Due to significant interest from the public, I am providing an update on the results of the Special Meeting of the Board held on July 22, 2019. The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted to approve the use of the Juvenile Justice Complex to be operated by Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona (CCSSA). It was approved by a 3/2 vote with both myself and Supervisor Christy voting against the approval.
Since this issue was first brought my attention, I have maintained that for both legal and public safety reasons it is the County's responsibility to do it's part to ensure the safety of our community. I had concerns that if we didn't act, it could create an unsafe situation for both residents and the individuals who have been released in our community by federal officials.
As I listened to the speakers during the call to the public portion of the Special Meeting, it became clear that many groups have already participated in the resettlement of asylum seekers for the past several months and in some instances for several years. These individuals voiced the same concerns that I have regarding the process by which this plan was proposed and the final decision. It was stated that approximately 30 facilities had been evaluated over the past several months. Based on the testimony, the County Administrator has been working on this effort since at least April, 2019. I was first notified of this "emergency" on July 8th, 2019.
It is important to note that initially the Board of Supervisors was asked to consider and vote on whether to lease the facilities to CCSSA for $100 annually. Prior to the board meeting, the agreement was changed from a lease to an operating agreement with CCSSA for the use of County facilities. The costs of operating the facility were outlined by the County Administrator to be in excess of $1.1 million annually. The startup costs were identified at approximately $60K.
My concerns regarding some items not being captured in the startup or operating costs, still remain. A 53 space parking lot is being built for use by the operator and no cost has been assigned. There is no fee for the use of the more than 19 thousand square feet of the facilities. There is no charge for the use of the Juvenile Detention Center kitchen facilities.
Additionally, I have significant concerns related to the liability of Pima County taxpayers for allowing this use of our facilities. What is the liability if an individual is injured or even worse, dies at our facility? I am still concerned about the liability related to the juveniles who are currently housed at this facility and the impact this use will have on them.
After hearing approximately two hours of testimony from members of the public, I expressed my concerns that some costs were still not captured. I also noted that this did not appear to be an emergency since this evaluation had been ongoing over the past several months. I requested that the hearing be continued for further evaluation, but the Board voted to move forward with approving the agreement as outlined by the County Administrator.
Administrator Huckelberry stated he has applied for various grants with potential funding totaling $2.5 million. This includes a diversion of $530 thousand from the $1.2 million Stonegarden Grant approved in May for the Sheriff's Office. Until the grant funding is approved, the effort will be paid for with Pima County taxpayer funds.
This burden is caused by the failure of our federal officials to fix this problem. I have contacted both Senators McSally and Sinema, as well as Representative Ann Kirkpatrick for assistance in securing emergency funding for these efforts until such time as the grants are approved for this use. I strongly encourage you to do the same. I have listed both Senator Sinema and Senator McSally's information below:
Again, I want to thank you, the public, for expressing your concerns. Please do not hesitate to contact my office with any other concerns or question that may arise.