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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirFebruary 13, 20182min930

The Daily Sentinel in Grand Junction offers an update this week on the West Slope’s high hopes for landing a relocated U.S. Bureau of Land Management headquarters. The upshot? Keep the faith.

Reports the Sentinel’s Gary Harmon:

“More under this administration than any other administration, it’s highly likely,” Mesa County Commissioner Scott McInnis, a (former) six-term congressman, said of relocating the BLM headquarters.

“I think we’ve got a great chance” to land the agency, McInnis said, acknowledging that there will be in-state competition for the headquarters. …

… Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has been open to the idea of moving the headquarters, according to federal legislators who have discussed it with him.

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton and U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, both Colorado Republicans, have introduced companion measures calling for the BLM to be moved to a Western state.

But Harmon also notes:

…Zinke is considering reorganizing the way Interior manages its lands and resources, possibly by establishing offices along major river drainages.

The Colorado and Gunnison rivers meet in Grand Junction before flowing into Utah, making the city a potentially ideal location for such an initiative.

The BLM, Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Reclamation, all with significant presences already in Grand Junction, are Interior Department agencies that could be affected by a reorganization. The U.S. Forest Service, an Agriculture Department agency, also might be affected.

Either way, maybe, Grand Junction could get more federal FTEs and office space, whether it’s a new Western HQ for BLM or some other reorganization at Interior. As ever, we’ll stay tuned.


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Marianne GoodlandMarianne GoodlandFebruary 7, 20184min804

The continuing effort to close the Grand Junction campus* of the Grand Junction Regional Center, home to its last 22 residents, hit the House floor Wednesday morning.

Rep. Lois Landgraf, a Fountain Republican, offered an amendment to a supplemental budget bill that she said would escalate the closing of the campus and require those remaining residents to be placed in private group homes.

Landgraf’s amendment would take $2 million from the Department of Human Services budget and direct those funds toward transitioning the residents to “non-governmental community providers.”

That drew immediate protest, not only from the House members of the Joint Budget Committee, but from the Republican lawmakers who represent the Grand Junction community.

Landgraf pointed out that the Grand Junction center costs the state $11 million per year, roughly $1,100 per day per resident. The decision was made years ago that those with developmental disabilities shouldn’t be kept in institutions. “I understand these are high-needs people.” she said. “We’re not throwing them out on the streets.”

However, Rep. Dave Young, a Greeley Democrat who sits on the JBC, indicated that’s exactly what could happen. He told lawmakers that currently, there is no place for those residents to go; the group facilities that could care for these high-need individuals don’t exist.

Part of the reason for the center’s high cost is that its facilities are old. The Center started off as an Indian boarding school in 1885; its history as a development disability center dates back to 1921. The facility at one point held 800 residents.

Another factor: the last 22 residents require intensive care for medical and behavioral or psychiatric issues, in addition to their developmental disabilities, according to lawmakers.

The General Assembly has been working since 2014 to find a way to provide the best care possible for the remaining residents yet at the same time close the facility.

Young  told Colorado Politics that a 2016 bill dictates that the legislature come up with a plan for closing the Grand Junction campus that would move residents into community-based facilities. The law requires the Department of Human Services to put the campus up for sale on July 1. It also allows DHS to renovate a building and construct up to six new group homes, to address the lack of those facilities in the community. In addition to the campus, the regional center includes nine group homes in the Grand Junction area.

“This amendment would slow the progress” for that plan, said Republican Rep. Dan Thurlow of Grand Junction, who acknowledged that “everyone is frustrated with the pace of progress” on closing the center. “The plan is to provide the best care we can” for the remaining residents and they (along with their families) can choose where they should go.

Landgraf’s amendment failed on a voice vote.

 

Clarification: Updated to note that the amendment intended to deal only with the Grand Junction campus, not the entire Grand Junction Regional Center.