Fremont County Requests $2 Million For National Security, Prison Safety

Members of law enforcement and public employees in Fremont County, home to more than a dozen prisons including the Federal Supermax facility, are requesting that members of Colorado’s congressional delegation support $2 million in federal earmark funds to synchronize emergency radio frequencies in the county.

Prisons facilities, police agencies and fire departments do not currently have the technology to communicate with each other on a standard frequency, creating what local officials say is a national security debacle.The Fremont County Office of Emergency Management, based in Canon City, Colo., is asking Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn and Democratic lawmakers Rep. John Salazar and Sen. Ken Salazar to help fund the new radio program through a federal earmark, a congressional clause that allows legislators to direct funds to specific projects. 

All $2 million in funds would go to purchase standard 800 MHz Portable Radios for more than 30 law enforcement and emergency service providers, including a radio “extender” to ensure that the frequencies are able travel across the the vast and rocky terrain in the county.

In an appropriations request form that was submitted to Rep. Lamborn and obtained by Colorado Confidential, county emergency management office official Steve Morrisey states that the lack of communications between public safety agencies has created a national security problem:

Communications among and between Federal, State and Local agencies is an extremely difficult problem to solve due to the various radios, frequencies, talk groups that exist among the federal prisons, Department of Corrections, local and state law enforcement agencies, EMS and fire departments. If any emergency occurred that required the activation of any combination of those agencies the ability to communicate is of extreme importance. That ability does not exist among those agencies.

According to the earmark request, local funds and federal grants have only provided enough for the county to purchase 20 percent of the needed radio equipment, motivating local officials to apply for federal funds to synchronize frequencies.

Fremont County contains many rural areas where a majority of the agencies that are in need of the new equipment are staffed by community volunteers. The county is also home to the the federal government’s Supermax prison, also known as “Alcatraz of the Rockies,” which holds some the nation’s most violent inmates.

While lawmakers are still considering the request, local officials are working to organize support for the earmark funds. The Canon City Police Department and Fremont County Sheriff’s Office have already submitted letters of support to Rep. Lamborn. County commissioners are also in support of the funds request, according to Morrisey.

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at