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Show Low receives 'clean' financial audit

SHOW LOW — The December Show Low City Council meeting of 2019 was held Tuesday, Dec. 3. One of the agenda items included a presentation of the city’s financial audit report, conducted by a representative from Hinton Burdick CPA’s & Advisors.

FY19 City of Show Low audit report by HintonBurdick CPA’s & Advisors, p 12  

The City of Show Low General Fund shows significant increase over the last four years, according to the HintonBurdick CPAs & Advisors report presented during the December council meeting.

The audit representative stated the City of Show Low received a “clean” audit with no compliance findings. There were a handful of year-end accounting adjustments which were described as “typical” for end year municipality-type audits.

FY19 City of Show Low audit report by HintonBurdick CPA’s & Advisors, p 15  

City of Show Low sales tax revenues have steadily increased over the last five years.

Financial highlights, government wide, included a “total net position” for the city at $161,439,069 on June 30, 2019 which indicates a net position increase of $8.4 million when compared to last year.

A $6.9 million portion of the increase was attributed to “governmental activities” while $1.5 million came from business-type activities including water, wastewater and refuse fees.

“Total revenues from all sources were reported as $37.5 million and the cost of all City programs was $29 million,” according to the audit report. City sales tax continue to be a primary source of revenue with a 8.54 percent increase reflected this fiscal year.

Capital assets

Significant additions to Show Low’s capital assets included the $2.5 million airport runway rehabilitation project. Also included were various road improvements on McNeil, 8th Street and Thornton which totaled approximately $1.1 million.

Sewer and water line improvements completed in Sierra Vista Subdivision costing $550,847 were also mentioned as a significant capital improvement project/asset.

Debt

“Governmental fund long-term debt decreased by $2,074,941 as a cost of regularly scheduled annual debt service,” indicated the report summary.

In addition, “utility fund long-term debt decreased by $757,248 as a result of regularly scheduled annual debt service.”

www.showlowaz.gov  

Detailed budget information can be found by visiting www.showlowaz.gov/261/Finance-Department.

Finally, Hinton Burdick reported that debt service payments schedule for fiscal year 2020 “should be approximately” $1.8 million” which is less than what the city experienced in fiscal year 2029 as a result of the three bonds that were paid off.

If you would like more information about the audit or the information presented, contact Show Low City Clerk Tamra Reidhead at 928- 532-4061 or Administrative Services Director Justin Johnson at 928-532-4024.

Also visit https://www.showlowaz.gov/ and click on the Finance tab under Departments to access the independent accounts’ report in more detail as well as the FY2020 budget adopted June 18, 2019.


Barbara Bruce/The Independent  

Bringing their Christmas Spectacular to Snowflake High School Auditorium Dec. 16, the amazing Dutton family, who appeared as finalists Dec. 6 on Nickelodeon’s hit show “America’s Most Musical Family,” gave two amazing performances that their audiences are not likely to forget. Performing Christmas favorites and the blend of musical styles The Duttons are famous for, the talented musical family no doubt added new fans to their already large fan base. The Duttons spend their winters in Arizona and the rest of the year in Branson, Missouri. See Page A16 for additional information and photos. You can also visit their website at https://www.theduttons.com.


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Shumway Schoolhouse Comes Alive with, "It Feels Like Christmas, A Musical Revue"

SHUMWAY — The lights in the historic, one-room brick schoolhouse in Shumway are on again. The desks have been moved out, the facility carefully cleaned and heaters brought in to take the chill off the room. Lighting and sound equipment arranged, a set miraculously in place, and performers ready to join Saline in his own Christmas tradition and gift to the White Mountain Community, once again breathes life into the old building.

Barbara Bruce / Courtesy photo  

Performing at the historic Shumway Schoolhouse this week in Carson Saline’s “It Feels Like Christmas, A Musical Revue,” is Grifyn Palmer, EmmaLee MacKay, Carson Saline, Heather Clinger and Kathleen Palmer. Since 2007, the third week of December, the talented Saline brings a Christmas production to Shumway as his own tradition and gift to the community.

Chairs have been placed in rows, divided into two seating sections separated by an aisle for the anticipated, packed seating of the twelfth annual Carson Saline Christmas production, “It Feels Like Christmas, A Musical Revue,” starring Carson Saline and Friends.

Each year friends – old and new — show up and enter Saline’s world as he works his magic to produce a Broadway quality show. This year his on stage friends include Grifyn Palmer, EmmaLee MacKay, Heather Clinger and Kathleen Palmer, whom he bills as “four brilliant and phenomenal performers.”

