Three weeks after a flash flood poured through Tlaquepaque arts and crafts village the only sign of distress visible on the exterior is a little extra dust on the roads and walkways.

Visitors meander through the cobblestone maze enjoying the village as if the storm Sept. 10 hadn’t washed cars into statues and forced businesses to close.

Behind the stucco walls, however, recovery continues.

tlaq-recovery-10-2James Cecil and his wife, Candace Peterson Cecil, lost approximately $10,000 in sales and merchandise Sept. 11 and Sept. 12 at their business, The Secret Garden Cafe, James Cecil said.

Since Sept. 14, Cecil said they’ve been forced to close their doors at 2:30 or 3 p.m. each day rather than 5 p.m. for repairs to be made to the building costing them an estimated $500 to $1,000 per day.

The work on the building is being done by Tlaquepaque, the owner, and not directly costing Cecil any money.

Loss of income, however, is coming right out of the business’s bank account. According to Cecil, their insurance company doesn’t cover natural disasters. However, if a loss was caused by a bursting pipe rather than a flood, they’d be covered.

Sedona Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jennifer Wesselhoff said the Small Business Administration will be setting up shop in the chamber’s offices to help business owners. Their staff will be in the chamber offices in the mornings and out in the community meeting with business owners in the afternoon.

Assistant City Manager Alison Zelms said last week the state was working on a request of individual assistance for economic impact for businesses through the Small Business Administration that

businesses would have to apply


If the money is a grant, Cecil said he’d be interested. If it’s a loan, he’s not.

While Cecil wasn’t able to recover in time for Fiesta del Tlaquepaque, the village as a whole was cleaned up and ready to go Sept. 12.

People were confused, Wesselhoff said, and thought Sedona had been devastated by the flood but chamber staff worked diligently to get the word out that the fiesta would go

on and Sedona was open for business.

The chamber sent out press releases to state media outlets and used social media, including its Web site, Twitter and Facebook.

Wesselhoff said the communications let visitors know business would be open Sept. 12 specifically mentioning fiesta even though chamber staff knew most businesses would probably be closed Sept. 11.

People called in the first few days inquiring about the situation, according to Wesselhoff, but concern about travel to Sedona has died down quickly.

“When things happen like this that are national news there are times that we feel a ripple effect,” Wesselhoff said meaning people are concerned long after the fact. That didn’t happen with the flood and she attributes it to the chamber’s proactive campaign to get the word out right away.

Water damaged the walls around Cecil’s cafe requiring remediation, or cleaning the wall cavities and resealing them. New drywall, paint and a new floor is also necessary, according to Cecil.

When the floor’s repaired, Cecil said the cafe will be forced to shut down completely, which will probably happen in November during the slow season.

Cecil estimated the building repairs to cost $75,000 to $100,000 when the work is completed.

A new animal shelter law that takes effect Wednesday, Sept. 30, has local shelters worried that owners won’t be able to afford to bail their pets out of jail.

The new bill signed by Gov. Jan Brewer on July 10 sets new stipulations for shelters when it comes to returning pets to owners.

HSUS-fees-9-30“I’m just scared of what is going to happen to them,” Cyndi Sessoms, CEO of the Verde Valley Humane Society, said. With the economy in the state it is, Sessoms worries people will be discouraged from picking up their animals if they’re brought to the shelter.

The new law requires shelters to charge a $50 fee on top of an impound fee, or the cost of spaying or neutering the animal and implanting it with a microchip unless the animal is already vaccinated for rabies, sterilized and registered. The new law applies to both dogs and cats.

In Sedona, Humane Society of Sedona Executive Director Brigitte Skielvig said most people could afford the impound fees prior to the new law which included a stipulation to spay or neuter the animal as soon as possible with a follow-up scheduled with an animal control office to ensure the pet owner complies.

Now, Skielvig fears the law could have an impact on the number of pets retrieved by owners because sterilization and vaccination services aren’t as readily available in rural Arizona. Before the law took effect, she said the majority of Sedona pet owners showed up for their pet.

“We do half a dozen RTOs [return to owner] in a week,” Skielvig said.

Rodrigo Silva, director of Maricopa County Animal Care and Control, was active in pushing the bill through the Legislature, according to April Hollis, the agency’s public information officer.

