UP — We extend our welcome to David Sypher, Farmington's new Public Works director. Sypher brings 10 years of experience as a public works director in Kelso, Wash. Over 20 years in the field, he also worked as a city engineer in Washington and Oregon. City Manager Rob Mayes chose Sypher from among 20 applicants in a national search. People might not know what a public works director does. Sypher will tackle some of the city's persistent problems, including Main Street traffic snarls and storm water that tends to overflow storm drains and create washouts on area roads. Improving on those situations will have a significant impact on the quality of life in Farmington. We all should be pulling for him to succeed in these endeavors.
DOWN — It's an ominous sign that San Juan County has hired a Denver firm to create a priority list of programs that could be cut to match a shrinking budget. Budget cutting on the federal and state levels mean the loss of millions of dollars to county coffers. And the Navajo Nation's purchase of the Navajo Mine will also mean a loss of tax revenue paid by former owner BHP Billiton. Over a 15-year period, the county will lose about $2.6 million from phasing out the "hold harmless" payments from the state and another $2.4 million if the federal "payment-in-lieu-of-taxes" program is not renewed. This year, the total operating budget was $106 million. We're glad that the county is doing it's due diligence by hiring this firm, which will cost more than $39,000, but the outcomes could have significant impacts on county services and infrastructure. We hope — although we'll believe it when we see it — that our state and federal taxes decline as a result of those cuts. But, if those sources dry up, it might be necessary to raise local taxes. Some services probably can be cut without much pain or sacrifice, but continuing cuts without new revenue will result in crumbling roads and bridges, limited police and fire protection and the loss of other services. These things aren't free.
UP — Masada House officials say they aren't giving up. We hope that's true. Their plan to open a men's transitional shelter in a neighborhood near the Farmington Public Library was vetoed when city council members denied a needed zoning change. Sixty-three percent of the neighbors opposed the plan, which doomed it. Objections to the plan mostly included the proximity to churches and groups the conduct children's activities. Masada House Program Director Karen Chenault told residents that the tenants would be screened to exclude violent or sexual offenders. Every neighborhood will be home to some children and locating the program in an industrial district sends the message that people who struggle with alcohol and drug addiction are unredeemable — not to be trusted under any circumstances. These types of programs are for individuals who have made progress in recovering their lives and they deserve some support from the general public. Not only that, the type of environment provided in transitional shelters also makes for a much higher success rate. We understand that parents don't want to take any chances that their children might suffer physical or mental trauma. However, no neighborhood is 100 percent safe. We hope Farmington can provide a place for this worthy program.