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Alexis Reed rehearses her role as actress Dotty Otley playing Mrs. Clackett, a dry-witted British housekeeper in the hysterical play-within-a-play farce “Noises Off” on Friday, Oct. 29.When a real ax, frozen in midair above the unsuspecting head of an unfaithful lover, passes gracefully backward from one pair of threatening hands to the next three times in succession and no actor is injured or misses their lines, comedy to make Charlie Chaplin proud is perfected.

A dress rehearsal of the Mingus Union High School production of “Noises Off” reaches the apex of the play’s ridiculousness Friday, Oct. 29. The student actors worked relentlessly to perfect the comedic timing of this complicated and hilarious farce which opens Friday, Nov. 5.Mingus Union High School’s production of “Noises Off” is a gem even though it may be the most complicated play yet attempted by the acting company under the direction of MUHS theater teacher James Ball.

“I can easily say that over any musical, play or event I have directed that this has been the most challenging, most complex and the most rewarding,” Ball said.

From the stage crew: An enormous, two-story set weighing in at a little more than 1,000 pounds revolves in place to show the backstage shenanigans of playwright Michael Frayn’s play within the play.

From the actors: Accomplished comic performances from every member of the cast depends on speaking and moving at precisely the right moment to create the illusion of utter chaos demanded by the script.

“While the set itself presented an endless challenge, the work needed to perfectly time the play was arduous,” Ball said. “The cast grew tired of the phrase, ‘Stop. So and so was late. Go back and try it again.’”

‘Noises Off’
Performances
Friday, Nov. 5, at 7 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 6, at 7 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 7, at 2:30 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 12, at 7 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 13, at 7 p.m.
Tickets

Advanced Door
Adult $9 $12
Senior $7 $10
Student $5 $8

The story moves quickly, the lines fast and close like Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in “His Girl Friday,” the action reminiscent of any Three Stooges short.

On stage, doors open and slam shut; windows break and plates of sardines disappear and reappear at exactly the wrong moment. Costumes fall to pieces. A bottle of Jack Daniels stars in a dozen hand-offs like football’s old Statue of Liberty play.
Backstage, jilted lovers weep, rage and then make new connections during edgy moments both bawdy and amusing.

Charley Heath stands out as Gary Lejeune/Roger Tramplemain, who is so enraged by the betrayal of his lover, played by Alexis Reed, he cannot keep his lines straight, constantly refers to her by the wrong name and tumbles down a flight of stairs with a natural flair not seen since Chevy Chase starred on “Saturday Night Live.”

Heath said he has no plans to pursue acting after high school but nevertheless takes inspiration from Jack Nicholson. His personal mantra, “Resist to conform,” informs his outsider status at school, he said.

“I’m not a conformist,” he said. “I tend to be kind of rude and obnoxious.”

“He’s a natural,” Ball said.

It all worked beautifully during a dress rehearsal at MUHS Auditorium on Friday, Oct. 29. Ball once again demonstrated his ability to focus an army of teenage actors and stage hands on a complicated task, inspiring and steering them to heights of performance not usually encountered on a high school stage.

So many exquisitely timed moments of manic slapstick cascade raucously into the third act, audience members may actually feel exhausted from all the smiling and laughing once the final curtain drops.

A telephone at Cottonwood Police Department that records outgoing calls from a land line situated in the booking area was used at least once to improperly monitor the call of a criminal suspect to her lawyer.

The action violated police department policy, broke the attorney-client privilege and caused the resignation of a Cottonwood police sergeant.

The investigation into Sgt. Darrin Harper’s violation of department rules resulted in his resignation Sept. 20, Cottonwood City Attorney Steve Horton said.

Harper will take a payment of $7,000 in exchange for his promise not to sue the city over the termination. He resigned to avoid being terminated for misconduct, Horton said.

Police officials knew for some time the telephone in the booking area recorded telephone calls, but could not specify how long. In violation of department policy, the telephone was not marked with a sticker warning those who used it that their call would be recorded.

Horton said his review of the case revealed booking phone conversations have been recorded and stored systematically for at least several months, but never reviewed.

“Many of the phone lines are recorded as a matter of course,” Horton said. “There is a phone line, however, that should not be recorded, which is the phone line in booking. The phone line was recorded, but we never had a problem with officers or anybody accessing or reviewing the calls.”

