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Mon, Feb

An empty seat on the Camp Verde Town Council remains open, after the council couldn’t agree on who should fill it. The seat opened up after Councilman Mike Parry resigned amid questions over whether or not he still lived in Camp Verde.

No candidate that applied garnered the four votes necessary to fill the position, active through June 2011.

The council is now taking new applications from the public until the end of the month, and wants to make a decision at its meeting Wednesday, Feb. 6.
There was plenty of interest from the public last week, but the council was divided about who would be best for the job.

A good deal of public support was behind Harry Duke, the town’s former postmaster who narrowly lost last year’s council election to Parry.

Councilmen Ron Smith, Bob Kovacovich and Greg Elmer supported Duke as the public’s second choice, but Mayor Tony Gioia, Vice Mayor Brenda Hauser and Councilwoman Norma Garrison voted against him.

Garrison was under public pressure to vote for Duke, but in the end, she felt bringing him on the council would cause Camp Verde more harm than good. She felt the same way about applicant Robin Whatley, the mayor’s former campaign manager and current Parks and Recreation commissioner, whose nomination by Hauser failed to garner a second.

“These are two people who were very involved in a very emotional campaign,” Garrison said. “Because of their involvement in the campaign, I don’t want the council accused of taking sides. I want someone who doesn’t have the baggage of a hard-fought campaign.”

Gioia didn’t vote to second the nomination of Whatley, his former manager. Gioia put his support behind Dave Freeman, a housing commissioner and planning and zoning commission chairman.

Despite a somewhat turbulent personal history as a postal employee with Duke, Gioia said that a 70-point grading system he devised for this decision put Freeman at the top of the list.

“I looked primarily at current service to the town,” Gioia said. “[Freeman] rated very highly.”

Freeman gave a speech before the vote, accenting his handling of last year’s livestock ordinance debate as proof he could handle the hot seat.
But Freeman’s appointment to the council was shot down by the same council members who threw their support behind Duke; only Gioia, Hauser and Garrison supported Freeman.

Smith, who made a motion to make Duke the newest member of Camp Verde’s leading body, said that the public had made its choice in choosing Duke now that Parry was no longer on the council.

Jerry Tobish, a downtown business owner also received support from Smith, Kovacovich and Elmer. His appointment was blocked by Gioia, Hauser and Garrison.

Tina Andersen, another local business owner, withdrew her name from the running before the vote; so did Donald O’Toole, a local man who threw his support behind Duke after withdrawing.

The council didn’t vote on Tim Sykes, the first person to throw his hat in the ring; it was later discovered that Sykes didn’t meet the residency requirement of living inside Camp Verde town limits for a year previous to applying for the seat.

While those who have already applied can keep their names in the running, the Town Council is accepting new letters in hopes to fill the seat by Wednesday, Feb. 6.

They have 60 days to fill the position under state law, but it’s unclear if there would be any real penalties against the town if it doesn’t meet its deadline.

Mark Lineberger can be reached
at 567-3341 or e-mail
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A November 2008 ballot measure to allow the town to take de facto control of the Camp Verde Sanitary District may be off the table, if a new agreement is reached between the district and the Camp Verde Town Council.
The original agreement, signed in May, called for the town to pledge $2 million to help fund construction of a new sewer treatment plant.
In return, the town would gradually take over administrative duties of the district in advance of a measure that, if passed, would make the members of the sitting Town Council the members of the sanitary district board.
The plan has hit a few snags since the original agreement was signed.
The old agreement called for sanitary district employees to be technically on the town’s payroll to take advantage of the town employee benefits package.
Later problems and allegations led the town to fire some of the sanitary district employees; the others resigned in solidarity and all were rehired by the sanitary district.
The agreement also called for all sewer-related accounting and billing to be handled through the town.
Town Manager Michael Scannell, who came on board well after the original agreement was signed, told the sanitary district board last week that he didn’t believe the town was currently up to the task.
The sewer project is of utmost importance to the town, Scannell said, but in his opinion, the town doesn’t have the infrastructure in place just yet to handle that kind of workload.
The town has been trying to rework the agreement after months of stagnation in carrying out its terms.
Scannell said that while he’s confident the town would eventually be able to take on the responsibilities of running the sanitary district, to do so prematurely and fail would likely cause residents to vote against a town takeover.
“We have to demonstrate that everything is working well,” Scannell said. “At some point we will pass the test, but … at this point [the ballot measure] may not pass.”
Nothing is set in stone at the moment. The sanitary district has consistently argued that regardless of what the town wants, it is still obligated to fulfill the terms of the original agreement it signed.
While the district has expressed a willingness to negotiate with the town, CVSD Board Chariman Rob Witt said the district wants the town to pay for its employees’ benefits.
Beyond that, Witt said, if the town wants to redefine the agreement, the district board feels the town should also pay for a full-time sewer administrator, someone who would be able to take care of the billing and accounting functions the town doesn’t want to take on right now.
Regardless of what the town and district ultimately agree to, Scannell said that the town intends to live up to its financial obligations to the district.
The first check from the town was sent at the beginning of the month, Scannell said.
The renegotiations are set against a backdrop of mistrust between the public and the sanitary district board, highlighted by an acrimonious exchange last week between the board and members of a grassroots group angered by paying increasing taxes for a service they don’t receive.
The Saltmine Road Sewer Opposition Group, a group of residents angered by their rising bills, is looking for a lawyer to advise them where they stand and what they can do.
Many members of the group feel they are being stonewalled and misled by the district board; Witt said some members of the board feel they shouldn’t have to waste their time answering questions when they are just going to be accused of lying regardless of the answers they give.
After paying taxes to the district for more than three decades without receiving sewer service, members of the Saltmine group feel they have a right to have all their questions and concerns about the operations of the district answered in detail.
The next regular meeting of the Camp Verde Sanitary District is scheduled for 1 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 13

