BISBEE — In order to move forward on the new Commercial Port of Entry west of Douglas, the Cochise County Board of Supervisors awarded a $353,266 contract to Stantec Consulting Services, Inc. during Tuesday’s meeting.

Stantec will provide 30% of the engineering design documents for water, wastewater and broadband utilities to serve the new port, said Sharon Gilman, associate county administrator.

In November, the Board approved a Memorandum of Understanding between Douglas and the county to coordinate funding and construction for utilities related to the development of the Commercial Port of Entry on James Ranch Road, said Gilman.

“The next step in the project is develop engineering design plans for utilities,” said Gilman. “This is an important step as the Arizona Department of Transportation will soon also conduct a Design Concept Report for James Ranch Road.

“The information detailed in the design of the utilities, especially as the locations relate to James Ranch Road, will be important for ADOT’s review. Further, the 30% design report will signal to the General Services Administration that both the local governments are committed to providing the necessary infrastructure for the new Port of Entry. We anticipate the economic impact of the new Commercial Port of Entry will provide a return on this investment.”

The funding will come from the half–cent sales tax fund, which will leave $11.2 million in the county’s capital fund.

No-show ticket fees increased

There will be an increase in fees for people who were ticketed for traffic violations and do not show up in court. The fees, now at $75, will be raised to $100.

Presiding Superior Court Judge Timothy Dickerson told Supervisors Ann English, Peggy Judd and Tom Crosby the fees have not been raised since 2008.

“The revenue from our court enhancement fees is vital to the operation of our courts,” said Dickerson.

In a summary, Dickerson noted the fees pay for a number of expenses, including salaries and employee related expenses for Justice Court personnel; the lease of computers, printers, and scanners for the Administrative Office of the Courts; for the operation of Superior Court Division 6; supplies and equipment for the Justice Courts and court security personnel.

“A legislative change which went into effect Sept. 29 last year removed the court’s authority to suspend driving privileges for failure to appear for civil traffic hearings or for failure to pay civil traffic fines,” Dickerson said. “This means our Justice Courts can no longer impose our $75 suspension fee, but Justice Court staff must still enter a default when a person fails to appear and take collection action when a person fails to pay.”

He said the suspension fees collected by the Justice Courts are divided, with 35% going to the Justice Courts and 65% to the Superior Court. They collected $90,562 in suspension fees in the last fiscal year.

Dickerson said, “We propose amending the local fees to partially replace the revenue we will no longer receive from the suspension fees. A new default fee will be imposed if a person fails to appear for their civil traffic hearing. We want to keep the suspension fee in the ordinance in case the law is changed again to allow suspension of driving privileges for failure to pay. We are also requesting that the default fee and the suspension fee be set at $100 to reflect the amount of work required of court staff. It’s a reasonable increase.”

Dickerson noted those with traffic violations can just show up in court to avoid the new fee, which can be taken from state tax refunds if not paid.

Traffic tickets account for $50,000 to $60,000 a year for the Sierra Vista Justice Court alone, he said. All totaled, the new state law will create a $90,000 shortfall.

Red Hawk agreement extended

The supervisors also unanimously approved an assurance agreement extension for Red Hawk subdivision with Pioneer Title Agency. It is the fourth extension for the development.

County Building Official Paul Esparza said Red Hawk Ranch Properties LLC asked for the extension of 192 lots on 655 acres located on J-Six Ranch Road south of Interstate 10. The subdivision’s average lot size is three acres. This extension request extends the Assurance Agreement to May 22, 2025.

Esparza said the three-acre parcels were being sold and there was obvious progress made in the development as new lots were sold.

“This represents a 31% completion of the subdivision improvements,” he said. “Economic conditions and COVID have been a factor in the progress. However, there has been recent completion of subdivision improvements which permitted the release of 13 lots for sale.”