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Wed, Jan

The dreaded “L” word could soon see the Camp Verde Town Council discussing the future of the town’s weight room.

It’s “liability,” said town Parks and Recreation Director Lynda Moore. The town has no one around to supervise the gym where members of the public pay $15 a month to use weight lifting equipment.

Moore said the item could be brought before Town Council to discuss in executive session with the town attorney the risk the town faces if anything were to go wrong at the gym.

There’s also the Town Council’s general policy to avoid running any enterprise that competes with local businesses, Moore said, mentioning two private gyms in Camp Verde.

Before the issue goes before the Town Council, Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman and town councilwoman-elect Robin Whatley said she’d like the commission to look at the matter first.

“I certainly think this is something the Parks and Rec Commission would want to take a look at in order to come up with a recommendation for the Town Council,” Whatley said.

Whatley said that after a first look at the issue, she didn’t think the town’s gym should close.

“Once we take something away, it’s extremely difficult to ever get it back,” Whatley said.

Whatley said the town’s weight room was cheaper to use on a monthly basis than a private gym and thinks it’s a good alternative for people who possibly can’t afford higher membership fees.

As far as competition goes, one local gym isn’t particularly concerned.
Peggy Dickey with Verde Barbell said, in her opinion, the town’s weight room wasn’t providing competition.

“I really don’t think it’s that much competition,” Dickey said. “I really don’t mind the weight room being open.”

Dan Dundulis uses the town’s weight room around five days a week. Last week he agreed with fellow weight lifters using the town’s equipment that closing the gym would be a terrible idea.

Dundulis said that he enjoys the chance to use the equipment, and that he often brings in his own tools for maintenance and repair of the aging weights and exercise equipment.

“It’s affordable,” Doug Youngkin, another man who uses the equipment frequently, said.

Not only that, Paul Evans said, between reps, it doesn’t cost the town that much to maintain the weight room compared to the benefits it provides to the public.

The issue was placed on last week’s Town Council meeting agenda but was removed at the last minute. Moore said it could reappear before council in the near future.

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It took two years to craft a town ordinance about where A-frame, or sandwich board, signs are allowed in town limits. It took two weeks to draw a firestorm of criticism from local business owners opposed to the new rules.

The Camp Verde Town Council will revisit a discussion about the controversial signs at its Wednesday, March 4, meeting, said Mayor Tony Gioia.

The council passed new rules in January that limited the areas that could display the signs to businesses that have a door facing Main Street. It was originally conceived as a temporary measure to allow businesses suffering in a poor economy a way to draw in customers until things improved, and the town could provide more permanent signs.

But the new rule, which limited signs to certain businesses on Main Street, drew immediate protest from merchants like Donna Stilwell, owner of D&N Tire, a business located off of Main Street. Stilwell spent last week standing by her A-frame sign on Main Street holding protest signs decrying the Town Council’s decision.

Stilwell’s protest vigil was lent support by a phalanx of downtown merchants who filed into last week’s Town Council meeting to express displeasure with the new rules.

Several people argued that it wasn’t fair to prevent struggling businesses from advertising; others argued that it wasn’t fair just to allow a few Main Street businesses the right to use the signs when every business in Camp Verde could use the help.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that small business is not in [the Town Council’s] best interests, and we are tired of being misled,” said Bill Carter of Camp Verde Realty, speaking on behalf of the Camp Verde Merchant’s Committee. Carter said the informal body of merchants was prepared to retain an attorney if its members were left unsatisfied.

The town is in a tough spot.

While there is concern about keeping control over the style and quality of signs that could line the town’s streets, many of the A-frame signs could sit in the town owned right-of-way alongside the street, opening the door to legal liability if a sign was found to contribute to an accident.

While not every A-frame sign would necessarily be on town property, several members of the business community defended the need for the signs.

Andy Dickey with Verde Barbell Gym said that his business, located on First Street, depends on the ability to use every marketing tool it can.
The merchants fighting for their signs also found support with shopkeepers who are allowed A-frame signs on Main Street.

