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Mon, Aug

Faced with a November recall election following charges of mismanagement, Camp Verde Sanitary District Board member Al Dupuy defended his board’s actions last week.

Dupuy and Board Chairman Rob Witt are the focus of a recall initiated by a grassroots citizens group unhappy with the direction the board has taken and their heavily increased tax bills paying for a sewer expansion project.

Dupuy said he’s willing to work with anyone who has ideas on how to help the sanitary district, including the Sanitary District Fairness Group, the organization responsible for the recall.

Both Dupuy and Witt offered a vacant seat on the board to the opposition group’s president, James Strava, and vice president, Bill Mitton.

Mitton turned it town due to other obligations, Dupuy said.

Strava said he believed he could help the board if he took the seat, but declined citing personal reasons that don’t allow him the time needed to serve as a board member.

Strava said that he also is planning to take a less active role in the leadership of the Sanitary District Fairness Group in the coming months, and offered his support to anyone who could step up and aggressively pursue the group’s objectives.

The recall petition listed seven complaints against Dupuy and Witt.
Dupuy said he was worried that some members of the public have painted him as a man who doesn’t care about the tax burden on district.

In a public statement last week he answered the charges one by one.
? Abuse of tax levy authority.

Dupuy said that as a special taxing district, the sanitary district has the authority under state law to enter into an agreement with a private entity for the construction of a sewage collection system and wastewater treatment plant.

The Fairness Group has expressed concerns over a $6 million private loan obtained by the district last year that leaves district members with the bill.
? Failure to disclose future tax levies during the budget process.

Dupuy said all budget decisions and financial agreements were discussed in public meetings, as was the $6 million loan.

“The board has always been upfront that certain taxes will need to go up,” Dupuy said. “Unfortunately, no one can predict exactly where they will go.”

? Inappropriate allocation of district assets.

Dupuy said that to the best of his knowledge, the district’s funds are being used to complete the $15 million sewer expansion project.

? Inadequate record keeping and financial reporting.

Dupuy said that other than a few minor issues, a recent audit of the district found no serious problems with the board’s financial reporting and no evidence of intentionally mishandling funds.

The audit confirmed that the district’s books were in the clear, noting a few issues with internal controls over handling finances.

? Unauthorized destruction of public records.

Dupuy said that if the complaint was concerning the destruction of tapes after meeting minutes were transcribed, the Arizona Attorney General’s Office had already talked with the board about the issue.

Dupuy said the tapes were used to help record the minutes of meetings, and to his knowledge, the district no longer destroys any tapes.

? Withholding meeting minutes and other public records.

Dupuy said that, to his knowledge, the district has always allowed public records requests. He pointed to one instance where the minutes of a five-and-a-half-hour meeting were not recorded within 72 hours, and the attorney general considered it a “blip on the radar.”

“In other words, [the sanitary district] has a good record with minutes and public record compliance,” Dupuy said.

? Failure to keep the public properly informed of district business.
Dupuy said that the board holds public meetings every month, and that at most of those there are television cameras and newspaper reporters present.

“The decision to build a larger plant and increase taxes has always been done in public,” Dupuy said.

Dupuy also directly addressed personal criticism against his role on the sanitary district board.

“There is a perception that I personally don’t care about the burden the tax increases have put on the people within the district, but this is simply not true,” Dupuy said. “I am willing to listen to any and all suggestions that will help reduce our taxes. I am willing to work for and with district members that are willing to offer positive suggestions to improve our current situation.”

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.

A structural failure early this year during the construction of a new wastewater treatment plant has left the Camp Verde Sanitary District with the bill — for now.

The district has to have someone fix the walls of the new aeration basin that cracked and bowed during a testing phase.

The district hired an independent engineer which the district thinks puts the blame for the failure squarely on the shoulders of the project engineers, Phoenix-based Coe and Van Loo.

Coe and Van Loo is reviewing the independent engineers report and hasn’t yet accepted any official responsibility for the problem.

While district board is confident that someone eventually will be held financially liable, construction of the project can’t proceed much farther without the needed thousands of dollars in repairs.

If the project were to be put on hold until the board had a check in its hands, it would likely cost the district more money for having to demobilize construction workers while waiting for repairs and then pay to bring them back, board member Al Dupuy said.

“I’m not comfortable fronting the money for repairs,” Dupuy said. “We need to be more aggressive in pursuing those at fault.”

Construction on another part of the sewer project, the expansion of sewer lines in Camp Verde, is expected to resume shortly, board member Gregg Freeman said

Determined to move forward with an eventual town takeover of the Camp Verde Sanitary District, the Town Council and district board agreed last week to research hiring a full-time administrator to oversee the affairs of the district.

