From prisoner housing to roads, Tighe talks about challenges in Jeffco

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By Sandy Barnes

Since his election to the Jeffco Board of County Commissioners last November, Democrat Casey Tighe has become immersed in issues ranging from relocating a halfway house for prisoners to road projects and gun control.

“One of the biggest challenges I had early on was trying to relocate Community Corrections, a halfway house,” he told the Mountain Area Democrats in Evergreen on Saturday. “The city of Lakewood would like it to move from the old New York Building to another place.”

The facility houses about 250 men, most of whom are convicted felons, and some of whom are sex offenders, Tighe explained. Because the building dates from the early 1900s and is in need of major repairs, the county is seeking a new location for the program.

However, a recent county effort to purchase the Wide Acres site on West Colfax Avenue was met with community opposition, he said.

“People worry about values to property,” Tighe said. “I don’t think it’s as big a safety concern as people think,” he remarked.

The men housed at the halfway house all have jobs and are checked by staff 14 times a day to make sure they are where they are supposed to be, Tighe said.

“They are accounted for at all times.”

The Community Corrections facility saves the county money and also reduces the recidivism rate of prisoners by 50 percent, he noted. To keep a person in jail, the cost is $70 a day — as compared to $38 daily per prisoner for the halfway house.

Tighe also discussed an issue with gun control in the county human services building, where open carrying of weapons is permitted. After a long, controversial discussion, the Jeffco sheriff was given the authority to do a threat assessment of open gun carrying in the building, he said.

A related issue is that open carrying of guns is permitted in county libraries, he added.

One possible option is to have metal detectors in county buildings, Tighe said.

“It’s a tough issue,” he observed.

While discussing another controversy in Golden — the proposed final link of the metro beltway — Tighe said the key is getting interchanges built, and the challenge is funding.

If the project were to move forward, from Colorado 93 to Broomfield there would be a toll road. “The debate going forward is whether it would pay for itself,” Tighe said.

The wishes of Golden residents, some of whom are opposed to the link, also need to be taken into consideration, he added.

Tighe also spoke about the county budget and revenues, which he said continue to decrease because of declining property values.

A possible solution would be a 1.5-mill increase in the county’s property-tax levy to restore revenue to the 2011 level, he said. In the coming years, the mill levy could be readjusted to a lower amount, should property values increase, Tighe said.

If the three-member Board of County Commissioners does not approve the mill-levy increase next month, about $11 million will have to be cut from the 2014 budget, Tighe said.

“If the other commissioners choose not to support (a mill-levy increase), this is a discussion we should be having now,” he remarked.

The tax increase is not subject to the Tabor Amendment provision requiring approval from voters, because the county commission voted to decrease the levy years ago.

Tighe also said he supports the Jeffco 5 initiative to add two county commissioners to the board.

“I would like to have conversations with other commissioners,” he said.

Colorado’s sunshine law prohibits a quorum of elected officials from talking in private, he explained. And because there are only three commissioners in the county, two cannot discuss issues among themselves.

“The biggest down side is that three stifle innovation,” Tighe said.

Contact Sandy Barnes at sandy@evergreenco.com.