Wetter weather usually results in not only a greener area, but one with a lot of bugs that feed on the greenery — or on the bugs that do.

Sedona and the Verde Valley experienced a lot of moisture this past winter, but University of Arizona Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Jeff Schalau said he has not heard there were more bugs than usual this spring.

bugs_bees“It’s not that it’s more but just different bugs. I haven’t seen anything out of the ordinary,” Schalau said. “I’d be on the lookout for curly top virus again this year, though.”

An insect, the leaf hopper, carries the curly top virus from weed populations then transmits it to tomatoes, beans, peppers, spinach or beets. The leaves curl and almost turn upside-down. The plant stops growing, withers and dies, Schalau said.

“We’ve had curly top pretty bad for the past two years,” he said. “It’s not something in the soil; it’s in the plant. The best is to just rip the affected plant out and destroy it, then plant a healthy plant. There are some resistant varieties.”

As soon as the weeds die, the danger of curly top goes away. According to plant pathologists, the leaf hopper doesn’t even like tomatoes. They just happen to land on the plant to rest and start eating what’s convenient.

Schalau said it is difficult to make any predictions about the bug population until the extension office gets some reports.

“I’m not sure what the grasshoppers are going to do. There are always lots of surprises out there,” Schalau said. “If people are losing things and seeing a lot of bugs, report it to us — and try to catch some and bring them in to the extension office so we can identify it.”

Most people want to get rid of the bugs they see around their home, especially cockroaches, ants, spiders and scorpions. Yet, not all bugs are bad. Some are healthy for the garden because they feed on the others, such as ladybugs that feed on aphids, whiteflies and mites and mealy bugs as well as other soft-bodied bugs and their eggs. Green lacewings will eat spider mites, thrips, leafhoppers, whiteflies and caterpillar eggs. Praying mantis feed on a wide range of pests, including aphids, flies and beetles.

“There are many bugs out there that can act as natural pesticides,” Schalau said. “For example, hoverflies are

predators and feed on smaller bugs, like thrips. The ones beneficial bugs eat are usually harmful to plants.”

Hoverflies look like small black and white striped bees. They actually hover above plant leaves and are often found in large groups.

To attract the beneficial bugs, plant flowers and other plants that they like. Plants that attract and provide homes for the beneficial insects include alyssum, caraway, clover, coriander, dill, fennel, marigolds, nasturtiums, wild carrot and yarrow. Plant them near the plants that are affected by the harmful bugs.

Many of the beneficial bugs can be bought at stores or ordered online, Schalau said.

One caveat is to not cultivate too many of the plants that attract beneficial bugs because if there is not enough prey for them they will leave the garden to search for food elsewhere.

For more information, call the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension in Cottonwood at 646-9113. The office is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m.

The four outgoing Sedona City Council members voted May 12 in a budget hearing to lower the salaries for the next council.

freyjerryOutgoing Councilmen Jerry Frey and Dan Surber, and outgoing Councilwomen Nancy Scagnelli and Pud Colquitt voted to lower salaries by 50 percent, which would save the city about $20,000.

Mayor Rob Adams and Councilman Mark DiNunzio, both who will be impacted financially by the decrease, voted against the motion. Vice Mayor Cliff Hamilton was out of town.

Frey proposed council members giving up their entire salaries to the city manager, who in turn could reward a few city employees with these funds for doing good jobs.

Colquitt asked City Manager Tim Ernster if there were ways or if it was permissible to reward employees. Ernster said this would need to be set up and approved by council.

pudcolquittColquitt said since city employees have been left out in the process and funding for nonprofits has been decreased, council members should do their part.

Scagnelli agreed with Frey and Colquitt.

“I do think council ought to consider a reduction in our salaries,” she said. “We have asked others to make cuts. We are players in this as well. I think we should do something.”

Adams vehemently disagreed with the outgoing council members.

“This should be a decision made by the incoming council,” Adams said, adding, as mayor, he puts in 40 to 60 hours of work every week.

DiNunzio wondered why this proposal was brought up in the first place given the amount of money in the city reserves.

scagnellinancy“I do not think it’s symbolic. It doesn’t resonate with me,” he said.

DiNunzio said if this really was in the best interests of the city, this proposal should have come up much sooner.

Ernster said one way the city is looking at rewarding employees is possibly changing to a four-day work week during the summer.

Frey said the idea of donating council salaries to the city for employees’ benefit is not anything new.

Adams became upset and accused the outgoing council members of making decisions for personal reasons, knowing this decision would not impact them.

Scagnelli said she was not opposed to letting council keep 50 percent of its pay because it deserves something for its work and would show a gesture of support.

