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Wed, Sept. 18

'1985: Same conversation about downtown': Council tackles complaints about cleanliness and parking - again

Prescott's downtown may have evolved over the past 20 or 30 years, but some of the core issues have remained.

Getting more drivers to park in the city's public garage on Granite Street; keeping the alleys free of garbage; directing tourists more effectively to where they want to go - these were just a few of the issues that came up this week when the Prescott City Council took on downtown issues.

While noting that major changes have occurred in the downtown over the past three decades or so - no department stores remain, for instance, and a down-town parking garage has been in existence since 2005 - the council members also allowed that some of the problems have stayed the same.

"I went back to the (Daily) Courier's old, old archives," Councilman Charlie Arnold said, adding, "1985: Same conversation about downtown."

And he and other officials agreed that the problems likely would continue, unless the city, the county, and the downtown merchants take steps toward improvement.

"It's going to be happening forever," Arnold said, "It's a matter of, do we stay on it?"

The downtown issues were on the agenda for the council's monthly caucus meeting on Tuesday. The agenda included 11 sub-sections that covered varied issues such as circulation, cleanliness, smoking and parking.

Arnold, who along with Councilman Chris Kuknyo asked for the discussion, noted afterward that several issues rose to the top, while others got little discussion.

Among the top issues: cleanliness, special events, parking, and signs.

The report that Arnold and Kuknyo presented featured a number of photos of the downtown, including an image of an overflowing trashcan on the Yavapai County Courthouse Plaza, and a view of a somewhat messy Whiskey Row alley.

Both instances leave a bad impression with visitors and residents alike, they agreed.

Yavapai County Supervisor Rowle Simmons, who attended the meeting along with Supervisor Craig Brown, said he planned to meet with the county's facilities department today and would broach the trash issue.

Council members also discussed the growth of some of the community's annual special events, and whether the city should try to disperse some to other venues. Most agreed that locations such as Watson Lake Park and the Prescott Rodeo Grounds are "under utilized," and should be considered.

Kendall Jaspers, director of the Prescott Downtown Partnership, said the debate about whether the downtown is the site of too many events had been going on for decades. "You're never going to get consensus on that," he said.

Meanwhile, Councilman Len Scamardo downplayed the seriousness of the downtown issues. "I think we're exaggerating some of the complaints we're getting about the downtown," he said, noting that he had spent more than 20 years operating businesses downtown.

Arnold and Kuknyo said after the meeting that the discussion helped to identify the issues for city staff members, who would now have a chance to look into solutions. The council then could consider necessary improvement expenditures during the city's budget deliberations for the upcoming fiscal year.

Despite the problems, the directors of two prominent business organizations emphasized that Prescott's downtown has many positives as well.

"Our downtown is the poster child for successful downtowns," Jaspers said. "We have a wonderful, vibrant downtown."

Prescott Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer David Maurer offered a similar view.

"If you ever get totally discouraged, spend a day in our visitors' center," he urged the council, "and listen to the comments from almost everybody who walks into the chamber (and) just loves the downtown."

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