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Sunday, February 28, 2010

A brutally honest discourse on team nicknames

The football season is over. The NBA and NHL recently experienced extended breaks for the all star game and Winter Olympics respectively. Baseball spring training is just getting underway.

It leaves a guy way too much time to think about insignificant things. But sometimes that can lead to really good columns.

But first, we need a disclaimer. You must suspend all your sensitivities, political, religious and otherwise, to proceed from this point. We’re going to poke some fun and you need to not be offended.

OK, those of you who are still with us can follow along.

With too much time on my hands, I got to thinking about professional sports teams and how they often have nicknames that have some sort of geographical significance. The Milwaukee Brewers, of course, are so named because a lot of beer is made in Milwaukee. The Seattle Seahawks get their nickname from being close to the sea.

When teams move from one city to another, they sometimes get new nicknames. For example, the Seattle SuperSonics are now the Oklahoma City Thunder – presumably because it thunders a lot in Oklahoma City. That’s well and good.

But sometimes when teams move they keep their old nicknames even though they don’t fit their new cities.

Did you ever wonder, for example, why the Los Angeles Lakers are called the Lakers and not the Oceansides? It’s because they were originally the Minneapolis Lakers, based in a state known as the Land of Lakes.

And while we’re in L.A., the Dodgers are not called the Dodgers because in L.A. you have to dodge street gangs. They’re called the Dodgers because back when they were the Brooklyn Dodgers, people in that city had to dodge streetcars.

One of my favorite examples is the Utah Jazz. They were once the New Orleans Jazz, which, of course, made sense. But when they moved to Mormon country, wouldn’t you think the owner would have changed their name to, say, the Utah Choirboys?

Stereotypes are generally bad things, but employing them in the interest of fun can help defuse them. Maybe Chicago needs a team called the Gangsters. Or better yet, how about the Chicago Blagojeviches.

Los Angeles, home of the Lakers and the Dodgers, might be better represented by the L.A. Gangbangers. Or perhaps the L.A. Smogsuckers.

Heading down south, how about the Houston Rednecks. Or instead of the Florida Marlins, how about the Florida Dead Manitees.

And until the last Senate election, people wouldn’t have thought twice about the Boston Left Wingers. Speaking of politics, how about the Washington Filibusterers or the Washington Lobbyists or the Washington Hypocrites.

In Nevada, you might root for the Las Vegas Elvises. Or even worse, the Las Vegas Wayne Newtons.

Closer to home, a team named the Phoenix Oldies might be appropriate. Or maybe the Ancients. Or, less politically correct, how about the Phoenix Kidnappers. Or the Phoenix Waterwasters.

And no, we aren’t going to suggest Flatlanders. The last time that came up someone down there got offended. Not as bad as they get offended when they get nailed by the photo enforcement cameras in Star Valley. But offended nonetheless.

Since that hits really close to home, let’s stay here for awhile. You know what Dorothy said about there being no place like home – to poke fun at.

How about the Rim Country Bark Beetles. Or the Rx Burners. Or the Cowpies. Or the Natural Bridgeless. Not funny? OK, let’s try the Payson Power Outages or the Payson Potholes or the Payson Waterthiefs. Speaking of one of our more obvious attributes as a people, maybe the Payson Potbellies.

Still not funny. So let’s try naming our team after a favorite son. How about the Payson Murphys (as in former mayor Kenny). Or we could capitalize on the Rim Country’s most famous resident of all time and call ourselves the Zanies.

Not to let Star Valley get away with anything, a team from Arizona’s newest town might be called the Speedtraps. Or the Termlimitless. Or the Don’t Even Think of Treading on Us.

And a team from Pine-Strawberry could very appropriately go by the nickname the Stage Fours. Or maybe even the PSWIDs after the Pine Strawberry Water Improvement District. Simply add a couple syllables to the acronym.

And just to show you I can take a joke, a team from my home community of Mesa del Caballo could be called the Dawgs (because some say we have more dogs than people). Or the Parched (because we run low on water in the summer).

Because life is just too short to take ourselves real seriously.

Star Valley Town Council has second thoughts

LFR, Tetra Tech bids not 'apples to apples'

By Matt Brabb
Mogollon Connection Editor
Last week’s contentious Star Valley town council meeting revolved around ethical bidding practices and conflicts of interest, and had council members rethinking a decision made in December to switch hydrology firms.

The December decision, as it turns out, had to be re-ratified because the council had apparently skirted the state’s open meeting laws by voting on the matter without clearly listing it on the posted agenda for the meeting.

Councilor Gary Coon moved to reverse the December decision on the basis that the town’s current hydrology firm, LFR, had not been given a fair chance to bid on the contract against rival Tetra Tech.

Coon claimed that LFR had submitted a proposal to the town to cover the cost of monitoring 18 wells within Star Valley while Tetra Tech was under the impression it was bidding on 12.

“We have not given LFR a fair chance to submit a proper proposal,” argued Coon. “The big reason we selected Tetra Tech was the cost; we need to compare apples to apples,” he added.

Councilor George Binney seconded the motion.

“What I worry about is the bid process; we’re asking different things from different people,” he said.

Despite the evident discrepancy, some members of the council were in no hurry to give LFR another chance. Councilor Vern Leis complained that last year LFR had billed the town for more money than they were contracted for.

“They didn’t notify us when they went above the contract price,” he claimed.

Councilor Barbara Hartwell also seemed disinclined to give LFR another opportunity, arguing that they had been unresponsive in the past to requests for information.

“They won’t work with us; they’ll do what they want to do,” she said.

Still, Coon kept hammering away at the idea that the bidding process had been flawed.

“So you think it’s fair?” he asked Leis, “to make one firm bid on 18 wells, and the other 12? “What are we hiding?”

Coon further maintained that contracting with Tetra Tech would result in a conflict of interest should the two towns ever wind up in legal actions regarding water rights.

“Tetra Tech may have to recuse themselves in a court case if they have contracts with both towns,” he argued.

That argument didn’t seem to move the council however.

“You’re talking about lawsuits and lawyers again,” admonished Mayor Bill Rappaport, who favors working with Payson to develop an amicable intergovernmental agreement.

Even Binney, who argued in favor of giving LFR another chance to bid, stated that he would have no problem if Tetra Tech won the contract if the bidding were done fairly.

Chris Benjamin, who is running for a seat on the town council agreed with Coon.

“Nobody knows more about our situation than LFR,” he said. “I hope like heck that there never is a lawsuit, but who is going to represent us if the wells run dry?” he asked.

“The IGA is the way to do business,” agreed Coon, “but we will need a good hydrology firm to talk for us.”

In the end the council, even those apparently opposed to rehiring LFR seemed to agree with Binney.

“If the bid process had been done right, we wouldn’t be having this argument,” he said. “A bid is not done this way, especially a government bid.”

Saturday, February 27, 2010

New jaguar sighting just south of Arizona

Courtesy photo
The latest jaguar photo taken in Sonora, Mexico, 30 miles from the Arizona border.

TUCSON—Photos of a jaguar roaming the wilds of northern Sonora, Mexico—only 30 miles south of Arizona—emphasize the need for landscape-level conservation of Arizona’s remaining wild lands.

Wilderness designation protects valuable migration corridors for big predators, their prey, and hundreds of other species that move between the diverse ecosystems in Arizona and throughout the West.

Sky Island Alliance biologist Sergio Avila has spent the past three years documenting the diversity of species—including the jaguar—that is using the wild habitat and corridors of northern Mexico and southern Arizona. Partnering with ranchers across the border in Sonora, Avila has placed remote cameras to acquire a living record of wildlife activity most of us will never see—everything from black bear, mountain lions, and ocelots, to mule deer herds and playful coatis.

“Using noninvasive monitoring techniques like remote cameras, we document the presence and movement of animals across the landscape with minimal or no disturbance to the animals,” says Avila. “Documentation of sensitive species allows us to better inform conservation designations.”

The Sky Island Alliance project to identify wildlife presence and movement corridors is the first step of a conservation effort; the next step is protecting those areas so the wildlife continues to thrive.

“These animals show us where quality habitat is,” says Mike Quigley, wilderness campaign coordinator with Tucson-based Sky Island Alliance. “The next step is preserving that habitat for the future—and wilderness designation is the most effective tool for protecting public lands in the United States.”

Wilderness designation allows access for a broad range of human-powered recreation like hunting, camping, horseback riding, birding, and day hiking; it protects wildlife habitat by halting motorized use and the construction of roads. Arizona Game and Fish has identified the importance of maintaining unfragmented habitats as a critical component in the conservation of wildlife and wildlife habitat, as well as addressing existing and predicted global climate change.

“Because we face rapid, unplanned growth in Arizona, wilderness designation can connect critical lands that act as migration corridors for wildlife, so we aren’t isolating animals with arbitrary boundaries,” says Kate Mackay with Arizona Wilderness Coalition, which advocates for wilderness across the state. “Protecting high-quality habitat means keeping it roadless and as naturally quiet as possible—and there are still many places around Arizona that need the extra protection of the Wilderness Act.”

