This May, voters in Cochise County will be asked to vote on a jail district. The ballot issue asks voters to consider a temporary half-cent sales tax for no more than 25 years to fund the Cochise County jail system to improve staff safety, additional help for the mentally ill, and manage medical needs.
The Cochise County Jail is significantly outdated and faces safety concerns, power capacity issues, plumbing problems, technological problems, leaks and other costly repairs. It was originally designed to house 168 prisoners, but over the years, it has been modified to hold as many as 302 inmates.
A recent assessment of the Cochise County Jail found that the 40-year-old facility has lasted twice its expected life, but now faces maintenance costs that are estimated at several million dollars. This needed renovation would not improve officer safety or provide space and staffing for 24/7 jail medical services.
The Cochise County Sheriff’s Office and county leadership worked together with community leaders, public health and safety professionals, and finance experts to better understand the public safety needs of our community through an extensive public process from August to October of last year.
The Public Outreach Committee made a unanimous recommendation that a new jail was needed and a “Jail District Question,” regarding funding for facilities and staffing should be decided by the voters. Voters can review all of the agendas, minutes and videos of the outreach meetings at cochise.az.gov/856/Jail-District-Public-Outreach-Committee-.
On Nov. 15, the Cochise County Board of Supervisors passed resolution 22-29 stating: “That the Board of Supervisors of Cochise County finds that the public interest, convenience, and necessity will be served by the formation of a Jail District. That the Board of Supervisors of Cochise County hereby orders formation of a Jail District contingent on voter approval of an excise tax as provided in A.R.S.§48-4022, with a maximum effective rate not to exceed .50 percent (one-half cent). That if, approved, collection of the excise tax would be authorized for a period of 25 years.”
Next month, the Sheriff’s Office and county officials will be holding public information town halls to inform about the election and answer questions. Each town hall will take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the following locations:
Sierra Vista (Monday, March 27, Cochise College Student Union Community Room)
Willcox (Wednesday, March 29, Willcox High School Auditorium)
Palominas (Friday, March 31 Palominas School Gymnasium)
Bisbee (Monday, April 3 – Cochise County Board of Supervisors Hearing Room)
Douglas (Tuesday, April 4 – City of Douglas Visitor Center)
Benson (Wednesday, April 5 – Benson School District Multi-Purpose Building/Cafeteria)
The Special Election will be an all-mail election. Voter registration deadline is April 17. Ballots will be mailed to all active registered voters on April 19. Election Day is May 16, and all ballots must be delivered or received by that day. To verify your voter status, you can contact the recorder’s office at 520-432-8358.