Feb 172012

By Teri Walker —

Members of the Holbrook City Council addressed several items at their regular meeting and during a work session this week dealing with new businesses and potential growth for the city.

The council approved a proposal by City Manager Ray Alley to develop a lease agreement with Prospect Global Resources to establish offices and a storage facility on city property.

Prospect is the parent company of American West Potash, which is exploring for potash east of Holbrook and anticipates developing a mine by 2014.

Company President Pat Avery approached the city looking for suitable office and storage space to house company geologists, provide a place for meetings, office space for management, and storage.

Alley recommended the council approve entering into a one-year lease with Prospect Global, at the rate of $1,000 per month, for the former EMS facility located at 410 E. Iowa St., in Holbrook, which is owned by the city.

Alley is eager to have the mining company select Holbrook as its base of operations, knowing that Prospect could choose from a number of nearby communities.

“If we do this, it’s in Holbrook that he’ll (Avery) have his first office,” said Alley. “I recommend strongly we approve this lease to get them in this town.”

The council granted Alley approval to proceed with developing a lease with an effective date of March 1, for review and approval at the next city council meeting on Feb. 28.

Alley reported that he and Director of Administration Vickie James met recently with Thomas Doyle of the Arizona Commerce Authority’s Rural Development Division.

Alley and James took Doyle on a tour of warehouse industrial properties in Holbrook so he would be familiar with the city’s offerings as he fields inquiries from companies looking for new locations for their industrial operations.

Of Doyle’s tour of the 100,000-square-foot former partition fabrication plant at the west end of Holbrook, Alley said, “He was very excited about it and has a potential client that the site would be suitable for.”

“Since he’s actually toured what we have here, now he’ll think of us as he gets inquiries,” said Alley. “He can offer state tax credits of (thousands of dollars) per employee–incentives–to companies that relocate to rural communities.”

Alley said he has a lead on a company that builds truck beds that needs to build a plant in the Western United States. He’s secured the company principal’s permission to have the Commerce Authority contact him so they can discuss a potential deal.

“We’re starting to see more general interest from businesses as people better understand what’s about to start happening here,” said Alley.

He said he has heard from two developers testing the waters about starting projects in Holbrook.

One developer (whom Alley didn’t identify) has developed a design plat for property on the west end of Holbrook; and, Alley said, landowner Ed Heward has approached him about developing a 60 to 90-unit subdivision in the area of Lizard Lane and Roadrunner Road.

“He’s looking to move back because of the subdivision opportunities that could arise if the mines get going,” Alley said. “He’s willing to move fast if it’s (mine development) happening.”

A work session held just before Tuesday’s council meeting also addressed potential growth in Holbrook.

The Holbrook Business Development Group (HBDG) met with the council to introduce the new community group, and discuss members’ hopes to work in concert with the city to address wide-ranging issues associated with community growth, including maintaining the character of the community; planning for and managing future growth; encouraging economic development (both with existing businesses and potential newcomers); and maintaining communication among the city, business owners and the community.

HBDG Chairman Matthew Barger encouraged council members and city staff to attend a community forum on potash mining being hosted by HBDG at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 29, at the George Gardner Performing Arts Center. The presidents of American West Potash and Passport Potash will make presentations about their respective projects and participate in a question and answer session with the audience during the event, which is open to the public and free of charge.

In other business, the council approved an agreement with Kelly Young, an esthetician, to offer skin care and make up services, and stress relief treatments at the Holbrook Community Building, adjacent to the Holbrook Public Library.

Young would pay a fee of $5 for every 60-minute service she conducts in the space, which was formerly the community center kitchen.

Alley said he plans to remove the existing cabinets, install a counter and new flooring in the space before Young begins offering services.

Alley said the city has leftover flooring from the renovation of the rest of the community center, and that he had already planned to renovate the space; a project he expects to cost from $600 to $800.

“We need to get this done anyway,” Alley said. “The room’s a dump and the rest of the building looks really nice. We need to finish it up.”

City Clerk Cher Reyes pointed out that Young did not request the improvements, a fact that Alley reiterated.

“If we get this done, that’s one more building the city has completed,” he said.

Continuing with his manager’s report, Alley said the new city well on McLaws Road should become operational in the next few weeks; the road crew is working on curb and gutter repair and replacement on 12th Avenue and in the surrounding neighborhood; and renovation of the public pool house is continuing.

Alley also requested a work session with the council to take place before the March 14 regular meeting to initiate the annual budget process.

The council discussed a request by Alley and Assistant City Manager/Finance Director Randy Sullivan to increase the upper end of the city’s salary and pay schedule by 10 percent, as the schedule has not been adjusted since 2004.

“We haven’t made any adjustments for inflation, which takes place at a rate of about two percent per year,” said Sullivan. “At eight years, that’s about a 16 percent increase, and we’re only talking about a 10 percent increase.”

“Increasing the salary cap doesn’t mean we’ll be giving everyone a 10 percent raise; it just gives us the flexibility to give merit increases to some employees, many of whom have already reached the cap on their salaries,” said Alley.

Council members were largely in support of the increase, but agreed to address the topic as part of a more comprehensive discussion at the March budget session.

Mayor Jeff Hill reported that he, along with Navajo County Supervisor J.R. DeSpain, presented a plaque in honor of the state centennial and the Hashknife Posse to Secretary of State Ken Bennett at the conclusion of the annual posse ride in Scottsdale last week.

Police Chief Mark Jackson provided an update on the public intoxication bill that Hill participated in developing, and which was presented to the state legislature last month by Senator Sylvia Allen (R-Snowflake).

Jackson said he and a number of law enforcement representatives, along with County Attorney Brad Carlyon, appeared before the state senate to support the bill’s passage. The bill was ultimately held in a senate committee, Jackson said, because of concerns expressed by the liquor lobby and issues surrounding the inclusion of a 72-hour-hold requirement for individuals found intoxicated in public.

“That’s where it’s getting killed, even though New Mexico and a few other states are already doing the 72-hour-hold,” said Jackson.

Sen. Allen has decided to hold the bill and retool it before resubmitting it to increase the potential for the legislation to pass. Jackson said the committee working on the bill will engage behavioral health specialists to help revise it.

A final item on the council agenda related to authoring a letter of support for payroll tax credits for wind energy jobs was not addressed because of lack of information. The council asked Reyes to follow up with the requesting party, giving them the option to appear before the council at a later date to discuss their request.

The next regular meeting of the council will be held at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 28, at city hall, located at 465 First Ave.