This week we reflect on the passing of a blossoming artist in our well-knit community of Payson. Gerri Levine was respected as an outstanding photographer, community contributor and officer of the Artist of the Rim Gallery. Gerri was an Arizona resident who migrated from Phoenix to Payson to pursue her many endeavors, and to get a little closer to the nature and Native American culture that she loved. After graduating from college in Boston, Gerri moved to California where she worked as a research biologist at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory for 35 years. She was a published academic while at LBL.
Ref. Payson Roundup of Feb. 14, (Judge blocks grazing above Fossil Creek). The article does not say, but one must assume it is the 9th U.S. Circuit Court in San Francisco.
A 27-year-old man arrested Wednesday for allegedly smuggling 15 illegal immigrants through Payson was released to custom officials. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials picked up Raul Lopez-Gomez Monday. Gomez was the only person booked on charges after a routine traffic stop near the Chase Bank Wednesday led to the discovery of a vanload of illegal immigrants.
I wonder why Brenda Mooney (“Guns in classroom not in the best interest of students,” Feb. 21) believes a gun carried by her into a classroom, and presumably kept on her person or secured in a locked desk, is somehow a danger to her students?
Celebrate Leap Day by taking a few moments to hit the students’ multi-cultural buffet. Foods from Italy, Mexico, Thailand, and America’s South (soul food) will be featured. If you haven’t had a chance to try authentic Thai food, the students received personal training from Mac and Nan of Payson’s Ayothaya Thai Café — they have been huge supporters of this year’s chef event. Plus, there will be loads of delicious desserts to choose from.
A long-awaited and much anticipated master plan for the Pine-Strawberry water district was endorsed at the group’s recent board meeting. Pine Strawberry Water Improvement District (PSWID) Treasurer Mike Greer enthusiastically endorsed the 2012-13 proposed budget and master plan at a Feb. 23 board meeting. Greer’s budget includes $100,000 to hire an engineering firm to study the current water system and develop an infrastructure plan for the district’s future.
After a five-month search, the Mogollon Health Alliance has found a new chief executive officer in house. Sanja S. Long was promoted from administrative assistant to CEO recently. “Sanja has shown initiative and resourcefulness throughout the past few years as she assumed a leadership role in this dynamic organization,” said Gary Cordell, MHA board vice president. Long has been with the MHA for three years. The MHA board interviewed several candidates for the position after Judy Baker stepped down after nearly 20 years with the non-profit group.
Elks members and guests are welcome to enjoy lunch at the Lodge from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday; Friday dinner from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday dinner from noon to 5 p.m. Basic refreshments are offered for sale at the Karaoke Night from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. every Wednesday in February. Every Sunday there is Bingo at 1 p.m. and a Pool Tournament at 4 p.m., with Happy Hour from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Elks members and guests are welcome at these events.
It took 10 days of anxious waiting for the e-mail to come through, but it finally did on Valentine’s Day. The news was good. The Careers Through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) competition selected Payson High School (PHS) junior Autumn Parrish one of the top 10 juniors in the state. Parrish will move on to the final senior competition in March where she will prepare lunch for the event with the other top Arizona juniors. Professional chefs will assess her performance to determine what awards will be given. Traditionally, five summer culinary camp scholarships have been awarded, one as far away as New York’s Culinary Institute of America.
Marily Ridings, a student at Payson High School, has been selected to represent Arizona as a national youth delegate at the 2012 Washington Youth Summit on the Environment at George Mason University.
The Rim Country Rotary-Payson honored the February Student of the Month, Joseph Oldeschulte, with a ceremony at the club’s Feb. 23 meeting with a Certificate of Merit and a check for $50.
Armed with a bevy of returning letter winners expected to lift the Lady Longhorn softball team to new heights this season, Payson High departs Thursday, March 1, to Buckeye for the Hawk Invitational. From last year’s team, Taylor Petersen, Kaitlyn Wessel, Natalie Black, Devann Runzo, Megan Wessel and Karessa Armstrong return to provide leadership, defense and hopefully a red-hot offensive attack. Petersen, a catcher, set the school’s home run record as a freshman and hones her skills in the off-season playing club ball in the Valley. Kaitlyn Wessel and her sister, Megan, are two of the finest all-around athletes at the school and their talents play a major part in buoying the softball cause. Kaitlyn plays first baseball and Meagan can hold down spots in either the outfield or infield.