Construction of new sewer lines near Fort River Caves and along Hwy. 260 has come to a halt for a second time.
The project had temporarily been shut down by an order from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, after officials discovered that the Camp Verde Sanitary District had failed to obtain the proper construction permits before breaking ground on the project last summer.
The district thought that the order allowed work to continue for 30 days while it could organize a response, but ADEQ officials let the district know, in no uncertain terms last week, that that’s not the case.
“We’re doing everything we can to make ADEQ happy,” said Rob Witt, sanitary district board chairman.
The stop-work order puts the project in jeopardy, Witt said, including funding.
“No bank is going to pay for a project that doesn’t have everything in order,” Witt said. “We’ve got a lot of things to fix.”
The stop-work order only affects the new collection lines; work continues on the new treatment plant across the Verde River near Hwy. 260.
The district is working rapidly to get its paperwork in order, Witt said. The district could be fined $25,000 a day going back to when construction on the lines started, if it can’t get everything in order.
The district’s willingness to work with ADEQ can go a long way in how the state will react, ADEQ spokesman Mark Shaffer said. It’s different from dealing with a private company, Shaffer said; ADEQ takes special considerations knowing that district taxpayers would ultimately be responsible for any fines.
As it is, the shutdown is expected to cost the district at least $100,000, Witt said.
There’s still a matter of who’s responsible for failing to obtain the proper permits. Witt said that the former board under Chairman Suzy Burnside failed to obtain the permit.
There had been a permit in place, but it expired in October 2006. The new district board took office in early 2007, and Witt said it was assumed that all the permits were in order.
Burnside defended herself in a district meeting last week, arguing that it had been the current board’s responsibility to make sure the proper permits were in place.
“Someone should have followed a checklist,” Burnside said.
Witt said that while Burnside had “worked her head off” to get the project rolling, she failed to make sure all the proper paperwork was in place.
Burnside maintains she left the sanitary district board with everything in proper standing, and that the current board was responsible for making sure everything was in place before breaking ground.
The project had originally gone out to bid in 2004, but all of the bids were rejected because of the proposed cost of the new wastewater treatment plant, wrote Eric Lauren, project manager for Coe and Van Loo, one of the construction companies working for the district.
Coe and Van Loo submitted documentation that the company was to assume the CVSD had everything in order with ADEQ when they agreed to take on the job in 2005, and that they had been actively discouraged from talking with ADEQ or any other agency about the project.
Regardless of who is ultimately to blame, Witt said the district has no plans to pursue legal action against Burnside or the former board.
Witt said that while the district reserves the right to take future legal action, he doesn’t feel that much good would come from it.
“We need to move forward,” Witt said.

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Camp Verde Sanitary District plant operator Rick Spears was arrested Dec. 22 on felony charges of forgery, fraudulent schemes and taking the identity of another.

Now he wants the court to decide if there is probable cause to justify those charges.

The charges stem from the allegation that Spears forged his Arizona Department of Environmental Quality credentials as a wastewater water collections system operator using documents he found on the Internet.

Spears had previously held that certification, but his license had lapsed. He admitted as much and told the sanitary district board that he would take responsibility for his actions.

Spears resigned from the town’s payroll and was almost immediately rehired by the sanitary district, which had been reimbursing the town for employee salaries. Camp Verde Marshal Dave Smith said at the time he would not be seeking criminal charges.

That changed when a warrant for Spears’ arrest was issued Dec. 22; Spears turned himself in that afternoon. He was interviewed by detectives with the Camp Verde Marshal’s Office and released the next day on his own recognizance.

Spears, 39, and his attorney, public defender Matthew Springer, stood in Yavapai County Superior Court Thursday, Dec. 27, to request a preliminary hearing.

