As the state grapples whether to increase the state sales tax for all of Arizona to help solve its budget woes, towns and cities are waiting to see what the impacts would be.

What is being discussed in the Arizona State Legislature is increasing the state sales tax from 5.5 percent to 6.6 percent, and the local sales tax and state tax would be added on as they are now.

cityofsedonalogoSedona Assistant City Manager Alison Zelms said increasing the sales tax could result in making the revenue streams for the state more stable.

She said a lot depends on what it would mean to the state to increase its sales tax by 1.1 percent.

“Would that go to the state?” Zelms asked, in wondering if Sedona would see any amount of the increase.

However, the state cannot raise the state sales tax. Only voters can change the tax rate. The state could put the issue on the November ballot, though.

“If approved, it gives us more confidence in state sales tax but will [give us] no significant increase,” she said, adding the city’s sales tax rate would stay the same at 3 percent.

Tom Belshe, deputy director of the Arizona League of Cities and Towns, said if the increase is approved by voters, consumers might decide to shop less.

However, he said voters need to decide if they want valuable service like police and education to be cut further or if they want to pay another 1 percent in state sales tax.

He said if it comes to a referendum and voters oppose increasing the tax rate, the state would almost have to reduce the budgets of state agencies to go on top of the cuts already made.

“People want more services, not less,” he said. “It’s one or the other.”

He also said the extra 1.1 percent would go directly back to the state and the communities collecting it would see none of it.

He said since the additional sales tax would affect the entire state, it would not be a deterrent for people to travel to other areas in the state. He said the 1.1 percent would affect Sedona, Phoenix and every other city and town.

“It’s a state tax that you can’t escape,” Belshe said. “People [would] definitely spend

less because of the additional tax.”

He said businesses thinking about moving to Arizona may not do so if they see these type of services are being cut.


Michael Maresh can be reached at 282-7795, ext. 125, or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Real estate agents in Sedona are hoping the housing market turns around soon, as more and more people are seeing their homes go into foreclosure.

In 2009, of the 187 home sales, 73 were in foreclosure, according to reports from the Sedona Verde Valley Association of Realtors.

Carolyn Huggins, a real estate agent for well over a decade, said the 39 percent foreclosure rate is the worst she has seen in her career.

She said the market is definitely favorable for buyers.

Figures show there was not a one or two month spike to skew the numbers and instead they stayed pretty steady from month to month, according to Huggins.

From Jan. 1, 2009, to June 30, there were 29 foreclosures. From July 1 to Dec. 1, there were another 38, and in the last month of 2009, six homes followed.

In past years, Huggins said it was extremely rare for a home to go into foreclosure or become a short sell in Sedona.

A short sale is defined as a sale of real estate where sale proceeds fall short of the balance owed on the property’s loan when borrowers cannot pay the mortgage, but lenders decide to sell  properties at moderate losses.

She said the reasoning for the high number of foreclosures is a simple one — at least for Sedona. The practice used to be for some homeowners to buy houses with adjustable rate mortgages with plans to refinance the property a few years later with the earned equity.

However, since the house is worth less than purchased, the owner is faced with property not worth what is owed and can no longer make the mortgage because interest rates have risen significantly.

She said there were also people trying to flip homes or buying at low prices to sell at higher figures, which she said was not wise.

“I told people, ‘You don’t flip in Sedona,’” she said.

Owners are also not getting what they are asking when selling homes. What a home seller accepted in 2009 on average was almost 10 percent less than the listed price, Huggins said.

Huggins thinks the market may have checked itself, as real estate agents have done a good job in keeping up the list for sold properties.

Marc Avery, another real estate agent, said he thinks the issue is artificially low prices, where  homes are just as expensive to build, but they are selling for much less with salaries decreasing for buyers. He also said Sedona is not alone in homes foreclosing at an alarming rate.

“It’s high everywhere. It’s affecting the economy as a whole,” he said.


The Sedona City Council last week looked into changing the process for distribution of event funds for next year.

This discussion came immediately after council voted to not fund organizations in round two of its event funding program.

Mark Gorchesky, treasurer of the Scorpion booster club, implored the council to help fund an event he claimed would bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars to the local economy.

cityofsedonalogoHowever, council, faced with the task of trying to find ways to save the city money due to the budget shortfall, decided to save the $10,000.

Council looked into numerous options on how to decide what to fund in the future if money becomes available.

