$14.9M in capital outlay OK'd for chapter projects on Navajo Nation

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Community development projects in 14 chapters on the Navajo Nation in San Juan County are receiving a boost in funding from capital outlay funding.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on April 9 signed House Bill 285 to fund more than $511 million in projects across the state, including approximately $14.9 million for the tribe's chapters in Bernalillo, Cibola, McKinley, San Juan, Sandoval and Socorro counties.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez commended Lujan Grisham, state legislators, the tribe's Division of Community Development, Navajo Nation Council and chapter government officials for supporting the bill.

Fourteen chapters in San Juan County will receive funding for infrastructure projects as well as Diné College for improvements at its campuses in Shiprock.

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Former Upper Fruitland Chapter President Hubert Harwood talks on April 16, 2014 about issues with Navajo Route 367 in Upper Fruitland.

Upper Fruitland Chapter received $100,000 for the Navajo Route 367 improvement project and $75,000 for a new community cemetery, which would be located south of the housing area in Ojo Amarillo.

Chapter Vice President Lisa Marie Byrd said Navajo Route 367 is a main road in the community but has several issues, including poor pavement and potholes.

A portion of the road has been closed for several years after collapsing and another portion developed a large crack.

Byrd said chapter administrations throughout the years have been working with tribal and federal agencies to improve or replace the road, but the focus now is launching a topographic study.

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The section of Navajo Route 367 that collapsed in Upper Fruitland is pictured on Dec. 24, 2014.

"It's a slow process but I think if we can keep the steam going, I think we'll be able to get it accomplished," she said.

Chapter Manager Alvis Kee said the capital outlay funding will be saved to initiate construction when the project is ready for that work.

At Tooh Haltsooí Chapter, Chapter Manager Kevin Begay said the $80,000 in capital outlay funding will start the planning process for a project to improve the intersection of U.S. Highway 491 and New Mexico Highway 134.

Chapter officials envision improving the intersection in Sheep Springs by placing crosswalks and installing flashing signals to warn drivers about reducing speed and pedestrian traffic.

Begay said crosswalks are needed because residents from a nearby housing area cross highway 491 to walk to the convenience store and post office.

"It's all to do with safety at the intersection there," he said.

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Shiprock Chapter received funding for four projects: $500,000 for the proposed judicial complex, $100,000 for parking lot improvement at the Shiprock Senior Citizen Center, $100,000 for street lighting at Shiprock industrial park and $39,000 for construction of a multipurpose center for veterans.

The press release from President Nez's office states that Navajo leaders advocated for the passage of House Bill 285 in virtual meetings with state lawmakers throughout the 60-day legislative session.

"The state of New Mexico continues to support tribal nations on many issues, and this was evident throughout the most recent session. We look forward to continuing to strengthen our partnership with Gov. Lujan Grisham, state legislators, Indian Affairs Department and all agencies with the state," Nez said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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