County To Build More Jail Cells For Juveniles

State funding bulk of $2.45-million detention project


Gila County is preparing to build a $2.45-million juvenile detention center in Globe to replace its 20-year-old juvenile jail -- a renovated nurses dorm.

The building wasn't designed to hold prisoners, Gila County Administrator Steve Besich said. "It's ill-suited for a detention center."

Juvenile offenders, including those from Payson, are still being housed in the 15-bed renovated nurses' dorm, which the state Chief Supreme Court Justice said "he wouldn't put a dog in," Besich said.

The new 26-bed detention center will be built and ready to open next fall, Besich said.

The county's juvenile detention center is operated by the Arizona Superior Court, which is under the supervision of the supreme court, Besich said.

The state has committed $2 million to the project and the county has agreed to pay $500,000, he said.

Originally, the jail was designed to hold 22 beds, but county administrators are working with the Superior Court to add four more beds to the project.

Besich said he's developed a funding strategy that would allow the county to add four more beds for an additional $60,000. The state, however, would have to agree to pay an additional $340,000, he said, and that's still up for negotiation.

"This appears to be a responsible approach to get more done for a good price -- while we still have a good price," Besich said.

"Today's prices are $100,000 per bed for a juvenile detention center," he said. "Without a whole lot of re-engineering, we can stretch it to 26 beds. Four more beds adds $400,000 to the project, which was bid at $2.2 million."

The county awarded the construction bid to the lowest of seven bidders, Sahara Inc. of Phoenix.

The 13,600-square-foot project, which includes a 12,400-square-foot building and a 1,200-square-foot fenced and screened exercise yard, will be built at the southwest corner of the county courthouse in Globe.

Old jail to be demolished

The old 15-bed jail will be demolished, said Stan Thompson, Gila County deputy director of engineering services. Buyers have expressed an interest in the land, he said.

The building plans for the new detention center will allow the county to add space for 24 more beds when needed, Besich said.

"We are hoping 26 (beds) will be sufficient for the next 10 or so years,"he said.

Forty-five juvenile offenders are on probation in Payson, and 15 beds aren't always enough to keep young violators behind bars, probation supervisor Steve Montgomery said.

"We transport our juveniles to Globe," he said. "Sometimes when the facility is full, we have to release them to a parent or Child Protective Services.

"But, if you have more space you may detain more."

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