According to Hollis, Maricopa County sees 57,000 dogs and cats at its two shelters each year.

“There are way too many homeless animals on the street,” Hollis said, and her agency wants to lower its pet population. The county’s shelter is the second largest municipal shelter in the country.

Hollis said, however, she couldn’t speak for Silva on what inspired him to push for this legislation. Silva did not return a phone call.

Both Sessoms and Skielvig agree that if pet owners comply with the law, which says dogs must be registered anywhere in the county, and if owners sterilize their pets, they won’t have to worry about ramifications of the law.

Sedona cat owners may have a problem, according to Skielvig. The city of Sedona doesn’t require cats to be licensed and there is no mechanism within the city to do so. However, the law says the owner has to be charged $50 or the cat has to be chipped if it ends up in the shelter before its owner can take it home.

Skielvig said the shelter will be forced to chip or charge because it has to comply with the law.

The Sedona shelter contacted Yavapai County to ask if it can become a licensing center for animals that live outside municipalities to help streamline the system, Skielvig said. The shelter wants to offer licensing at the time of adoption to avoid penalties in the future and make it convenient for pet owners.

Sessoms said Verde Valley Humane Society can license pets living in Clarkdale, Cottonwood or any of the unincorporated towns.

The law also requires shelters to hold animals for five days before they are put up for adoption.

Sessoms said her shelter already has a five-day policy.

Skielvig said the Sedona shelter previously complied with the city’s law which said animals had to be held for four days. Now, they will be held for five.


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.


Head teachers at Sedona Charter School can list a slew of reasons why the school earned the state’s highest label this year.

According to Business Administrator Alice Madar, this is the school’s third “excelling” label.

The school, located in West Sedona, was built in 2001 as a Montessori-based school.

During its first two years, the state labeled it “too small,” to earn a state report card. Since then, the 150-student school has earned three “excelling” labels and one “highly performing.”

Montessori practices believe that children naturally gravitate toward children about their own age, but not limited to their exact age, so classrooms are broken down first through third grades, fourth though sixth grades, and seventh and eighth grades.

“The learning is individualized,” lower elementary principal educator Bob Wentsch explained of the school’s success. “Whether something comes easy or difficult, they have the time they need. Even before ‘No Child Left Behind,’ we had no child left behind.”

Upper elementary head educator Marsha Johnson agreed.

“We individualize and we work toward mastery of everything,” Johnson said. “It needs to be mastered before we move on to something else.”

In addition to working on the state standards, Jon Anderson, principal educator for grades seventh and eight, adds a lot of extras to engage the students’ curiosities, he said, rather than dictate to the students what they will be interested in.

Although the state’s standardized tests are important for the school and the state’s report card, Anderson doesn’t focus solely on prepping for those tests.

“We don’t have such a hyper focus on test prep and constantly drill for tests,” he said. “It makes for happier kids. That’s part of the reason we do so well.”

Montessori education focuses on physical and mental needs of children, not just academic, so the teachers work on character development and students volunteer around the community, Anderson said.

According to Johnson, students at the charter school remain in the same classroom for three years, so the three teachers assigned to each classroom really get to know them and their learning needs.

“It’s a safe and nurturing environment. That’s when brains learn best,” she said.

It also helps that the school keeps its teacher-student ratio at one teacher per every 15 students, Wentsch said.

The three classrooms at the school are set up to allow children to sit where they want and communicate with each other.

The older children of each of the three divisions naturally tend to teach the younger ones.

“Maria Montessori was an observer of children,” Johnson said. “She saw that kids this age are very social, so we try to use that socialization so they can talk to each other and teach each other.”

Madar summed up the school’s success by crediting two things.

“The students are engaged in their learning and our teachers are totally dedicated,” she 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.

The 36th Annual Fiesta del Tlaquepaque in Sedona is on for Saturday, Sept. 12.

fiestateaserA brief but furious thunderstorm flooded the Arts and Crafts Village, sending water and mud surging through the Mexican-style plaza on Thursday, Sept. 10.

However, massive clean-up efforts were already well under way early Friday morning and Wib Middleton, media liaison for the operation, said all systems were go for the following day.

