GRAHAM COUNTY — With a fixed water price for 25 years and a chance to expand the Safford Police building, Graham County and the City of Safford have come to an agreement.
Last Monday, May 20, after several months of negotiation and research, the Graham County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve an intergovernmental agreement with the City of Safford regarding the jail and Safford water prices.
While discussing the agreement, board chairman Jim Palmer said the former jail building in Safford was not meant to be anything other than a jail and that it was in poor structural shape as well.
In exchange for the value of the old jail, the county will receive a long-term water delivery agreement at a discounted rate. As per the agreement, for the first 10 years, the total cost of water delivered by the city to Graham County Fairgrounds will be reduced by approximately $330,000 or the current appraised value of the jail. However, the guaranteed minimum of $110,000 is only after a reclaimed water line is built to the fairgrounds. Until then, the rate is $2.20 per 1,000 gallons up to 45 million gallons of water.
Danny Smith, supervisor for District 3, said one of the things he is looking forward to from reclaimed water reaching the fairgrounds is green grass.
“I think we both got some things that we needed to serve the citizens of Graham County and the City of Safford,” Smith said. “I think the best thing that this agreement does is give us some water rights security for the fairgrounds out there. The rate out there has been climbing every year. At the rate we’re going right now, we’ve already spent $130,000 this year through March.”
There is a clause allowing the city to reduce the water delivery to the fairgrounds during drought conditions.
The city intends to demolish the former jail, allowing the Safford Police Department to expand operations by adding a 6,000 square-foot new structure.
“We’re basically creating a bill for future citizens and existing citizens in the future, but my greatest hope is that this clause in the contract will guarantee we will continue to induce the city to build their effluent (water) line,” said District 1 Supervisor Paul David. “Extend that from 14th Avenue past the school to the fairgrounds using this money, and the real hope and the inducement, in addition to hopefully breaking even on that project, is that they can then use effluent water for watering instead of up to 50,000,000 gallons in drinking water. That would provide some water security and the ability to expand the system for the City of Safford. There’s no guarantee they will do that, but I certainly hope that they will.”