PHOENIX (AP) — The idea of repurposing empty detention centers is catching on in Arizona as the rate of juvenile crime and detention populations continue to fall.
The Arizona Capitol Times reports (http://bit.ly/2hZJ8Mt) that Apache County converted a former juvenile detention center in St. Johns into a new community center that caters to young people.
“In rural Arizona, there just aren't a lot of safe spaces for teens to gather, and this is really an inspired effort to create something new that the kids will value,'' said Heather Murphy, spokeswoman for the Administrative Office of the Courts. “It's a special space made just for them.''
The Apache County center, known as LOFT, offers pool, ping-pong tables, desktop computers, free internet and a music room equipped with guitars and an electric keyboard. It is open to those who have finished eighth grade but not yet graduated high school.
Apache County closed its detention facility in 2015 after it was unable to reconcile the $1.2 million in annual costs to keep its doors open.
Apache County Superior Court Judge Michael Latham said the county's juvenile detention population had slowed to a trickle, amounting to an average of just 1.7 kids per day.
It could go six, seven, eight weeks without a single kid, yet the center had to be staffed as a full-time facility just in case someone happened to come along.
That meant two detention officers at all times, and a full-time teacher and medical staff. It didn't make fiscal sense.
The county instead contracted with Navajo County to hold its juvenile offenders for $90,000 a year, a drop in the bucket compared to the previous costs.
But officials had to find yet another alternative when Navajo County, too, opted to close its detention center in June.
Pinal County has since been contracted to take both Apache and Navajo counties' juveniles.
Through that partnership, Latham said detention costs are expected to plummet below $20,000 per year.
ZUNI PUEBLO, N.M. (AP) — An entire neighborhood dating back to the mid-1900s is being remodeled. Down the street, children are running through the halls of a new state-of-the-art school while the community's older residents are celebrating a newly built senior citizen center.
There's a building boom going on throughout Zuni Pueblo, signs that economic development has found its way to the western New Mexico tribal community.
“That was our focus when we ran for office, that we wanted economic development,'' Zuni Councilwoman Virginia Chavez said during a recent interview.
Chavez, who retired from the Zuni Public School District after a 30-year career, ran for office in 2014. She recalled early on during her first year in office when Loren Thomas visited the Zuni Tribal Council and asked for support to expand his family business to include a shopping center.
“I was overjoyed,'' Chavez said. “I really wanted that here at Zuni, and we wholeheartedly supported it.''
With a population of about 12,000 residents, Zuni is the most populated pueblo in New Mexico. However, officials have said that as much as 80 percent of income in the community goes to border towns or nearby cities.
Along State Highway 53, men in heavy-duty boots and hard hats worked at erecting a new supermarket — a 15,000-squarefoot facility that will include a deli and large parking lot. A Gallup bank is financing the project with a $2.75 million loan, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development is providing a guarantee for the loan. The supermarket is scheduled to open later this year.
With the opening of a bigger supermarket, Chavez and other tribal officials hope to keep more money from leaving the pueblo.
A new airport with a longer runway that can accommodate the emergency landing of larger planes also is being built just a few miles from Zuni. About 90 percent of the $5.5 million construction costs were allocated by the Federal Aviation Administration, 5 percent from the state, and the remaining 5 percent from the tribe.
Earlier this year, the tribe contracted the services of Klas Robinson, a financial firm that provides market research, to prepare an economic development study. Zuni Pueblo Gov. Val Panteah said the preliminary report is in and there are plans for a more comprehensive review that includes a traffic study.
“Hopefully, it gives us an idea as far as what we can develop here,'' Panteah said.
In the past year, the Zuni Tribal Council has also created an investment committee.
Panteah said Morgan Stanley was recently contacted to manage the pueblo's investments.
“Without being a gaming tribe, we got to look at every opportunity and way to generate revenues,'' Panteah said.
While the pueblo has been traditionally against developing casinos on the reservation, the previous administration sought a gaming compact with New Mexico in 2014 and the Bureau of Indian Affairs approved it in August 2015.
Tribal authorities said there are no plans to open a casino in Zuni. Former Zuni Gov. Arlen Quetawki, who is now a tribal councilman, said in 2015 the pueblo had been leasing its share of slot machines to other tribes in southern Arizona.