By Linda Kor
The year 2015 flew by, and it was a busy one, as evidenced by the many accomplishments of our friends, neighbors and community leaders highlighted in this review.
Boyce “BJ” Little Jr. was sworn in as the Justice of the Peace for Winslow. It was noted that Little worked in Navajo County Probation, counseling and advising youth in corrective programs. He was a Drug Court team member and he also spent the last 20 years assisting with the Winslow High School football program.
State and local sales tax revenues were up for Navajo County and Holbrook at the halfway point of the government agencies’ fiscal year. Navajo County received a total of $5.5 million in state sales tax revenue between July and December 2014, up from $5.4 million for the same period the previous year. County sales tax revenues were at $3.6 million, up from $3.5 million the previous year. Holbrook sales tax was up by $8,595 for a total of $217,483 for the same period.
The Navajo County Fair Board filled seven vacancies on the board at its annual meeting with the retention of Rusty DeSpain, J.R. DeSpain, Paul Van Zelf and Heather Scott, whose terms were expiring, and added new members Billy Elkins, Spencer Huish and Jeremy Browning.
The City of Holbrook purchased two properties, including the former Arizona Public Service Co. building on First Avenue across the street from city hall for $1 with plans to renovate the building to house the police department. The other purchase was for property at 503 First Ave. for $1,000.
A new concession building was built at Barrow Field on East Iowa Street in Holbrook. Millings were also used to pave the parking lot as an improvement to the field.
The City of Holbrook received an improved community flood insurance rating that was anticipated to allow for a 15 percent decrease in flood insurance costs.
Sgt. Richard Hodge returned home to Winslow after serving 13 years in the Army and six tours of duty, three in Iraq and three in Afghanistan.
District IV Navajo County Supervisor David Tenney was named by Governor Doug Ducey as director of the Arizona Residential Utility Consumer Office, and County Government Relations Administrator Hunter Moore was tapped to serve as the governor’s policy advisor on natural resources.
Swell Farmacy began renovations of a 100,000-sq. ft. building with 64 acres of land in Holbrook for the purpose of cultivating marijuana for use at a medical marijuana dispensary in Youngstown, making it one of the largest cultivation sites in the state.
Local law enforcement responded after the Navajo County Governmental Complex and Navajo County Jail in Holbrook went into lockdown for over six hours after a white powdery substance was found in mail that was delivered to the clerk of the courts office. It was later determined that the substance was drywall dust from construction taking place at the facility.
Steve Williams was appointed as District IV supervisor following the resignation of David Tenney. Supervisor Dawnafe Whitesinger was also elected as chairman of the board.
The Winslow Chamber of Commerce elected Berry Larson, warden of the Arizona State Prison Complex, and Darcy McKee of the Navajo County Health Department to the chamber board, and re-elected Dan Simmons of Simmons Realty and Tom McCauley of Arizona 66 Trading Company.
Route 66 News conducted a poll to determine the top 10 icons along Route 66 and the winner was the Standin’ On The Corner Park, followed by La Posada Hotel, both in Winslow. Taking seventh place was Holbrook’s Wigwam Hotel, followed by the Petrified Forest at No. 14 and Jackrabbit Trading Post filling the No. 20 slot.
Holbrook’s primary election resulted in the outright election of Bobby Tyler as mayor and C.J. Wischmann as councilman. The vote was also in favor of Home Rule. Francie Payne was short several votes to be elected outright as a write in candidate due to several voters misspelling her name. The council later determined the votes were valid, leaving candidates David Newlin and Tim Dixon to face off in the general election for the last open council seat.
Winslow High School senior Dutch Gary was selected to sing tenor in the state FFA Choir after auditioning at the University of Arizona.
A $66.2 million plan to rehabilitate the Winslow Levee received formal approval from the Navajo County Board of Supervisors. The board also approved $300,000 in estimated in-kind work and an additional $100,336 to the levee funds to make up for an increase in the cost of the feasibility study.
Budget projections showed Navajo County ending the fiscal year in the black by about $900,000, a slight improvement over the previous year. Concerns remained over the potential for state cutbacks for the upcoming year.
Holbrook City Manager Ray Alley expected the hits to the upcoming budget to total around $300,000. That number included a payment from the city to the state to collect sales tax, new fees from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, an increase in retirement costs for peace officers and higher rates for the county to provide magistrate services.
