SRP sends water down streambed just in time for fishing season
The Salt River Project yesterday sent water gushing down the East Verde River — and not a moment too soon. The spring-fed East Verde had declined to a 3 cubic-foot-per-second trickle where it crosses Cracker Jack Road, according to a brand-new, solar-powered stream monitoring station SRP installed this winter. SRP each year pumps some 11,000 acre-feet out of the Blue Ridge Reservoir atop the Rim, runs it down to Washington Park near Whispering Pines and dumps it into the East Verde.
The Arizona Department of Transportation wants to know what is important to Arizona residents when it comes to getting around by bike or foot along the state highway system. Starting this week, community members can help ADOT draft goals and objectives for the Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan and identify action items to achieve them by taking part in a short online survey.
The principal selection committee has settled on four candidates to interview to fill Kathe Ketchem’s spot as principal of Payson High School (PHS). The committee, made up of administrators, teachers and parents, winnowed numerous applications down to four finalists. The committee will make its final recommendation to the school board May 14.
State sweeps prompt Payson to consider layoffs
The Payson council held an emotional, emergency budget session on Tuesday to grapple with a projected $721,000 deficit for the fiscal year that starts in July. Continued raids on local funds by the state Legislature and rising employee benefit costs could force a fresh round of layoffs and a reduction in many programs. That would include slashing town payments to the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce from $36,000 to just $11,000. The plan also calls for the cancellation of almost all capital improvements and big increases in employee costs for health care. The renewed budget crisis also means the town can’t fill five patrol officer vacancies or end its reliance on two-man crews on fire trucks on many shifts. The possibility of three fresh layoffs at one point left Town Manager Debra Galbraith choking back tears, as the town headed into a fourth year of cutbacks.
An 11-year-old Pine-Strawberry girl got an unexpected horseback ride Wednesday after she twisted her ankle on a school hike. The girl was reportedly hiking with 29 fourth- and fifth-grade Pine-Strawberry students on the Donahue Trail, just south of Pine near Milk Ranch Point, when she injured her ankle roughly two miles up the trail, said Earl Chitwood, commander of the Gila County Mounted Posse.
Administrative ratios rise with cutbacks
Two years of resignations and layoffs have cut deeply into the ranks of Payson teachers and classified staff, but left the ranks of administration almost untouched. Even before absorbing two years of lopsided layoffs, Payson’s administrative costs were about 10 percent above average. Since last June, Payson has lost 13 teachers to layoffs and resignations and hired six. The district now has 142 certificated employees, down from 156 in 2010-11. The ranks of non-credentialed staff actually rose in 2011-12 by four. Overall, the classified staff has dropped from 167 in 2010-11 to roughly 154 this year, according to a compilation based on a year’s worth of board agendas. Many of those classified staff do work in the classroom as aides and tutors.
Some angry residents criticized late-arriving, out-of-area firefighters
The Deer Creek community has lacked fire protection far too long, a group of fire chiefs agreed Monday. Recently, many residents were outraged that help did not arrive on April 16 as a house burned to the ground in the small community south of Payson. However, officials attending Monday’s Gila County Fire Chiefs Association meeting turned the tables, saying they are outraged residents have blamed Tonto Basin and Payson Fire for not showing up — when those agencies have no legal obligation to respond at all. “People need to be aware that if they move into an area like this, they have no fire coverage,” said Hellsgate Fire Chief Gary Hatch. What fire protection would look like and who would provide coverage remains unclear, but residents should take action before tragedy strikes, the group agreed.
Police say they are looking for someone that intentionally set the forest on fire Wednesday night. Motorists reported seeing flames just after midnight between Home Depot and Ponderosa Bible Church, in a wooded area in the 1400 block of North Highway 87.
More than 20 artists will be sharing their work and their studios with the public in the annual ’Neath the Rim Open Studio Tour from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday, May 4 through Sunday, May 6, presented by the Payson Art League. Tour guide maps are available at the chamber of commerce and at the library.
Again, the Pine Strawberry Water Improvement District (PSWID) is replying to Water for Pine-Strawberry (WFPS) advocate group member, Sam Schwalm, by saying he’s misinformed, he’s wrong.
I am a graduating senior at Payson High School.
