Begaye rescinds decision to end trash services

Noel Lyn Smith
Navajo Nation Division of Community Development Executive Director Carl Smith answers questions Thursday during a meeting at the Nenahnezad Chapter house.

NENAHNEZAD — Tribal President Russell Begaye has rescinded his termination earlier this week of garbage services provided at three transfer stations in San Juan County.

The president issued his decision in a letter to the county on Wednesday, stating the change was made after further evaluation.

"These are important services for our people and (we) will look to other options," Begaye said, adding that he was requesting a government-to-government meeting with San Juan County officials to talk about the issue.

The joint powers agreement between the county and the tribe for operating and maintaining the transfer stations in Upper Fruitland, Shiprock and Sand Springs has been in place since 1994 and was amended last year.

Begaye said in a statement to The Daily Times that previous discussions focused on paying for the disposal and tribal officials understand the economic challenges the county faces due to the decline in tax revenue related to depressed oil and natural gas prices.

"As a result, the first letter went out about the possibility of closing the transfer stations. OPVP has diligently pursued getting money from within the executive branch to continue the operation of these transfer stations. We have found funds that we will use to continue their operation," Begaye stated.

San Juan County Executive Officer Kim Carpenter said in an email the county looks forward to working with the tribe.

"I believe it is the right thing for the people and sanitation is nothing to be messed with. It should be a priority for any governmental entity," Carpenter said.

Officials and residents from chapters that utilize the transfer stations talked about the presidential action during a meeting today at the Nenahnezad Chapter house.

Carl Smith, executive director for the Division of Community Development, said the budget for the tribe's solid waste program was eliminated as part of the division's restructuring.

The decision was based on an assessment of the solid waste program, which showed the program had three employees who provided public education about proper garbage disposal and recycling, Smith said.

He said he will meet with the president on Friday to talk about funding options for the transfer stations.

Funding would need to be secured for services from mid-April to July and from July to June 2018 and it is possible to obtain the amount from carryover funds or from the Unreserved Undesignated Fund Balance, he added.

"The president's office will look for funds to address this issue, along with the Division of Community Development," Smith said.

District 13 Council President Rick Nez and Nenahnezad Chapter President Norman C. Begaye were among those who raised concerns about how funding for the transfer stations was overlooked.

District 13 President Rick Nez speaks about the possible closure of three solid waste transfer stations on the Navajo Nation during a meeting Thursday at the Nenahnezad Chapter house.

"Now we're stuck at this situation, trying to transfer money," Begaye said.

Throughout the meeting, chapter officials and residents stressed the importance of keeping the transfer stations in operation.

Tiis Tsoh Sikaad Chapter Manager Juanita Dennison reminded Smith that dumping of waste illegally remains a problem for many chapters.

Dennison said there are three areas in Tiis Tsoh Sikaad were illegal dumping occurs despite efforts to cease the activity.

Upper Fruitland resident Lenora Williams said she uses the transfer station located within the chapter boundaries.

"You do know that our communities need these transfer stations, you need to put it in your budget," Williams said.

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