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New music festival is keepin' it local

ALPINE — Shop local has been a buzz word for many years in the White Mountain community. People who live here know the importance of buying from their neighbors.

Turns out the same is true about musicians. Their music is also a product and they sell their craft — often — for next to nothing just to get to play.

As Bob Dylan told us in song, “The Times They Are A Changin,” and on Saturday, July 20, from noon until closing, debuts the first White Mountains Music Festival (WMMF) in Alpine with local musicians only.

The WMMF is the brainchild of Brent Rasmussen who started his own band, Heber Ridge, just because he wanted to play.

“I wanted to perform at a festival, but there weren’t any that were doing quite what I wanted. That is to say, showcasing local White Mountain musicians. The Alpine Blues Festival pulled in a bunch of out-of-towners, and the Flagstaff Blues Festival also almost exclusively books national acts. I get it — that’s what draws the crowd, I suppose. But there are so many awesome bands and performers right here, local, and I thought that maybe we could put on our own festival for musicians,” said Rasmussen.

Rasmussen shared his idea with his brother, Kris Rasmussen, with whom he also performs as “Brothermine.” On board with the idea, together they approached Steve and Lisa Malcolm who own the Foxfire at Alpine, a popular American restaurant and music venue. With everyone in agreement, they began putting the pieces together to make WMMF a reality.

With their connections to the local landowners in the Alpine area, and the Springerville-Eagar Chamber of Commerce, the Malcoms began doing their part. Brent’s brother Kris, who is also a talented graphic designer, went to work on the promotional artwork – poster, logo, t-shirts, ball caps, etc. Brent and his wife Kelley, who is also part of the Heber Ridge Band, personally financed the merchandise to be sold out of their own pockets.

Next step – book the bands and that was not a problem. Pretty much everyone’s genre has been addressed. The stage lineup includes Covered in Sun, folk; Centerfire, rock and country; Planting Seedz, reggae; Brothermine, Americana; Ryan David Orr, folk, and of course the Heber Ridge Band, outlaw country and southern rock. Then, put them all together and beginning at 9 p.m. until closing there will be an all band jam.

No outside food or drink will be allowed since inside purchases will help fund the event, but you won’t go hungry. There will be plenty of vendors offering day and night specials. Ticket sales are categorized and priced accordingly from pre-sale, all-day pass, after-5 pass, and kids under 14 are free.

This is the just the beginning. “If it doesn’t rain and we just break even this year, I will consider it a success and we’ll start planning for next year’s festival where we will expand it out to two days, figure out on-site camping arrangements, and hire an additional six local White Mountain bands – 12 bands total,” explained Brent.

Attendees are encourage to bring their lawn chairs and enjoy a scenic drive to Foxfire in Alpine. The physical address is 42661 US-180. According to Google it is about one hour and 15 minutes from the Maverick gas station at the corner of US 60 and Hwy 77 in Show Low. Ticket information can be found at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4191028.


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Tate's to liquidate

TUCSON — The Arizona Bankruptcy Court tasked with overseeing the reorganization of the four Tate’s automotive companies has ordered all four cases to be liquidated instead of reorganized.

Judge Brenda Moody Whinery’s July 11 order takes the companies out of Chapter 11 of Title 11 of United States Code which gives companies debt relief and protection from creditors while it reorganizes.

Chapter 7 of Title 11 governs the total liquidation of a debtor’s non-exempt assets, and the Tate’s cases have been converted to a Chapter 7, including Tate’s Auto Center of Gallup, Inc.; Tate’s Automotive, Inc.; Tate’s Auto Center of Winslow, Inc. and Tate’s Ford-Lincoln-Mercury, Inc.

How bankruptcy works

Capitalist economies encourage debt and risk-taking because such activities create wealth. But because of a number of reasons, including poor management or simply bad luck, not every risk-taker succeeds. When they don’t, bankruptcy relief allows the risk taker to wipe the slate clean, and get second chance to live another day in the dog-eat-dog economic system that has historically produced prosperous and wealthy societies.

There are basically two kinds of bankruptcy. The most common and typically used by consumers is Chapter 7. In that case, the one who files (the debtor) gets to keep most of what they need to start over including a residence, vehicle, furnishings, clothing, retirement fund, and unique to Arizona, a shotgun, bible and burial plot. Bankruptcy is a federal law but allows the states to come up with their own list of “exempt” property — that is, property exempt from the reach of creditors. Under that chapter, unsecured debt — debt for which the debtor didn’t put up collateral is “discharged.” Most of it anyway, besides funds owed to government, of course, like taxes, criminal or civil fines and most student loans. Most everything else is discharged, if there was no fraud involved. It’s strong medicine and it works, although it wrecks a debtor’s credit rating for a number of years.

