Despite facing a $100 million budget deficit and recognizing critical safety and economic concerns, the Arizona Department of Transportation decided Friday, Dec. 4, to continue plowing snow at the same pace of last year on State Route 89A in Oak Creek Canyon.

About three weeks ago, ADOT announced it would close the switchbacks during stormy weather this winter because there were not enough funds to plow the route.

After the city of Sedona and the Sedona Chamber of Commerce expressed concerns with the closures, ADOT started looking at other cost-saving alternatives.

adot-logoADOT Spokesman Rod Wigman said the department decided to sell surplus vehicles rather than close state highways when it snows. He anticipates the state will generate about $2 million by selling them.

He said the funds will be earmarked for Northern Arizona cities and towns needing snowplows and other snow removal equipment to keep roads open.

ADOT’s budget deficit, created by $500 million in diverted transportation funds and declining revenue, was hit hard, and a variety of services like highway maintenance — including snowplowing — were on the chopping block.

Sedona Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jennifer Wesselhoff was thrilled to hear ADOT decided to not close State Route 89A when it snows.

“We’re very pleased with the outcome and know that many local, regional and state leaders were instrumental in accomplishing this victory,” she said. “SR 89A is an integral lifeline to Sedona and we are very pleased that ADOT has found the resources to accommodate the snow plan efforts at the same level as last year.

“This victory illustrates the power of a unified voice in the business community. We’ve won the battle this year, however, we will need to begin working now in order to ensure that funding to ADOT is maintained at a level where accessibility and safety are maintained over the next several years.”

The state’s hiring freeze left ADOT with too few qualified snowplow drivers, and a depleted budget left no money to replace snowplows, costing $250,000 each, and there

were fewer dollars to buy materials.

According to a press release, ADOT is making further operational cuts and plans a one-time sale of several hundred fleet vehicles to support snowplowing and keep routes open. Snow removal requires money for materials, equipment and people — all of which were impacted by the shortfall.

“This is a one-time strategy. Plowing snow is critical for public safety and keeping the economy moving. We found a solution for this year, but the long-term should be a concern for every driver in Arizona,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said.

“How will we fund snow plowing next year? There are no concrete answers for that challenge, which may only increase if transportation revenues continue to decline or if additional transportation dollars are diverted to the

state budget.”

Sedona City Manager Tim Ernster said the importance of ADOT’s decision not to close the route cannot be overstated.

“This was kind of a late hit. This was not something we were expecting,” he said of the anticipated closures.

He said the city must monitor the situation for next year so there are no surprises and mentioned meeting with other entities to determine how to prepare.

“The key is we need to stay on this for next year,” he said.

He mentioned if the route had closed when it snowed, visitors who normally would have stopped in Sedona on the way to Flagstaff and Grand Canyon would have bypassed the city. He added he was unsure what the financial impact in sales tax to the city would be if ADOT officials had not changed their minds.

Responsiveness to individual storm events will vary based on the severity of the storm and availability of people and equipment.

Wigman said spending additional dollars on snow removal means ADOT has fewer resources for other highway maintenance activities, such as removal of weeds, litter and debris.

 

Michael Maresh can be reached at 282-7795, ext. 125, or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

A Sedona resident tendered his resignation as the Camp Verde magistrate to take the same job in the city in which he lives.

Rodger Overholser, in a letter to Camp Verde Mayor Bob Burnside, said his last day with Camp Verde will be Thursday, Dec. 31.

“I have enjoyed my time  with the town of Camp Verde very much and will greatly miss the exceptional court staff I have been privileged to work with,” he wrote. “However, I feel that this move presents a significant opportunity for professional development and financial reward that I cannot ignore.”

He said working in the city where he lives is a factor, too.

Attempts to reach Overholser at his home and work were unsuccessful by press time.

 

adotPHOENIX – Drivers heading out on the highway over the Thanksgiving weekend in Arizona will not encounter any highway construction closures. The Arizona Department of Transportation says crews will take a break from highway work requiring restrictions through Monday morning (Nov. 30).  ADOT is urging drivers to be extremely careful over the holiday weekend.

ADOT and law enforcement agencies throughout the state are asking drivers and passengers to buckle up and observe the following safe driving tips:

  • Allow extra travel time and be patient; avoid distractions
  • Observe speed limits, including lower speeds in work zones
  • Check your vehicle before traveling, including tire pressure
  • Be prepared for unscheduled closures; bring extra supplies, including water
  • Get a good night’s rest before driving
  • Never Drink and Drive; think ahead and arrange a designated driver

Five people were killed in traffic crashes over the Thanksgiving weekend in Arizona last year.  That marked a drop in traffic fatalities over the holiday weekend.  14 people lost their lives in Thanksgiving weekend crashes in 2007.

