County work program

District 3 Supervisor Woody Cline with members of the summer work employment program. This year, for the first time participants received T-shirts.

Gila County’s 2020 Summer Work Employment Program was questionable considering COVID-19. Modifications made it possible though, and the board of supervisors heard about its success at an Oct. 6 meeting.

Cathy Melvin, executive administrative assistant for District 3, gave the supervisors the program’s final report.

There were 76 applications from young adults throughout the county to take part in the program that ran from June 8 through July 17. The pay was $12 an hour for a 40-hour workweek for six weeks.

Unfortunately, the program only had 33 positions available, which was four less than in 2019.

Melvin said this year’s program had a better response in the northern part of the county than in years past; additionally, using board of supervisors’ constituent money, two additional workers were paid for in Hayden/Winkelman and Miami.

The county, the board of supervisors and the participating communities made a total investment of $131,328 in the 2020 Summer Work Employment Program.

Interviews were at the end of May, with sessions in Globe, Payson and the Hayden/Winkelman area to minimize contact and make it easier for the applicants to attend interviews. There were also interviews by phone. New this year, Melvin said, were Payson and Miami town staff observing the interviews and taking part in the selection of the summer workers.

The program included participation with cities, towns, and county departments. Municipalities involved with the program were Globe, Hayden, Miami, Payson, and Winkelman. County departments making use of the program’s workers included the board of supervisors, community development, county attorney, elections, facilities, health department, information technology, public fiduciary, and sheriff’s office.

Many of the workers received high praise from participating employers:

• City of Globe: “Painted a beautiful mural at the Globe library.”

• Board of Supervisors: “Really good, dependable help. She categorized files and organized.”

• Community Development: “Best part-time worker ever!” Melvin added the individual working with community development was bilingual and could also work with the health department when it was in contact with non-English speakers.

• Elections: “The workers got a lot of projects completed for us and it was hard to keep up with them.”

COVID-19 modifications

COVID-19 forced several modifications to the program. Usually all the workers gather for orientation and training.

Instead, each participating employer provided orientation and there was no soft skills training or other group gatherings.

Melvin told the BOS all the supervisors did a good job providing information to the workers regarding wearing masks and necessary precautions for COVID-19.

This year, for the first time, each participant received a T-shirt, she said.

Youth Conservation Corps

As part of the 2020 Summer Work Employment Program, the county partnered with the Tonto National Forest on a grant application to establish a Youth Conservation Corps crew in the northern part of the county.

A crew of four workers and two crew leaders worked on projects on the Tonto National Forest in Payson and Tonto Basin with forest staff, specialists, and partners. They did wildlife surveys, wilderness monitoring, cultural site maintenance, and hydrology. The crew earned 300 hours toward AmeriCorps scholarships, which can be used to help pursue educational and career based knowledge, training, and courses.

Some project details:

• Shoofly Ruins restoration with Friends of Tonto National Forest and Tonto Heritage program — large amounts of brushing, invasive species removal, improving drainage, and more.

• Wet/Dry mapping with Tonto Hydrology program — The crew spent the week checking various streams and reaches in order to record what is flowing during the dry season; this mapping data was collected pre-monsoon and will be very valuable to the hydrology team.

• Seeding and sign painting with Tonto Fire and Biology programs — It is important for seeding to occur prior to monsoon season; the crew planted native blue grama grass; it also spent several days painting forest signage, which is greatly affected by the heat, snow, and elements.

• Spring repair and recreation site rehabilitation with Tonto Range program — The crew joined the Tonto Basin Range staff for a week of intense outdoor labor in difficult to reach areas of the forest. Part of the effort was to dig up a spring that was covered by mud as a result of the Woodbury Fire last year since livestock and wildlife heavily depend on these springs.

Melvin said the reviews from everyone involved were very positive.

The response was so enthusiastic a new application is already being prepared for next summer to not only have the YCC in northern Gila County, but to have it in the southern area as well. She said Gila County has pledged to partner on the YCC program again.

Contact the reporter at tmcquerrey@payson.com

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