Delivering for Graham County

OpEd by Graham County Supervisor, John Howard, and U.S. Congressman, Juan Ciscomani

Arizonans send their tax dollars to Washington, D.C., with the expectation that their money will be used to enhance infrastructure, support public services and benefits, and invest in the well-being and future prosperity of their community.

Sadly, citizens in Graham County do not see the return of their tax dollars often enough. As your County Supervisor and your Representative, it is our duty to fix that. That is why, as Congress crafted the FY2024 appropriations packages, it was crucial to work together and bring the top issues facing Graham County to the forefront of our federal government.

And with our support both on the local level and as a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Graham County secured a total $3.3 million in this year’s funding. Unlike projects in California or New York, the money needed for our communities will not go towards high-speed light rails or bridges to nowhere; each dollar will help increase the safety and quality of life here in southeast Arizona.

Of this funding, $2 million is headed to the town of Pima for a new fire station. The fire station is currently housed in a rundown, 50-year-old building that cannot accommodate normal sized firetrucks, forcing the town to procure custom fire trucks just to meet the building’s size. As if that issue is not enough, the building itself is in great need of major repairs and rehab. The individuals at the Pima Fire Department – a volunteer force – serve as a lifeline for their neighbors in times of crisis and some of the area’s only first responders; they deserve to live and work out of an upgraded facility.

In addition to a new fire station, the county will receive $1.3 million for the Gila River Linear Park and Trail, a new recreational area stretching between Safford and Thatcher. This funding will allow the project to break ground on the location, which is set to be the area’s flagship recreational activity. From our national monuments to community biking and walking trails, Arizonans know the value of the outdoors. The allocation of this money will allow the community to take a major step in revitalizing the area with a new recreational site. 

With a county population just shy of 40,000 people, cities in Graham County like Thatcher, Safford, or Pima are not often in the spotlight for the federal government. Additionally, our rural communities often struggle to obtain traditional grant funding.  Because of that, we were determined to fight even harder to secure these congressionally directed dollars for our corner of the state. This funding was made possible by the unique local and federal partnership we formed, as well as support from our local and national stakeholders like the Pima Fire Department and Trust for Public Lands.  

This funding is a prime example of what is possible when our local, state, and federal officials work hand-in-hand to prioritize our communities. As we continue to serve Graham County in our respective roles, we will examine more ways to partner together – and with others – to deliver more, tangible results to southeast Arizona.