Wilderness designation occurs on federal public lands under the authority of the 1964 Wilderness Act, passed “in order to assure that an increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization, does not occupy and modify all areas within the United States.” Since 1964, the National Wilderness Preservation System has grown to include 756 areas totaling more than 109 million acres across 44 of the United States and in Puerto Rico. Arizona offers outdoor enthusiasts 90 different wilderness areas on U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and National Park Service units. Each new wilderness area requires an act of Congress.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the 1990 Arizona Desert Wilderness Act, a monumental bipartisan feat of Republican Senator John McCain and his former colleagues Senator Barry Goldwater and

Representative Morris Udall. The bill created 39 different wilderness areas around Arizona—the majority in western Maricopa County on BLM lands—to protect the unique ecosystems and wildlife of the Sonoran Desert. Many of these areas—Sierra Estrella Mountains, North Maricopa Mountains, Signal Mountain, and Woolsey Peak wilderness areas—and the wildlife found within them are facing isolation from rapid development, as metro Phoenix townships expand west and south.

“We have great examples of historic collaboration in Congress to protect Arizona’s diverse habitat and wildlife,” says Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ). “Mo Udall gave us a remarkable conservation legacy. It’s our job to use science and consensus-building to carry that torch forward.”

Representative Grijalva is currently working to secure wilderness protection for the Tumacacori Highlands—80,000+ acres of high-quality intact habitat on the Coronado National Forest—land that is important for the continuation of species such as the Chiricahua leopard frog, Peregrine falcon, and jaguar.

'Must protect ourselves before making peace'

Star Valley Candidate Profile: Chris Benjamin

Chris Benjamin is a 30-year resident of Star Valley, a successful businessman, and a stalwart defender of the town’s water rights. He is currently running for a seat on the Star Valley town council.

His involvement in the community started as far back as the formation of the Diamond Star fire district in 1982. He served on the Diamond Star Fire Board for six years from 1998 to 2004. In 2004 he helped form the Diamond Star Water Coalition. In 2005 he was instrumental in the incorporation of the town of Star Valley, and in 2007 was appointed chairman of the Star Valley Water Task Force Committee. He also served on the Gila County planning and zoning commission. In 2008 he was selected to fill a vacancy on the Star Valley town council.

Married to wife Karen for 30 years, the couple have two sons, Matthew 27, and Michael 25.

His pertinent educational background includes a number of water related courses, seminars, and field trips since 2005. He owned and operated Star Automotive for 18 years, and has owned and operated the Sky Run Resort in Star Valley for the past 14 years.

Benjamin recently provided answers to the following questions to the Mogollon Connection.

Star Valley and Payson may soon enter into an agreement regarding water rights, could you comment on that?
I am cautiously optimistic that this time we can come to an agreement with the town of Payson. I have been a part of several attempts at reaching such an agreement in the past. I have met with former Payson mayors Barbara Brewer and Bob Edwards in an attempt to craft an IGA much like the one currently being proposed.

What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing Star Valley today?
It is undoubtedly to get this water issue behind us. Everyone wants to move on from this matter, including myself, but it has to be settled fairly or Star Valley faces a very limited future.

What do you believe is the biggest asset that you could bring to the Star Valley council?
The first is my absolute commitment to ensure that future residents of Star Valley are able to enjoy the same lifestyle that we currently have the benefit of today. I believe the knowledge I have gained over the last several years learning about water rights, and the fact that I have been a central figure in the attempt to protect that resource, gives me a distinct insight on the negotiations our town is now engaged in with the town of Payson.

How do you best think we can promote and encourage development in SV if in fact you think that is a good idea?
I do think it is a good idea if it is managed in the right way. Ideally I would like to see our downtown area remain attractive, containing mostly shops and restaurants. I believe that any industry, preferably light industry, should be developed by procuring land currently managed by the U.S. Forest Service. The town could own the land, and lease it to various businesses, but I’d like to maintain a rural atmosphere for Star Valley.

Do you have a plan for street repair or improvements?
The town currently receives revenues from the state that go in to what is called a HURF fund. The town is obligated to spend that money on street and other traffic infrastructure improvements. I would make sure that those funds were being spent in a manner that benefits the greatest number of Star Valley residents. There is still a lot of work to do in this town. I think that eventually there should be a loop around the town that is an alternative to Arizona Hwy. 260 that gives residents a different way of evacuating the town should a natural emergency make that necessary.

The Star Valley town council is currently considering changing hydrology firms. Do you support that effort? Why or why not?
I do not. LFR, the firm that has served this community since before incorporation, has done an excellent job in my opinion. I contracted with them in 2005 and worked closely with them for over three years. After all, LFR is the firm that was instrumental in setting up our well monitor program, certifying our wellhead elevations, our ground water contour maps, and spent countless hours sorting through area water reports and studies before completing our Sustainable Yield Study. If we are to sit down with Payson to discuss a water agreement, or if we have a water related problem there isn't any other firm in the state that is as well versed as LFR to direct our town leaders in making a decision that is best for all our residents. When the town initially sought a hydrology firm it took great pains to find one that had no conflict of interest with Payson. Now it would appear that the council is considering contracting with a firm that has been doing business with Payson for years. I’m not implying that they would do anything dishonest, I just think it makes sense to partner with a firm that doesn’t rely on the town of Payson for a significant source of revenue. It just seems like common sense to me.

It has been mentioned by some that the majority of your council and committee members reside in the Knolls subdivision. Is that a concern for you?
Yes, I have noticed that as well. I feel that we need more representation from all areas of the town. As a result of our incorporation we stopped Payson from drilling seven additional wells in our town. That would have resulted in far more residents being affected by Payson's pumping practice. Possibly if the Tower Well were located closer to the Knolls we would have a different view from those that want to change hydrology firms and ignore real data in an attempt to make peace. I am all for peace, but we need to make sure that we are protecting ourselves first!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Tough choices a reality, but it's all about caring

Let’s just say you are a 70-something fragile lady who has just cheated death from a bleeding ulcer. Let’s just say you are a patient at a regional hospital like the one in Payson, Arizona. Let’s imagine that you are a bit shaky, but have (almost) recovered from the loss of every drop of blood in your fragile body.

Just then, a freaky snowstorm completely blocks the roads leading into or out of the small community where you live; sort of like Tonto Village, for example -- no way to get home or get someone out right away to come get you. We’re just sayin’ of course.

Well, what if a person with some authority at that hospital comes to your hospital room and demands that you vacate the room immediately? In a tone rather cold and huffy, ending with a scolding: “We are not running a hotel here, you know,” this individual makes it clear that the hospital feels no further responsibility for you. Now, we can’t know exactly what the situation might have been, but let’s say it’s conceivable that more than one person could verify this account.

While we are at it, what if a good friend, a registered nurse dedicated to E.R. work, tells you through sobs that she can no longer tolerate the terrible environment she is forced to work with - especially the rigid, dictatorial attitude and strong emphasis of cost cutting over basic human values which have become requirements for work at this hospital. Let’s suppose that another individual, highly skilled and dedicated, quits his hospital job and decides to commute daily to the Valley for work, rather than endure the daily misery he feels, being required to adopt a cold, mechanical approach to his job. Just sayin‘, of course.

We certainly wouldn’t approve of such a scenario at our local hospital, would we? Truth be told, I have personally received warm, caring attention at Payson Regional Medical Center, so I know it exists. But, let’s just say the word “inconsistent” has been used in a gentle attempt to describe some exceptions to the norm.

Cost cutting is a way of life these days. We all understand that. You make do with what you have, and you try to stretch your resources as far as possible.

Heck, the medical world has far better resources than it ever has, even with cutbacks, so we are better off than generations before, I’m certain. The lack of healthcare insurance for a growing number of individuals has put enormous pressure on hospital emergency rooms to become the first line of defense for treating every conceivable medical problem. Seeing a private doctor is no longer an option for a great many individuals.

So, is it any wonder that stress levels are pushed to the max at many hospitals today? God bless the folks who do the difficult work under difficult conditions. Frustration is their daily companion, no doubt.

But what about the enormous satisfaction of seeing a life saved or severe trauma minimized? Within some people exists the capacity to actually experience pleasure in the act of helping others. I’ve witnessed it. Many of us have.

Having this motivation is a unique calling, Only a select number develop the true ability to deliver superior care in urgent situations. Sometimes the rule-book must be altered, but only by individuals who have a complete understanding of the rules. This can, and does, occasionally lead to conflict between doctors who are required to attend strict protocols or sometimes risk malpractice lawsuits and nurses who have to make quick decisions based on a lifetime of experience. Even without direct conflict, differences of opinion based on knowledge of the situation can, and do, occur. Add to this mix - hospital administrators whose jobs depend on controlling a tight budget, no matter how unrealistic.

Two aspirins and a Band-Aid per patient - no exceptions!
(just kidding)

Let’s say that a certain personality type is required to juggle all the challenges presented in a hospital environment today. Let’s say that the best ones at least see their glass as half-full and “make do” better than some others. Let’s imagine that good work is recognized and rewarded and that every effort is made to create a team atmosphere rather than an adversarial one in the work environment. Some say that would be a huge improvement at a certain regional hospital, which seems to lose good help on a regular basis.

I’ll bet the little old lady who was asked to leave would say nicer things, too. Just sayin’.

Incumbents don't show, but SV debate goes on

Photo by Jim Keyworth
Star Valley mayoral candidate Randy White and council candidates Paty Henderson and Chris Benjamin debated the issues at a lively forum while the incumbents chose not to attend.

