With probation officers in Payson sharing offices and employees bumping into each other in narrow hallways, Judge Peter Cahill told the county supervisors Tuesday his patience has evaporated.
“We just wanted to make sure you understood our frustration,” said Cahill, flanked by an entourage of two court clerks and the county’s chief probation officer.
Payson’s probation offices now sit on the ground level of the county’s Beeline Highway complex.
The plan is to move Supervisor Tommie Martin’s office, along with associated county staff and planning and zoning, which is in
the same section, to another building. Three buildings are under consideration for the county to rent.
“The problem,” said Cahill, is “we’ve talked about alternatives for years and years and years.”
Voters rejected a bond election in 2007 for new court facilities and county officials have been contemplating solutions since. Supervisors said they would continue to discuss potential new buildings Tuesday.
Meanwhile, 21 regular probation staff work in a 2,500-square-foot office space, according to Chief Probation Officer Frank Owens.
“People have less than 100 square feet including all common areas,” he said, adding that typical public buildings offer every person at least 250 square feet.
Probation officers share office space, which Owens said makes discussing the sensitive matters that often arise difficult.
“We almost have to displace the other officer,” Owens said. When forced out of his office, an officer loses work time.
If a client became violent, Owens said the likelihood of injury is great because of crowding.
“I give great credit to the staff out there,” he added.
“Tolerating that environment — it shows the dedication of folks that I’ve got up there.”
Supervisor Shirley Dawson asked Cahill if moving upstairs would give the department adequate room.
“Depends on what ‘adequate’ means,” Cahill answered. “We can live with it.”
Supervisors told the judge that economic conditions have extended the meaning of short-term.
Any solution found would need to work for roughly five years — not one or two.
However, supervisors seemed grateful for the politeness of Cahill’s scolding, and they promised quick action.
Dawson said Cahill has the power to order the county to find new facilities because it’s the county’s responsibility to ensure the courts have adequate space.
County staff has whittled five possibilities for new buildings down to at least two — the Payson Womans Club and First American Title. Public Works Director Steve Stratton said he planned to also evaluate this week the Department of Economic Security building on Beeline Highway.
At 7,600 square feet, however, the space is larger than the 6,000 square feet county officials have said they need. The pre-negotiating price for the DES building is $1.36 per square foot, according to Stratton.
Deputy County Manager John Nelson previously said the county’s preferred price ranges from 50 cents to $1 per square foot, which would come out of the general fund.
The Main Street Grille, along with several other buildings on Main Street, have fallen out of consideration.
Stratton said the county would need to purchase the Main Street Grille building for $1.4 million if it wanted to use the kitchen area.
Leasing would preclude the county from using the kitchen area, which it would need for space.
The other Main Street buildings didn’t provide enough parking or building space, Stratton said.
The Payson Womans Club building has roughly 6,000 square feet, is handicapped accessible and has two parking lots, one of which it shares with the Senior Center. Nelson said previously it would cost roughly $3,000 per month.
Women in the Womans Club would continue to use the main meeting room two afternoons per month.
First American Title is 6,500 square feet. A real estate company now occupies part of the building, however, Stratton said that lease is up in March, and the company may not renew.
He would not divulge pricing information for First American Title, saying it was inappropriate to inform the media before informing the board.
Owens said, “I’m confident that the board is moving forward on something. How fast they are is the underlying issue.”