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Prescott Council hopefuls discuss Granite Dells at forum
4 candidates seeking 3 seats; GOP women host event

Prescott Mayor Greg Mengarelli, center, who is running unopposed for a second term, talks to the crowd during a Republican Women of Prescott luncheon forum on Tuesday, June 11, at the Prescott Resort while other candidates look on. (Cindy Barks/Courier)

Prescott Mayor Greg Mengarelli, center, who is running unopposed for a second term, talks to the crowd during a Republican Women of Prescott luncheon forum on Tuesday, June 11, at the Prescott Resort while other candidates look on. (Cindy Barks/Courier)

The fate of the Granite Dells took center stage Tuesday, when the five candidates running for Prescott City Council gathered for a candidate forum at the Prescott Resort.

About 400 people were on hand Tuesday, June 11, at the Republican Women of Prescott luncheon that featured the four candidates seeking three seats on the council, as well as incumbent Mayor Greg Mengarelli, who is running unopposed.

The first forum question zeroed in on what likely will be a major campaign issue: the candidates’ views on Arizona Eco Development’s pending development plans near the iconic Point of Rocks in the Granite Dells.

Each of the five candidates was asked to explain his or her position on Save the Dells – the community organization that is seeking preservation of 500 acres of Granite Dells land at and around the Point of Rocks.

Candidate Cathey Rusing led off by noting that although she is neither a member nor a spokesperson for the Save the Dells organization, she does support the group’s position.

“If you look at (the city) general plan, there is a whole element or chapter on open space,” said Rusing, who is seeking her first term on the council. “All that Save the Dells is doing is asking the city to follow the general plan in the development-agreement negotiations.”

The other four candidates — all incumbents — offered answers that emphasized the open space that the city already preserved has in the Dells area, as well as assurances that they would act in what they said would be the best interests of the community.

Mayor Pro Tem Billie Orr, who is seeking her second four-year term on the council, said, “Today we stand on the shoulders of giants that have done wonderful things in our community in regard to preserving wonderful land.”

As for her future decisions on the Dells, Orr said, “Absolutely, we want to do what we can to preserve as much of the Dells as we can, and we will. But there is a process that we must go through.”

Noting that Arizona Eco Development’s proposal likely will go to the Planning and Zoning Commission in July, Orr said the community will have opportunities at those meetings to offer their opinions.

Mengarelli, who is running for his second two-year term as mayor, also stressed the open space that has already been preserved. “I think our city government in the past has done a tremendous job,” he said. “Just in and around the Dells, we have 1,900 acres that the city owns.”

In addition, Mengarelli said, “We’re fortunate to have a 1.1-milllion-acre forest next to us. That’s amazing. That’s a lot of open space that we don’t have to maintain. We need to keep in mind that we don’t want to give all this private property away, because that’s important for our economic activity.”

Candidate Steve Sischka, who is running for his second four-year term on the council, said, “I can guarantee you, I’m not going to do something solely for the benefit of Arizona Eco Development, and I’m not going to do something solely for the benefit of Save the Dells.”

Sischka added: “What I am going to do is defend private property rights, put them in perspective, and do what’s right for Prescott, Arizona.”

Candidate Jim Lamerson, who is running for his fifth four-year term on the council, said, “At the end of the day, yes, we have saved a lot of property in the Dells, and used your money to do a lot of it.”

Lamerson also stressed the importance of private property rights. Of his future decisions on the Dells, he said, “I assure you it will be in the best interest of the city, of the private property owner.”

Other forum questions focused on varied topics such as traffic, off-leash dogs, population growth, need for a public swimming pool, panhandling, and motorcycle parking.

Another candidate forum is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday, June 24, at the American Legion Post 6, 202 S. Pleasant St., Prescott. Local veterans and the public are welcome to attend.

The Prescott City Council primary is scheduled for Aug. 27, and the general election run-off, if needed, is set for Nov. 5.

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