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During a special session Nov. 16, Cottonwood City Council eyed two local nonprofits and two public street projects as possible recipients of Community Development Block Grants, federal funds distributed annually to the city which must be used to benefit people with low to moderate incomes.

Although the amount of grants made available to the city in 2011 is not yet certain, Cottonwood has received as much as $514,000 in the past for projects like constructing low-income housing or refurbishing headquarters for community service organizations such as Old Town Mission and Verde Valley Senior Center.

Several public hearings are required before council votes on how to distribute the CDBG funds, according to Long Range Planner Charles Scully.

Scully told council Kelly Byrd, branch director of Cottonwood Boys & Girls Club who could not attend, was interested in grant money to create and support various programs that benefit low-income children.

Carol Quasula, site director for Verde Valley Catholic Charities told council she was hoping for grant funds to upgrade and expand office space at the Catholic Charities building on North Main Street.

Community Development Director George Gehlert suggested grant money could be spent to realign the intersection of 10th and Main streets as part of a 10th Street redevelopment project that would upgrade the thoroughfare between Main Street and Mingus Avenue.

Council also showed an interest in the redevelopment of Fourth Street in Old Town.

Community Development Block Grants are made available by the federal government on a four-year rotation among small cities and towns. The grants may be used for a variety of purposes within certain guidelines.

Preferences for CDBG grants rotate to Cottonwood next year, Scully reported.

Federal rules control federal grant money offered to cities like Cottonwood. To qualify, any project suggested for CDBG spending must satisfy federal goals.

Grant money must either be spent to benefit low- to moderate-income residents, prevent slums or satisfy an urgent need.

Projects to build housing, remove architectural barriers, improve public works or public safety, foster economic development or improve social services would normally qualify.

Projects considered priorities by the Department of Housing and Urban Development would receive preferred consideration.
HUD priorities include housing rehabilitation, rental rehabilitation, street and sidewalk improvements and historic preservation.
Cottonwood Area Transit, Verde Valley Senior Center, Verde Valley Sanctuary and Verde Valley Chapter of Catholic Charities would all qualify as organizations eligible to receive CDBG money, Scully reported.

City Council must prioritize CDBG applications in January, approve applications in February and submit them to the Northern Arizona Council of Governments in March.

NACOG must approve and forward grant applications to Arizona Department of Housing in April.

Following a HUD review, the Arizona Department of Housing makes grant awards in July.

By Saturday, Jan. 1, the city will officially transfer all employees, money, equipment and other assets it controls in Cottonwood Area Transit to a regional transportation authority that will operate the system going forward.

The decision will cost one CAT employee their job, but is expected to reduce costs to the city and further the goal of a truly regional transportation that links county population centers. Northern Arizona Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority plans to hire all but one CAT employee when the agreement goes into effect.

Council unanimously approved an intergovernmental agreement with NAIPTA to accomplish the transfer at its regular meeting Nov. 16.

The agreement caps the city’s financial obligation to support CAT at $230,000 a year, money that will come out of the city’s Highway User Revenue Funds distributed by the federal government.

The city will also transfer to NAIPTA its right to receive any future grant funds it has been awarded for CAT.

Existing routes will continue as detailed in the 2009 Verde Valley Rural Transit Five Year Plan.

The move completes one of council’s top strategic priorities from 2009, merging CAT into NAIPTA in order to create a regional transportation system, according to General Services Manager Richard Faust.

The economic downturn raised concerns among representatives from both NAIPTA and the city about the potential financial outcome of the deal and delayed finalization of the agreement for several months, Faust reported.

Weekly meetings between the city and the transit authority that started in September resulted in the successful conclusion of the agreement, according to Faust.

“The city’s relationship with NAIPTA has been very productive and successful,” Faust said.

The partnership between NAIPTA and the city in recent years resulted in the successful creation of the Lynx system between Sedona and Cottonwood. NAIPTA also conducted extensive public surveys that resulted in the three routes CAT uses today, he reported.

