Shuman Talks Economics, Drugs, and ARPA Projects in WOJB Interview
Updated: Jan 30, 2022
By Joe Morey
LCO Secretary-Treasurer Tweed Shuman sat down with WOJB a few weeks back to discuss some of the ARPA Projects, drug epidemic and economics of the Tribe.
Shuman was first elected to the LCO Tribal Governing Board (TGB) in 2017 and then re-elected in 2021, at which time he was also chosen Secretary-Treasurer from a vote within the council. He also serves as the Sawyer County Board Chairman, which he was elected to four years ago. He has served as a representative on that board since 2012.
“I give a loud tribal voice on the county board, mainly when big things come up such as the recent law enforcement agreement that was negotiated between the county and the tribe,” Shuman explained. “We finally came to an agreement on these funds totaling $48,000. I was really happy that we are able to use this money for a new drug task force. I appreciate the cooperation between the tribe and county.”
Shuman said both, the county and tribe going forward, are going to ask for more money.
Shuman noted a big issue currently facing the tribe is the drug epidemic of heroin and fentanyl, which is causing a lot of overdoses and claiming lives of LCO people.
“We really need to do more because what we’ve been doing in the past isn’t working. I hear it at the county board level and the TGB level, we aren’t going to arrest ourselves out of this. There needs to be programs, diversions, rehabilitation, and education, such as the dare program we once had where we educated the children. We need to get it in the schools.”
Shuman went on to say, “We have to do something for our people so they don’t fall into that track of drug use.”
Shuman said the Tribe needs a more positive outlook with more jobs created that have adequate livable wages.
“We are going to push forward and overcome this epidemic and we have great people in place to do this,” Shuman stated.
Shuman said the TGB meets weekly with the ARPA team and are still deciding on some priorities. He previously mentioned in another article that the new elder center is one of the top priorities, and another is a new Emergency Operations Center at the four corners next to the new fire hall at the northeast section of the corner.
“This new facility will house our police, public safety commission, dog pound and the impound lot. It will include things such as an evidence room, conference rooms, and more,” Shuman explained. “It will be nice to have police next to the dog pound so they can keep an eye on our dogs and they are taken care of properly.”
Shuman went on to explain that the Tribe currently has an architect working on a master plan for the new developments and where they will be located, which includes the four corners, but also between the casino and the CDC building where a new health center will be built.
“We’ve talked with IHS and some infrastructure people about water and sewer in this area for the health center, and this includes the wellness center to be located next to the health center,” Shuman said. “And these plans also take into consideration our anticipation the casino lodge will expand someday. We’ve been told they don’t have enough space or rooms to hold large conventions so we are working on this.”
Shuman said there is also a large renovation plan for the Tribe’s smaller casino, Grindstone Creek, and the Country Store.
“They are working together and getting that project underway and we are redoing that entire parking lot too. We are getting rid of that hole by the café and this will be done this summer,” Shuman stated. “We’ll have a little bit larger casino and over the past couple of years through the pandemic, we now know what works and what doesn’t and we’ll be remodeling Grindstone Creek with that in mind.”
The Country Store will have more grocery space and freezer space, Shuman added. The casino will have the snack bar which was the old café and more casino space will be added by moving casino out into the hallway space, he noted.
The Housing Shortage
Shuman said the Tribe is facing a severe housing shortage.
“We are addressing this issue with some new developments which include a 50-home community in the works at the Four Corners. We also have a new apartment building planned near the casino. He explained the Tribe purchased land off of Highway K and Phelan Road north of the casino.
“We have a lot of professional people who work for the tribe who have nowhere to stay,” Shuman noted. He said this apartment building would address the issue of those tribal employees who are driving long distances to work here. He noted the apartment building would have rental units accordingly priced that would be available for employees or tribal members willing to pay rent.
“We are also addressing our own people who have nowhere to stay by looking at more homes and possibly additional apartment buildings. We have a huge problem with people overwhelming the current houses. We haven’t increased our housing stock in how many years and our Tribal population is growing significantly,” Shuman explained.
He said the 50-home community near the Four Corners may be a mix of rentals, rent to own, and income based, to make sure everyone has a chance.
“We are still devising a plan for who gets these homes. We want people to have a vested interest in that home so they take care of it,” Shuman said.
He went on to say, “We need a transition home for our people, and rehab, and a treatment center. We are still looking at where we put this building.”
Shuman said there is a huge need all over Indian country for these types of facilities.
“That’s a huge step for us and one of our top priorities,” Shuman said.
Shuman said the Tribe recently hired Lynette Tribble to be enterprise director overseeing the tribal c-stores, grocery store and the Landing.
“She has been doing a standout job. We put her there to look at all the businesses and see what’s working, what’s sustainable, and what’s profitable. She is working to offer employment for our people, which will increase the morale of our tribe. Better jobs with better wages for our people will snowball into fighting this drug epidemic,” Shuman explained.
Shuman said he is very proud of our people.
“We have some outstanding people in our enterprises,” Shuman noted. He also said the C-1 operation is our bread and butter generating a large revenue stream for the Tribe.
Regarding the Big Fish Golf Course, Shuman said they are doing an outstanding job. The course more than doubled their revenue this past summer over the previous two seasons of ownership by the Tribe. The course was able to present a check to the Tribe for $160,000 in December, after delivering a check for $72,000 for 2020.
“We knew there was an opportunity there to expand our reservation,” Shuman said. “We have the right people in place and we have a very good Board in place. We made very good profit that we never expected. We were hoping for sustainability, so we didn’t have to put more money in it, but the course delivers a check year after year. It’s amazing what they’ve done.”
Not only is the golf course a revenue stream for the Tribe, but, Shuman stated LCO has a large number of tribal members that golf and this is another alternative to increase the morale and keep our young people away from drugs.
“We need to diversify our revenue streams,” Shuman said. “Our casino is doing very well, but at some point, gaming may not be as popular as its been. We have LCO Financial Services, Big Fish, our tribal enterprises, which are all doing great, but, maybe we do something more in tourism, or manufacturing.”
Shuman said the Tribe’s new budget identifies four or five different streams that support the tribe.
“We’ve bolstered elder services and youth programs because we are trying to do as much as we can to help folks with all this new prosperity,” Shuman stated. “At the TGB level, we are talking more about our budget and rebounding our accounting system and grants program to bring even more sustainability and clean up the fat in our budget. We need to be able to provide more services to our people and that’s what we’re all about.”