Most criminal suspects are escorted to a private room where they make calls using their own cell phone.

Criminal suspects are rarely, if ever, allowed to use the booking area telephone, Horton said.

Written policies approved Sept. 21 state criminal suspects are to be afforded privacy to use their own cell phones for calls or be escorted to a private land line that is not recorded.

If a criminal suspect wants to use the telephone in the booking area, they must be told the conversation will be recorded. The telephone in booking now bears the warning sticker, Horton said.

The discovery that police knew calls outgoing from booking were regularly recorded was one of several made during internal affairs investigations into numerous complaints about Harper.

Harper lost a week’s pay after a city personnel board ruled earlier this year he violated a crime victim’s Fourth Amendment privacy rights by illegally searching his car and luggage.

During his service in Cottonwood, Harper was the subject of nine internal affairs investigations, four of which were determined to warrant discipline, according to city records.

According to one complaint, Harper refused to allow a suspect to use the bathroom, a violation of department policy.

Another internal affairs investigation found Harper worked off duty outside city limits but did not make proper reports of his activities.

Council unanimously approved the settlement agreement at its Sept. 21 meeting.

Horton said the settlement saves the city the cost of conducting a second due process hearing and possible court action. The agreement provides certainty to both parties.

For Harper, the deal gives him 45 days worth of pay and allows him to inform future employers he resigned his position.

Final details of the deal remained to be worked out as of Thursday, Sept. 23, but Horton said he expects Harper to formally sign off by next week.

Harper was honored by the city at least twice for his work with area teens to reduce alcohol and drug abuse.

The National FFA Organization opens career doors to high school students across the United States, including a 17-year-old Mingus Union High School senior who plans to continue her FFA work after graduation.

Taylor Kirby, a National FFA Organization member and elected officer of the Mingus Union High School FFA club, brings her experiences from attending a national FFA conference this past summer in Washington, D.C., back to the local scene as a senior at MUHS. Kirby hopes to become a state representative for FFA when she goes to college next year at the University of Arizona.Taylor Kirby, vice president of Mingus Union FFA, said the national organization offers several opportunities for students who seek a career in agriculture.

Eventually, Kirby plans to work as an equine trainer for racehorses, but her first stop after high school will be as an FFA state officer.

FFA state officers travel to meet with FFA groups around the state, promoting agriculture through speeches and workshops.

Using project management techniques, state officers build relationships, develop presentations and learn to speak knowledgeably about the issues the National FFA Organization faces, Kirby said.

Kirby demonstrated her knowledge of the issues when she enjoyed lunch with National FFA Organization Treasurer Marion Fletcher on a trip to Washington, D.C., in July.

Only one student, Kirby, represented Arizona at the FFA’s 2010 Summer Leadership Conference this year. More than 2,000 students from across the United States attended.

She qualified to attend by participating in numerous FFA activities locally and at the state and national level and by writing an essay, “How I Would Be a Good Ambassador.”

She called the trip “one of the greatest experiences of my life.”

The leadership conferences and workshops were informative, but her time walking on the National Mall and visiting the nation’s monuments provided many meaningful moments, she said.

Raised on a ranch in Sycamore Canyon, Kirby said she loves working on the land and with the animals. Cleaning pens, and feeding, training and grooming animals were part of her life from an early age.

She knows how to construct an irrigation system. As proof, she points to the waterworks pumping water on a hillside facing the MUHS football field, a project she helped complete.

Kirby is currently raising a colt, Kawliga, which turns out to be more time-consuming than she expected.
“It can be a lot of work, but I love it,” she said.

A local animal shelter’s only public meeting of the year drew more than 30 people Friday, Sept. 17, mostly supporters who spoke in defense of the nonprofit, but also two donors who questioned its hours of operation, treatment of volunteers and lack of transparency.

In 2009-10, revenue dropped more than 80 percent at Verde Valley Humane Society’s thrift shop, two former employees were prosecuted for theft and new telephone and ventilation systems malfunctioned, adding more costs, Executive Director Cyndi Castillo said.