Drivers can get the latest information about highway restrictions via ADOT’s Travel Information site at www.az511.gov or by calling 5-1-1.

Earlier this month, the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office was granted a three-year contract extension with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency regarding the 287(g) program.

Section 287(g) is part of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which permits local law enforcement officers who complete specialized training to enforce immigration law and identify foreign-born criminals.

The YCSO program includes eight specially trained detention classification officers who have access to ICE computer databases as part of their duties. These officers are qualified to determine the legal status of any arrestee processed at the Yavapai County Detention Center in Camp Verde.

Without access to these ICE databases, detention officers would lack the ability to identify many dangerous and previously deported criminal illegal aliens.

Since the 287(g) program’s inception in April 2008, the Detention Services Division has interviewed 13,000 persons during the booking and classification process. In each case, the arrestee was booked on local charges with the eventual determination of undocumented alien status as a result of 287(g) processing by ICE-trained detention officers.

Additionally, YCSO has three trained 287(g) patrol personnel who are used in the field to assist in determining the legal status of persons already detained as part of a criminal investigation.

Their expertise is also used during traffic stops involving transportation of undocumented immigrants by “coyotes” paid to act as human smuggling agents.

As a result of this program, YCSO has transferred over 1,500 illegal aliens to ICE for deportation. This includes aliens processed while in custody and those held during human-smuggling investigations in the field.

Additionally, numerous identity theft cases have been solved through discovery of fraudulent identification cards on many of those detained.

“The strong partnership that the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office has built with ICE under the 287(g) program serves as a model in demonstrating how law enforcement agencies can work together to improve public safety in their communities,” Katrina S. Kane, field office director of ICE Detention and Removal Operations in Arizona, stated in a press release.

Yavapai County Sheriff Steve Waugh stated in a press release that he is thankful for the cooperative effort between YCSO and ICE regarding the 287(g) program. “Through this cooperative effort, our ability to identify criminal aliens for deportation has reduced crime and made Yavapai County a safer place to live,” he stated.

 

The Coconino County Health Department has received a limited supply of H1N1, or swine flu, vaccine.

Appointments for the H1N1 Flu Vaccination Clinics can be scheduled by calling CCHD Flu Information Line at (928) 679-7300.

Appointments are reserved for the first priority group which includes:

 Pregnant women,

 Children 6 months to 4 years old,

 Children between 5 and 18 with underlying health conditions — neuromuscular disease, diabetes, underlying heart or lung conditions, or suppressed immune system,

 Anyone who lives with or cares for children less than 6 months old,

 Health care workers with direct patient contact.

H1N1 Flu Clinics are scheduled in Flagstaff on Saturday, Oct. 24, at the Coconino County Health Department, 2625 N. King Street, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

CCHD Clinics are Monday, Wednesday and Friday beginning Monday, Oct. 26, at Coconino County Health Department, 2625 N. King Street, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. All clinics are subject to change due to vaccine availability. Appointments are required.

As additional H1N1 flu vaccine is received, the vaccine will be made available to a wider risk group and then, if supplies allow, to the general public.

There is no out-of-pocket cost for H1N1 flu vaccinations. Bring your Medicare, Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System or insurance card.

Due to delivery delays and high demand, adult seasonal flu vaccine is not currently available.

Vaccine for children 6 months through age 18 is available. Call the CCHD Flu Information Line to schedule an appointment for a children’s seasonal flu shot.yavapai-county-seal

Seasonal flu vaccinations for children age 18 and under are $15. When available, adult seasonal flu vaccinations are $25.

Seasonal flu vaccinations are free for people who have Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, excluding Medicare supplement customers and Out-of-state Blue Cross and/or Blue Shield plan members; Medicare; AHCCCS; Health Choice Arizona and Phoenix Health Plans. You must present your insurance card.

No one will be denied service due to inability to pay.

Additional flu vaccination clinics will be scheduled as vaccine supplies allow. All clinics are based on availability of vaccine and subject to change.

Pneumonia vaccinations are available for a cost of $30. Pneumonia vaccinations are recommended for individuals age 65 and older and for some high-risk groups. Check www.coconino.az.gov/health for updated clinic schedules or call (877) 679-7272.

 

Many people believe it takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a village to get rid of drugs.

The MATForce Yavapai County Substance Abuse Coalition is made up of several people from communities throughout Yavapai County using the village concept to stop substance abuse. In fact, the group’s motto is “Building Healthier Communities.”

