New Courthouse Could Be A Catalyst In Our Town

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On November's ballot, you will be asked to approve two new taxes -- one to fund the construction of a new courthouse and another to fund new jail facilities in Payson and Globe.

We know that taxes are a dirty word. We know that most of us struggle to make ends meet and it seems that the government tin cup is always in front of us.

But this is a need that can't be overlooked any longer.

For years, in these editorial pages we have expressed our embarrassment at the conditions of the courts and jails in Payson. They are unsafe and unacceptable.

In November, voters will be asked to authorize the county to issue $16 million in general obligation bonds to construct criminal justice centers and fund related services, which will be repaid through county property taxes that would equal $8 per $100,000 of assessed value.

To fund new jails, a county jail district will be created -- a taxing entity already in place in most counties across Arizona. According to state statute, a jail district can levy up to a half-cent sales tax or 50 cents per 100 dollars for 20 years. That would raise $3 million per year, if it is approved in November by the voters.

Voters will also be asked to approve a half-cent sales tax for a jail district to construct and operate jails.

Taxes are always a blow, but we believe the need is real and our county government approached this request in the correct way -- through citizen involvement.

At the beginning of this year, 18 volunteer citizen members of a jails review committee began touring facilities around Gila County and the state of Arizona to determine our needs and to recommend the best solution.

The jails committee included three members from each district in the county, including delegates from the tribe and each town in Gila County.

The committee members were not elected officials and did not work for elected officials.

They used what they learned from site visits and from asking questions of the experts.

Their recommendation has been made and the request is already set for November's ballot.

Though no one has submitted final plans for a courthouse in Payson, the discussion is heading toward the use of the current lot that now houses the county offices at the corner of Main Street and the Beeline Highway.

If a courthouse is built at this location, it is not only a chance for justice to be better served in northern Gila County, but it is also a chance to build a centerpiece for our town.

Many small towns have a courthouse that is a visual and social focal point.

If voters approve this tax, we should also ensure that the design of the building and the layout of the lot stays with the Western spirit of the Rim Country and acts as an entryway to Main Street to the west and the rest of Payson to the north.

Though we would not duplicate the courthouse in Prescott, we could look at the function that building serves in that small town. It is a gathering place. And that should be one of our goals -- to create a justice facility that is not only functional inside, but outside as well. A place we can all be proud of -- a catalyst for the changing design of our town.

Any questions about this project may be directed to Tommie Martin at (928) 474-2029 or e-mail tmartin@co.gila.az.us. She also has an opinion line, if you only want to leave a message with your thoughts. Call (928) 472-5353.

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