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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

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1/31/2012 2:20:00 PM
Supervisors hash out 2012 plans; Sheriff calls Prescott jail 'big issue'
District 1 Supervisor Carol Springer: “The Camp Verde jail was too big for the need ... We have a big jail where we need a few beds and no jail where we need the most beds.”
District 1 Supervisor Carol Springer: “The Camp Verde jail was too big for the need ... We have a big jail where we need a few beds and no jail where we need the most beds.”
By Scott Orr
Contributing Reporter

CAMP VERDE - The Yavapai County Board of Supervisors met Monday in an informal all-day retreat that included frank, sometimes contentious, discussions on its past decisions and how the board will deal with their impacts in 2012.

The freewheeling session included talk about existing projects, such as the plans for parking decks to be built on county property in downtown Prescott, the county's need for a Prescott jail, and the planned Chino Valley waste transfer station.

The jail and parking decks are related, because the larger parking deck would be built at the site of the county building at 255 E. Gurley St. that formerly held the jail. Those facilities have been cut back as prisoners are now housed at the Camp Verde jail, and currently the Prescott jail is used only for booking and as a holding area for the courthouse.

A parking deck was originally planned for Gurley Street because the county wants to add more administrative offices in the building now that the prisoners are gone, and more parking would be required.

However, there may be a need to go back to housing prisoners in a jail there. Sheriff Scott Mascher said it was going to be a "big issue."

"We've got to have a Prescott jail, open 24 hours," he said, "at least for bookings."

District 1 Supervisor Carol Springer said, "The Camp Verde jail was too big for the need."

"We have a big jail where we need a few beds and no jail where we need the most beds," she said, pointing out that transporting prisoners from Camp Verde to the Prescott Courthouse is expensive.

With the uncertainty about a need for a Gurley Street parking deck, discussion turned to whether the smaller deck at the southwest corner of Marina and Union streets was needed.

Chip Davis, supervisor for district 3, noted that the City of Prescott's downtown parking garage on Granite Street was only at 15 percent capacity on most days and asked if more parking was needed at all.

Springer said many people, especially women walking alone, don't like the garage. "I won't park in it," she said. "It's scary."

The board moved on to talk about the county's property at 500 S. Marina St., which is currently used primarily by Development Services, a department that will be moving out of the building.

Board Chairman Tom Thurman, district 2, asked what they might do with the property. The building has significant problems, structural as well as asbestos, and will likely have to be torn down.

Springer said the location was very attractive to the City of Prescott and wondered if the county might offer the city a "deal it can't refuse."

The Chino Valley waste transfer station, which was on track to be built, has run into some trouble, Capital Improvements Coordinator Jim Holst said.

The property in question was originally slated for donation by Chino Valley. However, since the plan was introduced, the Town Council has turned over in an election.

Now, Springer said, there may be a feeling among town officials that the county "is trying to pull something over on the town" and it no longer wants to donate the land.

The county is currently looking at locations in and around Paulden.

As Holst explained what the costs might be for the proposed Prescott courthouse renovations, Davis spoke up. "When did the board discuss all these projects you just described?" he asked.

"Well, we discussed the sewer (improvements)," Thurman said.

Davis said he realized the courthouse renovations were a personal priority of Thurman's, but that the "board would have to approve the project."

Holst said the architect was working on preliminary design work and that nothing was set in stone yet.

"I would never try to do this without a vote," Thurman said.

Other topics included the make-up of various county boards and commissions, which will change when the county is divided into five supervisors' districts from the current three.

County Administrator Julie Ayers presented a summary of the anticipated budget, which, she said, was in good shape, as long as "projections and assumptions hold," and would be balanced, with no increase in wages or department budgets.

That budget allows for $1 million to replace old or worn-out Sheriff's vehicles, a need that was only partially filled in 2011.

"We need to make sure we are only doing what we are required to do under the law," said Springer, "and not going off and doing other things governments like to do."

Davis agreed, saying the board would have to be very conservative about spending until "at least 2014-15."

Taylor Waste

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