County may pull out of Colorado City
KINGMAN — Mohave County government apparently will be pulling up stakes in Colorado City.

The Mohave County Board of Supervisors voted Monday 2 to 1 in favor of vacating its government resource center at its the current location on the North Mohave Community College campus because of an expiring lease.

The resource center has been operating at the college location for five years and houses the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office, Department of Economic Security Disability Division, public attorney services and Defenders of Children representatives. The lease expires March 31.

Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson, R-Dist. 3 voted against vacating, while Chairman Sockwell, R-Dist. 2, and Supervisor Gary Watson, R-Dist. 1, voted in favor.

A move to seek a lease extension also died. The county currently has no plans to relocate within the city.

MCC Chancellor Michael Kearns, Watson and Ron Walker, county manager, previously met to discuss the issue of the lease, however, Walker said he was not informed of MCC’s intentions at the time. In that meeting, Walker also said he told Kearns county officials would require a written notice if MCC chose to not renew the lease. Shortly after that meeting, the county received the written notice, he said.

"It is not MCC’s problem. It is their property and we should respect the lease. We are not in a position to argue with the owner of the property," said Ron Walker, Mohave County manager.

"They did not ask to stay," Kearns said in an interview after the Monday’s supervisors meeting.

Kearns said asking the county to vacate was more an issue of timing and slow trends in school enrollment. Enrollment was more than 800 students before the county government center moved in, and has dropped to 350 students, the Associated Press reported last week.

"The enrollment is only one aspect. There are many, many reasons. I can’t speak about them they are not public and not confirmed. There was no specific incident, no specific remark or anything that presented this situation," Kearns said.

Expressing his dismay with the decision, Johnson said after the meeting, "We are already set up there … we have a good solution that works for everybody as far as I can see. There is no reason for us to move. We were not asked to leave. There was never a formal request to stay," Johnson said.

With a 5-year presence at stake, Johnson said he feels the move will only empower the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints that is so prevalent in the area.

"The church is going to say they ran them out," Johnson said.

Prior to the supervisors’ vote, the issue was surrounded by a heated discussion.

A Colorado City resident expressed his support of MCC’s decision, stating the intent to "bring law and order to the people paints the entire community as outlaws," and the government center was "a rotten apple on MCC’s campus that served no real purpose," and it "is promoting hate and not promoting values," he said.

Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan said MCSO has "jurisdiction in any city in the county and he is willing to work with the board of supervisors to find another building … to bring services that haven’t been present, in the future."

Sheahan was adamant in his intent to "continue to stay in that community," he said.

Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith responded to the Colorado City resident’s attack on the government center’s presence by addressing the comments as "unfounded allegations and political rhetoric," Smith said. MCC has the right to terminate the lease and there was no opposition in that right, he said.

Smith expressed the need for the services in that area to monitor existing Colorado City law enforcement due to six recently decertified peace officers and others under investigation.

Smith commended the board of supervisors for their foresight five years ago in the decision to establish the government center with the presence of officers and the victim’s advocate. "It led to the prophet (Warren Jeffs) sitting in our jail right now," Smith said.

The contract was originally signed in April 2004 and ends April 1, Walker said. Both Mohave County and the Department of Public Safety will have a month-to-month lease extension option for up to six months, to allow them to remove their buildings and to restore the property; a condition the expiring lease requires.
Originally published Monday, March 2, 2009