Thu, May

Cottonwood City Council rolled the dice for its business community last Tuesday night betting on the success of air service between Prescott and Los Angeles.

How big of a bet the council is willing to place, it hasn’t decided.

Jane Bristol, economic development director for the city of Prescott, appeared before council at its regular meeting April 1 to ask for financial help from the city.

“I think it’s something we owe the business community for our income,” Councilman Duane Kirby said.

The city’s income is from sales tax generated by business and this could be the city’s way of giving back to businesses.

Kirby said down the road, the city could see a big payback from the service.

Prescott is in the process of signing a contract for direct flight service to Los Angeles with Horizon Air, a sister carrier to Alaska Airlines.

One flight, carrying up to 76 passengers, will leave Prescott in the morning and return in the evening. The service targets business people who travel between Northern Arizona and California regularly.

The contract requires Prescott to agree to pay a subsidy only if Horizon Air doesn’t meet its customer projections.

According to documents provided by the city of Prescott, payment will be based on achieving 78 percent of the load factor at the end of a 12-month period starting in June 2008 and ending in May 2009. The amount of payment wouldn’t exceed $160,000.

Prescott’s original letter to Cottonwood asked for the city to commit to pay up to $20,000.

Bristol told the council the $20,000 was an estimate at the time Prescott drafted the letter but the figure is a suggestion, and not a demand.

With the city already facing budget constraints, Cottonwood Councilman James Chapman said he doesn’t think its fair for the city to ask its departments to make cut backs and then commit to spending money on the service.

Other council members agreed $20,000 is out of the city’s scope but thought it could contribute a smaller amount.

“It seems a little risky,” Councilman Tim Elinski said. “At the same time, we need to think progressively.” Elinski said he’s hesitant to spend the city’s money on something risky.

Prescott is also looking for help in marketing the new service and estimated $80,000 to $100,000 will be needed. Along with the subsidy and marketing, Prescott will invest another $45,000 to service a second terminal at its airport.

The city of Sedona was also asked to help with the costs, but Sedona City Manager Eric Levitt said city staff doesn’t see the service benefiting Sedona residents since Horizon Air is offering the same deal from Flagstaff.
Flagstaff City Council approved a similar contract with Horizon on March 18. Flagstaff committed to a refund up to $600,000 if passenger projections aren’t met but didn’t ask surrounding communities for financial support.

Prescott Valley recently signed a contract to help Prescott with a portion of the financial commitment.

Bristol said Horizon Air had not committed to a price for tickets but said it would be comparable to commuting to Phoenix to fly out.

Council directed City Manager Doug Bartosh to work with Prescott on an agreement but leave the amount the Cottonwood would contribute to the subsidy blank.

Mayor Diane Joens said she’ll also go to the business community and ask for help with marketing funds.

Trista Steers can be reached at 282-7795, Ext. 124, or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano signed a bill into law that requires municipalities to allow sign walkers.

House Bill 2066 sponsored by Arizona Rep. Bob Robson [R-Chandler], bars municipal bans on sign walkers.

The city of Cottonwood considered revising the municipal sign code to prohibit the use of mascots and/or street corner sign-walkers.

However, at a Feb. 12 work session, the council decided to at least allow mascots temporarily and impose less stringent regulations on sign walkers.
“If I wanted to live with a lot of rules and regulations, I’d live in Scottsdale,” Vice Mayor Karen Pfeifer said.

Scottsdale has a ban on street corner sign-walkers.

The new law, which takes effect Thursday, Jan. 1, declares that “all municipalities shall allow the posting, display and use of sign walkers. Municipalities may adopt reasonable time, place and manner regulations relating to sign walkers.”

The bill defines a sign walker as one who wears, holds or balances a sign.
Cottonwood Community Development Director George Gehlert said the bill looks different than legislation the governor vetoed last year.

“We’ll, no doubt, take this up as part of the ongoing sign code review,” Gehlert said.

“There was initially an effort to prohibit local governments from regulating sign walkers at all. This version appears to allow for regulation of time, place and manner subject to public safety issues.

“I’m guessing the mascots will fall into the sign walker category as well.”
The city asked local businesses such as Acme Pizzaria and Jump Start to stop using mascots to advertise their business until it determined if they would be allowed under the city sign code.

At the work session, City Manager Doug Bartosh allowed the use of mascots until the city decides whether to regulate them or not.

“It appears we have until the end of this year to propose any local standards for sign walkers,” Gehlert said.

Robson said the new law is a major victory for the First Amendment.

At its March 18 regular meeting, the Cottonwood City Council got the Hwy. 89A update the Clarkdale Town Council had hoped to get on March 11.

The Clarkdale council update by Arizona Department of Transportation and S.J. Lewis Company representatives had to be postponed.

ADOT Engineer Tom Ward told the Cottonwood City Council of the benefits roundabouts provide.

