Debra Seeley sworn in

Debra Seeley reads her oath and swears in before Mayor Bryce Hamblin as Eagar’s newest town council member.

EAGAR – Eagar’s town council was filled with some big news on projects designed to improve community safety, including new lights down main street and protecting the community from lead exposure.

The meeting began with the town engineer, Jeremiah Loyd, announcing that the town was awarded a $982,627 grant at the end of August to provide street lighting, “from Main and Central all the way to Springerville.” The grant was funded by Arizona Department of Transportation’s Highway Safety Improvement program, and it will fully fund the town’s entire lighting project.

“This is the third time that we’ve tried, and we were persistent,” Mr. Loyd said in an interview. “We were told no, and then we had a death in 2017.”

Loyd was referring to the death of an elderly man, a pedestrian, who was struck by a car and killed on the dark street at night.

Accidents like the one that turned deadly that night in 2017, are part of a complex equation of need used by ADOT that towns must meet or exceed in order to qualify for the grant. The Northern Arizona Council on Governments (NACOG), Mr. Loyd said, was of great help to the town of Eagar in fighting for a reevaluation of need that ultimately led to Eagar exceeding that qualification threshold and receiving the grant.

Grant money was also received from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality’s (ADEQ) Brownfields program, but this time for lead paint issues. A one million-gallon water tank on 12th Street needs to be properly encapsulated to protect the community from lead paint, and it qualified for $60,000 in funding. Encapsulants are products that are used to cover lead paint and provide a protective barrier between the environment and the lead below. Encapsulants aren’t a standard paint product, and the special sealant prevents dust or chips from ever coming off and causing harm. The town council voted to award the contract for the encapsulation work to Wood Environment and Infrastructure, Inc.

This grant, like the street lighting grant, requires no matching funds from the town and will fully fund the project.

Eagar Police Chief Mike Sweetser presented to the council a purchase proposal for a new police vehicle, a 2020 Ford F-150 truck from Show Low Ford. This vehicle is the final purchase needed to get the Eagar police department fleet up to date. All vehicles will now be 2015 or newer, including the three vehicles funded by the Gila River grant in 2018. The oldest vehicle, a later model Dodge Pickup, will become a backup unit. Renewing the fleet has been a four-year process for the town. Prior to 2015, all purchases of police vehicles had been for used vehicles only. Officers often put over 100K miles on their vehicles in as little as six years, so the wear and tear on patrol vehicles accumulates quickly.

The truck purchase, including the amount for the modifications necessary to make it a properly equipped police vehicle, should come in under the planned $52,000 budget the town set for this year. The council agreed unanimously to the purchase. Chief Sweetser expects it to be a few months before the order is completed, properly outfitted and ready for use. “I’m assuming maybe sometime in February, after the new year,” Sweetser said when asked about a possible delivery date.

The end of the September town council meeting was bittersweet, as a new councilwoman was sworn in to fill a vacancy. On August 14, beloved councilman, Don Davis, 71, suffered an aneurysm and did not survive. As he was elected just a year ago, the council was obliged to choose an appointee to serve his term until the next election. Debra Seeley, who was a councilwoman prior to Don Davis’s 2018 win, put in an application and was chosen by the council to fill his seat.

Amber Shepard is an local journalist covering municipal governments and other Apache County topics.

Amber Shepard is an local journalist covering municipal governments and other Apache County topics.

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