Supervisor Recounts Both Progress, Challenges For County

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Can you believe it’s Progress Report time again? Where does the time go, and are we having fun – and if not, why not?

On to Gila County progress! First and foremost, we have a new and far user-friendlier Web site. It is not perfect, it is a work in progress – but go check it out at www.GilaCountyAz.gov.

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Supervisor Tommie Martin (center) shares an election night laugh with the new Gila County Sheriff Alan Sheperd (right). The election brought sweeping changes with redistricting and several of new county-wide officials, including Assessor Deborah Hughes.

Second, let’s take a look at our County Library District and what it has accomplished in conjunction with Gila County’s eight public libraries – Payson, Pine, Young, Tonto Basin, Miami, Globe, San Carlos and Hayden – and with a First Things First Gila Regional Council Parent Outreach and Awareness Grant for Early Literacy.

As I reported to you in 2010, an estimated 35 percent of enrolling kindergartners in Gila County did not have what were considered the “pre-reading skills” necessary to become successful readers – and, therefore, successful students. For instance, pre-kindergartners with the ability to understand and use effectively 3,000 words are considered to have a good base for pre-reading. One third of our pre-kindergartners, county wide, have a very limited vocabulary, some as few as 500 words or less – many not knowing the words for colors, letters, body parts, sounds and so on when they enter kindergarten at age 5.

The County Library District staff targeted this un-served and/or underserved population, along with attempting to reach all pre-kindergarten children in general and profoundly boost the vocabulary of ALL pre-kindergartners. All children in Gila County, from birth to their fifth birthday, are eligible to participate in this program whereby each month they receive, free of charge, an age-appropriate book delivered to their home.

By the end of 2010, the first year of the program, there were 863 children receiving books monthly in an effort to bring into being a generation of reading-ready kindergartners for Gila County. Today, the library district is supplying 1,720 children, age birth to 5 years, with a book each month through the Dollywood Foundation Imagination Library Program.

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Tommie Martin

Already, 641 children have graduated (aged out) from the program!

If you have, or know of, children under 5 years of age who would like to participate, please contact your local library or one of the County’s WIC (Women, Infants and Children) offices.

In addition, the Gila County Library District’s Web site is up and running at http://www.gcldaz.org/gila/index.asp. On this site you can access more than 33 online resources supplied by all the County Library Districts and the Arizona State Library. Among these are Newspaper Source Plus, Novelist Plus, Auto Repair Reference Center, Master File Complete by Ebsco, Medline Plus, Do It Yourself Reference Center, and Consumer Reports, just to name a few. Supplied by Gila County Library District are Mango Languages, Learning Express, Ancestry Library, and OneClick Digital (downloadable audio books). Check it out.

Another area of real progress comes from the Public Works Survey Team and their high accuracy Land Parcel Database. This team has been working through a years-long and complex process to provide the county and the general public with a Geographic Information System (GIS) with parcel lines that best represent the truth on the ground.

Without the benefit of this system with its field survey validation, attempts to portray accurate and repeatable survey lines, aerial imagery backgrounds and floodplain issues fail miserably. They are approximately 75 percent complete with some of the more complex areas left to tackle. Once complete, Gila County’s GIS System will be one of the most accurate in Arizona - benefiting residents, county staff and many others in both the public and private sector.

And speaking of Public Works, some of their progress this year includes the Pine Creek Canyon Road Reconstruction Project that widened and paved approximately 5,000 feet of Pine Creek Canyon Road starting from the intersection with Highway 87. The project also included water main replacement and installation of nine fire hydrants funded by the Pine-Strawberry Water Improvement District.

In addition, roads in Strawberry, Round Valley, Oxbow Estates, Tonto Basin and Young were chip sealed and fog sealed and the Gisela Road had sections of it milled with pavement repair.

And I’d be remiss in not mentioning the seven bridges replaced on the Control Road by the USFS in preparation of continuing to partner with the county so that one day the Control Road will be an all weather “escape route”.

As you know, we continue to improve and make progress in our forest “fire-water system” – the series of water bladders and open-topped tanks strategically placed from Strawberry and the Cinch Hook Area along under the Rim to beyond Christopher Creek and into Young. The goal is for Type I, II and III helicopters to have adequate first-strike water within a 1-minute turnaround to a fire anywhere within our forested region, as well as giving local fire districts added water in their fire fighting endeavors.

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The Gila County Library District this year operated a reading readiness for kids younger than five which offered families free books, after surveys showed that 35 percent of the pre-kindergarten children in the county lack reading readiness skills.

The 2012 test of this system was during the Poco Fire north of Young. The Type 1 Fire Team on that fire fully expected it to develop into a 500,000+ acre fire due to its location, weather conditions and fuel load – and said so. The fact that they were able to use us and our set-up to hold it to +/-35,000 surprised everyone and we all received wall plaques expressing their appreciation.

You keep hearing me say, though, that all of these forest efforts, however, will only be truly successful progress with the letting of a contract under the 4 Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI). That finally happened in 2012 – although the company that was awarded the contract still has not found financing – nor has the USFS let its first work order under the contract. This will be an area to watch closely in 2013 to see if, in fact, it makes progress.

Now, by no means have I mentioned all the progress made or the projects completed in 2012, but this is enough for now. If you’d like more information, come on by – we’ll have a cup of coffee and visit.

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