By Naomi Hatch
Michael Bethea and Alan Flake attended the April 2 Taylor Town Council meeting to request help with the problem of bullying at school bus stops and on the school buses.
“A lot of families feel they’re getting lip service,” said Bethea, noting that several families feel the “town council doesn’t care.”
Bethea works at Community Council Centers, and told the council that he hears a lot from children on bullying. He said that in order to deal with bullying, one family gave up a job to home school, and several families have put their children into charter schools and transport them every day.
Bethea is on the agenda for the next Snowflake Town Council meeting to bring this to the council’s attention and he also plans to attend a school board meeting.
“What can we do to help?” asked Councilman Dave Smith.
All members of the council noted that this is the first they have heard of the problem.
“Do you know if the police department has been involved?” asked Mayor Fay
Bethea and Flake responded that the police took a report, but they did not hear back on what action had been taken.
In response to a question posed by Councilman Gary Solomon regarding how extreme the violence is, Flake told of a young special needs girl who was singing. A high school girl told her if she sang again the student would burn all her hair off. He said that on this occasion the police were notified and there hasn’t been another incident, but that child is now riding the special needs bus.
Solomon suggested town officials sign a letter stating that they don’t condone such actions.
Town Attorney Karl Lautz said that the town could take an official position through a resolution, acknowledging the fact the town does not tolerate and wants to take steps to prevent bullying, including at the school, bus stops and on the bus.
“Hopefully, it would be of value to you as you go to the school,” Lautz said to the two citizens. “In all fairness, it is a school board issue, but they need to understand the Town of Taylor is in step in stopping this issue.”
“Parents need to know that other people are watching,” said Councilman Smith.
Councilman Jason Brubaker said that his family had this problem and discussed it with the other family involved, which stopped the problem. He also said he knew one of the bus drivers very well, and they are focusing on driving and the safety of the children, but noted that it would be good for the town to make an official statement.
“There are two stages of bullying,” said Councilman Shawn Palmer, knowing that there is a problem and knowing that it won’t be tolerated.
Mayor Hatch asked Lautz to prepare a resolution stating the council’s opposition to bullying for presentation at the next council meeting.
In other business, Unisource District Manager Robert Adams was present to discuss the franchise agreement, which will be up for renewal in the next year or so. He said that every 25 years Unisource asks for renewal of the franchise, which allows the firm permission to install and maintain gas lines in the public rights-of-way within town limits.
Lautz explained the process, which would require a vote of the citizens on the next election ballot.
Town Manager Gus Lundberg noted that Unisource is the only gas company in the area and it pays a percentage to the town each time it is in town rights-of-way.
Lundberg introduced Geri Judd, who was recently selected as the next town clerk. Kelly Jones will be retiring the end of April after 28 years with the town.
Judd has worked for the City of Show Low for 12 years and is grateful for the opportunity to work in town and to learn as much as she can from Jones. She will begin her new job April 15, giving her two weeks to work with Jones.
The council unanimously approved Resolution R-2014-05, fair housing awareness, a requirement of the Community Development Block Grant.
Lundberg said they typically pass a fair housing resolution annually and acknowledged, “We concur…and promote fair housing.”
The council also approved Resolution R-2015-06, Rural Arizona Group Health Trust renewal, which was previously approved for three years.
Lundberg noted that Taylor has a seat on the board and suggested the council approval this for three years, stating, “Health care is rapidly changing.”
By Naomi Hatch