I-11 effort key element of Mohave County's future

Some worry the window to secure the project is closing

KINGMAN - It's going to require great effort and support from local officials to get an $88 million interchange built from Interstate 40 to U.S. 93 in Kingman, part of the future Interstate 11 corridor, Arizona Department of Transportation engineer Mike Kondelis said Monday.

"We know funding is stretched and it's very competitive," Kondelis told the Mohave County Board of Supervisors. "A lot of funds are in (road) preservation, which is very important."

Kondelis urged the board and county staff to attend a May 15 State Transportation Board meeting in Chino Valley regarding the interstate.

Supervisors took no action on the agenda item, which called for Mohave County activities supporting development of Interstate 11. Supervisor Gary Watson was absent from the meeting, and Supervisor Buster Johnson participated by phone.

Board Chairman Steve Moss noted that the I-11 interchange currently lacks funding, and said he wanted to attend the ADOT meeting to get more information.

Interstate 11 could be the greatest development for Kingman in the last 50 years, said Joe Hart, chief mine inspector for Arizona and former state legislator. He's worried that the window of opportunity is getting narrower.

"It scares me to death to think we don't have the funds in place for the I-40/U.S. 93 interchange," Hart said. "If you want to see what happens if we get bypassed, go to Williams or Seligman or Ash Fork."

Interstate 11 is moving along rapidly and Kingman must be a part of it, Hart said.

"We just need to bang this drum as long and as loud as we can," he said.

Hart remembers when funding for an interchange at Rattlesnake Wash in Kingman was part of ADOT's five-year plan. That money has since been removed from the plan and may never be restored, he said.

Kondelis said ADOT has studied the I-11 interchange for several years and established a location just east of the existing interchange. It would run more or less from Clack Canyon behind existing businesses and connect with U.S. 93 at Coyote Pass.

The purpose of Rattlesnake Wash is to serve Kingman Airport, not to go over the mountains and connect with U.S. 93. The thing both interchanges have in common right now is neither is funded, Kondelis said.

The ADOT engineer gave an overview of work on U.S. Highway 93 over the last 10 years. The focus has now turned to a stretch of the highway from Wikieup to Interstate 40, where seven projects have been completed and one is in progress. An interchange at Antelope Wash is expected to be completed in June.

In other items on the agenda:

Prison rates

The board voted 3-1 to have County Administrator Mike Hendrix and Office of Management and Budget Director Gene Hepler meet with city officials from Kingman, Bullhead City and Lake Havasu City to hash out new prisoner housing rates.

The board was asked to approve an increase in prisoner housing rates to $78 a day, with a $61 booking fee. The current rate is $69.50 a day.

Bullhead City manager Toby Cotter opposed the increase. Kingman and Lake Havasu City are already sending a significant number of prisoners to LaPaz County, he noted.

The underlying formula for determining prisoner housing rates is "flat-out flawed," Cotter told the board. Taking out $2.68 million in depreciation for the jail that was built with a quarter-cent increase in the sales tax, the actual cost for prisoner housing would be $64.50, he said.

"I have a problem with depreciation we all paid for and now we're paying for it again," Cotter said. "The GAO (Government Accounting Office) said they can do it, but that doesn't mean it's right."

There should also be some assumption for revenues collected, and that's not in the formula either, Cotter said.

Hepler said the actual depreciation is about $585,000, and that $2.1 million is taken out for building use allowance.

No to ranch

The board voted 4-0 not to pursue a purchase agreement with Michael Diedrich for a 40-acre portion of his 120-acre parcel in the Planet Ranch area of Mohave County, which includes a water well, for $120,000.

Health costs

The board delayed voting on a contract with Correct Care Solutions of Nashville, Tenn., to provide adult and juvenile inmate health care.

Don Bischoff, commander of Mohave County Sheriff's Office Detention Division, said the jail has a population of about 500 prisoners, which makes it difficult to control health care costs because you never know the extent of illnesses.

His office recently had to send an inmate to Phoenix for neurological examinations at a cost of about $70,000.

Bischoff said the sheriff's office worked with Rep. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, on legislation to cut health care costs in half when prisoners have to be sent to an outside facility.