The Hwy. 89A widening project between Cement Plant Road and Blackhills/Verde Heights Drive will have five of them.

Roundabouts keep traffic moving and have fewer conflict points and accidents than traffic light intersections, Ward said.

They also cut down on pollution since there is no stopping or idling on roundabouts.

“Roundabouts are relatively new to this area and have been an issue with some of the public,” Public Works Director Tim Costello told the council.
They’re also an issue for some council members.

“I don’t like roundabouts,” said Councilman Duane Kirby, who lamented the fact that he can hardly get to Hwy. 89A from his home near the construction site anymore.

Kirby said he’s heard some states in the East are doing away with them and he’d like to examine the data that indicates roundabouts are better and/or safer than stoplight intersections.

ADOT spokesman Bill Williams said he would provide it for him.
“Roundabouts have a level of initial controversy,” Costello told the council.

S.J. Lewis believes they could have the Hwy. 89A project done as early as December, far ahead of the scheduled April 2009 completion date.

The first roundabout at Cement Plant Road should begin by the end of March, Williams said. It will take approximately six weeks due to the small width of Cement Plant Road.

Succeeding roundabouts will take significantly less time to complete, but ADOT plans to allow motorists plenty of time to get used to the first one before beginning the rest.

“My concern is the educational component of the roundabouts since we have so many seniors here,” Mayor Diane Joens said.

ADOT intends to address that, Williams said, and has set up a roundabout navigation and education Web site at www.azdot.gov/Roundabouts.

Work on the 2.2-mile Hwy. 260 project from Thousand Trails to Western Drive in Cottonwood is also progressing on schedule.

“In the past 30 days, crews have succeeded in clearing brush, removing culverts and excavating areas near bridges,” Williams stated in a press release.

Traffic has not been impacted nearly as much as it has on Hwy. 89A since the construction activity is off the existing roadway but as the project proceeds toward Western Drive later this spring, motorists may experience delays due to lane restrictions.

ADOT and the Prescott National Forest want the public to know that Forest Road 9606J, which provides access to the Black Canyon River Access site and the Black Canyon Wash shooting site near Cottonwood is closed due to its proximity to the construction area.

Newly appointed Cottonwood City Councilman Jim Chapman won’t have far to go to attend City Council meetings before or after work.

On Tuesday, March 5, the City Council selected Chapman, a cook at Murphy’s Grill, to fill the council vacancy created when Councilman Ron Hollis resigned for business and personal reasons in early December.

City Council Chambers are a short walk down north Main Street from Murphy’s Grill, in Old Town Cottonwood.

“I’ve always been interested in government and politics but it’s my first time doing something like this. I thought long and hard about it before throwing my hat into the ring but I wanted to do something for the community,” said Chapman, a single father of two young children. “It’s important to get involved and I want my children to know that.”

Chapman grew up in Tucson and is an eight-year resident of Cottonwood.
The council selected him over three other applicants including former Mayor Ruben Jauregui, Mingus Union High School Assistant Principal Kathleen Alexander-Young and Kent Hellman.

Candidate John Ask removed his name from consideration before the council meeting on Feb. 26.

“Coming straight from the public means I’ll bring a fresh set of eyes and I think I have good judgment,” said Chapman, who had been attending council meetings as an observer until he was appointed.

“I thought they were all good,” City Manager Doug Bartosh said. “I think it’s important to have a cross-section of the community and different perspectives on the council. The council liked his answers more but it was pretty close.”

The council questioned the candidates and heard candidate presentations on Feb. 26.

Bartosh said the primary function of council members is to develop policy for the city, represent Cottonwood’s residents and represent the city at various functions.

Although council members receive a small stipend for their service, Bartosh said council members take the job more to serve the community than for any financial gain.

Once he’s sworn in, Chapman said he wants to see the recreation center completed and would like to see sidewalks constructed in every neighborhood in the city.

“I look forward to working with you,” Mayor Diane Joens said to the seventh and newest council member. “I know you’ll keep us on our toes.”
Chapman was sworn in on Tuesday, March 11, and will take his seat on the council on Tuesday, March 18.

He will serve until the next municipal election in 2009. Voters will then select a candidate to fill the remainder of Hollis’ term, which expires in May 2011.

Todd Etshman can be reached at 634-8551 or e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

While the city of Cottonwood moves forward with plans for a recreation center, a new gym in town is preparing for an early fall opening.

A question has arisen as to why the need for both? Why have two places for residents to exercise and get fit?

In talking with the city’s Parks and Recreation Director Richard Faust and the owner of Rough Cut Health Club & Spa Laura Morrison, the two centers are also different.

Along N. Main Street the two red brick buildings at N. 10th Street are part of the Riverfront Commons commercial plaza. The largest building is the 50,000-square foot Rough Cut gym.