Council candidates square off in lively forum

By Matt Brabb
Mogollon Connection Editor

Three candidates running for Star Valley government positions took part in a debate open to the public held at the Baptist church in Star Valley on Feb. 9. The Mogollon Connection, the Rim Country Gazette Blog, and KRIM-FM sponsored the debate.

Those participating included council candidates Chris Benjamin and Paty Henderson, along with Randy White who is running for mayor. After making their opening remarks, they were each asked identical questions in random order.

The first question dealt with the photo radar system in Star Valley. The system, though controversial, has seemingly made the stretch of Hwy 260 in Star Valley a safer place to drive. There haven’t been any fatalities on the road between the radar detectors since the cameras went up. In years past, that stretch of road averaged three fatalities a year.

Benjamin called the cameras a bittersweet subject, noting that they have been responsible for huge revenues for the town, but adding that it appears that Governor Jane Brewer may take steps next year to bring the cameras down throughout the state.

“Everything indicates that the governor is going in that direction,” agreed Henderson.

White was on the town council when the cameras were initially approved, and he voted against the measure. He stated that at the time he wanted the town to go the traditional route of enforcing speed limit laws by using patrol officers rather than go with cameras. He was also concerned about the towns image should the cameras go up.

“None of us wants the town to be made fun of,” he said.

However, if elected White said “I have no plans to try and get them out of here.”

The next question posed concerned the potential intergovernmental agreement currently being considered by the town councils of Payson and Star Valley.

When asked which of the four goals called out for in the resolution would be the toughest to accomplish, they all agreed that it would be putting a number on how much water Payson can safely pump from the Tower Well without harming Star Valley’s watershed.

Benjamin noted that in the past when the two towns tried to come to an agreement, Payson had always refused to define harm.

“They wanted to enter a contract, but they wouldn’t define harm,” he said. “Tempers flared up and nothing got accomplished.”

When questioned about the best way to go about developing Star Valley and creating jobs, the candidates offered a wide variety of ideas.

Noting that small businesses were the backbone of the community, Henderson advocated creating a friendly environment for business, with no new taxes.

Benjamin said that clean, light industry is the way to go, and that saving the highway frontage for attractive businesses was important. He also mentioned looking into going after forest service land. Land that the town would not be able to sell, but could lease.

White warned that the town should be aware of taking on difficult projects. He called Star Valley a “bedroom community” saying that it was important that new business be the right fit for the community. He went on to say that the town could possibly benefit from the new four-year college that may be coming to Payson in the near future.

The candidates were next asked to cite an example of a town council decision that they had disapproved of in the past, and how they would have liked to see the situation resolved.

Benjamin said that he is unhappy with a matter the current council appears to be well on the way of adopting, replacing Star Valley’s existing hydrology firm with the same one that Payson uses for a number of its projects.

He said that the town had struggled to find a company that would not have a conflict of interest with Payson should the two towns one day wind up in court over the Tower Well.

Benjamin fears that the company Star Valley is considering going with will have substantially larger financial contracts with Payson compared to Star Valley.

“It’s a clear conflict of interest,” he said.

Henderson did not cite a specific example of a decision that she had disagreed with, but she did mention that it was a real eye-opener to her when the council was unable to repeal a 2% rent tax.

White claimed that the biggest mistake the town ever made was not acquiring a water company for the town.

“Everything possible should have been done to get one,” he said.

He noted that this was a major stumbling block in getting the town’s share of 500 acre-feet of water that has been set aside for small communities in Rim Country that will eventually be delivered by the CC Cragin pipeline.

“We still have no standing,” he said. “We should have bit the bullet in the first place.”

When asked about his thoughts about how to get Star Valley’s share of Cragin water, Benjamin agreed with White, and advocated trying to acquire Brooke Utilities, the company that currently holds the CCN for the town.

The last question posed to the candidates was what principle that you hold are you absolutely unwilling to compromise.

Henderson said the adhering to the constitution at all times was the first thing that came to mind.

Benjamin agreed, but also said that maintaining and protecting the town’s finite resource of water was also a principle he would not concede.

White said that along with water, that good government, one that was open and honest was very important.

"I would keep this town within its budget, without putting undue burdens on the people,” he said.

“Caring for public money is a sacred trust,” he added.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Payson council candidates face-off at CAC

By Matt Brabb
Connection Editor

At a spirited Citizens Awareness Committee meeting held Feb. 11, Mike Vogel and Fred Carpenter, who are both running for a seat on the Payson Town Council, answered questions ranging from a proposed new fire station to the possibility of a four year college coming to town.

The topic of whether or not a new college is a good idea for the town was the most divisive issue among members of the CAC. Many asked questions and made statements on the subject, both for and against.

Both candidates were firmly in favor of the idea, and Vogel pointed out that a college was free to come to town whether the town wanted it to or not. He also noted that it would bring a good employment base.

“They don’t have to get our permission,” he said.

“I do support the concept; these institutions generally have a positive impact on towns,” said Carpenter.

“We would have to work on the traffic issues,” he added.

A number of members of the CAC were in favor of putting the matter to a vote, claiming that the matter of adding some 2,500 resident students to the town would put a major strain on infrastructure and town services.

Other members spoke in favor of the idea, noting the increased cultural opportunities a four-year university would bring to the town, as well the positive economic implications the construction and staffing of the college would bring.

Both candidates also agreed that the passage of Home Rule is essential to maintain town services for its residents in the manner they have become accustomed to. The measure authorizes the town to spend more money than it otherwise would be able to, based on a formula that was written when the town had only a fraction of the population it has now.

Vogel went so far as to say, “It is more important for home rule to pass than for me to get elected.”

Carpenter noted that passing the measure wouldn’t raise taxes for anyone, and that a defeat of the measure would cause further delays in infrastructure improvements to the town.

He added that the law requiring towns to stick to a level of spending adjusted for inflation that was written some 30 years ago, at a time when Payson didn’t have nearly the responsibility to its residents that it has now, is untenable.

“Cities and towns can’t spend more than they take in already,” he asserted.

Both candidates also claimed that without the passage of Home Rule, Payson’s plans for construction of the CC Cragin Pipeline, which will nearly double the supply of water available to the town, would have to be scrapped.

Another question asked of the candidates was whether or not they thought the construction of a new fire station, during this current period of economic distress, was a good idea.

Vogel, who was instrumental in getting the deal done, stressed that he had tried to work out a deal with the Hellsgate fire department to share costs, but in the end, they simply wanted too much.

He claimed that by building the station now, the town would eventually save some $500,000.

Carpenter agreed, noting that because of the economic downturn that there would be no better climate in which the town could entertain bids for the project.

“The town should build it; even if we can’t open it up for a couple of years, it would be fine,” he added.

When asked if the Hellsgate fire department would still respond to calls, Vogel was emphatic.

“For $120,000 a year, they’d better,” he said, adding that he had never heard of a mutual aid pact in which a town was paid to come in before.

Don't let wolf Tom Horne guard the hen house

GUEST COMMENTARY

Felecia Rotellini statement on Tom Horne’s candidacy for Arizona Attorney General

PHOENIX (February 19, 2010) —Democratic Attorney General candidate Felecia Rotellini today issued the following statement in response to Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne’s entry into the Arizona Attorney General’s race:

“The Attorney General is the lawyer for all the people of Arizona. That office must stay focused on protecting Arizonans both physically and financially. Unfortunately, both Tom Horne and his likely primary opponent Andrew Thomas have repeatedly demonstrated that making government work for the people of Arizona takes a back seat to their politically and idealogically driven agendas.

I come to this race with priorities that have been shaped by the last 17 years I’ve spent as a tough prosecutor and financial watchdog, fighting for everyday people in Arizona. We are facing difficult challenges in our state and as Attorney General, I will exercise the discipline and discernment of a prosecutor to ensure that we are picking the right battles and using taxpayer dollars in the most efficient and effective way possible.

We have seen our education system put on the political bargaining table under Tom Horne’s leadership as our Superintendent of Public Instruction. Now he’s asking Arizona families to let the wolf guard the hen house just one more time.

I join with the people of Arizona in saying enough is enough! The Attorney General’s office must not fall into the hands of politically-motivated individuals who will use our state’s top law enforcement office as a platform for their own agendas. That’s not the kind of Attorney General we need in Arizona.

From Lake Havasu to Sonoita, I will lead with my focus on protecting Arizonans in their homes, on the streets, and in their dealings with business and with government.”

Felecia Rotellini is a veteran prosecutor and consumer advocate with more than 23 years of experience in private and public law. Although best known for her work on the Baptist Foundation of Arizona (BFA) case, she has earned a reputation as a fair and fierce financial watchdog and criminal prosecutor with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, working in both the Civil and Criminal Divisions.

In 2006, Governor Napolitano appointed Rotellini to head the Arizona Department of Financial Institutions. As Superintendent, Rotellini cracked down on mortgage and financial fraud, starting a Mortgage Fraud Task Force in 2006 and working with the legislature to license loan officers in both 2008 and 2009. Known for her willingness to take on the "Goliath" companies — who have unlimited resources for defense costs — she is a tireless advocate and a voice for victims of crimes.

