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Cottonwood’s newest magistrate lacks a law degree but possesses all the formal training and experience required to rule on matters expected to come before her, including requests for extensions of time or to modify installment payment schedules.

Cottonwood Municipal Court administrator Janie Randall was given the position of associate magistrate at the recommendation of Magistrate A. Douglas LaSota at the Cottonwood City Council meeting July 6. Randall’s duties as associate magistrate will include hearing cases in LaSota’s absence.Court Administrator Janie B. Randall will add the responsibilities of associate magistrate to her list of duties starting Thursday, Aug. 5, following a unanimous vote of the City Council on July 6.

“I hate to say it because it’s such a cliché, but this one’s a no-brainer,” Councilman Terrence Pratt said in support of Randall’s appointment.

Randall told council she’s ready to step in for Presiding Magistrate A. Douglas LaSota when needed and said she was grateful for the opportunity to serve.

Hiring outside lawyers as temporary judges when LaSota is ill, on vacation, overbooked, or recused from ruling on a case costs the city thousands of dollars each year, LaSota told council.

The promotion, which Randall accepts without any additional pay, will save the city the money of hiring an outside lawyer and speed up the time it takes to process cases, he said.

A 14-year veteran of municipal courts in Yavapai County, Randall graduated from Pepperdine University with a bachelor of arts and University of San Diego Lawyer’s Assistance Program with a certificate of 150 hours litigation training.

A former volunteer mediator for Prescott Justice Court and Superior Court Alternative Dispute Resolution Office, Randall enjoys experience working face to face with advocates engaged in courtroom battle.

She is of Hispanic descent and speaks Spanish, two attributes the city desires in an associate magistrate, LaSota told council.

“She will add diversity to our court,” LaSota said, making it more user-friendly for litigants.

A mother of four, Randall and her husband raised their children to engage in public service. Two serve in the Army, and a third plans to enter the Peace Corps. Their fourth child plays college football.

Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” celebrating its 50th year in print, attracted her to pursue a legal career when she was a young girl, Randall said.

Through the narration of a young girl, the novel tells the story of her humble country lawyer father who tries to help a black man wrongly accused of rape avoid conviction.

As a child, Randall enjoyed the full run of a courthouse with her friend, whose father was an attorney. Twice each week, she watched the legal process from behind the scenes and found it fascinating.

“For me, it made me passionate about working in the law,” she said. Although she was originally headed to law school, a serious illness required Randall to stay at home and care for her ailing mother. She decided to scale back her dreams of a career as a lawyer.

Instead, she eventually found work as a paralegal, then took a job in court administration and never looked back.

When sitting as magistrate, Randall said she plans to “listen to the needs of the public that has to come before me and do my best to make findings based on what is in the best interests of justice.”

A $1.3 million condominium development for airplanes and airplane-related business at Cottonwood Airport won final plat approval by unanimous vote of the Cottonwood City Council on July 6, but questions were raised about the fairness of the deal.

Developer Bob Backus received final plat approval for a set of five already-constructed airplane hanger condominiums located on Airpark Road and connected to the Cottonwood Municipal Airport at the City Council meeting on July 6.The five-plex airplane hangar, which the law treats as a condominium because it consists of five walled-off sections within a single, 10,000-square-foot building, must form a nonprofit association and record bylaws to begin operation, City Attorney Steve Horton told council.

Tenants are expected to consist of people who own their own airplanes and aviation-related businesses, developer Bob Backus told council.

The expansive hangar was constructed more than 20 years after the developer leased city-owned property along the runway at Cottonwood Airport for a 100-year term starting in December 1983.

The developer pays a minimal annual lease payment to the city to occupy the land, but spent $1.3 million during the last two years to build the hangar complex, Backus said.

During public discussion, Cottonwood resident Bob Oliphant urged Backus to agree to modify his development company’s 100-year lease to include a $13,000 annual ground lease payment the city could use to create jobs and other economic development.

“I would ask Mr. Backus to agree to rewrite the lease so the citizens of Cottonwood can get a fair return,” Oliphant said.

Oliphant argued Backus holds what amounts to ownership of the property but pays virtually nothing for it.

Community Development Director George Gehlert reported some have urged the city to require its property be used to support economic development, but this was not contemplated when the lease was first signed in 1983.

Backus told council he believes the hangars will attract financially secure people who will invest in the local economy. Backus Family Investments’ development of the land already provided many local jobs, he said.

“We certainly want to see the property be used to create jobs and I believe that it will, but I can tell you one thing that’s not going to happen,” Backus said. “We’re not going to pay $13,000 a year.”