The gym will have many of the same amenities as the city’s 60,000-square foot Cottonwood Community Recreation and Aquatics Center.

The most obvious difference is that the two-story Rough Cut gym is a privately-owned, membership-only gym and the recreation center is open to the public and owned and operated by public tax dollars.

In November 2006, Cottonwood voters approved $17 million in bonding for the city to build the recreation center from an existing 1 percent sales tax and user fees.

“We are different because we are not for profit and we’ll be offering more recreation-type activities,” Faust said. Other than that, Faust said he could not comment on Rough Cut.

The recreation center will have a climbing wall, a water slide and a competition pool, along with walk/run track, a game room, a multi-purpose room, a catering kitchen and vending machines.

According to Morrison, some of the offerings will be the same at Rough Cut, such as a full weight room, aerobics room and three other group exercise rooms, a day-care center with play equipment, and showers and lockers.

Instead of a large swimming pool, Rough Cut will have four, smaller current pools. They will be for exercise only and people will be able to swim against the current. The pools will also be used for aerobics and arthritis-centered exercise classes. Other amenities include a Jacuzzi and a steam room.

“We’ll also have two, regulation-size indoor squash courts. We’ll be able to bring tournaments in. I also have plans for a juice bar,” Morrison said.

Another difference is a physical therapist with a separate therapy pool and treatment room. For those who want to refresh after a workout, Morrison has added a hair and skincare salon.

“My goal is to make it fun for everybody. My passion is physical fitness, and a health club has always been my dream,” she said.

While Morrison plans a fall 2008 opening, the recreation center will take a bit longer. The plan is to start construction in the winter of 2008-09 and open late 2009 or early 2010.

Both Faust and Morrison agree that there is room enough for both centers in the Upper Verde Valley.

“I think we’ll compete, but I also think we’ll have different clientele,” Morrison said.

The amount may not be much, around $1, but for hoteliers in the Cottonwood area the recent 1 percent tax increase is a concern.
The increase is the bed tax charged to visitors who rent a hotel or motel room within the city.

The additional tax came about when the Cottonwood Chamber of Commerce asked the City Council to approve an increase to help pay expenses to remodel and add on to the existing chamber building at the corner of S. Main Street and Hwy. 260.

The council approved the 1 percent increase in December 2006 to become effective Jan. 1, 2008.

Hoteliers in 2006 disagreed with the council’s decision and resigned, en masse, from chamber membership, citing that they felt used because they were an easy target to get more money for the chamber. The chamber’s membership includes approximately 400 businesses.

That may change soon. The new president of the chamber, Debbie Wilden, said she plans to meet with the hoteliers to see how they and the chamber can come to a mutual agreement.

The hoteliers decided to perform their own marketing and have been doing so for more than one year.

Now that it is a few weeks into collecting the additional 1 percent, Anna May Corey, owner of The Pine Motel, said she does not have a lot of feedback.

What she has received is surprise when people see the extra tax.

“It is a problem when we tell people the price of the room, plus tax. Then they ask how much tax and we say 11.525 percent,” Corey said.

Hoteliers pay the basic 8.5 percent like everyone, plus they add on the now 3 percent bed tax.

She did say that one thing has stayed the same — that the hoteliers do not think the chamber is giving back through its tourism promotions.

“We’re still not mentioned on the chamber Web site. We’re not being hard-nosed. I just want to do my business, but it’s just not the way to treat six businesses. We don’t expect it all back, we just want some tourism marketing for us,” Corey said.

Barbara Vogl, owner of the Best Western Cottonwood Inn said guests ask why the rate changed but no one is balking at paying the extra tax. Most other communities around the Verde Valley charge 3 percent.

Vogl would like to see all of the businesses contribute instead of just the hotels and motels.

About one-third of the money to run the chamber comes from the bed tax instituted in the mid-1980s as a way to support chamber activities. The other two-thirds comes from membership and sources such as sales, events, grants and donations, according to the chamber.

Vogl said Wilden called her to set up a meeting and see about getting the hoteliers back together with the chamber.

“We want something in writing with a commitment to include us in their tourism promotions,” Vogl said.

“I’m meeting with all of the hoteliers individually to see what their issues and needs are to see if we can work something out. I’d like to see us work together and move forward,” Wilden said.

The chamber is creating a tourism Web site, and Wilden promised that the hoteliers will definitely be included.

“They don’t have to be a member to be on the site, but we need their help getting it done. It’s going to be a great site,” she said.

The chamber recently received a $13,800 grant from the Arizona Department of Tourism and some of the money will be used to create the Web site, according to Wilden.

Wilden said she does not know how much money is collected for the bed tax at this point.

“We won’t see that for a few months. We don’t get it from the council until the state issues it,” Wilden said.

