Feb 182016

By Nolan Madden
As insurance lore and a certain delightful marketing tune go, one well-known provider touts its coverage and customer support as being “always there, like a good neighbor.”
Having a reliable partner in any endeavor is insurance in itself, and even more so when operating a city or town.
Enter the council of governments (COG), an entity that serves local governments and the citizens in a region by dealing with issues and needs that cross city, town, county and even state boundaries through communication, planning, policy making, coordination, advocacy and technical assistance.
There are six COG associations within the state of Arizona and 540 nationwide. The Northern Arizona Council of Governments is the largest of these nonprofit groups in the state, serving rural Apache, Coconino, Navajo and Yavapai county communities.
Holbrook Vice Mayor Wade Carlisle, a NACOG board member representing the city, invited NACOG Transportation Manager Jason Kelly to address the city council recently.
Kelly explained NACOG’s function, noting, “Our intention is to improve quality of life, which sounds like a lot of the buzz words you will see in corporate mission statements.
“But nevertheless, the intention of NACOG is to complement local, county and tribal governments, with the primary goal of bringing greater opportunity to the community as a whole,” said Kelly.
The agency can easily be tagged with an ambiguous identity, as it covers a wide variety of municipal support services ranging from aging and senior care, to economic and workforce development, children’s Head Start education, homeownership and housing rehab, water quality and transportation planning.
The advantage, said Kelly, is community access to unique–and often costly–programs that might otherwise be fiscally out of reach. He referenced a COG in California which provides mortuary services to county residents, to the tune of “hundreds of millions of dollars annually.”
On the transportation planning front, he pointed out that NACOG has been instrumental in many local roadway and route improvements underway and completed in recent months.
“An example of some transit projects in development that haven’t hit the streets, per se, is the coalescing of the transportation corridor between Holbrook and Flagstaff,” Kelly related.
“Also, the ‘Dilkon Triangle’ area has been an issue we’ve been working on, so members of the City of Winslow have approached us about doing public transit. We’re researching what that would look like, and bringing our partners together to figure out ‘What are the issues? What do they need?’”
Infrastructure-wise, Kelly reports that NACOG was the regional sponsor of the National Safe Routes to School program, recently procuring $200,000 to $300,000 of roadway safety signage for 13 local municipalities, with solar speed limit signs to be installed in Holbrook citywide, and handicapped-access markers to be posted at all Holbrook schools, beginning this summer.
The National Safe Routes to School program was passed by Congress in July 2005 and signed into law that year to improve safety on walking and bicycling routes to school, and to encourage children and families to travel between home and school using these modes.
City Manager Ray Alley noted, “NACOG also administered our Community Development Block Grant Program grant, and that’s what funded all of the improvements at our senior center.
“The city didn’t have the expertise for the CDBG; they’re complicated grants, probably the hardest grant I’ve ever dealt with,” he said.
Kelly said these are just a few examples of the benefits of NACOG’s presence within the community.
“I’d like to encourage continued participation from the community, and also involvement in our other committees. We’re just right down the street, and we’d really like to see the city represented in our transit and infrastructure planning components,” he noted.