Assistant City Manager Alison Zelms asked council where it put the value system and requested feedback so the city could move forward with a plan.

One such option is enlisting the Sedona Chamber of Commerce’s help to decide what projects the city should fund.

Zelms said the difficult part is putting one event above another in terms of importance when deciding what gets funding.

“I am not comfortable saying this event is more important than another,” she said, and asked if the goal was to fund community events.

Events the city could help fund include those bringing revenue into the city, helping celebrate Sedona’s heritage and social events to help residents in need.

Vice Mayor Cliff Hamilton said the projects the city should help are those that make cash, celebrate the community and community service organizations.

“We are trying to create accountability,” he said. “I would like to see the City Council, chamber and stakeholders work together on grants.”

Sedona Chamber of Com-merce President and CEO Jennifer Wesselhoff said communities like Lake Havasu let their chambers have a more important role.

Councilman Mark DiNunzio wanted to know what role the chamber would play.

Wesselhoff said the role would be defined by council, adding its part can be extremely large or very small.

“We are comfortable enough in taking the entire process over,” she said, and added a more consistent brand of marketing could be done under its direction.

Councilwoman Pud Colquitt said events council supports must be clear and concise, and added she will not support fundraisers for applicants’

own gain.

“What I want to do is give the organizations a heads-up on what to expect for the next five years,” she said.

Wesselhoff will work on coming up with a plan for the city to determine who gets what before it comes back to council.

Michael Maresh can be reached at 282-7795, ext. 125, or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Ten residents have filed their paperwork and signatures to run for five seats on the Sedona City Council next March.

For the two-year council seat, incumbent Dan Surber will be opposed by Dennis Rayner, a retired physicist from the DuPont Corp.

Individuals running for the three four-year council terms are incumbent Nancy Scagnelli, Gina Miller, Jeffrey Siet, Barbara Litrell, Mike Ward and Don McIroy.

cityofsedonalogoThe two residents running for mayor are incumbent Rob Adams and current Councilman and former Vice Mayor Jerry Frey. Frey was appointed by the council last week to fill a seat for six months left vacant by the resignation of former Vice Mayor John Bradshaw.

Former City Clerk Pat Sullivan, who is handling the election, said the public has 10 days from Wednesday night, Dec. 9, to question a candidate’s residency. All candidates must have resided in the city limits for a minimum of one year and still live in Sedona.

The city clerk does not require proof of residency from candidates when they file.

The signatures the candidates turned in also still have to be verified.

The packets with at least 198 valid signatures had to be submitted to the city clerk’s office no later than 5 p.m., Dec. 9, and five of them waited until the last hour with one turning in his paperwork with just a few minutes to spare.

Ward and Miller are community activists, McIroy is an attorney and president of the Mingus Mountain Republican Club, Litrell is the former president of Keep Sedona Beautiful and Siet is the owner of a Cottonwood café.

Sullivan said candidates could not submit more than 395 signatures in their packets, which included nomination papers and financial disclosure statements.

The primary election will be Tuesday, March 9, and the general election, if needed, is scheduled for Tuesday, May 18.

There will not be a general election of the two-year council or mayor seats because only two candidates are running, and one candidate for each position will receive more than 50 percent of the vote.

Any candidates running for the four-year council seat who receive 50 percent plus one vote in the primary election will win a seat and not have to run in the general election.

Former Sedoana City Council- man Jerry Frey is back on the council.

Following three hours of interviews Friday, Dec. 4, in which Helen Knoll, Mike Ward and Frey were questioned, the council made its selection with a 4-2 vote.

Mayor Rob Adams and Vice Mayor Cliff Hamilton supported Knoll and voted against Frey.

Frey will serve the next six months of the seat John Bradshaw held before resigning at the end of October.

cityofsedonalogoFrey said he decided not to run in the last council election so he could take care of his dying father. He is running for mayor in the Tuesday,

March 9, primary election.

He said the biggest item council needs to iron out is the 2010-2011 budget and hopes his past experience on council helps him.

He said the questions asked by council were not surprising, but added he was not sure if he would be appointed, since another candidate had gone through the process before and likely was well prepared.

At times, Frey became tongue tied during the council interview and attributed this to over-preparing, mentioning he had already seen the questions and knew his answers.

“I understand Sedona and realize what we are,” he said. “We are a tourist town.”

