polling

The polling place in the Basalt Library will remain free of firearms during this election and through the end of the year, as will other voter service center locations in Pitkin County, after the county commissioners heard concerns Wednesday about election worker safety.

The Pitkin Board of County Commissioners has temporarily banned all firearms in county-owned buildings, including county voter service and polling center locations, through Dec. 31.

The resolution was adopted unanimously by commissioners at their regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday after Pitkin County Clerk & Recorder Janice K. Vos Caudill expressed serious concerns about her staff’s safety during the coming election and holiday season.

“Last year we experienced someone who left obscene messages, so threatening, that the police pressed charges and it went to court and I thoroughly anticipate — [it’s] so disheartening to me and concerning — that it will escalate even more this year,” Vos Caudill said. “I don’t think it’s reasonable for staff to have to deal with this and I am very concerned for their safety.”

The resolution banning firearms in county-owned buildings and voter service centers was added to the commissioners’ agenda Wednesday after not being published in their original packet. BOCC chair Steve Child still allowed public comment for the added agenda item, however, none was heard.

“I think with the urgency of the election we should do this but ... this is a broad policy matter that I also think deserves broader conversation as well,” Commissioner Kelly McNicholas Kury said. “Revisiting it as a broader conversation in an appropriate manner that we would address with ... public notice and hearings is also appropriate for a future date.”

A talking point of that broader conversation might be whether or not the county bans firearms from its buildings permanently, as Commissioner George Newman suggested.

“I guess my question is, why don’t we have this ongoing, year-round?” Newman asked his colleagues Wednesday. “When you go to any federal building you have to go through metal detectors. Why don’t we just ban firearms in any of the county-owned buildings moving forward?”

Previously, only one county-owned building had been designated as being firearm free, Pitkin County Courthouse.

“What this does is, it completes the designation of county facilities that are open to the public, that are staffed by employees, that are designated now by the board, or would be designated by the board, as firearm free or prohibitive of firearms in the facility,” said John Ely, Pitkin County attorney.

In addition to prohibiting firearms in county-owned buildings through the end of the year, Wednesday’s resolution also bans firearms at county voter service and polling locations like the Aspen Jewish Community Center, Snowmass Village Town Hall and the Basalt Regional Library.

According to the resolution, the firearm ban applies to any person entering county-owned facilities with the exception of law enforcement officers. Commissioner Patti Clapper, who moved to approve the resolution, also wanted to see signage alerting people about the firearm ban posted as soon as possible.

“I want to finish by quoting the western hero Johnny Cash,” Commissioner Greg Poschman said during Wednesday’s discussion. “‘Don’t take your guns to town son, leave your guns at home, don’t take your guns to town.’ The song doesn’t end well for the protagonist of that song because he took his guns to town. It’s just — it’s an invitation for trouble.”

Matthew Bennett is a reporter for the Aspen Daily News. He can be reached at: matthew@aspendailynews.com