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Navajo-Hopi Observer | Flagstaff, Arizona

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1/7/2014 10:31:00 AM
Tonalea Chapter out in the cold for second year
Chapter meets in metal warehouse after Navajo Division of Health condems original building in May
Tonalea community members meet in a temporary Chapter House  a metal storage shed. Submitted photo
Tonalea community members meet in a temporary Chapter House a metal storage shed. Submitted photo
Navajo-Hopi Observer

TONALEA, Ariz. - For the second year in a row, the Tonalea Chapter administration and public meetings will spend another cold winter in a metal warehouse. The chapter administration building closed in Oct. 2012 because of safety and health risks.

On Oct. 15, 2012, the Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation, Division of Environmental Health Services, recommended the immediate closure and evacuation of the Tonalea Chapter government building because of serious concerns about the chapter building's structural integrity.

"The warehouse is constructed of tin panels primarily used for storage but the community had no alternative but to move and resume its operation out of the warehouse," said Darryl Jim, Tonalea Chapter president.

On May 20, 2013, the Navajo Division of Health, Office of Environmental Health/Code Enforcement issued an administrative order condemning the building and ordering the permanent closure of the Tonalea Chapter government building because it was beyond repair.

Because of this closure, the Tonalea Chapter has been without a safe, sanitary and decent chapter building since Oct. 2012.

"Meetings, the daily operation of administrative functions, services such as commodity food program, Community Health Services and community usage have all been suspended or services moved to different locations away from the Tonalea community, thus creating undue financial hardship for many of the elderly residents and limiting access to critical resources to community members," explained Betty Ann Tso, community service coordinator.

According to Colbert Dayzie, a Tonalea Chapter official, the warehouse where meetings now take place is intended for storage. The warehouse is not secure, not safe, and poses potential health and safety concerns for the staff, chapter officials and the general public. In addition, the chapter equipment such as computers and records are in an inappropriate environment. Critical electronic data and records could be lost that are vital to the community.

The Tonalea Chapter administration and officials are seeking grant money for demolition of the old building and construction of a new chapter building.

Until the closure, the chapter house was the center of community life for more than 50 years. Traditional meetings and games stopped in October 2012. Chapter meetings sometimes take place at nearby churches or the chapter warehouse. A building where families can gather for celebrations and gatherings no longer exists. Nursing consultations have also been discontinued. The nearest medical facility is in Tuba City, Ariz. - 25 miles away. A food distribution program that hands out commodities and supplies to support the local community of 2,500 individuals has also closed down.

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