Gilpin County Corner with roger Baker

Regular readers will know that Gilpin County has, to put it mildly, a rocky relationship with the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.

It was DOLA we were fighting with about the Employee Residence Reports that largely determine our share of the mineral impact grant monies.

And it’s DOLA that we continue to struggle with about the very similar gaming impact grant program funding.

As I’ve written before, the gaming impact grant program was created in the early rush of legislation that was passed in the 1991 session after limited stakes gaming was authorized in the election of November, 1990.

Originally established as the Contiguous County Gaming Impact Fund, the intent was to use some of the state’s 50% share of gaming taxes to mitigate impacts in communities adjacent to the two gaming counties of Teller and Gilpin, communities which saw some negative impacts—traffic, crime—but didn’t receive any of the taxes to deal with these issues.

At the instigation of Teller County, in 1997 the legislation was changed to allow those two gaming counties to apply for funding, and Teller County immediately—and profligately—began to do so. Despite the fact that Teller County receives gaming taxes directly—around $2 million a year—they also began to seek funding from this DOLA program for a variety of capital and operational projects.

To date, Teller County government has received over $16 million in this funding; counting their local non-profit agencies and other area grant recipients, the total is around $30 million. That’s more than the total for Clear Creek County (about $13 million), El Paso County ($5.5 million) or Jefferson County ($8.5 million), the “contiguous counties” for which the grant program was created in the first place.

That doesn’t seem fair to us, nor does the current allocation process that seems slanted against Gilpin County. Last year, for example, both Teller County and Gilpin County put in applications for funding our jail operations, based on the percentage of our inmates that are there because of gaming.

Gilpin County (which is where about 80% of the state’s gaming takes place) could demonstrate that it had 741 gaming-related inmates, and asked for a proportionate share of its operating expenses at the jail, or about $1.5 million.

Teller claimed 241 such inmates, and asked for 39% of its operating costs, about $600,000.

But when the awards were announced, Teller received almost 53% of its funding request, about $318,000; not only did Gilpin receive a lower percentage of the amount requested, just under 25%, but it actually received less money overall ($288,000).

And when you figure out the funding provided per gaming-related inmate, the discrepancy is pretty shocking: Teller County received about $1800 for every such inmate; Gilpin County, $388. Why?

Even worse, there’s a review committee—politicians, bureaucrats, and non-profit agencies staff—who review the requests and rate them for the DOLA Executive Director, who makes the final funding decision. That committee gave the Gilpin application a score of 27.11; Teller’s was considerably lower, at 24.44. So what gives? Does the committee’s recommendation matter at all?

These problems are particularly fresh in our minds right now, since the committee in question is holding its hearings to review the 2015 grant applications here at the Old Courthouse in Central City next week. Presentations start at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, October 1, with—fittingly—the application from the Gilpin County jail. The presentations continue the rest of the afternoon, with several Teller County associated agencies, then the Teller County governmental agencies after a 3 o’clock break.

Most of the non-gaming jurisdictions—La Plata County and the Native American gaming communities by video conference, and the remaining contiguous counties and cities—present the next day, starting at 8:30. The testimony by the applicants is always interesting, and the committee members ask thoughtful questions. The whole process is fascinating, and kind of fun. And, apparently, completely irrelevant to the outcome.