A Chapter 11 reorganization is typically used by business entities to reorganize its debt to become profitable again. For example, a company could have millions of dollars in assets like land, buildings, machinery and accounts receivable. Companies can have a lot of debt, too, and may have aggressive creditors suing or preparing to sue for missed payments.

The law says that a Chapter 11 case can be “converted” to a Chapter 7 if, among other things, there is a continuing loss to the company and “no reasonable likelihood of rehabilitation,” and failing to provide required information or file disclosures in a timely manner. In a Chapter 11, the company’s owner typically continues to manage the company and in Tate’s case, the person who serves as the “debtor in possession,” as it is called, is co-owner Richard Berry.

Too little, too late

Judge Whinery held a hearing on June 20. An attorney for Tate’s shared some good news at that time, telling the court that she just received a letter of intent to purchase the companies from a concern in Colorado. Creditors’ lawyers noted that the hearing was the third time the parties had met with the judge to move the case forward and the letter of intent (which the creditors had not seen) was basically too little too late.

Not only that, but there were still troubling issues like chronic lack of transparency about records, missing funds, the lack of access to the properties and records and a new issue about whether Berry tried to, or did, cash out a $200,000 life insurance policy, an alleged asset of the companies.

The judge noted that she had seen “anything but transparency,” from the debtors, and noted that there was “no leadership at the helm,” that Berry did not testify at previous hearings, not even to invoke a Fifth Amendment right. She observed, that she did not have “any faith that Mr. Berry” could negotiate effectively with potential buyers. She therefore replaced him with an independent trustee to look into the mess and to review the offer from Colorado.

What that trustee found is not yet known, but at his request, (merely a week after his appointment) the judge converted the case to a Chapter 7. Now the trustee will marshall the assets of the estate, (there’s no land or buildings) allow creditors who have taken liens on assets to take them back, sell any other assets (if there are any) and distribute that money (if any) to unsecured creditors, with a priority to any employees owed wages.


Courtesy photo  

Johnny Johnson reeled in a catfish of a lifetime at Roosevelt Lake while fishing an American Bass night tournament that he won with partner Matt Shura.


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Navajo County faces budget crisis

Think again, please, please, think again.

That’s what Navajo County hopes voters will do in the next few weeks before marking their ballots on Proposition 421, which once again asks voters to boost the sales tax to avert a financial meltdown.

Mail-in ballots for Prop 421 should hit mailboxes in a couple of weeks.

The measure would raise the sales tax by one-third of a cent throughout the county. This would generate about $3.5 million, with roughly $2.5 million going to Navajo County and roughly $1 million going to the various towns that utilize key county services, said assistant county manager Bryan Layton.

Perhaps that doesn’t sound like a great big deal.

But it is.

For starters, Navajo County has struggled through years of budget cuts thanks to the recession and the state legislature’s decision to shift millions in state costs onto the backs of the struggling counties. Navajo County has cut its workforce by 16 percent, stripping almost every discretionary program to the bone.

Now, the imminent closure of the Peabody Coal Mine will cost the county another $1.6 million in sales tax revenues. Moreover, the proposed shutdown of the Arizona Public Service Cholla coal-fired power plant will cost the county another $1 million in lost revenue, said Layton.

If voters reject Prop. 421, it will trigger a crisis in the county’s general fund and deep, across-the-board cuts in county services, say county officials.

But here’s the rub: Voters last year rejected an earlier version of Prop. 421.

Why?

Well, the ballot measure confused the heck out of lots of people, say county officials.

That’s because Prop. 421 would raise the sales tax to create a Jail District. However, the county swears it won’t build any new jails – since it has empty beds now on most days.

So what the heck?

Right: That’s what many voters said in a series of meetings after the ballot measure went down to defeat last November by just 162 votes out of 35,000 cast. County and local officials held the meetings to try to figure out why the measure failed and whether they should try again, said Layton.

Many people who attended those sessions said they really didn’t understand the ballot measure – and what it had to do with the jails.

“The ballot last year was crowded. We were the very last on the back page. It was just too much. The feedback we got from folks is ‘I didn’t understand it. I didn’t know what it was,’” said Layton.

So Navajo County officials decided to take the plunge and try one more time – determined to explain the ballot measure and the county budget situation much more clearly.

And that leads to this series – the Independent’s effort to lay out how Navajo County got into its precarious situation, precisely what Prop. 421 would do and what surprising side effects passage of the measure will have – for instance putting money into the coffers of Show Low, Pinetop, Holbrook and other cities in the county.

Today’s installment will take a look at the Navajo County budget crisis and the looming loss of millions in revenue on which the county now depends.

