Commissioners discuss justice building

Is it better to board prisoners out and pay overtime to have them transported to court or to build a larger-capacity jail? Should the courts be moved from the present building to a new building housing both jail and courts? These are the questions facing the planning group for the $25,000 Otero County Justice Center Master Plan Project. Bent County, faced with the same dilemma 20 years ago, opted to build a larger jail. Commissioner Kevin Karney said the boarding from other counties made the larger jail feasible for Bent County.

Another puzzlement: the population in rural counties has been declining steadily, but the number of inmates has been increasing.

Asked about the lots bought by the county for possible expansion of the jail, Karney replied the county will need three to four acres if the courts are not included in the justice building, five acres if they are included. “Those two lots may be about a quarter acre,” said Karney. The site and what is affordable for the county are two of the considerations faced by the Master Planners. The county may have to chip in more than the $25,000 for the planning phase.

Dennis Smith gave the third quarter financial report. Manual releases from foreclosure numbered 59 and electronic releases 66. Nine new foreclosures were entered, eight deeds were issued. Seven withdrawals from foreclosure were made. The total income, counting also postage and copies, E File Recording, E-Fee, and publishing totaled $7,439.12. Total expenses totaled $6,410. Total paid to County Treasurer was the difference, $1,029.12.

Smith remarked the interest rates are going up. He was able to secure 3.1 percent on his most recent purchase of Certificate of Deposit. Karney asked if the penalty on rolling over current CD’s which might be at .75 percent to 1 percent might be made up by getting the higher interest rates. Smith said it was possible but would amount to a lot of manipulating for very little difference. He is happy that interest is paid now quarterly or biennially instead of waiting until the CD matures to collect all the interest at one time.

Otero County will share with Crowley County, Bent County, the City of La Junta and John Martin Reservoir in providing one full-time, 12-month Wildlife Services Specialist for this area. Cost of services is $91,395. Otero County total funding for this service is $7,560 quarterly, for a total of $23,577. Predator control includes such varied species as pigeons, skunks, coyotes, bobcats, possibly made more prevalent by drought conditions.

County Clerk Lyn Scott said ballots will go out in the mail on October 15 for the November mid-term election. Overseas ballots are already out.

Karney reminded the group of the Candidate Forum which will be held at the Grand Theater in Rocky Ford at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.