“I don’t think it’s that big of a deal,” she said. “We have let people go. People have lost their jobs here. That is pretty severe.”

mark_dinunzioAdams, sensing the votes were there to lower council compensation, asked City Attorney Mike Goimarac if the new council could overturn this motion.

Goimarac said the new council could and cautioned rewarding employees for past performances could violate the gift clause. Providing merit raise increases for future work is permissible.

DiNunzio said he could understand the proposal if city employees were taking pay cuts, but added this is not the case.

“I don’t think it is justifiable,” he said.

The question regarding whether battalion chiefs at the Sedona Fire District should be allowed overtime remains in limbo.

Of the 12 fire departments or districts of comparable size the Arizona Fire District Association looked at, nine listed battalion chiefs as exempt employees who would be paid by salary.

In the graph prepared by the association, it shows battalion chiefs for the Sedona Fire District are exempt and paid their regular pay rate for overtime hours for covering operational shifts.

Battalion chiefs for the Golden Ranch Fire District in Tucson are allowed overtime to fill in for a captain, but are paid at the captain’s rate.

In Sun City West, chiefs are allowed overtime to cover a complete 24-hour overtime shift if all other options have been exhausted.

At Northwest Fire District, in Tucson, battalion chiefs receive their regular pay rate for working overtime, and battalion chiefs for Green Valley only receive overtime for special duty assignments like wildfires.

nazih_hazimeBullhead City battalion chiefs receive their regular pay rate for filling in open shifts and inter-facility transports, while there is no overtime whatsoever for the Apache Junction and Drexel Heights fire districts.

SFD Fire Chief Nazih Hazime, responding to a letter from the Mountain States Employers Council, said he supports the minimal amount of overtime for battalion chiefs.

The Mountain States Employers Council sent SFD a letter defining exempt and nonexempt positions.

Hazime stated battalion chiefs are instrumental in managing their 48-hour shifts as commanders and have other responsibilities. He wrote occasional callbacks and special projects require overtime, which is approved either by him or Assistant Fire Chief Terry Keller.

“The battalion chief’s primary responsibility and most critical [job] is managing the emergency scenes by filling the position of the incident commander without exceeding the span of control — therefore keeping everyone safe,” Hazime wrote.

He also said overtime for battalion chiefs is decreasing. From March 1, 2009, to Oct. 1, 2009, there were 632.5 overtime hours. This decreased to 157.5 hours in the following six months. Hazime said the rise in overtime hours was due to injuries and a retiring battalion chief using an excessive amount of vacation days.

bert_berkshireAccording to the Mountain States Employers Council letter, fire districts may classify battalion chiefs as exempt if their primary work takes 50 percent or more of the individual’s time. The fact battalion chiefs may perform nonexempt work such as fighting fires will not destroy the exemption as long as the primary duties remain exempt.

SFD Governing Board member Bert Berkshire said he thinks the only time a battalion chief should receive overtime is when he or she is fighting a wildfire.

While the fire district pays firefighters who are called out to wildfires, they are reimbursed.

SFD Business Director Karen Daines said if a battalion chief backfills a position to handle a staffing vacancy, they are compensated.

Sedona_FireHazime added what he always looks at is the needs of the fire district, and added if overtime for battalion chiefs begins to rise again “we are going to jump all over it.”

Keller said battalion chiefs are put on the roster and cover shifts just like everyone else.

If battalion chiefs were not allowed overtime, Keller said they would not have time to fight fires or perform other firefighter duties.

SFD Board member Charles Christensen, who made a proposal a few weeks ago to not allow overtime for battalion chiefs, said it needs to be examined.

“As far as I know, this is an unresolved issue,” he said.

Hazime is reviewing the Arizona Fire District Association document for Sedona and will be commenting to the board on his findings and thoughts.

The Sedona Fire District Governing Board voted Wednesday, May 12, to reduce its mill levy rate for Sedona property owners by 15 cents for $1,000 of a home’s value, which will reduce revenue by about $1.1 million.

The board, by a 3-0 vote with Liza Vernet and Ralph Graves abstaining, approved lowering the mill levy from $1.55 to $1.40 or $1.40 for every $1,000 in assessed property value.

bert_berkshireBoard member Bert Berkshire said the fire district has $5 million in reserves, and a portion of these funds should go back to taxpayers. The easiest way to do this is by lowering the mill rate.

“We need to give some money back to the taxpayers. Sitting on $5 million is wrong. That is like a sin,” he said.

Berkshire stressed he was not talking about reducing services or salaries in any way, so there should not be any complaints.

