The city of Sedona is taking a more proactive approach to enforcing its sign code, cracking down on 19 businesses in its latest sweep.

The city’s code enforcers have noticed a slew of illegal banners and A-frame signs going up along State Routes 89A and 179.

Businesses are allowed wall signs or freestanding signs if they have the space available. A-frame signs are prohibited.

Although the city wants to help businesses during economic troubles, it also has to enforce its codes, Director of Community Development John O’Brien said.

a-frame-sign-enforcementCity staff hopes to work with the Sedona-Oak Creek Chamber of Commerce and the Main Street Program to find ways it can assist businesses, he said.

During State Route 179 construction, the city has slackened its enforcement to allow businesses to advertise with signs throughout the construction zone, Development Services Supervisor James Windham said.

But the city has sent a “heads up” e-mail to businesses along the construction route alerting them that it will begin sign enforcement once construction is complete by spring 2010.

As for the businesses in West Sedona that post signs boasting breakfast, an opening or services, the city’s latest sweep let them know that the signs had to come down.

According to O’Brien, if the businesses are caught with signs after the warning, they could receive a civil citation with a maximum fine of $250.

“Just because someone has a banner up doesn’t mean it’s illegal,” O’Brien said. “They could have gotten a banner permit.”

Businesses can apply for up to four banner permits each year. The permit allows the business to display a banner for 10 days for $25.

Yard sale signs are exempt from regular sign codes, but some rules do apply, O’Brien said. Signs for yard sales are allowed in city right-of-ways, but not Arizona Department of Transportation right-of-ways.

Yard sale signs are prohibited on street poles, stop signs and telephone poles. Each sale is allowed to post four signs, not exceeding 3 feet high. They are permitted to go up three days before the sale, and must come down when it’s over, Windham said.

Sign code enforcement has a lot to do with maintenance and education of business owners, the public and city staff, O’Brien said.

Starting in August, a city code enforcer will work one Saturday a month, patrolling for sign violations.

The city also drafted an education letter to send to every Sedona residence on dos and don’ts of sign rules. City staff will also meet with realtors to discuss “open house” and “for sale” signs popping up in the right-of-ways.

“The issue,” Windham said, “is that everyone wants a sign on the main highway, but the city doesn’t lend itself to that.”

No changes will be made at seven of the eight Arizona post offices the U.S. Postal Service was studying for possible consolidation, including the West Sedona Branch, USPS announced Wednesday, Aug. 19.

Dozens of post office box customers at the West Sedona Branch filled out questionnaires, most objecting to the consolidation move, USPS officials reported.

Sedona postmaster Dave Cartlidge said earlier this month all residential Sedona mail is delivered from the main post office at the ‘Y’ intersection, but the West Sedona branch houses roughly 1,000 P.O. boxes, making it a convenient stop for many West Sedona residents and businesses.

The seven locations no longer being considered for consolidation include:

  • West Sedona Branch, 2081 W. Highway 89A, Sedona
  • McDowell Station, 2650 E. McDowell Rd., Phoenix
  • Papago Retail Station, 7750 E. McDowell Rd., Scottsdale
  • Goodwin Station, 101 Goodwin St., Prescott
  • Highway Station, 990 Highway 95, Bullhead City
  • Mojave Valley Station, 8045 Highway 95, Bullhead City
  • Warren Station, 940 State Hwy 92, Bisbee

The decision does not preclude studies at a future date for these or other locations, USPS officials stated.

Still under consideration is the Midtown Station, 5401 E. 5th St., in Tucson. The public input process via customer questionnaires regarding the possible consolidation will get under way at the Tucson location this week.

A final decision on the Midtown Station will not be made until Oct. 1, at the earliest, according to USPS officials. The earliest the station would be consolidated into another nearby post

office would be the end of this year.

Current economic conditions and technological advances such as e-mail are combining to change the way people use and access services and products offered by the United States Postal Service, a self-supporting independent federal agency.

Ongoing mail volume and revenue losses demand that the USPS review all postal operations to find opportunities to provide service more efficiently, officials stated.

 

In an effort to dispose of future wastewater discharge, the city of Sedona is hoping an underground fracture study will help determine if injection wells are feasible.

On Aug. 11, Sedona City Council voted 7-0 to add $71,209 to the cost of a study by Carollo Engineers to determine where Sedona can dispose of treated sewer water, also known as effluent. The extra money will go for controlled source audio-frequency magnetotellurics to identify underground fractures.

cityofsedonalogoAccording to City Manager Tim Ernster, the city has money in the wastewater fund for the contract’s $71,209 amendment.

The fracture study will let the city know if it’ll be possible to dispose of effluent through injection wells and where, Director of Public Works Charles Mosley said. It will also allow the city to tell the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality where the injected water will flow.

On Feb. 24, council awarded Carollo a $139,879 contract to investigate options to dispose of future effluent loads at the city’s plant. The study looked at injection wells, spraying and wetlands, but is inconclusive without the fracture study, Mosley said.

Although ground water typically flows southwest toward the Verde River, it is unclear if underground fractures and caverns would divert the flow, possibly sending it to the pristine and highly protected Oak Creek.