Therese Tobish with Ancient Bear Gallery said she didn’t think it was fair that others couldn’t have a sign when her family’s business could.
Stilwell told the council she was still “mad as hell.”

While the council wasn’t allowed to discuss the issue last week because of the state’s open meeting laws, Gioia told the protestors that their point had been heard loud and clear.

The council is expected to readdress the matter next month.

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It took two years to craft a town ordinance about where A-frame, or sandwich board, signs are allowed in town limits. It took two weeks to draw a firestorm of criticism from local business owners opposed to the new rules.

The Camp Verde Town Council will revisit a discussion about the controversial signs at its Wednesday, March 4, meeting, said Mayor Tony Gioia.

The council passed new rules in January that limited the areas that could display the signs to businesses that have a door facing Main Street. It was originally conceived as a temporary measure to allow businesses suffering in a poor economy a way to draw in customers until things improved, and the town could provide more permanent signs.

But the new rule, which limited signs to certain businesses on Main Street, drew immediate protest from merchants like Donna Stilwell, owner of D&N Tire, a business located off of Main Street. Stilwell spent last week standing by her A-frame sign on Main Street holding protest signs decrying the Town Council’s decision.

Stilwell’s protest vigil was lent support by a phalanx of downtown merchants who filed into last week’s Town Council meeting to express displeasure with the new rules.

Several people argued that it wasn’t fair to prevent struggling businesses from advertising; others argued that it wasn’t fair just to allow a few Main Street businesses the right to use the signs when every business in Camp Verde could use the help.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that small business is not in [the Town Council’s] best interests, and we are tired of being misled,” said Bill Carter of Camp Verde Realty, speaking on behalf of the Camp Verde Merchant’s Committee. Carter said the informal body of merchants was prepared to retain an attorney if its members were left unsatisfied.

The town is in a tough spot.

While there is concern about keeping control over the style and quality of signs that could line the town’s streets, many of the A-frame signs could sit in the town owned right-of-way alongside the street, opening the door to legal liability if a sign was found to contribute to an accident.

While not every A-frame sign would necessarily be on town property, several members of the business community defended the need for the signs.

Andy Dickey with Verde Barbell Gym said that his business, located on First Street, depends on the ability to use every marketing tool it can.
The merchants fighting for their signs also found support with shopkeepers who are allowed A-frame signs on Main Street.

Therese Tobish with Ancient Bear Gallery said she didn’t think it was fair that others couldn’t have a sign when her family’s business could.
Stilwell told the council she was still “mad as hell.”

While the council wasn’t allowed to discuss the issue last week because of the state’s open meeting laws, Gioia told the protestors that their point had been heard loud and clear.

The council is expected to readdress the matter next month.

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With a 4-1 vote, the Camp Verde Town Council voted last week to reinstate the town’s Housing Commission.

The commission was set to be abolished after the town decided last year to eliminate the entire Housing Department as a measure to help plug a $500,000 budget hole.

Town Manager Mike Scannell said at the time that while the decision was regrettable, it’s rare to find a Housing Commission in a town the size of Camp Verde. The commission protested the decision; every commissioner except Greg Blue voted to recommend against their dissolution. Blue said that as a developer, he may be able to work on housing issues with more freedom than he could as a public official.

The members of the Housing Commission made impassioned pleas to the council last week; they argued that even without a Housing Department, it was still important that local government keep a mechanism in place to deal with housing issues.

There was some discussion about forming a nongovernmental citizens committee, but in the end, the council voted to keep the commission, reducing the frequency of its meetings to four times a year.

Housing Commissioner Linda Buchanan expressed her displeasure at the way the town had handled dismantling the department and commission.
“There was no letter of appreciation,” Buchanan said. “ … [The council] really left us hanging.”

Buchanan questioned how the town could afford not to pay a relatively small sum to keep a Housing Commission, if not a department, to address very real concerns when it comes to a basic human right like having a place to live.

