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It is important that the issues of a new justice center and what to do about the elementary school remain separate. One issue is a county issue and the other is a city issue, both having long-reaching effects on the residents and visitors of our community.
I do not want to see the elementary school demolished for any purpose. It is too valuable to this community as an historic building. The exterior of the structure could not be duplicated today. It truly amazes me that the (Greek) Acropolis is still standing. If it were located in this country, I doubt the same would be true.
We all know there are funding sources, private and public, available to save this historic building and turn it into a viable facility that will augment the aesthetics and economics of the downtown area.
I have heard all kinds of suggestions: assisted living, small conference center, exhibit and research areas for the museum, office space for the Chamber of Commerce, specialty shops and the list goes on and all of them are good. It will just take everyone to continue to stay interested enough to see any or all of them come to fruition.
Now, concerning the county issue of the justice center: If what the commissioners are saying, that the state may come in and force this issue of building such a facility in the next 10 years is true, then I believe that we should proceed without the state’s assistance in our decision-making process.
After giving careful consideration to the four locations that have been studied, I believe the Meeker Terrace location is the best. I was quite surprised when moving back to Meeker that the town limits are half way to the Kritsas’ place, and then finding out that none of the existing businesses in that area has infrastructure.
There is always conversation about the economic situation in this county. Long ago, agriculture and tourism supported the community in fine style and energy development has added to that in later years. But we see where agriculture and energy development are being curbed by environmental issues as well as economic. So, how do we get any industry and jobs into Meeker?
The community has to do more than tell investors how pretty it is here and how good our schools are for their children. If the county builds the justice center at Meeker Terrace, then the infrastructure that businesses require would be in place. Granted it would take taxpayer dollars to put it in place, but the return on the investment could benefit the entire county. Going north out of Meeker is the only reasonable direction in which to proceed for commercial or industrial development.
Building the justice center north of Meeker would not take anything away from downtown. Individuals who come to Meeker to go to court now don’t walk here, they drive and those same people would drive into town to eat, sleep and spend money.
Concerning the center itself, I don’t know that we need to have a 48-bed jail that in all likelihood would house many out of county inmates. I’ve heard it said that money can be made in doing that, but consideration needs to be taken that in a large percentage of long-term incarcerations the inmate is the breadwinner of the family and we would end up with their dependents on Rio Blanco County assistance. I do agree that improvements in security need to be made, as well as improvements to the court and for the staff.
The courthouse needs to be maintained as the location for the clerk and recorder, the treasurer, the assessor, etc. The only thing that should move would be law enforcement, the jail and the court. Perhaps the county administrators could move back to this facility as well, which would add more to the downtown economics than currently exists. And leave the courthouse lawn the way it is — it is the center of the community.