Tue, Nov

If it were not for the 0.8 percent sales tax increase the Cottonwood City Council added Nov. 1, the city’s books would show another year in the red.

City Finance Director Rudy Rodriguez said he tracks the 0.8 percent increase separately from the established 2.2 percent sales tax so he can compare apples to apples.

“Including the 0.8 percent, we’re up for fiscal 2008-09. If we actually compare just the 2.2 percent, we’re down 11.75 percent over fiscal 2007-08. We were off 8 percent at this same time last year,” Rodriguez said.

The books for the city, looking over the past five years, show a decline in sales tax revenues for fiscal year 2006-07 as well. Going back to FY 2005-06, the revenues were up 10 percent over the previous year.

“We went from having gains to losing our shirts. The 0.8 percent is the only thing that’s keeping us above last year,” Rodriguez said.

Several factors contributed to the dip in revenues. Of course, Rodriguez said, the big reason is the decline in the economy. People are not spending; they are not traveling and are keeping an eye on their budgets.

“Gasoline peaked in July 2008, but we were already trending downward before that,” he said.

To make up for the losses, departments made cuts and have dipped into the city’s reserves account to absorb the difference. Rodriguez said he can absorb maybe $100,000 to $150,000 if necessary.

“We can’t do much more than that or we’ll run out of reserves. Then we’re really in trouble,” he said.

More cuts are expected, he said, but for the upcoming year the priority is to protect merit increases for employees, and the city is not looking at any new employees except 12 new firefighters partially funded by a grant and staffing the recreation center. No additional vehicles or new computers are in the budget either.

“All we’re trying to do is what’s necessary to balance the budget,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve also talked about changing work schedules to cut back on utilities.”

As far as projections for FY 2009-10, Rodriguez said he called some of his colleagues around the state to get a feel for where things are going.

“It was difficult to determine anything. It’s all over the board. Some are experiencing growth bursts like in Phoenix. Others in the rural areas are stagnant. We’re real fortunate we have had a good, steady growth, but what’s down is retail,” Rodriguez said. “It’s just tough all over.”

For example, income from retail sales tax for FY 2004-05 was $5.1 million. Then in FY 2005-06, it went to $6.2 million, followed by $6.8 million for FY 2006-07. In FY 2007-08 the retail sales tax collected was $6.2 million.

Rodriguez’s preliminary estimates are that the city will experience another 6 percent drop in revenues, comparing the 2.2 percent. The 0.8 percent will help keep things afloat.

“That should be sufficient to cover the two big items — the firefighters and making sure we have money to open the recreation center in late 2009-10,” he said.

Services are not in trouble so far, but Rodriguez said the City Council may have some very tough decisions to make to keep the city running if the downturn continues for long.

“We’ve been very fortunate though. We’ve been frugal, and we’ll have to continue to be even when the economy turns around,” he 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.

People who drink and drive during the holidays will be caught by the Cottonwood Police Department.

This weekend is the last of three weekends in December CPD conducts a DUI Task Force to get drunk drivers off the road.

During the first task force the first weekend of the month, police officers arrested approximately four motorists for drinking and driving, according to CPD Police Chief Jody Fanning.

“The task force gives the ability for us to target specific situations,” Fanning said. Patrol officers always look for DUIs, but they have other matters to attend to as well such as burglary patrol and domestic violence situations.

Officers on the task force, however, have one mission.

CPD will also conduct Underage Task Forces where minors are sent into businesses to attempt to purchase alcohol. Those who sell to minors will be cited, Fanning said.

Officers will also watch for minors who try to persuade adults outside grocery and convenience stores to purchase alcohol for them.

Funding for task forces comes from grants provided by the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission and Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.

Grant money is used to pay overtime to officers participating in the task force, according to Fanning, which allows CPD to keep the same number of officers on patrol during the task force operation.

Cottonwood City Council recently accepted funding at its Dec. 16 meeting for money to purchase a $55,000 Mobile DUI Enforcement Trailer to be used during future task force patrols.

CPD will not conduct a DUI Task Force on New Year’s Eve, however, Fanning said.

Cottonwood isn’t a New Year’s Eve destination, and many people leave town for the holiday, according to Fanning. Those who stick around normally don’t drink and drive because they know officers are looking for drunk drivers.

CPD will have additional officers on patrol instead.

Drunk drivers kill many people, Fanning said, and he encourages Cottonwood residents to be safe this holiday season.

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.

Seven people collected paperwork to run for four seats opening up on the Cottonwood City Council.

Seats currently held by Vice Mayor Karen Pfeifer, Councilwoman Linda Norman, and Councilmen Tim Elinski and James Chapman are up for grabs in the city’s primary election Tuesday, March 10.

Pfeifer, Norman and Elinski are among the seven, but Chapman does not plan to run for another term.

“It was a heartbreaking decision to not run,” Chapman said. He’s served on the council since March 2008 when he was appointed to fill a vacant seat.
Cottonwood residents deserve council members who can devote themselves 100 percent to the job, according to Chapman, and right now he just can’t do that.

Chapman said he’d love to run again, but right now it just isn’t right. He is a single father and with the economy in the state it’s in, he said he may have to take another job.

Four other packets were picked up by Ruben Jauregin, a former Cottonwood mayor, Mike Baker, Bob Oliphant and Darold Smith.

Pfeifer, Norman and Elinski all said they have unfinished business with the city they’d like to see through.

“I still enjoy [it], and I know I’m doing a good job,” Pfeifer said.

Pfeifer’s served on the council for the past 14 years and lived in Cottonwood for 30. She said people in the community asked her to run again.

Norman has been working with the Northern Arizona Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority since mid-2006 and wants to be involved in creating and implementing a five-year plan for Cottonwood Area Transit System.

“I think there’s a lot to be done yet,” Norman said.

Three years ago Elinski was appointed to fill a vacant seat and he said he’s not ready to give it up.

The city faces important decisions in the future, particularly with regard to the economy and annexation of property, and Elinski said he wants to take part in shaping the city’s future.

Cottonwood residents have until Wednesday, Dec. 10, to turn in completed election packets to be included on the March 10 ballot.

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.

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.

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Verde Valley Weather

Cottonwood United States Mostly Cloud (night), 68 °F
Current Conditions
Sunrise: 7:8 am   |   Sunset: 5:20 pm
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