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Fri, July 19

Historical Society, town council work toward fix for Jerome’s Sliding Jail

Tuesday, the Jerome Town Council approved a memorandum of understanding that will allow the Historical Society to take back the land surrounding the Sliding Jail. VVN/Vyto Starinskas

Tuesday, the Jerome Town Council approved a memorandum of understanding that will allow the Historical Society to take back the land surrounding the Sliding Jail. VVN/Vyto Starinskas

JEROME -- The Town Council in Jerome has put the future of the sliding jail and the sliding parking lot in the Jerome Historical Society’s court.

Tuesday night they signed a memorandum of understanding that will allow the Historical Society to take back the land surrounding the Sliding Jail, according to Town Manager Candace Gallagher.

Once the Historical Society signs the preliminary agreement, the town and the historical society will work to negotiate a final agreement with plans that will satisfy both boards and townspeople.

At issue is the land that surrounds the Sliding Jail, a famous tourist attraction in Jerome. Several years ago, the land surrounding the property failed and began sliding down the steep hill due to water runoff.

The land has stabilized, but the town has lost vehicle and pedestrian access to the popular attraction. Dozens of important parking spots were also lost in the second-most visited tourist town in the Verde Valley, Jerome.

The Historical Society deeded the property to the Town in 1964 because they felt the town could do a better job with it, explained Council Member Lew Currier. Mayor Frank Vander Horst, because he owns nearby land, and Vice Mayor Jay Kinsella, because he is a Historical Society member, have recused themselves from this debate, according to Gallagher.

“… the Town is willing to convey title to the Disputed parcels … provided the Historical Society undertakes certain repairs, restoration and remediation,” the memorandum reads.

Now the Town and Historic Society feel that the Historic Society can do a better job, explained Currier. “This works well for both sides,” he added.

The council has many other issues to deal with right now such as water, sewer and streets, Currier said. The Historical Society deals with history, he added.

Also, the Town’s estimates to fix the parking lot was in the half-million dollar range and the Historical Society believes they can do it much cheaper and they can stream-line the process, Currier said. The society also has funding, he added.

According to the draft of the proposed agreement, the Historical Society will restore the sliding parking lot to its pre-2010 status, as well as the “Sliding Jail.” The parking lot began to slide in 2010.

The draft states that the Historical Society will “establish a nature trail and picnic area downhill from the Sliding Jail.

Currier said he believes parking for about 20 cars may be restored, but this remains to be seen.

When the Historical Society signs the memorandum of understanding, the next step will be for the Historical Society to present “detailed drawings of the proposed work” for their review and approval by the Town, according to the draft. There was no engineering report done for the parking lot when it was built decades ago when the Town owned the property.

Currier said many townspeople will be glad to hear that the basketball and volleyball courts will not be part of the agreement and will remain in the Town’s ownership.

According to the draft and the mayor’s comments, someday the Town will have a “long-term option to purchase” the land if it repays the cost of the Historical Society’s restoration.

Currier said he believed Historical Society would sign the memorandum.

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