The Longhorn baseball team overcame a lack of practice time and preseason doldrums to finish 4-0 and win the championship of the inaugural Fountain Hills Invitational tournament this weekend. During the course of the tournament’s four days, the Horns opened with a 2-0 win over Northwest Christian and followed it up with a 7-6 triumph vs. Bourgade. After a day’s rest, the team returned to Fountain Hills to thump Winslow 12-3 and in the championship finale ran rampant over Camp Verde 18-1. “We struggled a little bit against Northwest and Bourgade due to so few practices,” coach Scott Novack said. “The opportunity to go home (after the win over Bourgade), go to class and have batting practice I think helped us tremendously. “We had the perfect schedule.”
Tyler Apps pulled off one of the most amazing accomplishments in local golf lore winning the Arizona Short Course Classic Nike golf tournament as a high school senior. Prior to the tournament, he had the option of playing in the 15-18 years age division, but chose to play in the more competitive men’s group. In the tournament played Feb. 23 to Feb. 25 at the par 61 Augusta Ranch Golf Club in Mesa, Apps finished at four over par 126, which was two strokes better than runner-up Kevin Walters.
The Lorraine Cline Memorial Fund Poker Ride and Raffle is one of the fastest growing and most popular benefits in the Rim Country. It’s only been in existence for four years, but already it’s attracting droves of followers from the Rim Country, southern Gila County and the Valley. While the ride is a celebratory and festive outing designed to tickle the fancy of most all ATV owners, its real purpose is to benefit the fight against cancer. Laci Sopeland, the granddaughter of Lorraine Cline who died four years ago of lung caner, organized the benefit rides in 2008 to earn money, which is donated to help pay expenses to local people waging war against the dreaded disease. Sopeland says a portion of the money will ultimately help fund a type of free wellness clinic where Gila County residents can receive health care and checkups.
To commemorate Arizona’s 100-year birthday, AAA asked Arizonans to share their favorite things to see and do in the Grand Canyon State. Answering the call, desert dwellers helped build the club’s top 100 list. On Friday, AAA revealed that list in a four-part series in Highroads, AAA Arizona’s member magazine.
Tourism officials protest abrupt, year-long closure of road access to stream
Delivering a fresh blow to Rim Country’s struggling tourist economy, the U.S. Forest Service this week shut down Fossil Creek Road for at least another year. The soaring popularity of the pristine, restored travertine-rich stream has drawn a flood of weekend visitors to Payson, but also resulted in piles of litter, illegal campfires and fears of stream pollution. The Forest Service is working on a plan to control access, perhaps through the use of shuttle buses, but in the meantime a closure order issued last week will shut off access by road from Pine and Strawberry.
One of the topics recently discussed in the Coldwell Banker Bishop Realty offices was the pace of change in the world. As time passes, it seems, our short memories are quick to forget how things were. For example, comparing the Payson and Star Valley real estate markets from September of 2008 with today it might appear the Rim Country market is poised for a climb back to some level of normalcy. In September of 2008, there were 549 homes for sale in Payson and Star Valley. And back then we had a two-year supply of homes on the market. As of today, there are 241 homes on the market, which equates to a little less than a seven-month inventory. (Many consider a six-month inventory balanced).
Question: What’s worse than spending $35,000 on an election without any contested seats? Answer: Doing it twice. That’s the fear behind Payson Town Clerk Silvia Smith’s appeal to voters to fill out and return their ballots for the town council elections — even though no one filed to run against the incumbents in Payson. The same concerns hold true in Star Valley, where no one filed to oppose Mayor Bill Rappaport or council members George Binney, Gary Coon or Paty Henderson. The ballots went out this week for the vote-by-mail town election, with Payson Mayor Kenny Evans, Councilor Michael Hughes, Councilor Richard Croy and Councilor John Wilson all up for re-election. Sounds simple enough: No opponent, slam dunk.
Rim Country libraries will be celebrating Dr. Seuss this week with Read Across America events Friday, March 2. At the Isabelle Hunt Memorial Public Library is Pine; the festivities are from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Participants will enjoy crafts; a drawing for Seuss books (winners must be present); contests and refreshments; plus a chance to have a photo with the Cat in the Hat.
New district lines ensure Payson voters will face lively and competitive races
Redistricting has shifted northern Gila County into what’s shaping up to become one of the most hotly contested state senate races in the state. The race in the redrawn legislative District 6 will likely pit Republican Senate President Pro Tem Sylia Allen against incumbent House Democrat Tom Chabin. The lines drawn by the Independent Redistricting Commission split Gila County in two and added the north half of the county to a district dominated by Flagstaff, Chabin’s hometown. The new district lines must pass review by the U.S. Justice Department and perhaps survive a contemplated legal challenge by the Legislature. However, candidates are facing May deadlines to make a decision on whether to run in the August primary.
