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Architects required to spend more time than expected on the Cottonwood Public Library expansion agreed to take less for work performed after the original deadline passed, according to a settlement agreement unanimously approved by Cottonwood City Council on Dec. 1.

City Attorney Steve Horton negotiated the settlement with LEA Architects after the firm submitted two change orders June 9 asking for $39,000 for its services. LEA was hired to design the 8,400-square-foot expansion and to serve as project manager. The project, scheduled to be completed in eight months, took 18 months and is still not fully complete, Horton said.

Flagstaff Design & Construction, the general contractor, claims it was unable to complete the project on time because rain interfered with proper construction of the roof and windows, Horton said.

“Because of various issues and delays encountered during the course of the project, the architects wound up spending considerably more time overseeing the project and administering the contract,” Horton told council.

The city paid David Garcia, a consulting architect, to review the change orders.

Garcia reported LEA deserved additional compensation.

After reviewing Garcia’s report and discussing the issue further with Horton, LEA agreed to take $27,000 in settlement of its claims

The city decided to withhold $41,000 of the contract price from Flagstaff Design because of the delays. The settlement with LAE will come out of this fund, Horton said. Despite efforts with Flagstaff Design, the contractor refused to participate in the settlement agreement, Horton said

The city of Cottonwood is trying to decide whether to revisit its ordinance regulating the use of A-frame signs or let it stand as written and step up enforcement.

The signs have become a common sight around town advertising businesses, sales and special events. Some are regular features. A few direct people to the business from a main roadway.

“We do consider the signs for special events for temporary use,” Charlie Scully, Community Development Department planner for Cottonwood, said.

At a recent Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, city officials asked people, especially business owners to express their opinion about the signs.

“Some business owners say they are necessary for the success of their business. The other point of view is the cluttered look of these signs creates a negative view of the city and its businesses,” Scully said.

The city’s current sign and zoning ordinances prohibit A-frame and portable signs, except for special events, he said. It includes a list of exemptions, such as political and real estate signs.

The Cottonwood City Council will discuss the A-frame sign ordinance at the council’s Tuesday, Oct. 10, work session. Planning and zoning officials have conducted public meetings to get opinions and ideas about the signs. A-frame signs for businesses and commercial operations are the focus of the discussions.

“We want to bring some options to the council for their direction,” Scully said. “We want to decide if these signs can be considered and, if so, what would the conditions be.”

Scully said officials want to decide either to keep the existing regulations and enforce them across the board or amend the existing ordinance to allow the signs under certain circumstances.

“We want to give a fair look at the issue. It’s one of those that you’re not going to get complete consensus,” Scully said. “We just want to resolve the issue and come up with a solution that will work.”

He said the focus of the A-frame ordinance also does not include yard, garage or estate sale signs.

“Those are addressed in other areas. That’s a different story, although it has similar issues,” Scully said.

One of those issues is safety, particularly concerning visibility on the roadways.

Scully said officials are still looking for input from the public and business owners on the A-frame signs.

The council’s Tuesday, Oct. 10, meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the council chambers, 826 N. Main St.

For more information, call 634-5505.

 

Some Cottonwood residents are spending time at a winter home in Northern Arizona because their home in Verde Village Unit 3 burned to the ground Saturday, July 18.

All of a sudden the homeowners heard a loud explosion, around 2:44 p.m. When they went to investigate, they saw a workshop next to the double-wide manufactured home fully engulfed in flames, according to Verde Valley Fire District reports.

“He tried to get a garden hose, but the fire chased him down the carport. He and two women in the house got out OK. The fire moved very fast,” Fire Chief Jerry Doerksen said.

Inside the shop in the 2600 block of South Sunset Drive were several different kinds of chemicals, paint supplies, acetylene torches and various ammunition.

The cause of the fire was undetermined, and with the damage done it will probably remain undetermined. It took only a few minutes for the fire to burn the house to the ground.

“We do know the fire was accidental,” Doerksen said.

As flames and black smoke roared into the sky, neighboring homes were threatened, but only one received any real damage. To the south, the exterior of the neighboring house exposed to the fire was scorched, and the windows on that side blew out. Firefighters and a neighbor on the roof with a garden hose stopped the fire from getting inside. The house to the north had very little damage, according to the fire reports.

As a precaution, firefighters had Cottonwood police officers and Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office deputies evacuate houses surrounding the one on fire. The officers also helped with traffic and crowd control. Several neighbors and onlookers lined the street across from the fire, many using their cell phones to take pictures.

Firefighters from Verde Valley, Clarkdale, Cottonwood, Camp Verde and Sedona fought the blaze and assisting were Verde Valley Ambulance with the rehab truck and members of the Trauma Intervention Program.

“There were a lot of neighbors that helped, too, to get people alerted so they could be safe,” Doerksen said.

After the fire, Verde Valley Fire District firefighters got some plywood and boarded up the windows of the house to the south.

The fire is still under investigation, and an estimate of the damage was not available by press time.

“We do know it was a heavy, heavy loss,” Doerksen said.

Also at the fire was Cottonwood Fire Chief Mike Casson who helped coordinate the firefighters’ efforts. He said it was fortunate that there was a fire hydrant close by.

“The one we used, the city water company put in about six months ago. Otherwise we would have had to use water tenders,” Casson 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.

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.

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