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Saturday, January 30, 2010

RANT & RAVE - Posted Jan. 30, 2010

Ranters rage over home rule, 'toady' reporters, Debra's privileges

Editor’s note: Each week we print a selection of anonymous rants and raves submitted by our readers. Keep them under 300 words, free of profanity and personal attacks, and have at it. You need not sign your submission, which you may e-mail to peoplesgazette@gmail.com or mail to Gazette Editor, 7736 N. Toya Vista Road, Payson, AZ 85541. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Gazette staff.

And don’t forget to visit BY THE PEOPLE. Just click on the right. You can leave your comments on any subject there as well.

Home Rule-Why a No Vote Makes Sense: Have you ever heard of the politician who was able to spend less than he or she had? A politician who could save for a rainy day, set up a reserve fund for when times are bad? I have not. And neither did the voters of the State of Arizona. At a special election held in June 1980, Arizona voters approved a constitutional amendment designed to limit the annual expenditures of all Arizona cities and towns. The law forced politicians to limit their spending and increase it only based on population and inflation. This makes sense to me. This is how I run my home budget. In fact, it allowed me to save money over 30 years of working so I would have funds for emergencies and could enjoy a comfortable retirement. I did not spend every dollar I earned, but saved 20 percent each year. Unfortunately the Payson Town Council feels that this is not the way they should have to run the town. They want to spend every penny of taxes they collect, and in the case of this year, even borrow money! If they had forced themselves to save since 1980, like the law would have required, they would have the rainy day funds set aside so as to be able to keep our roads maintained and town employees working full time in these bad economic times. Now the Payson Councilors are running around trying to scare the voters into voting yes for Home Rule. But be wise and listen instead to the voters of 1980. History has shown us they passed a good law. Force our Town Council to save for the future because none of us knows what it will bring, and we know a politician has not met a dollar he or she could not spend. Vote No on Home Rule; it’s the financially responsible choice.

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After reading the article in the Roundup about how everyone working for the Town of Payson must take two days a month furlough, except Debra Galbraith, I was sooo wishing that the Gazette was still in service so I would have gotten Jim's take on this instead of reading the Roundup. Such B.S. They? Whoever " they" are have changed the whole salary structure of the town in order to allow salaried employee's to take a furlough. Everyone, but the town manager is hourly? Can you believe that Debra cannot take a furlough because she must be available 24-7! I guess that means she never gets vacation or is allowed to be sick because what would happen if the town manager was not available? Give me a break! The town manager can cover for the chief of police or the fire chief? The police along with the fire department are much more important 24-7 than the town manager. Does the town not think that every criminal can read the paper! Look at the financial shape of the town of Payson! It changes weekly? I will say I don't know enough about the town manager’s position or the finances of the town to say if Debra Galbraith has done a good job or not. This is not judging her competence, it's about the fairness by whoever " they" are in making the decision that the town manager did not have to go to an hourly wage or take a furlough. Has the town manager ever taken a pay cut? Not to my knowledge. Did they just hire a financial manager? What makes the town manager so unique? Also, Payson Mayor (Kenny) Evans totally disrespected Ed Blair when his comment made at the council meeting made the most sense! I applaud him for telling the truth. Yes the town is balancing its budget on the back of their employees. I'm surprised that Ed had to tell the Mayor. Finally, if a manager has performed his or her job well and trained/mentored the direct reports on all aspects of managing, there should never be a person who can't be replaced.

(Editor’s note: We offered Payson Councilor Ed Blair the opportunity to comment on the above rant. He accepted:)

After the decisions were made, I made a statement for the general public saying I was sorry that the budget had to be balanced on the back of the employees. The mayor said that there were many other deductions to the budget and it wasn’t 12 percent of the budget and their reduction was only 6 percent. I apologized and said I wasn’t thinking of a two year average but only of the present time, which is 12 percent of their Jan-June salaries. My thought, which wasn’t reported in the Roundup, is that though some $1 million came from departments’ budget.  IT ALSO TOOK THE $302,000 FROM THE EMPLOYEES TO MAKE THE BUDGET BALANCE. So, in summary, without their salary contribution, it wouldn’t have balanced.

The other topic: When the town manager is on vacation, or sick, or at a conference she designates someone (or several) to handle different kinds of problems…but if that person(s) doesn’t feel competent or has a question, she is on call 24/7/365 to make the decisions. She is ultimately responsible. What with the different department heads also on furlough, and not even supposed to answer their town cell phones on those days (says some federal/state law about furloughs), their personal backups might have a question…so call the town manager. Also, with emergencies, she wants to know IMMEDIATELY…as she is responsible for coordination. I think it’s wise to have someone responsible. If we don’t like what’s happened or happening, we will replace the town manager.

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With (Roundup Reporter Pete) "Toady" Aleshire fawning and drooling all over the mayor and the town council, people wonder why we need two newspapers in this town? Thanks to the Gazette team for helping to make it happen.

(Editor’s note: Current plans call for the first issue of the Mogollon Connection to be on the streets Feb. 10. Stay tuned here for the latest on the new paper.)

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Did anybody else notice the article on the front page of the Jan. 21 Business section of The Arizona Republic. It detailed how a San Francisco newspaper won a $15.9 million judgment against a rival newspaper because the latter slashed its advertising rates as part of an effort to financially harm the former. Is it true or not that the Payson Roundup did the same thing to harm the Rim Country Gazette? There are even rumors that the Roundup offered at least two Gazette advertisers free ads if they would stop advertising in the Gazette. Is anyone willing to come forth and clear the air on this rumor?

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What a storm! It is appropriate that we pause here and thank the rain gods or whomever was responsible for getting 2010 off to a great start precipitation-wise. We can’t take such events for granted.

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It’s pretty obvious why the Republicans can’t stand Nancy Pelosi and want to smear her at any cost – especially the truth. She’s a woman who can hold her own in a man’s world. That goes against everything the Republicans stand for – keeping the baldheaded, potbellied white guys in control, protecting their stuff from people less fortunate than they are. If we hadn’t given women the vote, we wouldn’t have all these problems, right big fat, bald white guys?

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Why didn’t the GOP work with the Democrats on health care instead of being obstructionist? They know we need reform. They could have worked to produce a bill more to their liking. Instead, they behaved unconscionably by not participating, and by spreading false and malicious lies about the bill.

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The right is realling showing its true colors when talk show hosts like Pat Robertson try to play politics with the earthquake in Haiti. How can people who care so little for their fellow men look themselves in the mirror in the morning. Oh that’s right, there are no mirrors in radio.

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Thank you for Jim Keyworth’s article about (Star Valley Mayor) Bill Rappaport’s accomplishments as mayor. Ditto for Matt Brabb’s article about the water IGA between Star Valley and Payson. The Gazette is still the best source of Star Valley news. And I noticed you scooped the Roundup on the IGA story. I love it when you guys do that.

(Editor’s note: Click the STAR VALLEY tab on the right and scroll down to read both articles.)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Desalination expensive but necessary for Arizona

The Arizona Canal cuts through the Salt River-Pima Indian Community east of Scottsdale. (Photo Courtesy of the Arizona Department of Water Resources)

The Central Arizona Project aqueduct snakes across the desert west of the Phoenix area. (Photo Courtesy of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation)

Roosevelt Dam creates Roosevelt Lake along the Salt River, helping provide water to the Phoenix area. (Photo Courtesy of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation)

State official identifies Payson among
areas in need of additional water supply

By MICHAEL MARCONI
Cronkite News Service

PHOENIX (Thursday, Jan. 21) -- Desalinating ocean water is an expensive prospect but something Arizona must look toward in addressing population growth and increasingly dry weather brought on by climate change, a state official told lawmakers last week.

“As we plan for the future, we must plan for the eventuality that we must look at these kinds of future water supplies for parts of our state,” said Karen Smith, deputy director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources.

She addressed the House Water and Agriculture Committee, which later approved a bill to continue the agency.

Smith said officials are looking, among other options, at partnerships with states to fund desalination plants in California or Mexico under agreements that would allow Arizona and its partners to draw more water from the Colorado River.

She said officials also are looking at desalinating brackish water in aquifers to help assure long-term water supplies. That becomes more feasible as desalination becomes more affordable, but Smith said she doesn’t want to appear overly optimistic about the ease of developing new sources of water.

“It will be a finite amount, and it will be very, very expensive,” Smith said. “But when you don’t have enough, and when you don’t have any, having expensive water is better than having no water at all.”

Rep. Daniel Patterson, D-Tucson, recommended that Smith’s agency also focus on conservation through capturing rainwater and other means. He said he worries about how much making salty water drinkable would cost Arizona residents.

“I’m very concerned about the effects on middle class families, on people who need water to survive,” Patterson said.

Smith said promoting conservation is a big part of her agency’s agenda.

“The best water for the future is the gallon or the acre foot of water we save today,” she said.

In response to Gov. Jan Brewer’s call for the Department of Water Resources to become self-sustaining, Smith said officials are exploring the idea of a water use assessment of perhaps one or two cents per thousand gallons of water sold. That assessment, applied equitably across all types of water users, would be enough to raise the $18 million to $20 million required to make the agency’s operations fully self-funded, she said.