Housing Commission Chairman Jeremy Bach reiterated the importance of housing in his argument before the council and questioned why the council would eliminate his commission before some of the others, like the Trails and Pathways Commission.

Bach said he meant no disrespect to other commissions but felt housing was more important than trails.

Vice Mayor Brenda Hauser, who has never supported getting rid of the Housing Commission, said the decision was made because of the town’s financial situation; she believes that the current slump will eventually end, and the town will once again be able to put more money into housing.

Even with the elimination of the Housing Department, former Housing Director Matt Morris was assigned to spend 10 percent of his time on housing issues; the rest of his time will be spent devoted to rewriting portions of the town’s antiquated building and zoning codes.

Councilwoman Norma Garrison cast the lone no vote against reinstating the Housing Commission. She argued that while the decision to get rid of the commission was regrettable, it had already been made. Garrison said keeping the commission would cost more money when the town was already in dire financial straits, and this would mean the town would have to make cuts elsewhere.

In the meantime, Morris said he felt there was value in looking into forming a regional housing authority to work with issues in the Verde Valley.

The housing commissioners were upset, but they seemed pleased by the compromise to keep the commission intact after the motion made by Councilman Ron Smith was approved.

“You all have done a great thing here tonight,” Bach told the council.

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Fort Verde has avoided the chopping block — at least for now.

The historic Camp Verde landmark was one of eight state parks recommended for closure to help plug a hemorrhaging Arizona State Parks budget.

The eight parks, including Riordan, Lyman Lake, Homolovi Ruins, McFarland, Oracle, Tubac and the Yuma Quartermaster Depot, only account for 6 percent of annual visitation to the state parks’ system.

Fort Verde is the only state park currently facing the risk of closure; parks in Cottonwood and Jerome are not on the list.

Last week, the park system’s Board of Directors decided to hold off on shutting down the parks to try and come up with alternate measures to close their $650,000 budget hole, a result of state cutbacks in the face of severe financial deficits.

The issue is expected to be raised at the board’s next meeting Friday, Feb. 20, in Phoenix.

The fort was never built by the U.S. Army to last, but a group of citizens, looking to the future, helped preserve the last four 19th century buildings until they were transferred to Arizona State Parks nearly four decades ago.

If the park were to close, it’s unclear what would happen. The land and buildings could possibly resort to private ownership under agreements signed when the park service first took over the fort.

If the park service can avoid closing the state parks, they may look to other measures like cutting jobs or days of operation.

Already at Fort Verde, the park has lost its part-time employees; a potluck farewell luncheon was planned this past Friday.

Fort Verde Park Manager Sheila Stubler said that everyone was simply taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the park’s future.

In the meantime, the park is moving ahead with a current renovation projects unless the state says otherwise, Stubler said.

Park volunteer Peggy Morris was more vocal about her opinions about what the state parks’ board should do.

“They need to start at the top and cut the highest salaries,” Morris said. “They need to leave the park open and leave the people who keep them running from day-to-day alone.”

Morris said she was afraid that if the park were to shut its doors, the buildings might be subject to vandalism. She’s also afraid of what would happen to the park’s extensive library of information and the historical artifacts kept on-site.

The Camp Verde Town Council voted last week to send a letter to the state, urging it to keep the fort open; despite the state’s budget woes, the fort draws thousands of people to town who spend their money in local shops and restaurants.

Town Manager Mike Scannell suggested that the entire community should write their legislators if they are concerned over the future of the town.
Mayor Tony Gioia said he didn’t think the state park’s board was really intending to close the fort, but felt the town should be proactive in trying to protect it just in case.

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When it comes down to a real emergency, firefighters are often the first line of protection and defense.

In Camp Verde, that line is about to get a little stronger thanks to a $325,140 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The Camp Verde Fire District was one of more than 100 fire departments across the country to receive a share of millions of dollars as part of the government’s Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response, or SAFER, grant program.

