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DZILTH-NA-O-DITH-HLE — The latest administrative service center under the Navajo Nation Division of Community Development celebrated its establishment here on Wednesday.

The office opened this month, and has an accountant and planner who are providing services to the chapters of Counselor, Huerfano, Nageezi, Ojo Encino, Pueblo Pintado, Torreon and Whitehorse Lake.

In an agreement between San Juan County and the tribe, the administrative service center is occupying a portion of a Navajo police substation the county built near the Dzilth-Na-O-Dith-Hle Community Grant School.

Robert Begay, department manager for the administrative service centers, said the division's newest program started 10 months ago and the 16 centers are replacing the local governance support centers as part of a plan to decentralize services to the 110 chapters.

Under their plan of operation, the administrative service centers have four functions in assisting the chapter governments, Begay said. He said those functions are to help chapters implement project management systems, promote local governance, assist chapters after they receive local governance certification, and provide additional training to chapter personnel in the areas of human resources, accounting and management.

The administrative service centers are also responsible for making sure tribal and state funding to the chapters is used for its allocated purposes, he added.

"We've got to make sure that they are in compliance with the funding source, like the state of New Mexico, and that's one of our major responsibilities," Begay said.

Establishing a new program is not without challenges, and one issue the program is facing is retaining qualified planners, accountants and attorneys, he said.

Right now, the program has 50 percent of its personnel hired, with openings existing for five attorneys, 16 planners and 16 accountants, Begay added.

During Begay's comments at the event, he said chapter residents should be the ones to practice local governance and developing that service is the goal of the administrative service centers.

"Our No. 1 customer is the residents," Begay said.

Samuel Sage, the community services coordinator for the Counselor Chapter, was among the chapter officials who attended the celebration.

He said when the police substation was built, he was part of a group that toured the facility and was glad the administrative service center was occupying part of the building.

"I think we're finally getting used to the idea of ASCs, that we don't have to go all the way into Window Rock to submit a lot of things," Sage said.

Leonard Chee was serving as the division's executive director when the Resources and Development Committee approved the legislation that established the administrative service centers in June 2014.

Chee, who is now an executive staff assistant in the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President, said tribal President Russell Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez support bringing services to the local level because the distance chapter officials have to travel to Window Rock can be considerable.

In a message to San Juan County Commissioner Margaret McDaniel, who attended the event, Chee said, "We want to thank you for the joint venture and the agreement that we put in place to utilize the facility here."

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and nsmith@daily-times.com. Follow her @nsmithdt on Twitter.

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