TUSAYAN, Ariz. — More than a month after tendering his resignation, council member John Schoppmann asked the Tusayan Town Council to reconsider, stating he felt he still had valuable experience to contribute to the town’s government.
In a letter dated March 7, Schoppmann thanked the council for affording him opportunities to grow and learn, but listed a widening gap between himself and members of the town staff, as well as other council members, as the reason for his immediate resignation.
At the town council’s regular meeting April 11, Schoppmann asked Mayor Craig Sanderson and the rest of the council to rescind his resignation. Schoppmann said he had been frustrated with a few items but had not handled that frustration appropriately and he was looking forward to serving out the remainder of his appointed term, which ends December 2018.
Sanderson, Vice Mayor Becky Wirth and Council member David Chavez welcomed Schoppmann back to the council, formally killing the motion to accept his resignation.
“We’ve got a council that doesn’t always agree, but that makes us strong,” Sanderson said.
Tusayan Fire Department
Tusayan Fire Department Chief Greg Brush was on hand to give the council an overview of the calls reported to the department in 2017. Brush said the call volume continues to rise, especially in the busy upcoming months of May, June and July. Brush said the department typically sees a lull in August before call volume increases again in September and October.
According to Brush, the department responded to 330 calls in 2017. The majority, 223, were calls for medical assistance, followed by 28 calls for motor vehicle accidents and 23 calls for wildland fires or abandoned campfires. The department also responded to alarms (no fire present), reported assaults or domestic disputes, reports of fire or smoke, aviation calls at the airport and a few miscellaneous calls.
Brush also reported that, thanks to an agreement with the High Country Fire & Rescue, south of Valle, the department was able to cut down on out-of-district calls. Brush said the department entered into an agreement with High Country to respond to out-of-district calls during daytime hours. High Country, which is entirely volunteer, agreed to respond during the evening and weekend hours.
“It’s been working out really well for both of us since implementation in July 2016,” Brush said. “We’ve seen a big drop in our out-of-district calls even as call volume went up.”
Brush thanked the council for supporting TFD by contributing $325,000 annually to help cover operating expenses and salaries for full-time staff. Brush said the department had some large upcoming expenditures for equipment, which would be funded at least in part by the 3.5 per cent tax override voted approved last year.
Brush said the department was also considering a highway safety initiative in response to the recent fatal accidents on State Route 64.
Diverse marketing efforts
Grand Canyon Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Bureau Laura Chastain gave a report on efforts to market the town over the last year. Chastain reported that, thanks to efforts to aggressively market the area as a winter destination, tourism numbers increased since last year. Chastain said she focused on a variety of different channels, including airtime on the Times Square jumbotron during the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Chastain said the exposure, at least in part, led to a 2 percent increase in visitors from New York.
In addition to digital advertising, the chamber also produced new print materials, including a tourism brochure directed and distributed to Chinese guests.
Coconino County Sheriff’s Office
Lt. Brian Tozer of the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office shared some of the issues the deputies were involved with over the past few months. Tozer said the department was going to be much more of a presence as visitation picks up, including using marked vehicles for patrols and possibly instituting a bike patrol program for the main corridor.
“We’re going to be using a few different tactics to make things flow a bit better,” Tozer said. “Our enforcement stance is going to be a bit more severe. We’re not going to be giving a lot of breaks like we have in the past.”
Tozer said deputies had already responded to eight fires in the area this year.
Tozer also said the department was working on establishing a safety corridor between Tusayan and Valle, and considering the possibility of using rumble strips to alert motorists to potential dangers. Tozer said increased signage was likely a waste of time, since many visitors were unable to read them and most were not paying attention anyway.
Providing community-wide wifi
Sanderson and Chavez introduced an initiative to provide basic wireless internet services for the town’s main corridor and possibly subsidizing it for town residents. Sanderson said access to internet was important for employees, many of whom were temporary and some of whom left because they weren’t able to access their online college courses while working through the summer.
Sanderson said the town was legally able to subsidize wireless internet for residents as long as it was made available to the entire town, with the exception of commercial properties.
Chavez also mentioned the increased level of service afforded to guests, many of whom found their cell phones don’t work optimally after arriving in the area. He said providing wi-fi access along the corridor would also increase revenue.
“There’s no reason why we can’t provide wi-fi everywhere in Tusayan,” Chavez said. “Visitors will be able to look up where to eat, shop or stay while they’re here.”
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