the mental and behavioral health crisis. Earlier this year, I heard directly from Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons about the increase in mental and behavioral health crisis calls,” Bennet said in a statement. “Federal funding that we secured for the SMART project will help the Summit County Sheriff’s Office stand up a second team of plain-clothed officers and clinicians to improve the response to mental and behavioral health related emergencies across the county.”

Money for the projects comes from a much larger federal spending package that was passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate last week. There are 12 ordinary appropriations bills that need to be passed each year (one for each appropriations sub-committee) to fund the federal government and avoid a government shutdown, and an omnibus spending bill combines two or more of those bills into a single bill. Within each bill are various budgeted projects, including 61 projects that have been approved for Colorado.

Congress has not allowed this kind of spending — commonly called “earmarks” or “congressionally directed spending” — since 2011. Opponents of this kind of spending saw it as wasteful, while members of Congress who approve of it say it supports important community projects and has tighter restrictions than in the past. When looking at the entire spending plan, this type of spending makes up a small portion of what is budgeted — no more than 1% of discretionary spending, according to the House Appropriations Committee.

On Friday, March 11, President Joe Biden signed the 2,000-page package with $1.5 trillion in federal funding to be distributed to projects. In total, over $100 million will come to Colorado.

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