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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Shirley Dawson gives supervisors gavel to Pastor

Board criticizes loss of private land in exchange

By Carolyn Wall
Connection Correspondent

Gila County Board Chairman Shirley Dawson has turned her gavel over to fellow supervisor Mike Pastor.

“Today is 16 months I’ve been chairman,” Dawson said Tuesday, May 4, at the regular meeting of the Board of Supervisors. “A title is a title is a title. We all serve and represent Gila County. If there’s an emergency, we’re all there. When you become chairman of the board, you’re just signing as chairman of the board. You’re still a member of the board.”

Supervisor Tommie Martin said she thought it was a good idea to rotate the position.

Although the title carries little weight among the three supervisors, as chairman Pastor will have a little more clout when he deals with the state and goes to Washington, D.C. on behalf of Resolution Copper and Tonto Basin Bridge, Martin said.

Pastor said, “You work in your district, but you work for all of the county. I would be very proud to serve as chairman for 16 months.”

Dawson went on to nominate Martin as vice chair of the board, and both she and Pastor voted to approve the nomination.

The supervisors discussed the Resource Advisory Council (RAC) meeting in which Gila County came out with $631,000 in federal funding that is given to rural counties in lieu of the property taxes they would otherwise receive from Forest Service lands.

“We are going to be able to do most of the dangerous portion of the 512 (Young Road),” Dawson said.

“We obsess over our failures,” Martin said. “To come home with that amount of money is a huge win. We just skip right by the things we do. It’s our money. If we had the taxes, we could keep up with our infrastructure. I say ‘attaboy’ – we are getting some big wins.”

But county supervisors also discussed what they agree is a loss - a loss of private lands from their tax rolls in a proposed land exchange between the Lions Foundation of Arizona and the Apache-Sitgreaves, Coronado, Prescott and Tonto National Forests. The Lions Foundation has been working on the land exchange for some 10 years.

The exchange would give them just over 344 acres for Lions Club Camp Tatiyee for youth. The Lions would give the federal government 16 separate parcels totaling over 1,719 acres of private land that they purchased for the exchange.

In a letter to District Ranger Edward W. Collins, of the Lakeside Ranger District of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, the supervisors wrote that they support the exchange of private land for federally owned land “on its face.”

But supervisors also wrote that they find the exchange objectionable in that the 1,719-plus acres will be removed from the tax rolls.

The letter from the supervisors states: “For the Forest Service to bring only 344.06 acres – an untenable 6-1 ratio – to the table for its part of the ‘exchange’ is no less than a predatory and opportunistic growing of its own acreage on the backs of small, rural counties, who, like the rest of the United States, are experiencing the worst economic recession in our history.”

To close the letter, the supervisors suggested that, in the future, exchanging private land for Forest land be a net neutral change in private land within Gila County.

The letter states: “Further, this exchange will be a continuance of the loss of Gila County’s cultural and historic identity by obliterating homestead parcels and their structures.”

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