County Manager: "2005 was good, '06 to be better"

Navajo County Manager James Jayne feels that 2005 was a good year for the county, and that 2006 will be an even better one.

The list of projects for the upcoming year includes a small area transportation study, creating a master plan for the fairgrounds, completing a space utilization study, completing repairs on the Winslow levee, establishing drug and mental health courts, establishing new landscape and signage at the county complex, and potential construction of new facilities at the complex. However, the most important task facing the county in 2006 is deciding how to handle the finances, since the county is at its levy limit and is also approaching its spending limit.

"We're not trying to be extravagant in spending," Jayne noted, "we're trying to provide basic services to citizens. We're growing, and that will require additional deputies, planning and zoning, infrastructure, and everything else. Growth is not cheap, it comes at a price."

Jayne is working with the Board of Supervisors and legislators to address the expenditure limit issue. He explained that he does not expect revenue to be an issue in 2006, but the county may not be able to spend what it has. The board may consider adding a "home rule" option to the next ballot that would give voters the opportunity to set higher spending limits.

In planning for growth, Jayne noted that the county is partnering with the City of Holbrook to complete a small area transportation study.

"This will give us the opportunity to sit down with ADOT (Arizona Department of Transportation) and do some planning," Jayne said.

The study will take in the area from Woodruff to the Navajo Nation line and from the eastern county line to Joseph City. According to Jayne, the county would like to address some of the same issues as the city, such as creating an emergency railroad crossing, straightening the sharp curves on McLaws Road and widening the one-lane Obed Bridge near Joseph City.

Jayne noted that the county has been working closely with Holbrook, and that in 2006, several projects will take place at the fairgrounds, including a new building that will replace the old exhibit hall. The entities are also working together to create a master plan for the fairgrounds.

In order to create a master plan for the county's facilities, a consultant has been hired to determine how the county can make the best use of the space it has available in its current facilities, and what type of new facilities should be constructed.

"They've started the process of identifying our needs for the next five, 10 and 20 years," said Jayne. "Having the big picture will help us utilize the space we have and know how to move forward with a capital improvement plan."

According to Jayne, space for records and personnel is a major problem at the county complex, and every department has outgrown its offices.

"We do expect to construct some new facilities here, we're just not sure what it will look like yet," he said.

New offices will also be constructed in Show Low to offer services to south county residents, but Jayne was quick to note that the county seat will remain in Holbrook and substantial investments are being made at the complex.

Beautification at the complex will continue, with new landscaping and signage to be added along State Route 77 as part of a joint project with ADOT.

The Winslow levee will remain a priority in 2006 as repairs continue. Jayne explained that repair of the piping failure is nearly complete, but the 100-year flood protection issue still needs to be addressed. According to Jayne, the levee was built on sandy soil, which could present future problems if not addressed.

Beyond planning for new facilities, Jayne does not expect any major changes at the county in 2006 and is looking forward to a productive year.

"We're continuing to move in the right direction," he said.

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