The U.S. Postal Service is looking at whether or not to close West Sedona’s post office, along with seven others statewide.

Next week, questionnaires will be available to all post office box customers at the post office near Harkins Theatres and to anyone who wants to fill one out.

All residential Sedona mail is delivered from the main post office at the ‘Y’ intersection, but the West Sedona branch houses roughly 1,000 P.O. boxes, Sedona postmaster Dave Cartlidge said.

If the West Sedona branch closes, the main station has room to house those post office boxes, he said.

According to USPS spokesman Peter Hass, a final decision will be made in October and if there are closings in Arizona, they will happen by the end of 2009 or early 2010. Besides Sedona, one station each in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tucson, Bisbee and Prescott are being considered, along with two in Bullhead City.

USPS is looking at the possible consolidation of 3,200 post offices nationwide in its effort to combat the struggling economy.

By the end of this fiscal year, Wednesday, Sept. 30, the postal service expects to have a deficit of $7 billion.

In 2006, USPS handled over 225 billion pieces of mail. This year it’s expecting 175 billion pieces.

“That’s obviously a steep and significant decline in volume,” Hass said.

Although the Internet has been pulling communications away from paper mail for several years, the biggest blow to post offices around the country is a decline in advertisement mailings, Hass said.

“Businesses are looking for ways to cut their costs,” he said. “Direct mail has been a popular way to advertise, but because business is cutting back, we’ve seen a drop in that as well.”

Since 1982, USPS has not received tax dollars for operations. Instead, it relies on revenue from mailing costs and purchase of stamps.

Earlier this year, it cut five district offices and several administrative positions in an effort to become more efficient, according to Hass.

It is also looking at consolidating delivery routes. The postal service is required to deliver mail six days a week, but as population grows, especially in Arizona, and volume of mail decreases, there’s fewer pieces of mail delivered on longer, more costly routes.

According to Hass, helping customers is the postal service’s goal.

“We’re looking at ways to become more efficient while still providing service to our customers,” he said.

 

Alison Ecklund can be reached at 282-7795, ext. 125, or e-mail

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windsong-trailer-fire-8-7Fire destroyed a trailer at Windsong Trailer Park on Tuesday, Aug. 4, while the tenant was at work. Sedona Fire District dispatch received the 9-1-1 call at 2:32 p.m. and the first crew arrived from SFD Station No. 1 at 2:36 p.m., holding the blazes to one trailer. One neighboring trailer was charred, but remained intact. SFD Fire Marshal Will Loesche is investigating to determine the cause.

The city’s commissions and committees were left virtually unscathed after Sedona City Council poked and prodded Tuesday, July 28, while disbanding two task forces.

After hearing from each of the seven volunteer groups on their goals, how their goals fit council priorities, how often they meet and how much staff time they consume, council agreed to disband the Creekwalk Task Force and the Youth Task Force.

Both task forces fall under Parks & Recreation, and after hearing recommendations from Administrative Services Director Andi Welsh, council agreed they could be eliminated on a staff level and meet on an as-needed basis.

city-commissions-7-31The city had a hard time getting interest from Sedona’s youth to meet for a task force, Welsh said, and the idea for a creekwalk was shot down by council May 26, making monthly meetings a moot point.

The Water Conservation Advisory Committee, chaired by Anita MacFarlane, volunteered to reduce monthly meetings to quarterly meetings, which met council’s approval.

The Arts & Culture Commission, Board of Adjustment, Historic Preservation Commission, Housing Commission, Parks & Recreation Commission and Planning & Zoning were left as is, with encouraging comments from council.

Councilman Cliff Hamilton did however question if the city didn’t already have a Housing Commission, tasked with the heavy burden of workforce housing, would it start one today.

“I’d say the Housing Commission uses more staff time than all other committees put together,” he said. “The issue we need to look at seriously is the whole business of crusading as opposed to advising.”

Since the issue of workforce housing seems to be a regional issue, maybe the city would look at being involved in a regional effort if it was starting from scratch, Hamilton said.

The Housing Commission sprung from a grassroots effort by people who were looking at the housing situation in Sedona, the group’s Chairwoman Linda Martinez said. It’s true that the solution can’t be found entirely in Sedona, but to ignore it altogether sends the wrong message, she said.

Mayor Rob Adams, who served as the Housing Commission’s council liaison for two years before becoming mayor, defended the group’s use of staff time since it has “the most difficult workload and the largest obstacles to overcome.”

“We’re inventing the wheel — we’re not reinventing it — and that takes more time,” Adams said of deciphering the need for workforce housing in and around Sedona and fulfilling that need. “I think it’s a worthwhile investment.”

Although the chairs of some boards took a defensive stance, council assured everyone that looking at all commissions, committees and task forces wasn’t an exercise to chop the volunteers, but rather to streamline government and make sure these volunteer groups were working on council priorities.

