County Officials Talk Stimulus To Congresswoman

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Gila County Supervisor Shirley Dawson and Sheriff John Armer pushed for stimulus money to build a new jail in Globe during a meeting Friday with a congressional representative.

Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.) met with supervisors and county officials to discuss the package lawmakers hope will reinvigorate the nation’s ailing economy. A new jail was one possibility among many ideas circulated.

“It’s a project that’s ready to go,” Armer told Kirkpatrick, adding that job seekers could

find construction work in addition to staffing positions after the jail’s construction. The project would cost an estimated $36.8 million.

“I feel like we need to go to you and say this is our No. 1 need,” Dawson told the congresswoman.

“That could be a good project,” Kirkpatrick said. “But I’m not making any promises.”

Kirkpatrick said that half of the stimulus funds will likely be distributed to existing federal agencies, and the other half could flow to the governor’s office before filtering to counties like Gila. She encouraged county officials to contact Gov. Jan Brewer’s office.

Supervisor Tommie Martin has advocated for more flexibility, saying that a too-firm set of priorities could preclude the county from getting money for other projects.

The county’s economy is slowing, supervisors said.

Copper mines have begun to falter, said Supervisor Mike Pastor.

“Once it hits the copper, it hits everything else,” said Dawson.

Martin said tight credit around Payson has led some businessmen to borrow money from individuals as opposed to institutions, even with the accompanying higher interest rate.

Other possible stimulus projects included a list of 60 homes in the county that need weatherizing. Dawson said funding exists for only four.

“Some of these are considered emergency situations, but there’s nothing we can do,” Dawson said.

Vernon James, of the San Carlos Reservation, spoke about an ongoing project to increase broadband access for residents there.

In the House-passed stimulus bill, an entire section is devoted to broadband.

James said he hoped some of that would filter out San Carlos’ way.

“We can use some of that broadband to stimulate (economic) development,” he said.

Martin told Kirkpatrick that movement of the Tonto Creek will eventually force some residents to relocate. Dikes and other short-term solutions borrow time, Martin said, but “the time is coming where we can no longer do that.”

Stimulus money could perhaps help fix the problem.

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