Our View: Why is county building its court away from the people?

May 5, 2019

Justice is an increasingly expensive commodity in Mohave County and taxpayers carry the burden of a system built upon service and financial inefficiencies.

A new $21 million courthouse in Kingman should certainly please those who work in it. It will not benefit anyone in any portion of the county besides Kingman. Those people from Lake Havasu City called for jury duty still have to drive an hour each way, and the county pays the extra mileage.

Anyone with other court business must make the same trek, enjoying the inconvenience but paying the way out of their own pockets.

Meanwhile, back in Lake Havasu City, the municipal court needs a $3.5 million courthouse of its own, a building now on the city’s capital construction plan in five years. The city court has shared space with the county in Lake Havasu City for almost 30 years, a partner in a consolidated court unique to Arizona.

Both the city and county are growing, hence the presumptive need for new facilities. There’s no question court business has increased through the years. The growth brings higher costs. As an example, the county’s Superior Court is also seeking more money than was budgeted for court operations this year.

Wouldn’t county citizens and their pocketbooks be better served by spending less on two courthouses, freeing up some money for operations?

It may be a rhetorical question, but why wouldn’t the city and county governments team up to create more court space and functions in Lake Havasu City and build a smaller courthouse in Kingman?

This isn’t simply a provincial argument. Bullhead City is the county’s third population center and its residents deserve convenience rather than a trip to Kingman for courthouse business.

Looked at another way, elected officials decide to spend $25 million on new buildings and this is what they come up with? Something with no real operational benefit and no benefit to residents of a far-flung county that have to drive a long way to do court business?

The county courthouse is under construction but it’s not too late to rethink some of the plans. Lake Havasu City is clearly prepared to put money toward a courthouse, so why not expand its usefulness and offer full Superior Court functions with a continued consolidated court agreement?

Courts have create amazing innovations in the way they approach justice. Consider drug courts and veterans courts.

Yet public convenience and service isn’t getting its due. Nor, do we believe, is respect for taxpayer dollars.

The county won’t save enough on jury mileage reimbursements to pay the freight for geographically diverse services.

But it would indeed at least save that amount. Plus it could save millions of dollars by creating smaller facilities around the county rather than a single, grand, Mother Courthouse that is painfully remote for most of the county’s population.

— Today’s News-Herald