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An eye-opening committee trip to southeast Colorado

Colorado Legislature’s Capital Development Committee continues to be an eye opener.

The committee began a four-day tour in August with a visit to the office of Colorado Bureau of Investigation in Pueblo. This is a very important office that serves crime investigations in southern Colorado including the 59th House District. The Pueblo office does not have the space needed to do its scientific and technical work. State government should be planning for needs like this.

At times we find ourselves in a crisis mode. There are many questions to be asked and answered. Where will we find the money to make the improvements needed? Should we start from scratch, or should we retrofit what we already have? Should we consolidate the Pueblo office with the more modern offices in Denver and Grand Junction, and will this improve or hurt efficiency of service?

We then looked at the Walsenburg Radio Tower site, one of 200-plus radio towers in the state that allow law enforcement and other agencies to communicate. There are 22 of these towers that are in serious need of repair or replacement. If one of these towers should fail, much of the state’s strategic communication capability would be lost. Repairs to the Walsenburg tower have been funded, but there is little money for other tower repairs.

Capital Development Committee also oversees funding for rehabilitation and restoration of?Historic Sites around the state.

We had the pleasure to tour Spanish Peaks Library in the historic Huerfano County High School that was built in 1920. This grand old building has been partially? restored through the State Historical Fund. We then visited the Fort Garland Museum. I have been through Fort Garland a thousand times and never stopped to see it. It is a wonderful restoration of the old fort that housed Union soldiers who turned back Confederate soldiers bound to take over Colorado for its gold during the Civil War.

We also viewed the much-needed improvements to the Colorado State Veterans Center at Homestake, the progress being made at the Summitville mine superfund site, the new and very modern and sophisticated Colorado State Patrol office in Alamosa, the very beautiful and unique Cumbres and Toltec scenic railroad, Trinidad State Junior College at Alamosa, Adams State College, and finally the Centennial Correctional Facility in Canon City.

Some of these facilities are brand new, and some are older and need repair. There are hundreds of other facilities around the state. All of them will, at some time in the future, need to be replaced or repaired.

I have been told that, as recently as 2003, Colorado had a deferred maintenance fund of $400 million. Since then, that fund has been depleted for other uses. This, to me, is short-sighted. Colorado needs to have a disciplined financial strategy for maintenance and replacement. Additionally, we will have to decide if we can afford our current inventory.

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