It was a record for the Arizona Legislature as it wrapped up business after 81 days, making it the shortest legislative session since 1968. Bills that passed included one to abolish the Weights and Measures Department, one to allow Arizonans the option of obtaining a REAL ID license in order to comply with the federal government’s REAL ID program and one that would automatically adjust tax brackets each year to account for inflation in order to prevent taxpayers from being pushed into a higher tax bracket if they get small raises.
A member of the Little Colorado River Valley Astronomy Club donated a 10-inch Meade telescope and observatory dome to Homolovi State Park. The telescope was mounted on a cement slab and made available for visitors to use, and to instruct youth studying science and the solar system.
Snowflake Town Manager Paul Watson was named to the newly created post of assistant county manager with emphasis on economic development for Navajo County.
Soroptimist of Winslow Club presented Sabrina Chavez with the Live Your Dream Award for her efforts at Winslow’s Campus of Care as a dietary aide while attending classes at Northland Pioneer College. Jordan Sawyer received the Violet Richardson Award for young women who are engaged in volunteer action within their communities or schools.
Holbrook High School graduate Mike Budenholzer was named the National Basketball Association’s Coach of the Year for his work in coaching the Atlanta Hawks.
Businessman Russell Begaye was elected president of the Navajo Nation, with District I Navajo County Supervisor Jonathan Nez as his vice president.
The City of Winslow was awarded a $7.1 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development to be used to refurbish the city’s wastewater treatment plant.
Theron Johns earned the 2015 Mr. Roadrunner title. He and five other candidates, First Runner-Up Buddy Wagoner, Second Runner-Up Lanny Newton-Pender, Marcel Young, Carlos Quintana and Dalton Trujillo, raised nearly $7,000 to fund the Travis Yazzie Memorial Scholarships and projects at the Phoenix Ronald McDonald House.
Holbrook Assistant City Manager Randy Sullivan recruited Holbrook city employees Michael Young and John Guttery, among others, to form the Ragnorsemen Beards and a Babe team in order to take part in the Ragnar Relay Series held in Provincetown, Mass. The team came in 162nd among the 509 teams participating.
A report by the National Park Service shows that visits to Petrified Forest National Park are on the rise, with 836,800 people visiting last year, up from 644,800 in 2013. The report notes that last year those visitors spent roughly $51.7 million in communities within 60 miles of the park. That money supported 719 jobs and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $59 million.
Tim Dixon was elected to the Holbrook City Council by a wide margin during the city’s general election. Dixon received 292 votes while David Newlin received 120.
A two percent tax levy was approved by the Navajo County Community College District Governing Board for a total increase of $284,808, with the proposed increase excluding increased property taxes received from new construction. The increase would add up to a total 2015-16 primary property tax levy of $14,509,355. The board also gave final approval to a $38,472,753 budget for the coming fiscal year.
The Navajo County Sheriff’s Office got the go-ahead to lease three ERAD-Prepaid card readers to use to seize drug money from drug runners and cartels that are using Interstate 40 to transport their illegal drugs.
District 1 Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick, a Flagstaff Democrat, announced that she would seek her party’s nomination for the U.S. Senate seat held by John McCain, a Republican.
The state’s population grew from 6.4 million to 6.7 million over the past five years and Navajo County as a whole saw some slight growth, moving from 107,649 to 108,101. However, the figures also show that Holbrook’s population has decreased from 5,052 to 5,016, a 0.7 percent decrease, and Winslow decreased from 9,705 to 9,604, for a decrease of about one percent.
The Navajo County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution asking a federal bankruptcy court to stop an action by the lenders to take over the Apache Railway and to allow the current owners of the railway to remain in control while the debt is re-paid.
The Holbrook Chamber of Commerce honored Frankie and Pee Wee Maestas as Business Man and Woman of the Year, Emily Eavenson as Youth of the Year, Travel Centers of America as Business of the Year and the Holbrook Old West Cemetery Group as Organization of the Year.
The National Parks Service gave final approval for a lien transfer from Winslow’s old golf course land to the section of the city land that includes Brigham City, the city farm and a portion of the wastewater treatment plant.
Former Indian Wells Elementary School Principal Jeri McKinnon took over as principal at Holbrook Junior High School.
Legendary actor William Shatner of Star Trek fame stopped for a visit at Joe & Aggies Café in Holbrook on a first-of-its-kind Rivet motorcycle designed by Shatner and American Wrench as part of an eight-day journey from Chicago to Los Angeles to bring awareness to The American Legion organization.
The Winslow City Council adopted a final budget of $20,718,110 for fiscal year 2015-16. Changes to increase the water rates by three percent were also adopted with a provision that staff look for ways to ease the cost for people below the poverty line.
By Linda Kor