Think of Navajo County as a chronic Valley Fever patient – wheezing along and feeling sickly for a couple of years. That’s the recession. That was bad enough, but now the closure of coal mine and the power plant threaten to give the county pneumonia on top of all that.

Ok. Enough with the metaphor. Take a look at the numbers.

Navajo County has a huge budget — $110 million.

Sounds like a lot of money: Surely, losing $2.5 million isn’t a big deal.

But wait. The county shoulders a bewildering array of responsibilities – and has no real control over most of the money it’s required by law to spend. Worse yet, it has little control over the money it raises. The property tax rate is basically capped. The county gets just half a cent of the 8 cent sales tax and can’t get more without voter approval. That leaves already high fees and fines the key source of revenue still under the control of the board of supervisors.

“The property tax was basically capped in the 1980s by the voters,” said Layton, leaving Navajo County with about one third the tax rate as neighboring Gila County. “Voters said you can only increase the property tax rate by 2 percent per year. So now we have the fourth-lowest property tax rate in the state.”

The county could raise fees and fines. “We looked at all the fees. But what does it do to construction if we triple the building and planning fees? And you’re already paying $300 for a speeding ticket. If we triple the fees, you’re paying $1,000. That doesn’t seem realistic,” said Layton.

The county administers road projects paid for by state gas taxes over which it has no control. The county administers the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment system, over which it has no control. The county administers superior and municipal courts over which it has little effective control. The county manages the jails, which have to lock up anyone referred to the jails by the local police departments. The county collects millions for special districts, including the Library District – but simply passes that money along.

So that means the additional cuts caused by the lose of the mine and the power plant would all have to come out of discretionary services, like the sheriff’s office, planning and other core services.

“The problem is that we counties are arms of the state – that’s very different from a city that can determine what services to supply,” said Layton. “So it would be easy to say, just shave off $2.5 million. But we’ve been doing that for 12 years now – shaving programs and cutting staff. We’re down to skeleton staff. Vehicles are breaking down we can’t afford to repair. The average age of our vehicle fleet now is 11 years. The departments are already stretched very least. So if you’ve got departments with five people, you can’t cut one more without really affecting services.”

So if Prop. 421 fails, Layton estimates the county would have to cut staff by another 20 percent, on top of the cumulative 16 percent reduction in recent years.

“We’d be down to 60 or 65 employees, compared to 100 pre-recession,” he said.

Next: How would a “jail district” avert a county fiscal crisis?


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Pioneer Days celebrations this weekend

NAVAJO & APACHE COUNTIES — A celebration of the past and the present and one of the most anticipated annual events are the Snowflake-Taylor Pioneer Days and the St. Johns Pioneer Days celebrations.

St. Johns resident of 60 years, Kevin Lee, is a descendent of one of the first families who came from Salt Lake City as a Mormon pioneer back in the mid 19th century. Lee said his family first settled in the Greer area, naming it Lee Valley. After some potato and vegetable farming in Nutrioso, they eventually settled in St. Johns and have been there since.

His family came “way back when the pioneers (LDS Church members under Brigham Young) came to the area an started doing things like building dams and irrigation ditches for farming after Hispanic peoples started settling the area years before that,” Lee said.

Lee said some of the first LDS pioneers went back to Utah almost immediately, telling Brigham Young that the area was inhospitable and people could not live there. But, Lee said, some stayed on, worked the land, and even when dams burst and times got hard they stayed and made St. Johns into the “great” community it is now.

That, he said, that is what Pioneer Days is all about.

Snowflake Pioneer Days events: ‘The Good Life’

Friday

The Silver Creek Little Theater and Dance Amor presents “Newsies” today and tomorrow at 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium with tickets $7-$10 at the door and $7-$8 if purchased presale by going to www.scltheater.org.

From 10 a.m.-2 p.m. people can tour pioneer homes free of charge.

From noon-5 p.m. is the Boutique and Quilt Show with a $2 admission fee; the Arts & Crafts Festival 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Frederickson Park, free admission.

One of the things that draws many to the annual celebration, the Snowflake Rodeo, taking place tonight at 7 p.m. at the Taylor Rodeo Grounds at $5 per person and kids 5 and under free.

Also at 7 p.m. is a melodrama, “The Villain’s Folly” or “Happiness is More Than Words” at the Social Hall at First North and First West.

Before that at 5 p.m. though is “Jerusalem,” a musical story of faith at the Snowflake High School Auditorium with a cost of $6 for adults, $3 for ages 16 and under.

Fireworks take place in two locations, the Taylor Rodeo Grounds and at Frederickson Park in Snowflake starting at 9 p.m.

