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Thu, Oct. 17

Friday Catchall: New jail was promise, not threat

The Friday Catchall:

• NEW JAIL — Many voters five years ago — based on article comments, emails, phone calls and letters to the editor — were loud and clear: “We do not want a new county jail.”

Problem is, they thought it was a referendum, that they were voting in November 2014 on whether or not to build a new county jail, which was to be located on Prescott Lakes Parkway.

They actually were voting on how to pay for the jail’s construction — a one-half cent sales tax increase, about 30% of which would have been paid by visitors. The proposal was rejected 52.5% to 47.5%.

Leading up to the vote, county officials were not reticent on two points:

1 — We need a new jail. “We are at capacity, and I think the Board (of Supervisors) is making the right decision,” Sheriff Scott Mascher said after a May 2014 meeting.

2 — If the sales tax failed to pass, the supervisors would be forced to raise the property tax to the maximum level to build a new Prescott jail, Supervisor Rowle Simmons said in September 2014.

“One way or another, we’ll be building a new jail,” then-Supervisor Chip Davis added.

This is relevant because on June 5, 2019, the Board of Supervisors went public with a plan to raise property taxes — to pay down debt, such as unfunded liabilities associated with pensions, and the county would put $3.6 million toward a criminal justice center in 2019-20, as well as $2.7 million toward the Gurley Street remodel and parking structure, with additional allocations continuing in 2020-21.

Meaning? County officials still see the need for a Prescott jail, and still on Prescott Lakes Parkway (plus remodeling the downtown jail), but this time it will be paid for (at least partially; 2014 figures had the jail at $26 million) with money from property taxes.

Maybe I’m wrong. Yet, five years ago people saw it as a threat — pass the sales tax or we’ll raise property taxes. I say it was a promise.

The only thing that has yet to come to fruition is the other part of the 2014 “promise.” They also said services would need to be cut. While I’d rather visitors share in paying the bills (everyone pays a sales tax), let’s hope services are not added to the victims list too.

• EMAIL? — I received a passionate plea a little while ago from a nice lady, who said she does not have internet or email.

You’ve heard about these folks, the people who either don’t like these things, have no use for them, or cannot afford them. I know two men (my dad and father-in-law) who do not use them. They cannot be the only ones.

The lady’s plea? “For those of us without internet or email, please ask the (groups and event organizers) to give a phone number for us to call.”

Sounds reasonable.

By the way, I received a modern relic (a new version of something I have not seen in years) on my driveway this week: a phone book. Imagine that.

• MOON — Love this rant: The moon is getting a lot of conversation lately. Some hinting that we colonize the moon, because we’re destroying planet Earth. Why not take this moon money and save this planet?

Think about it.

• PICK OF THE WEEK(Proving there’s always something good to do in the Prescott area that’s cheap or free): Yavapai Master Gardeners Plant and Yard Sale, also known as Monsoon Madness, from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, July 13, in the Prescott Rodeo Grounds parking lot, 840 Rodeo Drive. 928-445-6590, ext. 222.

Tim Wiederaenders is the senior news editor for the Prescott News Network. Follow him on Twitter @TWieds_editor. Reach him at 928-445-3333, ext. 2032, or twieds@prescottaz.com.

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