Under the final plat, council has the right to review the qualifications of subtenants wanting to lease the hangars.

A firefighter exits the burned mobile home in Verde Villages 1 covered in insulation and soot Monday, July 5.A mobile home to a family of four burned in a residential fire, which began at approximately 1:45 p.m. on Monday, July 5.

The owner, right, of a home which suffered a total loss in a house fire in Verde Villages 1 is comforted by a neighbor Monday, July 5.The home was located on Emerald Court, in Verde Village 1.

Area firefighters finish extinguishing a residential fire which burned through the above-head crawlspace of a mobile home in Verde Villages 1 on Monday, July 5.Firefighters from Verde Valley Fire District and Cottonwood Fire Department arrived on scene to find smoke pouring out the eaves and roof vents of the affected house.

All the members of the family escaped the fire and were uninjured. The house is likely a complete loss, according to VVFD Assistant Chief Mike Flummer.

VVFD fire investigator Dave McIlroy, said firefighters found evidence the fire began outside the house on a deck at the front door.

After speaking with the homeowner, investigators concluded the smoldering fire in the attic began when embers from an improperly extinguished cigarette blew up into eaves of the home, causing a smoky burn in the attic which quickly spread to both ends of the mobile home.

A Verde Valley Fire District firefighter, covered with soggy insulation, removes his respirator after battling a fire in a mobile home on Emerald Court in Verde Villages 1 on Monday, July 5.Neighbors comforted the couple who owned the home as firefighters put out the fire.

"They are the nicest people," next-door neighbor Ed Blauvelt said. "They were always willing to help anybody."

Firefighters pull   hose into a burning mobile home on Emerald Court in Verde Villages 1  on  Monday, July 5.Trauma Intervention Volunteers came to offer assistance to the family after firefighters were finished on-scene. Verde Valley Ambulance Co. arrived to evaluate the physical condition of firefighters who worked inside the smoky structure.

Traffic backed up on State Route 89A for about 45 minutes Tuesday, June 29, while Cottonwood Police Department cleaned up an accident involving one of its own officers, Public Information Officer Sgt. Gareth Braxton-Johnson reported.

The  two-vehicle injury accident was reported shortly after 2 p.m. near the highway's intersection with Candy Lane

An investigation at the scene determined a white 2004 Cadillac and a Cottonwood police patrol vehicle collided when the Cadillac, driven by an 83-year-old man, made a left turn in front officer, who was traveling westbound on State Route 89A.

The officer attempted to avoid the collision by swerving out of his lane, according to Braxton-Johnson. However, he was unable to avoid the collision and struck the rear passenger side of the Cadillac

The officer was transported by ambulance to the Verde Valley Medical Center for minor hand and wrist injuries suffered from the airbag deployment. He is expected to recover.

The driver of the Cadillac did not report any injuries. Traffic on State Route 89A was diverted for approximately 45 minutes for the completion of the accident investigation.

A brush fire burned within 20 feet of a Verde Village home shortly before 2 p.m. Thursday, June 24.

Verde Valley Fire District acting Capt. Bruce Hagberg attacks the flames of a wildfire which broke out at a river access point on Commanche Drive at approximately 1:40 p.m. on Thursday, June 24.Verde Valley Fire District responded to the call from 18-year-old Marcus Drazick at his home in the 4000 block of Commanche Drive.

Verde Valley Fire District acting Capt. Bruce Hagberg attacks the flames of a wildfire which broke out at a river access point on Commanche Drive at approximately 1:40 p.m. on Thursday, June 24.Drazick saw the smoke, called 9-1-1 and raced to the back yard to grab a hose. As flames approached, Drazick started watering down an area behind his home where the fire was feeding on a tangle of thick vegetation and broken branches inside a grove of cottonwood trees.

VVFD was on the scene within five minutes of the call, according to 14-year-old Daniel Davis, who was swimming in the nearby Verde River when the fire began.

Mike Clounts, a firefighter and paramedic with Verde Valley Fire District, works among the charred weeds and brush extinguishing the last smoldering piles of a small wildfire which threatened a home in the 4000 block of Verde Village roadway Thursday, June 24.“We were swimming and saw six kids near the place where the fire started. They were smoking,” Davis said. “I don’t know what they were smoking.”

Verde Valley Fire District firefighters Mike Clounts, left, and Dave McIlvoy extinguish a wildfire near a river access on Commanche Drive on Thursday, June 24Shortly after the six left the area, Davis and his friend, Sam Ofetelo, 15, said they saw smoke they believed was coming from a small campfire.

“Five minutes later, it was a lot of smoke,” Davis said.

