County to discuss compensation agreement

Hannah Grover
Firefighters Derrick Woody and Leigh Ann Nez respond to an emergency call Oct. 22 at the San Juan County District 12 Fire Station Shiprock.

FARMINGTON – The San Juan County Commission will discuss a memorandum of agreement with Navajo Department of Fire and Rescue Services on Tuesday in the commission chambers in Aztec.

The agreement will detail how the Navajo Nation will compensate the county for continued management of three fire stations on the Navajo Nation. The tribe was planning on taking over operation of the fire stations this month, but officials asked San Juan County in March for an extension due to difficulties in hiring people to staff the stations in Shiprock, Newcomb and Ojo Amarillo.

Because the county had not budgeted for continued operations of the fire stations, county officials and tribal officials have been working on a memorandum of agreement that would outline how the county will be compensated.

County Executive Officer Kim Carpenter said the Navajo Nation is hoping to take over operations at the fire stations in September. If the agreement is approved, the county will receive about $67,500 a month to operate the three stations until the transfer can take place.

"There will eventually be a different agreement for the permanent takeover," Carpenter said.

Firefighting gear hangs from hooks on Oct. 22 at the San Juan County District 12 Fire Station in Shiprock.

Facing funding problems last year, the county asked the Navajo Nation for compensation for providing the firefighting services or for the tribe to take over operation of the stations. In October, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye told the County Commission that the tribe would take over the fire stations and said it had added about $810,000 to its budget to pay for operating them. The $810,000 was based on what the county requested from the tribe for continued operation of the fire stations.

While the tribe will be responsible for operating the three stations, Carpenter said the county will assist the Navajo Nation when needed.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.