His fellow employees at the sanitary district, along with district board Chairman Rob Witt, sat with Spears in the courtroom to show their support.

Judge Warren Darrow scheduled the hearing for Thursday, Jan. 10, to review the evidence and determine how the state will proceed.

In the meantime, Spears is still on the job and Witt said he continues to stand behind the district’s employees.

Witt characterized the criminal proceedings against Spears as “harassment” by the town.

“Whatever [Spears] did or didn’t do, he and the other employees are getting the job done,” Witt said.

Witt also questioned the motives behind Spears’ arrest, accusing the town of using it to deflect attention away from its own problems.

Witt said the town was in breech of nearly every part of its agreement with the district, one signed in May to help provide funding for the new wastewater treatment plant in preparation for an eventual town takeover of the sewer system pending the results of the November 2008 election.
That agreement called for monthly payment from the town, payments of which Witt said the district hasn’t seen one dime.

The town, concerned with the nuts and bolts of the agreement, has been working with the district in an attempt to rollback the document and essentially start over from square one.

Spears said he was also surprised by the arrest because it was his understanding that certification matters are usually handled internally by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.

ADEQ was already conducting its own investigation into Spears’ falsified credentials, spokesman Mark Shaffer said, and it was unclear what effect Spears’ arrest would have on those proceedings.

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The Camp Verde Sanitary District Board is investigating a former board chairwoman, alleging she might have misused public money.

The board decided in a meeting, Nov. 14, to ask its attorneys to investigate Suzy Burnside, a previous chairwoman and board member of the sewer district for the past eight years.

Current Board Chairman Rob Witt, who took over in January, said that the previous board had spent $1.4 million on the expansion of the district’s sewer service, apparently without properly recording the funds in its budget reports.

Witt said Burnside was being singled out because she was the leader of the previous board, and the other members were just falling in line behind her.
“There was no accountability,” Witt said. “That’s a lot of money …. If she misused the money she needs to pay it back.”

The former board members and attorneys were “absolutely honorable people,” Burnside said.

She told the sanitary district board that if it feels there was a misuse of public funds, then it has an obligation to investigate the matter.

The sanitary district is paying its attorneys, the Ledbetter Law Firm, to investigate the matter, Witt said.

Burnside, while acknowledging the board’s obligation to investigate suspected wrongdoing, said she feels the sanitary board should use the state’s investigatory arm instead of spending additional tax money on a private law firm.

Witt said he just wants to make sure that people are held accountable in the case public funds were abused.

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

The Camp Verde Sanitary District had a turbulent week that saw two board mem-bers call it quits and all of their employees turn in their resignations to the Town of Camp Verde.

Recently, the sanitary district has come under increasing criticism from unhappy members of the public who feel they’re paying more and more for a service they don’t receive.

On top of that, the district’s leadership has been questioned by the Camp Verde Town Council about their operations and hiring practices. The Town Council is planning to take over as the district board pending the results of the November 2008 election. It has also pledged more than $2 million to help build a new sewer plant.

While the town and sanitary district have made progress in recent weeks with open communication and reaffirmation of the town’s political and financial commitments to the district, two sanitary board members want out.

Board members Roy Gugliotta and Al Dupuy turned in their letters of resignation last week. Gugliotta’s resignation was accepted Nov. 14; the board has yet to officially accept Dupuy’s.

Dupuy said his resignation is still up in the air.

“I’m really still on the board until they accept my resignation,” Dupuy said. He also said he’ll sit on the board until a replacement can be found. That might take awhile, Dupuy acknowledged, because he doesn’t expect district residents to be eagerly lining up for the job.

“It’s gotten ugly,” Dupuy said.

Sewer District Chairman Rob Witt said that Gugliotta had been an extremely capable board member, and the search for a replacement would go on until they could find someone equally as qualified and as dedicated to the people of the district.

Gugliotta said he has his reasons for resigning, but doesn’t want to discuss them publicly.

While the sanitary district’s leadership is going through a shake up, their paid employees are having problems of their own. They also still have jobs, but someone else is signing their paycheck.

As part of the takeover agreement between the town and the district, district employees were technically on the town’s payroll so that a trained and competent staff would already be in place when the Town Council eventually takes the reins.

In recent months the Council expressed concern about how the employees were hired.

The situation started to unravel with Marshall Davis, a sanitary worker who was fired two weeks ago after an undisclosed problem with a background check.

Then, the sewer district chief operator, Rick Spears, resigned after admitting to Camp Verde Human Resources Director Dave Smith and Town Engineer Ron Long that he had falsified some of his credentials from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.

Spears presented documents that alleged his certification in wastewater collections was up to date with ADEQ when in fact, his certification had lapsed.

Spears later apologized to the sewer board in a letter Nov. 14, and said he was working on getting his certifications current.

