County: Lots Of Opinions, But No Harmony

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It’s not that Gila County supervisors are indecisive. In fact, each has definite opinions. They just don’t agree with one another.

On Tuesday, they disagreed about what a particular e-mail from a local congresswoman sought, when to proceed with a strategic plan, and again about whether to prioritize a list of proposed stimulus-funded projects, although the first disagreement interlaced with the last disagreement. Supervisors did agree, however, that they were not “on the same page.”

The first difference arose as the snow fell Tuesday morning, trapping Supervisor Tommie Martin in Payson. She could not drive to Globe to attend a work study session to discuss a strategic plan, so she asked Chairman Shirley Dawson to reschedule. Dawson declined.

Martin called in to Tuesday’s regular morning meeting, periodically losing connection from her cell phone, prompting Dawson to pound her hand on the table before her in pure frustration.

A short discussion of the state’s ongoing economic calamity preceded discussion of a five-page e-mail that Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) sent to County Manager Steven Besich earlier this month.

Kirkpatrick wrote the county to alert it of the soon-to-begin fiscal year 2010 appropriations process, and asked that the county rank multiple requests.

Dawson took the e-mail to mean that Kirkpatrick wanted a ranking for proposed stimulus list projects.

Since the supervisors began discussing the list, Dawson has advocated for a prioritized list, with a new jail in Globe at the top.

Martin has pushed for a “smorgasbord,” saying that the county should have a project for whatever type of funding arises.

Dawson said of Kirkpatrick’s request for prioritizing, “This is something I’ve been requesting ever since we came up with this list.”

Appropriations are “an entirely different animal than the stimulus,” Martin countered.

“I believe whether it’s in stimulus or appropriations money, we need to be focused as a county,” Dawson replied.

In a later discussion, Pastor’s frustration at the three lists of proposed stimulus projects that have accompanied the ongoing, often circuitous discussions erupted.

“We need to get busy,” he said. “I’m getting concerned because we’re already in the second week of February.”

Indeed, the day after Pastor’s utterances, Congress negotiated a compromise on the bailout bill.

Martin attempted to console her colleagues by telling them she has been working with the county’s lobbyist and would make a presentation next week on the work that has ensued.

“We as the board have not submitted anything,” said Dawson, “other than handing Ann Kirkpatrick a folder of 60 requests and she comes back and says can we prioritize.”

Pastor predicted dire consequences to continued discussions. “We’re going to end up with nothing,” he said.

Dawson said, “One of the ways I believe we get our act together is by having a strategic plan for Gila County.” Supervisors considered the subject at the afternoon work study session.

The county’s personnel director, Berthan DeNero, sped through a presentation which included ruminations on where the county is headed and what type of government it wants to be.

“It’s not a static-type document,” DeNero said. “It needs to be organic.”

Dawson asked if the point of the strategic plan was to gather all county officials on the same page or if they needed to be on the same page to start the plan.

“I also think we’re not on the same page,” Martin agreed. Not meeting in the same room contributed to that feeling, she said.

And although Martin agreed planning was important, she suggested postponing the strategizing until this summer after budgets are set.

“I feel like we’ve delayed it for four years. Let’s get on with it,” Dawson said. “This is not an exercise in coming up with a plan for planning’s sake.”

Supervisor Mike Pastor suggested scheduling occasional meetings, while trying “not to disrupt day-to-day operations, but make sure you keep the wheels turning.”

“Just this little discussion was a big step for us,” he said. “I don’t think we need to set a deadline today.”

Supervisors ultimately agreed to schedule one work study session each month to discuss the strategic plan.

“Once a month right now feels right,” said Martin. “Or six weeks. Let it be flexible.”

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