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They’ve never been allowed under town code, but many downtown businesses have been relying on A-frame or sandwich board signs to attract customers off the street and into the shops.

Now faced with uncertain economic times, the Camp Verde Town Council is going to allow the practice to continue on Main Street.

The council voted last week to allow the signs on Main Street between Arnold Street and General Crook Trail; the signs are still prohibited anywhere else inside town limits.

The code changes require that the businesses using the signs are liable for any problems that arise from putting them in the town-owned right of way. The code now also allows businesses to hang signs as large as 12 square-feet from the tops of buildings, provided that they conform to the town’s rural western design aesthetic, don’t project above the roof of the business and aren’t lit internally.

Jerry Tobish, owner of the Ancient Bear Gallery on Main Street, has been an ardent supporter of the use of A-frame signs.

He told the council that much of his business depends on the signs, and that customers have told him they’re why they stopped to shop.
Removing the signs would “absolutely kill” business for the town’s struggling merchants, Tobish said.

Tobish was joined by a host of other downtown business people speaking out in support of the signs.

The argument convinced the council; while they would eventually like to see the signs replaced by other means of advertising, the council felt that now is not the time.

Instead, Councilman Greg Elmer said that more work should be done to find ways to bring in more traffic from the I-17 and Hwy. 260 interchange.
Councilman Ron Smith said that if the signs prove to be a problem, the issue can be revisited in the future, possibly by a different council. In the meantime, the council should do what it can to help business, Smith said.

“Merchants in the downtown are more endangered than the bald eagle,” Smith said.

The signs will only be allowed during business hours and for other special town-sponsored events.

Mark Lineberger can be reached at 567-3341 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The Camp Verde Town Council signed an agreement with the Camp Verde Sanitary District in 2007 promising $135,000 a year for 25 years to help pay for the current sewer expansion project.

Now the council wants to go directly to the sanitary district’s lenders to try and work out a better deal.

The sanitary district has placed two measures on the November ballot. If they pass, the district board hopes that it can borrow more money to complete the project after cost projections skyrocketed following an engineering failure during the construction of a new wastewater treatment plant.

It would also allow the district to refinance its loans at a potentially lower interest rate, saving thousands of dollars over the next couple of decades.

The town, still obligated for $135,000 a year, wouldn’t see a benefit. But Town Manager Michael Scannell said that if the town can work out a deal with the lender and the sanitary district to insure the town’s money is used to eliminate a required debt service fund, the cost of borrowing money, instead of the district’s operations, the town could potentially save $12,000 to $13,000 a year.

It would still allow the district to get the money it needs to finish the project, Scannell said, but would benefit all the taxpayers of Camp Verde with an overall savings.

The plan assumes that the district will be able to refinance their loans at a 3.75 percent interest rate. If the actual rate is higher, Scannell said, there’s no point in pursuing this plan since there would be little to no
financial benefit for the town.

The closer the rate gets to 5 percent, the less money the town can save when the actual costs of the loan, including attorney and consulting fees, are considered.

Mayor Tony Gioia said he had approached the leadership at the Water Infrastructure and Finance Authority, the agency the district is turning to for refinancing, with the idea and was told that such a plan was “unheard of.”

It’s not common for a third party to approach a lender like this, Gioia said. The town is obligated to pay the sanitary district, but Gioia said the town should pursue this idea because of the council’s responsibility to the taxpayers.

As the Cottonwood community has grown, so has the library.

Since 1990 the city’s population has more than doubled. Now, the library has doubled its size with the Oct. 15 dedication of the new extension.

The new addition extends 50 feet north of the existing building and is the full width of 126 feet east to west. It provides a seamless connection to the existing building. That is what architect Larry Enyart, president of LEA Architects of Phoenix planned.

“We followed the lines of the library to make it look like just one building,” Enyart said at the dedication celebration.

About 100 people, including children, attended the dedication. At a prompt, the children shouted out, “We love the library,” as Cottonwood Mayor Diane Joens and library director John O’Neill cut the ribbon to the door on the new extension.

“This is one of the most beautiful buildings in the community and it was built by the citizens of Cottonwood,” Joens said. “It’s good for us to come together to celebrate an accomplishment like this.”

The mayor also recognized several principal people who played a role in making the extension become a reality, especially the staff. She gave a little history of how the Cottonwood Public Library came about.

The vision of a library in Cottonwood began in the 1950s when the Library Extension Service in Phoenix sent a bookmobile to Cottonwood once a week. The driver told people then if they could find a place, the service would provide the books.

Members of the Cottonwood Civic Club got some space in a Quonset hut behind the civic center. A library board was form-ed and the library received assistance from the Yavapai County Library.

