The Gila Community College Governing Board has decided further study and legal review are needed before signing a 10-year agreement with Eastern Arizona College for college services.
An agreement between EAC and GCC also would settle reciprocal lawsuits between the two schools.
At a board meeting Monday on Gila Pueblo campus in Globe, vice chairman Bob Ashford told spectators he believed a decision should be made quickly because an April 1 deadline is looming to settle the lawsuits.
Following his comments, the board went into executive session. Later, the members took a lunch break before reconvening.
No call to the public was held.
Late in the afternoon, it was announced the board had agreed the matter was complex, and needed more study before a final decision could be made.
The negotiating team charged with studying the proposal and making a recommendation to the board is made up of County Manager John Nelson, Assistant Gila County Manager Steve Besich and GCC President Barbara Ganz.
Ganz said with the board's directive to continue to evaluate EAC's proposal, the three members are ready to carry on.
"We don't have any meeting scheduled yet, but we will soon," she said.
When Ashford called Monday's meeting only last week, the request was met with rancor because it was believed the two northern Gila County board members -- Ron Christensen and Larry Stephenson -- could not be present and the deal had not been reviewed by county attorneys.
Payson Mayor Barbara Brewer contacted Gila County Superior Court Judge Peter Cahill to ask for an injunction until all members were available. Cahill told the mayor that he couldn't do anything unless a formal request was made, Brewer said, and she didn't have time to make that request.
Gila County Legislative Liaison Lionel Martinez, GCC Director of Community Program Sarah Nelson and Ganz all joined in on the request to postpone the meeting until Christensen and Stephenson could be present.
The three pleaded that any potential deal with EAC should be made by the full five-member board because it would impact the next 10 years of higher education in Gila County.
Monday's meeting turned anticlimactic when Stephenson showed up and the board decided not to sign the contract.
Christensen, the board chairman, is expected to return to Payson later this week.