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Guest opinion

Miller: Pima migrant shelter would 'ensure community safety,' but plenty of questions remain

GOP Supervisor Ally Miller: 'If we don't act, it creates an unsafe situation for both residents and the individuals who have been released in our community'

Miller sent this guest opinion out as one of her email newsletters Friday:

On Monday, July 22, the Pima County Board of Supervisors will consider accepting a proposal to transform three units of the Pima County Juvenile Justice complex into a shelter/processing center for migrants who have crossed our southern border. These migrants have applied for asylum and have been processed at the Benedictine Monastery for the past several months. This facility is no longer available and a new facility is required. The issue is whether Pima County taxpayers will be reimbursed by the federal government for the operating costs as well as upgrades to the facility. County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry stated the county has applied for grant funding from the federal government but this funding has yet to be approved.

It is my position that this crisis is the responsibility of the federal government and our representatives in the Senate and Congress have failed to do their job. They have failed to work with our president to close the loopholes that allow migrants to be released into our country once they have requested asylum. Until these loopholes are closed, the Pima County Board of Supervisors must ensure the safety of our community. If we don't act, it creates an unsafe situation for both residents and the individuals who have been released in our community by federal officials. I believe we all need to contact our federal representatives to request they do the job they were elected to do. They need to fix this problem so local taxpayers aren't left footing the bill. The federal government should be providing emergency funding for this effort until they have fixed the problem.

Related: Huckelberry responds to Miller's questions

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema: https://www.sinema.senate.gov/contact-kyrsten

Sen. Martha McSally: https://www.mcsally.senate.gov/contact_martha

Related: Pima County seeks to redirect $100K/mo in Stonegarden funds to migrant shelter

The request by Administrator Huckelberry is to approve a $100 annual lease to Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona to operate the facility for the temporary housing and processing of migrants who have applied for asylum. First, we need to understand the costs associated with providing this processing center. According to the various memoranda published by Huckelberry, annual costs of operating this facility for a capacity of 250 individuals daily will be in excess of $1.1 million. In addition, there are startup costs of preparing the facility for use that are identified at $60,000. I have concerns about some of the estimates and whether $35,000 annually for medical supplies and services is adequate.

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Other Costs Not Yet Identified

There are other services and startup costs for the facility that have been identified, but lack explanation as to what the costs are, and who will be paying for them. Among these items are:

  • Construction of a new 53-space parking lot at the facility
  • Cost for use of kitchen facilities that aren't included in the contract
  • Security costs that have not been disclosed (It was reported that at least 4 Tucson police officers were assigned to provide security at the Benedictine monastery.) Why aren't we charging fair market value rent for the 19,000-square foot facility? (What is FMV rent?)

Additional Concerns to be Addressed

Is it true that the county has already expended considerable resources for this operation without approval by the Board?

It has not yet been ascertained as to whether or not the county will receive approval to use 44 percent of the Operation Stonegarden funding for this operation.

  • Funding for Humanitarian Aid $ 530,347 44%
  • Funding for Stonegarden $ 688,639 56%
  • Stonegarden Overtime/Mileage/Travel Total $1,218,986 100%

Not only is it unclear as to whether we can use the Stonegarden funding, Sheriff Napier expressed concern that the change of use could jeopardize future funding.

While Huckelberry has identified some potential funding sources, has it been ascertained how long it will take to receive that funding, should it be awarded?

The county should be charging fair market value for the property. The lower end cost to rent a room in Tucson is $300 per month. There are 60 rooms in the proposed facility.

Document: Pima County request to direct Stonegarden funds to migrant shelter

$300 * 60 rooms * 12 months = $216,000 FMV

A comparative example is the Southwest Key. In its 2014 budget submission to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the expenses for a 280-bed facility included $108,570 for a down payment, and $181,070 for yearly rent for a total of $289,740.

The medical/healthcare costs have been underestimated as there is no evidence that the following has been included: antibiotics, infant formula, feminine hygiene products, diapers, bottles, lab services, TB skin tests, sterilization supplies, hazardous waste disposal and other standard equipment for care.

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Pima supervisors to hold special meeting on migrant shelter at juvie center

Have we conducted an analysis of the physical and/or psychological harm and/or damages including all potential risks to the children who are in our care at the juvenile detention facility?

Shouldn't anyone staying on the grounds require the same type of health screening the children in our care at the juvenile detention center and associated employees do?

The emergency meeting to vote on this lease will be convened on Monday, July 22, 2019 at 9 a.m. All citizens are provided an opportunity to speak to the board at the open call to the public.

Ally Miller is a Republican representing District 1 on the Pima County Board of Supervisors.

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

A view during a press tour Wednesday from one of the rooms in a vacant part of the juvenile detention center operated by Pima County, now intended to become a shelter for migrants operated by Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona.


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