Jay Pond, right, the owner of a local pet store which frequently hosts adoptable Verde Valley Humane Society felines, questions the short hours the animal shelter keeps at the shelter’s annual board meeting Friday, Sept. 17. The shelter is currently open to the public 26 hours per week usually between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., hours Pond said are  inaccessible to most working people.The shelter’s end-of-year bank balance, about $42,000, was “scary,” she said.

On the bright side, opening the new Adopt for Life Center and successfully raising money at a ceramic bowl fundraiser earlier this year were two high points, Castillo said.

The best news was VVHS adopted out 322 dogs and 120 cats in 2009-10. It also returned 184 dogs and seven cats to their owners, she said.

After recognizing staff and volunteers for their work during the past year, Castillo singled out former board President Nick Hunseder for special recognition, presenting his wife, Debra, with a certificate of appreciation. Hunseder, who stepped down in August, did not attend the meeting.

After lauding Hunseder as an exceptional shelter supporter and tireless worker, Castillo checked off a list of concerns she was prepared to address.

Revenue

In the past year, the society’s thrift store, The Good-Buy Shop, saw a decline in sales, dropping from a high of $6,000 per month in 2009 to a low of $1,000 per month in 2010. The society rents the storefront for more than $2,000 a month, Castillo said.

“That’s our lifeblood,” she said. “We can’t survive without that revenue.”

She said she is working to update inventory at the shop.

Castillo said the shelter’s end-of-year bank balance of $42,000 was its lowest balance in some time, the result of drawing down reserves to pay operating costs.

Euthanasia

Verde Valley Humane Society board members Laura Fletcher, left, Dawn Hunsberger, center, and Executive Director Cyndi Castillo field questions from community members  interested in some of the  local animal shelter’s recent controversies including the loss of a $36,000 annual contract from Yavapai County Animal Control.Although the total number of euthanasias remained fairly steady in 2009-10, construction of the new center resulted in a dramatic decrease in the number of animals euthanized due to space, Castillo said.

The society euthanized 17 animals due to lack of space in 2009-10, compared to 111 such deaths the previous year.

Upper respiratory illness, however, contributed to a high number of cats euthanized last year. Of the 427 felines put down, 20 were euthanized due to the disease on June 26, Castillo said.

Upper respiratory illness twice forced the society to put down all of the felines in residence, she said.

Animals are seen by a veterinarian at the time of adoption, but cost limits the types of treatments animals may receive before adoption. Surgeries and X-rays, for example, are often prohibitively expensive, she said.

The shelter purchases medicines to treat animals when recommended by a veterinarian.

Castillo said her previous work on a pediatric unit enables her to determine when ill animals risk spreading disease and must be put down.

VVHS follows the same euthanasia protocols as the Arizona Humane Society when deciding which animals to put down.

Animals may be put down because they are too aggressive, injured or ill to be adopted. The shelter is not required to house animals more than five days, but sometimes keeps animals for months at a time, Castillo said.

Thefts

The VVHS thrift store’s difficulties were compounded by two short-time employees who reportedly stole money and goods from the Good-Buy Shop in the past year, Castillo said.

“We prosecuted,” she said.The society places classified ads, consults with the Yavapai County unemployment office and takes referrals “by word of mouth” to make hiring decisions. The society does not use an outside agency to screen employees, Castillo said.

Hours of Operation

Jay Pond, owner of a local pet store, urged the board to find ways to keep the Adopt for Life Center open longer to make more animal adoptions possible.

“I’m all about the animals, but it’s just not working,” Pond said. “We’ve got to do better.”

Currently, the center is open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Thursday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The society is unable to secure enough volunteers to keep the center open beyond the 26 hours a week it currently operates, Castillo said.

Volunteers

Marsha Dietrich, a regular donor to the shelter, said she questioned Castillo’s inability to retain volunteers.
“My issue is the volunteers, the people that I personally have come to know over the last two years, some really fine people, educated people, who have just walked off in pure frustration,” Dietrich said.
“You’re only hearing one side,” Castillo said.

The volunteers in question attempted to direct staff in the performance of their work. As a result, they had to be let go, Castillo said.

Castillo said she was skeptical of Dietrich’s suggestion the society hire a volunteer coordinator due to cost or lack of people willing to work the job for free.

Dietrich said after the meeting she found the exchange intimidating.

