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I understand we need a new jail to meet current correctional and ADA standards. Women and men need separate facilities as do juvenile men and women.
Increasing to 48 to 54 beds from 18 beds seemed appropriate, as did using Fifth Street for parking and building the new facility in the parking lot behind the courthouse.
When the first architectural sketch was drawn up for the jail to be built north of the courthouse, there were not many objections to that plan. Then the Meeker Town Board offered the old grade school to the county.
The new plan that was submitted would use the old elementary school site for a large facility that would eliminate the entire school. The average occupation of the jail was 1.322 inmates per day in the county jail in 2102, according to an article in the April 11, 2013, edition of the Rio Blanco Herald Times. Unfortunately, people who are in jail are not paying guests and the cost for each person for food, 24-hour supervision, medical care and many other required services will never make a jail a revenue-producing option.
Rio Blanco taxpayers will be paying for it. It will not bring revenue to the town or help the local merchants. Even visiting hours are only on Sunday for a few hours. A large jail in place of the historic elementary school and historic business district would not bring tourism, but rather avoidance and shock that the people of Meeker would allow that. What happened to compromise? Couldn’t the county move several crowded offices to the part of the school that was built around 1946 or 1947 and use one floor for the needs of the jail behind the courthouse to meet other need of the jail? Since the school was cleared for use by the EPA in January 2011, it would seem to be appropriate to use the 1939 part of the school as a community center and an arts, sports, dance and play theater as well as for winter concerts and conventions.
Another use could be to offer the 1940’s wing of the school to the post office, which would pay rent to an owner of the building in another state at a better rate. The post office could use a lot more room and it would have a lot more parking and accessibility.