A few too many wrecked vehicles are rolling into Pueblo County Fleet Director Carl Chavez's shop this year.
"I had a couple that started right at the end of 2016 and it's kind of just snow-balled from there."
At least three of the vehicles were totaled, including a Sheriff's Office Patrol SUV. Chavez plans to fix what he can.
"I believe I can repair this vehicle," Chavez said while inspecting another wrecked Sheriff SUV. "It doesn't look to me like it has any structural damage, it's mostly cosmetic."
The $100,000 commissioners originally budgeted for him to replace vehicles is currently frozen. Commissioner Sal Pace explained that an appellate court ruled last fall that counties don't have the legal authority to collect special sales taxes on marijuana. So, the County is holding onto the money in case they need to issue a refund.
"Everything that's funded off the marijuana cash fund account we're putting on hold until we clean this situation up," Pace said.
Much of the $1.6 million raised through the sales tax was slated for repairs to the crumbling jail. Other projects included scientific research into medical cannabis at Colorado State University Pueblo, $200,000 for road paving projects in Pueblo West and even a youth basketball court.
The commissioners worked with Sheriff Taylor to scrape together enough money from other parts of the budget to buy four replacement squad cars. Chavez expects some insurance money to come in .
"What we do is try to acquire insurance money, combine them, and then out of two (claims) we might be able get one vehicle when it's all said and done."
In the meantime, Pueblo County is lobbying local state lawmakers to urge them to carry a bill giving local governments the legal authority the appellate court said they're missing to go ahead and keep the taxes.
"The voters in Pueblo County spoke overwhelmingly that they want this special marijuana tax, and we're fighting like heck to make sure that it's implemented," said Pace.