“I am sorry for the turmoil I have caused the district,” Spears wrote. “We are working on getting it sorted out. I do take full responsibility for my actions and will bare all the consequences it may cause. Lesson learned, I will be very careful about all documentation and information I gather and present.”

Smith has said that Spears will not be rehired on the town’s payroll.
Davis’ firing and Spears’ resignation were the last straws for the other district employees. Tracey Feltes, George Siler and interim sewer plant operator Jan Grogan turned in their letters of resignation Nov. 13, citing the stress of uncertainty and political controversy.

“I do not like the way Rick Spears and Marshall Davis were treated,” Feltes wrote. “I hate not knowing if I have a job from day to day. I choose not to work under these conditions.”

Siler wrote that he was resigning “due to the political unrest and using of employees as political pawns.”

Grogan also cited the treatment of Spears and Davis, writing that she felt their treatment was “unacceptable and unethical.”

“It has left an atmosphere of fear and mistrust amongst the remaining employees,” Grogan wrote. “I choose not to work under these conditions.”
The employees’ lack of jobs didn’t last long. Witt rehired them all on a temporary basis, although this time it was on the district’s payroll.

“We can’t run a sewer district without employees,” Witt said. “Especially when you have a plant taking in 200,000 gallons a day.”

The next scheduled meeting of the sanitary district is Wednesday, Dec. 12, at 1 p.m.

The Camp Verde Sanitary District Board is investigating a former board chairwoman, alleging she might have misused public money.

The board decided in a meeting, Nov. 14, to ask its attorneys to investigate Suzy Burnside, a previous chairwoman and board member of the sewer district for the past eight years.

Current Board Chairman Rob Witt, who took over in January, said that the previous board had spent $1.4 million on the expansion of the district’s sewer service, apparently without properly recording the funds in its budget reports.

Witt said Burnside was being singled out because she was the leader of the previous board, and the other members were just falling in line behind her.
“There was no accountability,” Witt said. “That’s a lot of money …. If she misused the money she needs to pay it back.”

The former board members and attorneys were “absolutely honorable people,” Burnside said.

She told the sanitary district board that if it feels there was a misuse of public funds, then it has an obligation to investigate the matter.

The sanitary district is paying its attorneys, the Ledbetter Law Firm, to investigate the matter, Witt said.

Burnside, while acknowledging the board’s obligation to investigate suspected wrongdoing, said she feels the sanitary board should use the state’s investigatory arm instead of spending additional tax money on a private law firm.

Witt said he just wants to make sure that people are held accountable in the case public funds were abused.

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

Fossil Creek may soon be protected by law, thanks to a bill being fast-tracked through the U.S. Senate by Sen. John McCain [R-Ariz.].

The legislation would call for the unique springs and streams of the creek, 14 miles east of Camp Verde, to be designated a Wild and Scenic River, a federally-protected status that would keep the creek’s waters flowing for future generations.

The latest push for federal protection comes on the heels of Camp Verde Mayor Tony Gioia’s recent trip to Washington, D.C., where he met with McCain and other lawmakers to lobby for the protection of critical water resources in the Verde Valley.

“This is something we’ve all worked hard to achieve,” Gioia said.
It’s not the first time politicians have tried to use the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to protect Fossil Creek.

A similar bill introduced in Congress last year by McCain and U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi [R-Ariz.] failed to make its way through the crowded maze of red tape on Capitol Hill.

“We can only hope it happens this time,” said Jason Williams, regional director with the Arizona Wilderness Coalition. “Fossil Creek has several outstanding and remarkable values that need to be protected. Just for the native fishery alone, it’s worth it.”

The creek is home to several native species of fish, including speckled dace and chub. Efforts have been ongoing to protect the native fish from non-native species that have been out-competing them for food and space, according to the National Forest Service.

The creek is one of the few waterways in Arizona with year-round flows.
Williams said that federal protection of the creek effectively means “no one can stick a straw in [the creek] and suck the water out.”

That’s important not only for people who enjoy the outdoors and want to use the creek for years to come, Williams said, but also for the local Yavapai and Apache who consider Fossil Creek a sacred site.

For a century, man had subverted the creek to create electricity. Most of its water was diverted to the Childs-Irving Hydroelectric power plant until Arizona Public Service pulled the plug on the facility in 2005.

The creek, noted for its year-round 70-degree water and travertine pools, would be only the second Wild and Scenic River in Arizona.

Part of the upper Verde River was given that designation in 1984. Getting the rest of the river protected is the next obstacle to overcome for water advocates, Gioia said.

“We have to take these one at a time,” Gioia said, citing the nature of politics. “Once we’ve taken care of Fossil Creek, we can look at the Verde River.”

The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act protects 11,000 miles of 165 rivers in 38 states and Puerto Rico. According to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, that’s about one-quarter of 1 percent of the nation’s rivers.

Mark Lineberger can be reached at 567-3341, or e-mail to
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