The Gila County Jails Committee met yesterday, Thursday, at the Payson campus of Gila Community College to discuss various scenarios for improving correctional facilities in the county -- either by revamping existing facilities or by building entirely new ones. With each meeting, the committee is moving one step closer toward a recommendation for the Gila County Board of Supervisors.
Supervisor Tommie Martin said she expects a recommendation from the committee by May.
The committee heard a presentation from Lonnie Brevick of Gila Management, LLC explaining the estimated cost and breakdown of each possibility -- a brand-new facility in Tonto Basin, reconstructed or new facilities in Globe and Payson.
As an example, rebuilding the jail in Payson on the current site was estimated to cost around $11,000,000.
Gila County Sheriff John Armer yielded questions from committee members about the feasibility of size estimates in each scenario and whether he thought law enforcement in the county would improve with a new facility.
Members of the committee asked Armer about how the expected increase in population for the county would affect the quality of law enforcement and restraints on a jail system.
Armer said he thinks a new jail with around 400 beds would service northern Gila County.
Armer responded to the question of whether justice was not being properly served in the county because of lack of room for offenders.
"I don't think there's any doubt about it," Armer said. "There are too many repeat offenders because they're back out on the street. The judicial system now is basically broken."
Armer said that a careful balancing between the size of the jail and the need for the jail is necessary to maximize its effectiveness and minimize the operating cost.
Al Poskanzer, jails committee appointee from the town of Payson, asked whether profit could be made from building a bigger jail with excess bed spaces and by leasing out the additional beds to other counties. The county could profit approximately $50 per day per bed in the jail, Poskanzer theorized.
Armer said that, if careful scaling was done, a profit could possibly be made.
Committee facilitator David Steele said the committee's responsibilities consist of three stages -- investigation, property development ideas and recommendations for the county board of supervisors. He suggested that the committee now begin to formulate recommendations for the board.
The committee has its next meetings scheduled for Thursday, April 12, in Globe and April 26 in Payson.