Navajo Nation Council approves money to fix dilapidated judicial facilities

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - With a unanimous vote, the Navajo Nation Council approved legislation Jan. 26 seeking $300,000 from the Unreserved, Undesignated Fund Balance to help complete modular buildings that will house the Navajo Nation Supreme Court and the Administrative Office of the Courts in Window Rock.

If signed into law, the money would be used to design the electrical system, install a new waterline, add concrete for site access and curbing, lay asphalt for an access road, and to add a parking lot for the facility that was purchased by the Judicial Branch.

According to the legislation, the costs are as follows: $31,113.90 for mobilization of modular building and storage; $19,757 for site prep and interior finishes; $73,828 for asphalt and signage for a parking lot; $108,519 for utility connection (i.e. electrical, water, and sewage); and $66,782 for ribbon foundations, curbing, and gutters.

The modular project began in August 2014, after judicial staff and administrative workers were forced to relocate to at least four scattered offices throughout Window Rock because of unsafe working conditions, dilapidated buildings and the risk of mold contamination.

Legislation sponsor Council Delegate Otto Tso (Tó Nanees Dizí) said there is a critical need to complete the Supreme Court and administrative offices because it is a vital function of the Navajo Nation.

"What we are doing is addressing the current Supreme Court's unmet needs due to the lack of funding. We as a Nation need to look at upgrading our buildings and give our employees a safe place to work," Tso said. "We also need to keep in mind that it must also be a safe environment for our Navajo people who utilize the courts and its offices."

Tso said the Council's approval of the funding is a major step toward addressing one of the Judicial Branch's top priorities and also for the Law and Order Committee.

During a Council summit in early December 2015, Acting Chief Justice Allen Sloan met with Council members to discuss the Nation's priorities outlined in the "One Nation, One Voice" agreement. During the meeting, he emphasized the need to replace or improve judicial facilities that continue to deteriorate and displace judicial employees.

In November, it was reported that the Nation's Peacemaking Program and the Window Rock Office of Probation and Parole Services would be relocated because of mold found in their facilities.

Council members voted 18-0 to pass Legislation No. 0401-15. President Russell Begaye will have 10 calendar days to consider the legislation once it is sent to the Office of the President and Vice President.

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