Tragedy And Triumph Lead Top Stories Of The Year


It was the best of years, it was the worst of years.

2001 was the best for Payson-Valley commuters, who saw the completion of the $55.6-million Beeline Highway project ... and the worst for chamber of commerce CEO Tom Kaleta, who resigned under fire from his board of directors. And it was the best and worst for Payson lawyer David Colby, who was appointed Gila County Commissioner ... then terminated for speaking his mind.

There were more. And all can be found in this roundup of the top local news stories of 2001.

Jan. 5 - Food drive 'wins' in restaurant contest

Nearly 500 people entered 2,000 names in the contest to name Fargo's Steakhouse. But when the winning entry was submitted by co-owner Doug Brackin's father, he and fellow co-owners decided to give the $500 contest prize to the local food bank incurring the wrath of many entrants.

Jan. 9 'America's Most Wanted' suspect caught near Young

Gila County Sheriff's deputies arrested Stephen E. Tatro in Young just nine days after his profile was featured on the Fox TV program "America's Most Wanted." Tatro was wanted in Texas for allegedly murdering his business partner in 1997.

Jan. 12 Library begins new chapter

An overflow crowd of at least 150 looked on as the Town of Payson broke ground on a new public library in Rumsey Park. The 15,765-square-foot, $1.8-million facility, scheduled to open in January, culminates a 15-year struggle by Library Friends and others to raise money to build the town a new repository of knowledge.

Jan. 19 Chamber out to conquer Rim's ecotourism frontier

A group of Rim country leaders began putting together an ecotourism program for the area. Ecotourism experiencing an area's natural resources firsthand, often on guided tours not only attracts more tourists on a year-round basis, but also takes nothing away from the environment as do hunters, fishermen and campers.

Jan. 23 Haught defense requests new trial

Payson attorney Arthur Lloyd filed a motion to throw out negligent homicide and aggravated assault charges against his client, Roy George Haught, claiming that newly discovered facts warrant a new trial.

Jan. 30 Street fight dead ends in Payson subdivision

After the votes were all counted at Town Hall, residents of the eastern half of Alpine Heights subdivision overwhelmingly rejected a proposed local improvement district by an 81-37 margin. The issue became controversial when Payson Mayor Ray Schum, who lives in the subdivision, endorsed the district.

Feb. 2 Mold spores sprout at PES

A survey performed over Christmas vacation at Payson Elementary School confirmed the presence of mold and fungi spores "virtually all over the school," but concentrations were far from dangerous to human health. The survey was performed after a teacher and secretary reported respiratory problems.

Feb. 6 County's rabies rate second highest in state

With the continued discovery of rabid animals around the Rim country, Gila County health officials warned the public to avoid contact with bats and other wild animals that may be carrying the virus. In the previous 12 months, a total of 21 rabid animals were discovered in the county 10 foxes, eight bats, one dog, one coyote and one bobcat.

Feb. 9 Payson crossroads to receive makeover

The Payson Town Council voted unanimously to reshape the intersection of highways 260 and 87 in a joint project with the Arizona Department of Transportation. Despite objections by the management of the McDonald's at that intersection, the council decided to go ahead with improvements designed to increase traffic flow and improve safety. Construction should be under way by July, 2002.

Feb. 13 Payson student population drops first time in 12 years

For the first time in 12 years, the Payson Unified School District's student population decreased. PUSD reported a total of 2,759 students at the 100-day count, a decrease of 51 students from the previous year. Superintendent Herb Weissenfels said local realtors report that housing is at a "virtual standstill" in the Rim country.

Feb. 20 County averts suit; returns misdirected money to Payson

An expensive legal fight was averted when Gila County offered to re-pay the Town of Payson $189,824 in vehicle license taxes that the county incorrectly diverted to the towns of Globe, Hayden, Winkelman and Miami. The money was misdirected when the county ignored the 1995 special census showing that Payson's population had grown by several thousand residents.

Feb. 20 Payson Exotic Zoo to close its cages

Owner Randy Ferry announced that he is closing the Payson Exotic Zoo after 22 years. Ferry cited old age both his and his animals' as a primary reason for the decision.

March 2 Illegals stopped at gunpoint

Thirteen undocumented Mexican nationals were apprehended by Payson police when their stolen van stalled at the intersection of highways 260 and 87. The group qualified for voluntary return to Mexico and was escorted back across the border that night.

March 6 Police shooter gets 30 years

Lenny Kizzar, convicted in 1999 for the attempted murder of Payson Police Officer Alan Dyer, was sentenced last week to 30 years in the Arizona State Prison. Dyer was wounded at the old Payson Wal-Mart.

March 9 Door Stop land deal in works

Following a long executive session, the Payson Town Council announced a tentative deal to sell land south of Payson Municipal Airport to The Door Stop, the cabinet door manufacturer that wants to move here from the Valley. Lawyers were charged with working out the details.

March 9 Council kills tax proposal

Payson Mayor Ray Schum, speaking at the beginning of a town council meeting, pronounced a proposed 10 percent bed, board and booze tax "dead on arrival." Todd Zelinski, co-owner of The Small Cafe and organizer of a group of local restaurant owners and managers opposed to the levy, still presented the council with petitions signed by more than 5,000 Rim country residents.

