WINDOW ROCK — The Navajo Nation Council approved legislation adopting the Síhasin Fund Twin Arrows Travel Center Development Expenditure Plan in July.
The plan increases economic development at the I-40 interchange near the Twin Arrows Resort, 25 miles east of Flagstaff.
Legislation sponsor Council Delegate Leonard Tsosie (Baca/Prewitt, Casamero Lake, Counselor, Littlewater, Ojo Encino, Pueblo Pintado, Torreon, Whitehorse Lake), said the money would be used to promote economic development by constructing a convenience store, gas station and trucker service station in the area.
Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise (NNGE) CEO Derrick Watchman outlined how the project would benefit the Navajo Nation’s gaming industry and overall economy by attracting more visitors to the gaming facility, providing job creation, creating tax revenues from retail sales and construction, providing business site lease fee revenues and establishing utilities infrastructure necessary to support future development in the area.
Watchman also noted that the NNGE has contributed over $2 million for development costs, including electricity and water infrastructure, land costs and telecommunications.
The money for the project is provided from the $554 million trust mismanagement settlement the Navajo Nation received in 2014 from the federal government, which is held in an account known as the Síhasin Fund, which was established in 2014.
The establishment of the Síhasin Fund mandates that any expenditure plans should also be supplemented by leveraged money, such as matching money, joint funding, cost-sharing, loan agreements or bond financing.
Tsosie, who serves as the chair of the Síhasin Fund Subcommittee, said the funding for the gaming enterprise would meet the leveraging criteria based on the $2 million contribution from the enterprise thus far and because a portion of the funding would be part of a loan agreement.
According to the legislation, the gaming enterprise would receive $2.5 million for planning, development and construction of infrastructure and an additional $3.5 million for planning, development and construction of the travel center. An additional $4 million would be loaned to the enterprise for overall construction purposes, which would be paid back to the Nation with interest.
The legislation also includes a provision that requires the funds to be audited on an annual basis with the audit report submitted to the Council’s Naabik’iyátí’ Committee, the Office of the Controller and the Office of the President and Vice President.
At the conclusion of the discussion, council members voted 16-2 to approve the legislation. The Navajo Nation Council serves as the final authority for the bill.
Construction of the travel center is expected to begin this summer and is tentatively scheduled to open in late spring of 2017.
The council also considered two separate bills related to proposed amendments to the Navajo Land Policy on the acquisition of land, and amendments to Title 3 of the Navajo Nation Code pertaining to compensation for district grazing committee members across the Navajo Nation.
Council Delegate Alton Joe Shepherd (Jeddito, Cornfields, Ganado, Kin Dah Lichíí, Steamboat) sponsored Legislation No. 0101-16, seeking to amend the land acquisition process by delegating the authority to acquire land for the Nation to the executive director of the Navajo Nation Division of Natural Resources.
Council Delegate Dwight Witherspoon (Black Mesa, Forest Lake, Hardrock, Pinon, Whippoorwill) sponsored Legislation No. 0118-16, which sought to amend Title 3 to provide funds in the Nation’s annual budget for compensation for district grazing committee members for attending meetings.
Both pieces of legislation involved lengthy discussions and each piece of legislation was eventually referred back to the Resources and Development Committee for further review and discussion. The council will reconsider the bills at a later date.
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