Funding OK'd for fire station at Twin Arrows

Noel Lyn Smith
Michelle Dotson, left, executive director of compliance for the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise, and Navajo Nation Council Delegate Seth Damon address the Tribal Council on Wednesday in Window Rock, Ariz.

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – The Navajo Nation Council spent most of Wednesday debating a bill that called for using a portion of the Síhasin Fund to build a fire and police station at the Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort before finally approving the measure by a 19-3 vote.

The Síhasin Fund was established after the tribe received a $554 million settlement in 2014 from a lawsuit filed against the federal government. The Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise was seeking $4.5 million from the fund’s principal for the facility, which would be located on the casino’s property in Arizona.

Michelle Dotson, executive director of compliance for the gaming enterprise, said the response time for a fire occurring at the casino and its hotel must be within four minutes.

“We do not have an option of having a fire response coming in from Leupp or Dilkon. We must fire response on site,” Dotson said.

Officials of the gaming enterprise are concerned about complying with the public safety provisions outlined in the Arizona gaming compact, she said.

Once the building is constructed, it will accommodate firefighters, police officers and emergency first responders. It will be large enough to house three fire trucks and provide living quarters for male and female personnel, as well as office space and a training room.

Wednesday's effort was the fourth attempt by gaming enterprise officials to secure funding for construction, she added.

During the council discussion, which lasted more than two hours, two attempts were made to amend the legislation, but neither generated enough support to pass.

Also on Wednesday, the council continued its debate on a bill that requests more than $830,000 in supplemental funding from the Unreserved Undesignated Fund Balance to rebuild 27 homes and structures destroyed by the Assayii Lake Fire in the Naschitti Chapter.

The fire burned 14,712 acres on the Ch’ooshgai Mountains in 2014.

The bill had been tabled on Tuesday, and after it returned to the council for consideration Wednesday, Risk Management Program Supervisor Shawnevan Dale requested an executive session, which was supported by delegates Leonard Tsosie and Tauchoney Slim.

Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty asked Dale to explain why an executive session was necessary.

Dale said the executive session was needed because the “potential for litigation is substantial” and “the investigations are pending.”

After ending the executive session, the council approved a motion by Delegate Davis Filfred to refer the bill to the Resources and Development Committee.

In addition, the Resources and Development Committee must have a joint session with the Law and Order and Health, Education and Human Services committees. The bill then will return to the council for consideration.

The council also voted 16-4 to confirm LaVonne Tsosie as executive director for the Division of Human Resources.

Delegate Leonard Tsosie questioned the nominee’s qualifications and her lack of experience in human resources management, while Delegate Walter Phelps wanted to know if LaVonne Tsosie has any outstanding disciplinary issues with the Navajo Nation Bar Association.

LaVonne Tsosie said no such issues exist.

“I don’t have a specific degree in human resources, but I do have the skills to run this division,” she said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.