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Cottonwood Mayor Diane Joens gave a State of the City speech Friday, Oct. 3, at the Verde Valley Senior Citizens Center.

Normally the State of the City address is given at the end of the year. This year, the Clarkdale-Verde Kiwanis Club pushed her to give the speech earlier.

Dr. Robert “Bob” Richards introduced the mayor and gave a brief review of her background. He said this was her second year as mayor and she has been an active community volunteer and public servant throughout her life.

“I think everybody knows my passion for Cottonwood,” Joens began.

Joens said what she likes best about the City Council is their ability to disagree respectfully. In reviewing the newly appointed City Manager Doug Bartosh, she had much praise to give.

Joens said Bartosh “hit the ground running” when he took over.
Since then, he has been a quick study, provides excellent leadership, responds well to the council’s orders and is very good with the public. Most importantly, she said, he ensures council policies are swiftly and competently enacted.

Joens then spoke about the city’s economic development. The council created the position of economic development director two years ago, and Casey Rooney has been doing a great job, she said.

The council is looking at expanding public transportation, making it easier to get to the shops and stores, improving educational opportunities, getting businesses to open up shop in Cottonwood and making plans to build new office buildings to entice companies to move to the city, Joens said.

“We’re the center of commerce for the Verde Valley,” she said.

Joens said the current economy is “very challenging” for everyone. It is especially challenging after two years of good economic growth, but is now the worst economy she has seen in 16 years.

The most critical part of the problem, she said, is the decrease in sales tax revenue.

She said the council struggled with the issue of raising the sales tax, but in the end had no other option to keep the city running.

The city has always prided itself, Joens said, on operating solely on the sales tax. The citizens should consider the fallacy of depending on the sales tax only. This was in reference to the council’s plan of asking the citizens to approve a city property tax.

She said she is proud of the Cottonwood Police Department and its coordination with the Partners Against Narcotics Trafficking, which led to a 40-percent drop in major crimes.

As for the Cottonwood Fire Department, she spoke of the need to build a new fire station and hire 12 more firefighters. This is due to the growth of the city and the fact that CFD is the busiest fire department in the Verde Valley.

Joens said CFD Chief Mike Casson reported to her that all of his firefighters are now certified as paramedics.

Part of the city’s growth, she said, is looking ahead to annexing state and federal lands north of the city limits.

Joens said this is because of the land’s potential as a water resource for the community. Parts of the possible land annexation are at the Verde River headwaters, and if the lands stay in the State Trust Fund then the citizens of the area have no say in population density or infrastructure.

She said the city has informed the state that if it wants to develop the state trust lands, the city wishes to annex them before that happens.

“If these lands get developed,” Joens said, “then they should be in the city to give those people the right to vote [on city matters].”

She said Bartosh is looking to form a citizens committee with all of the local municipalities [Jerome, Clarkdale, Sedona, Camp Verde, Rimrock, Montezuma and Cottonwood] to discuss the possible impacts of the annexation, since any change to the Verde River affects everyone living in the valley.

Since purchasing the water companies, Joens said, the city has been able to enforce water conservation measures. They have also been able to repair, replace and upgrade damaged infrastructure which has only added to the city’s water conservation efforts.

“We have water running through town, and we want to keep it,” she said.
Joens said her primary goal as mayor is to get all of the area water conservation groups to work together for the future.

Greg Nix can be reached at 282-7795, ext. 122, or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

No one denies people addicted to drugs or alcohol need help.

The problem is where those people get the help they need and whether they are wanted in the neighborhoods of Cottonwood.

Angela Lozano, owner and operator of a number of safe and sober living houses for people in recovery, asked the Planning and Zoning Commission to grant her a conditional use permit for her homes on 12th and 13th Streets.

At the Aug. 18 P&Z meeting, the board made clear safe and sober living homes will not be allowed in residential areas.

The discussion started with a review of the Federal Fair Housing Act by City Attorney Steve Horton, who said the fedearal law overrides any local city ordinance when housing for those with disabilities is in the wrong zone.