Each year people wonder what the next production will be. Some thought his post on social media might be a hint. In August he asked community members to send Christmas photos of their departed loved ones to use in the show. Many did and Saline says they will be used in the Memoriam portion but does not elaborate on that.

“This production does not have a story,” said Saline. “It does not have a plot – it’s about music; about holidays and a little like the Andy Williams’ Christmas Special.”

“It’s not about anything but Christmas,” he explained. “It is not just a concert or recital. We’ve worked to make it a production like Andy Williams and all the Christmas specials of decades past that people use to gather around the TV and watch.”

The show opened Wednesday, Dec. 18, in typical Saline-fashion, much-like Santa Claus coming down the chimney – meaning he used his magic to make this production another Christmas to remember in the old Shumway Schoolhouse.

Saline, who is working on his master’s degree in theater in Idaho literally navigated snow from the Canadian border to Taylor for this production. With this week also being finals week at school, he also managed to navigate that, plus complete two other productions. By Sunday he can say he completed three productions in three weeks.

“I am so moved by the people who have come out of the woodwork to help,” said Saline. “A friend from the Valley drove up; Whetten Light and Sound Equipment brought everything in and I did not have to worry about the lights and sound – they were here, and Amber Nichols — projections and props.

“The community has embraced it more so than in the years past,” continued Saline. “I am touched that the community cares that it has become important in their eyes.”

Though many came out Wednesday and Thursday this week, “It Feels Like Christmas, A Musical Revue,” has three more performances scheduled – Friday night at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The cost of the show is a big surprise – it is on a donation basis.

Saline said that before the opening of the Shumway production he was sitting in a chair for a haircut – looking like a Victorian professor – from his part in “Little Women” last week – and the stylist asked him, ‘Why do you do this?’”

“I could have said, love, but that’s a cop out,” said Saline. “This is my Christmas tradition. I do not have anyone and this is what I do for Christmas.”

If you attend one Saline production, you will likely put the third week of December on your calendar each year as one of your treasured Christmas traditions. The Shumway Schoolhouse is located at 2730 Old School House Rd., just off of Hwy. 77 in Shumway.


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Navajo County Supervisors approve massive wind farm

HOLBROOK — The Navajo County board of supervisors last week approved a 477-megawatt wind farm on land in both Navajo and Coconino counties, but is still urging the developer to address Hopi concerns about the potential impact on eagles and other birds.

KOP 9: Highway 99, project boundary, southbound — proposed visual simulation.

The 164 wind turbines would fan out over 42,00 acres in Navajo and Coconino counties. That includes the Chevelon Canyon area 18 miles south of Winslow. The 3,700 acres in Navajo County would have eight of the 164 towers, with blades reaching to a maximum height of 755 feet. That’s roughly twice as high as the existing windmills in the area – equivalent to a 60-story skyscraper. They’ll be the tallest man-made structures in Arizona by hundreds of feet.

Wind farm transmission line

The plant would generate enough energy to supply some 150,000 homes and would tap into the existing high-voltage transmission lines for the Cholla coal-fired power plant, which run just three miles from the property.

The supervisors unanimously approved a special use permit. The planning commission has already approved the application on a 3-2 vote.

Wind farm location.

Terrance Unrein, senior permitting manager for sPower, said “this is the result of months and months and months of environmental and cultural crews surveying the site” which included an effort to identify 111 of archeological sites that could be disturbed by construction.

The wind farm will have enormous environmental advantages over a coal-fired plant like Cholla. That 1,000-megawatt coal-fired plant is being phased out as a result of both environmental concerns and an operating cost now higher than wind, solar or natural gas. To supply electricity to a single home, a coal-fired plant burns about 4,700 pounds of coal annually. The emissions from coal-fired plants produce large amounts of heat-trapping, climate-altering emissions and have significant effect on human health in nearby communities.

Wind farms produce virtually no emissions and use virtually no groundwater for cooling. Unrein said in 2018 wind power saved 1.1 billion gallons of water and averted the release of 2.2 million tons of carbon dioxide.

However, the giant blades spinning at 30 or 60 miles an hour can pose a lethal hazard for birds. One study estimated wind farms kill 500,000 birds annually – including hundreds of eagles. The number of windmills has nearly doubled since that study was completed. Studies show the number of birds in North America has plummeted in the past decade, although a warming climate likely plays a much larger role than wind farms.

