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Mon, Oct. 14

Supes vote to move ahead on jail needs assessment

PRESCOTT - The Yavapai County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Monday, March 2, to seek proposals from firms to do a needs assessment on a new county jail, but not before one voter threw some guff at the board.

"You're doing something voters already said no to," Prescott Valley resident John Jacques said.

"That vote was not whether to build a jail - it was how to pay for it," Supervisor Rowle Simmons retorted.

But the voters' intent was to oppose a new jail, Jacques countered.

There's no way to know that, Simmons said before Board of Supervisors Chair Craig Brown cut off the conversation and the board voted to seek proposals.

Apparently Jacques isn't the only voter who feels that way. Under The Daily Courier's online story previewing Monday's meeting, at least seven readers either said voters opposed the jail or voters should recall the supervisors.

The supervisors asked voters in November 2014 to double the county's quarter-cent jail sales tax so the county could build a new jail in Prescott. The result was 52.50 percent of the voters against it and 47.5 percent in support.

Supervisors had warned that if voters turned down the sales tax increase, they would need to find another way to build a jail for approximately $26 million.

The county has been using the Prescott jail on Gurley Street only as a temporary holding facility since 2008 when voters last rejected a jail sales tax increase. Inmates stay in the 600-bed Camp Verde jail, which officials have said is basically full.

County officials want to build a new 300-bed jail southeast of the intersection of Prescott Lakes Parkway and Highway 89 in Prescott.

The 35-year-old Prescott jail is not viable because it could house only about 130 beds, Sheriff Scott Mascher has stated. And its design is so outdated and inefficient that he estimates he could staff a new 300-bed jail with only 15 percent more people than it would take to staff the old Prescott jail.

Supervisor Jack Smith made the only other comments before Monday's vote, explaining what the board was and was not doing.

"I just want to make it clear, we are not voting to build a jail right now," Smith said.

The needs assessment also will look at other options such as remodeling the existing Prescott jail or adding on to the Camp Verde jail, Smith said.

"We're opening up all options," he said.

The supervisors are separating the contracts for the jail needs assessment and jail project construction management, Facilities Director Ken Van Keuren later explained.

A needs assessment could cost more than $100,000 and take about two months to complete, Van Keuren said.

The winning bidder will produce a needs assessment that looks at the county jail needs for the next 30 years, including number of beds and employees.

A selection committee will interview three to five firms and rank them for the Board of Supervisors, hopefully by May, Van Keuren said. The committee will include people from the county Facilities Department and Sheriff's Office, Van Keuren said.

The board then will agree with the list, ask for more work from the committee, or reject the list.

When the list is ready, a Facilities Project Team will start negotiating with the top firm on a price. That team will include people from Facilities, YCSO and Management Information Systems, Van Keuren said.

State law doesn't allow the county to discuss prices before choosing a top firm, but if the two sides don't agree on a price the county can move to negotiations with the second-ranked firm and so on.

The Board of Supervisors will choose the winning firm.

Follow Joanna Dodder on Twitter @joannadodder

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