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality needs to hear from Carollo and the city, exactly where the water will flow, Mosley told council.

Even if the plant is upgraded to treat the wastewater to A+ quality, ADEQ will want to know where it’s going, especially if it could possibly end up in Oak Creek, which is designated an Outstanding Waterway.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s A+ or not, you have to know where the faults are and which direction they’re going so we know where the water’s going,” Anita MacFarlane, chair of the city’s  Wastewater Effluent Disposal Land Use Task Force said. “This will also let us know possibilities of storing the water.”

According to Mosley, the study will introduce sound waves into the ground five miles away from devices placed shallowly underground.

The distortion of the travel pattern will help determine the geology of the area, including faults, voids, groundwater areas and caverns.

The CSMAT study will investigate faults near Dry Creek, the wastewater plant, the Page Springs fault and Sheepshead fault. The study was scheduled for the week of Aug. 17, if a wildfire in nearby Sycamore Canyon didn’t disturb the sound waves.

“As long as we have enough money in the budget, I think it’s worthwhile,” Vice Mayor John Bradshaw said.

Alison Ecklund 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.

fire1
Smoke pours into the air as a forest fire burns north of Sedona. The Taylor Fire, which was first reported at 7:22am Sunday, August 18, is burning about 13 miles southwest of Flagstaff, according to Coconino Natinal Forest. At this time, the cause of the fire is unknown. Keep checking back for more information on the fire.

This March, Sedona residents will get the chance to choose if the mayor should be elected by voters or appointed by City Council.

On Tuesday, Aug. 11, Sedona City Council voted 6-1 to ask the voters, in the March 2010 election, if they want the mayor to be appointed from within the council.

Mayor Rob Adams opposed the vote, stating that through his experience of being directly elected last year, he can see pros and cons to both.

cityofsedonalogoIf the ballot passes in March, there will be no direct election for mayor in 2012. Instead, the mayor would be appointed from among the seven councilors, by the councilors.

Councilman Cliff Hamilton voted in favor of letting the residents decide, but that doesn’t mean he’s in favor of it himself, he said.

“I’ll vote for it here to give voters a voice,” he said, “but I won’t vote for it on the ballot.”

Vice Mayor John Bradshaw favors council appointing the mayor since it puts more people in the running for empty council seats, he said.

According to Bradshaw, in a small town like Sedona, having a separate contest for mayor takes away from the already limited number of candidates running for council. Since councilors have to resign to run for the mayor seat, Councilwoman Pud Colquitt agreed with Bradshaw, that appointing the mayor keeps more council seats filled.

Colquitt served as an appointed mayor from 2004 to 2006. She resigned from council to run in the city’s first mayoral election and served as the city’s first directly elected mayor from 2006 to 2008. Adams is the city’s second directly elected mayor.

When the city was incorporated in 1988, the city code stated council would appoint a mayor from among its members every two years, after the council was seated following an election.

In 2004, voters approved to change the code to allow the mayor to be directly elected by the voters for two-year terms.

In 2006 and 2008, the voters have directly elected Sedona’s mayor.

Although the cost of running for mayor is excessive, and may be a detriment to possible candidates, Adams would like to give direct elections more time before the residents vote on the issue again.

In 2004, 58 percent of the voters were in favor of an elected mayor, he pointed out.

“I think the people want to have a voice in whoever their mayor is and they want that mayor to represent them,” he said.

Since the city has a weak-mayor form of government, the seat doesn’t have any real power above the six other councilors. Holding a separate election for mayor can be deceiving to the public, the councilors agreed.

“There are implied or direct expectations from the public in terms of the mayor following through with things the mayor has said during the election,” Adams said, “and being a weak mayor, you don’t have the ability to do that.”

Colquitt also wants to address the campaign expenses.

“There’s no reason an election should cost more than $20,000. There’s good people who won’t get involved because of that and that’s a shame,” she said.

Especially when candidates in towns of 50,000 people only spend $2,000 on campaigns.

“I know we’re special but we’re not that special,” Colquitt said. “We need to make it easier to get people to run for elections.”

 

Smoke engulfed Jerome and blanketed the Verde Valley on Monday afternoon, Aug. 10, as the Woodchute Fire on Mingus Mountain raged on, forcing officials to close the highway over the mountain.

The fire started July 19 and the U.S. Forest Service elected to manage the fire rather than put it out. Management efforts then became overwhelmed resulting in the fire reaching State Route 89A.

State Route 89A closed over the weekend due to the proximity of the fire and smoke conditions, according to a press release from the Prescott National Forest on Monday. As of Tuesday morning, Aug. 11, the road remained closed.

WoodchuteFire_8-12Law enforcement officers stopped motorists in Jerome telling them they would have to turn around and use I-17 to reach Prescott.

Monday morning, Jerome Fire Chief Rusty Blair said USFS put up a sign at the Jerome fire station warning motorists they wouldn’t make it much further than town limits.

In town, Blair said the smoke takes over in the evening when the temperature drops, allowing it to settle in. As far as actually seeing the fire make it to the city on the hill, Blair said he isn’t worried that will happen.