For this month’s forest volunteer cleanup day, Forest Service officials have planned something special. There will be a little party after the work — and the work will be different. Instead of picking up trash and rebuilding trails, volunteers will move brush.
GCC board adopts new format for budget reporting after years of frustrated confusion
After years of fruitless frustration, the Gila Community College Board may finally get financial reports it can understand. But don’t get too excited: It still doesn’t actually have any rules or policies. The GCC board last week, in a marathon afternoon meeting, unanimously adopted a new report format in hopes it will finally understand its own budget. The new, two-page format provides year-to-date spending and revenue numbers for each of the three campuses, located in Payson, Globe and on the San Carlos Apache Reservation.
Now that the public is aware of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the goal of privatizing government and eliminating unions, it is time to speak up.
Elections free to proceed in redrawn districts
The U.S. Justice Department has determined legislative maps drawn up by the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission don’t violate federal law protecting the rights of minorities — but conservative Republicans have filed twin lawsuits saying the maps do violate their rights. The Justice Department’s prompt approval of the congressional and state legislative maps drawn up by the voter-created redistricting commission means that this fall’s elections will take place in the new districts, since courts probably can’t act on the Republican challenges before the elections — with primaries in August and the general election in November.
Payson got another heaping dose of bad news this week, courtesy of the Arizona Legislature. Despite three years of living painfully within its means, the Payson council learned Tuesday that it faces a potential $731,000 deficit — thanks in large measure to state sweeps of local funds and soaring state benefit costs. The council got the bad news in a briefing Tuesday together with a list of potential cuts — all of them painful. The governor and lawmakers wrapped up their legislative session this week, with a last-minute budget deal that keeps getting worse as we examine the fine print.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department pledges to continue its proven protective management program for bald eagles even though the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently decided that the species in Arizona is not a distinct population segment and does not warrant listing as an endangered species. “The Service’s recent decision has no bearing on Arizona’s bald eagle management program that has been in place for more than 30 years and has led to a more than 600 percent increase in the state’s population,” said Larry Riley, Game and Fish’s assistant director for wildlife management. “Arizona has a nationally-recognized bald eagle management program, that in conjunction with federal protection laws that already exist, will help the species continue to thrive.”
The pets featured below are just some of the many wonderful animals currently available for adoption from the Humane Society of Central Arizona. All adoptable pets have been spayed or neutered and are up to date with their vaccinations.
College board approves plan to put solar cell array over parking lot
Gila Community College has struck a deal to put up solar panels that won’t cost the district a thing — but will hopefully knock $700 a month off its electric bill. The college will basically follow in the footsteps of the Payson Unified School District, letting a private solar cell company use college land to put up a solar array. The solar company gets the tax breaks and a chance to sell power to Arizona Public Service, while the district gets a break on its utility bill.
What a fantastically grand and wonderful week the Snyder family had! My brother Larry Henrickson came to visit us all the way from Berwick, Pa. — And he drove! Larry has a black 1988 Cadillac Coup de Ville with a burgundy leather interior. What a car! He tried to register it at the car show, but was told the car was too new. Larry is a big fan of car shows (he fixes up old cars and shows them in his hometown), and of NASCAR. Retired driver, Jimmy Spencer lives in Berwick and has a garage there. So naturally, my brother kept track of his career with NASCAR. Jimmy now emcees on the Speed channel.
This Saturday, the Payson Choral Society will present its annual spring concert in the Payson High School Auditorium. The show is titled “Let’s Go to the Movies.” There will be 50 of our local 20-year-old choral society members on hand for two separate concerts, with show times for the matinee at 1 p.m. and the evening show at 7 p.m. Tickets are priced at $8 in advance and $10 at the door for the two-hour presentation. John Landino, choral society member told me, “This is going to be a wonderfully nostalgic concert and we’ve really enjoyed putting it together. We’re going to take the audience through a 70-year musical journey, featuring some of the best songs that have ever appeared on the silver screen.
Last Saturday, I attended “Disney’s Cinderella Kids” presented by the Pine Strawberry School Drama Club. I just want to say the cast and crew did a great job. The kids were fabulous. Hailey Hamblen was cast perfectly as Cinderella, with a perfect voice to match. Prince Charming and his court, the cruel stepmother and sisters, fairy godmother and the mouse chorus were well rehearsed and spectacular. Family members and classmates came out in support of the young stars of the show as well as the volunteers who put so much time and effort into making a positive impact on these kids in our community. Although I did not have a child participating, I enjoyed it immensely. Like many of you, I now look back fondly on those days of school plays, sports events, piano recitals, band and choir performances.
