What’s News in Teller County

County strikes gambling jackpot
Rick Langenberg

Teller County officials and nonprofit operators have hit the gambling jackpots, with the local area faring quite well in the competitive battle for impact dollars.

Last week, the county commissioners signed off on more than $1.2 million in state gaming grant contracts. And with another expected award for a transportation project next week, Teller is expected to receive more than $1.6 million in extra monies that go to local counties, towns and groups that bear most of the gaming impacts

“That is pretty good,” announced Teller County Commission Chairman Bob Campbell, when discussing the board’s approval of documents authorizing these monies. According to Campbell’s analysis, the Teller government itself and associated services will take in a little more than $1.4 million. This amount doesn’t include the county’s regular assortment of tax revenue, based on the winnings generated at Cripple Creek casinos.

And with the additional monies received by Victor and other nonprofits, Teller is receiving a hefty portion of the overall pot of impact dollars that hovered around the $5 million mark for the fiscal year. Campbell credited the involvement of Commissioner Jim Ignatius, who serves on the state gaming impact advisory board, as a big help.

Some of the major award winners, based on the final state contracts, are the Teller jail in Divide, which netted $451,335, and sheriff patrol operations, which will receive a check for $231,142. But as for the latter award, Campbell commented that this amount doesn’t nearly cover the expenses for grappling with the extra traffic and impacts generated from gambling. It mainly covers the bills for the hiring of four more patrol officers.

And on the upside, the recent spree of awards marked a big turnaround from last year at this time, when the Teller government was staring at the zero figure in gaming impact dollars. Governor Bill Ritter had proposed axing this program temporarily to help offset the costs of a growing state deficit. But his recommendations were overturned by state lawmakers, who opted for returning this fund at a slightly reduced level.

Besides the Teller government, other big winners are the Aspen Mine Center and Community of Caring, which received $190,250. Also, the Fourth Judicial District Attorney’s Office got $165,290 for its operations in Teller. That award was significant because the Teller government was faced with the obligation of covering a good portion of these expenses if the gaming grant fell through.

Other beneficiaries of the impact funds included Prospect Home Care Hospice with a $50,400 check, the Peak Vista Community Health Clinics with $54,857, the Court Appointed Special Advocates with $36,455 and the Teller Victim Services Program with $21,921.

But with big state budget challenges looming, this impact program faces an uncertain future.

In addition, the Teller leaders are currently engaged in a big fight with Gilpin County over a new proposed tax re-allocation proposal that would siphon about $2.5 million from gaming monies annually distributed to the Teller and Cripple Creek governments and from the Creek’s assortment of historic preservation funds. This plan questions the distribution formula adopted by the state Division of Gaming for the last two decades that allocates these monies based on adjusted gross proceeds (monies that gamblers basically lose at local casinos).

A final decision will be made by the state gaming commissioners during their regular meeting in February.

Gold Camp Road Reopened
One of the most popular back road treks between the Cripple Creek/Victor district and Colorado Spring has received the green light.

The Gold Camp Road, which features a ride that former President Teddy Roosevelt once described as equivalent to bankrupting the English language, has been reopened, but much work still remains in protecting historic resources.

However, the main structural work in repairing a historic tunnel on the verge of collapse has been finished.

Last week, County Administrator Sheryl Decker told the commissioners that the work has involved the removal of 500 tons of rock. “Gold Camp Road is open to traffic. It was a huge grant,” said Decker, in describing the project that has involved a several hundred thousand dollar grant and much coordination between the U.S. Forest Service, Colorado Historical Society and Teller County. For an extended period, a key county section of this historic roadway was shut down.

However, Decker conceded that work still remains along the historic front, which will be completed next spring.

Behave yourself at the courthouse
If you enter the county courthouse in Cripple Creek, be on your best behavior, or else you could find yourself thrown into a new holding cell, zapped by a taser gun or forced to undergo an alcohol-related breath test.

But fret not, it could be worse.

The county commissioners recently approved a $26,340 state grant for additional security equipment at the courthouse. With this award, the county courthouse in Cripple Creek has received more than $100,000 in equipment, such as state-of-the-art video cameras, weapons, temporary prison cells and ballistic panels, in the last year and a half.

The latest award actually was actually about $15,000 less than what the commissioners proposed, based on the recommendations of court officials. With the commissioners’ action, a new contract for the additional equipment has been okayed between the county and the Colorado Judicial Department. No county dollars are required.

The extra funding request calls for an additional holding cell at the courthouse, ballistic panels, additional cameras and more PC and DVR capabilities, another taser gun, portable breath test equipment, more radio ear pieces and training.

This award didn’t prompt much debate.

A previous request had the commissioners at odds, with Board Chairman Bob Campbell describing the proposed security items as overkill and rivaling equipment in major municipalities. The other two commissioners didn’t have any problems since the county didn’t have to allocate any funds.

But the latest request wasn’t quite as ambitious.