Aug 262015
 

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Photo by Naomi Hatch

Snowflake-Taylor Chamber of Commerce President Patti Matyas (left) welcomes State Senator Sylvia Allen and District 3 Navajo County Supervisor Jason Whiting to a recent town hall sponsored by the chamber.

 

By Naomi Hatch

District 3 Navajo County Supervisor Jason Whiting updated the small crowd attending a town hall last week on recent county activities, and State Senator Sylvia Allen gave updates on the state. The Aug. 20 event was sponsored by the Snowflake-Taylor Chamber of Commerce.

Whiting invited everyone to attend the upcoming Labor Day Sweet Corn Festival in Taylor. “That’s one thing I really love about this area, and we see it over and over–the amount of volunteerism,” he said.

“It’s a lot of people with a lot of heart coming together,” said Whiting noting as he drove through town the previous night, people were cleaning up all around the schools.

Whiting also talked about partnerships the county has with other entities and economic development.

A new roof was needed on the grandstands at the Navajo County Fairgrounds, and, “Uniquely, my family, Whiting Bros., donated some of the wood, so I had some ties there,” he said. The supervisor worked with local contractors and was able to get the roof taken care of, but realized the trusses were pretty bad. A local contractor came to the table and helped out with trusses.

“The historic courthouse…it’s a jewel,” said Whiting, “but noting it has a lot of problems.” Holbrook came to the county for help, and they have partnered to help find grants and opportunities that will help fix the problems.

Whiting received a call from the Town of Taylor regarding problems because the elementary school did not having a lot of parking and it was a safety hazard. The county partnered with the town and the Snowflake Unified School District, and they decided they could utilize property owned by the town for a parking lot. The county didn’t have the necessary equipment, but reached out to Steve Reidhead and they all sat down together. The trees were thick, but they have now been removed and a parking lot is in the works.

“Those are the kinds of partnerships that we enjoy in this area,” said Whiting.

He noted Navajo County is partnering with the unincorporated areas with clean ups, providing garbage bins from a local company, and citizens cleaned up the community. They are now working with local ranchers and farmers on roads and a fencing policy. “I thought everybody wanted a paved road, but that’s just not the case. We try to make sure we listen to you before we make decisions, and that’s important,” he said.

Whiting expressed concern about economic development in the county, noting that there are many who grow up here who have to move to make a living. “We raise a lot of talent and send it off,” he stated. “One of my major concerns is jobs. I don’t feel like it’s the government’s role to create the jobs…but we need to partner with them when we can and how we can.”

An example is the coal fired power plants, and he spoke about first dollar income. “It’s a real concern,” said Whiting referring to the loss of the paper mill and now concern about the future loss of coal-fired plants.

Whiting has testified, hoping to help those at the federal understand the error of what they are trying to do, noting how important those power plants are to this area.

Another area the county supports is the Apache Railway. “This has become increasingly important,” said the supervisor, noting that they weren’t able to do a whole lot to protect the paper mill building that was gutted during the night, but they did see the importance of the railroad and have done what they can to keep that asset, which is worth more dollar wise as scrap metal than as a railroad.

“Every one of the businesses that have called us have talked about the railroad,” Whiting said. He pointed out that they are on a list with five or six others to get an egg farm here, but it is contingent on keeping the railroad.

Whiting also spoke of RealAZ and the importance of the county supporting it, because “it’s the communities coming together to say that we’re here.”

“In the Forest Service we’re starting to get traction,” he said. “A lot of people have done a lot of good, but we’ve got to start cutting wood. We need to cut the trees; that is necessary to have true forest restoration.”

“This is home,” stated State Senator Sylvia Allen who was raised in this area.

“I love to talk about critical issues that are facing us,” said Senator Allen. She talked about each of the task forces she is working on.

One is community colleges. They asked her to sponsor a bill for expenditure limits, which she has done. She explained that currently even though a community college brings in revenue, it cannot spend over the expenditure limits.

She is working on the transfer of public land, because Arizona is 87 percent federally controlled. “This is why Arizona has a hard time funding education,” she said.

Allen also serves on the Border Security Task Force and told about a tour she recently took.

She attended a security briefing held by Maricopa County to help them understand what is happening with the Islamic Radical Movement. They were briefed on the security policy from Washington, D.C. “It was very concerning to me,” she said.

Allen has worked on the forest industry, which is an important issue to her. “That’s my first love,” she said. Arizona has slowly started rebuilding its timber industry. She has had leadership in the senate and house sign a letter about the 4FRI project that was sent to Washington, D.C.

“I’m very concerned about education. It is the future of our country, our children’s future,” said Allen as she explained that the state budget usually allots about 40 percent of the general fund to education. She also clarified why Arizona is ranked 48th or 50th in funding for education.

She is in favor of State Land trust money being used for education, and she believes that we need programs such as the Northern Arizona Vocational Institute of Technology.

“I really think there are some good things about education,” said the senator. “I think it’s a bad rap that we’re being labeled, because I think overall we have some of the best teachers.”

Allen also is pro tem of the senate for President Andy Biggs.

She spoke about the budget, sharing her concerns regarding the dollar. “I say we get back to work and develop our own oil in America,” she said.

“I’m very careful not to put more of a tax burden on our citizens,” said Allen. “I think we’ve got to learn to be very careful with what we spend. I know when I go to vote that I’m spending your money, and I want to spend it on things that are constitutionally correct.

“Planned Parenthood should be defunded,” she said.

Allen said that they are trying to find money in the budget to help beef up a task force that helps fight child pornography.

“We have got to be aware of the things that are out there and have a voice, stand up against them so we can have the courage to change it,” said the senator.

Following the remarks, Senator Allen and Supervisor Whiting were on hand to answer citizens’ questions.

Chamber President Patti Matyas suggested there be a quarterly town hall meeting to update citizens. Allen and Whiting both said they felt that was a good idea.