Horton told the commission the city cannot discriminate against those in recovery. Specifically, alcoholics are not considered disabled under the federal law, but if they are in recovery, they are considered disabled.

Terry Haig, a member of the Block Watch Program, a citizen volunteer organization that keeps an eye out for criminal activity, told the commission the sober houses are directly detrimental to the health, safety and welfare of the neighborhoods and Cottonwood in general.

Haig said she is not trying to get the sober living homes shut down, only that Lozano has been operating the homes illegally and they have to be shut down.

“I could care less about what she is doing,” Haig said. She believes Lozano and others who own and operate similar homes are doing so simply for profit.

She said she had not asked to meet with Lozano, to tour her homes or to review the program and structure.

Haig said she felt it was not her business to find out if the person who owns and operates the programs has integrity, but does question if Lozano is a person of integrity.

She later said the real issue for her is the “Not in My Backyard” concerns. She said very few people would want to deal with this in their neighborhood and that is simple human nature.

Catholic Community Charities Site Director Carol Quesula expressed disappointment at the possibility Lozano will have to close her sober living homes.

She said the homes meet a definite need in the community for those being released from jail or prison who have no job, no home and no family to take them in.

The chances of those individuals returning to their former lives of addiction and crime is incredibly high, she said.

“Closing the homes down would just perpetuate the problem, as these people would go back to their former lifestyles,” she said.

Quesula said CCC’s Families First Program works closely with the DUI/Drug Court overseen by Judge Ralph Hess, the substance abuse treatment programs at Verde Valley Guidance Clinic, Child Protective Services, Yavapai County Adult Probation and most specifically, Lozano’s sober living homes.

“The danger these people are hollering about [endangering the health and welfare of the residents of Cottonwood] is about to happen when Lozano is forced to shut down,” she said.

Yavapai County Adult Probation Supervisor Karen Desmond said there is a desperate need for clean and sober housing, and Lozano is hoping her appeal to the Cottonwood City Council will result in the granting of her request for the conditional use permit.

“If the two locations are closed, desperately needed clean and sober housing will be lost. Our community cannot afford the loss of these houses,” Desmond said.

She also said there are currently no women’s safe and sober living homes, other than Lozano’s, in the Verde Valley. This would force women whose children and families are in Cottonwood or the surrounding areas who need a sober living home to move to Prescott.

Lozano said when she bought the home on 12th Street, the sober living program had already been running for eight years.

She told the commission she wrongfully assumed she was operating in a legal manner and admitted this to the commission.

Lozano also told the commission she believes it is important to keep the homes open in the 12th and 13th Street neighborhoods because they are in the heart of the city.

Many of the tenants no longer have driver’s licenses, and she provides them with bicycles to get to work; their Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings; Intensive Outpatient Substance Abuse Therapy through the Verde Valley Guidance Clinic; and to meet with their families.

Robert Richards spoke and said the homes were in the wrong place, and the application should be denied. He spoke of a neighbor who got into “trouble” and went to a home in Prescott where he got the help he needed.
Richards later said he was not knowledgeable about the homes or programs and basically did not do any research. He only showed up to the P&Z meeting and was really only asking questions.

Lozano said she really hoped the P&Z Commission could understand the difference between running a business and what she is doing — providing a public service to the community.

In the end, the commission said loud and clear, “no.”

Commissioner Darold Smith was visibly upset, shaking his fist and waving various papers around, while saying loudly the application was asking permission to run a business in a residentially zoned area. He said the application had nothing to do with the fact Lozano was asking the commission permission to keep her sober halfway homes running.

Smith said the health and safety of the citizens of Cottonwood were in jeopardy if the halfway homes were allowed to continue running.

Chairperson Jim Gillespie said denying the application is to send a loud and clear message to anyone else running such homes that they were in violation and would be shut down as well.

To keep kids busy, safe and headed in the right direction is the goal of parents and many youth organizations in town.

Many of those organizations depend solely on donations, like the Boys & Girls Club of Cottonwood, and donations are down.

To work on all of the goals, Cottonwood’s club has formed an advisory committee. The committee will help raise awareness, look at programs and hopefully find new ways to make money.