In addition, Smith said her agency is looking at raising permit fees for groups such as developers, water providers and well drillers to cover the true cost of providing those services. She noted that permit fees have remained the same for two decades.

Looking toward the future of Arizona’s water supply, Smith said many challenges remain. For example, she said, the state allows property owners to mine ground water down to 1,000 feet.

“When we get down to that level we don’t know what will be there for our grandchildren,” she said. “It’s an issue.”

Smith noted that several areas of the state, including Payson, Sierra Vista and the Coconino Plateau, already need additional water supplies.

“As a state, we need to do much more planning relative to water augmentation and looking for new supplies for Arizona,” she said.

Finally, Smith said, Arizona needs to develop a strategy for adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change.

“We have got to do a better job to have the technical information available to local jurisdictions and water suppliers so they can plan accordingly on what they’re going to see in terms of variability in water supply,” she said.

Quick facts about the Arizona Department of Water Resources:
* Created in 1980 to secure water supplies for Arizona.
* In charge of groundwater management, surface water management and the protection of Arizona’s Colorado River water supply.
* ADWR Director Herbert Guenther was appointed in 2003.

Hashknife Pony Express gallops into Rim Country


Photo by Pia Wyer
The Hashknife Pony Express galloped into the Rim Country yesterday, leaving this morning for Scottsdale.  It is their 52nd annual ride.

Star Valley council agrees to 'conciliation' agreement with Payson over water issues

By Matt Brabb
Gazette Correspondent
The Star Valley town council offered an olive branch to the town of Payson on Tuesday night, unanimously passing a resolution that calls for conciliation between the two towns following years of acrimonious feuding over Payson’s ability to take water from beneath Star Valley via the Tower Well.

The measure directs the Star Valley town staff to enter negotiations with Payson to complete an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) in the hope of achieving four goals. The Payson town council will consider the measure during a meeting scheduled on Feb 4.

Among the goals Star Valley hopes to negotiate with Payson by means of the IGA is a provision to provide an emergency back up water supply to Star Valley utilizing existing Payson infrastructure.

A second, perhaps more critical objective of the motion is to develop an agreement between Payson and Star Valley which will mutually and respectively limit withdrawals from the Star Valley aquifer not to exceed agreed upon yields spelled out in the IGA. That goal is a thinly veiled reference to the Tower Well, which is at the heart of the tension between the towns, and was the motivating force for the incorporation of Star Valley.

Determining that number could well be the deciding factor in whether or not an agreement can be reached between the two towns. Presently the town of Payson is legally entitled to more than 800 acre-feet of water a year from Star Valley’s watershed by means of the Tower Well. Those 800 acre-feet are approximately one third of Payson’s current “safe yield”, a measure of how much Payson can safely pump with the expectation that it will be replaced by natural means in a given year.

Star Valley Mayor Bill Rappaport called the resolution “a monumental document,” noting, “Two years ago this never would have happened.”

He labeled the resolution “an agreement to agree,” and went on to say that he hopes the measure will eventually lead to the creation of a municipal water works for Star Valley that will qualify the town for water from the CC Cragin (formerly Blue Ridge) reservoir. Water from that source is expected to be available by 2016, and 500 acre feet per year have been set aside for use by Rim Country communities other than Payson.

Star Valley town attorney Timothy Grier noted that the resolution as passed “doesn’t have any sort of legal ramifications.” He went on to say that the measure simply “opens the door for communication and changes the spirit of the conflict.”

Councilor Vern Leis, who also serves as the town’s water and sewer commisioner, crafted the resolution and has been in communication with members of Payson’s water department for several months attempting to settle differences between the two towns. He explained that the measure did not call for any specific financial commitments from the town at this time. He also made clear that it would be possible to get Cragin water through the same pipeline that Payson uses to deliver water extracted from the Tower Well, if the towns can come to an agreement.

Though the measure was eventually passed unanimously with a few modifications, there was a healthy debate during the deliberations, and two of the council members expressed some doubts.

Councilor George Binney, while calling the resolution a “great idea”, had reservations about some of the assertions made in the document. He took exception in one instance to the claim that the town of Payson was only accessing a “deep aquifer” in Star Valley, and in a second instance to the statement that Payson had substantial, additional groundwater resources which exceed Payson estimates for both maximum short-term and long-term sustainable usage.

“I don’t want to support the idea that Payson has a 100 year supply if that is what this is saying,” he commented.

Councilor Gary Coon also expressed some reservations before eventually voting for the measure.

“It brings up a heck of a lot more questions than answers,” he said.

Noting that while the resolution contained good news for Star Valley, he warned that “in negotiations, the other side wants something,” and that “they’re going to want something besides just being buddies.”

Chris Benjamin, who is running for a seat on the Star Valley council pointed out that in the past, Payson has refused to pin down a number it considers could be termed “harmful” to the Star Valley aquifer.

“They refuse to define harm,” he claimed.

Still, the mood at town hall was generally upbeat after the vote was taken, and most in attendance seemed excited that at long last there may be a chance of working through some of the differences between the two towns by taking this first step to re-open the lines of communication.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tension between north and south at GCC meeting


"They just do whatever they want."
Larry Stephenson
Payson GCC Board Member

By Mitzi Brabb
Gazette Correspondent



Tension rose at the Gila Community College Board meeting last Wednesday as northern and southern board members debated the election of governing board officers for 2010.

What board members probably assumed would be a quick vote turned into a heated debate, leading to two separate motions. While the Payson campus board members, Larry Stephenson and Tom Loeffler, stood firm in voting against a motion to re-elect Board President Bob Ashford and Vice President Bernadette Kniffin for another term, they were outvoted 3-2 by their southern counterparts.

Stephenson protested that board policy dictates that a board chairman may only serve five terms in office, and Ashford would be violating this policy if reelected for another term.

Ashford claimed that he was not familiar with the policy and argued that even if it were legitimate, he would be eligible for another term since he stepped in for only a half a term when the former board chairman retired in 2005.

After faxing two pages of the 30-page policy from Payson (where Stephenson and Loeffler were participating via interactive TV) to Globe (where the other three board members were), the discussion was tabled until the Globe contingent could examine the policy rule.

“I have seen this policy and don’t remember ever voting on it,” said Ashford after reviewing the document.

He also argued that there were no signatures on the document, but he was refuted by Stephenson’s clarification that they were included on other pages of a lengthy policy handout.

In spite of Stephenson’s efforts, the 2003 board policy was ignored and Ashford was able to hold onto his position as the elected chairman for a fifth time.

“They just do whatever they want,” said Stephenson, shaking his head.

Due to time constraints bcause Globe campus students needed the classroom that board members were occupying, the meeting was rushed, and some agenda items were tabled.

A secondary tax levy election was one of the items briefly discussed, but it was postponed until the March board meeting.

Controversy brewed over the renewal of the Triadvocates contract for 2010 lobbying services.

While some members argued that the lobbyist’s have being doing a good job for GCC consistent with their goals, Stephenson proclaimed that the spending of $40,000 could be better placed in their budget and he would not advocate for that decision.

“If we can’t afford $10,000 for our students, then we can’t afford $40,000 for a lobbyist,” Loeffler further argued.

Again, in spite of the efforts of the Payson board members, the board passed a motion to re-contract with the lobbyist firm.

The Call to the Public agenda item was also suspended, disappointing Payson resident Chris Tilley.

“Is it even legal to suspend it from the meeting agenda?” Tilley sked. She had hoped to address the board  regarding the $2 million budget discrepancies as well as to provide input on the lobbyist’s contract.

The few items that seemed to meet approval of all board members was the consent agenda to approve contracts for college outreach learning with Payson Regional Medical Center and the Isabella Hunt Memorial Library in Pine.

Loeffler updated the board on ASU’s collaboration with GCC to establish a four year college in Payson. Although there have been no decisions set in stone, he said Arizona State University seems genuinely interested in building a rural outreach campus in the pines, located on the 150 acres across from the Payson campus, with a focus on majors including rural health, forestry, and green energy.

Loeffler also said that if the ASU deal does come to pass then the Payson Campus may be able drop its provisional standing with EAC and become its own independent institution.

“Both entities (Payson and ASU) are committed to strengthening their community college relationship,” Loeffler added.

“It would be a win-win situation for everybody,” Ashford stated.

Blog, KRIM, new paper will sponsor SV debate

The Rim Country Gazette Blog, KRIM-FM radio and the Mogollon Connection newspaper (coming to the Rim Country soon) will co-sponsor a debate between the candidates for mayor of Star Valley and for the town council.

Date, time and location are being finalized and will be announced soon.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Promises made while snowbound in Rim Country


Photo by Jim Keyworth
By Sunday morning, an innocent beauty had returned to Mesa del Caballo.

Today, Sunday, the sun came out and our Rim Country blue sky returned. The deluge of the past few days has transformed into a pristine and innocent winter scene.


After the year that precipitation forgot – my humble gauge received a grand total of 14.3 inches for all of 2009 – we were swamped, inundated, drenched, immersed, engulfed and overwhelmed by rain, sleet, snow and innumerable gradations of the three. Then, for good measure, Mother Nature stirred in a dose of heavy winds.