Some people seem to have life all planned out by the time they get out of diapers. I keep reading about them all the time: Writers who wanted to write the minute they saw their first crayon; mathematicians who were doing algebra problems while the rest of us were trying to learn the multiplication tables; musicians playing the violin while they were too young to spell do, re, mi, and fa; and kids who were playing doctor with all the neighborhood girls by the time they were 6. Well, that last group may not have been planning a career, though many of them no doubt found a lifetime hobby. On the other hand, come to think of it ...
Longtime Payson High School golf coach Bret Morse, also a former offensive and defensive coordinator on two Longhorn state championship football teams, is calling his link squad’s winning efforts April 30 in a four-way match at Fountain Hills, “a very solid performance.” Also, he says, the win could help “keep the team chemistry and momentum rolling into the state tournament on May 11 and 12.” At Fountain Hills, pitted against the host Falcons, Estrella Foothills and Valley Christian, the Horns strung together a 149 to win the tournament going away.
Tourney to lure fishing’s finest
Western Outdoor News (WON) tournament fishing returns to Roosevelt Lake this weekend for a pro-am tournament that is expected to draw top-notch anglers from around the west as well as most of Payson’s finest. “Many of those from out of state will come from California,” said Tracy Purtee, Arizona’s WON tournament director. Payson entrants include Clifford Pirch, Kyle Randall, Bobby O’Donnell, Keith Hunsinger, Buddy Randall, John Browning and Purtee. The field is an interesting mix, especially Pirch and Kyle Randall, both Payson High School graduates and former Longhorn athletes. Pirch has been fishing the professional tournament circuits, including FLW, B.A.S.S. and WON for a decade, and has enjoyed plenty of success.
Action should be fast, furious and heated today, Friday, May 4, at Rose Mofford Complex in Phoenix where 16 of the state’s finest prep softball teams continue their pursuit of a state championship. In all, 24 Division III teams were seeded into the tournament, but eight were eliminated in the first round on May 2. Among the teams battling for honors are the No. 1 ranked Lady Longhorns who play at 6 p.m. today against No. 17 Fountain Hills. If the Lady Horns win, they will advance to an elite eight showdown at 9 a.m. tomorrow, Saturday, probably against No. 8 Mingus. The final four will be played May 11 and the championship at 8 p.m. May 12.
Laci Sopeland and the Lorraine Cline Memorial Fund are declaring war against cancer, the most dreaded disease of our time. The affirmation to battle occurred April 27 just after the proceeds from the Fourth Annual Cline Poker Run were counted, prompting Sopeland to announce the money — about $17,000 — would be used to fund the inaugural Gila County Hope Fair. At it, Sopeland said, county residents will be eligible to receive a free cancer screening once each year. Out-of-county residents may have a screening for a reduced fee, said Sopeland.
Tonto Rim Sports Club members — beaming with pride — were eager in 2006 to show off the vast array of improvements that had just taken place at the Jim Jones Shooting Range. So, they opted to host an inaugural open house and outdoor expo they hoped would introduce the public to what was available at the shooting facility located south of town. What the members didn’t know at the time is that the event would turn into such an overwhelming success, they would continue to host it annually. Among the new facilities the public both viewed and used six years ago were six new shooting bays, a 300-yard range, and a field archery range. Those improvements, however, weren’t the only ones that have spruced up the local range. In 2010, TRSC received an $11,500 donation from the Zane Grey Committee’s Friends of NRA. That money was used for drainage improvement projects to curtail the flooding problems that sometimes occurred during heavy rains.
If law requires council to pay itself back for water company — why not just change the law?
With enough votes, town councils can repeal any ordinance. The Star Valley Town Council had this epiphany Tuesday when the town’s manager suggested the council modify the rainy day ordinance so the town does not have to put back in the fund the money it took out to buy a water company. Town Manager Tim Grier said the town’s new water company probably won’t generate money to repay the rainy day fund in the required five years. To avoid violating the ordinance, he suggested the council simply rewrite the law so it need not replace the $600,000.