For more information on Felecia Rotellini, visitwww.feleciaforarizona.com.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

COMING LATER THIS WEEK TO A BLOG NEAR YOU:

NEW COLUMNS BY:

Noble Collins (Rimshots)
Mary Williams (Fly Away)
Jim Keyworth (Off the Rim)
Mitzi Brabb (Pregnancy 101)

Plus Rant & Rave

The Rim Country Gazette Blog
The Rim's most trustworthy news source

Potential rockslides on southbound I-17

PRESCOTT – The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) is monitoring two slopes adjacent to southbound Interstate 17 between Sunset Point and Black Canyon City.  Heavy rains over the past month have saturated the slopes and increased the potential of rocks falling onto the roadway.

ADOT crews and equipment are on site and engineers are assessing the slopes to determine the steps that need to be taken to protect drivers who use this vital highway between Flagstaff and the Valley.

Drivers are advised to visit ADOT’s Travel Information Site at www.az511.gov or call 5-1-1 for the very latest.

LETTER: Retired teacher can't afford to vote for schools initiative -- or to eat meat, go to doctor

To my beloved Rim Country:
As I write this letter, I am torn between the children and my own personal well being.

I taught school in California for 16 years before moving to Payson.

I was disabled from a car accident when my car was struck by a man who was intoxicated.

Even though I had insurance and the man didn't, the insurance money ran out very quickly with my multi million dollar medical bills.

When my common law husband was still alive we lived on his social security and my meager ($13,000) social security amount per year.

Since he died I now only receive my amount.

He left this home to me and a small amount of stock that fell through the floor during the recent bank failures and stock market crash.

Even though this small house is paid for I have just barely been able to pay the property tax and home owners insurance.

I do not smoke, drink or do drugs nor can I even afford to buy meat and I am losing weight.

It broke my heart but I had to find homes for my cat and dog because I could no longer afford to buy food for them.

I can no longer afford to go to the doctor on Medicare because the doctor will no longer see me for the 80 percent that Medicare only pays, as I do not have the money to pay the doctor (the 20 percent that Medicare does not pay) nor do I have the money to buy secondary health insurance.

There was no cost of living increase for Medicare in 2009 yet the utilities companies and other bills went up double digits. And our government says there is no inflation.

This country is at war and no one can foresee what could happen during the next seven years. No one could have foreseen that the stock my man left me would become "junk bonds."

Of course everyone at church is optimistic and we are all going to be raptured off the earth before anything much worse happens anyway.

Well that may be good thinking for the young who are able to work.

But for me I don't know how I am going to make it. This last year my property taxes dropped and that allowed me to pay the co-pays for my medications that I had been rationing.

When I go to church (one of the largest in Payson) with many, many school employees going there, I just wish that I could go without hearing all the talk about how everyone needs to vote yes so the children can have the best of everything.

It is very hard to worship my Lord when the majority of people at church are so adamant about how the children just have to have this.

Why does this initiative "school override" (property tax increase) have to include those of us whose incomes are at or below the U.S. poverty level?

Try living on 13K a year!

I know five other women on my street who are in the same situation and we are all very proud Americans.

I just want others in our shoes to not feel guilty by voting no.

Only a few true friends know my middle name.

Ruth

Winter storm wreaks havoc on highways

By Bill Pederson
ADOT Public Information Officer

PHOENIX — As a public safety team on the roads day and night, good weather and bad, the Arizona Department of Transportation's (ADOT) first focus is keeping motorists safe and traffic moving. But after the recent winter storm pounded most of the state, ADOT will spend more than $4 million to repair critical infrastructure damaged by rain, wind and snow.

It’s a big price to pay, but a necessity to protect drivers, property and decades of investments in highway infrastructure. When bad weather strikes, ADOT crews are the first responders – clearing the way and securing passage for police, fire and medical responders.

“ADOT has no role more critical than public safety. We have hundreds of staff in every corner of the state, covering 6,000 miles of highway, providing services specifically to protect motorists, the movements of the things we buy, and the investment we have all made in our highways,” said Transportation Director John Halikowski. “When it snows, ADOT plows lead the way. That’s a powerful testament to our mission and the dedication of our public-safety professionals.”

Of the estimated $4.1 million total cost for repairs, some may be reimbursed by the Federal Highway Administration as part of a program to compensate states for emergency response. The bulk of the costs, however, will hit the ADOT operations budget, a fund already drained by reduced revenues and legislative transfers. This is the same fund that provides money for snow plowing, Motor Vehicle Division Offices, staff salaries and highway rest areas.

ADOT has two primary day-to-day roles – public safety and customer service. Meeting both of these needs is the agency’s top focus. To provide funds for emergency services that come up everyday – like snow plowing, vehicle inspections, fraud detection, or critical highway repairs – it has been necessary to reallocate funds from a variety of sources into our public safety function. Both public safety and customer service are funded by the operations budget, and that’s a budget short on cash.

Even when faced with flash flood, thunderstorm, tornado, dust storm, winter storm and other warnings from the National Weather Service, ADOT personnel and equipment were in action confronting January’s storms. Emergency closures of highways, including State Route 89A near Sedona and Loop 101 in Scottsdale, were required to protect drivers. This was in addition to the preemptive closures of I-17 and I-40 before the worst of the weather hit – a move designed to keep motorists from becoming stranded.

The series of storms – the second for this winter – took their toll on the highway system around the state. Eroded roadways caused by flooding, rock falls and landslides, feet upon feet of snow, sink holes, crashes that caused damage and other affects are still being addressed by ADOT crews. The forces of Mother Nature, when extreme enough, will foil even the best engineering and construction techniques. Wind, water and ice are powerful.

These storms were just some of the daily public safety challenges ADOT crews confront to keep drivers safe, and traffic moving. Crashes, criminal damage, wildlife encounters, and ever-changing weather conditions are at the core of ADOT’s public safety responsibility, and often require highway workers to spend nights, holidays and weekends away from family to conquer critical safety issues.

“This serves to remind us that these types of extreme, unpredictable weather events are exactly what make the business of highway maintenance difficult and poses public safety challenges that only ADOT can tackle. The same set of rules applied to work done in a climate controlled office simply can’t be applied to work done in bad weather, or in the midst of traffic,” said Lonnie Hendrix, assistant state engineer for maintenance. “Highways are like living creatures. They respond to their environments, need care and attention, and sometimes surprise you.”

The public safety role at ADOT includes a range of roles, including helping drivers avoid weather and closures, reducing the likelihood of stranded motorists and crashes. For the January storm, ADOT – in its biggest push yet – used social networking site Twitter to keep drivers and community leaders informed of closures, problems and delays. Over four days, 209 messages were transmitted via the site – www.Twitter.com/ArizonaDOT – reaching an estimated 426,000 readers across the state. This was on top of three dozen local, state and national media interviews and more than 210,000 combined phone calls to 511 and Web visits to www.az511.gov for travel information.

“Because ADOT is more than highways, we have employees inspecting commercial and passenger vehicles, designing and planning roadways, supporting public transit safety requirements, communicating public-safety hazards, and screening potential drivers before issuing licenses,” Halikowski said. “This is a massive responsibility. It requires a spirit of service and clear recognition – ADOT is a public safety team.”

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Way too happy for a guy turning 60

Photo by Bill Huddleston
Mesa del Caballo's Randy Norman poses with his Over the Hill dog, one of many gifts lavished on him by family, friends and neighbors at his gala 60th birthday party last weekend.

Photo by Bill Huddleston


Photo by Bill Huddleston
Randy with wife Minnie and daughter Randi.


Photo not by Bill Huddleston
Buddies Randy and Bill.

Premium hikes trigger call to reform health care

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today unveiled a new report, "Insurance Companies Prosper, Families Suffer: Our Broken Health Insurance System."

The report highlights health insurance premium increases in states across the country and comes shortly after Anthem Blue Cross announced plans to raise rates on its California customers by as much as 39 percent, even after its parent company took in a profit of $2.7 billion in the previous quarter. The complete report is available at www.HealthReform.gov.

"Over the last year, America's largest insurance companies have requested premium increases of 56 percent in Michigan, 24 percent in Connecticut, 23 percent in Maine, 20 percent in Oregon, and 16 percent
in Rhode Island, to name just a few states," said Sebelius. "Premium increases have left thousands of families that are already struggling during the economic downturn with an unpleasant choice between fewer
benefits, higher premiums, or having no insurance at all. Hard-working families deserve better."

The report examines requested insurance premium increases and notes:

* Anthem of Connecticut requested an increase of 24 percent last year, which was rejected by the state.

* Anthem in Maine had an 18.5 percent premium increase rejected by the state last year as being "excessive and unfairly discriminatory" - but is now requesting a 23 percent increase this year.

* In 2009 Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan requested approval for premium increases of 56 percent for plans sold on the individual market.

* Regency Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oregon requested a 20 percent premium increase.

* UnitedHealth, Tufts and Blue Cross requested 13 to 16 percent rate increases in Rhode Island.

* Rates for some individual health plans in Washington increased by up to 40 percent until Washington State imposed stiffer premium regulations.

Health insurance reform will fix our insurance system, help drive down costs, put consumer power and choice in the hands of the American people, and ensure all Americans receive the health care services they
need.

Reform will:

* Place additional oversight on health insurance companies to ensure that people get value for the premiums they pay. Insurance companies will have to report how they spend the premium dollars that they collect
from their customers. If they spend too much on administrative costs and profits, they will have to give some of that money back to their customers. Insurance companies will also have to provide public
justification for premium increases. Consumers can use this information to help decide whether they want to purchase a particular plan. And if insurance companies are not able to justify their premium increases,
they could be barred from participating in the health insurance exchanges.