In less than a week, Mesa del Caballo received 9.7 inches of precipitation – a total that we didn’t reach in 2009 until Sept. 2. I’m relying on a neighbor’s rain gauge for that total. Mine shattered, no match for the storm.

However you spent the last few days, they will probably not soon be forgotten – if only because they were so out of the ordinary. The Consort and I won’t. Thanks to flooding, two feet of snow, a power outage that lasted half a day, and a fallen tree branch blocking our cars, we were pretty much confined to the house and yard.

Part of the time we spent making sure we were ready for whatever happened next. Flashlights charged, batteried and locatable, candles and matches primed and ready. Those press releases from the Red Cross about being prepared had an impact.

Dry firewood was one area where I slipped, however. I had let the in-house supply dwindle because I was in the middle of painting the living room and the wood box next to the fireplace would have to be moved. Besides, my woodpiles outdoors were safely covered with tarps.

Enter the wind, which blew off several tarps. But I did eventually manage to find some relatively dry wood and hauled it inside.

Then it was time to take care of that most vital creature comfort. The last time a storm of this magnitude happened with accompanying power outage some 10 years ago, the biggest flaw in my emergency preparedness was not having any instant coffee in the house, much less a pot to put in the fireplace that I didn’t really care about ruining.

Not being a cowboy coffee maker, we drank tea during that three day outage. You don’t really know how much coffee means to you until you can’t have any – for three days.

After that storm, I bought two jars of instant coffee and put them in two different places. And I dug our camping coffee pot out of storage and gave it a position of prominence inside the house.

But 10 years is a long time. I found the coffee pot without too much trouble, but the two jars of instant coffee – finding them took a little longer. They somehow ended up together in the back of the pantry. For companionship I guess. Coffee mating.

You can say what you want about your fancy gourmet coffees. I have to tell you that 10-year-old instant coffee in water heated in the fireplace was absolutely the best cup of coffee I have ever tasted.

So reinforced, the digging out began. Thursday night’s snow amounted to about a foot, plus whatever the county snowplow piled on top of that.

We finally got through to the street, but there was still the matter of the fallen branch behind the cars. As we started to work on digging the branch out, I happened to look up at the carport roof.

I made an executive decision that it was more important to reduce the snowload on the carport than it was to get the tree branch moved. We wouldn’t be going anywhere Friday night.

On Saturday, I had to re-dig the driveway, thanks to another foot of snow and another visit by the snowplow guy. And then there was still the tree branch, buried under the new snowfall and the snow I had thrown on it from the carport roof. Talk about trying to pick up hay you’re standing on.

We finally dug out and moved the branch by around dusk on Saturday, but by then we were too tired to go anywhere. There is, however, a measurable degree of comfort in being able to get out when you couldn’t.

Meanwhile back inside, between power outages and internet problems, I tried to keep blog readers as updated as I could. It’s amazing how absolutely addicted we are to our computers.

The Consort managed to read a complete, if short book. My LDS friends will be happy to know it was “Secret Ceremonies – A Mormon Woman’s Intimate Diary of Marriage and Beyond” by Deborah Laake. I didn’t ask her for all the secrets – just a couple.

The Arizona Republic driver couldn’t get out to Mesa del for a couple days, so I read some poetry and a few magazine articles. The Consort says I have become incapable of holding still long enough to read an entire book. She might be right.

At one point, I was inspired to write a poem. But between the inspiration and the time and place to write it, I lost it. Poetry, more than any endeavor I know, works that way. When the muse strikes, you must stop and write or forever lose the inspiration.

But speaking of losing, I did lose a couple pounds shoveling snow and I also got the living room painted. Besides having to move the wood box, I had to move and put back about a gazillion books – many of which I was waiting for just such a weekend to read.

So my promise for the next storm is to remember where the instant coffee is and to remember what a great bunch of books are waiting on the bookshelves.

Next time, I promise to take advantage of these rarest of opportunities to live life the way we used to live it back before computers and other insanities made us forget what is important – and how to relax.

I promise.

DOI report says jaguar capture was intentional

Setting snare violated Endangered Species Act


According to an article on the website of the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity (www.biologicaldiversity.org), the Interior Department’s Inspector General office recently released a report concluding that the last known wild jaguar in the United States, dubbed “Macho B,” which was captured and killed last year in Arizona, had been intentionally caught by employees of the Arizona Game and Fish Department in a snare.

"This directly contradicts statements by the department at the time and implies criminal behavior," the article said.  It continues:

"The government’s investigative report also found that the Arizona Game and Fish Department did not have a permit allowing it to purposefully capture a jaguar, which is a federally protected endangered species, nor a permit allowing it to incidentally capture a jaguar while conducting other activities. The state agency had said the jaguar was accidentally caught in a snare set for black bears and mountain lions.

“'This report affirms all of the legal claims in our litigation to prevent Arizona Game and Fish from killing another jaguar, and will be critical evidence at trial,' said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity, referring to a Sept. 24, 2009 Center lawsuit, yet to be adjudicated, against the department to prevent the state agency from killing any additional jaguars. The Center’s suit cites the death of Macho B.

"The Inspector General report links 'an AZGFD subcontractor and possibly an AZGFD employee to criminal wrongdoing in the capture of Macho B.'

“'This report makes our very strong case even stronger because it confirms the violations,' Robinson said. 'Arizona Game and Fish still maintains that it has the right to capture another jaguar, but the judge will read that the conduct the agency defends has already been found to be illegal.'

"The Inspector General report also contradicts other statements made by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, including that the jaguar sustained no injuries at his first capture on Feb. 18, 2009. The report found that a canine tooth was broken off while the animal was in the snare, not prior to the snaring as the department had claimed.

"Macho B was recaptured on March 2, 2009 in ill health and euthanized. The Inspector General report states that a 'cosmetic' necropsy of the jaguar that was intended to preserve the pelt, undertaken instead of a full necropsy, resulted in loss of information and thus 'leaving doubt as to the cause of death.' It identifies the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Arizona state office field supervisor, Steve Spangle, as having wrongly approved the skinning of the cat because he was unfamiliar with the word 'necropsy,' which means 'autopsy' but generally refers to the postmortem examination of an animal’s body and not a human’s."

Arizona Game and Fish issued the following press release on Jan. 22:

Late yesterday afternoon (Thursday, Jan. 21), the Arizona Game and Fish Department received from the news media a redacted copy of the U.S. Department of Interior Inspector General (IG) report about events related to the jaguar known as Macho B. News stories about the report have appeared in various media outlets.

The Department would note that the document represents a redacted and therefore incomplete version that gives no useful indication of what additional clarity or context the redacted material might add to the public’s understanding of it. Regardless, the Department has the following comment:

The Department stands by its previous statements that the Department did not direct any Department employee or any other person associated with the initial capture to intentionally capture a jaguar. Should the outcome of the ongoing Federal criminal or Department administrative investigations demonstrate that individuals employed by the Department acted contrary to the Department’s understanding of the facts or contrary to Department direction, the Department remains committed to its previous assurance that it will take or pursue appropriate action.

The Department is disappointed that it was at no time contacted during the IG’s investigation or prior to the release of the report. The report provided contains allegations and opinions apparently untested by the IG. Many of those assertions have been previously addressed by the Department and present little or no new information.

The IG notes that the Regional Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service states that the Department’s Director requested an independent investigation into the circumstances of the jaguar’s capture, and ultimate euthanization , shortly after that euthanization. The Department continues to fully cooperate with the ongoing Federal investigation and, acting in cooperation with the Service, has conducted its own extensive internal administrative investigation into the matter. The administrative investigation remains ongoing pending final resolution of the Federal investigation.

The Department notes that the IG apparently ignores the Section 6 authorities conveyed to the state by the Endangered Species Act and further, the IG misunderstands the scope of the Department’s authority under its Section 10(a)(1)(A) permit. The Department disagrees with any assertion in the report that the Department did not have a valid permit.

As noted by the IG, the full necropsy of the jaguar remains incomplete pending the inclusion of the findings of tests done by several other laboratories. The Department awaits the release of those findings by the Service. Once thoroughly reviewed, final conclusions about the jaguar’s physical condition at the time of its recapture can usefully be made.
The Department will continue to cooperate fully with the Federal investigation to its completion.

(Photo by Robin Silver.)

Native American state legislator authors bill to regulate 'ceremonies' held off reservations


Photo by Ryan Van Velzer
Cronkite News Service
State Sen. Albert Hale, D-St. Michaels, speaks after a news conference at which he proposed regulating so-called Native American ceremonies held off reservations. Hale said fatalities at a sweat lodge ceremony in Sedona last year illustrate the need to certify that such ceremonies are safe.

By YVONNE GONZALEZ
Cronkite News Service

PHOENIX -- Regulating off-reservation ceremonies that businesses advertise as traditional Native American would help prevent tragedies such as last year’s deaths at a Sedona retreat, a state lawmaker said last week.

Sen. Albert Hale, D-St. Michaels, a member of the Navajo Nation, said the deaths of three people in a sweat lodge ceremony organized by self-help guru James Ray illustrate the need to make sure such rituals are conducted safely.