Faust said NAIPTA is uniquely qualified to take over CAT because of its success at raising grant money to support the system. For example, the transit authority succeeded in raising $80,000 in grant money to sustain the system after Yavapai County decreased funding.

Faust said he hoped the city’s annual contribution will be reduced in the future as NAIPTA finds alternative grant funding to operate the transit system.

An unidentified Cottonwood Middle School student was diagnosed with pertussis — whooping cough — an uncommon bacterial infection, which causes a severe cough that may lead to serious complications up to and including death, according to Steve Everett, Yavapai County epidemiologist.

In California, nearly 6,800 people were sick with the disease as of Nov. 16. Of those, 10 died, according to the California Department of Public Health. The outbreak in California is considered the worst in more than 60 years.

Arizona experiences an average of between 200 and 300 cases each year. Antibiotics are normally effective in remedying the illness, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District Superintendent Barbara U’Ren confirmed the single case at Cottonwood Middle School on Thursday, Nov. 18. She said the district suspected as early as Nov. 5 that the disease, also known as whooping cough, could be present.

Preventing Whooping Cough
According to Arizona Department of Health Services:
  • The cornerstone of pertussis prevention is immunization.
  • Before age 7 and preferably at school entry, children should have received five doses of vaccine.
  • Persons with pertussis should stay home and avoid close contact with others until completion of five days of a prescribed course of antibiotics.
  • Persons with any coughing illness should avoid contact with infants and expectant mothers.
  • Hand washing may prevent the spread of all infectious diseases, including pertussis.

The district sent letters to parents Nov. 5 warning them of the possible exposure, U’Ren said. Automated telephone calls will also be made to alert parents whooping cough has been confirmed within the district, she said.

Everett said the disease is difficult to identify because initial symptoms mimic those of the common cold: congestion, mild cough and fever. Within seven to 10 days, however, severe, persistent coughing begins.

The severe coughing can last for several months and tends to be worse at night. A person with pertussis may look and feel healthy between coughing episodes, according to ADHS.

“Immunized children, adolescents, and adults may have milder symptoms than unimmunized persons,” according to ADHS.

“More than half of infants with pertussis must be hospitalized, and one in five of those will develop pneumonia,” according to Yavapai County Community Health Services. “Pertussis can be deadly, especially in infants.”

Because children often take antibiotics before their pertussis is identified, many cases may go undetected. The CMS case was the first confirmed by lab testing so far this year, Everett said.

Cases of whooping cough have been suspected in the Verde Valley throughout the fall, but the case at CMS is the first instance where a lab has been able to isolate the germ that causes the disease, according to YCCHS.

Whooping cough is spread when a sufferer talks, coughs or sneezes in close proximity to another, who breathes in the bacteria, according to ADHS.

The California outbreak is the worst since 1947, when more than 9,300 cases were reported, according to CDPH. In 2005, another peak year, 3,800 cases were reported.

It was the trip of a lifetime, fantasized about since boyhood, booked since 2008.

Mingus Union High School District Superintendent Tim Foist’s trek into the jungles of Mozambique on the eastern coast of Africa to hunt big game was the realization of a dream.

Mingus Union High School District Superintendent Tim FoistBefore his presentation turned to plans for the school district’s 2011 budget, Foist spoke briefly with a handful of parents about his recent trip to Africa during an informal meeting Nov. 17 dubbed Coffee with Tim.

“I wanted to go since I was 9 years old,” Foist told the parents. “I did reports in school about the great professional hunters. Oh, I was all about Teddy Roosevelt.”

Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, hunted for trophies and specimens for the Smithsonian Institution during a 1909 safari across British East Africa and the Belgian Congo.

Foist explored a section of what was once known as the Belgian Congo during his trip Oct. 17 to Nov. 7. The safari was booked before Foist was hired by MUHSD. He delayed the trek for one year to work at Mingus, but risked losing all his investment and the trip of a lifetime if he delayed any further.