“I’ve got some legitimate questions as an active donor, and I’m not getting anything but defensiveness and hostility in answer to my questions. I was not satisfied with her answers,” Dietrich said.

Ventilation

After thousands of dollars of repairs and upgrades, the ventilation system in the new Adopt for Life Center does not work properly, making it impossible to shelter cats in the new building, Castillo said.

The area where cats were to be housed does not get cooler than 84 degrees, Castillo said, too hot for cats to live.

The ventilation system was installed properly, according to George Noble, the contractor who oversaw construction of the new building.

Castillo said the project architect selected the ventilation system. It has not operated properly for months. It will cost at least another $4,000 in upgrades before the system will work properly, Castillo said.

Noble, who said he already did more than required by contributing time and money to fix the problem, cannot afford to pay any more for the upgrade.

Transparency

Dietrich, curious about the way in which directors are selected for the VVHS board, asked for the society’s bylaws to be posted online. VVHS Secretary Laura Fletcher said she saw no reason why not.

The bylaws were not posted on the society’s official website as of press time, Wednesday, Sept. 22.

Yavapai County Contract

Castillo said she did not ignore calls from Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office requesting negotiations on its contract with VVHS. She said messages from YCSO, along with dozens of others, were inadvertently locked off in the society’s former telephone system, which could not be accessed from the new system. The problem has since been remedied.

A county spokesman previously said the contract was awarded to the Humane Society of Sedona because the Sedona shelter was willing to negotiate a better deal and Castillo was unavailable and did not return telephone messages.

Loss of the contract, valued at $33,000, did not negatively impact the society’s financial standing, Castillo said.

Without a contract to pay for sheltering county animals, however, the Adopt for Life Center will continue to turn away animals brought in from areas outside the boundaries of Cottonwood, Clarkdale and Jerome.

Currently, animals recovered from unincorporated areas of Yavapai County, like Bridgeport and Verde Villages, must be transported to Sedona.

Cottonwood becomes eligible for Community Development Block Grants in 2011 and City Planner Charles Scully wants to be ready.

As much as $350,000 is at stake, Scully told to City Council on Sept. 14.

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 rotate to Cottonwood next year, Scully said.

Federal rules control 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, Scully said. 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 Scully said.

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

The Arizona Department of Housing makes grant awards in July.

Over Superintendent Tim Foist’s protest, Mingus Union High School District Governing Board voted 3-2 Thursday, Sept. 9, to hold Foist The Mingus Union High School District Governing Board voted 3-2 Thursday, Sept. 9, to hold MUHSD Superintendent Tim Foist to his two-year contract, denying his request to resign at the close of the 2010-11 school year.

“That’s not fair,” Foist said after the vote. “You’re making me work with people who don’t want me here and I’m not going to trust.”

Chairman John Tavasci and board members Jim Ledbetter and Brenda Zenan voted to enforce Foist’s contract, which does not expire until the end of the 2011-12 school year. Board members Andy Groseta and Mike Mulcaire voted he should be allowed to resign.

“In my experience, when an employee says they want to resign, they should be allowed to do so,” Groseta said.

Foist told the board he previously pledged to resign if ever he lost the confidence of a single board member. Mulcaire stated he wants Foist to go.

On the surface, the argument between Foist and Mulcaire involves a performance review of Principal Tamara Addis and Assistant Principal Allen Mitchell conducted by former MUHS Superintendent Nancy Alexander in anticipation of the consolidation of MUHSD and Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District.

The review was completed for the administrators as a self-evaluation tool and to help them set goals. It was never intended to be made public, Foist said.

The board voted unanimously in August directing Foist to provide it with copies of the reviews. He has so far failed to do so, Mulcaire said.

“It’s insubordination, as far as I’m concerned,” Mulcaire said.

Even though Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District discussed Alexander’s reviews at an open meeting earlier this year, Foist said releasing the reviews would be unethical.

“I’m not going to undermine my administrative team,” Foist said. “They were never told it was going to be released.”

An e-mail from Tavasci to all board members dated July 6 forwards a message from Alexander which confirms Foist’s understanding of the confidential nature of the reviews. Alexander did not provide copies of the reviews. No board member responded to the message, Tavasci said after the meeting.

On a different matter, Foist accused Mulcaire of directing him to fire MUHSD staff who did not support Mulcaire’s election to the board. He refused to fire the employees, which upset Mulcaire, Foist said.

