Pueblo Sheriff fired up over failed jail ballot measure

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PUEBLO, Colo. — A ballot measure for the Pueblo County Jail fails for the third time.

In 2015, 2017, and now 2019, voters shot down a tax increase that would help construct a new jail.

But the defeat may only amount to a bit of a setback.

Pueblo County said Ballot Measure 1A would fund a new jail, but Ballot 1B was their plan B.

According to the county, since 1A didn’t pass, revenue from the increase in marijuana tax (1B) will be put towards a jail, however, it won’t cover all of it.

“[The public supports constructing] this jail with the increased marijuana funds, and that’s what we are pivoting to and we intend to do,” said Garrison Ortiz, Pueblo County Commissioner.

“The jail question got crushed, plain and simple,” said Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk Taylor. Taylor was hoping the third time was the charm.

The issue failed 66 percent to 34 percent. He said ‘no’ is not an option.

“I respect the voters very, very much, but the fact of the matter is, just because we didn’t pass 1A this year, the problem did not go away,” said Sheriff Taylor. “You can’t fix what we got, it’s falling down. The bricks and motor are coming apart.”

The Sheriff knows it’s an unpopular opinion, but says he’s thinking of his staff and believes it’s what’s best.

“Yeah, it’s risky, but it’s not any more risky than what my guys and gals do every day. If you are talking about politically risky, I don’t care about that. I care about having a jail for this community. If I’m not the sheriff when it happens, so be it,” said Taylor.

Commissioner Garrison Ortiz knows a jail isn’t an ideal investment.

“I firmly believe investing in things upstream, such as education and things that contribute to our youth and hopefully decrease the need for a jail in a community such as ours. But sometimes, it’s flat out a necessity,” said Ortiz.

The Sheriff agrees with jail reform down the road but he’s focused on the people inside right now.

“I have a day-to-day operation that I have to do and 700 souls that live in that building, and all of my staff works in those conditions. I have a responsibility and I just don’t know how long we are going to be able to keep the lid on that place,” said Sheriff Taylor.

The proposed jail will be where 24th Street dead-ends west of Pueblo Blvd. The current jail is landlocked downtown so they are out of room. They hope the donated 20-acre property will give them room to grow.

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