Mon, Jan

For more than 25 years Cottonwood has boasted that the city does not have a property tax, however, that may soon change.
On Aug. 22, 1978, the Cottonwood City Council abolished a city property tax and replaced it with a sales tax, now at 2.2 percent.
The tide has turned once again and the City Council is thinking of initiating a property tax for owners within city limits.
At a Jan. 8 work session, the council directed the staff to prepare a resolution so the city can call for a special election Tuesday, May 20, to have voters decide whether the council could impose a property tax.
“We wanted to get this on the table because there’s a time limit to call for an election. We have until no less than 30 days before the election, which would be [Friday] April 18, roughly. The earliest would have been late December,” Finance Director Rudy Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said his department is researching to find out where the city is going to be financially in the next five years, then bring any expected shortfalls back to the council.
“We’re researching what the minimal impact, or amount, is that we need — what we have to have to continue our services,” he said.
The question before voters will be two-fold, Rodriguez said. Voters will be asked permission to have a property tax and what levy the city is seeking.
“After that is established we’ll figure it into the rate based on valuation,” Rodriguez said.
Over the past nine years, Rodriguez said the needs of the city have changed, particularly through growth and the desires of residents. Combined with the downturn in the economy as a factor, fluctuating revenue from sales tax is a concern.
“A property tax is more stable,” Rodriguez said.
Money generated by a property tax is most likely slated for public safety, he said, but it could be spent on shortfalls in other areas. Public safety has needed expansion for several years, he said.
Rodriguez said that there are several options the city could use including to levy a property tax, increase the sales tax or even shift money.
“The property tax could not go [to the voters]. If it does and does not pass the vote, we’ll have to look at Plan B,” Rodriguez said. “It depends on what the research shows and what the voters think.”
Once a property tax is instituted, the issue will not return to the voters, according to Rodriguez.
Any increase or decrease in the levy amount is at the discretion of the City Council.
The council has jurisdiction over raising or lowering the city’s taxes once they are initiated.
“We will have public hearings before that may happen so the public can voice its opinion, but the council has the ultimate decision there. We are restricted by law to a percentage we can raise a levy each year,” Rodriguez said.

The Cottonwood Fire Department holds the distinction of having all 12 of its shift firefighters certified paramedics, except that one is still in school.

He will graduate from the program in March. That means that there are four paramedics on the fire engine whenever it goes out — 24/7.

“We are proud to say our existing engine is staffed with all paramedics. I don’t know of any other department or district in the state that has that,” Chief Mike Casson said. “We feel blessed.”

The reason for the high number of paramedics is two-fold. One is that the firefighters want to get the training and certification. The other is the trend for fire departments to perform emergency medical services in their communities more than fighting fires.

“Our services are shifting. With education in the schools and the community, smoke alarms, sprinklers, fire extinguishers and cell phone fires have decreased, but EMS has increased a great deal,” EMS coordinator Tim Wills said. He also is a shift captain with the department.

In 2008, about 74 percent to 75 percent of the department’s 2,478 calls were for EMS. Some were to assist other Verde Valley departments, but the majority were for Cottonwood.

The number of calls is increasing as well. According to Wills, the Cottonwood department is the busiest in the Verde Valley.

“The community has gotten much larger and is continuing to grow. So far we’ve been able to keep up with the demand, but we’d really like to put on a second engine, at least at our busiest time,” Wills said.

A second engine would be 12 more firefighters. With the number of paramedics on staff, even with a second engine it would mean there would be two paramedics on each engine, each shift.

“It’s also an advantage if there are multiple injuries, like when the five cheerleaders were hurt in the Sept. 6, 2007 collision on South Main Street,” Casson said.

He is amazed at the caliber of people in the department and their enthusiasm not only for their job, but to keep improving their knowledge and skills.

“We’ve always encouraged our people to get further education — paramedic or otherwise. It amazes me. The commitment to paramedic is huge. It’s about 1,300 hours, including clinicals,” Casson said.

The department recognizes that EMS delivery is what firefighters do these days, but they also have the commitment to fight fires when they do happen, Casson said as the tones went out for a house fire in Verde Village Unit 3. The call was for the Verde Valley Fire District, but Wills and his crew got ready to go, if they were called to assist.

Casson was at a state fire training committee meeting in Phoenix recently and said a lot of department chiefs said they were having trouble staffing paramedics.

“This community can be proud. It takes one and a half years to develop a paramedic; we already have them on staff now,” he said.

All paramedics are nationally and state certified. For the Cottonwood department, Dr. Todd Lane at Verde Valley Medical Center is their medical director. He helps develop protocols for when the paramedics work in the field or for any questions.