Mulcaire said he asked Foist to fire a certain teacher and continued to seek the unidentified teacher’s termination.

Tavasci said so far, Foist followed every direction the board had given him. Distributing evaluation packets to Foist and the board, Tavasci urged members to meet in executive session to review the superintendent’s performance instead of releasing him from his contract.

“Right now is not the time to accept his resignation,” Tavasci said. “Mr. Foist has done a lot of good things. We’re in a whole lot better shape since he came here.”

“We need to go into executive session to find out what’s going on and what’s not going on,” Zenan said. “We need to be able to work together and work it out so everyone understands what they need to do.”

A special meeting of the board to go over evaluations is set for Wednesday, Sept. 22.

“We voted 5-0 to get an item and we still have not gotten it,” Mulcaire said.

After the meeting, Mulcaire said he was angry Foist did not turn over the evaluations as directed. He also said Foist improperly makes decisions before the board gets a chance to comment or direct him.

“Everything’s decided before we get to the meeting,” he said.

Cottonwood City Council voted unanimously Sept. 6 to apply for $40,000 in emergency funds from the Arizona Department of Transportation to maintain public transportation routes serviced by Cottonwood Area Transit until at least June of 2011.

ADOT emergency funds administered through Northern Arizona Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority will allow the city to continue services at the current level, although cutbacks on routes and service hours for the 2011-12 fiscal year will be revisited after January, said Kyla Allen, executive assistant to City Manager Doug Bartosh.

A Cottonwood Area Transit bus rumbles past an empty bus stop near Puma Circle in Verde Villages on Sept. 7. Cottonwood City Council voted unanimously later that evening to apply for emergency funding from the Arizona Department of Transportation to continue bus service in Verde Villages.Even with the emergency funding, special service for disabled riders offered only on Saturday will be eliminated, Allen said.

When emergency funds run out next year, Verde Villages could also be eliminated from the CAT route schedule and hours of operation could be reduced for all lines.

Yavapai County District 3 Supervisor Chip Davis notified the city July 30 state highway funds, known as Local Transportation Assistance Funds, would cause the county to decrease its support for public transportation from $67,000 to $27,000, Cottonwood Area Transit Manager Shirley Scott reported.

LTAF funds are used to help local communities build and improve roads using money collected from the Powerball lottery.

In addition to the nearly 60 percent cut in county funds, the cost of services increased, leaving a total shortfall in public transit funding of $56,000, CAT Manager Shirley Scott said.

The council rejected other options that would have required CAT to cut services for disabled people across the board throughout the entire system.

Services to the disabled cost the city nearly $20 per rider, but the city only charges $2 per rider for the service, Scott said.

Cutting hours and eliminating services for the disabled would allow the city to reduce costs by slightly more than $54,000, according to Scott.

Another option, also rejected by the council, would have reduced service to Verde Villages and severely reduced hours of operation to areas outside the city provided on the green line. Had the council agreed, service to Verde Villages would run four hours on peak times only, from 7 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 5 p.m.

These cuts would have saved slightly less than $24,000, not enough to cover the shortfall, Scott said.

Just hours after asking the public for help in finding the suspect in an armed robbery of an Old Town tobacco shop, Cottonwood police announced a 19-year-old Clarkdale man has been arrested in the case.

A man brandishing a knife robbed a Old Town Cottonwood tobacco shop Monday, Sept. 13. Police arrested a 19-year-old suspect a few hours later in Clarkdale.The suspect was arrested at a nearby residence shortly after 2 p.m. after police learned his identity, according to Cottonwood police.

The suspect reportedly entered the store in the 900 block of North Main Street in Old Town, and demanded items from a display. Upon receiving the items, he brandished a knife, threatened a clerk, then fled into a nearby neighborhood on foot.

Police allege the he took several bags of Spice and a metal pipe from the store.

Spice is a mixture of chemicals and herbs that can induce a marijuana-like high in those who smoke it. Spice may be legally sold in Arizona.

The suspect was booked into Yavapai County Detention Center on charges of armed robbery and aggravated assault.

For a complete update on this breaking news story, see page 1A of the Wedneday, Sept. 15, edition of the Cottonwood Journal Extra.

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