Demolition of old jail to last through October

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: The old Graham County Jail is being demolished to clear the area to build a Safford Police Department expansion.

By Jon Johnson

jonjohnsonnews@gmail.com

SAFFORD – The demolition on the former Graham County Sheriff’s Office/Jail at 523 10th Ave. is scheduled to last from now through Nov. 8, according to a statement released from the city of Safford. 

The Safford City Council previously awarded the demolition contract to Breinholt Contracting Company of Gilbert for $200,503.

The demolition project includes asbestos removal, the complete destruction and removal of the existing building and basement, and backfilling the lot to leave a plain dirt lot ready for the construction of the new police department. 

The new, 6,000-square-foot facility will include a laundry room, meeting room exercise room, and will have secretarial staff secured behind glass like what was done at the new Graham County Sheriff’s Office and Adult Detention Facility. 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: The demolition of the old jail is scheduled through Nov. 8.

In addition to having a secure lobby, the new building will give the police space to handle interviews away from prying ears of the public, increase evidence storage abilities, and upgrade the look of the area across the street from Firth Park from the eyesore it currently is. 

The $2.56 million project will also update the existing 4,400-square-foot Safford Police Department, which is adjacent to the site and will continue to be used in conjunction with the new building. 

Tucson-based BWS Architects was previously awarded a $322,386 contract to design and administer construction. The company has been involved in the construction of various police facilities in southern Arizona and it will handle all the bids for contractors. Construction is expected to take between 12 and 16 months. 

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: The old police department will serve as evidence storage and will continue to house offices for detectives and investigators.

The city of Safford has advised that parking will be restricted in the immediate area during the demolition and intermittent street closures may be required. Local access to businesses and residences will be maintained. 

The city received the property of the old Sheriff’s Office and jail site after it and Graham County approved exchanging the property for setting a 25-year fixed water rate for use at the Graham County Fairgrounds to water the ball fields at $2.20 per thousand gallons while the normal industrial rate for businesses in Safford is $2.65 per thousand gallons. The county previously had a cheap water rate at the fairgrounds that expired about four years ago, and the idea of getting a new water-rate deal along with not having much use for the old facility spurned discussion. The county currently uses about 50 million gallons of water at the fairgrounds each year. 

According to Safford City Manager Horatio Skeete, the agreement also includes a commitment from the city to explore getting its effluent line from the wastewater treatment facility to the fairgrounds. If the city can afford to put in the effluent line, the county will guarantee to purchase $110,000 per year of reclaimed water or $2.50 per thousand gallons per year – whatever is greater.  

Skeete said the cost to put in an effluent line to the fairgrounds is estimated to be at about $3.5 million, which, in turn, would be paid back by the county paying to use the water. Currently, the city is finishing up a holding reclaimed water pond by the wastewater treatment facility and only uses reclaimed water at the golf course. 

“The plan is to use that $110,000 a year for debt service of the construction of the pipe so it will pay for itself – with some help from some other sources,” Skeete said. 

The first two priorities for reclaimed water use will be the golf course and the fairgrounds and the city will leave taps at the schools to use for their fields if any reclaimed water is left over. Currently, the wastewater treatment facility produces 19 to 20 million gallons per month. Any of that water that doesn’t get used at the golf course gets dumped into the Gila River, which the city does not get any credits for doing so.   

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