* End Arbitrary Limits Placed on Coverage by Insurance Companies. Under health insurance reform, families will no longer face lifetime limits to their benefits, nor will coverage be denied or watered down based on medical history. As a result, health insurance will provide real protection from high health care costs.

* End Insurance Company Discrimination. Health insurance reform will prevent any insurance company from denying coverage based on underlying health status, including genetic information. It will end insurance
discrimination that charges families more if a family member has or had any illness, and limit differences in premiums based on age.

* Create Competition Among Insurers with a Health Insurance Exchange.  Health insurance reform creates an "exchange" or marketplace for insurance competition that will drive down premium prices for Americans.
The health insurance exchange will bring families and plans together into one organized marketplace so families can compare prices and health plans in order to decide which quality, affordable option is right for
them. Health insurance reform will guarantee every American a choice of health coverage, even if someone loses a job, switches jobs, moves, or gets sick.

* Ensure Value in Our Health Care System. By rewarding high-quality and efficient care, encouraging care coordination, and reducing medical errors, health reform will slow the growth in health care costs and
ensure value for every health care dollar spent.

* Lower Premiums. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that reform will streamline administrative costs of insurance companies and bring more people into the insurance market, lowering premiums of a comparable plan in the individual market by 14 to 20 percent.  That means more money in the pockets of American families, and the security of having high-quality coverage.

"Premium hikes in California and across the country are a wakeup call," added Sebelius. "It's time for Congress to pass reform and hand control over health care decisions back to American families and their doctors."

Brown, murky water impairs Green Valley fishing

But Game & Fish still stocking trout in Payson

Fishing for trout is good to excellent at most Urban Fishing Program (UFP) waters, but lake waters at Green Valley (Payson) and Lakeside (Tucson) are staying brown colored and murky with new runoff from recent storms—making fishing tough.

Anglers using scented dough baits (such as Power Bait), worms fished under a bobber, corn on the bottom, or small trout lures have been successful.  Anglers fishing with lighter tackle are having the best luck. Use 2-4 pound leaders, smaller hooks and minimal weight to greatly improve fishing success.

Best times to fish for trout generally are early morning, but some anglers have reported excellent fishing late afternoon.  Small spinners such as Rooster Tails and Panther Martins, or spoons like Super Dupers are also working well for trout.

Trout continue to be stocked at Green Valley Lakes, but until the water clears up a bit more, the fishing is expected to remain slow.  Due to runoff effects, Lakeside Lake in Tucson will not be stocked with trout the week of Feb. 22-27, so anglers are advised to try Kennedy and Silverbell Lakes that are each getting the extra fish.

All 21 UFP waters in Phoenix Area, Tucson Area and Payson - Last stocked, trout, Feb. 11. Next stocking, trout, the week of Feb. 22-27.

Call 1-800-352-0700 to report fishing violations

WHAT THE URBAN FISHING PROGRAM PROVIDES
In the midst of difficult economic times, participation in Arizona’s Urban Fishing Program has grown 8-10 percent for each of the past three years.

Why? Simply put, Urban Fishing Program lakes and ponds offer a high-quality, affordable and convenient way to go fishing in town; representing excellent value. Celebrating it’s 25th anniversary this year, it is an award-winning, nationally recognized program.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department is pleased to partner with 11 cities statewide to provide fishing recreation opportunities to city residents. Based on the motto, “If people can’t get to the fish, we bring fish to the people,” the Urban Fishing Program provides:

> A family friendly outdoor opportunity that contributes to quality of life in the city.
> Over $6.4 million in direct expenditures per year to the Arizona economy by anglers.
> Excellent fishing for 58,000 people; 25 percent of them youth fishing for free.
Over 500 fish stockings a year into 21 Urban Program lakes by the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
> Annual stockings of 237,000 fish including trout, catfish, bluegill and bass.
> Quality, stocked fish that are good to eat and fun to catch.
> A relaxing, convenient and accessible opportunity in well-maintained park settings.
> A fun, safe and affordable way for city residents of all ages and abilities to fish.
> A positive, memorable way for friends and families to spend time together.

INTERNATIONAL SPORTSMEN’S EXPO FEB. 26-28
The 10th annual International Sportsmen’s Exposition, from Feb. 26-28, is Arizona’s largest fishing, hunting and outdoor travel event. Expo hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale (Glendale Avenue and Hwy 101). General admission is $15 for adults, and free for children 15 years and under. Parking is free with paid admission.

Don’t miss your once-a-year chance to celebrate the outdoors with family and friends, capture show-priced bargains, and meet with guides, outfitters and experts from nearby and around the world. See the newest hunting, fishing and outdoor equipment, find out about places to hunt and fish, hear from many outdoor experts during seminars throughout each day, and watch the experts test their skills in competitions.

Kids will have a blast participating in fishing and shooting sports at the Youth Outdoor Sports Fair, presented by the Game and Fish ! Department. The kids fishing tank will be loaded with trout for them to catch and release for free. For more information, go to www.sportsexpos.com.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Editor explains who they think they are

(Blog editor's note: The following editorial appeared in the Feb. 17 issue of the Mogollon Connection. Editor Matt Brabb called to tell us he meant no offense to our blog. We told him none was taken. As we have always said: information is a good thing. So is competition. We say bring it on. And we will work closely with the Connection staff to provide you both sides of every story.  Check the blog Wednesday for an updated list of locations that carry the Connection.)

So just who do we think we are anyway?  In an era in which people are turning in droves to outlets different than traditional newspapers for information, how do we hope to compete?  How, when people can turn to free internet news sources and blogs, do we expect to survive, especially considering that two local newspapers have recently closed up shop in the very market we hope to carve a niche out of.

The answer is actually simple.  There is only one way we can make this work.  We have to be better than the websites and the blogs, and we have to offer something different than our competitor in this market.

Please do not misunderstand; it is plain that we do not have the resources to compete with the other newspaper in town at what they do.  We do not wish to start an adversarial relationship with them.  Our goal is to offer you, the reader, something that they do not.  To approach things from a different angle.

To begin with we are not affiliated with any single town.  We are not Payson, nor Star Valley, nor Pine and Strawberry, Mesa Del, Whispering Pines, Tonto Village or any other one Rim Country community.  It is our objective to deliver the news dispassionately from wherever it may come, rather than through the lens of a particular community.

Secondly, we will not be tied to the various interests in Rim Country that might reduce our ability to be objective.  We are a newspaper.  That is all we do.  There will be no conflicts of interest at the Mogollon Connection.  We realize that good things happened while Bob Edwards was the mayor of Payson, and that good things have happened while Kenny Evans has been the mayor.  We do not intend to take sides.  For those of you who like your news delivered with a particular bias, we may not suit you.

But beyond our ability to offer you the alternatives described above, there is something else.  It is simply unhealthy for a community to be served by a single news source.  Imagine turning on your television tomorrow and discovering that only one source of news was left to you to describe what was going on in the world.  What if it were only CNN, or MSNBC, or FOX news.  Would it be possible to get a completely accurate picture from any of these by itself? Not likely. Competition is healthy; it makes for a better product.

So, we are asking for your support, as well as your patience.  We are a work in progress.  In time we will expand and be able to provide additional content.  For now we will bring you all the coverage that a small and dedicated team can provide.

Our focus will be on human interest stories every bit as much as our coverage of local events and government issues.  Rim Country is blessed with a remarkable history, and is inhabited by any number of people who have lived extraordinary lives.  We intend to tell the story of both.

And for that, we will need your help.  If you have a story to tell, feel free to drop by our office, give us a call, or send mail to the editor.  Send us letters to the editor at payson@mogollonconncection.com, or call us at (928) 468-6701.  Our office location is 1001 S. Beeline Highway, Suite D.

It is an honor and a privilege to serve a community by providing its news.  We will do so ethically, and in a straightforward manner, going wherever the story leads us.  We hope you will give us a chance.

Bald eagles need more protection from state

A bald eagle is shown in flight in this undated Arizona Game and Fish Department photo. (Photo Credit: Arizona Game and Fish Department)

This undated photo provided by the state Game and Fish Department shows bald eagles tending a nest in Arizona. A state lawmaker is pushing for a broad range of protections for the eagle, which remains listed as a threatened species in Arizona. (Photo Credit: George Andrejko, Arizona Game and Fish Department)

A 6-week-old bald eagle nestling reacts to being measured and banded by an Arizona Game and Fish Department biologist in 2009.  (Cronkite News Service Photo by Andrea Wilson)


By CHRISTINE HARVEY
Cronkite News Service

PHOENIX - Bald eagles need additional protection, especially preservation of their habitat, to survive in Arizona, a state lawmaker contends.

“If we don’t do something to protect their habitat, they will face extinction,” said Rep. Ed Ableser, D-Tempe.

For the third straight year, Ableser is sponsoring a sweeping bill that would require additional state-level management of bald eagles along with other endangered and threatened species.

And for the third straight year, he said, the measure is going nowhere despite what he said is a clear need to protect bald eagles from threats such as drying rivers, the loss of cottonwood trees and human encroachment.

