By Nick Worth
The Navajo County Board of Supervisors heard a presentation last week on the proposed Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA) by Jeff Hall, director of the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff.
Hall told the board the optical telescope array may be built in Coconino County, one mile from the Meteor Crater Visitors Center.
“That’s our preferred site,” Hall said. Other possible sites are the Yavapai Ranch, which lies about 15 miles south of Seligman, San Pedro Martir, in Baja, Calif., Mexico and Tenerife in the Canary Islands in Spain.
The project is being put together by a consortium of 28 countries with 1,100 members. It will cost $130 million to build and will have an annual operating budget of $10 million. Hall said there would be 25 permanent employees just for the scientific part of the staff.
The facility will consist of 40 telescopes, 36 12-meter scopes and four 24-meter telescopes arranged in a circle. The project, along with its sister site to be built somewhere in the southern hemisphere, will study gamma rays, dark matter, black holes and other astronomical phenomenon.
“The project also has excellent educational and outreach potential,” Hall said. He noted that astronomy in Arizona currently has a $1.2 billion investment in the state, with an impact of $252 million and provides over 3,000 jobs.
According to Hall, the consortium is very concerned about the level of local support to be found wherever they decide to put the array.
“Local support is critical,” Hall said. He has letters of support from the cities of Flagstaff and Winslow, as well as Coconino County, the Northern Arizona Council of Governments (NACOG) and several other entities.
Hall told the board the construction phase of the project would begin in 2015 and would last until 2019. He said although the site is in Coconino County, a lot of the positive economic impact would be felt in Winslow.
“This will be a major capital investment in the region,” Hall said. He added the local economic impact would be large because the project would use local labor whenever possible.
“It would also be a major tourist attraction,” Hall said. “It would provide excellent opportunities for outreach to tourists and local students.”
District II Supervisor Jesse Thompson asked what impact future development along Interstate 40 in the Twin Arrows Casino vicinity would have on the project.
Hall replied he had spoken with Navajo Nation gaming representatives about it, and they assured him they would follow lighting guidelines and use shielded lights in any future construction projects.
“It should be no problem,” Hall said.
He also told the board that members of the consortium would be in the area to investigate the site later in December. He then asked the board members if they would also sign a letter of support for the project.
The supervisors voted unanimously to sign a letter of support.
In other action Nov. 26, the board:
* Approved a revised contract for professional services between Navajo County and Stantec Consulting Services, Inc.
* Approved a letter to Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick regarding a gravel and road improvement project for the Navajo Nation-Red Dog Partnership Team.
* Sent sympathy letters to Judge David Widmaier, Juanita Mann, Laura Sanchez, Paul Saiz and the family of Charles Youvella.
* Approved letters to Senators Jeff Flake and John McCain regarding Senate action to restore the health of our national forests and the gateway communities adjacent to them.
* Approved a second amended addendum to the June 30, 2010, memorandum of understanding for Mexican Wolf conservation and cover letter.
* Approved Navajo County scoping comments on removing the Gray Wolf from the list of endangered and threatened wildlife while maintaining protections for the Mexican Wolf by listing it as endangered.
* Approved a proposed revision to the nonessential experimental population of the Mexican Wolf.
* Made a tribute to former state lawmaker Ben Miranda.
* Recognized Charalie Perkins (sheriff’s office/jail), Leah Thomas (Superior Court Division III), Tasha Morris (sheriff’s office/jail) and Mike Limmpo (facilities management) for their excellence in performance far exceeding organization expectations.
* Adopted a prayer and thanksgiving proclamation.
* Approved the Board of Supervisors meeting schedule for 2014.
* Recognized the Public Works team for its contribution in constructing the access road and building pad for the Public Works Complex.
The staff has moved about 16,000 tons of material in preparing the pad for the complex.
* Approved personnel actions.
* Approved a new CARE leave bank policy and procedure.
* Approved the official canvass of the Nov. 5 General Election.
* Heard an update from County Finance Director James Menlove.
He told the supervisors the county has seen a 5.23 percent increase in state shared sales tax revenues over the month of November and a 5.2 percent increase in county sales tax revenues over the same period.
* Approved an $18,250 contract with Heinfeld-Meech for an indirect cost study.
* Approved the sale of surplus county, WIA and seized property by public online auction beginning Jan. 6.
Acting as the Board of Equalization, the board approved agreements made by the county assessor and petitioners regarding petitions for review of notice of change.
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By Nick Worth