Supervisors favor Colorado City over Scenic for new justice court

KINGMAN - The battle about where a new justice court would be located in the Arizona Strip area was finally decided by the Board of Supervisors Monday, but the war over the location may not yet be finished, according to Board Chairman Tom Sockwell.

It took the Board more than an hour to vote 2-1 to build the new courthouse in the Colorado City area, with Sockwell casting the deciding vote.

Supervisor Buster Johnson voted against the location.

The county accepted two donations of land in the Arizona Strip area for a new justice court in September.

The first parcel of 5 acres was donated by the Adair family and is located south of Colorado City in the Cane Beds area.

The second parcel of 7.5 acres was donated by the Black family and is located in the Scenic area. The Blacks also donated the digging of a well and $50,000 to help with the construction of a new courthouse. As soon as the item was brought up for discussion Monday, Johnson made a motion to move the court from its current location in Moccasin to Scenic.

Scenic has the greatest chance for future growth, he said.

"I wanted them (the courts) to take advantage of both property offers," Sockwell said Tuesday morning. "But they didn't seem to be interested in doing anything in the Scenic area."

Supervisor Gary Watson argued that a main courthouse should be built in the Colorado City area and a satellite court with a video link could be built in Scenic until the population increased enough to justify two full courts.

"It's unfortunate that this (new court) is being used as a political football," said Colorado City Town Manager David Darger, referring to the back and forth discussion between the supervisors as to where the new court would be built. "It's unfortunate that a bidding war (between two communities) has started over this."The Colorado City area currently has the largest population in the area. The new court should be built there, he said.

Sockwell thought it interesting that Colorado City was now fighting for the court, when Darger had previously told the Board that the town didn't want the new court or a new Sheriff's Office anywhere near it.

"This (the court) would be a major benefit to the area," said Sam Zetting from Centennial Park, another town a few miles from Colorado City. "It would be a major step in opening up some of these communities," he said.

Moving the court to Scenic, about two hours away, would be a major blow to the kids and teens in the area who seek counseling from Judge Mitchell Kalauli, who presides over the Moccasin Justice Court, he said. Having two courts, even if one was just a satellite court, may not be the best use of funds, Johnson said.

County Manager Ron Walker agreed, saying he wasn't sure there were enough funds in the county's capital improvement fund to support the construction of two courthouses.

Cerbat Justice Court Judge John Taylor and Kalauli also weighed in on the discussion.

The county judges voted recently to use nearly half a million dollars in funding from the state court system to build the new justice court in Colorado City side of the Arizona Strip area, Taylor said. He wasn't sure if there would be enough funds to build two facilities. Although, the courts might be able to find some funds to link a smaller facility in Scenic to one in Colorado City using video equipment, he said.

Kalauli said he was more than willing to work with the county wherever it decided to put the court, but, he warned, moving the court to the Scenic area may affect the ability of the court to function properly.

Many of the current employees may not want to make a two-hour drive to work every morning, he said. It takes more than a year to train a new court employee, and anything that affects the ability of the court to function properly might cause a constitutional issue between the courts and the Board, he said.

"Whenever one branch of government impedes another branch, a constitutional issue occurs," he said. "I'm not saying that applies here."

John Gall of Arizona Land Quest, representing the Black family, spoke out in favor of the Scenic location. Three major residential developments were planned for the area, he said.

During Monday's meeting, Sockwell seemed to favor placing the court in the Scenic area. The town of Mesquite, Nevada is considering a new multi-million dollar sports complex, which would push population growth in the Scenic area, he said.

"I finally said, the heck with it," Sockwell said Tuesday. "We weren't getting anywhere with it."

He seconded a motion made by Watson to put the court in the Colorado City area, but he said he wasn't particularly happy with the decision.

"I was afraid if it didn't go the way the courts wanted it, there would be a fiasco," Sockwell said. "I'm upset that the courts didn't even want to consider using both properties."

This may not be the end of the issue, Sockwell warned.