New Wellton courthouse moves forward
The Yuma County Board of Supervisors moved one step closer to building a new Wellton courthouse after unanimously adopting the findings of a public hearing required by state law before proceeding with the project.
After the Border Patrol relocated its checkpoint east of the Gila Mountains, the Wellton Justice Court's caseload nearly doubled. So last year, the county decided it was time to ease the burden on the east county Justice Court and accepted a proposal from National Bank of Arizona Public Financial Services to finance a purchase agreement for approximately $2.4 million
“Because we are tying this (project) to our excise tax, that triggers a requirement where we must hold a public hearing,” said County Administrator Robert Pickels. “So this (was) really the last obstacle before we can start moving forward at full speed.”
Pickels said they now must wait at least 15 days before taking a final vote to approve the financing, which will most likely place the item on the agenda for the March 19 meeting.
Also, the board voted 5-0 for a resolution designating the State of Arizona Counties Communication Network (SACCNET) as a county redundant communications service project.
SACCNET originated in Graham County with a primary goal of connecting all 15 Arizona counties to the same communications network so if a commercial network failed or became cost prohibitive, counties would still have a means of communicating. Before Wednesday's meeting, Yuma was the only county not connected to the system.
“We have been very reluctant ... to get too deeply involved and making any commitments (to SACCNET),” Pickels said, “because we just didn't have the ability to provide the resource request” of using the Yuma County Sheriff's Office tower space on Telegraph Pass to connect Yuma County to the system.
But the county's attitude changed recently after area superintendents began meeting with county officials to explain the benefits SACCNET could deliver to local education by allowing area schools to connect with institutions from across the country and the world.
At the meeting, Somerton School Superintendent Frank Reed explained to the board what the program could mean for area schools.
“(SACCNET) will allow us to share resources ... (through) long-distance learning,” Reed said, adding that if they cannot find a teacher to fill a particular course, students could take a course via the Internet from teachers in Tucson, Phoenix or even in China.
“The important thing here is that we would have the technology that would allow us to bring in some of the resources that we might not have ... This technology will allow us to keep our kids up to date ... and give our kids the best possible education.”
Another inducement for the county to adopt the SACCNET resolution presented itself when the program recently received a $39 million federal grant to finance the construction of the program's basic infrastructure free of charge.
“We can make use of that (grant money) by allowing the basic framework to be implemented in Yuma County without committing to any other resource dedication,” Pickels said. “And that's what we (asked) for today ... so that (schools) might make use of it. (The county) might make use of it in the future, but we might not.”
Pickels added that the resolution comes with “no strings attached” and does not bind the county to any future obligations.
In other board news, the board:
• Adopted 5-0 the Yuma County 2020 Comprehensive Plan.
• Awarded the contract for solid waste disposal services for west Yuma County to South Yuma County Landfill at $22 per ton.
• Accepted two awards totaling $1.4 million YCSO recently received from the Department of Homeland Security.
Darren DaRonco can be reached at 539-6857 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @YSDarrend or on Facebook at www.faceboook.com/YSDarrenD.