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Sienna Shields, 8, plays kickball with other club members outside the Cottonwood branch of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northern Arizona on Aug. 18. The umbrella of tax exemption on donations to the local club is possible because of the nonprofit status of the larger regional organization.About two dozen Cottonwood nonprofits could lose their special tax status with the federal government if they fail to file proper tax forms before Friday, Oct. 15.

A list of the at-risk nonprofits, including those with Cottonwood addresses, was published by the Internal Revenue Service earlier this month.

The list includes an assortment of noprofits such as the Betty Turner Youth Foundation, the Cottonwood BookMarks, Flip City Booster Club, Fraternal Order of Police, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Knights of Columbus, the Verde Valley Alternative Lifestyles Directory, the Verde Valley Gem and Mineral Show and the Verde Valley Guidance Clinic Foundation.

According to the IRS, a federal law approved in 2006 directed small nonprofits with less than $500,000 to begin filing form 990N, a form of tax return, in 2007.

Previously these nonprofits were not required to file forms.

Many nonprofits did not learn of the law and now face the loss of their tax-exempt status unless they file the proper paperwork before the deadline.

Any nonprofit that fails to file proper tax forms in each of the three years since 2007 is scheduled to lose its tax-exempt status Oct. 15, according to the IRS.

Of the Cottonwood nonprofits on the list that could be contacted, all stated their tax returns were in order. All expected to maintain their tax-exempt status after Oct. 15.

Hailey Bruemer, executive director of Cottonwood Boys & Girls Club, said the club is now a branch of Boys & Girls Clubs of Northern Arizona and shelters to that club’s tax-exempt status.

Donations to Cottonwood Boys & Girls Club are tax deductible and will continue to be so, she said.

Lynette Prouty, treasurer of Flip City Booster Club, said her club’s tax forms were filed and she was waiting for IRS confirmation of the Booster Club’s continuing tax exempt status.

Deana King, president of the Cornville Community Association said another name mix-up could explain the association’s name on the list.

The association changed its name from the Greater Cornville-Page Springs Community Association in 2005.
“They should have the correct paperwork,” King said. “We’re trying to get somebody to explain it to us. Our tax-exempt status is intact and it will continue to be.”

Pam Egerton, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, was unavailable for comment.

Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District’s new food service contractor violated state law when it collected fingerprints from students Monday, Aug. 16.

Arizona law forbids schools from collecting “biometric information,” including finger scans, without proper advance notice and written consent from parents.

Sodexo Food Service, which instituted a breakfast and lunch program at COCSD starting Aug. 3, gave parents notice Friday, Aug. 13, it planned to implement a computerized system for buying meals, known as Touch and Go, starting Aug. 16.

To implement the system, Sodexo began scanning students’ right index fingers Aug. 16, but did not provide notice of its intention to do so 30 days in advance as required by state law. An unidentified number of Cottonwood Middle School students were scanned.

The letter sent to parents Aug. 13 also failed to include a notice in large, boldface, capital letters that the finger scans could not be collected without written consent from parents, also required by state law.

A proper notice will be sent out 30 days in advance of the next date for finger scanning, Superintendent Barbara U’ren said.Alerted to the situation Monday, Sodexo stopped taking finger scans and deleted all of the scanned information collected. A proper notice will be sent out 30 days in advance of the next date for finger scanning, Superintendent Barbara U’ren said.

“Lunch lines will be a little bit slower for the next 30 days, but that’s OK because we want to make sure we do this right,” U’Ren said. “We greatly apologize for any concerns this might have raised for our parents.”

Use of Touch and Go will be optional, Food Services Manager Shawn M. Stevenson wrote in his Aug. 13 letter to parents.

The system gives students the option of using a finger scan to identify his or her lunch identification number.

“The students will have accounts that will be utilized to deposit funds for meals and/or a la carte purchases,” Stevenson wrote.

Touch and Go also allows parents to link restrictions on diet and use of funds to the students’ identification numbers and tracks how students spend funds on deposit with Sodexo, Stevenson wrote.

“With this system you may request to view your child’s account history at any time by contacting the food service office,” Stevenson wrote.

Stevenson told parents the system is secure and all data collected is kept confidential.

“It is important to understand that the system does not store an image or photo of the student’s fingerprint,” Stevenson wrote. “The scanner examines a few points of a fingerprint and generates unique numbers based on those points to create a secure key called a ‘string.’”

The string is retained for reference back to the student, but the numbers cannot be converted into an actual fingerprint image, according to Stevenson.

