By Nick Worth
The Navajo County Board of Supervisors members learned in a legislative update Tuesday that the County Supervisors’ Association (CSA) has set three main priorities for the next legislative session.
Navajo County Governmental Affairs Director Hunter Moore reminded the board that Arizona’s counties have been called upon to contribute to the state to help in various ways.
“Over the past five years, Navajo County has given $6.9 million to the state,” said Moore. “That’s about $1 million more than we collected in property taxes for one year.”
He noted that Navajo County is not alone in this.
“There is a recognition at the CSA that this cannot be maintained,” said Moore. He said the CSA identified three high priorities to speak about with lawmakers and the governor’s office, including:
* Counties are currently required to pay 50 percent of the cost of treatment for sexually violent persons.
Moore said the treatment is expensive and cannot be done at the county level. He said the treatment, which is required after the sexually violent persons have served their jail time, has cost $88,000 per year. He said it is also impossible to predict if the county will be called upon to pay out money for treatments and so it cannot be budgeted for.
* The County Assistance Fund, which is the counties’ share of lottery money, has disappeared.
According to Moore, the fund used to pay Arizona’s smaller counties was $555,000.
“Three years ago half of that amount was taken back,” said Moore. “Then, two years ago, the rest of it was swept, too.”
He said the CSA would be asking for restoration of those monies.
* The CSA will also be asking for the restoration of Highway User Revenue Funds (HURF). Since 1997, said Moore, over $100 million has been diverted from Arizona’s counties to fund the Department of Public Safety (DPS)
“Road maintenance is important,” said Moore. “The state has taken $750,000 per year from Navajo County. We’re going to ask the governor to reduce or eliminate that shift.”
District II Supervisor Jesse Thompson mentioned that in order to achieve mandated educational goals, children cannot miss school. He said the condition of the county’s roads directly affect school attendance, especially in the winter.
“Roads and safety are important,” Thompson said. “That might make a good talking point.”
The board members asked Moore if CSA officials feel any of the propositions on the November ballot would affect the smaller counties,
District IV Supervisor David Tenney told the board the only proposition that would affect Navajo County was Proposition 204, the one-cent sales tax increase.
“At the CSA they said it would affect the ability of certain groups to get tax money,” Tenney said.
District I Supervisor Jonathan Nez expressed concern that Proposition 120, which calls for management of all federal lands within Arizona to pass to the state, was a way to make a “land grab” of tribal lands.
Tenney explained that the proposition came about because of frustration with the way the forests are man-aged and no discussions at the legislature have even mentioned tribal lands.
During the call to the public portion of the meeting, County Recorder Laureate Justman gave the board an early voting update.
“I want to remind you the deadline for early voting at the recorder’s office is Nov. 2,” Justman said. She said Oct. 26 is the deadline for requesting an early ballot and that all early ballots must be returned to the recorder’s office by 7 p.m. on Nov. 6. Ballots can be returned by mail, through drop boxes located throughout the county or in person.
Justman told the board her office has sent out 20,000 early ballots and 45,000 voter ID cards.
Nez expressed concern that some tribal IDs were not being considered a primary ID card at the polls during the primary election.
“These tribal IDs are a legitimate federal ID card and should be recognized as such,” said Nez.
Justman told Nez and the board the poll workers are aware of that now and should accept the tribal ID cards as valid identification.
Next in the call to the public, Julia Lee told the board that on Sept. 17, 2011, she filed a risk management claim for refund of $7,500 from the sale of a Cadillac belonging to her, which was seized in an arrest and then sold at auction. The car belonged to the arrestee at the time of the arrest.
“You can’t just take from the poor to accumulate money for the state and do it illegally,” Lee told the board.
The board took no action on the complaint, as it is not permitted to do so with non-agenda items and also because it was a matter for the court.
In other business Oct. 23, the board:
* Approved an intergovernmental agreement with the Arizona Department of Transportation for the Woodruff/Snowflake Bridge Rehabilitation project.
