El Paso County seal

El Paso County commissioners boosted funding for public health programs and road improvements in the nearly $375 million 2019 budget.

The budget, approved unanimously Thursday, increases support for El Paso County Public Health by $200,000.

Public health officials had pleased for more money, warning commissioners the agency was in danger of not being able to respond adequately in a crisis, such as an epidemic. The agency wants to hire several workers for environmental health inspections, identifying and controlling diseases and preparing for emergencies.

The agency also is considering purchasing equipment, starting health initiatives or ensuring current ones don’t end when grant funding dries up.

The budget also allots $7.5 million to “high impact road infrastructure.” That money may pay for local road improvements, such as gravel road maintenance, or the $350 million widening of Interstate 25 from Monument to Castle Rock. County spokesman Ryan Parsell told The Gazette on Tuesday that it hasn’t been decided where the funding will go.

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The county has committed to providing $15 million for the I-25 project, which broke ground shortly after Labor Day. During the last budgeting process, commissioners set aside $7.5 million for the widening. However, whether the county will contribute the full $15 million commitment is still in question.

Commissioners have said that they oppose the plan for a pair of toll lanes to widen the roughly 18-mile stretch from two to three lanes in each direction.

The budget includes about $130 million that commissioners allocated to core services and departments at their discretion. State and federal law and other restrictions require that the remainder of the budget fund specific programs and projects, such as human services.

Commissioners opted to put about $15 million toward “critical needs,” such as park maintenance, pay raises and information technology upgrades. That funding will also provide:

• Nearly $170,000 to help bring county facilities in line with requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act

• $25,000 for neighborhood and homeless camp cleanups

• More than $300,000 for the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office to hire more staff, including an investigator, senior paralegal, and deputy district attorney for the juvenile department

• $140,000 for the Coroner’s Office to hire an additional forensic pathologist

Jakob Rodgers contributed to this article.

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