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Cops and inmates want more room

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE ” The Sheriff’s Office needs a new building, and the jail is overcrowded, county officials said, but the issue is making the improvements within a $20-million budget.

Members from all the offices sharing the justice center ” the sheriff’s office, jailers, district attorneys, judges and clerks ” are discussing their top needs, including more courtrooms, more office space and a bigger prison, and hoping the county can meet them within the available budget, said County Manager Bruce Baumgartner

The county had originally hoped to have $50 million to spend on expansion, but a survey showed residents would not support a property tax increase for a project of that size.



“We’re trying to assess everyone’s needs and see if we can’t get it in a $20 million project. We feel that’s the size allowed,” said Baumgartner.

The Sheriff’s Office needs more office space and the jail is often beyond maximum capacity, Eagle County Sheriff Joe Hoy said.

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The Sheriff’s Office may either move to another building or try to make its office bigger, he said.

“There are several ideas on the table,” he said. “It may be more costly to buy a building and renovate it than to construct another building on some county land.”

The county was considering buying a vacant medical building across the street from the justice center, Baumgartner said.



“We were evaluating it to see if it would be useful, but it didn’t look promising,” he said.

The district court needs significant expansion, said District Judge Tom Moorhead.

Larger courtrooms and jury rooms are needed to handle the number of cases that come through the court, he said.

“There are five judicial officers in a courthouse built to accommodate two. There’s no courtroom that meets the requirements for a modern-day trial,” he said.

Even the existing courtrooms are too small for trials with more than one defendant or plaintiff involved. Right now in those cases, somebody usually has to sit at a card table that serves as a makeshift desk, Moorhead said.

The courthouse also only has one jury room that can hold a full jury. Juries have been gathering in the lunchroom, he said.

“It doesn’t work because the sheriffs walk through to process inmates and other people can’t use the lunchroom. Nothing about the building is presently adequate,” he said.

More than 6,000 cases move through the court each year, more than the surrounding three counties combined.

The county has hired a contractor and an architect who are working on the improvements, Baumgartner said.

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.


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