Two present and former members of the Hopi Tribal Council spoke at the supervisors meeting, saying eagles remain central to the Hopi lifeway. They said the developers of the wind farm haven’t done enough to consult with the tribe and minimize the impact on eagles and other wildlife.

Unrein said the developers have spent a year doing wildlife surveys and have found the eagles in canyons bordering the wind farm and around Chevelon Butte. He said the site isn’t a major raptor migratory corridor. The wind farm developers will place the giant windmills a mile away from the canyon edges and Chevelon Butte. However, both golden and bald eagles range widely in search of food. Most bald eagles in Arizona migrate through the region, although some nesting in areas like Woods Canyon Lake may remain year-round. Golden eagles which mostly live on jack rabbits they hunt on the open plains generally remain year-round.

Navajo County Supervisor Jesse Thompson urged sPower to make their presentation to the Hopi Tribal Council and continue meeting with people concerned about the impact on eagles until they can achieve consensus, which is the way both the Navajo and Hopi operate when faced with divisive issues, he said.

The approved special use permit requires the company to develop a “bird and bat conservation strategy” as well as an “eagle conservation plan.”

Other than the concern about eagles, the project mostly drew praise. The Salt Lake City based company is part of a world-wide energy company which has so far developed 1.5 gigawatts of wind power – with another 10 gigawatts in the development pipeline. A breakthrough in the price of wind-generated energy has led to a rush of projects nationwide.

The company has already won the support of the owners of a third-generation cattle ranch, which will continue to graze cattle on the sparse grasslands around the base of the giant windmills.

“We have one of the largest working cattle ranches in Arizona,” said Kim Reynolds, “which was started by my grandfather in the 1800s. For my family, this project represents a new opportunity to help us sustain our ranching operation.”

The windmills are 2.6 miles from the nearest homes and will be barely visible from the highway except where Highway 87 passes through one corner of the wind farm. The massive towers will have lights blinking at night to prevent airplanes from flying into the blades and will adjoin an existing field of windmills. The application notes that in Navajo County there are 198 property owners within two miles of the installation and in Coconino County 14 property owners within five miles – although most of the windmills are in Coconino County.

Unrein said the project will generate $1 million in annual salary for 10 to 30 workers who will operate the plant for the next 25 years. The construction will produce about 200 jobs and $8 million in direct and indirect spending during construction. Most of that spending will boost the economy in Winslow, including an estimated $250,000 for lodging, mechanics, fuel, meals and hardware. The project will also generate lease payments to the state and to local ranchers.

The project will include an 8-acre switching station connected to the existing APS power line leading from Cholla down to the Valley. This will feed the power generated by the windmills into the central grid.

Windmill diagram.

The wind farm will have no impact on property values, according to Unrein. For starters, the wind farm will be one of the most remote in the country – miles from the nearest home. Moreover, a 2009 study by a Lawrence Berkeley National laboratory researcher analyzed 7,500 home sales within 10 miles of existing wind facilities in nine states and found no evidence of an impact on home prices.

However, several homeowners in Coconino County wrote to vehemently oppose the project when it went before the Coconino County Board of Supervisors, saying the windmills would ruin their views. Some focused on the 775-foot maximum height of the windmills – taller than almost any building in Arizona and some 175 feet taller than the 600-foot-tall Chevelon Buttes. The tallest building in Arizona is the 40-story Chase Tower in Phoenix, but it’s only 483 feet tall.

Peter Aleshire covers county government and other topics for the Independent. He is the former editor of the Payson Roundup. Reach him at paleshire@payson.com


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St. Johns School District AzMERIT results

ST. JOHNS — The 2018-2019 AzMERIT results are in for the schools around Arizona, and the results look positive for students in St. Johns, with most grade levels performing above state averages. Principals from Coronado Elementary, St. Johns Middle School, and St. Johns High School gave presentations to the St. Johns Unified School District’s governing board on their most recent testing performance numbers, including comparisons to other schools and previous years to show how the local schools are performing.

Photo by Amber Shepard  

Principal Heap gives a presentation to the SJUSD governing board on St. John High School’s newest AzMERIT scores and how the school has improved year-after-year since 2015.

The AzMERIT test is an annual statewide test that is given to different grades from third grade through high school in order to measure how students are performing in English language arts (ELA) and math. The test is used to track the progress schools are making in vital subjects and passing or failing does not impact a student’s ability to graduate high school.