Marcus Drazick, 18, uses a yard hose to try to keep a wildfire near his home from taking over the structure at approximately 1:45 p.m. on Thursday, June 24. Verde Valley Fire District emergency responders arrived on scene moments later to fully extinguish the fire.“We were scared,” Ofetelo said. “We ran right by the flames.”

After Verde Valley Fire District crews arrive to suppress a wildland fire in the 4000 block of Commanche Drive on Thursday, June 24, Marcus Drazick, 18, steps back from attempting to defend his home with a garden hose.At least one engine, a water tender and a utility vehicle were at the scene to douse the flames, leaving an acre of charred ground and black, smoldering tree trunks. No structures were damaged.

Wildfire flames engulf weeds and brush dangerously close to a home in the 4000 block of Commanche Drive on Thursday, June 24 as Verde Valley Fire District emergency responders work to put the fire out on a hot afternoon.The fire was out within 30 minutes, but VVFD left firefighters at the scene to take care of hot spots and to make sure the fire did not flare up again.

“I’m very upset that these kids have no respect and don’t obey the signs,” homeowner Danielle Drazick said. “We don’t mind sharing the nature we have back here with people, but when they start fires and leave garbage that we have to pick up we get pretty unhappy about it.”

“This fire came pretty close to our house,” Drazick said. “Too close for comfort.”

VVFD Fire Chief Jerry Doerksen, who was also at the scene, said the wildfire was evidence of how important it is to maintain defensible space around a house.

“If they’d gotten in there with a weed eater and knocked all those weeds down, they probably would have just had little itty bitty flames to deal with,” Doerksen said.

Verde Valley Fire District firefighters attack the flames of a wildfire which broke out at a river access point on Commanche Drive at approximately 1:40 p.m. on Thursday, June 24.Cottonwood Utilities Operation Manager Michael McCarbery, who was also at the scene, said a fire hydrant installed in 2009 was used to help battle the fire. It was the first time the unit was used, McCarbery said.

Verde Valley Fire District firefighter Dave McIlvoy extinguishes a wildfire near a river access on Commanche Drive on Thursday, June 24.“I’m just here to make sure the firefighters and the residents get the water they need,” McCarbery said. “Everything went smoothly.”

Mingus Union High  School Co-Principal Tamara Addis“She walks the talk,” Mingus Union High School District Superintendent Tim Foist said.

Tamara Addis takes the helm this summer as co-principal of Mingus Union High School, a position she is sharing with district Superintendent Tim Foist for the 2010-11 school year.In the weeks since she was named co-principal of Mingus Union High School, Tamara Addis continues to demonstrate she is the right person to replace Principal Marc Cooper, who retired in May, Foist said.

“Those are some big shoes to fill,” Addis said, pausing for an interview in Cooper’s former office, which she has yet to occupy.

“Stepping into Marc Cooper’s shoes is going to be a big job,” she said. “He really had a good pulse of the community.”

Foist said Addis is up to the task.

“She has proven herself to have the skills to take our school to the next level,” Foist said.

Foist and Addis will act as co-principals for the 2010-11 school year, after which time Foist expects to name Addis to the full-time job.

Addis said she plans to keep her duties related to curriculum and instruction while Assistant Principal Allen Mitchell focuses on daily operations, including discipline and attendance, Addis said.

Addis will continue monitoring MUHS curriculum, comparing it to state standards to make sure what is taught in the classroom advances students’ ability to perform well on Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards test.

“What I have going for me here is we have excellent teachers and they are able to deliver a rich content in an artful way,” Addis said.

“We have incredible staff and incredible students,” she said. “I believe I have the energy to push them to realize their dreams, aspirations and goals.”

Ten years ago, Addis transferred to MUHS from Sedona Red Rock High School, where she taught math and science. Starting in 2000, she worked as a math teacher and won promotion to director of curriculum in 2009.

Addis spent her first year in MUHS administration as director of curriculum, applying her experience and training as a master of secondary education. She also holds several administrative certifications.

She invited the community to drop in her office anytime, take a tour of the school, and see for themselves the programs and infrastructure their tax dollars support.

“I want people to feel this is their school — make them feel welcome,” Addis said. “I really want that open door.”

Mingus Union High School’s former wrestling coach could be out of a job by Tuesday, July 13, if he fails to appeal the Mingus Union High School District Governing Board’s decision to approve charges leveled against him by school administrators.