“Our focus is for pre-hospital events and management. We are a bridge to the hospital. Most times, though, we have to work under emergency conditions, and not always under the best of conditions,” Wills said.

The Cottonwood Fire Department is located at 199 S. Sixth St.

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.

It took a couple hours of bargaining, but former Cottonwood Police Chief Doug Bartosh, accepted the job of Cottonwood city manager at the City Council meeting on Thursday, Jan. 24.

“I believe you’ll make a good leader,” Mayor Diane Joens told Bartosh. “The reason we do what we do and get up to go to work in the morning is for the citizens of Cottonwood and I believe you’ll make them proud.”

“I believe I’ve done that as police chief and I’m confident that I can do it as city manager,” Bartosh replied.

Bartosh showed he was already familiar with such city procedures as pay periods when he indicated he should begin at the start of a new pay period, which fell on Sunday, Jan. 27.

The city has been without a permanent city manager since former City Manager Brian Mickelsen died unexpectedly Aug. 18.

Marianne Jiminez has served as acting city manager since Mickelsen’s death.

Bartosh and council members acknowledged the fact that Bartosh will virtually be in training when he starts his new position.

Council reverted to executive session for over an hour before finishing the employment agreement with Bartosh.

For a time it looked like the deal would be placed on hold until issues such as who would take over as police chief could
be resolved.

“I want acknowledgment that he won’t be chief of police,” Councilman Duane Kirby said. “I want somebody to manage the whole city and be equally responsive to all city departments.”

“I’d be more comfortable to have an interim police chief first before you’re city manager,” Vice Mayor Karen Pfeifer said.

In the end, Bartosh agreed to find an interim police chief within two weeks after his start date.

Cmdr. Jody Fanning, a 20-year veteran of the department, was named interim police chief.

Fanning will serve until a permanent replacement is named, a process Bartosh said could take several months.

Council also agreed to amend the employment agreement to include a $450 car allowance per month, allow the new city manager to receive four weeks of vacation time instead of three and receive increased severance benefits if terminated by the council.

Kirby opposed the changes.

“We made an adequate offer,” he said of the original proposal.

The council denied Bartosh’s request for a slightly higher salary of $105,000 but he accepted the original proposal of $102,854.

“He’ll be in training as the city manager,” Joens said. “I would like to see him earn what he’s requesting.”

Joens said in addition to the compensation paid to the city manager, salaries for all city employees from top to bottom need to be re-evaluated.

Only a few minor changes have been made to the original design of the Cottonwood Community Recreation and Aquatics Center.

In November 2006, Cottonwood voters said “yes” to approve $17 million in bonding for the city to build a recreation center at the corner of Sixth and Paula streets, south of the Cottonwood Public Library.

The city unveiled the plans in December 2005 for a 60,000-square-foot center that would have amenities for every age group, including a wave pool, water slide, exercise rooms and many other recreation and
exercise offerings.

The design echoed that of the Verde Valley Senior Center to reflect Cottonwood’s mining history.

Now that the money is available, the sale of the bonds took place in November 2007, work has begun. Now it is in the design stage with Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture. The contract with it was signed in August 2007.

“So far, we’re right on budget,” Scott Mangarpan the new project manager for the city’s public works department said.

There still are many steps yet to go, according to Mangarpan. He is also overseeing the Cottonwood Public Library expansion, currently under construction.

“We have to finish with the design work and get a construction manager-at-risk on board. We’ve received applications and interviewed three. We’re in the process of getting a proposal from them, “ Mangarpan said.

The basic design and the plans for inside remain the same, except the proposed Verde Valley Medical Center’s Wellness Center is no longer included.

The competition swimming and diving pool has turned 90 degrees and faces north/south instead of east/west, and a small utility room has been added to the south side.

“We’ll also add to the wall between the center and the Courtside Apartments. That’s a fire lane along there so there won’t be much traffic, so noise shouldn’t be a problem,” Mangarpan said as he pointed to a roadway along the south side of the building.

Other features include a lap pool and water current channel, a walk/run indoor track, a climbing wall, fitness and free-weight areas and group exercise spaces.

It will also offer a game room, a multi-purpose room, a gymnasium, a multi-purpose arts and crafts room, a catering kitchen, lockers, baby-sitting/tot activity area for parents who are using the center, showers and vending machines.

The Cottonwood Parks and Recreation offices will move into the center and four outside tennis courts complete the complex.

Once the new pool is ready for use, the old pool next to the tennis courts will be filled in and probably used for parking, according to the plans.