“This bill is the only hope they have left,” Ableser said. “Without our protection, their habitats will be completely lost and so will their entire population.”

Threatened with extinction in recent decades, the bald eagle has rebounded around the country to the point that federal officials have removed it from the list of protected species. Arizona’s population, however, remains listed as threatened while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service evaluates its status.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department, which manages a program to protect nesting sites and increase the bald eagle population, estimates 61 nesting sites around Arizona. In 1972, there were just four.

Ableser’s measure, HB 2264, would require Game and Fish to take steps to protect the habitat and increase the numbers of endangered or threatened species within the carrying capacity of a region. Among other provisions, it would require the agency to designate habitat boundaries and create a commission to oversee the efforts to aid species.

The bill also would list bald eagles as an endangered species in Arizona through 2017.

“The most majestic view anyone can ever see is our bald eagle soaring over the Grand Canyon,” Ableser said. “The notion they may become extinct because we didn’t help really scares me.”

Eric Gardner, nongame branch chief for Game and Fish, said the commission governing his agency hasn’t taken a position on Ableser’s bill in part because it isn’t going anywhere.

Kenneth Jacobson, bald eagle management coordinator for Game and Fish, wouldn’t offer an opinion on Ableser’s bill but noted that Arizona’s population of bald eagles has increased consistently in recent years.

Robin Silver, co-founder for the Tucson-based Center of Biological Diversity, said the biggest threat to bald eagles is the loss of habitat.

“This piece of legislation is everything,” Silver said. “It’s our last hope to protect our state’s most visible and loved symbol from harm.”

Sandy Bahr, conservation director for the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter, said that ultimately Ableser’s bill would limit the destruction of bald eagle habitat.

“The desert nesting bald eagle is part of our culture and history and should continue to have protection,” Bahr said. “Arizona itself could do that through implementation of this endangered species act.”

Here are key provisions of HB 2264, sponsored by Rep. Ed Ableser, D-Tempe:

> Species covered would have to be classified as endangered.
> The Game and Fish Department’s director would have to create a recovery plan and establish programs for the management of species of wildlife listed as endangered.
> At the request of the Game and Fish director, a panel of scientists would review and comment on research about species.
> Would require a public repository with all written data, comments and information on species.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

LETTER: Can't abandon dropouts, undereducated

Editor:
If K-12 education was meeting the needs of Arizona’s citizenry, would the state have an annual drop-out rate of 23,000, as stated recently in The Arizona Republic? Would approximately 800,000 adults in Arizona be without a high school diploma? As the debate about the quality of K-12 education, and the impact of funding, continues, two valuable education programs that address the needs of high school drop-outs and under-educated adults are in danger of elimination.

According to the Arizona Association for Lifelong Learning, last year over 43,000 Arizona adults were served by adult education programs and GED testing. Fourteen thousand, five hundred (14,500) GEDs were awarded during the 2008/2009 program year.

Despite the apparent need for these programs, and their successful record in assisting adults to earn a high school diploma, Governor Brewer has recommended that funding for these programs be eliminated.

It is well and good to focus on improving K-12 education, if that can realistically be done while cutting K-12 funding. But let’s not abandon the high school dropouts and undereducated adults of Arizona who struggle to complete their education without appropriate support, which, incidentally, is required by Arizona State Statute.

Adult education and GED testing are critical to the future of Arizona citizens, families, and communities. Arizona can’t afford to ignore these valuable programs.

Karen Wartick

Southwest Civil War battles will be re-enacted

(Phoenix, AZ - Feb. 21) - Each year hundreds of spectators descend on Picacho Peak State Park to watch re-enactments of the Battle of Picacho Pass and the New Mexico battles of Glorieta and Val Verde. The re-enactments will be hosted at Picacho Peak State Park on Saturday, March 13 and Sunday, March 14. (See full schedule below).

Unfortunately this State Park is scheduled to close on June 3, 2010 due to State funding sweeps and will be closed indefinitely after that date.

This year the Civil War of the Southwest event is being coordinated with financial support from the Arizona State Parks Foundation and Union Pacific Railroad. Volunteers from across the state will be offering their assistance during these two days so this popular re-enactment of Arizona's Civil War history can take place.

"We know that few people even understand what was happening during the Civil War in Arizona and these battles bring the public together to learn about that late 1800s era in Arizona," said Janet Hawks, the Arizona State Parks Chief of Operations.

Visitors travel from around the country to experience the three fascinating historic re-enactments complete with lifestyles of the soldiers in the southwest during the 1860s. More than 200 re-enactors come in from many states and will camp at Picacho Peak State Park with their authentic Civil War camping gear.

Food and beverage concessions will be available. Please be sure to bring along plenty of water, hat, lawn chair and sunscreen. Please note that pets will not be permitted to this event.

Civil War battles across America were well documented and history teachers carefully covered each battle across the East Coast, but few ever knew what was happening in the West during this time. A battle of the American Civil War was a skirmish fought near a rocky spire called Picacho Peak located between Phoenix and Tucson. The new highway follows the old wagon route that passed Picacho in 1862.

In 1860 the New Mexico Territory, which consisted of the lands that would become the states of Arizona and New Mexico, was sparsely populated. It ranked 34th in population out of 43 states and territories with only 83,009 inhabitants. It was 37th in black populations, with just 8 whom were free.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, the U.S. Government recalled the majority of its troops from the West to build the Union army for the fighting in the east. Henry Hopkins Sibley joined the Confederacy and convinced Jefferson Davis that he would raise an army in Texas and invade New Mexico territories. He proposed that mineral resources would fill the coffers of the Confederacy and fund their massive war effort.

THREE BATTLES REENACTED AT THIS EVENT

Picacho Pass, Arizona - April 15, 1862
Twelve Union cavalry troopers and one scout, commanded by Lieutenant Barrett, were conducting a sweep of the Picacho Pass area, looking for Confederates reported to be nearby. During their patrol they discovered and captured 3 Confederate lookouts, but failed to see 7 other Confederate soldiers before they opened fire. During the ensuing skirmish, Lt. Barrett and 2 of his men were killed and 3 others wounded. More than an hour later, both sides withdrew from the scene. The remains of two Union soldiers buried at Picacho were later returned to California, but Lt. Barrett's grave, near the present railroad tracks, remains unmarked and undisturbed. Union reports indicate 2 Confederates may have been wounded, but there is no confirmation of this.

Valverde, New Mexico - February 21, 1862*
Under the command of General Sibley, about 2,000 Texans departed their camp early in the morning. Water was scarce and breakfast was only a bit of beef. They marched and rode to Valverde on the Rio Grande where they were soon engaged by the nearly 2,500 Union soldiers and 8 cannons under Col. Roberts. At 8 a.m. the Texans, equipped mostly with old civilian hunting arms and shotguns, set a line of defense behind a low embankment. They held this line until the left flank, under Captain Baylor, was severely mauled by the Federals. At that point, nearly five hours into the battle, Union artillery moved close to the Confederate center, raking the line with grapeshot and canister. In danger of being flanked and decimated by the artillery, some 200 Texans, aided by the four 6-pounder cannon of Captain Teel's artillery, charged the Union battery. Although suffering numerous casualties, the Texans captured the battery and turned it on the Federals pressing Baylor. This effectively turned the tide of the battle and forced the Federals to flee the field of battle, leaving it in the hands of the victorious Confederates. Confederate casualties were 36 killed, 150 wounded and 1 missing. The Union suffered 68 killed, 150 wounded and 35 missing. * Extracted from the journal of Sgt. A.B. Peticolas, CSA

Glorieta, New Mexico - March 28, 1862*
A month after the Confederate victory at Valverde, the Texans had arrived at the mouth of Apache Canyon east of Santa Fe, where they prepared to choke Union access to the Santa Fe Trail. The Confederate force, under Lt. Col. Scurry, consisted of about a thousand men and 3 cannon. The Union forces, led by Col. Slough, numbered about 850 men and 8 cannon. At 11 a.m. Union skirmishers met the Texan advance guard and fired the first shot of the Battle of Glorieta, sometimes called the Gettysburg of the West. Furious fighting broke out all along the line which spanned the narrow timber and rock-choked canyon. By 2 p.m. the Confederates had managed to push the Union right flank back a quarter of a mile. Gaining high ground on the Union right, Texans poured heavy fire into the federal positions, forcing their withdrawal into the canyon. By Battle's end, at 4:30 p.m., the Federals had retreated more than a mile with the Texans in firm command of the mouth of the canyon. During the main battle, 490 Federals, led by Major Chivington, struck a fatal blow to the Texan advance. While attempting to link up with the main force, Chivington's men discovered the hidden Confederate 80 wagon supply train. They drove off the weak guard, slaughtered the draft animals and burned the supply wagons. The loss of these supplies spelled disaster for the confederates who, although having won a tactical victory, were now forced to begin a long and agonizing retreat back into Texas. The Battle of Glorieta was a Union victory, the Santa Fe Trail was no longer threatened by Confederate forces, and the garrison of Fort Union remained undefeated. Confederate losses were 36 killed, 60 wounded and 25 missing. The Union lost 38 killed, 64 wounded and 20 missing.

For more information about the re-enactments, please visit AZStateParks.com or call Picacho Peak State Park at (520) 466-3183. The full schedule is available at AZStateParks.com. Please print the schedule and bring it with you to the event!

