New Summit County DA and probation office gets boost from state grant
The Summit County district attorney and probation departments are getting new digs on the state’s mining dime.
Earlier this week, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs awarded the county a $600,000 grant to complete renovations at the old Summit County South Branch Library, located just steps from the Summit County Justice Center on Airport Road in Breckenridge.
The funds come from the CDLA’s Energy and Mineral Impact Assistance Program, a 38-year-old initiative created solely for communities impacted by the energy industry, including mining.
The new DA and probation space is a boon for both offices, said assistant county manager Scott Vargo, who applied for the state grant. Without the monetary boost of the grant, the county had only enough funds to renovate the existing 3,500-square-foot space, he explained. The design now calls for a 4,9000-square-foot addition, bringing the new total to 8,400 square feet.
The grant, bolstered by a statewide severance tax on energy and mineral production, was paired with $1.9 million from the county’s capital expenditures fund. Together, the funding sources covered preliminary design work and on-site construction. The two completely fund Phase 2 of the $5.5 million-plus South Branch Library project, a multi-year endeavor funded by the county, the town of Breckenridge and several local entities. Phase 1, a new library and community center on Harris Street, opened in January with more improvements to come over the next few months.
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Renovations on the old South Branch building began in late 2014 and will tentatively wrap up on July 1 of this year. The new space includes 11 offices for the DA and eight offices for the probation department, with enough room to add three to five additional employees. Both offices have seen increased caseloads over the past few years.
For Vargo, the grant was an invaluable piece of the renovation puzzle, and Summit County DA Bruce Brown agrees. Brown currently runs the DA office out of a modified conference room, while several of his employees share a single office. The DA also pays $350 per month for a storage facility, which prompted designers to include a basement storage area in the renovated building.
“As our county grows, the demands on the criminal justice system will increase,” Brown says. “This enables us in a thoughtful way to plan for the future.”
Once complete, Brown’s and Hanks’ employees will pack up shop at their current office — a small, cramped space located about 3 miles from the justice center — and finally move next door to their peers at the district court.
LESS TRAVEL TIME
“First and foremost, it puts them at the justice center complex,” Vargo says. “We talked with the district attorney as we were looking at ways to make this project a reality, and they were losing time every day going back and forth from the current facilities.”
That lost time is substantial: Brown estimates his staff makes 10 to 15 trips between the DA offices and justice center every day. At 10 minutes per trip, each staff member was losing nearly eight hours per week to short jaunts — and that’s on the low end.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for prosecutors to be closer to the courts they work in daily,” Brown says. “We’re currently miles away and waste so much time traveling from our courts to the offices. We’re just not efficient, and this is wonderful use of taxpayer dollars to make us more efficient.”
And the expansion isn’t just convenient for staff. Brown and Hanks believe it will make life easier on clients. Since the late ’90s, the probation staff has been housed in the basement of a combined commercial and residential property. The waiting room was little more than an unheated landing at the bottom of a staircase.
“Our numbers are growing a bit, so this is a matter of sheer space and having enough room at our officers to work with clients,” Hanks says. “It’s also a privacy issue. We’re talking about sensitive subjects and need those private areas.”
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