The Internal Revenue Service executed a tax lien against a Verde Valley nonprofit after-school program, sweeping its bank accounts clean of cash two days before payday July 28, leaving dozens of employees without a paycheck.

Stone Durkaleck, Buena Vista Bright Futures child-care recipient, enjoys a snack of fruit and yogurt Aug. 11. Executive Director Erin Mabery Lamb said without immediate financial help, services provided to the community by Buena Vista could be negatively affected.Buena Vista Children’s Services owes about $77,000 in taxes, interest and penalties after the nonprofit failed to withhold about $12,000 in payroll taxes in 2005, according to Buena Vista Children Services Executive Director Erin Mabery Lamb.

Lamb said the nonprofit hasbeen negotiating with the IRS and recently made an offer in compromise to settle the tax debt.

“We were told by our agents that the matter was still in the settlement and compromise stage,” Lamb said. “Usually with the IRS, when you have a compromise on the table, they’re not going to hit you with things like levies.”

The IRS action forced Buena Vista to delay paying its staff, many of whom agreed to accept partial payment in order to keep the nonprofit operating as the school year begins.

“This has impacted us greatly and we are very frustrated that we have not been able to make payroll and that so many of our employees have been tremendously inconvenienced and hurt by this,” Lamb said.

Buena Vista serves hundreds of children throughout the Verde Valley, she said.

The nonprofit sponsors Discovery Connection programs at Clarkdale-Jerome and Dr. Daniel Bright schools, preschool programs at Dr. Daniel Bright and Tavasci Elementary schools, child care at Verde Valley Medical Center and a kindergarten extension program at the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District.

Through its scholarship programs, Buena Vista provides after-school services at reduced cost to many low-income families, Lamb said.

The nonprofit has been working for the past 18 months to rectify the situation, she said.

“We have continued to do our part in working with the IRS and have complied with every request. We have nothing to hide,” Lamb said.

The IRS notified Buena Vista it is investigating what caused the accounts to be swept and reassured Lamb the money will probably be released back to the nonprofit at some point in the future. In the meantime, Buena Vista is asking for volunteers and donations.

The problem started in 2005, when the Arizona Department of Education demanded the return of grant money paid to Buena Vista in violation of the grant’s requirements.

“This is usually the death of a nonprofit agency such as ours but with widespread community support and a few generous donations, we pulled through,” Lamb said. “However, due to the turbulent times and with all the financial matters involved, we had some minor discrepancies in some of the taxes we paid and what the IRS felt we should have paid.”

The nonprofit’s administrative staff and board changed since 2005 and it wasn’t until late 2008 that the current administration learned of the tax deficiency, Lamb said.

To donate or volunteer, call 646-5200.

Volunteers who want to keep property taxes low and simultaneously encourage projects that increase health and safety for Verde Valley residents are working with a local nonprofit group to support Verde Valley Fire District.

Members of the Verde Valley Fire District Charities are ready to wash cars at Station No. 31, located on Godard Road on Saturday, Aug. 14, to raise money for the purchase of free bike helmets and car seats for distribution to needy Verde Valley families.More than 20 people have already volunteered to help Verde Valley Fire District Charities raise $6,000 to buy car seats and bike helmets for residents unable to afford them, Doug Longfellow, VVFD Charities president, said.

The relatively new organization was awarded its 501(c)(3) designation in late July, which will allow supporters to make tax-deductible donations to the group, Longfellow said.

VVFD Charities is looking for donations and volunteers to help meet the demand for safety equipment and training.

With certified car seats for infants costing as much as $100, VVFD Charities saw a need arising out of the recent recession and decided to fill it by continuing the district’s program of buying safety equipment and donating it to those in need, Longfellow said.

“This has no doubt saved lives and prevented a lot of injuries,” Longfellow said. “The first part of your body to make contact with the road when you get into an accident riding a bicycle is your head.”

Bike helmets and car seats will be distributed at special events, like a bike rodio, to be scheduled in late August or early September.

Likewise, local ambulance companies use the car seats to transport children to Phoenix. Infants must be transported in a certified seat. VVFD Charities wants to save VVFD and ambulance companies the expense of buying infant car seats.

A retired firefighter, Longfellow said VVFD Charities has other plans, including raising money to purchase an all-terrain vehicle with an ambulance attachment and to help pay tuition of firefighters taking paramedic training, which can take one year and cost $3,500.

“Assisting some of these young firefighters with the $3,000 to $3,500 it costs for paramedic training helps everyone in the Verde Valley because it improves the quality of our emergency response,” Longfellow said.

A car wash and bake sale at 2700 E. Godard Road are scheduled to start at 8 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 14, and last until noon. All proceeds will go to the free car seat and bike helmet program, Longfellow said.

