City eyes ways to foot detox bill
Aspen Times Staff Writer
Get arrested in a bar fight in Aspen and you may find yourself digging a little deeper into your pocket to pay the fine.
The city is exploring various ways to pay the bill it gets from Colorado West Regional Mental Health every time the police transport someone to the agency’s detoxification unit in Glenwood Springs.
Though the individuals throwing punches in the bar may never wind up in detox, a surcharge on municipal court fines is one way the city could help offset the cost of detox, according to Aspen Police Chief Loren Ryerson.
“We’re looking for revenue sources to fund that in some kind of palatable approach,” he said.
The city’s 2003 budget includes a $16,000 general fund appropriation to cover detox charges. That sum includes about $6,000 to cover detox bills for the latter half of this year.
“It’s always a hard issue to budget for because it depends on use,” Ryerson said.
How many individuals the police will take to the detox unit in any given year is anybody’s guess, the chief said.
The cost of the treatment, however, could be covered in part by a surcharge on municipal fines ? either for alcohol-related offenses or all types of offenses.
Drunk driving offenses ? an obvious violation to tap ? are actually handled in county court, rather than municipal court.
“The county court system already has a surcharge that supports Tipsy Taxi and detox issues,” Ryerson said. “We’re looking at a similar system for the municipal court.”
A municipal fine can go as high as $1,000, but it’s rare to see one even in the $500 range, he said. Typical municipal fines are about $250, according to Ryerson.
Although drunk driving cases don’t go to municipal court, various offenses, like disorderly conduct, often involve alcohol, he noted.
“There are a certain number of crimes that do rarely occur without some type of substance involved,” he said. “In domestic violence, for example, that is almost always a component.”
The cases that result from domestic violence, however, also rarely land in municipal court, Ryerson added.
The city is also looking to involve its liquor board in the detox funding issue. When the board reviews liquor-license violations, it could levy a higher fine with the intent of dedicating some of the money to the detox budget, Ryerson said.
The chief also wonders if the cost of liquor licenses could be adjusted. Currently, a full liquor license in the city costs $1,768 annually; another $500 goes to the state.
None of the revenue sources now under review are likely to cover the city’s detox costs in full, Ryerson added.
“It would still need to be subsidized,” he said.
[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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