Foist’s ultimate goal was to bag a Cape buffalo, a dangerously unpredictable bovine known locally as the “black death.” Along the way, he hunted many animals, including 10 reed bucks and one warthog, all kills butchered and delivered to feed local villagers.

The day of the buffalo hunt, Foist waded through swamps infested with snakes, hippos and crocodiles, and crawled hundreds of yards on his knees in tall grass at temperatures approaching 110 degrees before coming within shooting distance of a herd that numbered 500 animals.

The African or Cape buffalo is a member of the so-called "Big Five" group of animals, with the elephant, rhino, lion and leopard, according to the African Wildlife Foundation. Buffaloes have earned a bad reputation from hunters and other people who come in close contact with them. They are unpredictable and can be dangerous.At one point, Foist stepped into an elephant track and sunk up to his knee in the soft ground. Like many hunts, waiting and watching for an opportunity was the key to success.

As he waited for his chance, his thirst became almost unbearable and Mother Nature called.

“After about 45 minutes, we spotted a rather large bull as he was breeding a cow in the back of the herd,” Foist wrote in his diary. “He was great — big, black and with full boss and really full curl and drop.”

Translation: The base of the horns, or boss, was “full,” while the curl and drop of the horns were of trophy quality.

“Now in a heard of 500, it is most difficult to get a broadside shot, but he moved to where I could see just a shoulder between two cows,” Foist wrote.

“The gun sounded and the animals ran to the right and left the bull. It was neat. He fell exactly where he was shot.”
The bull had a 14-inch boss and a 42-inch spread — mission accomplished.

Though hunting was the main purpose of the trip, Foist also made time to regularly visit a local school to deliver candy and greet children. The school was a thatched hut with no walls where children from the 95th poorest country in the world practiced four languages, including their two native tongues, French and English.

“They didn’t have a foreign language teacher,” he said. “It just shows what can be accomplished despite limited resources.”
What the simple, one-room school was able to accomplish using the barest essentials was truly “eye-opening” he said.

Cottonwood Police Chief Jody Fanning was disciplined Monday, Nov. 15, after an internal affairs investigation found he acted unprofessionally during a confrontation with a longtime Cottonwood merchant who accused the chief of using excess force Sept. 23.

Cottonwood Police Chief Jody FanningIt was the third internal affairs investigation into police business announced during the last two months.

According to Fanning, City Manager Doug Bartosh verbally warned him Nov. 15 to refrain from making unprofessional statements after the chief told Tom Mulcaire, owner of a Cottonwood landscaping supply business, “You don’t run the police department anymore.”

Fanning made the statement during an argument with Mulcaire over whether one of Mulcaire’s delivery trucks attempted to evade an Arizona Motor Vehicle Division checkpoint.

While detaining the truck driver at the supply store, located in the 700 block of State Route 89A, shortly before 9:30 a.m., Fanning got an earful from Mulcaire and his wife, Kami, when he insisted the driver get the truck weighed and inspected at a nearby checkpoint.

A videotape of the confrontation shows both Mulcaires cussing at police and insisting on their freedom of speech. Both questioned Fanning’s authority to insist on the weigh-in and inspection when the driver took a route that prevented him from seeing the checkpoint or a sign warning of its presence.

The truck avoided a lengthy stretch of State Route 89A where the checkpoint was located by driving to the landscaping supply’s back entrance, where Fanning made the initial stop.

Mulcaire said it was normal practice for his drivers to take the back entrance although the front entrance accesses State Route 89A.

During the initial stop, Fanning told the driver he was obligated to get the truck weighed and inspected because he was within a two-mile radius of the checkpoint and was now aware of his duty.

The driver agreed to drive to the checkpoint. Fanning followed on State Route 89A. As the truck approached the landscaping supply store, the driver pulled into the front entrance and stopped.