A chili cook-off is planned for later in August with details to be announced.

The father of a 7-year-old Oak Creek School student decided he could do something to help lower costs at the school his daughter enjoys attending by making bus service cheaper.

Mike Rogers, fearful Oak Creek School might be closed because of money problems, recently formed a nonprofit corporation and started organizing donors to help the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District switch from using standard diesel fuel to biodiesel.Cornville resident Mike Rogers explains how biodiesel refinery trailers could work to save the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District between $20,000 and $40,000 annually.

Rogers, who lives with his wife and three children in Cornville, formed Biodiesel U.S. as a vehicle to purchase the equipment needed to create diesel fuel from used cooking oil donated by local restaurants. Rogers also waits tables at an upscale Sedona eating establishment.

“The first diesel engine ran off peanut oil,” Rogers said. “Any diesel engine can run on biodiesel with little or no modification.”

A local biodiesel processing company has agreed to assemble the equipment needed to turn cooking oil into fuel for the cost of materials. Even without the cost of labor and engineering know-how, however, the project will cost as much as $35,000 to get off the ground.

For that money, Biodiesel U.S. would be able to purchase pumps, the processing equipment, a truck and trailer to transport it, and drums to store the fuel, Rogers said.

The savings for COCSD would be dramatic, he said.

Locally, the cost of diesel fuel is hovering around $3 per gallon. Biodiesel, on the other hand, would cost the distract a fraction of that, or about $.60 per gallon on average.

The process is fairly simple, Rogers said.

First, the donated waste cooking oil will be collected by pumping it from storage containers set out by local restaurants. Next, the oil is blended with a mixture of methanol and lye, which causes animal and vegetable fats in the oil to separate from the fuel.

The fatty liquid, known as glycerin, sinks to the bottom. The top layer is biodiesel, which can be siphoned off and stored to fuel school buses.

As an added benefit, the processing unit, which is situated inside a trailer, can act as a mobile classroom and travel from school to school demonstrating the chemical reaction that creates the fuel, Rogers said.

Rogers is currently working to get his nonprofit approved as a 501(c)(3) organization, which would qualify donations to Biodiesel U.S. to be treated as tax deductible.

Roger said he hopes to have money for the project collected in early 2011 and have the biodiesel mobile processor up and running in time for spring. Several fundraisers are in the planning stages, he said.

In addition to all this, Rogers is working full-time and helping raise his three children, Natalee, 7, Zoe, 3, and Colton, 1.

“I’m a pretty busy guy these days,” he said.

For more information, e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

When Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch cuts the red ribbon to officially open the new Cottonwood Municipal Court building Friday, July 30, Chief Magistrate A. Douglas LaSota and his staff will be cheering for more than a roomy new work place.

The new court building means air conditioning that works and spacious conference rooms for litigants and their lawyers, people who were once required to meet in the parking lot next to the old courthouse due to lack of space.

For regular visitors, the addition of restrooms for the public might be one of the greatest improvements, according to Court Administrator Janie Randal.

The old courthouse, located at 824 N. Main St., was crowded with people and file cabinets. It was hot and stuffy in the summer and cold and wet in the winter, LaSota said.

The biggest problem presented by the old building was black mold, which found its way into rooms where files were stored, contaminating paperwork and posing a health hazard to workers.

The Arizona Industrial Commission Division of Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the city for the violations in November, City Attorney Steve Horton said.

Work to remove mold from the building was commenced in July 2009, before the complaints were filed. Two sections of the court building were sealed off at that time, Horton said.

After meeting with commission officials to resolve the complaints, the city decided to move the court to a building at 665 E. Mingus Ave. that formerly housed a carpeting supply store.

Renovations, which were underway in May, were sufficiently completed by July to allow the move. Court staff and volunteers put in extra hours to make the new court building ready for business. Doors opened to the public July 12.

In addition to dedicating the court building, Berch is expected to recognize LaSota’s effort to increase the collection of outstanding fines and speed up the time it takes to process cases.

For example, when LaSota first took the bench in April 2009, many DUI cases were unresolved more than 180 days after the date of the citation, in violation of a deadline mandated by the Arizona Supreme Court.

All DUI cases are now 100 percent in compliance with the 180-day deadline, according to an April 13 report to Cottonwood City Council.

“Timeliness is obviously important to avoid problems with fading memories and to make sure defendants who are proven guilty receive swift yet fair resolutions of their cases,” LaSota said.

The court is also more active in collecting fines, LaSota said.

