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Thu, Nov. 14

More growth, new staff, many 'firsts' highlight 2000

Year end review compiled by Art Merrill

The year 2000 came in quietly for Prescott Valley, but the community filled its year with more booming growth and several "firsts": new staff in town government, the new county fairgrounds and downtown under construction, as well as a new housing development, and the first-ever Valley of Lights for the Christmas season, among others.

Town of Prescott Valley

Y2K was a non-event for the Town, after spending over $100,000 to upgrade computer systems and dedicating months of planning to avoid glitches.

• Arizona Game & Fish Department captured 200 Fain Ranch pronghorn at the edge of town in January for relocation to other areas in the state. It was the largest such capture in the state's history.

• The town council announced in late January the hiring of Tony Mortillaro as Town Manager following the late 1999 resignation of the former town manager, Ken Rittmer. The Town received 56 applications for the position; Mortillaro moved into his Town Hall office in March.

• Arizona Senator John McCain garnered 55 percent of the Republican PV vote in his Republican Primary bid for the U.S. presidency last February; Texas Governor George W. Bush received 40 percent.

• Proposition 400, a citizen's initiative to block a 3,400 home development along Glassford Hill Road, failed by a margin of less than 10 percent. Of 4,868 votes cast, 2,221 voted yes, and 2,647 voted no, favoring construction of the subdivision.

• The Town completed construction on Town Engineer Jack Richardson's pet project to turn the Lakeshore Drive effluent recharge basins into scenic lakes. What was once a mud hole where litterers tossed their old tires is now the centerpiece of Prescott Valley's Urban Forest, replete with a waterfall and paved sidewalks. Students from nearby Mountain View Elementary School continue to plant trees at the lakes.

The lakes percolate treated waste water back into the aquifer, garnering the Town extra "recharge credits" to pump more groundwater.

Yavapai County Fair moved to Prescott Valley, breaking ground on April 5. Construction began on the new fairgrounds just outside town on Highway 89A with months of grading and laying in foundations and infrastructure. Work on the three-story racetrack grandstand began in late July.

The stands will seat 4,000, with an 85,000 foot enclosed exhibit space underneath. The grounds will also get a 60,000 foot enclosed arena, stables for 1,000 racehorses, parking next to the highway for 80 RVs, and has authorization from the county to run motor sports 21 days each year.

Realignment of Fain Road will eventually provide the primary access to the fairgrounds.

The fair is planning an opening ceremony to precede the first horse race on Saturday, May 6, 2001.

Prescott Valley Police

In January, Central Yavapai Fire District recognized officers Harold Kelley and David Grant for rescuing three people from a house fire on Dec. 16, 1999.

Teenagers who became combative with police responding to a neighbor's complaint of loud music accused officers of brutality in April. Officers found about 15 teens smoking marijuana and drinking beer at the late night party; several teens scuffled with police as the officers tried to detain them.

The accusations triggered an internal investigation which concluded the officers acted within the law. Statements by other witnesses at the party didn't corroborate the accusations.

"The ones who didn't resist (arrest) didn't have any complaints," Police Chief Ed Seder said.

Seder retired in May after serving 16 years with Prescott Valley Police Department. The search for Seder's replacement took nearly seven months; Daniel Schatz retired from his position as an LAPD Commander to take charge at PVPD in December.

In the interim, the Town Council passed its control of the police chief to the town manager. New Town Manager Tony Mortillaro convened two boards to interview police chief candidates, one composed of Arizona law enforcement agency leaders, and one of PVPD police officers and sergeants.

Mortillaro's decision to include PVPD personnel in selecting a candidate backfired on him when PVPD officers became upset that Mortillaro elected to not hire a candidate recommended by both boards.

Mortillaro initiated a second call for candidates, hiring a "headhunter" agency to find and screen potential police chiefs. Schatz made the cut out of 94 applicants.

PVPD Lt. Laura Molinaro and Sergeant Joe Cappelli ran the department until Schatz came aboard in early December.

Citing low pay, understaffing, and inadequate benefits, most of the police department joined Arizona Conference of Police and Sheriffs (AZCOPS), a labor union affiliated with AFL-CIO, in July.

According to Bureau of Justice Statistics, Prescott Valley pays its police officers a wage comparable to that in other towns of similar size nationwide, and starting pay is higher than average. But PVPD AZCOPS representative Officer James Edelstein claims that higher wages at other Arizona police departments relegates PVPD into a "training ground" for officers, evidenced by a turnover of 27 officers since 1992. Edelstein wants the Town to bargain with AZCOPS for increased PVPD pay and benefits.

The town manager, town council, and the mayor are adamantly opposed to collective bargaining, taking the view that PVPD is only one department among many in the Town, and that it has historically placed the police at the top of the priority list every year at budget time.

The Town responded to the officers by passing Resolution 981, which approves closer examination of police pay and benefits and resolves to not bargain with the union. Police officers in turn responded by circulating petitions to place an initiative on the November, 2001 ballot to force the Town into collective bargaining.

Actor Patrick Swayze landed his twin-engine airplane on a Mingus West subdivision street at about 11 a.m. May 31, only days after crews finished paving the roads. He struck two streetlamp poles on landing, severing several feet of the right wing; Swayze parked the aircraft and left the scene. No one was injured.

PVPD contacted Swayze by phone about five hours later, but he did not present himself for a police interview until late that evening. Swayze told PVPD and the National Transportation Safety Board that he made an emergency landing after suffering a sudden cabin depressurization.

Construction workers at the scene at the time of the incident first corroborated Swayze's story, then later told tabloid magazines that Swayze was so intoxicated at the time that he thought he'd landed on a ranch in New Mexico. The workers said they drank the evidence, half of a 30-pack of beer they said Swayze removed from his aircraft.

Apparently Swayze did not violate FAA regulations in leaving the scene of the mishap, and police could not determine whether he was intoxicated because too much time - nearly 12 hours - had elapsed between the landing and the police interview.

A professional crew dismantled Swayze's aircraft and trucked it away.

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