The money will help supplement the recruitment and hiring of three additional firefighters for the district, according to district spokesperson Barbara Rice.

The grant was designed specifically to make sure communities get more “frontline” people working to protect communities. According to Rice, one of the main goals of the grant program is to help bring the district’s staffing standards more in line with those established by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, or OSHA.

The district will receive the money over the course of the next five years so that the cost of hiring new personnel can be spread across several fiscal years.

“Receiving these grant funds will allow Camp Verde Fire District to increase our staffing and response capabilities, thereby reducing response times [and] improving firefighter safety,” read a statement released by the district.

Camp Verde was one of six Arizona fire departments to get a piece of the FEMA pie; other awards went to firefighters in Chloride, Rio Rico, Lakeside, Avondale and Clarkdale.

Nearly $190 million was distributed to departments across the county for the 2008 grant cycle.

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Just under the wire, one last person is throwing their name into the hat for a seat on the Camp Verde Town Council.

Carol German, a member of the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission and active library endowment supporter, announced last week that she will be running a write-in campaign for one of the three four-year seats on the council up for grabs in this year’s March primary and May election.

Her decision means it will actually be a contest for the four-year seats.

There are a total of five seats open this election; the three four-year seats are currently held by Council members Ron Long and Bob Kovacovich and Vice Mayor Brenda Hauser.

There is also the remaining two years of a seat left vacant by former Councilman Greg Elmer. Elmer, a first-term member of the council, resigned in November 2008 citing the need to spend more time focusing on family and work.

The mayor’s two-year term is also on the ballot this year.

Before German’s announcement, there were only three people running for the three four-year openings: former Councilwoman Jackie Baker, Councilman Bob Kovacovich and Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Robin Whatley. Write-in campaigns have often proven difficult to pull off, but if German were to win, she wouldn’t be the first.

Vice Mayor Hauser won her current seat on the board in a write-in campaign; she’s running another write-in campaign this year for Elmer’s old seat. She faces a candidate whose name will be on the ballot for the same seat, local real estate agent Raymond Williams.

The mayor’s seat faces the most competition. Mayor Tony Gioia is looking to hold onto his seat, but local businessman Tim Sykes is looking to make it his own.

They both face opposition from a third write-in candidate, local plumber Bob Burnside.

The primary election is in March, conducted by mail. The final election is in May; winners will be seated to the council in June.

For its inaugural year, Camp Verde’s Relay For Life was a success, raising more than $17,000 for the American Cancer Society to help one day eradicate the disease.

Fundraising teams lined the Camp Verde High School football field last May and walked overnight for the cause. Cancer doesn’t sleep, and neither did the teams. However, it was beginning to look like the event’s first year might have been its last, when the original organizers weren’t able to put as much effort into organizing this year’s event, and no one else stepped up.

It turned out that there are a few people who didn’t want to give up that easily. The event is still on for 2009, but organizers have moved it to September in an effort to get more help and support.

Karen Conover doesn’t want to see the event go away, but she needs help. Last year, Conover and her team from KC’s Family Tae Kwon Do led a huge effort to help raise money. Conover has volunteered to be this year’s publicity chair, but she needs more volunteers to help carry the weight of the organizing efforts.

There’s a lot of work to be done, Conover said, if people want this event to see its second year.

That’s an understatement, Sara Eby, a coordinator for the American Cancer Society, said. These events don’t just magically happen, Eby said, it takes a lot of dedication to help pull off a relay successfully.

Considering that just about everyone has been affected by cancer in one way or the other, Eby hopes that Camp Verde residents will rise to the challenge.

The event is tentatively scheduled for Friday, Sept. 18, at Camp Verde High School, although the specifics may change as the organizational effort develops.

The first local meeting for all interested volunteers is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 4, at 7:30 p.m., KC’s Tae Kwon Do, 155 S. Montezuma Castle Highway.

For more information, call Eby at (928) 526-2896 or visit CVRelay.org.

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