Jail Site Alternatives Never Researched By Anyone



Supervisor Tommie Martin recently made a presentation regarding the ballot measure for county facilities and jails. I asked Supervisor Martin what other sites had been considered by the volunteer Citizens Advisory Committee tasked with studying the topic and advising the board of supervisors. She pointed to a binder and said the answer to my question could be found in the minutes from the volunteer committee. I read the binder of minutes at the library. What I found was quite interesting, though not the answer I expected.

The volunteer committee started meeting in January. Initial meetings were spent with introductions and site tours. At an early March meeting the members discussed the need of studying different options. Committee member Ken Volz was quoted as saying the committee "needs 4-5 scenarios to compare. If we don't explore other options, the proposal will be tougher to sell to voters." Oddly, there was never any in-depth analysis of other options mentioned in follow-up minutes.

The March 29 minutes document discussions regarding the need to identify alternate sites besides the current location, as well as identify some development costs for these alternatives. An initial decision was made by the committee: "The committee strongly suggests, pending further information regarding project alternatives and timelines, that Gila County pursue a solution in Payson that takes the criminal justice facilities outside of downtown Payson. Approved without objection."

But at the very next meeting this decision was reversed after a presentation by Martin. The minutes show she asked the committee to take another look at the current site in Payson before dismissing it in favor of a building elsewhere.

She discussed the history of the location and that it could be a cornerstone of Main Street. Without any further site discussions, a new consensus agreement was made, overturning the decision made at the meeting of March 29.

The new agreement was: "The committee recommends that the County Board of Supervisors implement the "Town Square option" for rebuilding the jail and courthouse facilities in downtown Payson (Concept presented by Tommie Martin)."

Wow! What a change and with no discussion or analysis documented in the minutes as backup, other than an apparently persuasive presentation.

So, we apparently will never know whether other sites in town were viable choices, since an in-depth analysis of alternative locations, building costs, pros and cons, future expansion capacity has never taken place. So will voters be as gullible as the Citizens Advisory Committee? I hope not.

Kathy Patrick-Baas

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