Special Event Vehicle Entrance Fee is $10 per vehicle for up to 4 persons, each additional person is charged $3 each. A $3 per person entrance fee applies to pedestrians and bicyclists. There is no charge for children aged 13 and younger. The park is located off I-10, on exit 219; 60 miles south of Phoenix, and 40 miles north of Tucson.

Please call ahead to find out the latest information about the State Parks by calling (602) 542-4174 (outside of the Phoenix metro area call toll-free (800) 285-3703) or visit AZStateParks.com. Follow us on twitter.com/AZStateParks.

CIVIL WAR IN THE SOUTHWEST
Picacho Peak State Park
March 13 & 14, 2010

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS (all times are approximate)

9:30 am Gates open
10:15 am Artillery Demonstration - Battlefield
Spencer & Jackson Traveling Theatrical Troupe - Encampment
11:00 am Reenactment of Battle of Valverde - Battlefield
11:30 am Fashion Show - (Sat. Only) - Sutler's Row
Church Service - (Sun. Only) - Sutler's Row
12:00 pm "Soldiering in the Southwest" Presentation - Sutler's Row
12:30 pm Spencer & Jackson Traveling Theatrical Troupe - Encampment
Civilian Living History Demonstrations (spinning, bullet making, displays...) - Encampment
1:00 pm Artillery Demonstration - Battlefield
1:30 pm Reenactment of Battle of Glorieta Pass - Battlefield
2:15 pm 4th U.S. Cavalry Regimental Band - (Sat. Only) - Sutler's Row
Tea Party - (Sat. Only) - Encampment
Fashion Show - (Sun. Only) - Sutler's Row
3:00 pm Cavalry Demonstration - Battlefield
Civilian Living History Demonstrations (spinning, bullet making, displays,...) - Encampment Spencer & Jackson Traveling Theatrical Troupe - (Sun. Only) - Encampment
**Entrance Gates Closed to Spectators; No Further Public Entry**
3:30 pm Reenactment of Battle of Picacho Pass - Battlefield
4:00 pm Spencer & Jackson Traveling Theatrical - (Sat. Only) - Encampment
Special thanks to the following:
The Re-enactors, Pinal County Sonoran Search & Rescue, Marana Police Department Explorers, and the many volunteers.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Photo-enforcement a good idea -- for others

I am not a freeway person.

And that’s especially true of the urban freeways down in the Valley. I have driven freeways in Boston, Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, Denver, Albuquerque, San Francisco and Los Angeles, and the most inept and reckless drivers of all are the ones who drive the urban freeways of the Valley of the Sun.

Valley drivers drive too fast and they drive too close and they bob and weave like Muhammad Ali (in his prime).

Not all of them of course. Not even a majority. But enough to make it hazardous for those of us who do not drive like the devil himself is on our butt.

Maybe it’s because freeways came late to the Valley and therefore experience driving on them is still being acquired. That would be the kindest, gentlest way to put it. Since, as my favorite guru Buzz Walker said when he promised to never take water from Star Valley, we sometimes end up recreating with our Valley neighbors, we don’t want to insult them.

Anyway, of all the scary Valley freeways, there is none scarier than the 101. Or at least there was none scarier than the 101 BPE (before photo-enforcement).

Drivers were downright idiotic on the 101 before big brother started watching. When he did, it was magical. Overnight, the 101 became drivable – even for me.

Instead of going 85, 95 or 105, drivers slowed to the 70s. You would think peace and joy had descended on the Valley.

You would be wrong. Because for some reason I cannot fathom, people have taken up arms against photo-enforcement – sometimes literally.

All of this would be a mere footnote in our lives, except that the fair Town of Star Valley utilizes photo enforcement to control the speed through town and, coincidentally, to keep the town’s coffers healthy (to the tune of $75-100 thousand a month).

Star Valley Mayor Bill Rappaport, who takes credit for bringing photo enforcement to town, says it has paid for paving almost all the town’s streets and roads. But, he insists, it’s not about the money.

“The reason (we did it was) that we were averaging about three fatalities through that corridor every year – and these weren’t people hitting elk,” Rappaport said.

“We did a study at that time and the average speed limit was 72 mph in a 45 mph zone. The average speed right now is 43 mph. We have not had one fatality since we put it in (along) that strip between the two cameras.”

So what’s to dislike about photo enforcement? Those who oppose it in Star Valley say it gives their fair town a bad reputation as a speed trap.

Those who oppose it statewide call it a “cash grab.” So far, photo enforcement has generated almost $40 million for the state on an average of 1,400 citations per day.

Ninety of those citations, incidentally, belong to Dave Vontesmar, a Valley resident who, according to DPS officials, wears a monkey mask so he can’t be identified in the photographs. An apt metaphor, in my opinion.

It also seems to be a big brother issue for some, as in, “How dare you use electronic equipment to spy on me.” There have even been organized protests by an organization called Arizona Citizens Against Photo Radar (ACAPR).

While Rappaport likes photo enforcement, his opponent in the Star Valley mayoral race, Randy White, is running against it. And Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has said she might pull the plug on it when the contract expires later this year and then allow residents to vote on it.

That’s ACAPR’s goal as well. The group is gathering signatures in hopes of forcing a ballot initiative.

What will happen if it comes to a vote? In a phone survey conducted last year over half the respondents said they are in favor of keeping the cameras in place.

Nobody believes in individual rights more than me, but I will vote in favor of photo enforcement. It seems to me that allowing people to drive 55 through downtown Star Valley (45 + 10 over) is more than generous.

And while there is no question that photo enforcement is a cash cow, DPS officials say it is doing exactly what it is supposed to do – make people drive more responsibly. Anyone who drives the Valley’s urban freeways would surely agree.

Part of the problem may be that drivers are allowed 10 miles over the speed limit. If we had a speed limit that was truly the limit, then people wouldn’t have the mindset that they should be allowed to get away with breaking it.

If that means adding 10 miles per hour to every speed limit and then strictly enforcing the number on the sign, so be it. No exceptions.

Except maybe you and me because we have places to go and things to do and we’re running a little late.

Wonder where you buy those monkey masks?

PSWID board needs to focus on new water sources

By Sam Schwalm
Gazette Blog Columnist

Another three hour plus meeting, but for the most part the time spent was useful.

Some general observations/comments that I have:

The board’s main goal has been to get new sources of water on-line before next summer. Based upon where they seem to be in the process, it doesn’t look like they will make it. It is probably a reasonable bet that they will start to have additional water available mid to late summer. In my view, they aren’t helping themselves by having a bunch of other activities going on like deep-well drilling plans, renegotiating water sharing agreements, and listening to proposals to buy Solitude Trails DWID. They only have so much time and energy and these other items aren’t time critical.

If they don’t have additional water available for this summer things may get dicey since there are no longer any enforceable water restrictions. With no way to suppress demand and no new water sources, there could be problems in water service.

The board doesn’t seem to understand what the assumptions are in the Economists.com rate analysis that led to the declaration that there would be no need for a rate increase for two years. When I asked them about whether the rate stabilization fund has been funded, to the tune of $277,000, I just get blank looks. Then they will start talking about the interest rate stabilization fund that Compass Bank required for the variable rate portion of the loan. That is something completely different.

The interest rate stabilization fund is intended to cover Compass Bank against the risk that the variable rate interest rate will spike (it adjusts monthly). The rate stabilization fund proposed by Economists.com would subsidize water rates for many years. If the board does not establish this fund, then they will have to make up the difference in the future with either higher property taxes than currently planned or higher water rate increases than advertised. I think it is better to do that than use borrowed money, but the fact that they don’t even know what the recommendations are from the “professionals” that they hired is yet another example of the board’s lack of attention to what is important.

There seems to be a building frustration amongst the board members. It was most evident during the meeting when talking about the slow pace of progress on various topics. Prior to the purchase of the water companies, the board would have unanimous votes on important topics with little or no discussion. Either they were having the discussions in the backroom or someone was directing the effort and the voting. The backroom discussions are illegal under the open meeting law. In any case, whatever directed them in the past seems to be absent or less influential now.

February 3, 2010 PSWID Meeting (Delayed January 21 meeting)

Next regular PSWID Meeting: Thursday February 18, 2010 7:00 PM at the Pine Cultural Center

District Rules/Regulations. The board has been trying to finalize the rules and regulations that the district will operate by. In the meeting they went through several issues:

The ACC rate schedule requires the payment of 6 percent interest on security deposits. The board decided not to pay interest on security deposits.

The district will require proof of the security deposit payment if the district does not have a record of it. Otherwise they won’t refund it. The records that the district has are probably not complete.

Accounts that have been off for less than a year will have the monthly fee for the months that it was off added to the turn-on fee. This is to keep people from turning off their water during periods of time that they are gone.

Discussed at length whether to impose an availability fee which is basically any lot owner that was not on the water system and is within 100 feet of a PSWID pipe would have to pay a yearly fee. The idea being that the availability of future access to water adds value to the lot.

i. The alternative it was weighed against is a higher tap in fee and/or property taxes.

ii. Mr. Haney indicated that there might be about 1000 lots that fell under this.

iii. Difficulty in determining impacted lots and collecting.

iv. Charge per lot would not be dependent on size of the lot.

v. Mr. Haney stated that “We are going to get your money one way or the other.” Comment: Mr. Haney said that in the context that how they take the money from us is a philosophical question of what is the best balance between base monthly rates, usage fees, property taxes, and other fees. He is correct that they will take all the money that they want. They can’t run a deficit.

vi. Audience was pretty negative about it and the board decided not to pursue it.

vii. Comment: Not sure why this is a rules and regulation issue. They can create whatever fees, etc. when they do the rate schedules.
Customer cannot rely on the meter as the emergency shutoff value to the house.