“We are hurting financially, but we’re not ready to close our doors — not yet,” Chris Quasula, the club’s director said.

The advisory committee first met Monday, Aug. 25, at noon, and will meet once a month at that same time. Quasula is looking for volunteers who want to serve on the committee.

“We chose noon so no one has to take extra time out of their day. Everything else we can do by e-mail,” he said.

The Boys & Girls Club in Old Town has children in after school, during spring and fall breaks, during the summer and one week of the holiday break around Christmas and New Years.

While at the club Monday through Friday, the children can enjoy games, movies, readings, computers, a place to do homework, pool, foozball and field trips to places like the Clemenceau Museum, or to play basketball in the old school’s gym.

Programs include activities to fulfill the core program of character and leadership development; education and career development; health and life skills; the arts and sports, fitness and recreation.

“We’re the positive place for kids,” Quasula said.

It costs $65 a month for a child to attend the Cottonwood Boys & Girls Club, but scholarships are available.

“Scholarships are a challenge. About 80 percent qualify and are here on a scholarship. We have to keep raising money to cover that,” Quasula said. His goal is for 1,000 people to donate $100 each.

That would be approximately enough money to cover the cost for 125 children for one year. The club averages around 60 children a day after school.

“What we make through the campaign will stay right here at the Cottonwood Club. We want to have all the kids who want to come here get a chance,” Quasula said.

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.

The Cottonwood City Council meeting July 15 was rowdy and crowded as compared to many prior council meetings. A total of 76 citizens showed up to protest the 0.8-cent sales tax hike.

Old Town Mission Director Bryan Detwiler, leader of the protestors, said he believes the residents are starting to see the importance of participating in their government.

“Will [the residents] stop the next tax? Yes,” Detwiler said, “Will [the residents] hold this city accountable for responsible spending in the future? Yes. Will [the residents] hold this city government to responsible governance? Yes.”

Detwiler said the current tentative city budget for fiscal year 2008-09 shows no actual cuts in spending. Instead, the city council “bent over backwards” to lead the public to believe there was no extra funding, he said.

Detwiler respectfully disagrees.

He pointed to the fact that this year’s budget of $88.5 million is actually $10.3 million more than the $78.2 million spent the previous year.
The new Natural Resource Department is one area of added budget expense, Detwiler said.

City Manager Doug Bartosh pushed back, saying the city continues to change and grow, creating a higher demand for services. The question the city council was faced with was whether to cut services or increase revenues, he said.

The council reviewed how Cottonwood has the lowest level of taxes in Yavapai County. Council decided it was prudent to slightly increase revenues versus substantially cutting services, Bartosh said.

The Natural Resource Project is a new one, but money for the project was simply transferred out of the city’s budget for administration, Bartosh said.

The new Natural Resources Department director is a reclassification for Assistant City Manager Robert Hardy; his salary is being transferred to the newly created department.

The tentative FY2008-09 lists the Administration Department as costing the city $462,960, down from last year’s cost of $473,200.

Bartosh said Hardy was transferred out and Kyla Allen was brought in as executive assistant to the city manager. This position was approved in FY2007-08.

Another significant cost for administration is $25,000 in new computer software which comes out of the capital fund, Bartosh said. The other big increase is $18,000 for the coming elections in spring 2009.

The Natural Resource Department is budgeted $149,845 for FY2008-09, up $122,000 from last year. The largest increase is Hardy’s salary, which is $87,962. The rest of the increase is attributed to a new car for the department that will cost $22,000.

Bartosh said the reason for the new car is Hardy travels thousands of miles throughout the state representing the city on water issues. The current car has traveled 100,000 miles and has become unreliable.

He said the next fiscal year’s budget could be less than this year’s since a number of capital improvement projects will be completed.

The city council spent $25.9 million in FY2006-07, spent $78.2 million in FY2007-08 and is expected to spend $88.5 million in FY2008-09.

The jump can be explained by the the Greater Arizona Development Authority loan of $20 million the city must pay for construction of the new recreational center.

The General Fund for FY2008-09 is tentatively set at $19.6 million, an increase of $5.4 million over FY2007-08’s $14.2 million.

