Freeport-McMoRan announced Friday it has awarded 39 projects grants of varying size and eight of them are in Graham and Greenlee counties. Safford’s El Paso Park, Our Neighbor’s Farm and Pantry and the Town of Duncan are among the recipients.

All told, $2.8 million in community investment funds will be dispersed amongst the projects in Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico. Six projects in Graham County will receive a combined $400,000 from Freeport.

By far the largest recipient in Graham and Greenlee counties will be the Town of Duncan. Freeport awarded the town $270,000 to overhaul its water and wastewater systems.

Duncan is in the process of pursuing several grants and, if successful, it will be able to replace all of the town’s 340 water meters with those that can be read accurately and remotely and result in automated billing. Various tanks and other components of the town’s water and sewage system would also be replaced. A water softening system will also be installed.

The Greenlee Community Garden will receive $25,000 so aquaponic grow beds can be established in Clifton. Aquaponic gardening reduces plot size and the amount of water required. Aquaponic gardening combines aquaculture (raising animals such as fish, prawns or snails in water) with hydroponics (growing plants in water instead of soil).

The community garden was started by Steve Ahmann in 2011. On Saturday, Ahmann said the total project is expected to cost around $37,000. The plan is to install a large tank and 10 large towers that will provide water to a total of 20 community gardeners.

In addition, there were be a standalone area established where data will be gathered on a daily basis that will give homeowners valuable information so they can start their own gardens. PH levels, conductivity, nitrates, sulfates, dissolved oxygen and temperatures will be monitored throughout several seasons so gardeners will know how to adjust their methods depending upon the season, Ahmann said.

Gardening in the Clifton-Morenci area is incredibly difficult because of the rocky ground; many people have managed to grow fruits and vegetables in raised beds for a season, but have been unable to maintain their crops any longer, Ahmann said. The information gathered will be a huge benefit to them, he said.

Freeport has awarded $210,000 to the City of Safford for its new El Paso Park.

Bounded by the intersections of 14th Avenue, El Paso Boulevard and 20th Avenue, the park will have a splash pad, a playground, dog park and a basketball court. It will also include ramadas, a zipline and restrooms, said City Manager John Cassella.

“This park will have significant amenities that we don’t have elsewhere,” Cassell said, adding he is grateful for Freeport’s assistance.

The project was initially given a grant of $78,000 by Freeport McMoRan’s Development Fund and Public Works Director Lance Henrie said in March he had plans to ask for $100,000 from the city’s general fund in FY2023 to build a parking lot for the park.

Danny Smith, chairman of Southeastern Arizona Clean and Beautiful, said he was pleased to learn Freeport is giving the non-profit $45,000 toward a water bottle filling station project.

Ten drinking fountains that can also fill water bottles will be placed around the multi-use path that runs near Discovery Park and the cemetery, along the golf course to Reay Lane and north to Highway 70, he said. The Graham County Fairgrounds will also be included in the project.

Safford, Thatcher, Pima and Graham County are also contributing to the project because officials recognize the need to reduce trash along the trail system and reduce the number of single-use plastic products that are ending up in landfills, Smith said.

The other grant recipients are:

Aravaipa Watershed Conservation Alliance — Watershed Conservation Plan – $30,000. The Funding will allow the Alliance to develop the first Cooperative Watershed Management Plan for the Upper Aravaipa watershed.

Boys and Girls Club of the Gila Valley — Grow Smarter 2021 – $25,000. The Boys and Girls Club allows students to receive tutoring and homework help as well as safe and quality care during out of school time, while allowing caregivers to stay in the workforce.

Graham County Interfaith Care Alliance — Our Neighbor’s Farm and Pantry Satellite Expansion Planning Project – $50,000. The plan will allow Our Neighbor’s Farm and Pantry to expand their food production and education offerings while continuing to meet local food security needs of existing clients.

Graham County Rehabilitation Center — Vocational Training Curriculum – $40,000. The installation of a Practical Assessment Exploration System Lab will give Rehabilitation Center clients the opportunity to explore career fields and find those best suited to them. It also will help support their transition into the workforce.

According to a Freeport news release, local leaders representing diverse organizations and two to three Freeport-McMoRan representatives decide how funds are awarded.

Since 2011, nearly $4.3 million has been invested through the Freeport-McMoRan Foundation Community Investment Fund in Graham County.

Another $2.6 million has been invested in Greenlee County since 2012.

Load comments