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4:32 AM Tue, Oct. 23rd

Board accepts donations for new AZ Strip courthouse

KINGMAN - The Board of Supervisors accepted two donations of land for a new justice court facility in the Arizona Strip area Tuesday but didn't make a decision on where the new facility will be built.

The Board accepted the first donation of about 5 acres from the Adair family. The property is located in Cane Beds, south of Colorado City.

It also accepted a second donation of about 7.5 acres in the Scenic area from the Black family. As part of the donation, the Black family also offered to drill a well and give $50,000 to help with the construction of the new court facility.

The current facility, a double-wide mobile office, is located in Moccasin, which is not adequate for the court's needs, said Dana Hlavac, deputy county manger of Justice Services.

John Gall from Arizona Land Quest, representing the Black family, told the board that there were several large subdevelopments planned for the Scenic area and studies showed that the population in the Scenic/ Beaver Dam area would grow to about 50,000 in the next 20 to 25 years. Many of the subdevelopments had already started construction on model homes.

Supervisor Buster Johnson commented that with the number of tickets coming out of the Scenic area and the donation of land from the Blacks, the new facility should be built in that area.

"We want to do everything we can to provide service to all our citizens," said Judge Mitch Kalauli from the Moccasin Justice Court. And while the majority of the traffic tickets came from the Interstate 15 area near Scenic and Beaver Dam, the majority of the current population was in the Colorado City area, he said. It was important to residents looking for restraining orders and other services to have easy access to a court facility. Placing the court in the Scenic area would require residents from Colorado City to travel a great distance, he said.

A very large area of open land without any major roads separates the Colorado City and Scenic areas of the Arizona Strip.

The current justice court in Moccasin has been held up as a good example of how to run a courthouse to the rest of the state, Kalauli said. He feared that splitting the courthouse between two areas or moving it to the Scenic area would reduce the effectiveness of the court.

Supervisor Gary Watson offered a compromise: Why not build two smaller facilities. The county could move the current mobile building used by the Mohave County Sheriff's and County Attorney's offices onto the property in Cane Beds and add a small court facility to it, then build a court facility in Scenic as well.

Both Kalauli and Kingman Justice Court Judge Robert Taylor agreed that at sometime in the future two courthouses would be necessary for the area, but the courts did not have the money to fund the construction of two facilities now.

Taylor said that the court had looked into the possibility of purchasing equipment to do video conferencing between the Scenic area and the new courthouse. "To relocate would impact the function of the court," said Presiding Mohave County Superior Court Judge Randolph Bartlett. "We do want to provide service to all, but we don't have the funds to build two."

The current population center was in the Colorado City area; the growth for the Scenic area may or may not come in the next 20 years, he said.

"We're supposed to look to the future and build where the population is going to be," Johnson said. If the county didn't have enough funds for two court buildings, then the court should go where the greatest growth in population and the greatest number of filings were coming from, he said. And that would be in the Scenic area.

Johnson had stated in previous meetings that he would prefer the court and the Sheriff's Office stay in the Colorado City area. After Tuesday's meeting, he said he now felt that the residents in the area would be better served if the court was in an area of high population growth.

Watson remained firm on his solution of two smaller courts. He had spoken to several contractors from the area who might consider donating their time and services to the construction of two courts.

Watson made a motion asking staff to review all offers of donations of time, funds and services for the construction of one or more court facilities in the Arizona Strip area and to report back to the Board at its Oct. 5 meeting.

The Board unanimously accepted the two donations of land and the donation of $50,000 from the Black family, but voted 2 to 1, with Johnson dissenting, on postponing the decision of a location for the new court facility.