Bartosh said the reason for the increase is $4.4 million in reserves being transferred forward for capital projects. These capital projects include Mingus Avenue reconstruction west of Willard Street, 12th Street between Cherry Street and Mingus Avenue, and the design of the Regional Communications Center.

The city also is holding $1 million to be used in the event of an emergency. The amount is enough to keep the city running for 60 days, he said.

Out of this $19.2 million, employee pay accounts for $11.4 million.

Without the 0.8-cent sales tax hike, the city would be forced to substantially cut back services. This means the city might have been forced to close down the Parks and Recreation Department, stop funding the Cottonwood Public Library and drastically cut back on street improvements, Bartosh said.

He said the city would have also been forced to eliminate three police officers and two firefighters; significantly cut back on hours of operation for public services lilke the pool; eliminate Rhythm and Ribs festival; end support for the Senior Center; and eliminate grants and assistance to community organizations.

The Cottonwood Police Department budgeted $3.5 million for FY 2008-09. This is $400,000 less than the previous year, as the cost of designing a new Regional Communications Center is being paid for out of the capital improvements fund, Bartosh said.

Many commuters in Cottonwood know Ione Hazelton, even though they may not know her name. She is “the walking lady,” and that’s how she likes it.

“I just love to walk and do my errands, but early in the morning before it gets hot,” the 86-year-old said.

Hazelton was born in Philadelphia and “came up” during the Great Depression of the 1930s, along with three brothers. Unfortunately, early in those years, her mother died and so did one of her brothers.

“My father lost everything — his house, his wife and one of his sons — so we went to Florida, leaving my two older brothers behind. My father was a carpenter and he did jobs along the way to earn money,” Hazelton said.

Her father, John Niehenke, raised her, and she loved living the outdoors life she had with him.

“He was stern and you minded him; but he was a good father,” she said.

From Florida, father and daughter traveled throughout the Southeast, living in several communities and attending 11 schools while growing up.

As the two settled into a community, Hazelton located the nearest church and joined their choir, regardless of denomination.

“I loved to sing, but I don’t much any more,” Hazelton said.

In Washington, D.C., she sang in the Holy Comforter Episcopal Church. She heard a group of them were going to gather at the cathedral.

“I joined and we sang a concert there in the 1940s. They’re still there and singing,” Hazelton said.

At the Zion Lutheran Church in Wilmington, Del., Hazelton took a group of choir members to the mental hospital in town and sang a well-received concert.

In Hartsville, S.C., she joined the choir at St. Bartholomew’s Church.

“That was during segregation, and the blacks had to sit in the balcony. I prayed so hard that they could sit where they wanted. Then Selma [Ala.] happened and Congress passed the Civil Rights, and I said, ‘Thank you, Lord,’” she said, placing her hands together and looking up.

One job Hazelton had before she married was as a telephone operator. That was when the operators connected one chord to another on a huge switchboard.

Once married, Hazelton stayed home for 30 years, raising her two daughters: Linda, who is married to Tom Swanson, and Sandra, whose husband is Reginald Yande.

Yet, nothing kept this woman down. When her daughters were gone on their own, Hazelton went to work at the “Star Tribune” in Minneapolis. She was the newspaper’s librarian for 13 years.

She became known as the Candy Lady. She always had some on hand at her desk, and the reporters would stop by — several times a day — to raid her supply.

“She became like a mother to the reporters. Even the publisher came down to get candy from her jar,” son-in-law Tom Swanson said.

Hazelton’s love of nature came out in the form of a rescue one day while in Minneapolis. She saw a mother duck come out of a graveyard with her six babies and head for the highway. Well, Hazelton stopped the traffic so they could cross.

The ducks headed down an alley and Hazelton followed them to another roadway. Again she stopped the traffic for them. Then she saw a police car and waived him down.

“I asked him if somebody could gather up the ducks and take them to a lake where they’d be safe,” she said.

Unfortunately she couldn’t recall if the deed was done, but she hopes it was.

While she was at the paper, the union decided to strike against the bosses. The strike lasted 27 days in 1980 and, as the librarian, Hazelton recorded everything that happened and every article written about the strike. Her work is part of the historical record.