The district and town have been renegotiating an agreement signed last spring, one that was designed to pave the way for the town’s takeover of district affairs pending the results of the November 2008 election.
The agreement was derailed over the last year, and the town failed to take over billing operations at the beginning of the year as outlined in the document.

Because the district, faced with mounting financial costs from its project to expand the sewer, didn’t expect to still be handling the day-to-day accounting at this point, board members have asked the town to pay for the full-time administrator.

After a two-hour closed-door meeting last week, the town and district agreed to research how exactly to go about hiring this administrator, with plans to meet again next week and share what information each side has learned.

As far as the agreement between the district and town, board member Al Dupuy said he would still like to see the takeover measure on the November ballot.

The town has requested that the election issue be postponed until the town is fully capable of successfully running the district, something Town Manager Michael Scannell has said he feels is farther into the future.

Both sides would like to see actual progress made on any changes to the agreement, and Councilman Ron Smith said he felt the best thing to do would to be to craft an entirely new agreement.

“We could go back and beat that dead horse,” Smith said. “But we aren’t going to get it to run for us. We need to go out and work on a new colt.”
Both sides agreed that the ultimate goal was to eventually have the sanitary district run by the town.

Both the district and town agreed to move forward with revising the agreement, but elected a small group from each side to work on the project; Dupuy said it would be easier to make progress if both the council and board didn’t have to meet together every time a suggestion was made.

The town and district appointed Mayor Tony Gioia, Councilwoman Norma Garrison, Scannell and board members Al Dupuy and Gregg Freeman to work on a new agreement and bring updates back to their respective groups.

“We have to move forward,” Garrison said. “We’ve gotten further and further away from each other and there’s been less and less communication. Feb. 21, 2008 is the day of new beginnings.”

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.

When Camp Verde incorporated in 1986, its new borders contained a great deal of National Forest land.

Fully aware that their voices will not likely affect how the U.S. Forest Service conducts business, members of the Camp Verde Town Council narrowly voted last week to send a letter asking that the Forest Service not sell off public lands inside town limits to private developers.

It was an ideological debate, with Mayor Tony Gioia arguing that the town should strive to guarantee its wide open spaces that have drawn many residents to the area and Councilman Ron Smith arguing that town government has no business telling anybody what to do with their land.

When all was said and done Gioia was joined by Vice Mayor Brenda Hauser and Councilwoman Norma Garrison and Councilman Charlie German in supporting the letter.

Councilmen Greg Elmer and Bob Kovacovich sided with Smith in voting against it.

Congress recently changed the rules to allow the Forest Service to trade or sell off land, Gioia said.

Smith argued that that had enabled the government to trade off some lands in order to obtain more valuable wilderness areas worth preserving.

Gioia maintained that the open lands inside Camp Verde give the town much of its appeal and character.

“We own the land as citizens of the United States,” Gioia said. “We don’t want to see that land developed.”

see that land developed.”

Smith countered that between the Yavapai-Apache Nation picking up as much land as possible for expansion and other features of the landscape, Camp Verde needs as much land as possible available for future growth and development.

“I’m opposed to any government telling property owners how to use their land, including the Forest Service,” Smith said. “I don’t believe that government should have that power.”

Gioia said the letter wasn’t telling the Forest Service anything, and was simply making a suggestion on behalf of the Town of Camp Verde.

As for selling off land in Camp Verde to protect other areas, Hauser said that argument didn’t sit with her.

“I don’t think there’s any land in Arizona more important than our land right here,” Hauser said. “We’re not going to see that. All we’ll see is rooftops. It’s worth asking.”

Gioia added that as far as commercial development goes, the town already has empty land waiting for infrastructure and development.

It probably won’t matter anyway, German said, who has had family members with careers in the Forest Service.

German, who owns property adjacent to Forest Service lands, said when he bought it he was told that only an act of Congress would change the nature of the landscape.

“That’s exactly what it took,” Gioia said.

Camp Verde resident Jennifer Dutton voiced her opinion in support of the letter.

“People love the feel of Camp Verde,” Dutton said. “They like our surroundings in the community, the public lands. We’re just blessed. I feel like we’re trading ourselves away when we do this.”

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 Sanitary District Board is still looking into who was responsible for a costly shutdown of a sewer line expansion project ordered last month by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.
ADEQ shut construction down just after the new year when officials realized the district hadn’t obtained a necessary permit to begin putting pipe in the ground.

While ADEQ has since allowed the project to resume in exchange for the district’s agreement to upgrade some pumps on Main Street, the shutdown still cost the district well over $100,000 and the price tag keeps going up.

The pumps, originally estimated to cost $50,000 to improve, will likely cost “substantially more,” said district employee Rick Spears.

Still, the shutdown may not have as much of a financial impact on the district as the numbers would suggest, said Eric Lauren, project manager with Coe and Van Loo, the engineering firm that made the final revisions to the new sewer plans.

