By Tom Donnelly
Larimer County Commissioner
It’s no secret that Larimer County has grown a lot. Impacts of that growth are evident to us all in different ways. For some, it’s increased traffic leading to longer commutes. For others, it might be more people recreating at your favorite open space. For Larimer County government, one key impact of this growth is space constraints in our county facilities.
Keeping our facilities adequate is one of the goals in our 2019 – 2023 Strategic Plan, which addresses how we ensure that county government keeps up with population growth to continue to deliver excellent public services to the residents of Larimer County.
At the Justice Center, more courtrooms and offices will need to be added in the future. We recently made the tough decision to move Larimer County Probation out of the Justice Center — an ideal place to house them — to another location to accommodate a possible new judge, courtroom, and support staff which are also critically needed. Locating probation in the Justice Center helped those with transportation challenges so they wouldn’t need to make additional trips, and maintained a strong link for sentenced defendants to fulfill their obligations.
Larimer County is a leader in Colorado with many alternative programs designed to manage the jail population and keep those with lesser crimes from filling up needed space. However, even with these excellent programs, it has become clear the jail will have to be remodeled and expanded to meet Larimer County’s increased population in the next 10 to 15 years. An expansion would add roughly 400 to 500 beds to the current population of 500 beds. We can’t continue to cram more people together tightly; inmate separation is essential for different gender, ages, criminal severity, and behavior. There have been occasions when we’ve had to send inmates to other facilities.
Improvements are on the drawing board for the Ranch, too, to keep it up-to-date as an outstanding public facility for the wide variety of events hosted there each year. Our fleet services department, which maintains all Larimer County vehicles, will also get a new building since they’ve occupied a tiny facility since the 1960s when Larimer County had a much smaller population and much less equipment, too.
Some of our facilities improvements have come to fruition. Last fall, Larimer County opened a new Loveland campus ensuring residents in south Larimer County can access the same county services without having to drive to north Fort Collins. A brand-new Coroner’s Office and morgue in Fort Collins have become a reality as well, with ultra-modern equipment.
The facility we’ll be most happy to see become reality is the new Behavioral Health Facility. Finally, we’ll be able to help address the gaps for those in Larimer County with mental health issues. We’re very thankful to Larimer County residents for their support for this much-needed facility that will benefit all in Larimer County in many ways.
Tom Donnelly is one of three Larimer County Commissioners. He resides in District 3 and represents all of Larimer County.