Citizens’ committees to ask for extension

Sharna Johnson

The primary recommendation jail and courthouse citizens’ committees will most likely make Tuesday is that they be given more time — but they also have a backup plan of general recommendations.

Tuesday is the deadline the Curry County Commission gave to two citizen committees tasked with coming up with solutions to address crowding and security concerns at the jail and courthouse.

At a recent committee meeting, members asked commissioners to consider giving them more time and Committee Member Richard Rowley II said many still believe the deadline is too soon for the groups that have had less than two months to complete their work.

Commissioners have said they need the recommendations because May 5 they begin preparing the budget for the coming year and need to be able to plan.

“To have something ready for them by April 19 is insanity. I just think there needs to be more time devoted to it,” said Rowley.

“It’s not like you can spend all day every day working on this, (but) for some reason the county thinks they’ve got to have it by the nineteenth.”

But in the event the commission isn’t willing to extend, Rowley said a draft recommendation document is being fine-tuned and is expected to be ready by Friday for their review, he said.

Commissioner Wendell Bostwick said the budget issue does create a sense of urgency and he said the commission needs to know where the committees are in their work.

“I’d love to give them all the time in the world they needed, (but) I’m not sure that we have another year to put this thing off,” Bostwick said.

“I’m more inclined to kind of get a report of where they are. Some of our challenge as a commission is it’s budget time.”

Bostwick said he has attended some of the committee’s public meetings to hear presentations and stay informed.

The biggest challenge he sees with solving the issues is the money needed.

“I can’t figure out how you can do anything without some funds as strapped as our budget is now,” Bostwick said. “We probably are going to need a little help even with brick and mortar. Otherwise we’ll end up just putting more Band-Aids on what we’ve got and I don’t think that’s the long-term answer.”

While the majority of recommendations will be general in nature, Rowley said the one direct recommendation he expects will be made is that the courthouse only house courts and law enforcement and all other county offices be moved to the former post office on Gidding Street, which is now county-owned.

“It’s a whole lot more complicated than just saying go build this. It all comes down to money and we know the voters aren’t going to approve any big gob of money like they turned down in November,” Rowley said.

Rowley said another concern he has is he’s not sure who on the committees contributed to and generated the draft recommendation.

When more than half the committees resigned in February after the commission ordered meetings closed to the public, Rowley said several of the resigned members continued attending meetings as an informal committee.

Rowley said the recommendations were not drafted during a committee meeting or working session and he doesn’t know when they were written, only that he was asked by other members to give the presentation.

“We really don’t even know who’s on the committee anymore,” he said. “It’s gotten a little bit disorganized and that frankly makes me a little uncomfortable in knowing who’s really making this recommendation … it’s real hard to get your arms around this.”

Rowley said there has been discussion of a committee meeting this week to work out the details in the document.

In a letter Monday addressed to the commission, county manager and Sheriff Matt Murray, District Judge Teddy Hartley and Court Administrator Louis Moore asked the commission, “please do not rush to judgment on these issues.”

Hartley and Moore wrote they believe all non-judicial agencies should be moved to the Gidding Street facility and only the courts and sheriff should stay in the courthouse.

They said they would make no recommendations for the location of the district attorney’s offices — currently housed in the Gidding Street building.

They also said they never have been and still are not in favor of a plan to close all but one entrance to the courthouse.

In Aug. 2009, the commission passed a resolution to close all but one entrance to better secure and control traffic into the building, but never implemented it.

“While we continue to preserve our right to sue Curry County to meet its statutory duty to provide adequate quarters for the operation of the district court, we will certainly cooperate with Curry County officials in finding the appropriate short term solution to the district court’s security and facility needs,” they wrote.

Bostwick said the public is also welcome to give input at the 9 a.m. Tuesday meeting in the North Annex of the Clovis-Carver Library.