What Would It Take To Change The County Seat?


Changing the county seat in Gila County from Globe to Payson is long overdue some supporters are saying, while opponents in Globe lament the impacts to their town if their largest employer were ever to leave.

Barbara Ganz, director of the Payson Regional Economic Center, said it is obvious that moving the county seat to the northern part of the county from the southern part would mean more jobs in Payson and fewer jobs in Globe.

"In my opinion that is the No. 1 reason why southern Gila County would oppose it vehemently," Ganz said. The cost to make the transition, she said, is another reason opponents are opposed to the move.

Gila County Supervisor Chairman Joe Sanchez said he is opposed to changing the county seat, adding it could cost as much as $100 million for all the changes that would be needed.

Sanchez said this idea of moving the county seat is not the first time the issue has been discussed.

He also said that decision is something the voters would have to decide.

"I personally think it would be a bad move," Sanchez said. "It is not in the best interests of the taxpayers of Gila County. There is no justification."

Ganz said workers commuting from Globe to Payson would not be out of the question, but added it would be tedious and quite expensive over time for drivers.

Ganz said it would be a different issue if Payson were just going to build a few buildings for services that are not available in Payson rather than moving all of the county services.

"Gila County is one of the few counties that has two separate population centers," Ganz said, talking about Globe and Payson, which are 90 miles from each other.

Payson Town Manager Fred Carpenter agreed with Ganz on there being more jobs in the Rim Country if the county seat was moved to Payson.

Most of these jobs, he added, would be county jobs that were once held by Globe residents.

"It would make things a lot easier (for certain items)," he said.

If the county seat was to move to Payson, residents in both communities could still be picked for a jury pool in the other town.

Carpenter said the law states that jury duty must be drawn from residents throughout the county.

He added that Globe probably was named the county seat when its population was larger than Payson's during the mining boom, though, there is no provision stating smaller towns cannot be the county seat. Payson is about twice the size of Globe, according to the latest census figures.

There are six steps that must be followed for a county to change its seat.

  • A petition signed by at least one-third of the county electors, who voted in the last election for governor, needs to be filed with the board of supervisors.
  • The board holds a public hearing to determine the sufficiency of the petition and the validity of the signatures.
  • If the signatures are deemed to be valid, the board submits the proposed change to voters at a special election between 30 to 90 days after the public hearing. If there is a general election within six months, the board must submit the question in that election.
  • For a city or town to be placed on the ballot as the county seat, 5 percent of the electors must sign a petition requesting that change. Before a city or town can be placed on the ballot, it must have a proposed site for a courthouse.
  • Sixty percent of the vote will be needed to change the county seat and more than 50 percent for a town or city to be named the new county seat.

• If an election for the change of county seat fails, a subsequent election for change of county seat cannot be held for six years. If the county seat is changed, it may not be changed again for 12 years.

Gila County District 1 Supervisor Tommie Martin said it would be tough to get the required 60 percent signatures required throughout the county.

She said if 100 percent of the registered voters in Payson and the surrounding area cast their ballots for a new county seat, it would not come close to the required 60 percent.

In 2006, there were 29,000 registered voters in the county so 17,500 signatures would be needed to put the issue on the ballot.

She said the combined voters who are registered in Payson, Pine, Strawberry and Star Valley and other nearby areas is 12,000.

"That is still 5,500 short," she said. "I do not think there are enough voters here."

Martin also said the primary reason Globe is the county seat is because it has a place to store records.

He said the cost to change the county seat could be monstrous.

"What we have to do is look at the benefits," the supervisor said. "Who does it benefit, how much will it cost, and are we willing to pay for it?"

Payson Mayor Bob Edwards said he is hopeful the other communities in the county would work with them to change the seat, so they would not need to go through the whole process.

"Our approach is to talk to other towns," Edwards said, adding the advantages would be that Payson would be getting the services it should be receiving now.

He said the three major areas are having a functional recorder's office to count votes in Payson on election nights, an adequate courtroom and juvenile detention facilities.

Edwards said not all of the county facilities would need to be in Payson or any other community.

Gordon Metcalf, a retired businessman who is heavily involved in Payson politics, said this issue has been attempted before, but was unsuccessful.

"I feel we should have a better court system in Payson," he said. "Our courts are in a sad state."

He said someday the county seat will have to be moved, because Payson is the center of the county with the most residents.

-- To reach Michael Maresh call 474-5251 ext. 112 or e-mail mmaresh@payson.com.

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