The Kingman Daily Miner. April 8, 2005

EXPANSION PLANS INCLUDE REMODEL OF HISTORIC CHURCH

by Caleb Soptelean, Miner Staff Writer

KINGMAN - Monday's Mohave County Board of Supervisors meeting will include a funding request for a conceptual design to remodel the historic St. John United Methodist Church.

County Public Defender Dana Hlavac is making the $1,500 request precedent to his department's move into the building at 318 N. 5th St., which currently houses the Health Department. The Health Department will be moving to the new county administration building behind the Sheriff's Office sometime this year.

Hlavac requests that the Institute for Small Town Studies in Fairfield, Iowa, complete the conceptual design and drawings for the remodel.

The county Public Defender's offices are currently located next to the church, and Hlavac wants to move into the historic structure to provide his employees with more office space.

Based on current staffing, Hlavac said his office needs 4,900 square feet of space but currently has only 4,000 square feet. The physical space occupied by Public Defender staff is lacking almost 100 square foot per employee.

As background information for his request, Hlavac submitted a funding request of $600,000 to remodel the church preparatory to the move. The remodeling costs are projected at an expense of $50 per square foot.

Other alternatives for housing the Public Defender's Office include building new space in addition to the current building or waiting for space in a new Law & Justice complex.

The cost to build new space is estimated at between $170 and $200 per foot, Hlavac said. "That means the same office space would cost almost four times as much ($2.4 million) to build new versus remodel," Hlavac said in a prepared statement.

Postponing the delivery of new office space "will have an extremely detrimental impact on the continued efficient operation of the Public Defender's Office," Hlavac said.

"Two recent recruits turned down significant employment offers and cited the facilities as a basis for their decision. Current employees are mentally and physically stressed from the working conditions and many have discussed leaving.

"At a current vacancy of 20 percent, the Public Defender's Office can not continue to provide the cost-effective services if any further unreplaced vacancies occur. If this does occur, cases will need to be sent to private contract attorneys on an overflow basis and additional cost to the county."

Hlavac recommends using the current office for renovation for expansion or file storage or occupation by the Legal Defender "if needed due to jail expansion requiring the acreage currently occupied by the current Legal Defender facility."

The Legal Defender's Office is located at 313 Pine Street. The Legal Defender's Office represents clients that the Public Defender's Office cannot due to a conflict of interest.

There are six attorneys in the Legal Defender's Office and 16 in the Public Defender's Office, although the Public Defender is authorized 20 attorneys.

Monday's Mohave County Supervisors meeting begins at 9:30 a.m. at 809 E. Beale St.

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