Taxpayers Must Foot Bill For Improvements, County Says

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On Aug. 31, the towns of Star Valley and Payson sent a letter to the Gila County Board of Supervisors detailing their needs and wants, including:

  • An alternative highway route, also known as the bypass, for the two towns
  • Northern Gila County court facilities
  • A new satellite county jail for Payson
  • A full service county recorder's office for northern Gila County
  • A juvenile court system for northern Gila County

Supervisor Shirley Dawson, whose district includes Star Valley, said she understands the concerns and thinks it would be a good idea to discuss these items more in-depth.

"How can we come up with the (funds) to do any of those items?" Dawson asked.

To accomplish any of the requests in the letter, especially building more jails and courtrooms, would mean an increase in taxes, she said.

Any progress, she said, will take time because the county will not build temporary facilities as a short term solution. Temporary buildings often become permanent structures, even though they are not equipped for that kind of use.

"Having temporary facilities are Band-Aids," she said. "I would like to work on permanent solutions."

Dawson said she was not going to comment on the portion of the letter that read, "There is a general concern that tax monies generated in Northern Gila County are not proportionally distributed to fund services in the area," though she conceded there is a problem that needs to be addressed.

She said the county and the communities need to get together to talk about their mutual concerns.

Supervisor Tommie Martin said if residents want new facilities, they would end up paying for them.

In regards to the bypass, Martin said this issue comes up once a decade.

"It is not something we can take a lead on," she said. "To support it before the citizens decide is presumptuous for everyone."

She said the facilities in northern Gila County are adequate except for the Superior Court.

She added that the jail in Payson is not really a jail, but is a holding and processing facility.

"In no way can it be considered a satellite jail." Martin said. "The jail in Globe is the jail."

She said what the county needs is a jail that is connected to the courtroom for security reasons, and added, in six to 10 years the county will have to make a decision on where to put the new facilities.

Martin said the county has a $45 million bond authority, and added, doing all these things would take most of that amount.

She said the result would be an increase of $104 on property taxes for a home valued at $100,000 for 20 years.

"We can do anything," Martin said. "Right now, we have to decide how to pay for it. Taxpayers have to decide if they will foot the bill."

Board of Supervisor Chairman Joe Sanchez agreed that to do all of the things the two towns want would depend on the residents' willingness to pay for them.

"I think we need an organized approach so the entire county can benefit," he said. "Planning is very important."

Sanchez, like Dawson, said temporary buildings are not a viable solution. He said he would like to have a countywide meeting in the future to discuss plans.

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