Gila County proclaims April National County Government Month

David Sowders/Arizona Silver Belt Last Tuesday, the Gila County Board of Supervisors declared April National County Government Month.

“Whereas, Gila County and all counties take pride in our responsibility to protect and enhance the health, well-being and safety of our residents in efficient and cost-effective ways,” the Gila County Board of Supervisors proclaimed April as National County Government Month during their Tuesday, April 4 meeting.

The theme for this year’s annual celebration of county government is “Counties RISE!”, inspired by the signature focus of National Association of Counties (NACo) President Denise Winfrey. Since 1991, NACo has encouraged counties to raise public awareness of county roles and responsibilities throughout April. RISE is an acronym for Resiliency, Inclusion, Solvency and Empowerment.

Resiliency refers to counties’ focus on the future and determination to serve growing and changing communities. Inclusion focuses on programming that ensures no one is left behind, especially the historically underserved. Solvency means fostering economic mobility opportunities that help residents and communities prosper. Empowerment is a commitment to sharing resources, educating and informing one another.

A prime example of resiliency in Gila County is the Tonto Creek Bridge, under construction after decades of attempts to secure funding and repeated  efforts from county leadership. Over the years, attempts to cross the flooded creek have resulted in tragedy. In 2020, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded Gila County $21 million to build the bridge. It was welcome news to District 2 Supervisor Tim Humphrey, who represents Tonto Basin and had traveled to Washington, D.C. to push for the funding. “Approval of our grant application shows the value of the effort we’ve been making for years to educate Arizona’s congressional delegation about how essential this project is,” Humphrey said at the time. “This will save lives and help create infrastructure.”

The county’s oral health programs illustrate inclusion. Through its Cavity Free Arizona program, the county health department provides screenings, sealants, fluoride treatments and silver diamine fluoride to kindergarten, second grade and sixth grade students – at their schools. Last year, a $20,000 Delta Dental of Arizona Foundation grant helped expand these services to children from pre-K through eighth grade. Overall, the county’s oral health programs emphasize the underserved population – providing dental screenings, fluoride treatments, oral hygiene instructions, education and referrals to seniors as well as pregnant and postpartum mothers.

Gila County’s 2021 pledged revenue bond issuance, which Finance Director Maryn Belling said “chopped down the mountain” of Public Safety Personnel Retirement System (PSPRS) liability, is an example of pursuing solvency – saving the county $11.1 million over the next two decades “without affecting property taxes.” The county committed to repaying the bond with sales tax, vehicle license tax and Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT), said Belling. The bond reduces the overall cost, retiring the debt four years faster than the PSPRS approach.

A notable example of Gila County empowering its residents is through the Community Health Assessment (CHA) and Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP), offered by the health department. The CHA assessed the health status of residents. From September 2019 through February 2020, stakeholders engaged in the process, identifying the most pressing health issues residents face. The CHIP is a guide used by public health, community hospitals and their partners to collaborate and respond to key factors that may limit their community’s ability to lead full, happy and healthy lives.

“Gila County is proud of the programs and services we provide to our residents,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Woody Cline. “Our efforts build inclusive, resilient, thriving communities. I encourage all county residents to participate in National County Government Month outreach events to learn about the role our county plays.”

Residents can learn more by checking out the National Government Month display in the main lobby of the Gila County Courthouse, at 1400 E. Ash St. in Globe.

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