Instead of complying, the driver apparently called Mulcaire on his cell phone, Fanning said. Mulcaire allegedly urged the driver to pull in at the front entrance.

“I felt bad for the driver,” Fanning said. “He had to choose between disobeying his boss and possibly losing his job or disobeying me and getting arrested.”

According to the Mulcaires, Fanning arrived at the front entrance, exited his patrol vehicle and began yelling at the driver, cursing and accusing him of evading a weigh station checkpoint.

The Mulcaires accuse Fanning of then pushing the driver in the shoulder hard enough to turn him around.

“He runs up to my driver, and with the palm of his hand, hit my driver in the shoulder hard, turned him around and shooed him toward his truck,” Mulcaire said.

Fanning said he grabbed the driver’s shoulder, but did not shove him. The driver did not obey Fanning’s order to get the truck weighed and may have been subject to arrest at that moment. This allowed Fanning to go “hands on” the driver, he said.

Physical contact between Fanning and the truck driver took place before an officer with a lapel camera arrived at the scene and is not shown in the police video. The video shows the Mulcaires calling officers names, cursing them, and yelling that police were trespassing and harassing them.

“I will do whatever it takes to stop you, but that truck is not moving, it’s on my property,” Mulcaire stated in the video, drawing a line in the dirt with his foot.

Fanning, who briefly appears in the video, can be heard telling the Mulcaires that the driver is going to get the truck weighed or both of them would be subject to arrest.

Ultimately, Mulcaire’s truck was weighed as Fanning insisted and passed inspection.

Mulcaire and his wife were cited for disorderly conduct and obstructing justice and given a summons to appear in court.
Mulcaire said the police department is harassing his business because he successfully sued the city over a no-bid contract awarded to Tiffany Construction.

Fanning said many local truckers are upset with the frequency of checkpoints, but the program is citywide and intended to get unsafe trucks off the road.

Fanning said recent checkpoints led to the discovery of several unsafe trucks, including one with brakes about to give out, a faulty hitch and an overweight truck carrying 10 times the weight allowed.

The investigation into Fanning’s conduct was the third internal affairs incident announced by police in the last two months.
One resulted in the resignation of an overly aggressive sergeant. The other, which is still under investigation, was launched in October when a police dog died from exposure after being left in a patrol car for five hours without air conditioning.

Fanning said the increase in internal affairs investigations is due to growth in the department and his insistence that all police officers perform to the highest ethical standards, including himself.

Fanning said he had no quarrel with the city manager’s admonition because his comment did not meet professional standards.

There’s a bit of the movie star John Wayne in World War II veteran Bob Vernon.

It’s not a metaphysical certainty, but Vernon probably wouldn’t box the ears off anyone bold enough to make such a comparison. He is, in fact, a modest, genial fellow who agreed to tell some of his history as a war veteran because Thursday, Nov. 11, is Veterans Day.

World War II veteran Bob Vernon uses pictures hanging on the wall of his Cottonwood home Thursday, Nov. 4, to help illustrate his recollections of war in the Pacific theater. Vernon joined the U.S. Marine Corps at age 17 after losing a cousin, who served aboard the battleship USS Oklahoma, in the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.“Remember the veterans,” he urges. “Remember they are the ones who gave their lives to protect our freedoms.”

His good humor seems at odds with the dark stories of war he was prepared to tell during an interview Thursday, Nov. 4. He said his eternally positive attitude derives from a commitment he made at a very young age to fight bad moods and negative thoughts.
“It’s such a waste of time,” he said.

Vernon joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1943 when he was 17. A self-described “Indiana farm boy,” Vernon said he had a lot to learn about the world when he first signed up. Fortunately, his strength, tenacity and quiet confidence impressed a drill sergeant, a tough-as-nails relic of the Spanish-American War, who took Vernon under his wing.

The sergeant also threw Vernon into the boxing ring against another soldier he’d never met, screaming he better injure the man or face the consequences. Vernon complied with a right-left combination that laid the soldier out.

