Wed, Oct. 23

Long Hard Road<br>Construction begins on Mingus Ave. extension

Staff photo by Angela De Welles

COTTONWOOD and Yavapai County officials turn the first shovels of dirt to officially launch construction of the Mingus Avenue extension project from Cottonwood to Cornville Road.

But that road behind city and county officials is probably much longer than the two-mile stretch ahead of them. They've been working together for more than a decade trying to construct an extension of Mingus Avenue.

Members of the public along with county and city officials gathered Thursday to break ground on the long-anticipated road. Construction begins Monday on the project that first showed up on Cottonwood's area transit plan in1986.

"This is really a significant occasion for the Verde Valley," said Yavapai County Supervisor Chip Davis.

When finished, the extension of Mingus will cross the Verde River with a 1,000-foot bridge and will link with Cornville Road at Arizona 89A, creating a four-way intersection.

In total the construction will cost $12 million. The county has paid $11 million with funds from the half-cent sales tax. Cottonwood will contribute $1 million to the project and will fund a traffic signal at the Main Street and Mingus Avenue intersection.

Davis and other speakers at the groundbreaking expressed frustration at the many obstacles endured during the planning process.

"Once we would jump through hoops they would create new hoops," Davis said.

He continued by listing the number of state and federal agencies he and others involved with the project have had to work with.

"That's all for our little two-mile road," he said.

The final "hoop" was jumped through in February when the county spent a little over $2 million for 369 acres of land from the Arizona State Land Department.

The purchase was necessary for environmental clearance from a couple of other government agencies. The land won't even be used for the extension itself, but is for the conservation of the endangered plant species, the cliff rose.

Another endangered species reportedly makes its home near the construction path. The Southwestern willow flycatcher nests near the Verde River. Construction will be halted between February and May to accommodate the birds.

Animals and plants aside, the people were happy Thursday. The groundbreaking represented the culmination of a lot of work.

"It is a great day to finally be standing here and dig some dirt," said Cottonwood Mayor Ruben Jauregui.

Other speakers echoed the mayor's remarks. State representatives Lucy Mason and Tom O'Halleran were on hand and both applauded the joint efforts of the city and county.

"This is just one great project," O'Halleran said. "Yes, it may mean more growth … this is just the right way to do things."

More growth is what Jess Dominguez hopes for. He owns The Leaf Line in Old Town Cottonwood and has a home and green house right next to where the new Mingus extension will be.

"I'm excited but we're going to have to do some re-zoning," Dominguez said.

Right now his land is zoned for residential use, but he wants it to be commercial and says other neighbors agree.

"It would allow me to have my green house here," he said. "Maybe I could have a nursery here and sell my fountains."

Cottonwood City Manager Brian Mickelsen said a change in zoning could be a possibility, depending on how the new road works in a residential area.

"There may be a transition for that over the years," he said.

Dominguez said he bought the property because of the planned extension. He looks forward to the increased traffic and the shortcut to Arizona 89A.

"All of this area is growing," he said. "We've just got to go with the growth … we've got to keep up with it. I don't want to be left behind."

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