“That is not a traditional ceremony,” he said during a news conference to announce legislation calling for regulations. “He put these people’s lives in danger.”

Hale noted that Ray’s sweat lodge had 60 patrons in a plastic-covered room while hot rocks were brought in for two hours, while a traditional sweat lodge ceremony involves around eight people who enter and exit the structure several times.

Authorities have investigated Ray since the October deaths, but he hasn’t been charged. Ray has denied any wrongdoing.

Hale authored SB 1164, which he said would ensure that the public isn’t misled into spending thousands of dollars on ceremonies falsely advertised as Native American. The legislation proposes that the Arizona Department of Health Services and the Arizona Commission of Indian Affairs create regulations for businesses and individuals that charge people to participate in such ceremonies.

Asked whether the measure would hurt businesses that offer so-called Native American ceremonies off reservations, Hale said it make those businesses more credible, especially in light of the Sedona tragedy.

Rep. Tom Chabin, D-Flagstaff, said regulations would “distinguish what is native and what is trying to capitalize off the brand of the Native American traditions.”

Rep. Christopher Deschene, D-St. Michaels, a member of the Navajo Nation, said that Navajo songs and prayers revitalize and rejuvenate.

“But if abused, the same power can also destroy, as evidenced by the loss of three lives,” Deschene said. “This bill seeks to find balance with that.”

Joe Shirley Jr., president of the Navajo Nation, said regulating ceremonies would respect his people’s sacred ways.

“For outsiders to come in and try to duplicate and try and do what we do on native lands, it’s not right,” Shirley said.

Hale said the legislation also would be a way to protect Native American rituals from being co-opted by outsiders.

“The dominant society has taken all that we have: our land, our water, our language,” Hale said. “And now they are trying to take our way of life. I think it has to stop.”

Monday, January 25, 2010

Small college towns are great places to live




The town of Payson has recently reported a $2 million shortfall to fund its budget. It is laying off workers and furloughing most who are left. There is no money to fix potholes. Many public services have been eliminated or severely cut back.

Approximately 30 percent of business (a very conservative estimate) which operated here two years ago are gone. These businesses paid employees who, in turn, paid taxes and purchased local goods and services. Real estate, which was a major engine in bringing income into the area, is sputtering at best - mostly down to a flicker.

There are no jobs for a large percentage of the population.

Unless you are a drinker, there is very little entertainment, and, while the food is good at most restaurants, very few are chosen for formal events or special outings.

The choices of where to buy clothing, shoes, home furnishings, etc. have dwindled to a precious few. More and more folks are driving to the valley to shop.

Even the once wealthy country clubs are in peril - places which brought in customers and created demand for a variety of enterprises.

In short, the town is rapidly drying up. Soon it may have absolutely nothing to offer prospective homesteaders. It already loses most of its young people to other places offering a chance at a better future.

There is a constituency here which wants time to be frozen and change to be forbidden. As long as television is available and at least one grocery store and filling station remains open, these folks are happy. Actually Walmart could easily fill the needs or desires for a lot of folks. One problem, however, is that there would be no small businesses run by local people. It comes perilously close to that now.

A town like that has no local color or rich personal engagement. You can get the necessities but not the fulfillment of diverse life. The majority of folks do not live off welfare or Social Security. They need jobs.

Our biggest employers here are outsiders, not residents. This is not Bedford Falls or even Mayberry where folks had civic pride and a well established local identity. It's rapidly beginning to lose that small town feel. It's a reasonably nice place to visit, but who wants to locate here?

Here are some excerpts from a recent letter to the editor of the Rim Country Gazette Blog. I think these sentences say it all for the "frozen in Time" group -

"Colleges are businesses that make money, and we don't need one in a small mountain town like ours."

"Don't put these expensive pressures on our town just to improve someone's economic situation."

These sentences can only have been written by someone who is quite comfortable with his situation and doesn't give a flip about the rest of us or the future of this town. He obviously is impervious to the "Economic Situation" here and has a total lack of understanding of the complex engine a town needs to be to survive - much less to thrive.

A satellite college is exactly the kind of economic engine which could spur local growth. It would be the complete opposite of the big businesses which drain money away from us. Of the millions of dollars which Walmart takes in each year, how much do you imagine stays in Payson? You might be amazed at the percentage, even though the town is dependent on them for tax dollars. The same is true for Basha's and Safeway.

I'm certainly not knocking these businesses, Their managers are good local citizens for the most part, and we need their services. What happens when their corporate offices no longer see the possibility for making a good profit in a drying up town? Those businesses came to Payson because it promised a healthy growing environment - one with an excellent future. You might even call it an "economic situation." They are “businesses that make money” just like dreaded colleges.

The small community college we have at present offers a very limited curriculum and is run by outsiders with no love lost for Payson. It furnishes some nice amenities for a few people, but adds very little to the local economy. The nursing program is probably its best asset.

A small college here is exactly the thing to bring diversity and local growth. Skilled labor will be needed to build it - the kind of labor which has moved away from Payson. Students will need local services . Local businesses will be the biggest beneficiaries - motels, restaurants, clothing stores, movies, etc., even barber shops. Perhaps it will bring new sports teams to cheer for or better athletic facilities for all to use. It can train doctors, lawyers, school teachers, bankers, business men and women, politicians and social workers. The list of needed skills is large.

The downside is comparatively small and certainly manageable. If a trip to Walmart is your only diversion from your favorite television shows, you might have to look harder for a parking space.  Most small college towns are great places to live, however.


Life is always either growing from healthy roots and changing, or it is slowly withering. Healthy growth is a natural law of survival. Any beautiful garden needs to be managed. I know you love this small town, but let’s not love it to death.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

LETTER: Build 4-year college somewhere else

Editor:
I have noticed that that people who want a 4-year college always talk about the positive attributes of education. But in a town like Payson there are many negatives that should be considered also.

There are not enough students here for this college so many students will have to come from other places. There is nothing here to provide for their entertainment or amusement.

In other places like this it has been shown that more police services are needed. Our police department is hard pressed now.

The infrastructure in our town has always been problematic. Among other things we have streets that are very dangerous to drive on at posted speed limits. We also have many intersections with limited visibility.

Colleges are businesses that make money and we don't need one in a small mountain town like ours. There is already a community college here and it will be suitable for student use. There are big colleges within reasonable distances and if they are deemed to be too expensive then that should be addressed.

Don't put these expensive pressures on our town just to improve someone's economic situation.
Jack Jasper
Payson

Beeline reopens between Payson and Phoenix

PHOENIX – They said it would be closed until Jan. 30, but the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) has reopened Arizona 87 (the Beeline Highway) between Phoenix and Payson. ADOT closed the highway earlier this week due to a mudslide at Slate Creek, six miles north of Sunflower.

State highways that continue to be closed or restricted include:

State Route 87 between Winslow and Pine
State Route 89A between Sedona and Flagstaff
State Route 260 between Payson and Heber- chains or 4-wheel drive required
State Route 260 closed between McNary and Eagar due to blowing and drifting snow.
State Route 273 closed approaching Sunrise Ski Resort due to heavy snow.

For more information on travel conditions across the state, call 5-1-1 or visit www.az511.gov. For winter driving tips, visit www.azdot.gov/KnowSnow.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Yes Virginia, there is a sun...


Photo by Jim Keyworth
...and it finally came out again Saturday over Mesa del Caballo -- if ever so briefly.  But no Dorothy, no matter what Auntie Em and a certain local newspaper owned by a Kansas conglomerate tell you, THE DROUGHT IS NOT OVER.  It would take several years of storms like this one to end the drought.  So click your heels together and repeat after us ... THE DROUGHT IS NOT OVER...THE DROUGHT IS NOT OVER...THE DROUGHT...



Photo by Jim Keyworth
On the other hand, or paw, this storm was a doozy -- leaving conditions not fit for man, woman or beast.  Shiloh (left) and The Babe are big dogs, and they're in it up to their bellies.



Photo by Jim Keyworth
But as big and powerful and awe-inspiring as the storm was, this simple image -- a child's wagon -- says it as well as anything.

Beeline Highway closed by landslides

As of 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 23, the Arizona Department of Transporation (ADOT) reported that Arizona Highway 87 (the Beeline Highway) was closed from the Bush Highway (Milepost 199 to Milepost 236 (State Route 188) due to landslides and would remain closed until Saturday, Jan. 30.

As of 1:30 p.m., ADOT also reported Arizona Highway 87 from Milepost 278 (Highway 260) to Milepost 340 (Winslow) is closed until 4 p.m. Saturday.

As of 1:30 p.m., ADOT reported chains or four wheel drive required on Arizona Highway 260 from Milepost 256 to 2 miles west of Star Valley until 6 p.m.

In addition, ADOT issued the following press release Friday evening:

CLOSURE UPDATE:
Interstates 40 and 17 to reopen tonight

PHOENIX – The Arizona Department of Transportation will reopen I-40 in both directions from Flagstaff at 7 p.m. Friday. The highway had been closed from Kingman to Winslow, a 180-mile stretch across Northern Arizona.

I-17 will reopen at the same time for southbound traffic only. On Saturday morning, I-17 northbound from the Sedona turnoff (State Route 179) is expected to open, allowing time for additional runoff to drain from the highway.

