New Courthouse Could Model Prescott's 'Town Square' Concept

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After four months of research, the Gila County Facilities Planning Committee has determined that the county needs new jail, courthouse and county administration facilities within the next 20 years.

The group will recommend to the board of supervisors at its May 1 meeting that the county create a jail district to fund new detention facilities with a half-cent sales tax.

They will also recommend a general obligation bond to build courthouses in Globe and Payson.

If the board of supervisors approves these recommendations, they will be put on a ballot for voter approval.

At the May 1 meeting, the committee will also recommend that the new construction in Payson follow a "town square" concept that Supervisor Tommie Martin presented to them for a new courthouse, jail and expanded county facilities on the corner of Main Street and Highway 87.

Martin met with the facilities planning committee April 12 in Globe and presented several possible options for updating the current location of the jail and courthouse facilities in Payson.

Martin said that since 1918, the county has had a presence on the property that currently houses the jail and courthouse. She added that there isn't another piece of property in Payson that can boast that length of continuous use.

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These photos represent concepts used around the state for courthouse buildings. The Gila County Facilities Planning Committee will recommend a new courthouse to be built on the corner of Main Street and Highway 87. Any courthouse design, if funding is passed by voters, must be approved by the newly created Design Review Board.

She suggested that by reconfiguring the property and renovating the county buildings on the northwest corner of Main Street and Highway 87, the town could maintain its historical presence, as well as create an activities center that people would enjoy visiting.

Martin discussed options for the fa├žade of a possible jail and courthouse that could help beautify the area and create a centerpiece for Payson, much like the downtown square and courthouse in Prescott.

"Jails, in particular, do not look like jails people are accustomed to in the past," she said. "They are more secure and efficient than ever in removing dangerous people from society. We could not only have a highly functional facility, but an eye-catching one as well, wherever it is built."

Martin said she envisions an area on the same corner the county currently inhabits that would include bigger, better facilities, as well as a recreational town square that would provide a destination, rather than an obligation.

"If we were to build on our existing site, we could develop an integrated town square anchor point," she said. "With design and landscaping, this town square could become a gathering place for events of all kinds and a draw for the town."

Martin said that she wanted the jails committee to fully consider all the possibilities, in the event that the facilities would have to stay on the same corner due to cost-effectiveness.

"They're going to have to go a long way to find another option that's more cost-effective than this one," she said. "If we have to stay here, let's make it beautiful.

"It's most important to me that we get the most value for the investment because we're using taxpayer money."

Martin said that if the committee recommends and the board decides to stay on the current site, she wants to work with the town's recently approved Design Review Board, the historic Main Street committee and the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce to create something of which the community can be proud.

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