Saguache sheriff shares post-election ideas

SAGUACHE — Saguache County Sheriff Dan Warwick is looking forward to expanding his department and making some much-needed changes, following the passage of the Saguache County 1.5 percent sales tax for public safety needs Nov. 6.

He expressed his thanks to voters for passing the measure and says their money will be put to good use.

One of the first projects on his list is a fenced exercise yard for prisoners, so they can exercise in a private atmosphere and “get some fresh air” without being escorted around the courthouse grounds by guards. The bids for the yard really are not too bad, he said, coming in at around $50,000. He would like to see construction start as soon as possible, but it may have to be delayed until spring.

Some updates also need to be made to the sheriff’s office building, including a bathroom upgrade. Other equipment for the office also must be purchased. The kitchen for the jail needs to be renovated and jail occupants and staff need urgent facility repairs to decrease known safety risks.

Additional personnel need to be hired, but that must wait until the county’s budget process is completed. Adjustments to the budget can be made to accommodate the office’s needs prior to receiving the actual sales tax funds, he noted.

A satellite office will now be opened in Crestone, Warwick announced, and sales tax money could be used to help keep it in operation. “We want more visibility and people actively working in the area,” he said. “We have outgrown this building and when we hire officers, we have to have a place to put them.”

If funds could be used from the sales tax to provide matching grants for a new jail, that would be great, Warwick said.  He noted that commissioners are the overseers of the funding and will make sure it is spent properly. It will take a full year to know the amount of sales tax funds that will be collected, but estimates can be made by what is received each quarter, Warwick remarked. Then he will know what can be set aside for the jail.

Warwick says he sees no problems in being able to go to commissioners and receive the funding needed to meet the upcoming expenses.