Funding delayed for Mohave County's new courthouse

Recent budget issues have slowed progress on engineering and design

KINGMAN - It could be five years before construction begins on the new Mohave County courthouse that was approved in January at a projected cost of $21 million, as recent budget issues have slowed progress on engineering and design.

The Board of Supervisors on Monday voted 4-1, with Supervisor Buster Johnson opposed, to delay approving funding for architectural services for the courthouse construction and remodeling of the historic courthouse until April.

Kip Anderson, Mohave County Superior Court administrator, brought the item before the board to identify and approve $2.5 million for architectural design services, the first step toward construction.

Anderson said he recognizes the county's tough budget issues, which included having to make up for $3.8 million in state funding "sweeps" and decreased property tax revenue, but the courthouse has been a priority for quite some time.

He cited problems with the building's security and flow of prisoners through areas where court staff works, which has led to inappropriate comments and behavior from prisoners.

In a separate item, Anderson asked the board to authorize spending $30,000 of State Justice Institute funds, plus another $50,000 to be transferred from Superior Court improvement funds, to procure the services of the National Center for State Courts.

The board again voted 4-1 (Johnson opposed) to continue the item until April, with a notice from Anderson should the $30,000 grant become jeopardized.

Presiding Superior Court Judge Charles Gurtler requested the board use money from the contingency fund to hire an architect, noting that the contingency fund is at its largest in 10 years.

Finance director Coral Loyd said she's concerned about spending $2.5 million on architectural services when the county is struggling to pay its bills from month to month, and full funding of PILT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) didn't come through.

"This is definitely not the highest fund balance as we've ever been," she said. "This is as close as we've ever been."

Supervisor Hildy Angius said it seems the number she hears for architectural services keeps changing. It was once around $1 million.

What happened, Gurtler explained, was the architect put in certain contingency items and mandated services for Public Works, and what initially looked like $1.4 million is now closer to $2 million.

Supervisor Gary Watson said he wants to identify a funding source that would give Anderson the product he wants.

"What I'm hesitant about is giving funding for part of that. I'd hate to see us pull back on the project in order to fit the funding," Watson said.

County Administrator Mike Hendrix said construction of the courthouse wouldn't start until there is sufficient funding to pay for it or a guaranteed resource for funding. The contingency fund carries the county on a monthly basis until property taxes are received, and it has to be kept at a sufficient amount, he said.

Gurtler said he doesn't anticipate having an architect before November of December if the funding were approved, and then it would take four to seven months to draw up the plans, based on past history. Those plans would have to be approved by the county.

"We're talking the end of 2017, early 2018. With the construction contract, you're looking at 2020," Gurtler said.

The courthouse was first on the list when the quarter-cent sales tax increase was approved, but things have changed, Angius said.

"We found ourselves in an unfortunate situation. I apologize that the courthouse has to wait," she told Gurtler and Anderson.