Since retiring from the newspaper, Hazelton has enjoyed her grandchildren and many of the activities they enjoyed — even ice fishing.

“I went with my grandson, Michael, to a lake in Minnesota, and sat on a bucket for six hours in the cold on the ice,” Hazelton said and laughed. It was the first and last time she went ice fishing.

Not long ago, Hazelton moved to San Diego where the Swansons live. According to Swanson, his mother-in-law used to hang out at the McDonald’s downtown. People would come and sit down with her and ask for advice.

“There’s just something about her. People are drawn to her. She’s an absolutely giving person. In San Diego she’d give away her umbrella or $1 if a person needed one,” he said.

Hazelton and the Swansons moved to Cottonwood in 2005. She likes it here.

“I have lived in 10 states, and I’m glad I lived in 10 states so I can see the different cultures. Cottonwood is the kindest place on earth. People offer me rides, but I tell them, ‘No thanks; I’m a walker,’” she said.

Although she is 86, in her spirit she is 16 going on 17, she said with a coy smile behind her bright eyes.

As an aside, Hazelton commented on this year’s presidential race.

“Historically speaking, having a black man running for president and an old person running for president, and a woman in the race, I think is wonderful. People are going to look back at this and say we were OK,” she said.

Hazelton can be seen nearly every morning making her way down the street, a little hunched at the shoulders and always wearing a hat and coat. People wave or honk, and always say, “hello” as they pass her by — even if they don’t know her name.

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.

The sales tax increase is coming.

Without the hike, police will be unable to respond to shoplifters, speeders, domestic abusers and drunks.

Houses will burn to the ground because firefighters will be stuck at the station, according to some officials.

The current tax of 2.2 cents for every dollar spent will be raised to 3 cents for every dollar spent.

This will bring an estimated $1.8 million for fiscal year 2008-09 to the city.
Cottonwood City Finance Director Rudy Rodriguez said the economy is expected to start turning around in late 2009. This economic recovery is projected to produce $3 million in revenue with the tax hike during FY2009-10.

Rodriguez said he based this expectation on many sources such as the Governor’s Office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting.

Local realtors also say the turnaround is going to start late next year, he said.

Century 21 Real Estate Broker Jerry Butterbondt said based on what he has read, and from watching the current market, the economic recovery should start in about a year and a half.

His reasoning was based on the assumption of foreclosures on homes leveling out, and buyers showing up to buy property on the cheap.
“There are people out there now looking to purchase short sales and foreclosures,” Butterbondt said.

He also said people having trouble finding a job comes down to attitude. “If they can’t find a job, it’s because they aren’t looking,” Butterbondt said.

The local real estate market is strong and there are buyers out there looking for a good deal, according to Butterbondt.

Cottonwood Real Estate Broker Phil Terbell said he has been wondering what set of circumstances would cause the market to turn around.

He referred to high gas prices and the current financial crisis with the country’s largest mortgage companies, the Federal National Mortgage Association, nicknamed Fannie Mae, and the Federal Home Mortgage Corporation, nicknamed Freddie Mac, and how these problems would continue to make for a “soft” real estate market.

Terbell said his national contacts all project the real estate market to begin recovering in late 2009.

The city is cautiously optimistic for the recovery, Rodriguez said, and he will look at the incoming revenues for FY2008-09.

“If the revenue is not as high as expected,” he said, “then the city will have to keep going along. Again we’re back to assumptions, and I prefer to be optimistic that things are bad, but they are going to get better.”

Rodriguez said the city has been dealing with lack of revenue from having no property tax by not taking care of city employees.

He referred to new buildings like the Public Safety Building and the coming recreational center, but the problem is that the city cannot pay the employees what they are worth.

The city has been paying for public services by not paying competitive salaries, he said.

If worse comes to worse, then the city will have to institute
a reduction in force, Rodriguez said.

He said the city council decided to increase taxes to prevent a reduction and ensure the current level of services to the public are maintained.

“The sales tax is funding everything, so when it is booming it is great; when it is not, then the city is in for a wild ride,” Rodriguez said. The city is currently on a “wild ride.”

