Navajo council approves $4.1 million in special session

Window Rock, Arizona (AP) 9-07

Funding for a temporary jail on the Navajo Nation will have to wait.

The Tribal Council voted Monday during a special session to delete all but one bill from its agenda, including a $1.265 million appropriation to set up a modular jail for the Chinle police district.

The council met for less than two hours and approved about $4 million in spending.

Delegates voted 76-7 for a $2 million measure that provides drought relief. Billed as emergency legislation, it was amended to include a $93,641 grant to two Navajo runners to train for the Olympic trials and $1.8 million in discretionary funds for council delegates, the speaker’s office and the president’s office.

The drought relief bill provides for rehabilitating water wells, earthen dams, storage tanks and minor and major repairs on equipment.

The majority of the discretionary funds, used for financial and educational assistance for constituents, went to the delegates. The president’s office and the speaker’s office received $100,000 each.

President Joe Shirley Jr. has not indicated whether he would sign or veto the legislation, said his spokesman, George Hardeen.

As for the jail measure, the council could consider it during another session, provided the figures are updated to fit the fiscal 2008 budget, said legislative counsel Raymond Etcitty.

Raymond Joe, a former police sergeant who sponsored the legislation, said he doesn’t mind waiting.

“We’ll get to it,” he said.

The funding would have been a temporary fix to the detention problem on the 27,000 square-mile reservation that expands into Utah, New Mexico and Arizona. The Chinle jail was shut down in April because of safety concerns over electrical wiring. A lockup in Tuba City, Ariz., was condemned late last year and now operates only as an 8-hour holding facility.

Authorities have space for only about 80 criminals on the reservation. A temporary jail planned for Tsaile, Ariz., would add 36 beds – 24 for males and 12 for females.