“Our efforts have shown great success. In 2007 we were dealing with about 60 new felony cases a week. Now we’re averaging about 40 a week,” Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk said at MATForce’s Community Partners Appreciation Breakfast and Awards Ceremony on Friday, Oct. 2, at The Lodge at Cliff Castle Casino in

yavapai-county-sealCamp Verde. The 2009 honorees were county law enforcement agencies.

Polk is the cofounder of MATForce along with Cottonwood City Manager Doug Bartosh when he was the city’s chief of police.

According to the county’s figures, felonies peaked in fiscal year 2006-07, and methamphetamine arrests peaked the same year. Often the two run together, she said.

“As meth offenses started to drop, so did felonies. They have dropped by an unprecedented 28 percent,” Polk said. “We are no longer going to sit back and lament a problem. We are going to be the solution.”

At the heart of the success story is MATForce and its partnership with law enforcement. Polk said the group is fortunate to have so many officers involved in substance abuse eradicating efforts.

Bartosh related a story about a conversation he had with some of the special drug task force officers in Cottonwood.

“They told me they used to be able to get buys easily and stopped because they ran out of time. Now, he said, they have to work all night long and hard to get just one buy. From that, we know we are making a big impact,” Bartosh said.

The first award for Community Member of the Year went to Prescott Valley Police Department officer James Tobin. Polk said Tobin received a grant from the governor’s office to fight underage drinking. He was wondering how he was going to use the money when on his way into work, he pulled up next to a school bus and saw a MATForce sticker. He called and got involved.

“I’ve been a police officer for 14 years in this county. What I like about MATForce is it’s a coalition of people with a like mind and goal,” Tobin told the 50 people in attendance.

The Law Enforcement Appreciation Awards went to the Cottonwood, Prescott, Prescott Valley, Sedona and Yavapai College police departments, the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office, the Camp Verde Marshal’s Office, Yavapai County Adult and Juvenile probation and Partners Against Narcotics Trafficking.

Honorable Mention went to Chino Valley, Clarkdale, Jerome, Yavapai-Apache and Yavapai-Prescott police departments and the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

For more information about MATForce, call (928) 708-0100.

Lu Stitt can be reached at 282-7795 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Cottonwood should have 8.5 square miles of U.S. Forest Service land officially within its boundaries before the end of September, but Clarkdale Mayor Doug Von Gausig isn’t happy about it.

Probably within the next two weeks, Qwest, owner of the only private property interest within the annexed area, a utility easement, should sign off on the move and a petition declaring the annexation should be filed with Yavapai County, according to Cottonwood City Manager Doug Bartosh.

Cottonwood-anexationAfter that, all that remains to complete the acquisition is a vote of the Cottonwood City Council, enacting an ordinance to make the annexation official, Bartosh said.

The 5-2 vote of the council Aug. 18 in favor of moving forward with annexation rather than an agreement with Clarkdale took some by surprise, especially Clarkdale Mayor Doug Von Gausig.

Roughly 25 hours prior to the Aug. 18 Cottonwood City Council meeting, an addendum was posted on the city’s Web site adding the annexation vote as an item.

According to Von Gausig, neither he nor other officials in Clarkdale were informed of the upcoming vote.

“Obviously when two communities have considered an intergovernmental agreement and one decides against it, a call or some other personal contact would be appreciated. The same would be true of the two parties to any negotiation,” Von Gausig said.

The IGA proposed by Clarkdale was intended to prevent either city from annexing the USFS land.

Bartosh said the city’s legal council advised against it.

“We did not feel as comfortable that an IGA was as binding as Clarkdale did,” Bartosh said.

“We did not feel comfortable with that approach. We have moved ahead with the annexation, but our council made their preference very clear [Tuesday, Aug. 25] asking and encouraging the USFS not to allow the land to be traded or developed,” he said.

Bartosh conceded the council’s resolution requesting USFS to keep the annexed land as open space and free from land trades has no binding effect on an agency of the federal government.

“Our hope is that by annexing this land we have even more influence over protecting it as pristine forest,” he said. “That has been our intention all along.”

“Clarkdale offered Cottonwood an ironclad, legally binding intergovernmental agreement that assured them we that would not and could not annex [the 8.5 square miles of USFS land],” Von Gausig said. “The large number of issues of common concern between our communities make close coordination, consideration and regional perspective absolutely essential,” he said.

“Each member of Cottonwood’s council stated repeatedly that their goal in annexation was open space preservation. This was stated by the entire council at a Cottonwood Council meeting when they first rolled out this plan, again by Vice Mayor Karen Pfeifer at an intergovernmental meeting in Camp Verde six weeks or so ago, then again at Friday’s joint council meeting,” Von Gausig said.

