Yuma County supervisors discuss issues in Washington, D.C.
Yuma County supervisors recently spent several days in Washington, D.C. filling in members of Congress on matters like justice, economic development and land use, and the importance of federal dollars in keeping those local programs going.
The National Association of Counties' annual Legislative Conference, held March 2-6, drew more than 1,500 county officials from across the country. Among them were supervisors Lenore Lorona Stuart, Russell McCloud, Russ Clark and Tony Reyes and County Administrator Robert Pickels.
Yuma's officials met with 13 Representatives and Senators over three days, mostly Arizonans. Their final meetings came Wednesday as a late-winter storm enveloped the area, canceling the county officials' return flights until Thursday.
While some discussions included appeals to preserve tenuous or insufficient funding, the group potentially shored up some new fruitful opportunities too, both in cooperation with Reps. Raul Grijalva and Paul Gosar. One is a grant to help solve sewer issues in the El Prado Estates Improvement District. Another grant would help develop a business plan for the industrial park near the San Luis II port of entry.
“That's almost $700,000 right there, and we have pretty high confidence that we have achieved success on those two items,” McCloud said.
One of their other appeals was about the importance of dollars to help defray the high cost of border-related crime, such as the prosecution of drug traffickers and the incarceration of illegal aliens being held for state crimes – for example, one inmate being held on drug smuggling charges requires expensive dialysis treatments that the county has spent more than $100,000 on since November. McCloud said it was important that lawmakers in Washington understand why reimbursements are so important to Yuma County.
Meanwhile, Stuart, who focused on health and immigration, said some programs offered through the county health department could be threatened by recent spending restrictions.
‘These are things that are on the chopping block. They're called discretionary funds...These are monies that may be lost to us because of the sequestration,” she said.
McCloud, who also focused on energy, the environment and land use, learned about a new move to strip levees of vegetation. He's unsure how that could affect Yuma County, but he's keeping an eye on it.
“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has come out to say that all levees must have all vegetation removed from them,” he said. “So in some areas that's an environmental concern when they're removing trees – cottonwoods and willows and all types of habitat, and then the expense to the counties to remove all that vegetation is extremely high.”
Pickels said it's good to make trips to the nation's capital and maintain communication with Washington representatives so they'll be responsive when the counties request assistance, as was the case this time with the El Prado and San Luis projects.
“It's always nice when you go to Washington and invest the time there and then come home with some resources in your pocket,” he said “It makes the trip worthwhile.”