Money needed to clear empty Shiprock building

Noel Lyn Smith

FARMINGTON — Navajo Nation officials continue to examine options for securing funds to demolish a vacant two-story building on the north side of Shiprock.

The building that formerly housed the Boys & Girls Clubs in Shiprock sits on the site of the proposed Shiprock Northern Justice Complex.

Navajo Nation Council Delegate Edmund Yazzie, chairman of the Law and Order Committee, said the committee listened to Jesse Delmar, executive director for the Division of Public Safety, and Delores Greyeyes, director for the Department of Corrections, as they provided an update about funding opportunities to clear the area for the proposed Shiprock Northern Justice Complex.

Yazzie said Greyeyes reported there is approximately $150,000 available in the department’s account that could go toward demolition costs for the building that used to house the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

He further explained that Greyeyes suggested the next step is having a delegate sponsor a bill to allocate the funding for the demolition. Greyeyes was unavailable for comment Friday because she was on leave, according to her office.

Yazzie said the committee recommended that Delegate Tom Chee, who represents the Shiprock Chapter, sponsor the legislation requesting the money.

"The hurdle is to get the legislation passed," Yazzie said.

Another item on the agenda was a bill to approve the judicial/public safety facilities priority list for fiscal years 2016 and 2017. The legislation contains an updated priority list based on recommendations by the judicial branch and the Division of Public Safety to build court, law enforcement and detention facilities on the Navajo Nation.

Under tribal law, the list is developed and forwarded every two fiscal years to the Law and Order Committee, which has final say on its adoption.

The Shiprock facility is ranked fifth on the proposed list.

Delegate Yazzie said the committee did not take action on the bill because members want to hear an update on similar construction projects proposed for Dilkon and Piñon in Arizona.

"We want to get everybody to give us another update before finalizing the list," Yazzie said.

When the list for fiscal years 2013 and 2014 was approved in July 2013, the judicial branch and Division of Public Safety recommendation had the Shiprock facility listed second, but then committee members changed that rank to fifth.

Shiprock Chapter President Duane "Chili" Yazzie said the community is concerned the project will remain low on the new priority list, but he heard support from the committee during the Thursday meeting in Window Rock, Ariz.

"It's encouraging to know the committee is in support of our project," the chapter president said.

He said the cost to demolish the structure needs to be evaluated before the bidding process begins, and the building needs to be assessed for the presence of asbestos and other contaminants.

He would like the chapter to have a "clearer picture" about the demolition, priority list and new facility by the end of the year.

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