“Yet, they heard from the Forest Service that their annexation would instead actually increase the likelihood of that land being traded and developed. In fact, all evidence is that Cottonwood’s annexation will actually hasten development.”

“There is no proof that we have been shown where annexation has led to land being traded,” Bartosh said.

Cottonwood council member Darold Smith, who proposed a resolution approved Tuesday, Aug. 25, to keep the property as open space, defended the city’s actions.

“I don’t understand what the problem is,” Smith said. “We’re also going to annex the other 10 square miles right next to that property. With Cottonwood having control of that and the forest land we can try to control what’s going in there. I can’t say nothing will ever happen, but as far as this City Council is concerned it won’t be opened up for any speculation whatsoever.”

Mayor Diane Joens, Vice Mayor Karen Pfeifer and council members Darold Smith, Duane Kirby and Linda Norman voted Aug. 18 to annex the land while council members Tim Elinski and Terence Pratt voted against.

Despite Cottonwood’s actions, Clarkdale’s council voted to sign the intergovernmental agreement as an act of good faith

during a meeting Tuesday, Aug. 25.

State Trust land located along State Route 89A between Cornville Road and Page Springs Road, land Cottonwood would like to see developed, probably won’t be annexed for at least another year, Bartosh said.

The Taylor Fire, located approximately 13 miles southwest of Flagstaff, in Sycamore Canyon Wilderness near Turkey Butte, is expected to continue to intermittently generate smoke in Sedona and surrounding areas throughout the next several days.

The Coconino County Health Department would like to remind citizens that smoke generated by wildland fires can pose a health risk for some individuals. Certain precautions can be taken to protect you and your family from the effects of wildfire smoke.

According to a press release, wildfire smoke is primarily made up of small particles, gases and water vapor with trace amounts of hazardous air pollutants. Most harmful are the particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter; 70 micrometers is the diameter of a human hair. If these particles are inhaled deeply into the lungs, they can damage lung tissue and cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems.

Symptoms from short-term smoke exposure range from scratchy throat, cough, irritated sinuses, headaches, runny nose and stinging eyes to more serious reactions among persons with asthma, emphysema, congestive heart disease and other existing medical conditions.

Older adults and children are also high-risk groups. When smoke levels are dangerously high, the appropriate protective measures should be followed.

Ways to Protect Your Family’s Health from Wildfire Smoke

Pay attention to local air quality reports. Stay alert to any news coverage or health warnings related to smoke. Local health and emergency authorities will issue instructions based on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index.

Use visibility guides. Wildland fire smoke is highly visible. It is possible to visually estimate smoke levels and estimate potential health impacts. Generally, the worse the visibility is, the worse the smoke is. Use the following guide for determining air quality:

n Face away from the sun.

n Determine the limit of your visibility range by looking for targets at known distances. Visibility range is the point at which even high contrast objects totally disappear.

n Unusually sensitive people should consider reducing prolonged or heavy exertion.

n People with heart or lung disease, older adults and children should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion.

n Use common sense. If it looks smoky outside, it is probably not a good time for outdoor activities. And it’s probably not a good time for your children to play outdoors.

n If you are advised to stay indoors, keep your windows and doors closed. Make sure air conditioning units have a clean filter in the air intakes. Devices with High Efficiency Particulate Air filters can reduce the indoor pollution. Don’t use devices that generate ozone. Ozone creates even more pollution.

n Do not add to indoor air pollution. Don’t use anything that burns such as wood fireplaces, gas logs, gas stoves or even candles. Don’t vacuum. That stirs up particles already inside your home. Don’t smoke. That puts even more pollution in your lungs and in the lungs of people around you.

n Dust masks aren’t enough. Common masks will not protect your lungs from small particles in smoke. HEPA masks may filter out the small particles but are not suitable for people with lung diseases. Those with lung diseases should follow your respiratory management plan. Call your doctor if symptoms worsen.

For updated fire information, please call (928) 226-4600. Visit the Arizona Department of Health Services Web site at http://www.azdhs.gov/phs/oeh/wildfire.htm for additional information regarding the dangers of wildfire smoke and wildfire preparedness.

As an additional reminder, individual and family preparedness are important in many emergency situations including wildfire, floods and severe winter weather as well as contagious disease outbreaks.

Information regarding personal preparedness, including pandemic flu preparedness, is available by calling the CCHD at (928) 679-7272, toll free at (877) 679-7272 or by visiting www.coconino.az.gov/health.

 

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