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FLORENCE — Pinal County will receive a $2.6 million state grant for testing, case investigation and contact tracing related to COVID-19.

A portion of the grant will cover an emergency contract between the University of Arizona and Pinal County Public Health for COVID-19 case investigation and contact tracing, Pinal County Health Director Tascha Spears told the Pinal Board of Supervisors Wednesday. The board voted to accept the grant and approve the contract.

Pinal County Manager Louis Andersen said the county is working with Casa Grande and Florence on two free COVID-19 test sites. “Public Health has been working hard on this. We’re hoping to get those up by the end of the month.” The lab has guaranteed a 48-hour turnaround on the results, Andersen said.

Also Wednesday, the board approved a new economic development coordinator position within the county’s Economic and Workforce Development Department. Economic Development Director Tim Kanavel told the board the employee will make direct contacts with small businesses for both the economic development and workforce development functions of the office.

Supervisor Steve Miller, R-Casa Grande, said he envisioned this new job helping the county with business retention, which is sometimes overlooked in economic development. Andersen said the position is already in the county’s budget, and Wednesday’s action allows the county to recruit for it.

The board also voted to create a new senior drafting specialist position within the Pinal County Assessor’s Office and increase the office’s budget by $66,213. Pinal County Assessor Douglas Wolf told the board in a memo that this restores a position that was cut five years ago. Wolf added Wednesday it will help decrease processing times for subdivisions, not only helping developers but also helping the county by putting properties on the tax rolls faster.

In other business Wednesday:

  • The county’s application window for nonprofits to receive special federal Community Development Block Grant funding for COVID-19 relief is open until Sept. 18 and applications from small businesses for funding from the county’s Business Sustainability Program will be accepted until Oct. 16, Andersen told the board.

Businesses located in an incorporated city or town must apply to the municipality for help. About half the county’s cities have yet to finalize their plans, “and I think they’re getting some pressure” to do so, Andersen said.

  • Andersen reported the county continues to publicize and promote the U.S. Census and urge residents to respond to it before the Sept. 30 deadline. He said he asked the county’s federal lobbyist if the date could be extended because of the pandemic, but he wasn’t hopeful. He said he also learned census takers were reporting some residents won’t even answer the door for fear of exposure to the virus.
  • The four new county office buildings under construction in Florence, San Tan Valley and Maricopa are all on track, Andersen reported.
  • Miller thanked Andersen and the Public Works Department for the help given to the Stanfield community after the storm last week.
  • In “call to the public,” the board clerk read an email from a resident who asked that Wolf receive a reprimand or censure for a voice mail message he allegedly left for his opponent after the Aug. 4 primary election. Vice Chairman Pete Rios, D-Dudleyville, responded the board would take the comment under advisement.

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