Demands Hopi Council action on delayed school project<br>

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following letter, dated Jan. 27, was sent to the Hopi Tribal Council as well as the Navajo Hopi Observer. Accompanying it was a letter from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Facilities Management Construction Center in Albuquerque, N.M., regarding the Second Mesa Day School (SMDS) Replacement project. The BIA letter states that the office is under pressure from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) because project was funded in 2001 and is currently three years behind schedule on construction, and seven years behind schedule on design.)

We have run against nothing but barriers since you, Hopi Tribal Council (HTC), moved the new school construction back to the 264 site from Highway 87 site, ignoring your own Resolution H-043-00, dated March 8, 2000. This controlling legislation stipulated a decision to place the new SMDS at Highway 87 site.

Accordingly, the Sipaulovi Village granted 30 acres on Jan. 28, 2000, and [was] executed by Mr. Wayne Taylor, Chairman, on March 20, 2000. This property is undisputedly in the Sipaulovi Village jurisdiction.

Also, U.S. Congress appropriated $19,770,424, which was approved by BIA. Finally, Mr. Wayne Taylor officially executed the Lease Agreement, and submitted the Lease to Superintendent, Hopi Agency, on Jan. 4, 2001for approval.

However, the superintendent totally ignored the tribal legislation and took no action on the lease. Instead of promoting the spirit and intent of the Hopi people’s desire for a necessity of a new school, he avoided his responsibility by passing the buck to his superiors in Phoenix, who are far removed to effectively and positively deal with the issue. His inaction stopped the progress for a new school thereby creating problems for the people.

The letter from BIA, FMCC raised several alarming issues on the project, so we contacted FMCC for details on the letter. The following information was obtained: (l) The demolition of permanent structures will incur expenses of about $650,000.00; (2) A plan of drilling a water well and development, estimated to be very costly but no estimates were available; (3) Development of a new sewer system, which is also a costly endeavor, but no estimates are available; (4) Site work for construction - $3,000,000. (The trailers need to be moved, and the site has to be elevated by about 4 feet of fill and compacted; (5) 25 housing units were authorized but no funds are available. It is estimated only 10 may be built because of funding availability and problems; (6) $700,000.00 is estimated for fixing up old Polacca Day School for safety of moving the students while constructions is ongoing at 264 site.

Construction funds of $19,770,434.00 and related contingency funds are the only funds available to pay for the cited development expenses, except for housing units. If no other funds are available for these expenses, then the enrollment would have to be severely reduced, and we may end up with a school that would not meet the needs of the students from the three villages (Shungopavy, Mishongovi and Sipaulovi).

The other concerns have to do with the million dollar decisions being made only by the president of the SMDS School Board and the school principal, who are usually the only ones present representing the school board at planning meetings. Also, the school board has terminated the services of its project manager and now has a temporary manager, who does not fully meet the qualification requirements of the position. It is necessary that a fully qualified person assume the responsibility for a project of this magnitude.

Since you are charged with the responsibility and duty to promote the welfare of the Hopi people, we demand you revisit the issues concerning the new SMDS construction. We cite the Oct. 23, 2000 letter from BIA, FMCC, to Mr. Wayne Taylor, Chairman, stating that BIA “will not authorize the use of approved funds for construction at the former school site. It would be an unwise use of public funds to build on a site that has soils problems, traffic hazards, and is too small for the school housing needs.”

This letter created a great deal of controversy among the Hopi people, and its authoritative mandate necessitated a search for other areas for construction. When Resolution H-043-00 was enacted setting aside Highway 87 site, concerted effort was made by all the parties to complete the pre-construction requirements. After the federal bureaucrats created all the controversy, they gave into the political spur-of-the-moment decision of the Hopi Tribal Council, a decision to move the new school site to 264 site. This decision created even more problems because it was wrong and illegal.

The construction is now experiencing not only costly construction problems but also, the placement of students and staff to old Polacca Days School, a school that has been condemned by the bureau and has since been replaced with a new school. If only $700,000 was needed to bring the old school back to a safe environment for a school operation, then why did BIA build a new school that costs about $18, 000,000-plus?

You need to reconsider building the new school at Highway 87 Site. A Memorandum of Agreement among BIA/Western Region Office, the Hopi Tribe, Arizona State Historic Preservation Office and Advisory Council on Historic Preservation was completed on Feb. 11, 2002. This agreement satisfied Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. There is also a draft Environmental Assessment in place, which clearly states “ biological assessment of the SMDS project site…found no evidence of any species of concern regarding Hopi cultural practices; or federally listed threatened or endangered species of other candidate species.”

All the necessary documents have been properly executed, including completion of the BIA pre-construction policy requirements. We need a school that will enroll 350 students and one that is expandable to 400 students, like the design was at Highway 87 site.

Based on the reasons cited, the construction at 264 site should be halted while you revisit the SMDS construction project. If Highway 87 is just not feasible, then the construction dollars should be moved to another location on Hopi. Your decision and vote on this important matter should be an inclusive decision and not fall into the divisiveness that this project has taken.

With all the problems created on this school project, we can only assume that due to the “screw up” of SMDS, the federal government may be very reluctant to build any more new schools soon on Hopi.

We demand a response to this letter, and any questions can be referred to Alph Secakuku at telephone 928-737-2222, whom we asked to assist us with this letter. Kwakha.

Perry Honani, Bear Clan

Sipaulovi Village, Ariz.

Gerald Numkena, Bear Clan

Sipaulovi Village, Ariz.

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