While these critical routes will be reopened to all traffic, drivers are warned of continued threatening conditions. Blowing snow, flurries, drifts, high winds, low visibility and water running across roadways have been reported on both highways. Drivers are urged to use caution and to limit trips when possible. Roadways are passable but conditions may change based on weather conditions. Drivers should also be alert to possible roadway damage and reduce travel speeds.

Both I-17 and I-40 were closed on Thursday afternoon when an intense winter storm pounded the state, dropping more than two feet of snow. ADOT responded by actively working to assist motorists, support DPS officers and complete repairs and snow removal as quickly as possible. I-40 and I-17 are important corridors for state and national freight hauling, and are important routes for travelers. Because of this importance, ADOT applied all available resources to opening both highways as quickly as possible.

Heavy snow created unsafe conditions along both stretches of the interstate traveling to or through Flagstaff. ADOT and the Arizona Department of Public Safety worked together with local agencies to protect motorists, including commercial truck drivers, who easily could have become stranded or involved in crashes in the snow packed and icy conditions.

Other ADOT highways of note:
-- State Route 87 closed (including off-road areas) between Bush Highway and State Route 188, south of Payson.
-- State Route 89a between Sedona and Flagstaff remains closed and is expected to reopen Saturday.
-- State Route 260 closed between McNary and Eagar due to blowing and drifting snow.
-- State Route 273 closed approaching Sunrise Ski Resort due to heavy snow.

For more information on travel conditions across the state, call 5-1-1 or visit www.az511.gov. For winter driving tips, visit www.azdot.gov/KnowSnow.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Wildlife not jeopardized by storms -- so far


Photo courtesy Arizona Game & Fish
PHOENIX -- The winter storms and accompanying deep snows that impacted Arizona this week may make it challenging for wildlife in the short term, but wildlife biologists do not expect significant impacts to most species, especially large animals such as elk, deer and antelope.

“Our biologists will continue monitoring the situation, but we don’t expect any catastrophic impacts to wildlife based on the weather events unfolding this week,” said Brian Wakeling, the Game Branch chief for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Wakeling said Arizona’s high country now has lots of deep snow which can make it challenging for elk, deer and other wild animals. “But this has also been a fairly warm storm without prolonged cold conditions – at least not so far.”


Most wild animals are adapted so they can survive days without eating, possibly even a week or more if necessary. “The key is the cold – how tough is it for them to break through the snow to reach their forage items and how long does the deep snow stay on the ground?” Wakeling explained.

However, he added, there may be localized instances where the department will step in to give wild animals experiencing trouble a helping hand. “Probably the most common problem I can think of is animals like elk and deer being trapped along a fence line due to deep snow. In those instances, yes, we can and do step in to help out these animals.”

Older animals or those in poor condition can also succumb to the added challenges and stress caused by deep snow. “That’s part of the natural survival-of-the fittest process and is something we can’t change,” Wakeling said.

Wakeling added that many people have probably seen television programs where in other states such as Wyoming and Colorado, they have initiated wildlife feeding programs during severe winters, especially in areas already impacted by drought.

“Keep in mind that such drastic actions are taken because of prolonged winter conditions, especially freezing temperatures that are jeopardizing wildlife populations. Fortunately, that is not the situation we currently face here in Arizona,” Wakeling said.

In fact, supplemental feeding itself takes time to be effective for large ungulates like elk, deer and antelope. “These large animals are what we call ruminants – their digestive systems rely heavily on certain strains of bacteria to aid in the digestive process,” Wakeling explained.

When these animals are provided supplemental food that does not mimic their natural forage, it can take two or three weeks for their digestive system to adapt. “We have learned from mistakes in decades past, such as the 1967 storm. There were times when wild ungulates died from starvation with stomachs full of hay,” Wakeling said.

Wakeling reiterated that department biologists will continue to closely monitor the situation. “This is also the time of year when we do survey flights for deer and elk, which will also aid in our ability to keep abreast of the situation.”

On the bright side, he said, all this precipitation is certainly a blessing to help ease the impacts of drought. “There is indeed a silver lining to all these storm clouds despite the often temporary problems they cause.”

Food safety during and after power outage

The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) issued the following press release Friday, Jan. 22:

Many Arizona residents are currently experiencing a loss of power due to the storm. Below are some guidelines to help assure food safety.

Frozen and Refrigerated Foods

If your refrigerator or freezer may be without power for a long period:

• Divide your frozen foods among friends' freezers if they have electricity;

• Seek freezer space in a store, church, school, or commercial freezer that has electrical service;

• Use dry ice -- 25 pounds of dry ice will keep a 10-cubic-foot freezer below freezing for 3-4 days. (Exercise care when handling dry ice, because it freezes everything it touches. Wear dry, heavy gloves to avoid injury.)

• Fill a cooler with ice and place items inside cooler. Be sure to not open the cooler unless absolutely necessary.

Thawed food can usually be eaten or refrozen if it is still "refrigerator cold," or if it still contains ice crystals. To be safe, remember, "When in doubt, throw it out." Discard any food that has been at room temperature for two hours or more, and any food that has an unusual odor, color, or texture.

Your refrigerator will keep foods cool for about 4 hours without power if it is unopened. Add block or dry ice to your refrigerator if the electricity will be off longer than 4 hours.

Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with flood water. Discard any food without a waterproof container if there is any chance that it has come into contact with flood water.

Undamaged, commercially canned foods can be saved if you remove the can labels, thoroughly wash the cans, and then disinfect them with a solution consisting of one cup of bleach in 5 gallons of water.

Re-label your cans, including expiration date, with a marker. Food containers with screw-caps, snap-lids, crimped caps (soda pop bottles), twist caps, flip tops, and home canned foods should be discarded if they have come into contact with flood water because they cannot be disinfected. For infants, use only pre-prepared canned baby formula that requires no added water, rather than powdered formulas prepared with treated water.

For more information about health and safety during a flood, please visit the Arizona Department of Health Services’ Web site at www.azdhs.gov .

For the latest information on road conditions and highway closures, travelers can visit www.az511.gov, or call 511. Information on storm warnings including links to local response efforts, links to the national weather service, and safety tips can be found at the Arizona Emergency Information Network website at www.azein.gov

Storms prompt Tonto National Forest closures

PHOENIX (January 21, 2010) – This week’s storm activites have prompted the closure of several roads and recreation sites on the Tonto National Forest including North Lake, Horseshoe Dam, Seven Springs, Needle Rock and Bartlett Dam roads on the Cave Creek Ranger district, and Butcher Jones, Coon Bluff, and Granite Reef recreation sites on the Mesa Ranger district.

According to Mesa District Ranger Art Wirtz, a number of other recreation sites along the Lower Salt River are being monitored for possible closure as waters rise due to this week’s extreme storm activity.

The Payson and Pleasant Valley ranger district administrative offices were closed earlier today due to hazardous driving conditions, highway closures, and power outages caused by winter storms along the Mogollon Rim.

Forest officials caution visitors that this week’s unusual weather activity is causing flooding along rivers, streams, washes and roads throughout the forest and is impacting both land and water resources.

“Debris deposits on the roads and wash-outs in places have been caused by the extreme weather this week,” stated Cave Creek district spokesperson Tammy Pike. “Some roads are simply not passable right now. There is also an increased amount of debris on lakes due to flooding so we urge increased boater caution.”

“Rising lake levels at Bartlett and Roosevelt lakes make underwater obstructions difficult to identify. Navigational aids will have to be repositioned as weather and lake levels permit,” observed Delvin Lopez, Public Services Group Leader.

“When we have this kind of extreme weather activity,” concludes Pike, “it’s always advisable for visitors to be extra alert to swiftly changing conditions that affect the land, the water, the roads and the trails. Once the storms pass, a number of challenges will remain, including not only debris removal and repair of washed-out roads, but removing other hazards such as uprooted trees.”

For more information, visit the Tonto’s web site, www.fs.fed.us/r3/tonto, or call the Cave Creek Ranger District office at 480-595-3300, or the Mesa Ranger District office at 480-610-3300.

Tonto Creek Shores (Gisela) water 'undermined'

Brooke Utilities issues the following statement Friday:

Payson Water Co., Tonto Creek Shores (Gisela)

EMERGENCY CONDITIONS: Please be advised that weather conditions have caused Tonto Creek to flood TCS’s primary water production and storage site. At least 50,000 gallons of stored water has been undermined and rendered unusable. The remaining 20,000 gallons of storage remain in service, as does the water supply which has not been affected or contaminated by these circumstances. The primary production well continues in service.

Payson Water Co.’s Operation Staff is on-site providing service at the present time. However, some degree of temporary or permanent reconstruction of the site may be necessary. We are not yet sure as to the condition of the water distribution system. Water service is now interrupted to an unknown number of customers. These conditions will remain in effect until further notice.

Please conserve water whenever possible until these emergency conditions can be resolved.

