Tusayan council approves budget, calls for election

TUSAYAN, Ariz. — The Tusayan town council passed its FY 2018 budget as printed Aug. 9 after receiving no public comments or recommendations during the public hearing held during the meeting.

The town’s budget totals $14,981,692 and includes money for the town’s annual costs — utilities, maintenance and operations — as well as about $6.8 million to develop housing at Ten X Ranch. Although the council is still working with WestLand engineers to develop a site plan for the off-grid housing development, council members instructed town manager Eric Duthie to begin arranging for preliminary work to be done, such as clearing land.

Tusayan Fire Chief Greg Brush presented the council with a plaque and thanked them for supporting the fire district with an annual subsidy, which is mainly used for payroll.

“We want to extend our sincere thanks from all of the firefighters, board members, volunteers and community members that benefit from the Tusayan Fire Department,” he said.

Call for election

The council also issued a call for election, which will place a referendum regarding the recent building height increase on the ballot for a special election Nov. 7. After a hotly-debated public hearing in April, the council voted unanimously to accept the planning and zoning committee’s recommendation to raise the building height limit in certain zones to 65 feet. Because of the mandatory 30-day waiting period before the increase took effect, Tusayan resident Clarinda Vail circulated a petition to bring the matter to a public vote.

As part of the verification process, the petition was sent to the Arizona Secretary of State’s office to obtain a sample of signatures to be submitted to the Coconino County Recorder for validation. Under state statutes, petition signees must be registered voters and have voted in the jurisdiction during the previous general election cycle. After declaring one of the two samples to be invalid, the Coconino County recorder invalidated a corresponding percentage of signatures, bringing the total to less than the needed 18 signatures to spur a special election.

Vail filed suit in Coconino County to show cause for dismissal, and while waiting for a hearing date, the county recorder’s office determined through Motor Vehicle Department records that the invalid signature was improperly disqualified. Because the petition met the required number of signatures, it cleared the way for the town to place the referendum, identified as Proposition 400, on a special election ballot in November.

With the timeline for producing ballot materials shortened, the town clerk will accept pro and con statements regarding Proposition 400 until 3 p.m. Aug. 31. The call to election, as well as pamphlets containing any submitted statements, will then be mailed to residents. The ballot will be held by mail only, and is open to all registered voters. Oct. 10 is the last day to register to vote in the Nov. 7 special election.

Resolutions Committee

Mayor Craig Sanderson accepted an appointment to the League of Arizona Cities and Towns Resolutions Committee and will attend the group’s conference in Tucson Aug. 22. The committee discusses and votes on resolutions from towns throughout the state to be presented to the Arizona legislature for consideration during next year’s legislative session. Topics include issues that affect a number of towns and cities, such as procedures for granting special event liquor licenses and identifying alternative funding sources for maintaining municipal roads.

The council approved a motion encouraging Sanderson to vote in support of nine resolutions identified as being of interest to the town, with the understanding that he may change his vote based on any new information received at the conference, although councilmember John Schoppmann questioned whether it was a good idea to support resolutions that do not affect Tusayan directly.

Fiber internet options

The council also discussed options for bringing fiber to the town now that Team Fishel has completed installation of the main fiber conduit loop along both sides of Highway 64 between the roundabouts. The town has so far elected to wait until the school district learns whether or not it will be selected to receive fiber services through E-Rate, a government program that subsidizes fiber installation to rural schools and libraries.

Councilmember David Chavez asked the council to consider other providers for fiber installation, or consider other internet providers that use microwaves to provide high-speed internet service.

“At this point, we’ve spent $500,000 to lay the conduit, but we don’t know when fiber will be laid and we don’t know when that fiber will be lit,” Chavez said. “I would like to see us explore other options for bringing high speed internet, because today, guests expect it as much as they expect hot water.”

Duthie said the school district should learn shortly whether or not it has been selected, but if it is not, he said the town has other options.

“There are a number of options that we can look at if E-Rate doesn’t come to pass,” he said. “We can pass a bond, or add a sales tax for a set period of time that will specifically support this project.”

Duthie said the town has been in contact with providers who can run fiber lines from Williams or Red Lake for anywhere from $5 million to $14 million.

Councilmember Al Montoya said he would like to research the options in more detail. The sales tax is an attractive option since, according to Duthie, about 90 percent of sales tax revenue comes from visiting tourists.

“We can get the money,” Montoya said. “I think the sales tax would pay for itself in the long run.”

The next council meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Sept. 6. This is a change from the original date of Sept. 13 — the meeting was moved to accommodate the community Salmon Bake scheduled for the same day in Valle.

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