Around 1970, the Bookmarks was organized and received a $50,000 match grant to build a library. The city gave $10,000 and other money was raised through books sales, bake sales and special events. Individuals and businesses also donated money.

“But they were about $1,000 short. Thanks to Jennie Garrison, she put up the money,” Joens said.

That library, at 401 W. Mingus Ave. was dedicated Oct. 13, 1973.

Additions were made as the demand grew, but by 1980, officials knew they needed to start working toward a new bigger library.

In 1992, voters approved a 0.2-percent sales tax to build a 15,300-square foot library. By mid-1994, they moved into the new building at 100 S. Sixth St. The building was designed so it could expand.

The expansion has book racks, movie racks and cubby holes to read in along with a small stage and auditorium behind the circulation desk, which is ideal for small performances or to read to a group of children.

A large open doorway connects the old section with the new one.

Upstairs is a mezzanine with more books and panoramic views of the mountains from the many windows. Access is by a carpeted stairway or elevator.

At a table in the mezzanine, one boy just couldn’t wait and pulled a book off the shelves to have his mother read to him. Others walked up and down the aisles making comments like, “It’s pretty awesome,” and “Wow, this is great.”

One young man turned and said to his friend, “This is cool,” as he bounded up the stairs.

With the new addition, O’Neill said it makes a lot more room in the adult area for more books and publications.

“It’s beautiful,” O’Neill said as he looked around while people wandered through the new section. “In library land, it’s all good, especially for the children.”

The Cottonwood Public Library is located at 100 S. Sixth St. It opens Monday through Saturday at 9 a.m. Closing times vary, Mondays at 5:30 p.m., Tuesdays through Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 4 p.m.

The library is closed Sunday. They can be reached at 634-7559.

Lu Stitt can be reached at 634-8551 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

Cottonwood Mayor Diane Joens gave a State of the City speech Friday, Oct. 3, at the Verde Valley Senior Citizens Center.

Normally the State of the City address is given at the end of the year. This year, the Clarkdale-Verde Kiwanis Club pushed her to give the speech earlier.

Dr. Robert “Bob” Richards introduced the mayor and gave a brief review of her background. He said this was her second year as mayor and she has been an active community volunteer and public servant throughout her life.

“I think everybody knows my passion for Cottonwood,” Joens began.

Joens said what she likes best about the City Council is their ability to disagree respectfully. In reviewing the newly appointed City Manager Doug Bartosh, she had much praise to give.

Joens said Bartosh “hit the ground running” when he took over.
Since then, he has been a quick study, provides excellent leadership, responds well to the council’s orders and is very good with the public. Most importantly, she said, he ensures council policies are swiftly and competently enacted.

Joens then spoke about the city’s economic development. The council created the position of economic development director two years ago, and Casey Rooney has been doing a great job, she said.

The council is looking at expanding public transportation, making it easier to get to the shops and stores, improving educational opportunities, getting businesses to open up shop in Cottonwood and making plans to build new office buildings to entice companies to move to the city, Joens said.

“We’re the center of commerce for the Verde Valley,” she said.

Joens said the current economy is “very challenging” for everyone. It is especially challenging after two years of good economic growth, but is now the worst economy she has seen in 16 years.

The most critical part of the problem, she said, is the decrease in sales tax revenue.

She said the council struggled with the issue of raising the sales tax, but in the end had no other option to keep the city running.

The city has always prided itself, Joens said, on operating solely on the sales tax. The citizens should consider the fallacy of depending on the sales tax only. This was in reference to the council’s plan of asking the citizens to approve a city property tax.

She said she is proud of the Cottonwood Police Department and its coordination with the Partners Against Narcotics Trafficking, which led to a 40-percent drop in major crimes.

As for the Cottonwood Fire Department, she spoke of the need to build a new fire station and hire 12 more firefighters. This is due to the growth of the city and the fact that CFD is the busiest fire department in the Verde Valley.

Joens said CFD Chief Mike Casson reported to her that all of his firefighters are now certified as paramedics.

Part of the city’s growth, she said, is looking ahead to annexing state and federal lands north of the city limits.

Joens said this is because of the land’s potential as a water resource for the community. Parts of the possible land annexation are at the Verde River headwaters, and if the lands stay in the State Trust Fund then the citizens of the area have no say in population density or infrastructure.

She said the city has informed the state that if it wants to develop the state trust lands, the city wishes to annex them before that happens.

“If these lands get developed,” Joens said, “then they should be in the city to give those people the right to vote [on city matters].”

