|Heil Pueblo County
Pueblo County set to break ground on new jail and Joe Martinez extension in spring 2022
James Bartolo | The Pueblo Chieftain
PUEBLO COUNTY COMMISSIONERS are intent on having a "net zero" emissions county jail along with an extension of Joe Martinez Boulevard by October 2024.
In an effort to ease traffic congestion, the Joe Martinez Boulevard extension will connect Pueblo West to West 24th Street in Pueblo. The new 650-bed jail will be constructed on property currently owned by Comanche Corp. located west of Pueblo Boulevard along the proposed Joe Martinez Boulevard extension.
"Our goal is to make a net-zero energy which basically means that it produces more energy than what it consumes," Pueblo County Commissioner Garrison Ortiz said. "We intend to do that through two methods. One is to have geothermal technology within the jail coupled with solar production as well."
In addition to being a zero-emissions facility, the new jail also will house an infirmary for inmates to receive medical care and reduce the need for transport to local hospitals.
"Our hospitals can not take any more pressure at this time," Ortiz said. "Having that infirmary in house is going to be a huge benefit. It will allow us to treat folks better with mental health and substance abuse conditions."
Pueblo County has received preliminary commitments in negotiations with Comanche Corp. to acquire 35 acres to build the jail structure, a parking lot, a solar array and an electronic vehicle charging plaza. An additional 35 acres adjacent to the jail property will be retained for commercial development.
"There has been a lot of discussion about the need for more charging stations," Ortiz said.
"We thought of putting not just an EV charging stationÖ letís put a plaza, put a multitude of fast-charging stations where people can pull off when they are passing through our community, whether they are heading north to south or east to west.
"They are going to stop and they are going to frequent and patronize these businesses that are in that area."
The Joe Martinez Boulevard extension is currently conceived as a 3.1-mile roadway connecting Purcell and Pueblo boulevards, according to an Intergovernmental Agreement drafted by Pueblo County Government.
Travel on the roadway's four lanes is conceived at a 45 miles per hour speed.
"The Project will also include a multi-modal lane to carry bicyclists, e-bikes, and e-scooters... the roadway will include two concrete box culverts in order to cross over the creek that runs through the area," according to the IGA.
Other aspects of the proposed Joe Martinez extension include lighting throughout the roadway and signalization at the Purcell and Pueblo Boulevard intersections. A trail system will connect Pueblo West and City of Pueblo Recreational Trail Systems.
Project costs are expected to increase from current $115 million
The estimated total costs for the project are $115 million. Funds will be generated through a 2019 voter-approved ballot initiative that increased the retail sales tax for marijuana from 3.5% to 6%. Overage from the sales tax increase is committed to public safety as part of the ballot initiative.
"We have this money that is not going into regular operations," Pueblo County Budget and Finance Director Ashley Huggins said. "Itís going to be used specifically for its own project. Itís for public safety, which is tied into this project. Thatís a new revenue source, so we are not taking from any county operations."
While the county does not intend to increase obligation to the general fund, the county is expecting accounting for possible budget increases beyond the current $115 million. Some expected budget increases are related to the costs of building a zero-emissions facility, Ortiz said.
"Ultimately, we are having two studies procured to show the community what the total economic development of these projects will be from a property tax, sales tax, just a jobs standpoint," Ortiz said.
"We have those two studies underway and they will be complete here very soon."
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Other next steps for the project approval of the IGA by the City of Pueblo, Pueblo West Metro District, Pueblo Board of Water Works and the Pueblo Urban Renewal Authority.
"The IGA is designed to show intergovernmental support for the Joe Martinez extension project and the new Sheriff's Detention Facility," according to a brochure printed by Pueblo County government.
"Each of the governmental/quasi-governmental entities must work together to meet the multi-faceted needs of the projects."
Pueblo Chieftain reporter James Bartolo can be reached by email at JBartolo@gannett.com