The infamous Bell Brothers may finally discharge their guns as the hub of law enforcement in Cripple Creek.
And giving up weapons isn’t an easy task for the controversial civic icons, who knew a thing or two about law and order in the Creek and silencing striking miners. Their legacy led to an 1896 historic building, which once served as a grocery store and a county garage, discovering renewed life as the local police station. More surprisingly, it manned the reins of local law enforcement for two decades near the county courthouse.
But the days of the Bell Brothers building serving as the local police headquarters in Cripple Creek may be screeching to a halt.
Although no official action was taken, the Cripple Creek City Council signaled the thumbs-up last week for a plan by CC Police Chief Mike Rulo to pursue a new location at the east end of town near the Gold King Mountain Inn, near the Wildwood casino.
With the new location, the police station would double in size and encompass a 20-lot area.
During a public workshop last week, Rulo, who actually played a key role in the construction of a police station in Woodland Park when he was chief there, didn’t have to do much arm-twisting in convincing city leaders that the town desperately needs a new cop shop. The police chief and Dispatch Supervisor Diann Pritchard unveiled a laundry list of slides indicating a facility that features many safety hazards, over-crowded working areas, a freezing lobby, inadequate holding cells, and parking, tiny hallways, leaking pipes and many questionable code problems with uncovered wires. The slides also depicted a slew of technological woes in the facility
For many visitors, the Bell Brothers’ cop shop signature feature may be its historic, steep stairway that tests the lung capacity of many hearty tourists. “We got some serious concerns,” said Rulo, who noted that the 3,000 square-foot building was condemned in 2002.
New Police Digs
But a law enforcement solution is on the horizon, according to officials. Rulo believes that the agency has a realistic, cost-effective opportunity of constructing an approximately 7,500 square-foot, one-story facility for about $1.9 million on city property off Hwy. 67. The area is located between the Colorado Department of Transportation facility and the Gold King Mountain Inn, owned by the Wildwood. “It doubles the structure of what we have now,” said the chief.
More importantly, he presented the opportunity of obtaining a good portion of grant money for the project from the state Department of Local Affairs. Officials from the state agency are planning on doing a site visit in Cripple Creek shortly to evaluate this potential project and other highway and trial improvements the town wants to pursue along Teller One. Altogether, Cripple Creek is hedging its bets on some major multi-million dollar contributions from DOLA in the next few years.
If the project moves forward, the police station could get constructed in 2018. “To me, it is a pretty good site,” said City Administrator Ray DuBois. At the same time, DuBois cautioned the council that it’s not “a slam duck” that the city will receive favorable approval from the state, despite the horrific condition of its current facility.
But he encouraged the council to move ahead in evaluating the feasibility of the project by enlisting the help of a specialized program associated with the University of Colorado, which can perform a needs feasibility study for a future police facility. The cost of this study is estimated at about $5,500. The council and the police chief favored going ahead with the study, but couldn’t take official action because last week’s discussion occurred at a work session
DuBois doesn’t believe that the city will have trouble in submitting a variety of DOLA grants.
“If we show the passion, they will go for it,” said DuBois.
The council agreed, but made it clear they view a new cop shop as a top priority among current projects seeking state grants.
Rulo also said his agency has other funds it could invest into the project from grants. “We have $600,000 in the bank,” said the police chief. “This is a win-win,” said Rulo, when discussing the new plan
Some worried, though, that the forthcoming police station may not be big enough and the department should address future growth projections. Rulo, however, expressed confidence in building a station between 7,500 and 10,000-square feet. And city officials and leaders agreed that the town would better its options by constructing a new facility, instead of trying to refurbish a current building. This is what happened with the Bell Brothers project and what stymied the agency in its pursuit of alternative facilities. At one time, the city even considered setting up its police shop inside the old Teller County Jail.
If the state grant doesn’t work, the city could pursue other alternatives such as a bond issue or by issuing certificates of participation (COP) monies, which amount to annual lease payments with the establishing of a non-profit corporation. However, COPs have generated much controversy, with some viewing this as an “end-run” around putting the issue to a vote.
In any case, the era of the Bell Brothers building in Cripple Creek may be coming to an end, or at the very least, may take a dramatic change.