“He was a mean [son of a gun],” Vernon said. “But I guess he liked me because I could fight.”

That Vernon is a fighter is matter of record. He was stationed in the South Pacific as part of the 3rd Marine Division, 9th Regiment. After a year in the Pacific, the picture he paints resembles Wayne in the “Sands of Iwo Jima.” By the age of 18, he was already hardened to the grim realities of battle.

In his first action, Vernon conducted operations with an elite Marine unit that specialized in light infantry amphibious assaults. The unit, known as Marine Raiders, or Carlson’s Raiders, operated out of New Caledonia, Vernon’s third deployment in the theater after stops in New Zealand and Australia.

Vernon recalls the night he was ordered to board a submarine on a mission to rescue a lawyer imprisoned in the Philippines by the Imperial Japanese Army. The man was a close friend of Ferdinand Marcos, a resistance fighter who later became president of the island nation, Vernon said.

The rescue mission had Vernon and another raider, armed only with razor wire, paddle a rubber raft from the sub to shore, eliminate resistance and retrieve the lawyer from a building where he was being held.

A Japanese soldier in the wrong place at the wrong time paid the ultimate price when Vernon wrapped a wire around his neck and squeezed hard.

“I took his head off,” Vernon said.

In the mid-1980s, Vernon returned to the Philippines, and in a surprise organized by the Marines, met again with the lawyer he rescued so many years in the past. After an emotional greeting, Vernon said the lawyer loaned him the use of his limousine for the day.

Vernon fought in the U.S. offensive that jumped from island to island, avoiding areas where Japanese forces were most concentrated. He fought at Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Tarawa and Iwo Jima, taking part in some of the most violent battles of the war.

“At Guadalcanal, we were literally firing Howitzers at each other from point-blank range,” he said.

A photo of his machine gun platoon holding up a blood-stained Japanese flag captured from a fleeing soldier holds a central position on a wall of photographs.

He recalls when his sergeant at Bougainville told him he expected to die in the assault but not before he kicked every one of their butts off the boat and up the beach.

At his unit landed, Vernon watched as the sergeant, standing thigh-deep in the sea, urged his troops to shore then took an artillery shell in the groin, killing him almost instantly.

“We lost a lot of good people,” Vernon said.

At Iwo Jima, Vernon’s 3rd Marine Division took the island’s heavily fortified airfield March 9, 1945, after several days of intense fighting that killed nearly 7,000 Marines and 18,000 Japanese, according to  U.S. Navy reports.

Vernon served in one of two machine gun platoons deployed to keep the Japanese army at bay as bombers landed and took off from the landing strip below Mount Surabachi.

He witnessed much carnage but claims he suffered no ill effects, nothing like the post-traumatic stress disorder sustained by so many soldiers returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Following the war, Vernon worked nearly 20 years as a railroad engineer and almost 40 more as a school teacher. He raised two children with his wife, Charlotte, a friend since first grade.

He said he doesn’t attend reunions of his unit and doesn’t keep track of his old war buddies. He set those connections aside when his service was complete.

“I did my job, I served my country and it was done. It was time to move on to other things.”

In the present day, Vernon more resembles Wayne in “True Grit.” He possesses the same rugged looks as the Duke, a telltale sign of their active lives.

Like Wayne in the film, Vernon faces physical challenges brought on by age, but finds a way to prevail. Vernon’s right leg was removed from just above the knee in 2009 due to poor circulation caused by a 1949 auto accident. Instead of a patch over his eye, he wears a bandage over his nose.

Wayne was terminal with lung cancer when he performed the final stunt in “True Grit,” jumping a three-rail fence because another character told him he was too old and fat to do it.

“Well, come see a fat, old man sometime,” Wayne gloated, turning and galloping off into the sunset.

Vernon, 85, embraces his current-day challenges with the same kind of humor and stubbornness. He is working to lose weight and gain strength so he can wear his new motorized prosthesis, which is currently propped in the corner of his living room.