March 9 Schools switch to modified calendar

After extensive debate, the Payson Unified School District finally settled on a "modified" calendar for the 2001-2002 school year. As approved, the calendar follows a 9-2 formula, wherein nine-week periods of school are followed by two-week breaks. The new calendar shortens the summer recess by about two weeks.

April 3 Solar flares light up the night sky

Rim country residents had prime seats for a rare southern appearance by the northern lights. The light show, which began around 11 p.m. and lasted about two hours, was caused when sunspots or flares produced energy particles that glowed when they hit the gas in the earth's atmosphere.

April 6 Payson's population tops 13,600

The latest from the U.S. Census Bureau showed that Payson grew by 62 percent during the 1990s from 8,377 to 13,620.

April 6 Beetles' bite bad for ponderosa bark

An infestation of bark beetles is causing ponderosa pines all around the Rim country to wither and die. A larger number of trees were stricken the previous fall because drought-stressed trees are unable to repel the insect as it bores into the bark.

April 10 State to prosecute case of missing money

An investigation into the theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars in public money from the Gila County Public Fiduciary's office was turned over to the Arizona attorney general for prosecution. The public fiduciary is the appointed trustee of wards of the state people who can no longer take care of themselves. The total amount of money missing hasn't been determined.

April 13 Curbside recycling down for the count

The Rim country's curbside recycling program was officially pronounced dead when Tyler Tabar, owner of Arizona Recycling Curbside Specialists, finally admitted his company was defunct. ARCS had suspended service March 2 and subsequently missed two announced resumption dates.

April 20 Firm's recycling claims mostly rubbish

Even though Arizona Recycling collected more than $8,000 from Rim country customers, not a single bag of garbage was taken to a recycling center. Instead, it was thrown into a mini-storage unit on Main Street and tossed into five commercial trash containers.

April 24 Study: Water use up

A new study by the Town of Payson Water Department revealed that residents are using more water than projected three years ago. Consumption increased by 38 percent during the three-year period, with winter consumption tripling. Mike Ploughe, town hydro-geologist and author of the study, said it offers a "reality check."

April 27 Celebrating the open road

Hundreds of state and local dignitaries gathered near Sunflower for the official dedication of the near-completed Beeline Highway. Gov. Jane Hull called the completion of the $55.6-million project "an important and historic event." For Rim country residents, it means a savings of about 10 minutes when traveling to and from the Valley.

May 1 Former deputy opts to take plea agreement

Former Gila County Sheriff's Deputy Larry Marrs pleaded guilty to one felony count of making a false statement. Marrs falsified his credentials on his job application with Gila County by stating he had a four-year pre-law degree. Marrs also claimed he was once a military policeman and served on the Gila County SWAT. GCSO has never had a SWAT team and military records revealed Marrs had little or no police or special services training during his four years in the Navy.

May 4 District 2 Gila County supervisor dies at 68

Edward G. "Bunch" Guerrero, 68, Globe, was in his fifth term as Gila County supervisor when he died after a long battle with cancer.

May 11 Former fiduciary charged with taking $1.177 million

Rita Riell-Corbin, Gila County fiduciary, is indicted on charges of embezzling more than $1.177 million from a financial fund of 100 elderly or incapacitated people.

May 15 Door Stop adds Pine to property search list

While The Door Stop may still end up relocating to a site south of Payson Municipal Airport, a location in Pine was also under serious consideration by James Hill, owner of the cabinet door manufacturing company in Chandler.

May 18 Haught pleads guilty

Star Valley businessman Roy George Haught pleaded guilty to negligent homicide for his involvement in the 1997 death of James Cooper.

May 25 Former CABR exec charged with theft

Former Payson resident Raven Burlando charged with fraudulent schemes and theft for allegedly stealing more than $250,000 from the Central Arizona Board of Realtors was scheduled to enter a plea in Superior Court in Payson.

May 29 Honoring the fallen

Men and women from local veterans groups saluted the U.S. flag during the dedication of the Payson Veterans War Memorial at Green Valley Park.

June 1 - Miami mayor picked to fill District 2 supervisor seat

Miami mayor Joe Sanchez was selected from a field of 10 candidates to fill the Gila County District 2 Supervisor seat. The position was left vacant when Supervisor Edward G. "Bunch" Guerrero died April 28.

June 8 Door Stop deal may finally be a go

Just when the deal between The Door Stop and the Town of Payson seemed all but dead, the two sides were once again on the verge of an agreement that would bring the cabinet door manufacturer to Payson after all.

June 12 Vandals hit more than 50 homes, businesses

Reports of more than 50 random acts of destruction lit up Payson Police Department phone lines over the weekend.

Payson resident will celebrate 104th birthday on the dance floor

Payson resident Montana "Mont" McKean celebrated her 104th birthday on the dance floor with her son, Byron McKean.

June 15 Dog park OK'd for Rumsey Park

Payson pooch proponents packed Town Hall Thursday night to watch the Town Council approve an off-leash dog park where they can exercise their dogs without restraint.

Del Taco to open in fall

The vacant lot north of El Rancho on the Beeline Highway was cleared for a new tenant, Del Taco, the nation's second xxxx

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