Lauren said his company, hired to replace former engineering firm HDR in 2004, had been told by the previous district board that all of the permits had been applied for and there was no need to resubmit the plans to ADEQ. At the time, that was true. The necessary permits were in place, but one key permit expired in 2006.

Coe and Van Loo made some changes to the original plans submitted by HDR, but Lauren said the consensus was that the changes weren’t significant enough to warrant re-submission to ADEQ.

Normally, resubmitting the plans would have been “normal procedure,” Lauren said, but given the circumstances the company decided against it, considering they were operating under the assumption that all the permits were in place; resubmitting the plans could have doubled Coe and Van Loo’s $32,500 bill for their work, Lauren said.

Lauren suggested the board look for a silver lining.

While it’s impossible to know for sure, Lauren said if plans had been resent to ADEQ, “they could have been more adamant about redoing the plans.”

Lauren pointed to some concerns raised over whether some of the slopes of the new lines were adequate.

If ADEQ had re-reviewed the new plans before the work started, the district might have had a lot more work to do, from an engineering standpoint, than upgrading pumps on Main Street, Lauren said.

“We benefited this time from the tremendous pressure on ADEQ [to keep the project going],” Lauren said.

District Board Chairman Rob Witt said in that light, the biggest costs of the shutdown were in terms of demobilizing the contractors and now having to bring them back into the field. Spears said that some work on the new pipes should resume Monday, Feb. 25, with the rest of the project up and running by the second week in March.

The district board also had set aside time last week to question former district chairwoman Suzy Burnside about the lack of the necessary permits for the project.

While Burnside e-mailed the board she had nothing further to contribute to the issue, she defended her board in a letter to district attorney Brett Rigg.
Burnside wrote that any original problems with the plans for the new sewer lines had been met to ADEQ’s satisfaction, and that the permit in question had actually been reissued by ADEQ in December 2006. Prior to that date, no further changes had been made to the plans, Burnside wrote.

The new board was seated in January 2007, and Burnside wrote that she has no knowledge of any changes to the plans that were or weren’t made after that.

A month after the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality shut the project down, the Camp Verde Sanitary District has received the OK to continue putting new sewer lines in the ground.

The project was halted in January when ADEQ discovered that the district hadn’t obtained an aquifer protection permit, a measure the state requires before granting permission to build.

There had been a permit in place, but it expired in 2006 and the lapse apparently went unnoticed.

Last week the district board signed a consent order with ADEQ to get the project back up and running.

The order came after the district submitted its plans to ADEQ for review following the shutdown. While the state didn’t have any problems with the design of the new pipes, it was concerned that two lift pumps on Main Street designed to pump water through a new sewer pipe under the White Bridge weren’t powerful enough to meet the state’s sewage velocity requirements, a potential cause of future backups.

By signing the consent order, the district agreed in effect to upgrade the pumps in exchange for permission to keep building sewer lines.

The pumps are only three years old, and they met state requirements when they were installed.

Since then, ADEQ has made its velocity requirements stricter, district board Chairman Rob Witt said.

Early estimates put the cost of upgrading the pumps at around $50,000.
“One of the problems is that they do change the rules a lot and don’t supply the resources for it,” Witt said. “But it’s their job to make sure the water supply is safe, and if things aren’t right, then it’s probably better to fix them now before there’s a problem later.”

Basically, the board decided that it would be better to do what the state wants and get the project moving forward instead of potentially starting a costly fight on the taxpayer’s dime.

“One of the things [ADEQ] has made perfectly clear is that we’re going to do it their way or we’re not going to do it at all,” Witt said.

The district now has 180 days to install the upgraded pumps or face increasing fines from ADEQ.

“The consent order will stabilize the Camp Verde Sanitary District’s wastewater treatment planning and help the district come into, and stay in, compliance with the law,” ADEQ Director Steve Owens wrote in a statement released by his office.

“We are working closely with the district to fix the sewer lines and ensure the wastewater treatment plant is built correctly,” Owens stated. “We recognize the challenges the district faces in trying to put a large commercial area on the sewer, and we intend to help the board members work through those issues.”

The sewer expansion project could legally restart right away, Witt said, but if it started tomorrow it could cost the district as much as $250,000 to remobilize construction crews.

“We’re trying to be as flexible as we can with the contractors,” Witt said. “We want to reduce costs whenever possible.”

Witt said he hopes the machinery will be up and running within 60 days.
If Witt is concerned about keeping costs down, it’s because they keep adding up.

Just addressing the shut-down order alone cost the district more than $75,000 in preparing plans and acquiring the permit.

Money also had to be spent putting together a state-mandated operations manual for the current wastewater treatment plant, money Witt said he originally didn’t want to spend because the plant will become obsolete when the new plant comes on line this summer.