He also said the city survives on a 3 percent sales tax and another 3 percent for lodging and added there is no property tax for the city.

Frey previously served on council with council members Nancy Scagnelli and Pud Colquitt and Mayor Rob Adams and thinks their familiarity with him and his past knowledge were advantages in being appointed.

He informed council repeatedly if selected there would be no learning curve, and he could hit the ground running.

Frey also said he has no problem voting against the majority or against a special interest group if he thinks it is for the best. He added there will be times when he will walk into council meetings with a notion on how he will vote on a certain matter. He said discussions with council on other items will help with his vote.

When asked how he would help council to be more harmonized, Frey said it is not something he is concerned with, since each council member has his or her own opinion, and stressed there will be disagreements.

“That’s human nature. I live and die with Sedona,” he said.

Councilwoman Pud Colquitt said Frey’s experience was something she could not overlook when thinking about who should serve on council the next six months.

“It’s just his experience with the budget being the primary purpose,” she said. “We need someone with council and business experience.”

Adams said he thought Knoll would have been a wiser choice, and added she did an outstanding job during the interview process.

The mayor said Knoll has been extremely involved in issues affecting Sedona and knew what council must work on.

Another reason he supported Knoll over Frey was her previous job experience. She worked with the federal government for more than 20 years.

Michael Maresh can be reached at 282-7795, ext. 125, or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


The Sedona City Council on Friday, Dec. 4, will pick one of three candidates to fill the vacancy left by John Bradshaw resigning his seat in September and leaving at the end of October.

The three candidates to be interviewed by council Friday morning are Jerry Frey, Mike Ward and Helen Knoll.

cityofsedonalogoFrey, 52, who has lived in Sedona for almost 12 years, is a former councilman. He said he can use this prior experience along with his background on the local economy to help the city since he works as a businessman.

He said if his father had not been dying from cancer in 2008, he would have run for re-election. However, he wants to assist the city in some way again.

“It’s public service,” he said, adding he wants to use his knowledge of being both a resident and businessman to help Sedona.

“I am doing this because I think I can help,” he said. “I kept up and understand the budget.”

He also said there would be no learning curve if council selects him to serve the next six months of Bradshaw’s term.

“I have kept up and understand the process, so I can be effective right away,” Frey said. “I can actually get along with people.”

Frey said when on a losing side of a vote, he doesn’t keep bringing it back up or rehashing it, he just moves on to the next item.

Knoll, 67, moved to Sedona more than seven years ago from Seattle, and said she wants to bring her experience to the City Council.

Knoll has worked as a city attorney for two municipalities and also worked for the federal government for more than 20 years.

“I know all the types of things that we are up against,” Knoll said.

She said she had been involved in some city issues, but has tried to stay away from most of the controversial ones, and added she thinks she can bring council closer together.

“I can act as a bridge builder and help calm the waters,” Knoll said.

She also said she only wants to serve on council for the next six months and added she has no interest in running for a seat in the March election.

“The short term is appealing to me,” she said. “The city is in a crisis, and I think I can help.”

Mike Ward, 61, a retired community college instructor, is running for the vacant seat to give him some experience in case he is elected in the 2010 election.

Ward, who considers himself a solution finder, moved to Sedona more than seven years ago from the Chicago area.

“My primary rationale is getting a jump start should I be elected,” he said, adding he has attended council meetings and researched topics.

He also said he is a good and active listener and will not be afraid to change his viewpoint on issues for better ones. Another reason Ward applied for the vacancy was to give council multiple choices in determining the next councilor.

“I am not afraid to throw away my views for something that is more practical,” he said. “There is a learning curve, and someone has to do it.”

Ward believes he would bring a new perspective to council and mentioned his goals are similar to what Frey believes in.

“I can bring fresh eyes to the council, and that is something of an advantage,” he said.

The resident council choose will take the seat $$$.

Michael Maresh can be reached at 282-7795, ext. 125, or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

While the Arizona Department of Transportation plans to shut down State Route 89A in Oak Creek Canyon during stormy weather this winter because of financial difficulties, many Sedona residents want the state to look at other cost-saving alternatives.

Sedona Chamber of Commerce President  and CEO Jennifer Wesselhoff said she hopes ADOT sits down with city officials to discuss the importance of this highway remaining open and plowed during the winter months.

“We will do whatever we can to help the state and ADOT come up with alternatives,” she said. “We definitely will do what we can do.”

