County’S Wish List Has $12m For Event Center

Supervisors seeking money for $346 million in bailout projects

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Gila County’s expanded, $346-million bailout wish list that emerged Tuesday included $12 million for a suggested pavilion at the Payson Event Center with a walkway beneath the highway to the casino. However, the list did not include jail facilities in Payson, although multiple options were listed for Globe’s justice buildings.

Since voters overwhelmingly defeated a bond last year to pay for new jail facilities, county officials have been searching for options.

Several ideas for Globe’s jail facilities appeared on Tuesday’s list, which expanded from last week’s $301 million worth of projects.

County supervisors are compiling the list in an effort to garner money from a possible $800-billion to $1.2-trillion stimulus package that Congress wants ready for President-elect Barack Obama to sign on Inauguration Day, according to Supervisor Tommie Martin.

Supervisors agreed on Tuesday to send the list to the county’s Washington, D.C. lobbyist, but stipulated that it would continue to evolve.

The cheapest jail option, a $12.8-million remodel including design and construction, would increase the number of beds from 152 to 244. While the sheriff’s office says the expansion would alleviate crowding, a remodel is its second choice.

As a first choice, the sheriff’s office is requesting a brand new $36.8 $36.8-million jail facility with 288 beds and room for future expansion, which would also accommodate the sheriff’s administrative offices and dispatch.

“This will totally eliminate the need for early releases and alternative housing,” the wish list states. Besides construction jobs, either option would require an additional 10 detention officers and two medical assistants.

A $750,000 women’s jail dorm, increasing the number of beds from 18 to 36, also appears on the list to relieve “extreme overcrowding.” The wish list states that the other option of sending women to another county would cost this county $65 per day per female, which does not include medical or transportation costs.

A new women’s dorm would require an increase of five detention officers.

Projects added to last week’s list included $21 million for thinning roughly 23,800 acres in the Payson and Pleasant Valley ranger districts.

Also included were three “environmentally friendly” projects previously on a separate list. A suggested $5 million green library in Pine, heated by biomass wood chips, along with $6 million for high-speed Internet access, appeared first because officials ordered the requests alphabetically.

“These are in alphabetical order,” said Gila County Public Works Director Steve Stratton. “This is the only safe way to present it to you,” he told the supervisors. Some officials were wary of expressing favoritism.

Previously, supervisors speculated that federal leaders would want “shovel-ready” projects, but Stratton said Tuesday that the leaders’ verbal intentions have not yet solidified.

“We’re not quite sure what the federal government is looking for because you hear so many things,” Stratton said.

Supervisors last week had disagreed about how to market their list — whether to prioritize it, as Supervisor Shirley Dawson advocated, or to splay out a “smorgasbord” of options, as Martin suggested.

“To me, this is like fishing,” Martin said Tuesday. “Let’s throw out a lot of bait.”

The most recent list has been divided into categories — facilities, flood control and Forest Service, followed by roads and wastewater as the alphabet dictates.

Only one person publicly addressed the board. A Tonto Basin resident pleaded for a bridge across Tonto Creek, and said that all three crossings were closed last year from Dec. 8 to March 10.

The bridge does appear on the wish list, but Martin said that even if the project fails to find funding through a stimulus package, other funding sources are possible.

Projects discussed, but not on the list, included a new wastewater lake near the event center and a solar energy electricity plant that Arizona Public Service and Gila Community College are discussing.

“We need to be showing leadership among our community,” Dawson said, adding that the project prioritizing should continue in the coming years to stay atop needs.

The public works department gathered the information for this list, and Dawson told Stratton that continued prioritizing is “not something your department by itself can accomplish.”

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