Coronado Elementary

Principal Kim Fejes, who oversees the roughly 320 students who attend Coronado Elementary, compared the school’s progress to the state average and other “comparable” school districts. These comparable districts – Blue Ridge, Holbrook, Round Valley, Show Low, Snowflake, Heber, Joseph City and Vail – were considered due to similar sizes and nearby locations. In the case of Vail, a school district just southeast of Tucson, it was chosen due to its progressive teaching techniques and very high score outcomes in order to show just how well the local school was doing. The law only required that one grade be tested in the elementary school, the 3rd grade, which prevented the assignment of a letter grade. However, the 3rd grade ELA score of 62% and math score of 68% far exceeded the respective state standards of 48% and 51%. The scores exceeded “everybody on the mountain,” beating out Show Low, Blue Ridge, Heber, Snowflake and Round Valley in both categories. Only Joseph City (which surpassed Coronado in ELA) and Vail surpassed the elementary school’s high scores.

St. Johns Middle School

Principal Lara Olsen used the same comparisons in her presentation, and presented on every grade, fourth through eighth. The school was ranked a B for the 2018-2019 year.

“We barely missed an A by one or two percentage points,” Principal Olsen said. “We were pretty bummed about that. But we kind of stepped back and looked at some of the obstacles we had this last year. One of them was a 10% increase in enrollment. We had 35 new kids at our school, and that’s always bound to hurt the data. Another issue we had was during testing was tons of computer problems in the middle of testing. We had kids getting kicked out up to 10 times in the middle of their AzMERIT test. I think we did very well considering some of the obstacles that we faced.”

The 4th grade science, math, and ELA test scores continued to consistently beat both state and most of the area White Mountain schools such as Show Low, Round Valley and Blue Ridge, but the figures change dramatically in the 5th grade, which were below state average and almost every area school in ELA, and below state and over half of comparable schools in Math. Many of the new enrollments seen at St. Johns Middle School last year were for the fifth grade.

Grades sixth, seventh, and eighth pick up the positive numbers found elsewhere in the school district, with seventh and eighth grade taking the highest marks on the mountain in ELA, second highest in math, and the highest score every seen at the middle school for science, a 76, in the eighth grade class.

St. Johns High School

Principal Roger Heap presented the school board with a different kind of comparison, where St. Johns High School was shown against the state average, year to year from 2015 to 2019. Over the past four years, St. Johns High School has gone from being below average in Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra II testing to now passing and setting new school records in Geometry (52%) and Algebra II (63%). The school’s score in Algebra I, however, is still lagging behind the state average of 44%, with only 25% of St. Johns High students passing the test. In the AZMerit ELA scores, St. Johns High passes with flying colors in ninth, 10th, and 11th grades, exceeding state averages by a 9-point or greater margin in every grade. The 11th grade set a new school record in ELA testing with 56% passing (compared to only 34% for the state).

“Overall, I think there’s a good indication there that we’re making good progress each year and that our test scores are coming up,” Principal Heap said. He had not had a chance to calculate where the school stood against comparable schools around the state before the school board meeting on Wednesday, but said, “I’m confident we’ll be near the top again.”

Last year, the high school was given an A grade for performance.

Amber Shepard is an local journalist covering municipal governments and other Apache County topics.


Local_news
Show Low vs. Owens case on hold

SHOW LOW—The City of Show Low’s zoning case against pioneer matriarch Joy Owens is on pause in the Show Low Municipal Court while the parties try to come to a resolution. Owens and her family’s LLC, Country Lane Holdings, were cited by the city May 17, 2017, alleging various violations of the city’s zoning ordinances. The case came up for trial in August of this year, but after an entire day’s worth of testimony, was reset. The next court session is expected to include Owens’ side of the story.

File photo  

Joy Owens on her property near Show Low Creek.

This dispute has generated a lot of interest in the community. It encapsulates a simmering tension between the individual rights of long-standing property owners and the government’s interest in regulating the various uses of property, especially in an area that is growing. In this case the property at issue is in the heart of Show Low, and has belonged to the Owens’ family long before the city even incorporated. That fact alone makes for potential trouble.

Retired Show Low Magistrate and former Justice of the Peace Stephen Price is presiding over this civil, non-criminal case as a pro tem (temporary) judge. At the request of the parties, Price set, and re-set the dates for the continued trial once in September, twice in October and now, the December trial date has also been vacated. Show Low City Attorney Morgan Brown told The Independent, “At the request of the Owens family, the City and Owens are working on a settlement that would address a resolution of the issues.” An Owens family member confirmed that as well.

Electronic court records do not yet list a new date.