“I think it’s good to review boards periodically,” City Manager Tim Ernster said. “Is the number of members the correct size? Are the meetings too often, not often enough?”

Volunteer boards are a great resource to council, Ernster said, because they allow for more residents to participate in decision making.

The purpose was to make sure the boards’ work plans aligned with council’s and to make sure they’re working effectively, he said.

“I suggest we hold a priority-setting retreat in the fall,” he said. “It may be an opportune time to decide if their workloads fit with your priorities,” he told council.

Alison Ecklund 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 7-year-old girl, vacationing in Sedona, was taken to a Flagstaff hospital after she nearly drowned at an Uptown resort.

On Monday, July 20, the victim was swimming with her uncle and other children at the Sedona resort around 9 a.m., when her uncle turned his back. When he turned back around, she was floating, face down in the water, he told dispatch.

According to Sedona Fire District Capt. Jeff Wassell, the call came into dispatch at 9:14 a.m. and crews from SFD Station No. 4 arrived on scene at 9:18 a.m.

By the time crews arrived, the girl had gained consciousness and was wrapped in a towel crying.

“She was crying away which is what we like to see when we pull up on scene,” Wassell said. “Kids crying is a good thing.”

sedona_fireAccording to Wassell, the girl’s uncle was about to begin CPR when she began coughing up nearly one-quarter cup of water.

SFD transported her to Flagstaff Medical Center’s pediatric intensive care unit to check her lungs for water.

“If she swallowed large amounts of water, she could get pneumonia quick,” Wassell said.

He suggests that anyone who is found unconscious in the water be checked immediately for secondary infection even if they seem OK.

“If they are unconscious at any time, when the body relaxes and takes a breath in, that’s when pool water goes into the lungs,” he said.

SFD doesn’t have a high call volume for drowning because it doesn’t have the volume of backyard pools that Phoenix does. Instead, most people use the resort pools, Wassell said.

In the last week, SFD Public Information Officer Gary Johnson has read of three children drowning in the Phoenix area, he said.

“Even though drowning is not an issue in our area in the same magnitude as the Phoenix area, it still poses the same risk,” Johnson said. “In just about every case, the person responsible for supervising looked away or lost track for just a few seconds.”

 

Alison Ecklund 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.

 

The smoke from the Cross Fire cleared out of Sedona and the Verde Valley on Sunday, July 19, and Monday, July 20, with the arrival of the season’s first monsoon storms and a reduction in the size of the burn area.

Brian Supalla, of Yavapai County Community Health Services, said last week the county monitored smoke from the fire located 18 miles southeast of Williams but it did not pose a health threat.

However, Punky Moore, U.S. Forest Service fire information officer for the Kaibab National Forest, said the USFS is reducing the size of the area in which it will allow the fire to burn due to the smoke impact.

“It all depends on the weather and it all depends on the smoke dispersal,” Moore said.

Lightning ignited the Cross Fire on July 1 and since then USFS has managed the fire allowing it to burn. Originally, USFS planned to let the fire burn 12,000 to 15,000 acres but now that area has been reduced to 9,000 acres, according to Moore. On Monday, the fire was estimated at 7,425 acres.

On Saturday, July 18, Verde Valley residents woke up to suffocating smoke conditions, which Moore said prompted USFS to reduce the size of the area it will allow to burn.

“The past few days it [the weather] was very uncooperative,” Moore said.

If the storms keep coming and bring the wind with them, Moore said USFS could extend

the fire area back to 12,000 to 15,000 acres.

On Monday, fire crews lit fires from the air on both sides of Tule Canyon to prevent fire from spreading down a drainage and spreading upslope. The fire is being managed to provide safety for firefighters, reduce accumulation of fuel in forests, manage smoke production and return fire to a fire-dependent ecosystem.

There are no closures in Kaibab National Forest due to the fire.

The city of Sedona staff invites everyone who lives or works in Sedona to attend one of the two upcoming public meetings to discuss the proposed accessory dwelling unit ordinance.

Whether you are a homeowner or a renter, an employer, an employee or retired, your input is important.

According to a press release,  the ordinance proposes to allow and regulate the long-term rental of accessory dwelling units such as guest houses and mother-in-law flats to create additional affordable rental opportunities in Sedona.

cityofsedonalogoThe objective of the upcoming meetings is to present an overview of the proposal and to seek input from the community regarding the draft ordinance. One open public meeting and one informal discussion group are scheduled.

The first public meeting is an informal discussion Thursday, July 23, from 5:30 to 7 p.m., at Sedona City Hall in the Vultee Conference Room, 106 Roadrunner Drive.

The second meeting includes a short presentation of the ordinance proposal with the remaining time reserved for questions and answers as well as comments. This meeting will be held Thursday, Aug. 6, from 5:30 to 7 p.m., at the Pushmataha Center, 360 Brewer Road in Sedona.

