Department of Public Safety plans to divide the highway patrol district of Gila County were thwarted last week in part by the efforts of local officials.
When Gila County Supervisor Tommie Martin, Sheriff John Armer and Payson Mayor Kenny Evans learned DPS was planning to reshuffle the district by Feb. 5 and effectively split it up into several existing districts, they wrote the department and demanded the change halted.
Last week, Martin learned DPS had scrapped redistricting plans and the district would remain as is.
Martin argued that redistricting the patrol division, which currently covers all of Gila County plus Winslow, Fountain Hills and part of the San Carlos Reservation, made no sense.
“The lack of a singular point of contact for the Arizona Department of Public Safety within Gila County for any issues involving DPS services” would be a mistake, she said.
DPS planned to split up the district, giving Payson and Christopher Creek to the Prescott district, San Carlos to the Sierra Vista district, the South Beeline Highway to the Metro Phoenix district and Winslow to the Holbrook division, Martin said.
A DPS spokesperson said while discussions regarding the district were ongoing, “there are no plans to change anything at this time.”
Martin said DPS “absolutely had something in the works,” but after local officials wrote protesting the change, they halted plans.
“What were they thinking? It just didn’t make any sense,” she said. “To split up the district just makes it even worse.”
Gila County DPS deputies are charged with covering a large geographic area with limited resources.
Martin said removing the district and handing it off to other already busy districts would only add strain.
“Coordinating the emergency response efforts among the multitude of agencies will become much more difficult at times of crisis as the command officer will now be engaged in efforts in another county, effectively putting Gila County in a secondary position,” she said. “The citizens of Gila County deserve more, not less, attention.”