Re: excellent “Special Report — Gila Community College at a Crossroads.”
It took Suzanne Jacobson three months to complete. The Payson Roundup printed it on July 30. This repost is a needed and eye-opening article.
This farce has been going on far too long, and it is time to stop it. On page 5B, the Roundup has requested the citizens of Gila County respond to the Special Report. I hope many of citizens will. Suzanne Jacobson has clearly stated all the facts of this long-term tragedy, and I do not have to repeat it here.
When Ron Christensen and the other supervisors severed the contract with EAC (Eastern Arizona College) back in about 2000 because of rapidly escalating costs to Gila County, EAC chose to lock up millions of dollars of Gila Community College supplies, automobiles, computers, and other equipment, and Gila County had to file a lawsuit to try to get possession of what their taxpayers had already paid for. Unfortunately these items remained under EAC lock and key until they became obsolete and were of little use, wasting millions of Gila County tax dollars.
In 2002 Gila County voters approved and funded a provisional college in Payson. We were all thrilled. The contract with GCC (Gila Community College) and Pima College worked wonderfully, and Dr. Barbara Ganz contributed her experience, tireless efforts and partnering with Payson and area businesses including Payson Regional Medical Center. Her goal was to offer the students classes within our area to fit the workplace needs and provide the first two years for students who wanted a four-year degree. Under Pima, GCC had a truly professional relationship that offered the maximum in educational opportunities to students and the community. It all came to an end when Globe got a 3 to 2 majority on the GCC Board and we were forced to go back to EAC.
Unfortunately, at first we didn’t realize how fraudulent EAC was and has continued to be. A group of local leaders began meeting each week, around 2005, to try to find ways to maximize community college offerings for Payson students.
EAC and the Globe members of the board just continually stonewalled. Even after using the Freedom of Information Act to obtain e-mails and other information that proved our case, EAC and the Globe board members still would not give a detailed budget and financial information in a timely manner (not in any manner!), and refused to answer calls. The Arizona Legislature (no doubt with help from Bill Konopnicki) made it clear that GCC could only operate under EAC and the egregious contract.
Both the EAC board and the GCC board chair continue to refuse to put requested issues on the agenda by Payson board members, Larry Stephenson and Tom Loeffler, and continue to do business in secret, when it is advantageous to them. Both these men continue the fight, knowing that Bob Ashford will block them at all times, with the approval of the Legislature, specifically Bill Konopnicki. In my opinion, all of the Globe board members and their cohorts on the board of supervisors and in the Legislature represent exactly what is wrong with our political system these days — their actions represent a criminal waste of tax dollars!
Fortunately, State Sen. Sylvia Allen stepped to the plate and called a task force to draft legislation that will free GCC, and wants it ready by January 2011. Of course, Bill Konopnicki has flip-flopped on the issue now, because he wants your vote, and that is the only reason.
Thank you again to the Payson Roundup and Suzanne Jacobson for the investigative journalism for this article. Now it is up to us, the people of Gila County, to finish the job! Remember to vote Aug. 24 and remember Independents can vote, too.