She said Bartosh is looking to form a citizens committee with all of the local municipalities [Jerome, Clarkdale, Sedona, Camp Verde, Rimrock, Montezuma and Cottonwood] to discuss the possible impacts of the annexation, since any change to the Verde River affects everyone living in the valley.

Since purchasing the water companies, Joens said, the city has been able to enforce water conservation measures. They have also been able to repair, replace and upgrade damaged infrastructure which has only added to the city’s water conservation efforts.

“We have water running through town, and we want to keep it,” she said.
Joens said her primary goal as mayor is to get all of the area water conservation groups to work together for the future.

Greg Nix can be reached at 282-7795, ext. 122, or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Town of Camp Verde employees were able to cut spending by nearly $500,000 last fiscal year, said Town Accountant Lisa Elliott, helping to manage a budget shortfall that forced town leaders to tighten the money belt.

Because of a drop in expected tax revenue and a previous budget process that Town Manager Michael Scannell called incomplete, the town had to find a way to fill a $1.8 million hole; departments that were able to curtail their expenses helped out a great deal, Elliott said.

According to preliminary figures, the town’s general fund had excess revenue of $360,000.

The previous budget for 2007-08 had counted on $6.7 million in spending before the shortfall was discovered. Continued declining revenues led to the town passing a $5.3 million budget for 2008-09.

Despite the shortfall, the town was still able to end the fiscal year on a “good note,” Elliott said.

But the town is still feeling the sting of an underperforming economy.

Scannell told the Town Council last week that the “lack of economic activity will manifest itself” when the numbers for the first quarter of the current fiscal year [July through September] come in.

Still, the town continues to work on improving its financial system, found by an auditor last year to be severely lacking in adequate internal controls.
To that end, Scannell and Elliot have been working on a new financial operations guide that will clearly define how the town handles its money.
“It’ll help everything run a little smoother,” Scannell said.

Mayor Tony Gioia said he was pleased with the work being done to overhaul the town’s finances.

“The council members have been looking for this type of action for a long time,” Gioia said.

The Mingus Union High School District Governing Board hired Nancy Alexander as the interim superintendent, now that the current superintendent, Scott Dunsmore, has been placed on administrative leave.

Alexander served as superintendent for the Sedona-Oak Creek School District from its inception in 1991 through 2004. She will fill in two to three days a week at $425 a day for the remainder of the 2008-09 school year, according to the contract the board and Alexander signed.

Mingus business manager Kirk Waddle told the board that the amount was the going rate for an interim superintendent.

The announcement came at a special Mingus board meeting Friday, Oct. 3, at 7 a.m. in the school’s cafeteria after the board approved the contract with a three to zero vote. Council members Jim Ledbetter and Andy Groseta were out of town.

“These are very difficult times. I think Ms. Alexander is exactly the right person to come in until we get things cleared up,” board member Tom Parmartar said. “Whether the board is screwed up or the superintendent is screwed up, I want to ensure that education goes on as smooth as possible and we take a deep breath.”

On Sept. 29, in another special board meeting, board members said the school has experienced some communication problems among the administration, the board and staff.

At that meeting, the board performed an open-meeting evaluation of Dunsmore’s performance, at his request. At the end of that meeting, following a 30-minute executive session, the board voted five to one to place Dunsmore on administrative leave.

Alexander presented three goals for the interim position. They included the successful completion of the school year, a transition strategy for the new superintendent and to continue to promote a professional learning community throughout the school district.

She also listed several priorities that will be her focus, including to oversee the bond project, improve communications and provide support for the staff and community outreach.

Alexander began her duties Oct. 3 at 8 a.m. and will hold the interim position until June 30, 2009, when a new superintendent will be hired for the 2009-10 school year.

She said performing superintendent duties is something she enjoys doing.
“You take a set of skills you’ve honed over 30 years, come in and pull on those skills and problem solve. That’s a welcome challenge for me,” Alexander said.

While superintendent in Sedona, Alexander said she worked with Mingus on many projects, such as forming the Valley Academy of Career and Technology Education.

“I have a very high regard for this school,” she said.

Mingus Board President Bryan Detwiler said the board is pleased to have Alexander on board to help with the transition to a new superintendent.

“As a former superintendent of schools, she has an excellent working knowledge of the needs of our students, staff and parents. I am confident that Ms. Alexander can help the board and administration team put together a comprehensive transition plan for our district,” Detwiler said.

Lu Stitt can be reached at 634-8551 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Monthly sewer bills will increase if the Camp Verde Sanitary District approves a new long-term rate plan devised by a utility consulting firm.
Utility rates are on the rise nationwide, said Dan Jackson, with Economists.com, the group hired for the study.

