The Bent County Commissioners noted at their Feb. 28 meeting that they had traveled to Denver the day prior, where they met with Leroy Garcia, president of the Colorado Senate, and members of the Joint Budget Committee regarding private prisons and the impact they have on the rural communities in which they are situated.

During the BOCC meeting, the commissioners acknowledged that CoreCivic, operator of the Bent County Correctional Facility, is the largest employer in the county: It pays the most in taxes and purchases the most utilities of any enterprise in the area. The local prison was built by Bent County at the request of the state.

In his monthly report to the BOCC, Warden Jerry Roark said the prison currently houses 1,376 offenders, 90 of whom are veterans, and there are approximately 19 staff vacancies.

The private corrections management company will continue to advertise for a full-time instructor to lead a welding course for the inmates. Roark said every warden with CoreCivic wants the prisoners kept busy as an alternative to violence: 82 percent of the inmates are engaged in a program.

Jonna Parker, director of the county's Social Services department, told the commissioners that she met with the Early Learning Center officials on Feb. 27 to clarify budget and operating issues. She also announced the department plans to advertise for a child welfare case aide.

In her monthly report, Bent County Early Learning Center Director Crystal Redner reviewed capacity and staffing problems. She covered the six-month scholarship program for families, the Rawlings Grant and the Temple Buell Grant.

The playground should be completed in approximately four weeks, said Redner, and she mentioned the complete health physical required for employment is taking at least two weeks for processing. She said she will research methods and protocols for faster processing.

The commissioners also reviewed the plans for a roof over the handicap lift planned for the County Courthouse. Estimated costs of the project have increased from $75,000 to $107,000. Discussion ensued regarding replacing the current ramp versus installing a lift. The matter was tabled until further information and details are obtained.

Community Center signage costs were presented by County Administrator Calvin Feik, who also brought up the need for repair of several door closures at the center. Feik mentioned a problem with some county employees not using the time clock procedure properly. The commissioners stated that employees must clock in and out on the time clock for proper payment.

Due to the recent bomb threat, single entry sign-in was implemented at the courthouse in cooperation with the Bent County Sheriff’s Office, and the commissioners decided to hold a long-term single entry process meeting with Sheriff Jake Six.

After the monthly meeting was adjourned, local resident Alan Stump requested the county pass a resolution identifying it as a sanctuary county, similar to that recently approved by Fremont County. Commissioner Kim McDonnell responded by suggesting Stump request a place on next week’s meeting agenda as nothing can be presented or discussed after the meeting was adjourned.

The Board of County Commissioners meet at 9 a.m. the first, second and fourth Thursday of each month at the courthouse. The meetings are open to the public.