His understanding is the sales tax hike will be removed if a property tax is approved by the voters and the money will then be directed to police, fire and streets.

“This is by no means over,” Rodriguez said.

Greg Nix can be reached at 282-7795, Ext. 122, or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

A proposed budget that could conceivably more than double the tax rate in the Camp Verde Sanitary District is being looked at as a “worst case scenario,” said District Chairman Gregg Freeman.

A structural failure that crippled construction on a new wastewater treatment plant in January was found to be the fault of the engineers who signed off on the plans, Phoenix-based Coe and Van Loo, according to an independent engineering analysis.

The district is actively involved in negotiations with Coe and Van Loo to get the engineering firm to pay for the repairs, Freeman said. While the company has agreed in principle to pay for most of the costs, executives still have some questions about who else should throw in for the tab. Most recently, Coe and Van Loo figures their share to be somewhere between $1.3 million and $1.5 million.

Repairs will cost $1.98 million, according to the most recent budget estimates, and would put total district expenses at around $2.65 million, more than double the current year’s projected spending budget. With property in the district valued at nearly $40 million, taxes were assessed at $2.31 per $100 of value, including a levy to fund the district’s debt obligations.

The tank failure has already pushed back the plant’s construction by at least six to seven months, and the negotiations over liability are occurring in the midst of budget season, when the district is required by law to approve a balanced budget.

Hopefully, Freeman said, all sides will reach an agreement before the budget has to be made final. Until then, however, the district has to look at the possibility of absorbing the cost for the plant repairs and, if they refuse to pay, taking Coe and Van Loo to court for reimbursement.

If the “worst case scenario” were to come to pass, taxes would have to be raised to $4.99 per $100 of value to make up the difference in the upcoming fiscal year. That doesn’t include a proposed debt reduction levy of nearly $1.10, which would, in effect, raise sewer taxes to almost $6.09 per $100 of valuation.

That means that the owner of a home assessed at $200,000 who paid $4,620 in sewer taxes last year, would pay $12,180 this year.

Freeman said the district board was doing everything it could to make sure that scenario doesn’t occur.

A power outage at Wal-Mart Sunday sent several customers away from the Cottonwood supercenter without their purchases.

The power went down around 5:10 p.m. Sunday, June 15. The outage lasted for about two hours, until APS returned the power around 7 p.m. Meanwhile, employees ushered customers out of the doors and scrambled to cover the refrigerated cases in the grocery section.

“It caused us big problems here. We had to close the store down,” Store Manager Jason Ferris said.

As near as could be figured, Ferris said the problem was something with the store’s electrical box.

“APS couldn’t explain it. It could have been a number of things,” he said
Gari Basham, with APS, said that when their representative looked at the metering equipment at the back of the building, the box was unlocked. He found the main switch had been tripped, which shut off the power to the entire building.

“It was like somebody just shut it off. We could find no reason for the breaker to have tripped. There was no storm, nor excessive heat,” Basham, who was inside the Wal-Mart when the power went out, he said.

He did say the serviceman told him while he was working he saw two teenage boys sitting on the guardrail above the equipment drinking soda pop and watching him, but did not think anything of it at the time.

“It was curious to have those two boys sitting there watching,” Basham said.

The serviceman fitted the equipment with an APS lock and Wal-Mart attached its own lock.

“Even small companies need to secure their service equipment. We don’t want this to happen again,” Basham said.

While APS worked on the power supply, the open refrigeration cases inside the store, like dairy and meats, were covered with plastic and cardboard to keep the cool in, and the doors on the freezer cases were kept closed.

“We do training in how to do this quickly in case the power shuts down. When those cases are covered like that, they last approximately four hours. On the freezers, we couldn’t let our customers open them so we had to kick them out,” Ferris said.

After the power returned, Ferris said, the employees checked the food in all of the cases and it was still cold enough.

“There was no product loss — just loss of sales and inconvenience to our customers,” Ferris said.

He was not sure exactly how many customers were in the store at the time. The store reopened a few minutes after the power was restored.

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.

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