Public Works Director Homero Vela told the board the safety rating on the historic, one-lane bridge has been reduced to less than 40 percent.
“That allows us to tap into federal bride rehabilitation funds,” said Vela. “Currently, the bridge is rated at three tons, so we want to increase the capacity to 15 tons.
“The bridge, right now, is limited to light vehicle traffic,” Vela said. “It will remain a one-lane bridge and keep its historical designation. We’ll strengthen the bridge to increase its tonnage.”
Board Chairman J.R. DeSpain asked if the bridge would still have a wooden deck.
“We’ll move for a concrete deck instead of a wooden deck,” said Vela. He noted that even with the 15-ton rating, the bridge would still be limited to light vehicles, but it would increase safety.
“For example, a 10-wheel dump truck would not be allowed on the bridge,” Vela said. “To make it a two-lane bridge would quadruple the cost and there’s no justification for it.
“We would not be able to find the money,” said Vela. “It will remain (in use) for light traffic with a much higher safety rating in very much the same condition it is in today.”
According to Vela, the total cost of the project will be $1,389,553. He said $750,000 of the funding for the project comes from federal Transportation Enhancement Act (TEA) funds and $500,000 from bridge rehabilitation funds for a total of $1,250,000. Of that, $150,000 is earmarked for design and $1,100,000 for construction.
Navajo County’s share of the project will be $139,553, of which $73,063 will go for the design phase and $66,490 for the county share of the construction costs.
Vela said originally his department had expected to pay $424,250 for the project, but the downgrading of the bridge by ADOT to a less than 40 percent safety rating made it eligible for increased federal funding.
* Heard a financial report from Navajo County Finance Director James Menlove. He told the board the county’s revenues were not increasing, but rather remaining about the same as last year’s revenues.
“We’re hanging in there,” said Menlove. He noted a decrease in state shared tax revenues, county sales tax revenues and General Fund Vehicle License taxes.
* Heard a report from Clerk of the Board Melissa Buckley that the online back-tax land auction was to close on Oct. 25. She said 25 parcels had been sold or were being bid on by buyers from as far away as Canada.
* Approved assessment and tax roll corrections for data tax year 2012.
* Approved an intergovernmental agreement between Yavapai County and Navajo County for an extension of contract for restoration of competency services.
* Approved a modification to a cooperative law enforcement agreement with the U.S. Forest Service con-tract and operating and financial plan for $10,000 for law enforcement cooperative efforts for fiscal year 2013.
* Named the Hutch Road low-water crossing at Chevelon Creek “Seymour’s Crossing,” and approved installation of two signs for the crossing.
* Approved a task agreement to the memorandum of agreement between the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Hopi Agency and Navajo County.
* Named an existing road in the Snowflake area “Sugar Loaf Road.”
* Approved a letter to Catalyst Paper Company regarding Snowflake Mill closure obligations.
* Approved sending sympathy letters to Leann Baker and Frank Turley.
* Removed an agenda item for consideration and possible approval of the memorandum of understanding, roles and responsibilities for cooperative management of the Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project because U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service lawyers had not yet had a chance to read through the agreement.
* Approved a $5,000 National Victim’s Rights Symposium Grant Award.
Dawn Foster of the Navajo County Crime Victim Compensation Board told the board the next Victim’s Rights Symposium would be held sometime this coming April and will feature nationally recognized speakers.
* Acting as the Board of Equalization, approved the appeals of 11 property owners to reclassify their property to class three properties (owner occupied), waive assessed penalties and liens related to this recent reclassification action, and direct the county assessor to re-classify the properties to class three.
* Acting as the Navajo County Public Health District Board of Directors, approved a memorandum of agreement between the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, Arizona Nutrition Network and the Navajo County Public Health Services District WIC Program for the provision of nutrition and physical activity education support and resources to participants.
Dr. Wade Kartchner told the board no money would be changing hands under the agreement.
* Approved a professional services contract with Tamra Cannon, RDH, and Vita Nicks, RDH, for dental
By Nick Worth