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FLORENCE — Pinal County will receive a $300,000 federal grant through the “Arizona Vote Safe Program” to help combat the pandemic for the 2020 election cycle, following the Board of Supervisors’ approval of an agreement with the state Wednesday.

The grant will be used for protective equipment, cleaning supplies, additional ballot drop boxes and three temporary staff members for early voting. County Elections Director Michele Forney told the board the county will not receive one big check, but the governor’s office will reimburse the county for its receipts.

County Recorder Virginia Ross said Pinal has eight ballot drop boxes throughout the county, and staff will use the county’s elections van to do ballot collection drives.

The board also approved a budget increase in the Recorder’s Office to create a new senior position of “administrative specialist” to oversee the functionality and readiness of the new Arizona Voter Information Database. Ross told the board the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office makes updates to this database almost daily, staff have been working nights and weekends, and it’s more than just an election-season job.

In other business, there are currently 134 census-takers or “enumerators” knocking on doors of people who’ve yet to “self-respond” in Pinal County, James Daniels, the county’s director of communications and marketing, told the board. In this first U.S. Census with options for both online and telephone responses, just over half of county citizens, 56.4%, have responded.

This is slightly better than 10 years ago when 53.7% of Pinal residents responded. This means only about 200,000 people were directly counted, but the Census Bureau’s algorithms determined the county’s population to be 375,000, County Manager Louis Andersen told the board. The census helps states, counties and communities get their share of government funds, and every person is worth an average of almost $3,000 per year, Daniels told the board.

Free COVID-19 testing

Andersen also reported that Public Health staff have been working to set up free COVID-19 testing sites in Casa Grande and Florence. Florence’s will open Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week at the Community Center. Testing will follow on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Len Colla Recreation Center in Casa Grande. “You don’t have to provide insurance, just come on down and get tested,” Andersen said.

He further reported that since the county resumed its Business Sustainability Program to help businesses cover their losses related to COVID-19, it has received 52 new applications and has issued nine checks.

County treasurer’s staff have created a property tax mobile app that works well, Andersen said.

Other action

  • The board canceled Nov. 3 elections for various school districts and other special districts with uncontested races to save them the expense of holding an election. Supervisor Steve Miller, R-Casa Grande, abstained from the vote.
  • The board approved Chairman Anthony Smith’s, R-Maricopa, appointment of Sheila Ply of Arizona City to the Planning and Zoning Commission to serve out an unexpired term ending on Jan. 25, 2023.
  • The board proclaimed Oct. 3 to be Cooperative Extension Day in Pinal County.
  • Miller said with progress in mitigating the spread of COVID-19, he suggested the board consider allowing more people into its meeting room.

He said the room might be able to accommodate 40 people arranged with the proper social distancing.

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Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at mcowling@pinalcentral.com.

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