The establishment of Division 7 to the Yuma County Superior Court requires shuffling of space to accommodate the new courtroom, office and work space in the Justice Center.

The shuffling includes relocating the existing Justice Court Precinct 1 to the adjacent Historic Courthouse which, in turn, displaces the County Public Defender’s offices from that facility.

Construction Project Director David Hylland presented the Board of Supervisors with options for consideration and asked for direction for a “long-term, temporary” facility space for the Public Defender’s office and staff.

The options included the use of existing, county-owned space, potential new lease/rental space and/or potential new purchased space.

The move is considered “long-term, temporary” because the county plans to tear down the newly purchased Camarena building, located across the street from the courthouse, and build a permanent home for the Public Defender in 4-5 years.

But in the meantime, the county needs to find temporary space for the office.

The Public Defender needs about 8,000 square feet of space, 12 offices, 12 workstations, a large meeting/conference room, a small audio/video conference room, lobby/reception, space for files and general storage and parking.

The most important need, however, is close proximity to the Justice Center.

The challenge is that no single facility currently available close to the Justice Center is large enough to accommodate the full department space needs. Consequently, the office will be split between two locations.

After discussion, the supervisors accepted the staff recommendation of moving the Public Defender into the former Risk Management building, a county-owned facility located at 145 S. 2nd Ave., and the Camarena west and east buildings, located at 217 S. 2nd Ave.

Staff noted that this option provides sufficient space for the department as well as flexibility in design. It’s also close to the Justice Center and other current county properties, and it would be easy to extend the wireless fiber from the Legal Defender’s office for connectivity.

Other options included the Hope Counseling Services facility, 201 S. 1st Ave., and the Yuma Association of Realtors facility, 74 W. 2nd St. The Hope building is available for lease and the owners are not interested in selling. The YAR building is available for lease or purchase.

The supervisors nixed the last two options. Supervisor Lynne Pancrazi did not see the need to lease when the county has available buildings. Supervisor Martin Porchas said he did not want to invest in someone else’s building to then move out of it.

“If we’re going to put money in, do it in one of our buildings,” he said.

County Administrator Susan Thorpe explained that the Public Defender will occupy the “temporary” space for 4-5 years to allow the start of Division 7. Then when the time comes to build a permanent facility for the Public Defender, this department will move again for 12-18 months while the new facility is completed at the current site of the Camarena building. At that point, the newly built facility will be the permanent home of the Public Defender.

The supervisors unanimously approved staff’s recommended option.

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