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ST. JOHNS – The first town council meeting of the year for St. Johns brought some great news in the form of more grants for the community, some lengthy discussion on new ordinances and propositions, and some much-needed news on the future of the largest employer for the area.

Coronado Generating Station to close in 2032

“Just for the council to be aware, SRP did come in, and they told us the fate of the plant this week,” Mayor Spence Udall said to the council at the end of the meeting. “They did choose the third option.”

The “third option” Mayor Udall referred to is the plan to run both Unit One and Unit Two through the same Selective Catalytic Reduction system (SCR). SCR systems help remove nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, which have been targeted and restricted by the newest EPA regulations. NOx has been shown to contribute to hazy conditions that limit visibility, respiratory health problems, and produce acid rain. The burning of coal is one of the top three contributors to NOx emissions in the environment.

“That wasn’t surprising. We knew that was what they were wanting to do,” Mayor Udall said of SRP’s decision to run both units through the same SCR. “The only thing that was surprising is that they are going to start cutting some jobs, sooner than I hoped. They’re going to do it through attrition …(t)hey’re just not going to re-hire jobs.”

After clarifying that both units of the CGS plant would be closing in 2032 and answering other questions fielded by fellow council members, Mayor Udall discussed the importance of making good use of the time between now and then to bring in new jobs and growth for the town.

“We need to take advantage of the opportunities that come and keep our nose to the grindstone about creating new ones,” he said.

Another windfall for the Police Department

St. Johns Police Chief Lance Spivey reported that the department was awarded yet another high-dollar grant for computer, equipment and records updating, this time in the amount of $97,967 from the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission National Criminal History Improvement Grant. The purpose for this grant was originally for the purchase of new computers, vehicle computers and record keeping systems, but this need was already met by another grant from the Ak-Chin Indian Community awarded in the summer of 2019. That grant was for $107,416. Chief Spivey approached the city council for permission to request a change to the grant that would “allow the Police Department to purchase three more interfaces” and that the funds also be used to pay the maintenance and other fees associated with the previous purchases. The Arizona Criminal Justice grant required a match of $9,796, which is less than what the city would be paying to finish out their contractual obligations from a previous purchase. The city council recognized the value of the award and approved acceptance of the grant and Chief Spivey’s request.

Kennel permit changes

Chief Spivey also brought up two ordinance changes, one to update city regulations to reflect the new federal law prohibiting the sales of tobacco and e-cigarette to those under the age of 21. The other measure was an update to city code regarding kennel licenses for residents and businesses. After some legal concerns voiced on the tobacco and e-cigarette ordinance update tabled that measure, the kennel permit ordinance was the only change voted on by the council.

Previously, the law for kennel permits stated that “any person who has, owns or possesses three of more dogs over one year of age” must have a kennel license and maintain those animals under controlled conditions. The kennel permit ordinance was intended to give law enforcement a tool to address potentially abusive situations, hoarding and puppy mills. The old ordinance, however, did not have a way to revoke any licenses, did not differentiate between individuals and businesses, and gave no process in which a person could appeal decisions made about violations. The new ordinance now specifies that a commercial kennel permit is required for “any person who owns, maintains, houses any dogs over 3 months of age for sale, trade, business, profit or gain.” For individuals who just own dogs and have no intentions of business dealings, kennel permits begin at “four or more dogs,” and three classes of kennel permits that specify the number of dogs under a person’s care are listed. A Class 3 permit, for example, would be required for anyone with 8 or more dogs. These permits, commercial and non-commercial, will also be tied into existing zoning laws, and will require pets to have their rabies vaccinations.

Kennel licenses will now range from $20 to $60 a year for residential dog owners, and from $40 to $80 for businesses, based upon the number of dogs in their care. In the event an animal is removed and cannot be returned to an owner due to non-compliance of terms such as vaccination, sanitation, and well-being, and the owner loses their appeal, the pet will have to be rehomed or surrendered to animal control for adoption. All efforts would be made towards adoption or rehoming a dog in that situation, Chief Spivey assured the council. Euthanization has become very rare for the department, and it is usually only done by request of a pet owner or for extreme cases.

After discussion, the council voted in favor of the new ordinance update for kennel permits.

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

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

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