The board also voted in the same motion to approve publishing the $13.78 million budget. The proposed budget is 9.1 percent lower than last year’s $15.2 million amount.

don_harrA few residents in the audience shouted they did not want the savings, but board member Don Harr replied they were not in the majority.

“We have not given [home owners] any type of relief,” Harr said, adding people on the streets have stopped him to ask if the board could help.

“What Bert is saying is we represent everyone,” Harr said, and it’s time to help out the average taxpayer.

Berkshire said he is proposing giving the fire chief the items he wants or needs in the budget to run the district.

“Why should we let this money stay in the coffers?” he asked.

Vernet said she is not necessarily against reducing the mill rate, but wondered what could happen in future years since no one knows where the economy will be then.

Berkshire said he is not talking about taking the entire $5 million from reserves, only $1 million.

“We would still have $4 million, [and] $4 million is a lot of money,” he said.

Business Director Karen Daines said just because the district has $5 million in the bank does not mean it has the authority to spend it.

She said one of the few ways the district can use the funds is to apply the money to the budget.

“OK, we can do that,” Berkshire replied. “Don’t always keep a mill levy rate where you don’t need it.”

Board member Charles Christensen said the whole community is struggling due to the economy and mentioned homes in his neighborhood are going into foreclosure.

“Give our taxpayers a break,” he said. “It’s about time we do it.

Assistant Fire Chief Terry Keller said what concerns him is the compounding effect of assessed home values dropping 20 percent with the mill rate being decreased by 15 cents.

He said the $5 million in reserves might not be enough to cover these decreases.

Daines told the board the mill rate would probably have to go back up the following year.

“Even at $1.55, we would have to do something to come up with the 20 percent loss in [assessed home values], and $4 million will not be enough,” Daines said.

She said the end result is there would be no contingency funds left for emergencies.

Harr disagreed, asking how the mill rate could increase with millions in reserves.

sr_89a_wreck_5-14A Sedona Fire District firefighter talks with an elderly man after he was involved in a two-vehicle collision at the intersection of State Route 89A and Foothills South Drive in West Sedona on Wednesday, May 12.

The man, who was a passenger in the vehicle, had to be extricated because he is disabled and could not crawl out on his own power. He was not injured. One person in the other vehicle was transported to Verde Valley Medical Center in Sedona with non-life threatening injuries.

sr_89a_wreck_2_5-14Sedona Fire District firefighter and paramedic John Puyana, right, uses the “jaws of life” tool to extricate an elderly man after he was involved in a two-vehicle collision at the intersection of State Route 89A and Foothills South Drive in West Sedona on Wednesday, May 12.

 

 

 

The generosity of people willing to help another in need is astounding, as Gabe Beronja recently found out.

On April 18, Oakcreek Country Club members and guests turned out in droves to participate in a benefit tournament to help Beronja and his wife, Cindy, along with their twin sons, Zachary and Tyler, with significant medical expenses. Gabe Beronja is the head pro at the country club in the Village of Oak Creek.

twins_benefitThe boys were born 3½ months early. Tyler weighed in at 1 pound 12 ounces and  Zachary at 2 pounds 2 ounces. As with most premature babies, Tyler and Zachary had many health problems, and the medical bills started to pile up.

Almost immediately after the boys were born, treatments and surgeries began.

First, both needed a heart murmur fixed. A series of minor surgeries for other abnormalities followed.

Then, not quite one year ago, they discovered Zachary had liver cancer with a tumor that had grown to the size of an orange by the time they found it. The doctors put him on chemotherapy to shrink the tumor, during which he went into septic shock, and he was put the intensive care unit at Verde Valley Medical Center.

More problems arose, with more medical care and therapy — and more bills.

Zachary still wears a tracheotomy tube to help with his breathing, but Beronja said the nearly 3-year-old goes in for surgery Tuesday, May 18.

The hope is the tube will be removed and he can breathe normally.

Beronja said the more than $30,000 raised through the benefit will put a real dent in the expenses. Zachary and Tyler’s grandparents, Sam and Marilyn Beronja, made a large donation on top of the $30,000, Gabe Beronja said.

“They are such generous people. They’ve helped us

out a lot,” he said of his parents.

Beronja said he and his wife were overwhelmed and humbled by the turnout and the generosity showed to them and their sons.

“We are shocked, and feel loved and appreciated. I want everyone to know we love and appreciate them tremendously,” Beronja said. His voice cracked a little as he spoke.

Vic Malkhassian, who organized the benefit, said more than 184 golfers participated in the tournament, which meant they had one or two teams at some holes in a scramble format, with ladies hitting from the red tees and men going from the blue tees.

