County's search for land in Colorado City stirs controversy

Residents from town, judge from Moccasin air concerns at BOS meeting

KINGMAN - Mohave County's search for a new county services building in the Arizona Strip area continues to stir controversy.

The Board of Supervisors heard concerns from two Colorado City residents and a Moccasin Justice Court judge Monday morning against the sale of property to county and co-locating the Mohave County Justice Court with other county and state offices within Colorado City.

The county's lease on a parcel of land owned by Mohave Community College expired on April 1 and the college decided not to renew the lease. The county now has six months to remove a mobile trailer that houses offices for the Mohave County Sheriff's Office, the Arizona Department of Economic Safety, the County Attorney's Office and the Arizona Attorney General's Office, along with a non-profit organization called Defenders of the Children.

County Public Works Director Mike Hendrix updated county supervisors on the search for a new property during Monday's Board meeting.

The county was originally looking at eight properties in the Arizona Strip area. Staff was able to narrow the selection down to three. All three lots are more than acre in size. Two of the lots are located in Colorado City and the third is in Fredonia. The lots are selling for between $26,000 and $30,000. However, the county would probably have to invest more than $50,000 in the Fredonia lot in order to upgrade the water system and install a sewer or septic system.

The United Effort Plan Trust, which is owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, owns both lots in Colorado City. The trust owns and operates land, businesses and homes in the Colorado City area.

In 2005, the trust was placed in the care of a Utah court appointed fiduciary after allegations were made that Warren Jeffs and other trustees were misappropriating funds from the trust. Attorneys from the FLDS and the Utah Attorney General's Office are supposed to meet today in order to discuss returning control of the trust to the FLDS.

Spencer Black, a resident from Colorado City, objected to the county purchasing one of the Colorado City properties. His family donated the land to the UEP trust many years ago so the FLDS could use the property to support the community. He would prefer that the property stay with the UEP.

He was willing to fight the sale of the property to the county, he said.

Leann Barlow, another Colorado City resident, objected to the county purchasing the other lot located in Colorado City for the same reasons. Her family donated the property to the trust several years ago, although she could not remember exactly when, and she was also prepared to fight the sale of the property.

The sale of the two Colorado City properties was not something the county had any control over, County Attorney Bill Ekstrom said. The UEP trust was in control of the property. The county was merely looking for property to purchase.

Moccasin Justice Court Judge Mitch Kalauli recommended against co-locating a new Justice Court and the sheriff's, county attorney's and other state offices in or near Colorado City.

The Moccasin Justice Court is currently located in Moccasin and is in need of a new building, said Mohave County Court Administrator Kip Anderson. The Mohave County Courts have placed funds aside in order to purchase or build a new office for the court. When the lease expired on the building housing the other county offices in Colorado City, the county and court administration offices discussed the possibility of combining the courts and the other county and state offices into one building.

However, locating the court within Colorado City could create political problems for the court, Kalauli said.

"It is my ethical obligation to make sure the court is a non-political entity," he said. "I do believe that putting the court in the town of Colorado City makes it a political entity or makes it available for political purposes.

"Once we do that (place the court in Colorado City) then we open up doors for a lot of other things to happen," Kalauli said. "Including the public perceiving the court as being biased. That is my greatest concern. I believe that the people from Beaver Dam would rather the court was not in Colorado City. I believe the people from Colorado City would rather the court was not in Colorado City. I believe the people from Cane Beds and Moccasin would rather the court was not in Colorado City."

Supervisor Buster Johnson asked if it wouldn't be an inconvenience to residents in Beaver Dam and other areas to drive to Fredonia. Fredonia is located near the boarder of Mohave and Coconino counties. Beaver Dam is located near the intersection of the Arizona, Nevada and Utah state boundaries. It's a more than a 100-mile drive from Beaver Dam to Fredonia.

While it would be inconvenient, Kalauli said, most Beaver Dam residents he has spoken to would prefer the court stay in a non-political area.

Supervisor Gary Watson asked if it would be better to locate the court somewhere between Colorado City and Moccasin.

That was a possibility, Kalauli said, however there were no auto, food or other services between Colorado City and Moccasin. Another option he said might be to have a smaller building in Colorado City for the sheriff's and county attorney's offices and a larger building elsewhere for the court and the other county offices to share.

Colorado City Manager David Darger also requested the county consider another location other than Colorado City and include input from the members of the Colorado City government.

Watson asked Darger if he would be willing to supply a list of potential properties in or near Colorado City that would be acceptable to the community.

Darger said he would look into it.

Watson then made a motion to give the Public Works Department another two weeks to locate a suitable property for a new county building. The motion passed with a unanimous vote.