ALAMOSA — In one of his final votes as Alamosa mayor, Josef Lucero voted against a contract with Advantage Treatment Centers, Inc. (ATC) for municipal offender services.
“I am very uncomfortable with this happening at this point in time,” Mayor Lucero said during the November 15th city council meeting. “I really was hoping we could have had a work session specific to this.”
He added, “It’s a worthwhile project. I want to have a little bit more information and a work session even executive session if we need to have that to answer questions … It’s vitally important for everybody to be on the same page and informed.”
He said a work session would give the new councilors a chance to become informed on this issue as well. He suggested a work session before the first meeting in January. He voted against the contract, and Councilor Kristina Daniel abstained from voting or discussing the contract because she works for ATC. The rest of the council voted to authorize the city manager to execute the ATC contract.
ATC is contracting with the city to provide for pre-trial processing and post-conviction housing and monitoring of non-violent municipal offenders.
Alamosa City Manager Heather Brooks said it was the staff’s recommendation not to wait until January, and the city council already was pretty booked up on work sessions between now and then.
Councilman Jan Vigil asked if the first time the council was notified of a potential contract with ATC was a few weeks prior when the council met with Municipal Judge Daniel Powell. Brooks said this discussion had actually begun earlier regarding jail overcrowding. Surrounding that issue, staff and the council discussed alternatives, Brooks explained.
One of those alternatives to using the county jail was using Community Corrections, now ATC, she added.
Brooks said the council received several updates from staff regarding the proposal.
Newly elected Mayor Ty Coleman said, “We have had this information since last Friday and have been talking about this for over a month, plenty of time to make a decision.”
Coleman said all of the councilors had the same amount of time to get their questions answered if they had any.
“The days of not doing your homework and waiting until the last minute are over,” he said. “I am not in favor of putting this off for a work session. I feel we have had ample time to review this and make a decision.”
Mayor Lucero said, “You may be one of the few who has had ample time to ask all the questions. There are some of us on this council that have not had the questions answered to our satisfaction, and there are even new councilors that will be sworn in that have absolutely little or no knowledge of this at all.”
Coleman said ATC will eliminate the city’s use of the jail, thus helping with overcrowding, and will help offenders keep their jobs and get referrals to resources they need, such as assistance with addictions that are driving their criminal offenses. He added that he also believed people needed to be held accountable for their actions, and this program did that as well.
“Personally I am very supportive of this,” Councilor Liz Thomas Hensley said. She said this contract will assist with jail overcrowding, giving the city another option, and will provide more assistance to offenders as well.
Brooks said going with ATC would be cheaper than the county jail, $55 per day versus $63. Also, municipal offenders in the ATC system could still retain their jobs and work during the day, and they could keep their Medicaid coverage, if they were under Medicaid, which they would lose if incarcerated.
In addition, ATC could help offenders with other wrap around services, Brooks said.
She added that ATC was the only agency in the San Luis Valley that had the capacity for the services the city was looking for in this contract.
“We see this as a great opportunity,” Brooks said.
She added that even though the council had the information on ATC in time to review it and ask further questions, staff could respond to questions during the council meeting as well.
Councilman Charles Griego said he liked the program but would have appreciated a work session because he had several questions about the contract, such as the tiers outlined in it and the cost to participants.
“It is a good program,” he said. “We need to find an alternative to jail, and I think this is the right thing.”
Brooks said the $15 charged to participants is on a sliding scale, depending on their ability to pay, and it is on top of the fee the city would pay ATC. The tiers represent the level of monitoring an offender required, ranging from ankle monitoring and staying overnight to case management.
“It’s dependent on each defendant,” she said.
Brooks said if someone did not make it in the ATC system, the county jail would still be an option, and the city would still need a contract with the county to use the county jail.
Brooks said the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was supportive of the city using this option with municipal offenders and indicated it believed this would be a positive step for the city to take. (The ACLU this fall issued a derogatory report about the Alamosa city court.)
Brooks said Judge Powell was supportive of the ATC contract as well.
“He just really wants more tools,” she said.
“It is added tools to the tool box,” Hensley agreed. “Personally I would rather not delay this, but I am also supportive of any of the council if you continue to have questions, let’s go ahead and ask them.”
Griego said he read the contract but had questions, and it was not a matter of not doing his homework. “I want everybody to be comfortable going ahead with this,” he said.
He added that he did not want to rush into this but take the time to make sure all of the questions were answered.
Vigil said this contract fulfilled a need in the community, so “let’s get this done.”
He added that the new councilors should be present at the meeting if they wanted to be up to speed on the proposal.
Councilor Michael Stefano said, “It sounds like a great program.” He said if it will help with a problem in the community, “I am for it.”