After golf, more than 240 people enjoyed a dinner, which Malkhassian said was the largest crowd ever served at the country club.

At the end of dinner, Alex Ware hosted an auction, a raffle and a 50-50 drawing. Many local businesses donated various prizes, including two vacation getaways and four hole-in-one prizes of a Mustang Denali truck.

“No one won the truck, but nevertheless it was a most generous donation. There were a number of hole

sponsors too,” Malkhassian said. “Aside from the money raised, the event was a major community gathering. It brought us together to get behind one of our own.”

Many members of the Beronjas’ families flew in for the benefit from Michigan, South Carolina, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

As the Beronjas talk about their boys they smile and laugh, and look forward to the future, which includes another child in October.

“Our boys are a bundle of energy, but lots of fun,” Gabe Beronja said.

One Sedona City Council member wants the city of Sedona to address the immigration bill Gov. Jan Brewer signed a few weeks ago.

dan_surberCouncilman Dan Surber asked the city to schedule a special council meeting, so current and new council members could discuss and possibly take action against Senate Bill 1070.

The bill requires police officers to determine the status of people if there is reasonable suspicion they are illegal immigrants and to arrest people unable to provide documentation proving they are in the country legally.

It also makes it a crime to transport someone who is an illegal immigrant or to hire illegal immigrants.

Surber said while he cannot speak for the rest of the council, he thinks the issue should be challenged in Sedona.

The city scheduled a special council meeting Wednesday, May 12, at 5:30 p.m. in City Council Chambers.

People in the community have expressed an interest in this matter and Surber said he also wanst the City Council to give its opinion.

Surber said he at least wants to start a discussion rather than not do anything.

“I believe this council and the future council should take a stand and not support Senate Bill 1070,” Surber said.

He said the law will affect much more than just illegal immigrants.

“They are scared and want to know how this law is going to affect us,” he said. People who used to visit the city

have decided to vacation at other places.

Surber also said the law puts the Sedona Police Department in a no-win situation because officers will be required to enforce what is on the books. The law will also result in people being treated differently.

“Socially, we are singling out a group of people,” Surber said. “It’s not right. A large number of people in our community are going to suffer.”

He added the restaurant and hotel industry will feel the impacts the most, and he thinks it will filter down to the rest of the community.

The future council members must play a role in Wednesday’s discussion because whatever is decided will have to be picked up by them, Surber said.

He also wants this to be an action item, and added other cities and towns in the state have come out in opposition of the bill, so this will not be anything new.

“I personally will try to get the council to approve [opposing the bill],” he said.

The city of Sedona is in the process of updating its community plan, which is something state law requires it to do every 10 years.

The Sedona City Council must adopt the plan in 2012, so the public can vote on it in May 2013.

Mike Raber, senior planner of long-range planning for the city, said the community plan lays the groundwork for the city’s future.

Raber said the public must be involved in this endeavor and he has scheduled three meetings next week to accomplish this goal.

City-of-Sedona-Logo2He said there is a four-step process in developing the plan — identify issues, recommendations and the draft; public hearings; council adoption and the election.

In 2003, 65 percent of the public supported and voted for the plan.

He said current data will be used, and growth in Sedona is now 3.2 percent. Residential land is at 71 percent built out, and commercial is at 83 percent.

The plan projects Sedona to be completely built out in 2044 with a population of 16,300 people.

He said the vision statement of the plan must reflect what the city and residents want for the future of the city.

The current vision statement reads, “... to be a city that is constantly vigilant over the preservations of its natural beauty, scenic vistas, pristine environment and cultural heritage.”

Raber said this statement is a reflection of what the community supports.

The vision statement ends by saying, “... to be a city that lives up to the challenge of proper stewardship of one of the Earth’s greatest treasures.”

The statement’s conclusion sums up what the plan is all about, Raber said.

He said growth policies supporting the vision include staying small, not sprawling and filling in land within the city limits.

Raber said some of the ideas from 10 years ago could be included the 2013 plan.

The top five priorities in 2002 were widening State Route 179, preserving open space and national forest, promoting community character and needs, regulating lodging and timeshares, and protecting the environment.

The preliminary goals for the plan document are making it more user-friendly with regard to language and developing a prioritized action plan.

The issues the community plan could address are sustainability, housing, annexation policy and the character of the West Sedona Commercial Corridor.

Next week’s public meetings are  Monday, May 10, at 10 a.m. at Sedona Red Rock High School, Tuesday, May 11, at 1 p.m. at Keep Sedona Beautiful and Thursday, May 13, at 6 p.m. at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.

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