“We anticipate going out to bid by fall 2008, and start construction in winter 2008-09. It depends on how quickly we can go through all of the necessary steps,” Mangarpan said.

“This is what I’ve done for the last 20 years in California — a lot of hospitals and recreation centers,” Mangarpan said.

Mangarpan has been with the city since Nov. 19 and lives in Sedona with his wife and their two sons.

The idea of having a multi-purpose, multi-generational recreation center in Cottonwood came from the Cottonwood Parks and Recreation Commission. The commission presented the proposal to the Cottonwood City Council during a work session in 2005.

For more information, call 634-8033 or the city’s parks and recreation department at 639-3200.

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.

Terence Pratt won the final Cottonwood City Council seat in the Tuesday, May 15, general election over rival John Altizer, according to the unofficial results.

Pratt took 53 percent of the vote with 305 of the 576 voters who cast ballots. Altizer received 47 percent, or 271. Voter turnout was just under 11 percent of the city’s 5,317 registered voters.

“I’m humbled and excited to work with this new council and the new mayor,” Pratt said in a telephone interview Wednesday morning.

The results are a flip from the results of the primary election, where Altizer came out on top with 18 percent of the voters casting ballots.

Pratt will be sworn in, along with Diane Joens as mayor and Ron Hollis and Duane Kirby, who won their seats in the March 13 primary election.

Altizer and Pratt did not receive enough votes in March so they had to go to a runoff in the May 15 general election.

For more information, call 634-5526.

At the first meeting of the newly formed Cottonwood Airport Commission on July 2, the first order of business was to name a chairman and a vice chairman.

The commission’s first chairman is Al Gradijan, who will serve a three-year term, and the group selected Larry Minch as vice chairman.

Also serving three-year terms are Jim Money and Allyson Waak. Serving two-year terms on the commission are Minch, Billy Tinnin and Margaret Austell. Finishing off the seven-member commission will be Don Thompson for a one-year term.

Many of the commissioners are pilots and have an airplane based at the airport on W. Mingus Avenue.

The commission also discussed what items to place on the agenda for the next meeting Monday, Aug. 6. The commission meets the first Monday of the month in the Cottonwood City Council Chambers, 826 N. Main Street, in Old Town Cottonwood.

“We got the first part done and now we’re moving on,” Gradijan said.
Forming the commission is the culmination of several months of talks between the city, the City Council and the airport users. The council approved the commission in April and later decided the make-up of the group should be five people with aviation-related backgrounds and two residents at large.

The Cottonwood Airport Commission meetings, like other commissions and boards as well as the City Council, are open to the public.

Considering the agenda, Gradijan said the commissioners want to discuss a transit parking ramp, some clean-up work around the airport, continue discussions on creating an airport operations and procedures manual and about the possibility of how to handle fuel.

Two of the items are of particular importance: the fuel and the manual.
“The manual will be the rules that we’ll require to operate. We’re looking at other airports right now to see what works and what doesn’t for us. We’re starting with a white piece of paper,” Gradijan said.

He also said the group does not want to over-regulate the airport. They want to find a balance to provide safety yet still allow people to fully enjoy the airport. It also will be a fluid document, allowing for change when necessary, he said.

On the fuel, the city council recently approved the purchase of nearly 4,000 gallons of aviation fuel for the airport from Starr Aviation Marketing in the amount of $13,384.17.

“This will allow us to be more competitive for sales at the airport. We called airports for 70 miles around and decided on around $4.4 per gallon. The price is in the average range. It seems pretty reasonable,” Tim Costello, airport manager, said.

Some of the background for the purchase of the fuel included a drop off of fuel sales at the airport due to availability and price. By buying in larger bulk, the city was able to leverage price to bring them in line with other area airports, he said.

The move also is in anticipation of the city installing a fuel card lock system at the fueling tank. A pilot could taxi to the fueling area and put fuel directly into their own plane. Currently all fueling is done by the fixed base operator, Aerobear Aviation.

“It’s going to be like a self-serve nozzle, and to pay it’d be like swiping a credit or debit card. We’ll see how it works,” Costello said.

The city put $25,000 in the fiscal year 2007-08 tentative budget for the system.

“Don’t know yet when it might get installed. First we need to get the budget approved and then go out to bid,” he said.

Dick Lucas, a member of the Airport User’s Association, said he is glad to see the prospect of the card system.

“It catches us up with the rest of the aviation world. People will be more likely to fuel up here instead of going elsewhere. People like smaller airports,” Lucas said.

For more information, call 634-5526

The 18 people who applied to serve on the new Cottonwood Airport Commission will have to wait until at least Tuesday, June 19, to find out if they make the final cut.