We will further advise as conditions change.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

When it rains, it sometimes really does pour


Photo by Jim Keyworth
In the midst of the worst of three winter storms pummeling the Rim Country, thoughts of building an ark enter a rain-idled mind.  This photo was taken at 4 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 21.  If you don't recognize the location, it's McLane Road and Main Street looking south.  The humane society is across the "river" on the right.  At the time the photo was taken, a grand three-storm total of about 5.5 inches had been unofficially recorded in my Mesa del Caballo rain gauge -- with plenty more forecast.  (That same gauge recorded 14.3 inches for all of 2009, and didn't reach the 5.5 inch mark until May 21.)  Don't miss Friday's Roundup because we're betting they're going to declare the drought over -- for the third time.

Mogollon Connection paper coming to Rim Country

As reported on KMOG's Rim Country Forum Thursday morning (Jan. 21), the Mogollon Connection newspaper plans to begin publishing a Rim Country edition on or about Feb. 10. 

Many of the Rim Country Gazette staff will be part of the new endeavor, including Matt and Mitzi Brabb, Jim Keyworth, Carolyn Wall, Jenny (Dennis) Caster, Noble Collins, Leilah Breitler, Mary Williams and Tiffany Williams. 

The Rim Country Gazette Blog will also continue with contributions from the above -- the best and fairest team of journalists in the Rim Country.

The new paper, which also publishes Heber, Snowflake and Taylor editions, will cost 50 cents and be available throughout the Rim Country.

Much more information will follow shortly.

Game & Fish advises caution during storms

Outdoorsmen should be prepared or even cancel plans

Jan. 20, 2010 -- With major winter storms expected to pummel Arizona, the Arizona Game and Fish Department recommends that hunters, anglers and other outdoor recreationists be prepared or maybe even alter their outdoor plans until the storms pass, flood waters have subsided, and back roads become negotiable.


“As a prudent precaution, we have already cancelled the Junior Jack Rabbit Hunting Camp that had been set for this weekend in the Altar Valley west of Tucson,” said Wildlife Recreation Chief Craig McMullen.

Torrential rains can cause flooding along rivers, streams, washes and arroyos throughout the state. Currently, javelina, quail and waterfowl seasons are all underway, along with archery deer hunts.

“We are blessed with lots of wild, rugged country that you can only access via dirt roads. Those dirt roads can become quagmires when heavy rains visit the low lands and become impassable when deep snows hit the highlands,” McMullen said.

“Even once the storms pass, muddy roads can remain a challenge. In some areas, you can also cause resource damage by leaving deep ruts,” McMullen advised.

If you do go into the back country, be prepared. Carry enough food to last for days, and be sure to carry shovels, tire chains, and other equipment in case you get stuck. “Also, be sure your cell phones are charged up and that someone knows where you are going and when you expect to come back,” McMullen cautioned.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Loot Resale another new place to check out


Photo by Jim Keyworth
If you haven't been there yet, check out Loot Resale, 616 N. Beeline Highway in the Swiss Village Shopping Center.  It's another one of those places we need more of in the Rim Country, and Liz and Alan Nordquist deserve our support.  Best of all, you'll find a special rack of clothes, the proceeds from which go to support Payson Friends of Ferals.  They even have a rack for guys.

Auctioned animals often end up at slaughterhouse


Photo by Mitzi Brabb
Princess is one of the animals rescued by New Hope PMU Equine Rescue in Star Valley.

New Hope organization works to
rescue endangered horses, burros

By Mitzi Brabb
Gazette Correspondent
The expression “ignorance is bliss” can be said to apply to several facets of life, but if people become better educated about just a few of the things they are currently blind to, a remedy for some of the more horrific things going on in the world today may be found.

Jean Gross, founder of the New Hope PMU Equine Rescue located in Star Valley, is one such voice of hope in Rim Country. She advocates for better education and a more sympathetic attitude with regard to horses that are in danger of ending up at slaughterhouses. Gross is but one voice attempting to make a difference by preventing cruelty to horses, an issue that most people today admit to knowing very little about.

Although there are many equine rescue facilities throughout the United States that take in abused, neglected, or mistreated horses, New Hope primarily rescues horses from the Pregnant Mare Urine (PMU) industry -- horses that are destined for slaughterhouses in Mexico or Canada.

Many people are unaware that estrogen hormones extracted from the urine of pregnant mares have for decades been used to develop women's hormone replacement therapy drugs including Premarin and Prempro. Millions of women worldwide take these medications, manufactured by the pharmaceutical giant Wyeth, to help alleviate the symptoms of menopause.

Although there are now at least a dozen alternative medications on the market, Premarin and Prempro are still a popular choice prescribed to women seeking relief of symptoms. Unfortunately, the foals produced by the pregnant mares being used to produce these hormones are the unwanted byproducts of this business model.

According to the New Hope website, approximately 6,000 such foals are born each spring, most of whom face an uncertain future after they are weaned. They often end up at auction or a feedlot due to a shortage of private buyers. Sadly, many if not most of the foals sent to these places wind up at the slaughterhouses.

Some of the fillies (female foals) are kept for replacements for the mares that are too old to reproduce. After the fillies are weaned, the cycle continues. The mares are rebred and brought back into the barns, where they are reattached to the urine-collection apparatuses for the next eight months. When the mares are no longer able to reproduce, they are also sent out to auction where they too face a potential massacre.

The Animal Welfare Institute claims that on average every five minutes an American horse is slaughtered for human consumption. 2,903 horses have been slaughtered in 2010 alone.

Many people in this country who advocate for the humane treatment of horses believed they had prevailed when the last of the horse slaughterhouses in the United States was closed in August of 2007. Unfortunately the problem simply shifted to new geographic locations, and it isn’t even close to being resolved.

“It’s actually worse now because the horses have to travel further to the slaughterhouses, which are based in Canada and Mexico,” said Gross.

The Animal Welfare Institute reports, “The suffering begins long before our horses even reach the slaughterhouse. Conditions of transport are appalling, with horses regularly hauled to our domestic borders on journeys lasting more than 24 hours. Deprived of food, water or rest, the horses are forced onto double-decked cattle trailers with ceilings so low that they injure their heads. Not only are these double-deckers inhumane, but they are also dangerous and have been involved in a number of tragic accidents.”

In addition to the PMU foals bought by “kill buyers,” a term widely used by rescue organizations, these buyers also cheaply purchase other horses at auction that they later sell to slaughterhouses. The basic truth here is that no horse sold at auction is guaranteed a good home, and many actually meet a perilous end. Though it would surprise most who believe that only old and ill horses end up at slaughterhouses, the truth is that upwards of 90 percent of such horses are young and healthy.

Numerous equine rescue advocates claim that many of the horses purchased at Bureau of Land Management (BLM) auctions end up at slaughterhouses as well. The BLM checks up on their adopted horses a year after they are placed, but many people have trouble working with these wild animals, and they are ultimately sold again at public auctions. It is possible that these owners are blissfully ignorant of what becomes of the horses they innocently deliver up to auction. Equine rescue groups are urging these owners, and anyone else no longer able to keep a horse, to try and place them at rescue facilities instead.

The New Hope PMU Equine Rescue is an example of such a facility, and is dedicated to saving at-risk horses from dangerous situations. They are an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization that rescues mistreated horses. They provide care and training before adopting these horses out into the good, loving homes they deserve.

As expressed in their mission statement, “New Hope volunteers dedicate ourselves to educating people on the care, medical needs, and other aspects of horse ownership, thereby improving the lives of the horses and their owners. We believe that horses hold a special place in God's World, and that helping them is a noble effort.”

They have helped 21 horses since starting up in April of 2007. Gross explained that the average cost of care for a rescued horse is $175 per month, and that through fundraising efforts, grants, and community support, New Hope is currently caring for seven rescued horses and three burros at their facility. Other funding comes from memberships, adoptions, sponsorships, and even some gift items sold on their website.

Although this type of rescue organization can be a costly venture, working as a labor of love seems to be the ultimate key to success. At least, that’s the belief of Jean Gross and her husband Bob.

“We love horses and don’t like to see the slaughter of horses,” said Gross. “We are doing our part to help them have the lives they deserve.”

New Hope has two horses ready for immediate adoption, a three-year-old mare, and a four-year-old gelding. Both are gentle, loving animals looking for a new home.

For more information about their program and how to support their cause, or just to obtain information on current legislation about the prevention of equine cruelty, visit the New Hope PMU Equine Rescue website at www.newhopepmuequinerescue.org or call them at (928) 468-1514.

Can mold numbers by playing with projections

COMMENTARY BY SAM SCHWALM
on Pine Strawberry Water Improvement District (PSWID)


The financial plan that the Pine Strawberry Water Improvement District (PSWID) Board has put forward requires large subsidies from property taxes and borrowed money. The size of the subsidies is based upon assumptions for revenue and operations expenses. Those will be looked at in this column. The following supporting documentation has been posted to the website:

2008 annual reports for Pine and Strawberry water companies filed by Brooke with the ACC, along with updated earnings summaries and water usage summaries: http://www.waterforpinestrawberry.com/data%20pages/ACCReports.htm

PSWID is required to file a monthly financial report with Compass Bank. The October report is only for the month of October. The November report changed to a year to date approach and has changes to categories. They can both be found here:

http://www.waterforpinestrawberry.com/data%20pages/SOACompass.htm

Operations agreement with Shaffer Water Management, LLC:

http://www.waterforpinestrawberry.com/data%20pages/BudgetDocs.htm

Summary of usage, revenue, and operations costs comparisons:

http://www.waterforpinestrawberry.com/data%20pages/BudgetDocs.htm

PSWID’s operations budget estimate, dated September 14th, 2009:

http://www.waterforpinestrawberry.com/data%20pages/BudgetDocs.htm

As discussed below, the operations costs have been significantly understated and the growth rate of the operations costs has also been lowered in comparison to the rate analysis that was done in October of 2008. The understatement of operations costs by about $150,000 means that the rate subsidies and the eventual water rate increases will have to be significantly higher than those projected by the current Economists.com rate analysis.