Lu Stitt can be reached at 634-8551 or e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For more than 25 years Cottonwood has boasted that the city does not have a property tax, however, that may soon change.
On Aug. 22, 1978, the Cottonwood City Council abolished a city property tax and replaced it with a sales tax, now at 2.2 percent.
The tide has turned once again and the City Council is thinking of initiating a property tax for owners within city limits.
At a Jan. 8 work session, the council directed the staff to prepare a resolution so the city can call for a special election Tuesday, May 20, to have voters decide whether the council could impose a property tax.
“We wanted to get this on the table because there’s a time limit to call for an election. We have until no less than 30 days before the election, which would be [Friday] April 18, roughly. The earliest would have been late December,” Finance Director Rudy Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said his department is researching to find out where the city is going to be financially in the next five years, then bring any expected shortfalls back to the council.
“We’re researching what the minimal impact, or amount, is that we need — what we have to have to continue our services,” he said.
The question before voters will be two-fold, Rodriguez said. Voters will be asked permission to have a property tax and what levy the city is seeking.
“After that is established we’ll figure it into the rate based on valuation,” Rodriguez said.
Over the past nine years, Rodriguez said the needs of the city have changed, particularly through growth and the desires of residents. Combined with the downturn in the economy as a factor, fluctuating revenue from sales tax is a concern.
“A property tax is more stable,” Rodriguez said.
Money generated by a property tax is most likely slated for public safety, he said, but it could be spent on shortfalls in other areas. Public safety has needed expansion for several years, he said.
Rodriguez said that there are several options the city could use including to levy a property tax, increase the sales tax or even shift money.
“The property tax could not go [to the voters]. If it does and does not pass the vote, we’ll have to look at Plan B,” Rodriguez said. “It depends on what the research shows and what the voters think.”
Once a property tax is instituted, the issue will not return to the voters, according to Rodriguez.
Any increase or decrease in the levy amount is at the discretion of the City Council.
The council has jurisdiction over raising or lowering the city’s taxes once they are initiated.
“We will have public hearings before that may happen so the public can voice its opinion, but the council has the ultimate decision there. We are restricted by law to a percentage we can raise a levy each year,” Rodriguez said.

The Cottonwood Fire Department holds the distinction of having all 12 of its shift firefighters certified paramedics, except that one is still in school.

He will graduate from the program in March. That means that there are four paramedics on the fire engine whenever it goes out — 24/7.

“We are proud to say our existing engine is staffed with all paramedics. I don’t know of any other department or district in the state that has that,” Chief Mike Casson said. “We feel blessed.”

The reason for the high number of paramedics is two-fold. One is that the firefighters want to get the training and certification. The other is the trend for fire departments to perform emergency medical services in their communities more than fighting fires.

“Our services are shifting. With education in the schools and the community, smoke alarms, sprinklers, fire extinguishers and cell phone fires have decreased, but EMS has increased a great deal,” EMS coordinator Tim Wills said. He also is a shift captain with the department.

In 2008, about 74 percent to 75 percent of the department’s 2,478 calls were for EMS. Some were to assist other Verde Valley departments, but the majority were for Cottonwood.

The number of calls is increasing as well. According to Wills, the Cottonwood department is the busiest in the Verde Valley.

“The community has gotten much larger and is continuing to grow. So far we’ve been able to keep up with the demand, but we’d really like to put on a second engine, at least at our busiest time,” Wills said.

A second engine would be 12 more firefighters. With the number of paramedics on staff, even with a second engine it would mean there would be two paramedics on each engine, each shift.

“It’s also an advantage if there are multiple injuries, like when the five cheerleaders were hurt in the Sept. 6, 2007 collision on South Main Street,” Casson said.

He is amazed at the caliber of people in the department and their enthusiasm not only for their job, but to keep improving their knowledge and skills.

“We’ve always encouraged our people to get further education — paramedic or otherwise. It amazes me. The commitment to paramedic is huge. It’s about 1,300 hours, including clinicals,” Casson said.

The department recognizes that EMS delivery is what firefighters do these days, but they also have the commitment to fight fires when they do happen, Casson said as the tones went out for a house fire in Verde Village Unit 3. The call was for the Verde Valley Fire District, but Wills and his crew got ready to go, if they were called to assist.

Casson was at a state fire training committee meeting in Phoenix recently and said a lot of department chiefs said they were having trouble staffing paramedics.

“This community can be proud. It takes one and a half years to develop a paramedic; we already have them on staff now,” he said.

All paramedics are nationally and state certified. For the Cottonwood department, Dr. Todd Lane at Verde Valley Medical Center is their medical director. He helps develop protocols for when the paramedics work in the field or for any questions.

“Our focus is for pre-hospital events and management. We are a bridge to the hospital. Most times, though, we have to work under emergency conditions, and not always under the best of conditions,” Wills said.

The Cottonwood Fire Department is located at 199 S. Sixth St.

Lu Stitt can be reached at 634-8551 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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