The district has also stopped accepting new sewage from septic tanks, at least until the new system is online.

Things aren’t any cheaper at the new plant. A recent stress test of one of the new aeration basins at the new plant failed when its 18-foot walls started to crack after being filled with water.

The basins are designed to be placed in the ground; the test was done above ground to look for any problems before they are buried.

It’s going to cost the district at least $24,000 to analyze the engineering plans to find out what went wrong. Once the problem is known, it will cost another $26,000 to come up with a plan to fix it, and thousands more to actually implement the repairs.

That money could be recovered by the district, however, once the investigation determines whether the designer or the contractors who built the basin are at fault.

“We’re doing everything we can to get the plant running by the end of June,” said J.R. Pooler, district project manager. “The one [organization] I can’t see who would be to blame is the Camp Verde Sanitary District.”

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.

After issuing an ultimatum to three members of the Camp Verde Sanitary District to resign or face recall, it appears the grassroots Sanitary District Fairness Group will have to make good on its threat.

Fed up with paying increasing taxes for a service members don’t receive to what many of them believe is a mismanaged sanitary district, the group approached sanitary district board members Al Dupuy, Kathy Scherich and Chairman Rob Witt for their resignations.

The answer was a resounding “no.”

It doesn’t mean they haven’t thought about it. Witt told the group in December that he’s considered it at times, given the time he devotes to managing the district, and Dupuy already resigned in December before reconsidering.

The group is also concerned about the fact that Scherich, while owning property in the district, doesn’t live in the district.

The group also wants Witt to be held accountable for a $6 million loan he obtained for the sewer expansion project “using the district members as collateral,” SDFG Vice President Bill Mitton said.

Now the group has recall petitions in hand and plans to start circulating them for signatures this week. The recall effort needs 133 signatures, SDFG President James Strava said, a number he doesn’t think the group will have any problem obtaining.

The group is armed with a lawyer, David Gordon, of Cottonwood, and Mitton said Gordon is compiling a list of alleged violations committed by the sanitary district board.

A recall election would cost about $3,000, Strava said, and the group already has a list of potential replacement candidates.

“We’re not going to go through all this and lose,” Mitton said. “That’s not in our vocabulary.”

Witt said he’d leave the question of his future with the sanitary district to the electorate at large.

“If the people don’t want me to represent them, then that’s their decision,” Witt said.

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.

It’s shaping up to be a race.

Potential candidates need to have their ducks in a row by Wednesday, Dec. 10, to meet a deadline to run for a seat on the Camp Verde Town Council in next spring’s elections. Nine people have shown interest for the five seats up for grabs.

It could be at least a three-way run for the mayor’s seat, which carries a two-year term.

While nothing is official until the paperwork gets to the county’s Elections Department, Mayor Tony Gioia has pulled the necessary packet to run for reelection. He could be joined by two others in that bid.

Tim Sykes, a library commissioner who once tried to apply for the seat left vacant by former Councilman Mike Parry and was disqualified because he didn’t live inside the political boundaries of Camp Verde, has also pulled the mayoral packet.

He was joined late last week by Bob Burnside, a plumber who ran an unsuccessful bid as a write-in candidate for the Camp Verde Sanitary District.

Three four-year seats on the council are up for election. The seats are currently held by Ron Smith, Bob Kovacovich and Vice-Mayor Brenda Hauser.

Kovacovich has signaled he plans to run to retain his seat. Also potentially running for a four-year seat are Robin Whatley, Samuel Plunkett, George McClure and Jackie Baker, a former councilwoman and vice-mayor.

Whatley and Baker had also applied to fill Parry’s empty seat now held by Councilman Charlie German.

The remaining two years of former Councilman Greg Elmer’s seat are also on the ballot following his resignation Nov. 30. Raymond Williams has pulled the paperwork to potentially run for that seat.

Whatley, who attends nearly every council meeting and once served as Gioia’s campaign manager, also serves on the Parks and Recreation Commission and a committee formed by the town to make recommendations about funding nonprofit organizations.

Whatley was the first person to pull a packet to run for the council and to gain the needed signatures from local registered voters.

Now she’s concerned that her bid may be challenged due to a technicality. When Elmer’s resignation opened up a two-year seat on the council, potential candidates had to indicate whether they were running to finish that term or for one of the four-year seats.

Whatley collected her signatures before Elmer announced his resignation and didn’t have to indicate which seat she was running for.

She checked with the town’s legal council who advised her she might want to redo her entire packet, signatures and all. By that time, Whatley said it was too late for her to go through everything again.

She hopes her run for office doesn’t stumble over a legal snag, and she has a solid argument, since people who signed her petition assumed she was running for a four-year seat, the only one available at the time.

Regardless of who has pulled a packet, the election slate will be finalized Dec.10 at 5 p.m., the deadline to file.

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