Water Usage
The amount of water usage assumed in the current plan seems reasonable. It reflects the correction of the error in the original Economists.com analysis where the amount of water transferred from Strawberry to Pine was being double counted. (GPY = Gallons Per Year)
Original Economists.com Rate Analysis (10/14/2008): 93,342,839 GPY
Brooke Water Sales Averaged Over Three Years (2006-2008): 79,694,000 GPY
Brooke Water Sales 2008: 73,965,000 GPY (49.1% from water sharing agreements)
Current Economists.com Rate Analysis: 75,856,198 GPY

Revenue
The amount of revenue assumed in the current plan seems reasonable.
Original Economists.com Rate Analysis (10/14/2008): $1,227,747
Brooke Revenue Averaged Over Three Years (2006-2008): $1,191,661
Brooke Revenue (2008): $1,123,072
Current Economists.com Rate Analysis: $1,144,759

Operations Costs
The estimated operations costs are significantly understated in the current PSWID plan. Various operations cost estimates/sources:

Coe and Van Loo (CVL) Estimate (8/18/2008): $955,000
Original estimate was $882,000, but did not include the collected sales taxes like all the other estimates listed here do. Added $73,000 to account for sales tax.

Water For Pine Strawberry (WFPS) Correction Estimate (1/9/2009): $1,020,046
Brooke Expenses Averaged Over Three Years (2006-2008): $910,819
PSWID Operating Budget Estimate (9/14/2009): $843,200
WFPS Correction Estimate (12/22/2009): $1,004,500

As can be seen, the PSWID operating budget estimate is significantly less than the other estimates or Brooke’s actual expenses. Given the inefficiencies that PSWID has compared to Brooke and PSWID’s promises to spend more on maintenance, chlorination, and customer service than Brooke did, it doesn’t make sense to expect PSWID to be able to operate at a cost that is less than Brooke’s.

Additional property tax subsidies will be required to cover the probable overrun of the operations budget. At the end of November the statement of activity provided to Compass Bank shows expenditures of $330,647.43. This covers two months of operation plus some up-front work before acquisition. With seven months of operation to go in this fiscal year, 39.2% of the year’s estimated operation budget has been expended.

In examining the PSWID operating budget, the following adjustments were made in the WFPS correction estimate:

Salaries, Wages, and Benefits
The WFPS estimate increased the PSWID estimate to reflect operations overtime, additional General Manger costs, and office staff.
i. CVL Estimate: $270,000
ii. WFPS Correction (1/9/2009): $331,500
iii. Brooke Average: $181,805
iv. PSWID Estimate: $364,000
v. WFPS Estimate (12/22/2009): $446,000

The operations contract with Shaffer Water Management (SWM) pays $20,000 per month for Mr. Dean Shaffer, a foreman, and three operators. SWM is providing light vehicles and all hand tools under the operations agreement. For work outside of normal operating hours (8:00 AM to 5:30 PM) over-time is paid at a rate of $75 per hour for Mr. Shaffer and time and a half for the other employees. The PSWID estimate does not include over-time. The WFPS estimate added 5%, $12,000, for over-time. In the first two months of operation over-time payments paid by PSWID are over 10% of the base payments.

In the PSWID estimate, the General Manager cost was listed as $50,000. In the July PSWID budget, the General Manager cost was listed as $64,480. As of the end of November, the General Manager has charged the district $68,805.29. The WFPS estimate increases the General Manager cost to $100,000.
The PSWID estimate includes two office staff positions at $44,000 and $30,000 per year. There is actually a third person working in the office, so the WFPS estimate adds $20,000 for that person.

Purchased Water
The cost of water purchased through the water sharing agreements. The WFPS estimate increased the estimate to match Brooke’s average spending. It is not reasonable for PSWID to expect to pay less while still providing the same amount of water, particularly since the Gary Rogers well is now on a water sharing agreement.
i. Brooke Average: $101,488
ii. PSWID Estimate: $80,000
iii. WFPS Estimate: $101,000

Purchased Power
The cost of pumping water from the district’s wells and moving all of the water through the system. The WFPS estimate increased the estimate to match Brooke’s average spending. PSWID is going to have to use the same amount of electricity as Brooke for the same volume of water.
i. Brooke Average: $66,296
ii. PSWID Estimate: $50,000
iii. WFPS Estimate: $66,000

Outside Services
This would cover professional services items like Highland Water, Economists.com, accountants, etc. For whatever reason, the PSWID estimate has this set to zero. The WFPS estimate raised it to half of the CVL estimate. This may be a bit too optimistic, but $50,000 seemed like too much.
i. CVL Estimate: $50,000
ii. PSWID Estimate: $0
iii. WFPS Estimate: $25,000

Water Testing
Water testing is a normal activity for the district and won’t be any less than when Brooke owned it. The WFPS estimate increased the estimate to match Brooke’s average spending.
i. Brooke Average: $14,434
ii. PSWID Estimate: $7,000
iii. WFPS Estimate: $14,000

Transportation Expenses
This would cover the costs of operating vehicles and equipment for the district. The PSWID estimate has this expense as zero. In the first two months of operations the district spent $6514 on equipment rental. Since the CVL estimate and Brooke’s actual expenses were very similar, the CVL estimate was used.
i. CVL Estimate: $50,000
ii. Brooke Average: $53,806
iii. PSWID Estimate: $0
iv. WFPS Estimate: $50,000

Misc Expense, Training, and Travel
This would also cover the board’s expenses. The WFPS estimate raised it to half of the CVL estimate. Using the $50,000 estimate from CVL seemed like too much.
i. CVL Estimate: $50,000
ii. PSWID Estimate: $11,000
iii. WFPS Estimate: $25,000

Legal Services
There was no adjustment to the PSWID estimate of $24,000. However, as of the end of November legal expenses are at $32,818. There is probably a spike in legal fees during this initial period to get the district up and running, so it may settle down to the estimated amount in future years.

Contingency
The PSWID estimate has a 10% contingency of $76,700. In the WFPS estimate that was set to $0. This was done because the WFPS estimate is oriented towards being more representative of actual anticipated spending.

Sales Taxes
Sales taxes of 6.58% are being collected by the district. The PSWID estimate understates the size of those collections. The WFPS estimate is 6.58% of the $1,110,759 in revenue that is stated in the PSWID plan.
i. Brooke Average: $67,197
ii. PSWID Estimate: $50,000
iii. WFPS Estimate: $73,000

Comment: It isn’t clear how these are being handled in their statements of activity to Compass Bank. It doesn’t show up specifically as a line item. I sent a question to the board several weeks ago about this, but as usual there has been no answer.

Operations Cost Rate of Increase
The other aspect for the impact of the operations costs is the rate of growth of the operations costs. Using a low forecast for the rate of growth in the costs increases the size of future cost over-runs.

The current rate analysis produced by Economists.com lowers the rate of operations cost growth from that used in the original 2008 rate analysis. In addition, the current analysis says that there is no cost growth for the first two years. The cost growth percentage from the original analysis is underlined, and the percentage from the current analysis is in bold:
FY #2: 4.1%; 0%
FY #3: 1.2%; 3.5%
FY #4: 4.2%; 2.5%
FY #5: 4.3%; 3.6%

By skipping the growth in costs between the first and second year, the PSWID plan does not account for $29,442 in operations costs.

The current analysis reduces the cost growth rate from 4.2% to 3.6%. Applying the cost growth percentages from the earlier analysis shows that, by FY #5, the current analysis has operations costs that are $39,363 (4.1%) lower than if the cost growth had been left the same.

The FY #3 growth rate of 1.2% in the earlier analysis reflects the error in the first analysis where Economists.com set all of the purchased water costs to zero and did not add additional electricity costs for pumping twice as much water from the district’s wells, as well as pumping half of Strawberry’s water up the hill from Pine. In the current analysis that dip in growth rate shows up in FY #4, although it is smaller this time.

Comment: Playing with growth rate projections is a common way to mold the numbers to the story you want to tell. In the last year has the expectation for future inflation really gone down?

Depreciation
The 2003 rate analysis that was prepared by Economists.com showed depreciation as part of the operations budget. Every operations budget that we have seen for other public water companies includes depreciation costs as part of the operations budget. Mr. Haney and Mr. Jackson have insisted over the last couple of years that depreciation is not applicable to public utilities. In the most recent statement of activity that PSWID supplied to Compass Bank, depreciation expenses are listed as part of the operations expenditures. It shows total depreciation at $35,560 for the first two months of operation. On an annual basis that is $212,160. Brookes’ average depreciation expense was $97,087. The increase for PSWID reflects the higher purchase price that PSWID paid for the system.