The newly seated Cottonwood City Council discussed at length the issue of appointing the first seven people, especially the importance of the first tasks the commission will have on its plate, such as an airport operations manual.

With 18 applicants, City Manager Brian Mickelsen told the council the city is not used to receiving that many and that with the interest, maybe the city is long overdue in forming an airport commission.

“Being a new board, these are very important positions to get this up and running. We have a wide range of highly qualified applicants,” Mickelsen said.

Councilman Duane Kirby suggested the council discuss the applicants in executive session because he saw it as a personnel matter. However, Johnny Guthrie, the city’s attorney, said with the high interest in this matter, he felt strongly that any discussions should take place in public. Some of the other council members nodded in agreement.

“I don’t consider them employees,” he said.

A few of the applicants spoke, like John Altizer, who has an airplane and a hangar at the airport.

“I think this is probably the most important airport commission you will appoint. Most of the beginning will be technical,” Altizer said.

Bill Tinin, an officer with the Civil Air Patrol, said he sees a need for a strong community involvement with the airport.

“We stand on the threshold of a revolution in aviation and we need to be ready for it,” Dick Lucas, another applicant, said.

Margaret Austell, Carol Major and Don Thompson also spoke.

Mayor Diane Joens suggested delaying the decision until the next regular council meeting on Tuesday, June 19 “to give other applicants a chance to speak and make the selection that night in public.”

Kirby made the motion to establish an advisory committee to bring back a list of suggested candidates. The council further voted to make the composition council members, Joens and Linda Norman, and one member each of the city’s other boards and commissions.

Some grumbling from a few of the applicants who attended the meeting could be heard when the council voted 6 to 1 on both matters. Councilman Tim Elinski was the lone dissenting vote.

“I’m not crazy about the idea of forming a committee. I think we’re all intelligent enough to make our own decisions,” Elinski told his fellow council members.

The council considered two other airport issues at the June 5 meeting. They approved a resolution authorizing a grant with Arizona Department of Transportation’s Aeronautics Division for the design and construction of a perimeter road and to automate the main gate in the amount of $4,014. The gate already is completed and the gravel road is planned for Fiscal Year 2007-08.

The other resolution approved by the council is a grant agreement with ADOT Aeronautics Division to provide 2.5 percent
of the cost to buy some land near the airport in the amount of $10,107.

If all goes as planned, by the end of 2008, the east side of Hwy. 260 between Fir Street and the Verde Valley Manor will have city sewer service. In doing so, it will provide some needed infrastructure that can lead to development of that commercial area, according to city officials.

The sewer line currently exists on the west side of the highway out to Rodeo Drive. Now the city wants to take it across the roadway to serve the commercial strip there.

“We have development heating up out there and they’re going to want services,” Dan Lueder, utilities director for Cottonwood, said.

A major part of the plan is to have a lift station, No. Six, just north of Verde Valley Manor, which will allow the city to connect into the complex’s current sewer plant.

The manor and other properties along the section will drain to the lift station and out to a pipe along Hwy. 260 back to a tie-in with the city’s line and on to the wastewater plant on W. Mingus Avenue.

Tom Green, the general manager of Verde Valley Manor, on Godard Road, said he thinks tying into the city’s sewer system is a good thing.

“It will serve the manor well, but our board will have to consider it. They’ll make the final decision,” Green said.

Currently, the manor has its own wastewater system. It was built 28 years ago and has been upgraded.

“It’s operating well for us,” he said.

Looking into the future, Lueder said the next step is to bring water along the corridor.

“I think we’ll see some pretty sizable development once we get the sewer and the water in. Some places have been waiting,” he said.

As far as when construction may start, Lueder said probably by summer 2008.

“Coe and Van Loo [Consultants] will finish their study by June, then we’ll have a study session with the council in July. We’ve requested $1.9 million from the council for this project,” he said.

The city also will need Arizona Department of Environmental Quality approval.

“Conceivably by the end of 2008 we’ll have this in,” Lueder said.

The lack of infrastructure in that nearly 1¼-mile section has been a holdup in some cases, according to George Gehlert, community development director for Cottonwood.

There has been a lot of interest in those commercial properties out there on the east side of Hwy. 260.

“We spoke to a developer who’s interested in the previous Lowe’s property as an open commercial site with various size stores and maybe a restaurant,” Gehlert said.

The Cottonwood City Council recently approved a proposal from Coe and Van Loo Consultants to perform a study in an amount not to exceed $57,400.

For more information, call 634-5055 or 634-8247.

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