“This court stays on top of payment issues with defendants,” he said. “When a defendant is sentenced, he or she is advised that the court will work with them if they ever have hardship making a payment or making one on time.”

Working with defendants in this way has increased the amount and frequency of collections during the last year, LaSota said.

After spending three-quarters of his life assisting Cottonwood police battle drug crimes, Buster, one half of the city’s K-9 contingent, is ready to retire.

Buster, one of two K-9 units in service with Cottonwood Police Department, will be retiring soon due to age and declining health, according to Sgt. Kevin  Murie. Police are researching the possibility of purchasing a new drug-sniffing dog for the department, which could cost as much as $7,000.The 8-year-old German shepherd has been sniffing for drugs since 2004 when a combination of grants and donations from the community made it possible for Cottonwood Police Department to purchase the dog.

Buster’s age and recent health problems mean it’s time for the animal to retire from service, according to Sgt. Kevin Murie, Buster’s handler for the past 18 months.

Dakota, the department’s other K-9 unit, will remain on duty, Murie said.

The department is currently considering the purchase of a new drug sniffing dog. which could cost anywhere from $5,500 to $7,000, depending on the breed selected.

“We’re currently leaning toward a Labrador retriever,” Murie said.

During the past six years, Buster worked with three different officers who acted as his handlers. K-9 handlers are responsible for the feeding, grooming and living conditions of the animal in their care 24 hours every day, Murie said.

Animal and officer often become attached. When Buster officially retires, for example, he will continue to live with Murie.

“He did a great job for the police department,” Murie said. “There’s no doubt in my mind he could do the work today if it weren’t for his health condition.”

Buster has gone through two surgeries recently, one to remove a tumor and the other to remove his spleen.
Like many other police dogs in service in Yavapai County, Buster was trained over four weeks to use his sense of smell to detect illegal drugs.

A dog’s sensory system is primarily devoted to analyzing odors. In fact, a dog’s ability to smell is believed to be 100,000 times more sensitive than that of humans, according to “How Dogs Think: Understanding the Canine Mind.”

When brought on scene, Buster searches a person or vehicle in a pattern, moving back and forth until he locates where the odor is located.

Drug-sniffing dogs alert to the scent of illegal drugs in different ways, Murie said.

“Buster had an aggressive alert,” he said. “He usually jumped up on the vehicle and scratched.”

“It’s actually pretty rewarding. It’s kind of funny how they react. They kind of know when they’ve found something. He know’s because he sees I’m happy and that makes him happy.”

While Buster was trained initially as a protection animal, his strong “play drive” made him an ideal candidate for drug detection, Murie said.

“He’s very friendly. He loves to fetch. He’ll fetch just about anything, tennis balls, soccer balls, you name it.”
Buster’s official retirement date has not been announced yet, but he spends much of his time these days at Murie’s home convalescing from his surgeries and wishing he was out on patrol.

“He knows when I put the uniform on,” Murie said. “He walks me to the door and he doesn’t like it when he has to stay when I leave.”

Cottonwood police and fire officials will greet the public, enjoy free food and watch children play during a celebration of service at the 27th annual National Night Out on Tuesday, Aug. 3.

Those who attend will get a chance to meet the police officers and firefighters sworn to protect the community, learn about the services they provide and find out new ways to keep neighborhoods safe from drugs and crime.

The event unfolds at Kids Park, near 12th and Cherry streets, starting at 5:30 p.m. and ending at 8 p.m.
Free hot dogs, hamburgers, soft drinks, water and popcorn will be provided along with free entertainment like face painting, a bounce house, a dry slide and a climbing wall.

More than 700 people showed up for the fun last year, and organizers hope to attract up to 1,200 this year, according to worker Richard Shay.

Learning from the experience last year, organizers will set up two grills instead of one. One will be staffed by Knights of Columbus and the other by a local market and deli to keep people moving through the food lines, Shay said.

Roughly 3.4 million people in more than 15,000 communities are expected to take part this year, he said. The purpose of National Night Out is to promote partnerships between police and the community and to educate the public about crime, drug and violence prevention, safety and neighborhood unity, he said.

“Crime is actually a com-munity problem, not a police problem,” Shay said. “Therefore, it requires a community solution.”

“The most violent element of our society today is not guns, drugs or gangs. It is apathy,” Shay said.
People are very quick to complain about their rights being violated, but few talk about their responsibilities to the community, he said.

In addition to officers and firefighters in uniform, volunteers from community organizations like the Methamphetamine Advisory Task Force, Yavapai County Health Department, Cottonwood Public Library and others will staff informational booths and displays.

For more information, call 639-0415.

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