Cottonwood news year in review: Top stories of 2018
A lot can happen in a year, even in a small town like Cottonwood. As we enter the New Year, take a look back at some of the biggest Cottonwood news stories of 2018.
Crossroads on new city hall location
For decades, the Cottonwood City Council Chambers building has been nested within the historical heart of Old Town. This year, council has been weighing whether they should consolidate all their offices into one. Right now, Cottonwood has 13 locations hosting these services spread out within the city limits.
One potential location that has peaked its way into council discussion is the rough cuts building on Main Street. The property is currently owned by Northern Arizona Healthcare. NAH bought the property to host some of its own services five years ago, but the building has remained empty.
The cost estimate of purchasing the roughly 30,000-square-foot building is $2 million. Cottonwood Mayor Tim Elinski has been a strong advocate for the location but the rest of council has been on the crossroads, and said they need more information before deciding on such a large purchase.
Elinski said he expects to see the item pop up again on the agenda in January.
Ron Corbin selected as new city manager
On Dec. 4, Cottonwood City Council approved a contract with Ron Corbin, who was recently selected as the city’s new manager.
Corbin served as city administrator in Yuma.
The city solicited services from Novak Consulting Group to help them in their search for a new city manager. The Town of Clarkdale is using the same firm in their town manager search.
Corbin said in an interview with The Verde Independent that a big draw Cottonwood has for him is "the smell."
He said he was walking down Old Town and caught a whiff of wood burning stoves and it reminded him of his home in Arkansas.
"I left Arkansas in '87," he said. "It triggered a pleasant memory.
For Corbin, city manager is a buffer between staff and council. He said a large part of that is building trust and respect, even when council and staff don't always agree.
Current City Manager Doug Bartosh announced his retirement early this year after a decade of service. His last day will be in January 2019.
Brew-ti-ful: New coffee shops in Cottonwood
Coffee lovers can rejoice. Cottonwood approved several new coffee shop locations in Cottonwood. Dutch Bros. Coffee will be built in the Food City Shopping Center along State Route 89A, Starbucks will be on the southwest corner of SR 260 and SR 89A and Dunkin’ Donuts will be constructed on a vacant lot at 1006 S. Main Street. 360 Coffee along 468 S Main St. also opened early this year.
Cottonwood raises sales tax
Cottonwood City Council voted 4-3 to increase the sales tax by half a percent, raising it to 3.5 percent in the hopes of trying to alleviate a more than $1.5 million deficit.
This was a slight compromise from the initially proposed .65-percent increase. Some council members wanted a $1 increase, others wanted none at all.
Many on staff argued that Cottonwood is a full-service city serving the entire Verde Valley and needs to increase revenue in order to continue providing services to the community. Some members of the community even showed up with signs advocating for and against an increase.
Arizona’s sales tax is 5.6 percent and Yavapai County’s is 0.75 percent. Combined with the city’s increase, the sales tax is be 9.85 percent for purchases in Cottonwood.
Arizona Attorney General indicts former Cottonwood employee
Over the summer, the city faced a scandal when An Arizona grand jury indicted former Cottonwood employee Hans Burnett, after an investigation revealed he allegedly told employees to modify bacteria test results in drinking water.
Burnett resigned from the city on May 23. He was given a suspended sentence Monday, Nov. 26, in Yavapai County Superior Court. Burnett was also given three years’ probation.
There was no indication the public was ever at risk, as the water sample was contaminated, not the source, Cottonwood officials said.
Another Cottonwood employee pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of facilitation to commit forgery on May 4, according to court documents.
According to Cottonwood city staff, the employee who took the original contaminated water sample wasnew and inexperienced.
“It was resampled but proper protocol wasn’t followed,” Cottonwood City Manager Doug Bartosh said during a public water forum in June. “The paperwork wasn’t filled out properly.”
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Doug Hulse and Michael Mathews sworn in to Cottonwood City Council
Cottonwood City Council swore in new members Doug Hulse and Michael Mathews on Tuesday, Nov. 7. They were both elected outright during in the August Primary.
Vice Mayor Kyla Allen was seeking election to the seat she was appointed to in June 2016. She was selected by her council peers to serve as vice mayor in January, 2017.
Mathews is a local real-estate broker and member of the Historic Preservation Commission. He spent four years in the United States Airforce as an aircraft maintenance specialist. Hulse, a member of the Parks and Recreation Commission and 20-year resident of the Verde Valley, was a catalyst in bringing the voter-approved Recreation Center to the City of Cottonwood.
Outgoing members Linda Norman and Karen Pfeifer stepped down after decades of service.
Pfeifer is a 46-year resident of the Verde Valley and has served on city council since 1991 with a brief interruption in 1997. Norman was first elected to Cottonwood City Council in 2005 and reelected again in 2009. Norman was also appointed to fill an empty council seat in 2016.
Nazih Hazime ends chapter in Verde Valley
Highly respected former Verde Valley Fire Chief Nazih Hazime announced his retirement as Verde Valley Fire Chief late last summer. He left his post in September after nine years of service. Hazime previously served two years in Sedona and 25 years in Dearborn, Michigan. Joe Moore took over as fire chief, who previously served as chief of the Clarkdale Fire District before merging with VVFD.