“The forest service has got a handle on it,” Blair said, and he’s monitoring the situation constantly, receiving multiple daily updates on the fire’s status.

So far, the Woodchute Fire has burned 430 acres in and around the Woodchute Wilderness and is 20 percent contained.

There are nine engines and a water tender on-site including engines from Jerome and Cottonwood.

Cottonwood Fire Chief Mike Casson said Cottonwood Fire Department sent one brush truck to be used on the fire for three to four days.

Blair sent one engine and two firefighters to help.

The fire is low intensity due to the type of fuel available, mostly ponderosa pine, according to USFS. The fire is backing downhill with minimum tree torching, burning ground fuel, such as needles, dead and down materials and low vegetation.

USFS plans to suppress the fire burning outside the wilderness boundary but allow fire within the wilderness to continue to burn.

State Route 89A will remain closed until USFS determines it no longer endangers motorists.

Smoke will continue to impact the Verde Valley.

 

Trista Steers can be reached at 282-7795, ext. 124, or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The bird’s the word, or rather, what’s left of the bird.

It was a scattered pile of gray feathers in the 700 block of Jordan Road that tipped off one Sedona homeowner to the source of the Uptown power outage which left thousands without electricity Monday, Aug. 3.

The three Arizona Public Service trucks and technicians working in her front yard at 8 a.m., Wednesday, Aug. 5, also provided a clue.

“There was a huge pile of gray feathers in my yard, but I didn’t go near them,” said Alison Ecklund, Sedona Red Rock News city reporter.

Technicians at the scene told Ecklund a bird managed to wedge itself between the cross arm of a pole where two wires that should never touch are attached, connecting them by its electrocution.

In addition to repairing the connection, technicians told Ecklund they were also moving wires and equipment to significantly increase the distance between the two wires so such a mishap can’t happen in the future.

The workers were on scene making repairs until around 2 p.m., Ecklund said.

The unlucky bird caused no end of grief.

Activities at residences and businesses around Uptown and in Oak Creek Canyon came to a standstill when the lights went off and all of the power needed to operate computers and television sets quit shortly before noon.

Most of the estimated 2,300 APS customers were impacted from 11:44 a.m. until 1:18 p.m., though others were brought back online incrementally throughout the afternoon, said Damon Gross, an APS public information official.

“We had everybody back up by around 5 p.m.,” Gross said.

Tourists milling around Uptown had a hard time finding places to use their credit cards, suggesting a potential loss of thousands of dollars of sales for Uptown retailers.

Some business owners who asked not to be identified said they were forced to teach teenage counter help how to figure the right amount of change without the aid of a cash register or calculator.

On the upside, traffic on State Route 89A continued to move smoothly despite, or maybe because of, the loss of the traffic signal at Forest Road.

APS trucks, on the scene within 15 minutes of the first report, circled Uptown neighborhoods trying to find the source of the problem for days.

“It wasn’t immediately obvious,” Grossman said.

Initially, APS told customers that a line leading to Uptown from a transfer station in West Sedona failed, but the cause was unknown. Grossman confirmed Thursday, Aug. 6, the outage was caused by a bird.


Greg Ruland can be reached at 282-7795, ext. 127, or e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The U.S. Postal Service is looking at whether or not to close West Sedona’s post office, along with seven others statewide.

Next week, questionnaires will be available to all post office box customers at the post office near Harkins Theatres and to anyone who wants to fill one out.

All residential Sedona mail is delivered from the main post office at the ‘Y’ intersection, but the West Sedona branch houses roughly 1,000 P.O. boxes, Sedona postmaster Dave Cartlidge said.

If the West Sedona branch closes, the main station has room to house those post office boxes, he said.

According to USPS spokesman Peter Hass, a final decision will be made in October and if there are closings in Arizona, they will happen by the end of 2009 or early 2010. Besides Sedona, one station each in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tucson, Bisbee and Prescott are being considered, along with two in Bullhead City.

USPS is looking at the possible consolidation of 3,200 post offices nationwide in its effort to combat the struggling economy.

By the end of this fiscal year, Wednesday, Sept. 30, the postal service expects to have a deficit of $7 billion.

In 2006, USPS handled over 225 billion pieces of mail. This year it’s expecting 175 billion pieces.

“That’s obviously a steep and significant decline in volume,” Hass said.

Although the Internet has been pulling communications away from paper mail for several years, the biggest blow to post offices around the country is a decline in advertisement mailings, Hass said.

“Businesses are looking for ways to cut their costs,” he said. “Direct mail has been a popular way to advertise, but because business is cutting back, we’ve seen a drop in that as well.”

Since 1982, USPS has not received tax dollars for operations. Instead, it relies on revenue from mailing costs and purchase of stamps.

Earlier this year, it cut five district offices and several administrative positions in an effort to become more efficient, according to Hass.

It is also looking at consolidating delivery routes. The postal service is required to deliver mail six days a week, but as population grows, especially in Arizona, and volume of mail decreases, there’s fewer pieces of mail delivered on longer, more costly routes.

According to Hass, helping customers is the postal service’s goal.

“We’re looking at ways to become more efficient while still providing service to our customers,” he said.

 

Alison Ecklund 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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