RBCSO explores jail changes

RBC I  In an effort to trim its budget in the face of declining revenue, the Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Office is exploring the feasibility of closing operations at the detention center and contracting with Moffat County to house inmates from RBC. The 2021 budget for the detention center was $1,054,108.

“As revenues continue to decline, how do you justify $1 million in expenses?” Mazzola said by phone Tuesday. 

Last year’s attempt by the Rio Blanco County Commissioners to outsource local dispatch services to the Colorado State Patrol dispatch center in Craig was met with strident opposition. 

“The public wants local dispatch,” Mazzola said. “They’ve made that clear.” 

Contracting jail services through an intergovernmental agreement would be a “fiscally conservative” option for cutting costs while keeping dispatch services local. Mazzola estimates a possible first year savings of about $200,000 and between $400–500K in subsequent years.

The detention center is equipped for 34 inmates, but the daily population is averaging five inmates. When the new justice center was built, the county was averaging 12-13 inmates — too many to safely maintain in the previous jail. The number of inmates has been on the decline for quite awhile, Mazzola said. The department has been supplementing revenue by housing inmates from the U.S. Marshal’s office while they await trial, but the number of those inmates has dropped significantly under the Biden administration. Changes in state laws are also impacting the number of inmates, and increasing the cost of incarcerating them. 

Moffat County’s jail has room to house RBC inmates, Mazzola said, and offers a more comprehensive health program. Providing health care for inmates is required by state statute and has been problematic for RBC due to staffing and budget constraints. 

Law enforcement officers would need to transport individuals to Craig upon arrest for jailable offenses, and transport them back to Meeker for required appearances in court. “If one good thing has come out of the pandemic, it’s that most court appearances can now be done virtually,” Mazzola said. 

The discussion will be brought before the Board of County Commissioners in a future meeting. 


By NIKI TURNER – editor@ht1885.com

2 Comments

  1. Being fiscally responsible is quite a statement from our conservative sheriff. Why here he is cutting, more accurately, 1.2 Million from the county’s budget which is a great savings considering the county is roughly 2.6 million short this year. I was impressed by the sheriff’s willingness to outsource the duty required of him by Colorado State Statute which is to maintain/operate the county jail. I was even more impressed by his boldness in outsourcing our prisoners. But then I hear something which makes no sense, if being fiscally responsible. You closed the jail to save about $1.2 million dollars, yet in reality you’re not saving much at all. You’re hiring 3 deputies for patrol and transports (I would presume), hiring 1 new supervisor to keep an eye on them (I presume), and of course you’ll be buying at least three new patrol vehicles & all the related equipment. I almost forgot, “Pay Raises for everyone within the Sheriff Office”! Isn’t that something the commissioners have to approve? Finally I hear you’re also hiring a new office clerk, personal secretary, or someone like that. So, my math may be wrong to some degree, but you’ve closed a new, multi-million dollar jail facility, in order to save the tax payers roughly $1.2 million. In exchange you’re going to pay out $250,000.00 a year for Moffat County to hold all of our prisoners, which sounds reasonable. Yet you’re hiring 5 new staff members? Perhaps just reorganizing their positions but also buying new vehicles and equipment for them. Ok! I guess that is because you need so many to haul every prisoner arrested in Rio Blanco to Craig. But no that’s not the plan, the plan is you’re not transporting anyone arrested by Meeker PD, Rangely PD, or the DOW officer’s. So that mean’s the average of 5 prisoners you were watching in the jail will now go to Craig. So why so many new deputies? Are you going to start arresting more people to justify their existence? If not, there will be very few transports for these new hires to make. After hiring/repositioning these deputies, in a time when the tax base is way behind the 8-ball, you’re going to give everyone a pay raise? You’re saving what? $200,000, only Two-Hundred Thousand dollars saved out of the 1.2 million. That doesn’t sound very conservative to me; it sounds like federal government mathematics. You’re sacrifice or lack there of means the rest of the county services and employees have to sacrifice $2.4 million from somewhere. Out of the original $2.6 Million shortfall which is anticipated you might save us $200,000, yay! I guess all the other county services can just take one for the team, to make up the clean million you’ve repurposed while being “fiscally responsible” to your constituents.

  2. I forgot to add this to my previous submission, a question even the paper should be asking:

    As our sheriff stated in his statements to the paper: “As revenues continue to decline, how do you justify $1 million in expenses?” Mazzola said by phone Tuesday.
    Well, we’re waiting for your answer, how do YOU justify $1 million in expenses Public Official Mazzola?

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