This email is from the group Water For Pine Strawberry. We will be sending out an email after each of the PSWID meetings with a summary of what the board did, additional facts that are relevant to what went on, and some commentary. Please forward this email to friends and neighbors that are interested in the local water issues. If you would like to be added to or removed from the list for these emails, please reply to WaterForPineStrawberry@hotmail.com. Emails 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 .

POETRY: Thoughts

Thoughts
By Ana Marie Mowrer

Words elude me thoughts abound
They tease and prance and strut around

But never settle long enough
For me to gather them all up

Into a pretty poem or song
To share with folk who come along


Like butterflies thoughts flitter by
So bright and fair they catch the eye

On momentary wings they float
And then die struggling in the moat

Of tedious unimportant things
Which consume us human beings

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Dear Me: Stop smoking. Sincerely, Me

What would you say to yourself to convince yourself to stop smoking? We asked smokers to write themselves a letter. Their compelling reasons to quit, captured in thirty second (:30) commercials, will began airing statewide Dec. 29, 2009.

The Arizona Smokers’ Helpline new television and radio advertising campaign features real people struggling with tobacco addiction. Smokers know the harmful health effects of tobacco and second hand smoke. In fact, in Arizona 89 percent of people report their homes are smoke free. However, 15.9 percent of Arizonans still light up. That’s roughly 735,000 people.*

“Quitting is hard,” Arizona Smokers’ Helpline Director Stephen Michael said. “It might be the hardest thing you ever do. But, we also know, we can help.”

“It takes on average 8 or more attempts to stay quit for good,” Michael said. “This campaign features real people struggling with quitting. Not just success stories. The point is to let people know that when they are ready, help is here.”

The Arizona Smokers’ Helpline is a free service available by phone that offers quit support to all Arizonans. By calling toll-free to 1-800-55-66-222, smokers (and chew tobacco users) will work directly with a “quit coach” who will assist with setting a quit date, surviving cravings, and help with access to Nicotine Replacement Therapies (NRT) or prescription medications.

Additionally, on the Arizona Smokers’ Helpline website at www.ASHLine.org, there are more real life stories and a new WebQuit feature providing those who are quitting with help 24/7. Successful quitters and people struggling with tobacco addiction are encouraged to visit www.ASHLine.org where they can submit their own story.

“We are extremely excited about this new campaign and the potential it has to impact people’s lives,” said Wayne Tormala, Bureau Chief of the Arizona Department of Health Services Bureau of Tobacco and Chronic Disease.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Star Valley mayor wants to finish what he started


Photo by Jim Keyworth
Star Valley Mayor Bill Rappaport proudly shows off one of the town's newly paved streets.

By Jim Keyworth
Gazette Editor

Bill Rappaport never asked to be mayor of Star Valley, but after 10 months on the job he’s actively seeking a four year term so he can finish what he’s started.

Rappaport happened to be in the vice mayor’s seat when former mayor Chuck Heron resigned in March of 2009. At the time he took the reins, Rappaport said his intention was to only serve until a new mayor could be elected.

That has changed.

“The town is run completely different now,” Rappaport told the Gazette. “I’m completely open. Anybody can speak on agendized items; I bring them right into the discussions, something that was never done before.

“That’s why a lot of the issues that have come up have been resolved at council meetings.”

Rappaport says his management style is all-inclusive.

“I try to be as much of a mediator as I can,” he explained. “I let the council make the decisions. That’s why the council meetings are so completely different than they used to be.

“We listen to our constituents. They drive the council. I think we’re doing the right thing.”

Rappaport says he also has reached across the border – both physical and psychological – separating Star Valley and its big brother Payson.

“The first thing I did when I was appointed mayor was to start a dialog with (Payson Mayor) Ken Evans,” Rappaport said. We’ve accomplished a lot so far – a lot

“Our town council is working very, very closely with the Payson Town Council. Our sewer and water commission is working with their water department.”

It was water, of course, that led Star Valley to incorporate – specifically Payson’s heist of water from the Tower Well in the heart of Star Valley. Rappaport says he has done a 180 on the issue.

“It’s taken me five years to realize what this whole water thing was about,” Rappaport said. “We’ve already spent $150,000 on attorneys to find out we have no case.

“We’re very conservative how we spend our money, and I can’t see spending money on frivolous lawsuits.

“What (Payson) did for the acquisition of that well was completely legal. The only one who could have stopped it was (Brooke Utilities President Robert) Hardcastle, and I believe the developers had cut a deal with Hardcastle.

The coming of Blue Ridge has also impacted Rappaport’s thinking.

“Payson took our entire council and sewer and water commission up to Blue Ridge on buses,” he said. “We spent the whole day up there.

“You have no idea how big that project is until you go through it. It turned my mind around completely; it changed everybody’s opinion about what’s going on.

“It’s going to happen and it will change everything up here.”

But Rappaport says the towns commonalities extend beyond water, especially the need to focus on economic development.

“Both towns, despite what has happened in the past, need to realize that we both need each other,” he said. “We need them more than they need us obviously – that’s where the kids go to school, that’s where we do our shopping.”

Rappaport is also proud of his close relationship with the state’s Native American communities, especially the Tonto Apaches. He has breakfast once a week with Tribal Chairman Ivan Smith, whom he considers a close personal friend.

Meanwhile back in Star Valley, much has happened in the 10 months Rappaport has been mayor – the most visible the paving of 20 town streets and roads.

“All the streets that are in Star Valley’s inventory are now paved. The next project is Valley Road.

“When the weather warms up, we’ll start doing the sealing and resurfacing, so all the roads in Star Valley, except private roads, are all surfaced now.

Hopefully by March or April of next year, we will have the culverts and bridges worked on. That’s the next project.”

The best part, according to Rappaport, is that thanks to photo enforcement none of it has cost the taxpayers a penny.

“It’s all been paid for by people from the Valley and out of town,” he said. “I was the one who brought (photo enforcement) to Star Valley, the reason being that we were averaging about three fatalities through that corridor every year – and these weren’t people hitting elk.

“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 in that strip between the two cameras.”

The numbers are staggering.

“Right now we’re averaging about 100 tickets a day,” the mayor said. “Star Valley has become the poster child for photo enforcement throughout the state. In fact, over the last 10 months since I’ve been mayor, I’ve given talks to three different towns about photo enforcement. The last one was Globe and they’re going ahead and putting it in.”

And while the revenue has been put to good use, Rappaport says the money is nothing more than a pleasant side benefit.

“We stress the fact that it saves lives,” he said. “The revenue – when we put it in, we hadn’t even considered it. It was presented to us by Redflex as revenue neutral.

“We have almost a 99 percent collection rate from our tickets and right now it’s 60 percent of the revenue for Star Valley – probably about $75-100 thousand per month.”

What the town generated from photo enforcement was supposed to go for law enforcement, but Rappaport says his relationship with the state’s Indian tribes has allowed the town to divert it to other needs.

“The tribes have been giving me money, they give us grant money every year and all that money is earmarked for police enforcement,” he explained. “We just sign a contract with the county each year. So money from photo enforcement goes into the general fund.”

Rappaport wants people to judge his performance on three commitments he says he made when he became mayor:
1. To make sure we have a safe and sustainable water supply. That’s always been the goal of Star Valley and it always will be.
2. To make sure all roads were paved. That’s something people can see and feel. They’re on them every day.
3. To maintain the rural integrity of Star Valley.

“That’s why I moved here,” Rappaport said. “I could’ve moved anywhere in the country.

“I like Star Valley the way it is. I don’t think it will ever change.

“We’re not going to put in a strip mall. The only reason we’re doing a feasibility study on a sewer system is that it’s part of our general plan; it’s a 25-year buildout to see if it’s feasible.

“We can’t come up with that kind of money. It’s between $40 million and $100 million.

“There’s only 2,000 people in Star Valley. The cost would be prohibitive. The septic systems are fine if you take care of them.”

To emphasize what he likes about Star Valley, Rappaport likes to point out the problem the town has with a maverick cow that’s smarter than your average bovine.”

“There’s a cattle ranch that borders a vacant lot at the corner of Pinion Drive and (Arizona) 260,” he said. One cow in particular that’s smart as a whip walks through there and walks these cattle up Pinion.”

Rappaport thinks the current council is pretty savvy also.

“We’ve got such an exceptional council,” he said. “We’ve got a really nice balance.

“The next four years, we want to continue with the streets, we want to do the bridges, the culverts, to address the flooding issues, the floodways.

“We’d like to improve the look of Star Valley. My pie in the sky dream is that we secure the funding to purchase the Freegard property (next to the Landmark RV Park on 260). I’d love to turn that into a public park. That really is the centerpiece. If we could keep that a green area…

Rappaport is opposed by former vice mayor Randy White. The ballots go out in the mail Feb. 7 and we’ll know who won March 9.

Rappaport, a retired dentist, is philosophical about the outcome.

“If I don’t get elected, if they want to take Star Valley another way, there’s other things I can do,” he said.