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Council endorses tribal health center
In a show of support, the Yuma City Council has gone on record in favor of federal funding for a new Fort Yuma Health Center to better provide health care for the Cocopah and Quechan tribes.
When it met this week, the council approved a resolution stating the need for a new health care facility to serve the people of the two tribes.
It's been a project long recognized as a critical need but for which there has been a lack of federal funding.
The current Fort Yuma Health Center buildings were constructed between 1852 and 1936. There are major concerns with the facilities such as structural integrity, space limitations, low functionality and significant seismic damage, the Yuma city staff report stated.
Since 1989, Fort Yuma has been identified on the Indian Health Services Facilities Construction Priority List to be demolished and a new facility built.
All these years later, the tribes are still waiting. To help secure federal appropriations for the vitally needed project, they have turned for support to the city and other entities in Yuma County.
“This just puts them in a better position to have the support of the community,” said Yuma Mayor Al Krieger.
The resolution states: “The Yuma community has supported the Fort Yuma Health Center in its mission of health care delivery and planning over many years and recognizes the importance of primary health care to our neighbors, the Cocopah Tribe and the Quechan Tribe.”
City Administrator Greg Wilkinson observed that not only is a new facility needed to meet the health care needs of the tribal members, it also would provide an additional community medical facility in the event of an emergency.
The Quechan Tribe has allocated 12.3 acres, which are shovel ready, and contributed $1.7 million to the project, according to the city staff report. Appropriations of $46 million will provide for the construction and equipping of the new facility as well as staffing needs.
In other business during its meeting earlier this week, the council introduced an ordinance to amend the Yuma City Code to move the call to the public to the end of the agenda for all future council meetings. It ended up being somewhat controversial.
Councilman Paul Johnson, who pushed for the amendment, said he was looking out for the interests of business people who may be interested in the council's conduct of business that impacts them. Having the call to the public at the beginning of the meeting can delay the discussion and action on city business by up to an hour, he said, a delay that may be inconvenient for the people there to observe and perhaps comment.
Call to the public is provided for people to address the council regarding items that are not on that day's meeting agenda. Therefore, its placement time during meetings is not relevant to action that may take place at the meeting. If the amendment is adopted, people will still be able to sign up to comment on an item that is on that night's agenda at the time the item is brought up in the meeting.
“I think this is a slap in the face of the public,” Krieger said of the proposal to move the call to the public. “They would have to wait through the whole meeting. I just don't see it as a problem that needs to be fixed.”
Several residents agreed, saying that moving the time to the end takes away the incentive for people to speak, and reminded the council members that they work for the people “and should hear them first.”
Gary Knight offered a compromise: have call to the public twice, once at the beginning of the meeting and a second time at the end. “I think it's beneficial for the public to have this access to this council.”
The amendment ordinance will come before the council again for adoption during its Feb. 20 meeting.