Discussed the idea that a meter that hasn’t been used for a year, even if the account is up to date, could be removed by the district. Ultimately the board decided not to include that rule.

Ground Water Exploration Plan
Mr. Mike Ploughe, the hydrologist employed by PSWID, provided a presentation on the ground water exploration that he is proposing for PSWID. A copy of that recommendation can be found here: http://www.waterforpinestrawberry.com/data%20pages/BudgetDocs.htm .

He showed some interesting well camera pictures of the caverns that the well holes for the recently drilled Portals 4 deep well and the Strawberry Hollow well. The video actually showed the Portals 4 well causing the drainage of the shallow aquifer. Mr. Ploughe said that the well has since been fixed to prevent drainage of the shallow aquifer and that the shallow aquifer is in the process of recovering.

The proposal lists first step as acquiring existing deep wells such as the Milk Ranch and Strawberry Hollow wells for immediate needs and a second step of a multiyear deep well exploration effort. Mr. Ploughe’s presentation dealt with this second step.

In general the proposal is to spend about $500,000 a year for the next three years drilling three to four test wells a year, with another $1,000,000 per year to develop one of those test wells into a production well. This would be done in three phases, with the first phase focusing on Pine, the second phase on Strawberry and the third phase on Hardscrabble Mesa. Drilling would be fall through spring to avoid using water for the drilling in the summer. The test wells could be used as low volume (20-50 gpm) sources of water until they are developed into production wells.

The board approved having Mr. Ploughe move forward with lining up the driller and other preparation activities.

Comment: Where is the money coming from for this? According to the district, they have about $1,600,000 of capital improvement money from the initial set of loans and that money needs to cover the next two to three years. So they have identified $250,000 in small capital improvement projects and it will probably cost about $1,000,000 to purchase, fix, and connect the Strawberry Hollow and Milk Ranch wells into the system. That doesn’t leave enough funds to cover the exploration proposal that was made. The board needs to keep track of the commitments they are making and the money that they have to cover them.

Water Storage
One of the on-going themes of the meeting was requests from the public to put in more water storage.

Currently the system has about 1.3 million gallons of storage capacity. People advocating increased storage see that as a way to store water during the winter and use it to bridge the gaps in the summer. The board indicated that Tetra Tech will be putting together a master plan for how the water system capacity, both storage and pumping capacity, should evolve.

Comment: Storage is there to handle peak periods when the amount of water being used is higher than what can be pumped during that period. The typical cycle would be to draw down storage during the day and then refill it a night when usage is lower. For Pine-Strawberry, the cycle is based on weekends during the summer, where storage is drawn down over the weekend and then recharged during the week in preparation for the next weekend. The worst weekend of the year is the July 4th weekend where it can easily turn into four or five days long.

Comment: Storage is only useful when you can pump enough water to fill it back up before the next peak that will need to draw it down. The problem with the current system is that the capacity to pump water is limited. The usage restriction stages (1-5) were tied to the amount of water in storage because that is an indication of how well the water system is keeping up with demand. So putting in place the additional capacity to pump water has to come before increases in storage.

Comment: There is already some additional storage built into the system when the additional water pumping capacity comes online. In the summer, storage levels would typically run at about 70 percent. With additional pumping capacity, storage levels could be kept close to 100 percent. That additional 30 percent of stored water would be 390,000 gallons. The additional pumping capacity would also mean that storage would be drawn down less rapidly during peak usage, which increases the effectiveness of the storage that is already in place.

PSWID Officer Election
The board elected the following officers:
i. Chairman: Mr. Bill Haney
ii. Vice-Chairman: Mr. Tom Weeks
iii. Secretary: Mr. Richard Dickinson
iv. Treasurer: Mr. Mike Greer

Renegotiation of water sharing agreements
Mr. Haney stated that one of their priorities in acquiring the water system was to renegotiate the water sharing agreements with local well owners. He said that even before he ran for office that people were complaining to him about the bad deals that the water sharing agreements were for well owners.
Mr. Haney said that they want to renegotiate the agreements so that they are fair and uniform. Mr. Jones said that this will be difficult because there is a lot of variation in price and conditions between the various water sharing agreements.

Half of the water in Pine and Strawberry is obtained from water sharing agreements. Mr. Haney said that over time the water sharing agreements will be phased out as district owned wells replace that capacity.

Comment: If PSWID comes up with a price for water that it wants to apply uniformly to all water sharing agreements, it is hard to see how the board would be meeting its fiduciary duty to the community to renegotiate to a higher price for some water sharing agreements. It is equally difficult to see why those with water sharing agreements that pay more would be willing to renegotiate to a lower price. There doesn’t seem to be any real gain for the district by having a common agreement for all water sharing agreements. It results in a lot of legal costs and effort that won’t provide any benefit to the community, especially since they will be phased out over the next couple of years.

Comment: What I have heard is the problem with some of the water sharing agreements is that there is not an inflation adjustment. For those agreements where the well owner pays the electricity, over time the rising electricity costs eat into the amount paid for the water. I think it is fair to look at adding an electricity cost escalator to those, but it doesn’t make sense to have a wholesale effort to renegotiate all water sharing agreements.

Capital Improvement Plan
Mr. Jones discussed at length the kinds of low-level improvement activities that are needed. He stated that for each of the district’s sites an estimate of the improvements needed has been put together.

Mr. Jones stated that the planned capital improvement expenses over the next four quarters are: $25,400, $53,800, $115,100, and $136,100, for a total of $330,400 over the next year. The board voted to approve the expenditures for the first two quarters.

Comment: I have just received a copy of the plan. I’ll look at it and post it to the website at a later date.

Proposal to Purchase Solitude Trails Domestic Water Improvement District (STDWID)
Mr. Mark Fumusa, the developer of Solitude Trails and the current Chairman STDWID, gave a pitch for PSWID to buy STDWID. The handout that accompanied it can be found here: http://www.waterforpinestrawberry.com/data%20pages/BudgetDocs.htm

The basics of the proposal would have PSWID spend $500,000 for 49 customers and potential service for 29 additional customers. The price would be paid interest free over a period of 15 years. Included is a well that can produce a million gallons a month, a five gallon per minute well that currently isn’t in use, a 10,000 gallon booster tank, and a 100,000 gallon storage tank. There is a restriction that the 100,000 gallon tank be maintained at maximum capacity at all times to satisfy fire insurance conditions.

Currently there is a water sharing agreement with STDWID which sells water to the District for $1 per thousand gallons. STDWID pays all electricity and repair costs. In 2008, Brooke used 6,379,000 gallons and STDWID used 1,033,000 gallons. The water going to STDWID goes through PSWID pipes. An additional aspect is that once the last lot is sold all of the assets go to PSWID at no cost. Mr. Fumusa has held the last lot so that Brooke would not get the assets and he indicated at the meeting that he will continue to hold the lot to prevent the water assets from transferring to PSWID.

Comment: The proposed price of $500,000 is way too high. That works out to $10,200 per customer. PSWID purchased Brooke for about $1,100 per customer. According to the Coe and Van Loo valuation, the average per customer price for water systems in Arizona is about $2,500. That would put the price in the range of $50,000 to $120,000. In any case, if the board went ahead with this there would have to be an appraisal done to determine the value of the STDWID system.

Comment: It is hard to see the motivation to do this. It doesn’t change the amount of water that PSWID has access to. The water is fairly cheap now and with PSWID having to pick up the costs for electricity, maintenance, and servicing the new customers, it is probably breakeven at best from an operational cost point of view. At some point Mr. Fumusa may get tired of being in the water business and the assets will transfer to PSWID at no cost.

Comment: It also doesn’t appear to make sense if, as the board has stated in the past, the plan is to do away with water sharing agreements and rely on deep wells for the community’s water supply.

Comment: Two of the assets, the 5 gpm well and the 100,000 gallons of storage, would have little or no value to the operation of the water system. The 5 gpm well doesn’t produce enough water to be of any real use. With the restriction that the storage tank must be kept full at all times it essentially doesn’t exist from an operational point of view. The purpose of storage is to provide extra water to cover peak usage that outstrips the pumping capability. For storage to be useful, it must be capable of being drawn down during those periods.

This article is from the group Water For Pine Strawberry.  Articles on earlier meetings are available on our website: www.WaterForPineStrawberry.com .

Water For Pine Strawberry is a group of residents who are concerned about the communities water issues and how they can best be resolved. Visit our web site, www.WaterForPineStrawberry.com, for more information. The website for PSWID is www.pswid.org .

Clarifications can be submitted by anyone who is explicitly named, implicitly identifiable, or a board member to items in this article. Clarifications will be posted on our website. We reserve the right to post a response. Clarifications must deal with the topics discussed that relate to the individual or the board. They must be in family friendly language and be non-abusive. When the clarification is accepted, it will be posted to the website and notice of that posting will be added to the next article.