Originally Published: July 31, 2018 6:57 p.m.
Roads, traffic, water and growth. These are the issues foremost on the minds of Prescott Valley residents based on audience questions at a candidate forum Monday, July 30, at StoneRidge Community Center that included those running for mayor, council and Mayer constable seats.
For the most part, the audience was respectful in their questions and in listening to candidates’ answers. Moderator Bear Shimmin quickly shut down one member of the audience who “dropped grains of corn along the way to bludgeon Democratic chickens,” as Shimmin described following the event. She advised the audience to ask candidates for their views and not to condemn them.
“I thought he was out of place,” she said. This election is non-partisan, something the gentleman may not have realized.
Reflecting afterward, Shimmin said she was happy with how the forum proceeded. “I thought it was nothing short of delightful. I’m so appreciative of people willing to serve,” she said. “I though every person was candid.”
Asked what they thought about growth, water use, traffic and quality of life, Michael Whiting, candidate for Prescott Valley mayor and current councilman, said the Jasper development is the first development planned since the 1990s. The Arizona Department of Water Resources determined in the 1990s that the town had sufficient water, he said, adding that voters agreed that the 2025 General Plan was a good plan for growth in this area.
Don Packard, running for council, also explained that the council approved the current housing developments prior to the recession.
“Past 2025, we can’t use one foot of water per year anymore. That’s why we need the Chino Ranch,” Packard said. As for increased traffic on Highway 69, he said he takes the Old Black Canyon dirt road as often as he can to avoid Highway 69.
Kendall Schumacher, candidate for council, said the town has a road work schedule to fill potholes.
Kell Palguta, mayoral candidate, is not against growth, he said; he is for controlled growth. “We need to step back, reevaluate, and make some changes.”
Regarding a question about public transportation, all agreed it takes money to put into place. The area has a voucher system through Northern Arizona Council of Governments, Dial a Ride, Uber, and taxis also are available to residents. Whiting reminded people that the Yavapai Regional Transit buses run between Chino Valley, Prescott and Prescott Valley.
To bring roads up to 2018 standards and add sidewalks would take millions of dollars, Whiting said. “That’s why we do this work in sections.”
One woman asked if the candidates would support asking the Arizona Department of Transportation, which governs highway roads and traffic, for signs indicating directions to the hospital. Schumacher acknowledged that she hadn’t realized this was a problem. “You live here, you know where things are,” she said, adding that visitors, however, may need this kind of information.
Palguta was asked about disciplinary reports while employed with the Prescott Valley Police Department. He responded by reading a positive email the PV director of Human Resources sent to him, and suggested speaking with him afterward about what he called a situation “where you were going to be fired before you retired.”
Shimmin reiterated one question three times that candidates appeared to misunderstand. The questioner asked for candidates’ thoughts on experience versus less experience, or institutional knowledge versus new ideas.
Whiting talked about partnerships and collaboration. Palguta said he wasn’t part of the “good old boys.” Packard cited his experience as a volunteer with the town, Veterans Affairs, hospital and with bonds. Schumacher said a college degree wasn’t always necessary to do a good job.
Hank Hellman, running for constable, said law enforcement organizations put an emphasis on in-house training. Donny Oen, also a constable candidate, said change is good, particularly changes in technology within law enforcement.
A question for the mayoral candidates asked for their vision for the future now that Prescott Valley is celebrating its 40th anniversary.
“What you want to be and what you are — there’s a lot of room between the two,” Whiting said. Obtaining input from the community about what they believe is appropriate is part of the 2025 General Plan. He feels the town, a “boutique community,” still needs to attract manufacturing, industry, health professionals and education.
Palguta sees Prescott Valley as a destination city. “We want people to come to our town, not drive through it,” he said. He wants to maintain the “small town atmosphere” by having visitors come for events and concerts, then go back to Phoenix.
The two candidates for Mayer constable were asked what is meant by being honest, effective and operating the office with dignity.
“We deal with people who are down on their luck or having a hard time,” Hellman said. “We need to be empathetic and sympathetic. We have no right to treat them coldly or harshly.”
Oen said, “We take care of people.” He told about a situation when he was employed by the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office in which he came up with a plan to pacify a person wanting to “commit suicide by cop.” No one was hurt and sheriff’s officers were able to connect the person with mental health services.
Shimmin said she enjoyed moderating the forum, and the candidates all were responsive, enthusiastic and gracious about appearing before the public.
“I wake up feeling doubly blessed to live in the U.S. This is why it works. We get together, listen, talk and vote. We control our destinies in ways many people cannot,” she said.