New Chinle judicial building project moves forward despite some concerns about cost to Navajo Nation

GANADO, Ariz. - A Chinle judicial building project is moving forward, but Law and Order Committee (LOC) members in early February stressed the need to identify the specific requirements of each new judicial building to keep operating costs down.

Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Navajo Regional Office Director Sharon Pinto, reported to the committee that the land relinquishment of approximately eight acres for the building is complete and cleanup of the site is now the primary focus.

"The BIA has contributed about $500,000 to the cleanup of the [proposed] building site, and it will cost an additional $1 million to complete the cleanup," Pinto said.

Pinto added that the cleanup of the site must meet the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency's standards before construction can begin.

LOC Vice Chair Alton Joe Shepherd (Jeddito, Cornfields, Ganado, Kin Dah Lichii, Steamboat) suggested a follow up meeting with the Navajo Nation Department of Corrections and Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety to discuss the operation and maintenance needs of the Chinle project as well as the facilities in Crownpoint and Tuba City.

"The Navajo Nation has put a lot of investment into the judicial facilities and we need to examine the specific needs of each site so we can prepare for the future facilities to be built," Shepherd said.

Pinto said all parties involved with the judicial buildings should reevaluate the needs for each building because some buildings may not be cost effective for the Nation.

"We also need to be reasonable and realistic regarding the design and location of the judicial facilities. If we replicate the facilities, it will cost the Navajo Nation more to build and operate them because they are very large structures," Pinto said.

According to the report, the Crownpoint facility does not have sufficient operation and maintenance money and is not being used to its full capacity yet when another area could have benefited from the same type of facility and services.

LOC member Council Delegate Elmer Begay (Dilkon, Greasewood Springs, Indian Wells, Teesto, Whitecone) supported the judicial facility projects and said he hopes that Chinle will be an example to the Nation of a well-planned complex that will serve the needs of Navajo communities.

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