Jennifer-WesselhoffWesselhoff said one option is closing Sunset Point rest area and using those saved funds to plow State Route 89A.

The chamber of commerce president said another option is for the cities of Flagstaff and Sedona to split the costs for ADOT to plow the highway. She said what could also work is for the state, Coconino County and cities of Sedona and Flagstaff to each pick up 25 percent of the cost.

She said ADOT likely has an idea on the impacts it would have on the two cities and its residents but are in a quandary over what to do.

“They just don’t have the money,” she said.

What Wesselhoff opposes is businesses paying part or all of the cost to keep the road plowed, mentioning many of them are already struggling financially.

“I would like to think that is a county or city service,” she said.

Sedona Assistant City Manager Alison Zelms said staff spoke Monday, Nov. 16, with John Halikowski, director of ADOT, to see what Sedona can do or possibly join in a partnership with Flagstaff and/or Coconino County to change this procedure.

Sedona officials will now get in touch with Coconino County about forming a partnership. She also said other options were discussed with Halikowski.

She said the city was contacted by Wesselhoff about discussing options with ADOT. City officials were told plowing State Route 89A would not be a priority and Interstate 17 must be stabilized before diverting workers and trucks to other locations.

City officials met with ADOT Engineer John Harper in a teleconference call, and he told them this is what ADOT plans, Zelms said.

Change in the maintenance of state routes will begin Monday, Dec. 14, and will be closed based on predicted weather. There are gates at MCS Stables and Manresa Retreat. Typically the Department of Public Safety would clear the closed area four hours prior to predicted storms.

Depending on availability, a truck may be placed on 89A for clearing during the storm, but clearing of snow would typically start after I-17 is stabilized. Public notification of closures would be on a storm by storm basis using press releases and the message boards at each end of Oak Creek Canyon.

“There are probably a lot of options,” Zelms said, and added she wonders about the cost for the cities and counties to ensure the road does not close.

Wesselhoff said businesses will not be the only ones suffering if the road closes occasionally.

“It’s not only going to impact our stores, it will impact commuters from both cities,” Wesselhoff said.

She also wonders how emergency services would get to families living in the Oak Creek Canyon area if the roads were impassable.

What also concerns Wesselhoff is she was informed it was only a possibility the state route would close and before a decision was reached, state officials would meet with city workers.

“We are going to work on it to see if we can avoid [those closures],” she said.


Michael Maresh can be reached at 282-7795, ext. 125, or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Sedona City Council on Tuesday, Nov. 10, approved $1.3 million in improvements to its wastewater treatment plant.

The improvements, which have been discussed for months, involve upgrading the dry beds at the treatment plant.

Carollo Engineers presented council with four options that ranged in cost from $850,000 to $4.7 million, and the city staff recommended approving the $1.3 million option.

cityofsedonalogoCouncilwoman Nancy Scagnelli wanted to know how long the dry beds would last, and was told there were times when they lasted 20 years.

“It’s $1.3 million today, and in another 15 years it would be another $1.3 million (plus inflation),” she said.

What concerned Council-woman Pud Colquitt was the possibility the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality could change its regulations at any time.

“We have to be very careful we choose something that lasts 10 years,” she said.

Council was informed it could expect the dry beds to have a longer life. Council members were also told the type of weather the area receives will impact the beds’ longevity.

Mayor Rob Adams shared Colquitt’s concerns about ADEQ, but was told the city would not be affected as long as they kept up the dry beds and treatment plant.

Adams also wondered why the $750,000 proposal ended up being $850,000, and he was told by the engineering group that the extra $100,000 is the result of piping that needed to be replaced because of its condition.

Council briefly discussed going with the $1.6 million project, but it was told by Assistant City Manager Alison Zelms the $300,000 in additional expenditures would have to be recouped in some way, such as raising sewer rates for residents.

Colquitt said city staff’s recommendation was the one the council needed to approve.

“It gives us 10 years before we have to look at it again,” she said.

Carollo Engineers informed the city the dry beds would probably last about 10 years before needing to be replaced.

Colquitt said another reason to choose the $1.3 million project over the more expensive ones was not knowing when or if ADEQ was going to change its requirements.

“We don’t have to spend that amount of money right now,” she said, adding treatment plants are constantly changing how to do things.

“They have a life,” she said. “We are trying to be very careful with the money.”


Michael Maresh can be reached at 282-7795, ext. 125, or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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