“There may be some changes in venue for the various entertainers, but we intend to proceed as planned,” Middleton said. “Everyone is busy powerwashing and cleaning their area and a lot of progress has already been made.”

The most important thing visitors can do to help is to park at the Uptown Municipal Parking Lot at the corner of Jordan Rd. and Apple St. then ride the free RoadRunner shuttle to Tlaquepaque. Shuttle service will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission to the Fiesta is also free and will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The city of Sedona and Tiffany Construction are advising the public of traffic restrictions at Chapel Road to allow for construction of sewer mains and service laterals for the Chapel sewer and storm drain project.

From Thursday, Sept. 10, through Thursday, Sept. 17, Chapel Road will be restricted to one lane between Cathedral Lane and Fox Road, between the hours of 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Please observe and follow traffic signage and flag persons.

cityofsedonalogoFrom Monday, Sept. 21, through Tuesday, Sept. 29, Chapel Road will be restricted to one lane from 200 feet east of State Route 179 to Geneva Drive, between the hours of 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Please observe and follow traffic signage and flag persons.

From Wednesday, Sept. 30, through Thursday, Oct. 22, Chapel Road will be restricted to one lane from Geneva Drive to Antelope Drive, between the hours of 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Please observe and follow traffic signage and flag persons.

Mail and garbage services will not be interrupted.

Please remember, changes to construction can occur frequently due to weather and site conditions. Updates will be provided if any scheduling changes occur. If you have any questions or concerns please contact Tiffany Construction at 204-9817.


The scanners will be silent Friday, Sept. 11, at 8 a.m., as part of Sedona Fire District’s Sept. 11 commemorative ceremony.

SFD crews, Sedona Police Department and residents will gather at the flagpoles at SFD Station No. 1 in West Sedona and Station No. 3 in the Village of Oak Creek.

SFD Battalion Chief Dan Wills, the only district employee to work the incident, said the scene seemed like a “massive commercial fire,” when he arrived just a few days after the attacks.

sedona_fireWills was on a National Incident Management Team, working a wildfire at Glacier National Park, when the team was sent to Ground Zero.

The regional team, one of 16 nationwide, spent a long 34 days supporting the urban search and rescue teams with coordination and organization. After a while, its mission included instant planning for the New York City Fire Department.

All the agencies responding couldn’t communicate through the same radio channels, Wills said, which presented problems, but within units, the communication went smoothly.

“This whole concept of interoperability [communication] picked up a lot more attention and became a much larger focus after Sept. 11,” he said.

According to Wills, even if the New York City Police Department, FDNY and Port Authority of New York & New Jersey had the technology to communicate, it wouldn’t have changed the outcome, since the agencies don’t have the habit of intercommunication.

“It’s more a cultural issue [among the agencies] than technological,” he said.

To commemorate, SFD will notify the 12 other agencies it dispatches for that there will be a moment of silence at 7:58 a.m., two minutes prior to the daily tone test. Agencies interested in participating can tune in to the designated channel.

At 7:59 a.m., the time the south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed, station bells will ring 5-5-5.

According to SFD Public Information Officer Gary Johnson, before telephones and radios, fire departments used the telegraph to communicate.

When a firefighter died in the line of duty, the fire alarm office would tap out five measured dashes, then a pause, then five dashes, another pause, then five more dashes, Johnson explained.

“This became universally known as the Tolling of the Bell and was broadcast over all telegraph fire alarm circuits,” he said. “This signal was a sign of honor and respect for all firefighters who had made the ultimate sacrifice and has become a time-honored tradition.”

At 8 a.m., there will be one minute of silence followed by a chief fire officer or chaplain reciting the Firefighter’s Prayer.

The assignment was beyond anyone’s experience, but the interaction between the varied players was fascinating, Wills said.

“It smelled like a commercial fire. It was a fire,” he described. “That building stayed on fire for two months.”

Looking back, Wills decided it was probably worse for the bystanders than for the crews working at Ground Zero.

“It was incredibly frustrating because everyone wanted to do something,” he said. “We got the better end of the deal because we got to go to work.”

Everyone is welcome to attend at either station to reflect on the victims of the tragedies at all three attack sites: the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., and the crash site in Shanksville, Pa.

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.


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