He said he’s not ready for the electronic leg yet, but if history means anything, he’ll overcome that hurdle too.

A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board suggested the Cornville pilot of an ultralight aircraft that collided with a hot air balloon Oct. 16 was taking photographs when the crash took place.

A paraplane dangles from a hot air balloon as both rapidly descend after colliding above the Cottonwood Airfest around  8 a.m., Oct. 16.After the crash, ultralight pilot Ken Ritchie allegedly told the balloon pilot he was taking photographs at the time of the collision, the NTSB report stated Oct. 28.

According to the balloon pilot, who sustained only minor injuries, his balloon was operating at 5,500 feet when he noticed Ritchie’s ultralight maneuvering near the skin of his balloon shortly after 7:30 a.m.

The balloon pilot told investigators he tried to warn Ritchie away from his balloon by shouting, but it was too late. Ritchie’s ultralight became tangled in the ropes of the balloon. The two aircraft sank, linked together and spiraling to the ground.

The ultralight and the balloon were taking part in Cottonwood Airfest 2010. Both took off from Cottonwood airport shortly after 7 a.m.

Ritchie was seriously injured in the crash, as was a balloon passenger. The balloon pilot and a second passenger sustained minor injuries.

Clear, sunny skies Oct. 16, the day of Airfest, meant visual meteorological conditions were in place and no flight plans were filed before the aircraft ascended.

The Lindstrand 90A hot air balloon received “substantial damage,” the report stated.

Ritchie’s ultralight was not registered, according to the report.

At first, Bruno Fierro, a 15-year-old with a troubled past, did not seem to care at all about Precious, a pit bull with a chance to learn and grow as part of a new program that proposes to link at-risk teens with canines.

Bruno Fierro, 15, a potential participant in the Canine Advocates for Rehabilitation and Education program, practices rewarding Precious for listening to simple commands at the Cottonwood Kids Park on Monday, Nov. 1. Debby Dobson, the founder of CARE, hopes to begin the program, which pairs at-risk teens with homeless dogs for canine training, as soon as fundraising for the new program gets further along.Their meeting at Kids Park on Monday, Nov. 1, started off with both the teen and the dog holding back. It didn’t take long, however, before Fierro and the animal began to interact. Within 10 minutes, the teen was kneeling, stroking the dog’s neck and feeding her treats.

It was proof of Debby Dobson’s theory that uniting at-risk teens with homeless dogs in a therapeutic learning environment can prepare the dogs for adoption and at the same time, assist juveniles to raise their self-esteem and make positive, life-affirming choices.

Dobson and her fellow board member, Marta Adelsman, are raising money and recruiting volunteers to get the duo’s program, Canine Advocates for Rehabilitation and Education, off the ground.

CARE proposes to link teens and dogs for an eight-week training program that prepares the dog for placement at an adoptive home, preferably one that includes a child with special needs who would benefit from a caring companion.

The first need that must be met before the program takes off is money to pay the cost of liability insurance, about $3,200, Dobson said.

“The other thing we are looking for is foster families who are willing to care for the dogs in their home during the training,” she said.

Dominique Morse, 17, who is working with Yavapai County Juvenile Probation to learn anger management and recover from a history of substance abuse, said Dobson’s idea was a good one.

“A lot of kids don’t know how to talk about their feelings,” Morse said. “Animals can help them open up. If you’re having a bad day, no matter what’s going on, they’ll always be there for you.”

Dobson said the idea for CARE germinated from her early experience as a teen counselor. In the early 1990s, she was having difficulty connecting with one of her female clients. To bridge the gap, she decided to take the girl to a local animal shelter.

“Her whole demeanor transformed the moment she stepped in,” Dobson said. “She laughed, smiled and talked.”

As dog trainers, the teens learn compassion, patience, teamwork and leadership skills. At the same time, the dogs learn basic obedience, preparing them for placement with a new owner, she said.

For more information, call 282-2550.

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