Near the end of the Gila County Board of Supervisors’ January 3 meeting, District 1 Supervisor Steve Christensen reflected on the new year. “I look at it as new beginnings, new opportunities,” he said, adding that he was excited to begin 2023.
In their first session of the year the board awarded a contract for expansion at the Russell Gulch Landfill, including a new sedimentation pond and lined cell construction, and authorized the advertisement of two related invitations for bid.
The contract went to Meridian Engineering Company, a contractor with offices in Tucson, New Mexico and Oklahoma. Meridian submitted a bid of $2.78 million; an added $25,000 in owner contingency brought the total amount to $2.8 million. Melanie Mendez, Gila County’s new recycling and landfill operations manager, told the board that construction would start 10 days after the contract was awarded, with completion anticipated 100 days from the notice to proceed.
The first bid invitation advertisement was for green waste removal at the Russell Gulch Landfill. Mendez told the board that since July 2021 nearly 5,300 tons of green waste has been stockpiled there, and the stockpile area will be needed to store excavated soil during construction. The board authorized the advertisement 2-1, with Chairman Woody Cline casting the opposing vote.
The second bid invitation ad was for trucking solid waste from Russell Gulch, which receives approximately 80-85 tons daily, to the Buckhead Mesa Landfill. Mendez said flood and fire debris had not been factored into the original capacity reports, and that the landfill currently holds 3,503 tons of construction and demolition waste and broken railroad ties. District 2 Supervisor Tim Humphrey asked whether Buckhead Mesa was ready for the added waste and had enough staff to handle its compaction. Mendez replied that the waste would be compacted before transfer and, while admitting they are short-staffed, said her department was in the process of hiring more workers. The board voted 3-0 to authorize the ad.
The board also approved a non-binding general fund pledge equivalent to 1% of Gila County’s total Local Assistance and Tribal Consistency Fund (LATCF) allocation to the National Center for Public Lands Counties, a joint creation of the National Association of Counties and Western Interstate Region. The Center’s mission will be to “educate government officials and the public about the critical county contribution to sustainable resource management and best practices for developing and enhancing collaborative partnerships.”
“If we (Western public lands counties) can consolidate all our voices into one, that will be a huge help for us. It’s definitely worth a try,” said Cline.
The board authorized termination of a grant agreement with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for three post-Bush Fire flood mitigation projects. NRCS had agreed to fund $930,248 for the projects under its Emergency Watershed Protection Program, but that program included a 220-day deadline that could not be met. “We knew it would be difficult to meet, just because public works projects require so much work in advance,” County Engineer Tom Goodman told the board. “I think the lesson we learned is that the EWPP is great for very small projects.” The county is now pursuing grant funding through a different NRCS program, Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations, which would allow more time to complete the projects.
The board also welcomed the return of a former employee: Homero Vela, who retired as an assistant county manager in July 2022. Vela is the county’s new public works director, stepping back in after the retirement of Steve Sanders, whose last day at work was January 6. Vela started his new position this Monday.
In other business, the board renewed a lobbying services contract with Policy Development Group, as well as a contract that will continue the Globe and Payson youth councils, for another year.