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Thu, Oct. 29

Make your voice heard at county meeting Monday

County officials are making a trek to Williams next week specifically to sound out Williams residents.

They want to know precisely how you feel about having justice courts and sheriff offices jointly housed here.

The Coconino County Board of Supervisors have set up a public input meeting on Williams' proposed county court/sheriff substation at 6 p.m. Monday (April 3) in the auditorium of Williams Elementary/Middle School.

The land for the project has already been bought. In August of 1996, the county purchased 1.8 acres on the northwest corner of Railroad Avenue and Seventh Street at a cost of $228,000 with plans to build there.

Promises to have the two county facilities jointly housed here in town have been bandied about by county officials for years. Isn't it time for the county to follow through with these promises?

Last year when the City of Williams moved its police department to its current site of Route 66 and Fifth Street, a large factor in locating there was its close proximity to that land the county bought.

Just in the last five fiscal years, Williams alone has generated $1.7 million in taxes to the county with $370,000 of that earmarked for the jail district. That sum doesn't include all the taxes pouring into county coffers from Grand Canyon, Red Lake, Parks, Tusayan, and Valle - areas all within the 6,000 square miles jurisdiction of the justice court here.

Neither does it include the sums people from western Coconino County dump in Flagstaff on retail purchases. Who here doesn't shop in Flagstaff where there is an abundance of retail outlets carrying clothing, appliances, vehicles, building materials and groceries?

Currently, Williams Justice Court is squeezed into 1,564 square feet of space at 117 Route 66. The sheriff's substation is even smaller - 1,198 square feet on the backside of Williams City Hall, 113 S. First Street.

Certainly the area served by these cramped quarters is only going to grow. The population is bound to increase as will county taxes garnered.

But now county officials are crying about soaring construction costs. They say the $500,000 which they have budgeted to build in Williams, will only buy 628 square feet more than existing court and sheriff facilities in town - tagging construction at $118 per square foot.

Somehow those soaring construction costs didn't stop them from building several new county facilities in Flagstaff as well as one in Page.

Now, rather than build here, the county is exploring renovation of an existing building to do the job - the Williams Executive Center at 518 E. Route 66, which formerly housed Grand Canyon Railway offices in town. It is a 5,266 square-foot facility but will need an extensive remodel. County estimates show anticipated renovations budgeted at $282,000. The real estate costs are, of course, subject to negotiation.

Dennis Dalbeck, city manager, said parking available at the executive center is woefully insufficient.

"It's important to note the building will not comply with city parking codes, Dalbeck said. "The county plans to lease parking from Johnson Diamond Tool across the street. But if that business is sold or needed the lot, where would the county turn?"

Several city council members, along with our mayor, have gone on record adamantly opposing the proposed renovation, stating it will simply be a temporary Band-Aid at best. The Williams Executive Center underwent an extensive remodel two years ago. It will practically have to be gutted again to accommodate the court and sheriff substation.

Why not push for a permanent structure built for this intent? Let's get this plan in the works before the county finalizes its budget for the next fiscal year which starts in July.

Matt Ryan, county supervisor for District 3 requested this meeting in town to make local input easier to access. He, along with the rest of the board, the county manager and facilities staff will present their stance at Monday's meeting. But they do want your two cents as well.

Williams area residents are urged to turn out in force. Let's stand firm and demand the services we deserve.

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