Patrice Horstman, legal counsel for the Mingus Union High School District governing boar, explains the options available to the board members  at the school board meeting Monday, June 14, regarding the decision of whether or not to accept the district administration's recommendation in the matter of physical education teacher and state champion winning wrestling coach Tom Wokasch, who is alleged to have mismanaged funds.The board voted 4-1 Monday, June 14, to accept the charges against five-time state champion wrestling coach Tom Wokasch, who is alleged to have misappropriated at least $33,000 in gate and concession receipts during the last three years. Wokasch resigned as coach earlier this year, but continues under contract with the district as a physical education teacher.

Board members John Tavasci, Jim Ledbetter, Andy Grosetta and Brenda Zenan voted to accept the charges. Board member Mike Mulcaire voted against.

“Based on the information I was presented, I’m not sure if it’s justified,” Mulcaire said after the vote.

The vote came after MUHSD lawyer Patrice Horstman told the board Wokasch did not respond to the district’s offer of settlement.

Wokasch may challenge the allegations at a due process hearing should he file notice of appeal within 30 days. Should Wokasch appeal, the board will appoint an independent hearing officer to make findings of fact and recommendations.

Mingus Union High School District board member Mike Mulcaire, left, listens as fellow board member John Tavasci Jr. makes a motion to accept Superintendent Tim Foist's recommendation  at a school board meeting Monday, June 14, regarding physical education teacher Tom Wokasch's employment with the district because of alleged mismanagement of wrestling team funds.William Holder, Wokasch’s attorney, could not be reached for comment as of press time.

The board also voted unanimously to not place Wokasch on administrative leave.

“If you elected not to place him on administrative leave, he would not be acting in an official capacity as a teacher because the school is closed,” Horstman said before the vote.

Wokasch allegedly failed to follow proper procedures required to account for gate and concession receipts and reportedly deposited the money into his family’s personal checking accounts.

In an e-mail circulated to his supporters Wednesday, June 9, Wokasch wrote, “I didn’t take any money. I am not paying back this money because it was used for the wrestlers.”

“This money was used on your child,” Wokasch wrote.

In stark contrast to the crowded condition at the Mingus Union High School District board meeting May 13, the meeting to decide whether to pursue termination of MUHS physical education teacher Tom Wokasch on Monday, June 14, carries on without the attendance of the popular wrestling coach’s many supporters. The board voted 4-1 to continue the termination process which Wokasch now has the opportunity to appeal.Wokasch was allegedly unable to provide documentation showing how all of the money was spent.

The charges against Wokasch state: “Your conduct constitutes a misappropriation of funds and serious neglect of duty.”

Wokasch was notified of the proper procedures on at least four separate occasions between August 2006 and May 2009, administrators allege.

It will now be up to Wokasch to decide what steps should be taken in the future.

Lunch ladies with the  Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District could be out of a job next year if a COCSD research team chooses an independent food service operation to cook meals for students, according to COCSD Business Manager David Snyder.

For years, COCSD staff have prepared and served meals as part of the food service department.

Looking for ways to save money on the program, the COCSD board directed administrators to review proposals from outside vendors, Snyder said.

Cottonwood-Oak  Creek School District Food Service  Secretary B.J. Lyttle, right, and  Food Service Manager Laura  Engebretson talk about concerns they have  regarding the Mingus Union  High School District’s decision to outsource  their school’s food  services Thursday, June 3.Proposals are due Tuesday, July 6, after which time the board may decide to hire an outside contractor or hire a new food service director and continue the program as usual, he said.

COCSD Food Service Secretary B.J. Lyttle and Food Service Manager Laura Engebretson said they both hope the district decides to continue offering its own internal food service.

Engebretson, involved with the program for more than a decade, said it provides tasty food that meets state nutrition guidelines for several hundred students each year.

“We’ve done a great job for these kids,” she said. “We put a lot of care into what we do.”

The COCSD offers lunch free to children under 18 and at a reduced cost for adults throughout June.

For the last several years, the Mingus Union High School District has contracted with COCSD for food service at the high school. The contract earned COCSD more than $20,000 a year.

Concerns about outsourcing was one of the reasons MUHSD Governing Board voted unanimously in April to look for food service options other than COCSD, Lyttle said.

MUHSD has decided to create its own in-house food service, which was the way meals were handled before the COCSD contract.

Snyder said COCSD’s decision to seek independent contractors to provide food service was unrelated to MUHSD’s decision to cancel the COCSD contract.

A larger contractor would offer the district the benefit of economies of scale, Snyder said, which means it could place large food orders on a national basis, thereby obtaining food at a cheaper cost.

Snyder said any vendor selected as part of the contracting process would also have the financial wherewithal to successfully promote healthy lifestyles and good eating habits in the cafeteria.

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