Also at 9 p.m. are the Youth and Young Single Adult (ages 18-30) dances at the Pioneer Park Chapel on North Main Street. The Youth Dance is $2 and the Young Single Adult is free.

Saturday

Start the day off at 6 a.m. with the 10K or two-mile run/walk starting on Country Club Drive which will be followed at 10:30 a.m. with Kids’ Foot Races on the front lawn of the Main Street Chapel. The kids races are free.

The Annual Pioneer Days Parade, always a hit with everyone who attends, starts at 9 a.m. with Grand Marshals Carvel and Cleone Solomon leading the way. The parade begins at Ninth South and goes down Main Street. Float and parade check-in for entrants takes place at the Centennial Stake Center. It has been and may be a bit warm this weekend, so wet zones for the parade are between Fifth and Sixth South and between First and Second North.

After the parade at 11 a.m. is a barbecue at the Snowflake Social Hall at Center and First West with a per plate cost of $5 and will go until all the food is gone.

Family Pioneer Games will be from 10:30-11:30 a.m. on the front lawn of the Main Street Chapel at no cost to the public. At 10:30 a.m. is the Pioneer Program honoring Beth and Woody Peterson at the main LDS Chapel on Second West.

The ever-popular car show starts at 9 a.m. and runs until 3 p.m. at Frederickson Park and an Arts and Crafts Festival at the Snowflake Municipal Golf Course, two miles west of town on Highway 277 runs from 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

The Snowflake Rodeo continues the action with local and professional events combined. Admission is $5, the competition begins at 7p.m. at the Taylor Rodeo Grounds.

Fireworks take place again tonight at 9 p.m. at the Taylor Rodeo Grounds.

The same time as the fireworks will be the Youth Dance in the Snowflake Main Street Chapel parking lot at First North and First West with a $2 admission and “appropriate” dress required, and the Young Single Adult Dance at Pioneer Park is also at 9 p.m. with free admission.

A Middle Single Adult Dance for people age 30-50+ takes place at the Stake Center at West Ninth South at 9 p.m. with a requested $2 donation.

And don’t forget other special treats during Pioneer Days like visiting historic pioneer homes that is free with any donations appreciated.

The Boutique and Quilt Show will be part of Saturday’s activities at the Academy Building at First South and Second West with a $2 adult admission and a $1 admission for kids 12 and under.

For more information check the Snowflake Pioneer days Facebook page.

St. Johns Pioneer Days: Friday

Today at 7 a.m. at the St. Johns Rodeo Grounds are roping events that include mutton busting, kids horse race, girls grocery race, boys grocery race, balloon race, calf riding, flag race, steer riding, pole bending, calf roping on foot, barrel racing chicken race, calf hide race, greased pig, ribbon roping, breakaway, keg race, Jr. and Sr. roping, wild cow milking, co-ed grocery race, calf roping, chute dogging, pole bending, barrel racing, pony express, money steer, bull riding and wild cow race, pick up race and rescue race.

At 10 a.m. at the rodeo grounds is the Senior Rodeo with a $10 per carload cost or a $3 per person cost of admission.

At 4:30 p.m. is a Camp Fire Circle at the St. Johns Airport with no cost. People are encouraged to bring their dinner and just get to know each other in the spirit of “Gather Together.”

Then at 8 p.m. tonight is a Family Dance at the County Fair Building (BUB) nearby to the rodeo grounds. Organizers ask that there be no tank tops, no bare midriffs and no mini-skirts or shorts. Cost is $5 per person or $20 for a family and kids age 4 and under free.

For more information about the dance contact Ryan and Marci Ashton at 928-245-4446, or John and Rachel Richardson at 928-245-4855.

Saturday

First on the bill of activities tomorrow, Saturday July 20, is a 5K or One Mile Run/Walk and Triathlon at the city park with registration from 5:45-6:25 a.m. and the races starting at 6:30 a.m. $10 entry fee.

The parade starts at 10 a.m. and is well-attended, so pick your spot early and bring plenty of water for the heat, and patience for the traffic afterwards.

At 5 p.m. is the Senior Rodeo at the St. Johns Rodeo Grounds for $10 per carload or $3 per person. It is sponsored by the St. Johns Rodeo Association.

From 5-7 p.m. in the city park will be a steak fry at $5 per person. Culinary fare includes steak, baked potato, salad, rolls and water. There will be free hot dogs for the kids with a dinner purchase. For more information on the Steak Fry contact Butch and Julie Nielsen at 928-245-6772, or Travis and Liz Heap at 928-551-4410.

Another Family Dance at the County Fair Building is offered tonight from 8-11:30 p.m.

For more information on the St. Johns Pioneer Days go to their Facebook page.