It’s not easy to come in and tell people their rates are going up, Jackson said, but it’s today’s reality.

“It’s important to understand what’s happening in the industry,” Jackson said. “It’s not going to be as inexpensive as it was in the 20th century.”

The causes are numerous, Jackson said, from rising employee insurance premiums and inflation to stricter federal environmental regulations — often in the form of unfunded mandates that leave municipalities and districts holding the bill.

On average, Jackson said, Arizona utility rates increase about 5 to 6 percent a year.

If the rate plan is adopted, users’ bills will increase over the next few years before eventually decreasing, although the bill will still be higher than it is
right now.

Currently, the minimum monthly charge is $9. Since the district does not have access to water usage data controlled by the privately owned Camp Verde Water Company, bills are calculated based on the number of “fixture units” in a home.

An average home has around 16 to 20 fixture units, Jackson said, but that doesn’t mean that all fixtures are equal. A toilet is worth more units than a bathroom sink, for example.

The district now charges $1 per fixture for residential users and $1.50 for non-residential customers. Under the new plan, that rate would increase gradually to $1.97 and $2.81, respectively, by October 2012. A resident who pays $16 a month in usage fees today could expect to pay more than $31 in four years.

The plan calls for the tax rate to remain the same at $1.20 per $100 of home value, along with another tax levied to help pay off debt incurred by the new wastewater treatment plant and the new current sewer expansion project.

According to projections that assume a refinancing measure on the ballot passes in November, that rate would start at $1.82 per $100 and gradually decrease to $1.26 by 2012.

A customer with a $225,000 home and 16 fixture units could expect their monthly obligation to peak at around $76 in 2009 before dropping to nearly $71 in 2012.

The numbers also assume that connection fees will increase from $500 to $1,750 next year.

Jackson warned that his projected numbers depend heavily on growth and revenue. The current state of the housing market and economy aside, Jackson said he feels his growth projections are “extremely conservative,” with the number of customers almost doubling by 2018.

If growth is less than expected or something else unpredictable comes along, Jackson said these numbers would have to be readjusted.

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Downtown merchants and concerned residents filled Camp Verde Town Council chambers last week to express their concern over the recent decision to demolish Rio Verde Plaza.

The town bought the shopping center four years ago for $380,000 with the idea of tearing it down to possibly make way for new town facilities. That idea got put on hold, and the town has been in the commercial real estate business ever since.

The building is in need of repair, and earlier this month the council decided it would be more cost effective just to tear the building down.

The council recently changed the rent structure for tenants in the plaza after deciding the rates were tantamount to subsidizing commercial businesses.

The plaza is home to a handful of businesses including a toy store, an art gallery and a pizza restaurant.

Lawman’s Pizza was bought by its current owners since the town purchased the building; the business recently spent thousands on an expansion of its dining room.

“We really like this town,” said Mark Kipena, Lawman’s co-owner. “We came here to serve the people of Camp Verde, and that’s what I hope we’ll be able to continue to do.”

Kipena said that his business had paid for a lot of the upkeep on his establishment, and that if everyone works together, repair costs for the building can be reduced.

That’s not to mention the pizza itself, Rimrock resident Patrick McDowell said.

McDowell said that with the limited dining choices in Rimrock, his family often comes to Camp Verde to eat. They enjoy the food at Lawman’s Pizza, McDowell said, and he’d like the council to take a “hard look” at its decision.

The Artisan’s Gallery calls the plaza home, and artist Vada Lavato said the business has been a boon to Camp Verde.

“The gallery is run like a co-op,” Lavato said. “We love sharing our work at good prices. Everyone wants to save the plaza. I want the council to step up and say ‘We were hasty.’”

The town also needs to consider the state of the overall economy, said Harry Rhodes.

“I don’t know if you watch TV, but the economy’s gone to pot. I don’t think we’ve seen the worst of it,” Rhodes said, adding that forcing businesses to relocate or shut down just doesn’t make sense.

The anger over the council’s decision has been simmering for two weeks, but Councilwoman Norma Garrison said she didn’t take part in the unanimous vote to raze the plaza without looking at all the facts.

Garrison said she looked at what keeping the building would cost the taxpayers of Camp Verde — her primary responsibility.

“I didn’t make this decision without looking at what it would cost all the citizens of Camp Verde,” Garrison said. “ … I didn’t take it lightly.”
Garrison requested that the Rio Verde Plaza issue be placed on the council’s agenda at the next regular meeting in order to further elaborate on why the decision was made.

The issue was on the agenda at last week’s meeting, and the council couldn’t legally discuss it.

No one from the plaza or business community was present to speak at the meeting when the decision to demolish was made.

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