By Mark Reaman
The Crested Butte Town Council is not ready to just turn over the Old Rock Jailhouse at Second Street and Elk Avenue to the Gunnison County sheriff’s department.
The sheriff’s department is looking for space to rent as a north valley office as it transitions to taking over more of the law enforcement duties in the north end of the valley. The department had been contracting the Mt. Crested Butte police department to handle the coverage but recently decided to take over the coverage itself by the end of the year.
Crested Butte rents buildings it owns to organizations, based on a town policy of charging a sliding rate of between $2 to $6 per square foot annually. A memo from town manager Dara MacDonald to the council this week suggested a lease rate for the 360-square-foot building of $200 per month, or $6.60 per square foot per year. She mentioned that the property does not have any onsite parking, “which may be a concern, but the sheriff is aware of the situation.”
Sheriff Rick Besecker was not at the March 5 meeting to answer questions the council had about the lease and the general situation with the transition from the Mt. Crested Butte police department. He will attend the March 19 Town Council meeting.
“I’ve received a fair amount of input on this situation,” said Crested Butte mayor Jim Schmidt. “Councilman Kent Cowherd, who is not feeling well tonight, mentioned to me his concerns that there was no good place to park by the bus stop. The other input I’ve heard is about the county not using Mt. Crested Butte on a contract basis and people want to know why we would lease to them.”
“It is a tough spot in terms of parking,” added councilman Paul Merck. “They could use the upper parking lot at First and Elk. And remember that there will be renovation work at Old Town Hall in that same area this summer that will add more activity.”
“Are there other locations available?” asked councilman Chris Haver.
MacDonald said the rest of the town space was full at the moment.
Councilman Will Dujardin said a proposed five-year lease seemed too long, even with potential ways for either side to get out of the contract with adequate notice.
“There is a sheriff’s election coming up this November and whoever is elected will have to deal with the whole situation,” said Schmidt. “Parking is certainly tight over there. My inclination right now is to not lease the property.”
The council voted to continue the discussion on the proposed lease to the March 19 meeting when Besecker is expected to show up and respond to concerns.