Local foods, law, block grants were topics at WPCCC

By Ajo Copper News staff

Ajo Copper News of Ajo, Arizona

The January meeting of the Western Pima County Community Council was held last Thursday with reports from the Ajo Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Sheltering Ajo, Pima County Sheriff's Department, Ajo Unified School District, US Border Patrol, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Ajo Rocks, the Pima County Community Development Block Grant program, and Pima County Natural Resources Parks and Recreation.

The first speaker was Nina Sajovec with the Ajo CSA. Sajovec talked about a 2-year grant of $96,500 from the US Department of Agriculture with the goal of improving the local farmers market and of increasing local food production. The funds will be shared by the CSA, ISDA, Loma Bonita, and the Ajo Community Garden Consortium.

Sheltering Ajo case manager Adriana Martinez discussed the local effort to provide emergency shelter to homeless people, domestic violence victims, displaced teens, and others with no roof over their heads.

PCSD Sgt. Kori Tevere fielded a host of questions about recent deputy activities, including an update on an ongoing rash of burglaries. She explained that most items being stolen are items left out in view in back yards, such as power tools. Tevere also reported that local deputy staffing levels have been reduced.

Dr. Robert Dooley talked about recently hired teachers to fill vacancies, MAPP testing of students, an upcoming Mariachi band concert, and discussions at the next board meeting on how to reduce the school budget by about $250,000. He said the public is encouraged to attend the board meetings on Tuesday, January 13, and Wednesday, January 14, both at 5:30 p.m. in the school board room next to the superintendent's office.

Deb Miller of Supervisor Sharon Branson's office was on hand to talk with residents after the meeting about county issues.

USBP liaison Vicente Paco reported on significant cases that Ajo Station agents were recently involved in as well as providing end-of-year statistics from Tucson Sector and from Ajo Station. He mentioned that Ajo Station always leads the Sector in marijuana seizures. He also discussed a USBP Border Safety Initiative, rescue beacons, and community outreach programs.

Sue Walter of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument talked about a proposal to increase park entry fees and camping fees, which, she noted, have not been raised since 2005. Walter pointed out that 100% of fees collected at Organ Pipe stay at the monument and are used to benefit visitors with facility maintenance and other improvements, such as the recent installation of ADA-accessible walkways to picnic areas. She said Organ Pipe is seeking input from the public regarding the proposed fee hike and also wants the public's ideas on how the funds should be used. "It's your park," she said. The monument may be contacted at 387-6849 for details on how to offer comment. Responding to a question, Walter said the monument is at the end of a long power line so there are no RV hookups there.

Ajo Rocks! founder Freeman Fry said his organization is working on its seventeenth building as part of its beautification effort, and someone walked up and asked what they were doing. He said the local newspaper needs to get involved with what his group is doing to help spread the word. He added that Lamar Welker donated the lumber for the current project and there is ample paint and labor available.

Daniel Tylutki, community and rural development program manager with Pima County Community Development & Neighborhood Conservation, gave a review of the Block Grant program for small rural communities such as Ajo. He covered briefly how CDBG funds are used and cited examples of the Curley School restoration and a structure demolition project.

Applications for CDBG funds are now done online, according to Tylutki. He said pre-applications are due Friday, January 23. The pre-application determines how much money is being requested by an organization and for what purpose, along with uploading pertinent documents about the organization, after which the county decides if the organization is eligible for the grant program.To apply for CDBG, visit http://webcms. pima.govlcms/one.aspx?portalid=169&pageid=24903 online. Tylutki said it is also possible to call the community development department at 520-724-3777 and ask for someone to "walk you through it." After the WPCCC meeting, Tylutki met with representatives of four local organizations to discuss CDBG possibilities.

Karen McDonald, program coordinator with PCNRPR, reported on parks & recreation news. She said the local PCNRPR is looking to partner with a community non-profit to apply for funds for dugouts for the baseball field. She discussed a high school mentorship program that introduces a number of students to a variety of career paths and encourages them to appreciate that training and education is needed to achieve a job and a skill. Initially the program will focus on skills employed at parks & recreation but will expand to cover many professions within the Ajo community. She said it may encourage students to return to Ajo after college.

Many of the above items will be topics of expanded articles in future issues.

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