Several area churches have announced special Lenten services for Rim Country residents. All of the churches invite members of the community to join their congregations for these services to prepare for Easter.
A pair of water users unleashed verbal attacks on a longtime Pine Strawberry Improvement Water District (PSWID) critic during a Feb. 23 regular board meeting. The meeting erupted into a barrage of personal attacks and name calling when Cindy Mack and Jane Wilcox assailed board critic Sam Schwalm, saying his criticisms were unfounded. In the accusations, which seemed to catch the audience off guard, Mack and Wilcox scolded Schwalm — spokesman for the community activist group Water for Pine Strawberry. Schwalm, who was sitting near the front, did not respond. The two women’s attacks came on the heels of a volatile Jan. 19 board meeting during which board member Ron Calderon threatened Schwalm, saying, “I’m going to put my foot in your mouth.” Calderon also said he was disturbed by the sight of Schwalm at meetings with his “big head and big fat smile on his face.”
From time to time, the Roundup sponsors students who wish to job shadow a reporter to satisfy the requirements for the Rim Country Middle School career class. All seventh grade students participate in the career class, which prepares them for life after school — from a pretend marriage to creating a household budget and managing a job. The students get a flavor of what adults grapple with day to day. The job shadow allows students to explore an on-the-job experience.
Shakespeare would have loved the Pine-Strawberry Water Improvement District. Lately, the water district board seems bent on offering itself up as an illustration of the “tragic flaw” — with certain elements of low comedy. And it’s all such a waste — although fascinating to watch. Consider the heroic accomplishments of the board in the past two years. A decade of haphazard and irresponsible management by Brooke Utilities had blighted the whole community. Brooke’s refusal to make any investment in increasing water supplies in return for its monopoly resulted in a perpetual building moratorium. After years of argument and division, the water district bought out Brooke and set about to secure the community’s future.
We, meaning the Rim Country Optimist Club, always look forward to the Lip Sync Contest for high school students, which is a concert for the audience.
The letters about campuses allowing students to carry weapons are pretty interesting.
The Payson region continues to be severely impacted by the loss of jobs and lower family incomes.
Some Star Valley residents could soon be saving an average of 20 percent off costly prescription medications after the town signed up for the program last week. The town is working with the National League of Cities to offer free discount prescription drug cards to any area resident. The cards are designed to give residents without health insurance a pharmacy benefit plan or have prescriptions not covered by insurance at a savings. Anyone is eligible for a card since the program has no age, income or existing health coverage or ailments restrictions. The card is accepted at all major pharmacies, including those in Payson.
Working to clear up its murky finances, the Gila Community College (GCC) Board voted not to impose course fees but did agree to assign an existing employee to serve as finance director. The board voted not to impose the course fees partly to balance student costs between the Globe and Payson campuses. Moreover, an audit by the state suggested the lack of a financial director exposed GCC to gross accounting deficiencies. In the fall, Senior Dean Stephen Cullen had requested the board vote in a fee of $50 for any class that required additional supplies such as ceramics or jewelry. Cullen reported that according to his research, each campus paid thousands of dollars in additional costs to cover art supplies.
Justin Keegan pulled the pile of leather out of the bucket. “I thought it was a saddle!” said the Julia Randall Elementary student of the pair of chaps. Justin is from Julie Eckhardt’s fourth grade classroom. Meanwhile, Margaret Armstrong discovered cats catch gophers and snakes on a ranch. “I learned what cats are for,” she said, “I never knew what they were for.” When rancher Lori Brown hears things like this, she knows her efforts are paying off. Every year she comes to Gila County elementary schools to talk about ranching and the agricultural business.
A bloody confrontation over an allegedly stolen cell phone has led police through a twisted tale of a night gone terribly wrong. William ‘Billy’ Sweatt was stabbed at least three times at his home in October, leading to the arrest of two Payson residents. A jury indicted Brook Lynn Johnson, 19, and Andrew James Hargis, 32, in November on multiple charges, including conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, burglary and endangerment. Hargis and Johnson allegedly tried to kill Sweatt, Johnson reportedly stabbing him several times at a home on West Elm Street where a child was also present. Sweatt survived the altercation. Hargis is currently being held on a $10,000 bond in Payson’s jail while Johnson has been released. Trial dates for Johnson and Hargis have not been set.