Jail And Courthouse Issues Underexposed



Make no mistake about it, new jail and court facilities in Globe and Payton could be good for both parts ofila County. Andoters expecthe Supervisorso promote thingshey believe are good fors.

However,hey and othersbtaining their sustenancerom the countyight be stretchingt some to makenly the "pro"oints.

Rightfully, thoseughto beresented by parties not connected to the county payroll. If the citizens' committee,nce charged withnvestigating the courthouse and jail improvement options, feels that its positions are that important,t should be the entity promoting them.Who could possibly present a better case in favorhan the group that came up with the options and the supposedly compelling reasons for them?
Informational pamphletsill be distributedrior tohe special elections in November, but as it stands right now, the county might be pushing the envelope relative to use of resources to influence the coming elections.
Gila County isn't the only entityppearing topply unduenfluence. A number ofayson Roundup readers feel it's not fair that theila County administration, both elected and unelected, is given wide latitude to argue the points in favor of the jail tax and court improvements, including what appears to be unfettered byline space in theaper,latantly promoting the county's pro stance.

Nor is itairhat thepposing position taken by large percentage ofesidents isn't givenreatment withimilar visibility. True, the paper has no obligation to provide in printny positions it doesn't itself support, and it is printing approximately equal amounts of letters to the editor. However, readers of most newspapers expect objectivity -- if not equity -- in coverage of controversial issues such as these.

The above said,hat follows are a few observations about the ballot issues facing Gila County votershis November.

A good number of northern Gila County residents have less than favorable opinionsf theourthouse bondssue. But, the most controversialart of the proposalppears to be theocation of the Payson "Campus."

An influential group ofim Country residents have no use for a county campus at the head-end of the Payson Main Street project.hey contend that there aret least twoetter locations for a county complex in the north. And folks who live in the south aren't enamored ofn expanded campus at any location.

Hordes of Gila southernerseel that an expanded county campus in Payson would clear the way forhe long-festeringovement in the north seeking to relocate the county seat. If the improvements are sufficient, andoom is made for expansiono includeustice, magistrate,uperior courts andffice space forupport services, it wouldn't take muchoevive the county seat movement. However, the deep-seated north-south rivalry could provide sufficient fodder to torpedo both the Payson Campus proposal and thelobe improvement package.

Theurpose of theourthouse improvements,othorth andouth, is to enhance the safety and security of the courts. In the not-so-distant past, at least one Payson defendantscaped via the courtroom door onto the Beeline Highway.

In Globe, number ofotorious criminalsave escapedustody, mere feet from the Globe courtrooms. So far,iviliansave noteendversely affected in either municipality.

Trouble is, Homeland Security hasn't created grants to keep criminals from taking it on the lam. And Gila County Emergency Services isn'tesponsible foreeing that public places are safe. Criminal defendantsre secured with belly chains, handcuffs and sometimes leg-irons, but no form of security can keep their friends and relations from secreting contrabandn public places likeeeting rooms, hallways, restrooms and elevators.

Consequently, the core purpose of the courthouse improvement proposal is tossure that no criminal defendant in custody willave the opportunity tondanger anyone in orround anyila County courtroom.

The Gila County Adult Detention facility in Globe was built decades ago, obsolete before its construction was complete. The Payson facility was never intended to be much more than a place toeepeopleor a few hours before theirnitial appearancesn front of magistrate or justice of the peace.

Neither facility meets the stringent requirements imposed by federal authorities. Both are chronically overcrowded and understaffed. Neither provides safe haven for the mentally impaired or physically challenged.

Theell-being of those entrusted toCSO's care, custody and control --s well ashat of the dedicated officers whoerve inhe twoacilities --as been compromised foruch of the last decade. Jails are not supposed to be nice places, but the people forced to live and work inside themre entitled to be secure in the limited spaces provided for them. nly upgrades to the existing Gila County Adult Detention facilities or the outright replacement of them will provide adequate solutions to these problems.
The Gila County Supervisors created the Gila County Jail District forwo purposes: First, topgrade or replace the existing jails by establishing modern "podular" type facilities and systemsn the north and south.

Second, to pay for the operation and maintenance of thepdated facilities and systems without further encumbrance uponhe General Fund in the future. To accomplish these goals the Jail District board proposed a 1/2 cent excise (sales) tax be added to the existing transaction privilege taxes across the county.

This would have the effect of increasing Gila County'sunicipal sales taxes to some of the highest in the state. The addition ofhe purportedly tiny 1/2 cent excise tax in Winkelman will increase the total sales tax there to 10.6 percent, Hayden will go up to 10.1 percent, Miami 9.6 percent, Payson 9.48 percent and Globe will rise to 9.1 percent. It is true that about a third of the sales tax revenues realizedn Gila County are generated by shoppers from out-of-county. It is also true thatwo-thirds of the proposed increase will come from the pockets of many who can ill-afford it.
These are pricklyroblems that each Gila County voter will have an opportunity to address at the ballot box in November.

Voters in both northern and southern Gila Countyre entitled to equal portions ofhyhese proposals should or should not be enacted. Let's hopehatoth elected and unelected officials,s well asolks who willxperience thelection's effects countywide, will share ample opportunities to air their views both pro and con during the weeks and months ahead.

J.E. "Ted" Thayer, Globe

Commenting has been disabled for this item.