The draft accessory dwelling unit ordinance is posted on the city’s Web site at www.SedonaAZ.gov/housing, Housing Strategies, Draft ADU Ordinance - 6-03-09.

Written comments are always welcome and will be considered in the review and approval process. Be part of the discussion on this important issue. Attend and participate.

For more information call Audree Juhlin, assistant director, Community Development, at 204-7107 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

In its latest move to offset increased energy use with energy-efficient projects, the Sedona Oak Creek School District Governing Board unanimously agreed to hire Kinney Construction Services for work on future solar projects.

From the $73.4 million bond voters passed in November 2007, the district has $4 million to go toward solar projects, Arcadis Project Manager Dave Young said.

Discussions are still preliminary, he said, but Kinney and the district may decide to put solar panels on the roofs of Sedona Red Rock High School, West Sedona School and the district office, or they may decide to go with a solar farm that generates energy for the entire district.

The district’s three schools and the district office will get an additional 84,000 square feet after bond construction is complete. As the schools get bigger, so do their utility bills.

According to Young, who oversees the district’s bond construction, the extra square footage will add $162,000 annually to the district’s bills.

To offset the extra utilities, the district worked energy-saving projects like high-efficiency lighting and air conditioning units, low-flush urinals and skylights into the new construction.

It also hired APS Energy Services to install 100 kilowatts of solar panels on Big Park’s roof, to save the district $41,000 a year.

The solar panels and the high-efficiency projects save the district close to $160,000 a year, Young said, so the district will save what the increase in square footage will add in utility bills.

Unfortunately, as the district calls it even on the added utilities, it is forced to look at paying for $364,000 in excess utilities that it may no longer be able to tax for.

Since 2001, Arizona school districts have taxed their residents to pay for “excess utilities” — utility costs above a baseline amount.

That bill, which was part of Proposition 301, expires this fiscal year, Superintendent Mike Aylstock said, though there is talk at the state

level to bring it back in

some fashion.

“If we’re not allowed to tax that anymore, that’s roughly $400,000 we have to take out of our Maintenance and Operations budget,” Aylstock said. “We’d be able to function, but it would make it much more difficult.”

That’s where Kinney comes in.

With $4 million of solar projects coming to the district, generating 500 kilowatts of electricity, Young estimates it will

save the district $200,000 annually in utilities.

“It doesn’t get rid of all the excess utilities, but it’s better,” he said.

 

Alison Ecklund can be reached at 282-7795, ext. 125, or e-mail

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Pipes holding the future head from Phoenix to Flagstaff via Interstate 17 but remain untapped in the Verde Valley.

Those giant pipes hold fibers that provide broadband access to Internet users, a luxury a small group wants to make available for area residents.

cityofsedonalogoThe Verde Valley Broadband Cooperative hopes to bring residents out of the dark ages into the light.

“I want Sedona to have a future, not just a past,” Jodi Filardo, economic planner for the city of Sedona, said.

Filardo and Clarkdale Community Development Director Sherry Bailey took

the project and have been

encouraging others to join in.

“It just seems like this is one of the few things it’s [the Verde Valley] lacking,” Bailey said. The service would make the Verde Valley more attractive to businesses and in return provide more jobs.

However, to make it a reality will cost millions of dollars and take time, according to Filardo.

The cooperative’s first step will be a planning project to map what infrastructure is available and where, determine what residents want and figure out what is needed to provide the service.

A state project is the in the works, Filardo said, to map all resources in Arizona, and the cooperative has shared

its interest in finding its

connections. Filardo believes Quest and AT&T own fibers in the pipes along I-17 but she’s not sure.

Along with figuring out what it has and where, the cooperative wants feedback from the public. Filardo said the group wants to ensure its pursing something residents desire.

After the location, need and want are determined, the final step of the planning project is to figure out how to do it.

“We want the cost advantage and the speed advantage for the Verde,” Filardo said.

The United States is ranked 20th in the world for broadband penetration, according to the cooperative’s data, and rural areas in the U.S. deal with more outdated technology at a higher price.

Logistics require the cooperative to find a way to tap into the fibers inside the pipes and deliver it to users, Filardo said.

One of the cooperative’s ideas is to make the signal wireless because, Fildardo said, burying cable in rock isn’t an easy job. This approach would mean transmitting the signal either to towers or using microwaves which would then transmit the signal to neighborhoods and homes.

Bringing broadband to the valley has been kicked around for a few years, but the turning point came when Bailey came up with the idea to form a cooperative, according to Filardo.

“It just seems like the most reasonable approach and one we can all get behind and support,” Bailey said. Cooperatives are a proven, democratic model for accomplishing similar feats.

Since the cooperative must receive grants to move forward, it is vital that everyone buys in, according to Filardo. Filardo is also working with a private fund manager through the Northern Arizona Angels Network.

 

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.

 

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