Miami Town Council discusses public transit, mining project

The Miami Town Council ended discussion of a proposed petition to the County Board of Supervisors with a short, heated exchange between Councilmember Mike Black and Mayor Angel Medina. The purpose of the petition was “the formation of an Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority in Gila County, authorizing the Town to join in the formation of such an authority if formed by the County and becoming a member of such an authority.”

Globe, Miami and Gila County would each have one member on the board. Payson and Beeline Bus would eventually be involved.

Town Lawyer Joe Estes said that based on his experience in Yuma, he would recommend approval. As a separate entity, a transit authority would have its own insurance, which would protect the town.

Medina said that by approving the petition Miami would lose nothing. If the Town didn’t like the outcome, it would not need to join the public transportation authority.

Councilmember Don Reiman noted that the transportation system is funded by Gila County, Globe and grants. He asked how adding another layer of governmental superstructure benefited Miami.

Medina focused on Miami maintaining control of the transit system, but admitted “We won’t know if it (a regional transit authority) works until we have a board.”

Councilmember Sammy Gonzales pointed out  that Miami would only have one vote on the proposed board of five. He also could not see how adding the Payson bus route would result in saving money.

Medina said that although the points were good, they would not be answered until the board was created.

Black replied that the questions should be answered before the board is formed.

The proposal was rejected 4-3, prompting the disagreement between Medina and Black.

Elmer Stewart, CEO and chairperson of the board of Copper Fox, gave a detailed update on the Van Dyke Project. The venture has been on hold because economics were unfavorable, but demand for copper has increased and the technology for extracting metal from the supergene type of deposit has advanced in the last 10 years. New estimates for the life span of the project are 17-22 years. If there is additional mineralization, this could be extended to 30 years.

This project will have a major impact on the local economy. Over 100 jobs will be created and operating costs are expected to be about $1 billion. Copper Fox intends to hire and buy locally as much as possible.

Stewart answered questions about excavation waste, aquifer contamination and potential collapse. The waste from excavation will cover less than two football fields. Test holes bored through the 500-foot-deep aquifer must be filled top-to-bottom with cement. Injection wells will not penetrate this aquifer. They will enter beneath it. Chances of subsidence or collapse are minimal because the veins of ore (that will be leached out) are narrow. Stewart also addressed fears that the Van Dyke Project could evolve into an open-pit mine by explaining that the 1,000 feet of overburden is too great.

As the project progresses, public meetings will be held.

Evelyn Vargas and other members of HOME (Hearts of Miami Engaged) presented a proposal to restore the Keystone Stairs with a Community Block Development Grant (CBDG) of $195,000 and requested approval to move forward with the project. The undertaking would be broken into phases: Restoration, including replacement of handrails; adding benches, commemorative plaques, etc.; and adding lighting.

Donations, sponsoring plaques, selling merchandise, etc. were projected to generate $130,000 that could be used to help Miami.

Vice Mayor Dan Moat mentioned that the Keystone Stairs were used for stair-climbing races during Boom Town Sprees.

Gonzales appreciated HOME’s plan to keep the stairs original and suggested that fundraising money could be used for road repairs in the town.

Black said that CBDG cannot award money without solid estimates. He suggested that the group contact CBDG for more information.

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