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Mon, Nov. 11

Mohave County looks at $30M worth of building needs
Besides a courthouse, priorities in flux

KINGMAN - When it comes to what Mohave County needs most, a new courthouse comes first, hands-down, according to elected officials and staff.

But there are other buildings on the to-do list as well - a morgue, an animal shelter, a warehouse and two sheriff's office substations - and members of the Mohave County Board of Supervisors differ on where those should fall on the priority list.

The total cost for all the buildings is $30.6 million to $38 million, although money could be saved by combining some of them.

The board did not make any decisions on the priority list at Monday's meeting, but did instruct staff to come back in 60 days with options on how to fund the new construction.

"I think a new courthouse should be number one, the sheriff's substations number two, the animal shelter number three and I have no preference for numbers four and five," said Supervisor Steve Moss, District 5, noting more judges and justices of the peace are being added to the courthouse in Kingman as the county's population continues to grow.

Moss said he chose the substations as the second priority because residents in Bullhead City, Fort Mohave, Lake Havasu City and Desert Hills should have access to the sheriff's office without having to drive to Kingman.

The animal shelter comes in third, he said, because "it is pitiful, and we need to do better when providing these services."

Supervisors Jean Bishop, District 4, and Gary Watson, District 1, agreed with Moss about the courthouse being the top need, but listed the animal shelter as the second priority.

Supervisor Buster Johnston, District 3, and Watson asked for an opinion from Mohave County Administrator Mike Hendrix about what staff believed were the top priorities.

Hendrix agreed the courthouse should be the most important building under consideration for construction, although the funding would not be available for it until 2018.

Hendrix said the $1.5 million the county hopes to dedicate to capital improvements each year is not a definite source of funding because it depends on how much surplus the county has available annually.

There is a tie when it comes to the second spot, said Hendrix. Not only is it important to construct a morgue, he noted, but the sheriff's office definitely needs two substations to conduct business efficiently in the county.

And the animal shelter runs a close third, said Hendrix, because it is in bad shape. Still, the morgue remains a top concern.

"I believe Mohave County should be in the business of controlling its own destiny with regard to a morgue," said Hendrix. "Right now, we're at someone else's whim if something happens to our medical examiner provider. Not only does she go away, but the facility goes away. And I think that would leave Mohave County in a tremendously bad predicament where we would be relying on transporting services out to Coconino County."

The board must make a decision soon about whether to continue to contract medical examiner services or bring them in house. The current contract with Dr. Rexenne Worrell expires in 2015. She runs her medical examiner business out of an office in the 1100 block of Aviation Drive in Lake Havasu City. Currently, the county pays about $525,000 annually for Worrell's services.

Several sources of revenue could open the door for the new buildings, including the county's quarter-cent sales tax, approved in 1999 and dedicated to capital improvements. It is set to expire at the end of 2019 and has been used to fund several county buildings.

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