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Stay Safe, Vote "Yes" on 1A

In a world where “Defund the Police” is becoming a popular sentiment, it’s refreshing to see local citizens consider renewing specific funding for the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office.

Issue 1A on this November’s ballot asks voters to renew the Sheriff’s 1 percent sales tax for public safety. It is important to note this is not a new tax. It does not increase current taxes.

Originally approved by local voters in November 2013, the tax has provided desperately-needed funding for the Sheriff’s Office to maintain a professional department that is compliant with state law, including unfunded mandates.

Sheriff Allen Cooper, just like Sheriff Jim Beicker before him, has done an excellent job of directing the funds where they were promised in 2013.

At that time, our citizens wanted to see animal control return to the Sheriff’s Office. That service has not only resumed, it has increased with two fulltime animal control officers.

As promised, the Sheriff is finally able to hire and retain deputies by paying comparable wages and providing appropriate training. We no longer serve as the training ground for other nearby law enforcement agencies and are able to keep good people to serve our citizens.

When I entered office in January 2011, I was appalled to learn the county did not pay for deputies’ uniforms or equipment. Our employees were making substandard wages, and buying uniforms and equipment out of their own pocket, while putting their lives on the line for public safety.

Two separate major renovations have been completed at the Fremont County Detention Center with this funding. The first was a complete rebuild of the kitchen and laundry areas, which had been desperately needed for many years.

The second, arguably more important upgrade, was in the security system. A massive transformation occurred with new doors, new lock mechanisms, new cameras, new video storage, and more.

These upgrades created a safer for our employees as they go about their work every day.

The Sheriff also promised to replace worn-out patrol vehicles, and that also has happened. He now has a vehicle rotation schedule in place to keep a fleet maintained and ready to roll.

Also with these additional funds, the Sheriff’s Cotopaxi Substation has been reopened and now is staffed with four deputies.

All of these improvements mean better, faster service for all of Fremont County.

The public safety tax also allows the Sheriff’s Office to keep up with unfunded mandates handed down from the state. Those mandates are coming down fast and furious following the “Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity” bill that was signed into law by the Governor. That bill requires body cameras for every deputy, as well as a massive electronic storage system to keep that video safe, and other new mandates.

The General Fund alone cannot keep up with these many additional expenditures, even though they are required by law.

Finally, the Fremont County Commissioners said in 2013 we would continue the same level of funds transfer from the General Fund into the Sheriff’s Office, meaning we would not trade away other funding if the tax was in place. We have kept our word, and continue to transfer more than $3.939 million from the General Fund to the Sheriff’s Office every year.

You can help keep yourself, your family, your neighbors, and our entire community safe. Please vote “Yes” on Ballot Issue 1A.

Debbie Bell is the District 2 Commissioner and current Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners.