By Linda Kor —
Representatives from Pioneer Associates (also known as Pioneer Forest Products) are making the rounds this week to various public meetings, including a visit to the Board of Supervisors Tuesday. Mike Cooley, one of the principal managers of the company, addressed the board regarding the contract awarded to Pioneer by the U.S. Forest Service, which allows for the thinning of approximately 300,000 acres of Ponderosa pine in northern Arizona forests.
The company is based in Montana, and consists of members of the Herman Hauck family and Canadian interests who have teamed up with area residents Marlin Johnson, a former forester, and Cooley, who brings his operational experience to the endeavor.
Cooley informed the board that his family has deep roots in Navajo County and owns Cooley Forest Prod-ucts, which includes Precision Pine and Timber in Heber. “When I was a child my family moved from Albu-querque to Mesa. We have a long history in Navajo County and are related to all the McLaws in the area,” explained Cooley, adding that his family has been in the lumber business since the 1940s and he joined the business in 1978.
He noted that he was approached by Hauck to assist him in his endeavor to obtain the 4FRI (Four Forest Restoration Initiative) contract five years ago and has been a part of the organization ever since. “We’ve been the unknown in this. AZFRP (Arizona Forest Restoration Products) has been the one that has been in the fore-front and has received the most attention. I consider Pascal (Pascal Berlioux, CEO of the now dissolved AZFRP) a friend and was glad to work with him. We are very pleased to be a part of this endeavor,” Cooley said.
While Pioneer has come under fire by certain environmentalist groups such as the Grand Canyon Trust and the Center For Biological Diversity for what they consider the untested realm regarding the production of bio-fuel and concerns over old growth cutting, Cooley appeared to take the criticism in stride. “With a project this big, there will be a few critics. Anything this big will have a lot of views and focuses,” he said.
Regarding the development of bio-diesel, Cooley stated that Pioneer will be working with Concord Blue, a Germany-based company with extensive background in bio-fuel production and management, as one of the companies that will participate in the operation of the biomass plant that will be on-site at the Winslow facility to be built in 2013.
Chairman JR DeSpain asked for clarification regarding the cutting of old growth trees.
Cooley replied that no old growth trees will be cut, with the exception of unhealthy or dangerous trees. “The 14 to 16-inch diameter trees will go to the Heber mill, which will be approximately three percent of the cut,” he stated, adding that the additional logs will double the production of the mill, allowing for more jobs.
Cooley explained that he met with Supervisor David Tenney, an active stakeholder in the 4FRI endeavor, the previous week and was grateful to be able to address some of Tenney’s concerns. “Two of the issues were regarding who our bio mass partner would be and the economic value of our product due to the Chinese mar-ket. Due to the changes in shipping lanes and the wage increases in China, I think this is an ideal time to rede-velop these industries back here,” stated Cooley. He also explained that Concord Blue has at least seven pro-jects that are functional across Europe and India, all operating under cutting edge technology. “This is not gov-ernment, but industry being developed,” he said.
Tenney informed the board that after meeting with Cooley, he felt that Pioneer had a willingness and de-termination to address any issues and that he is looking forward to continued relations with company.
Regarding the project itself, Cooley related it to current operations at his Heber mill. “My lumber mill runs 16 trucks a day, we’re looking at 115 trucks a day here. The magnitude is huge. This is going to be 30,000 acres per year at least. We anticipate 800,000 tons of logs with 160 jobs related to logging, 245 at the sawmill and 35 for the biomass plant,” he said. The operation will also include 20 kilns to process the wood and nine finger-joint lines. The final product being produced will include wood doors, window frames, furniture and panels, in addition to bio-fuel produced from the waste material.
An economic impact report prepared for Pioneer Associates by an independent company showed that the construction of the proposed facility, which will be located on 311 acres near the Winslow airport, will gener-ate approximately $57 million in economic output, $18 million in labor income and 364 jobs. Once operations are up and running, approximately $157 million will be generated annually in Coconino and Navajo counties, along with $41 million in labor income and over 900 jobs.
Total tax impacts, including state, local and federal taxes, are anticipated at $5.5 million for facility con-struction and $12.7 million for annual production. These totals include direct effects generated by the company itself, indirect effects due to the demand from local business, and induced effects as a result of expenditures in employee wages and the need for other businesses to hire additional workers to accommodate growth.
Cooley stated that he plans to sell the first log in 15 months with the first log cut two months prior to that. “This is a $250 million project. As funding becomes available, we will be purchasing machinery and moving forward,” he said.
In other business June 26, the board:
* Authorized precinct-based elections on Nov. 6 for the McLaws Road Fire District in order to elect one position with a four-year term beginning Dec. 1, 2012, and ending Nov. 30, 2016, and for the Woodruff Fire District in order to elect two positions, each with a four-year term beginning Jan. 1, 2013, and ending Dec. 31, 2016.
* Approved a one-year contract extension with Catering BY Marlin’s, Inc. for inmate food services.
* Approved naming an existing road in the Aripine area Diamond Plus Road.
* Approved a grant agreement between the county and the City of Tucson for High Intensity Drug Traf-ficking Areas funding in the amount of $150,000.
* Approved the extension of an intergovernmental agreement between the county and the Arizona Depart-ment of Public Safety for the Detention Officer Liaison Officer Program.
* Authorized a modification of contract for dispatching services with Petrified Forest National Park at cost of $8,000 per year.
* Approved an intergovernmental agreement between the Navajo County Superintendent of Schools and the Coconino Superintendent of Schools as part of the Northeast Arizona Regional Center Race to the Top grant approved in April 2012.
* Approved a grant renewal agreement between the Navajo County Library District and First Things First.
* Approved an intergovernmental agreement between the library district, the county and White Mountain Apache tribal government for the establishment and funding of a library facility in McNary.
* Approved an intergovernmental agreement between the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office, the City of Win-slow, and the towns of Snowflake and Taylor regarding Byrne Grant funding for fiscal year 2012.
* Approved a professional services agreement between the Navajo County Health Services District and Larson Waste, Inc. for medical waste pick up and disposal from July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2015.
* Approved a contract between the health services district and Arizona First Things First for nutrition edu-cation and obesity prevention services on the Navajo Nation in the amount of $505,800, and oral health serv-ices in the amount of $261,074.42, both from July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2013.
* Approved a sub-contract between the health services district and the Coconino County Public Health Services District for nutrition services under the Arizona First Things First Navajo Nation Nutrition and Obe-sity Prevention program from July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2013, in the amount of $177,497, and Navajo Nation Oral Health Services grant in the amount of $86,833.02.
* Approved a contract between the health services district and Arizona First Things First for the Newborn Follow-Up Program from July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2013, in the amount of $98,959.
* Approved an oral health contract between the health services district and Arizona First Things First for July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2013, in the amount of $130,000.
* Approved an oral health fluoride varnish contract between the health services district and First Things First for the White Mountain Apache Tribe Region in the amount of $66,184.
* Approved a professional services contract between the health services district and Connie Baine, RDH, AP, Regina Rich, RDH, AP, Tamra Cannon, RDH, and Vita Nicks, RDH, for dental hygiene services through Arizona First Things First, Navajo Apache Region, White Mountain Apache and Navajo Nation Oral Health Fluoride Program from July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2013, at a rate of $45 per hour.
* Approved a contract between Victory Heights Road Maintenance District and Perkins Cinders, Inc.
* Approved an agreement for a public utility easement with the City of Show Low for a county owned par-cel adjacent to Pine Dawn Road in Wagon Wheel.
* Approved a funding request from the Town of Taylor for fencing material costs for Freeman Hollow Road in the amount of $5,000.
* Approved a resolution amending an intergovernmental agreement between public works and the State of Arizona, Department of Transportation, for the reservation roadway funding to include fiscal years 2010 and 2011.
* Approved a resolution to support and co-sponsor, with the Town of Snowflake, a Planning Assistance for Rural Areas grant application for a multi-modal regional transportation study for the Second Knolls region.