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Ex-Flagstaff city manager to receive $92,000 in severance

Former Flagstaff City Manager Josh Copley will receive nearly $92,000 in severance pay, despite a provision in his contract that states if the city manager resigns voluntarily, he or she is not entitled to severance pay.

Copley’s severance agreement, which was accepted by the city council February 12, states Copley would continue to receive his regular salary until February 28. On or before February 28, once Copley has turned in all city property issued to him, like keys, credit cards, documents and any other equipment, he shall receive a lump sum of six months’ worth of his salary. According to Copley’s contract, he was making $183,600 per year.

As another term of the severance, Copley will receive six months of health insurance coverage and will be paid for all unused vacation and half of unused sick time accumulated through February 28.

Copley resigned February 7, and said he had been treated unprofessionally by members of the city council.

“Over the course of the past few months, I have repeatedly been treated in an unprofessional and discourteous manner by two city council members who seem to be more concerned with their political ambitions and personal agendas than the good of the city as a whole,” Copley wrote in his letter of resignation.

“While I have come to expect this type of behavior from those two, I am deeply disappointed in the remainder of the council who appear to have chosen to succumb to unseemly tactics and renege on a commitment made to me to allow me the small courtesy of deciding when I would choose to retire,” he wrote. “As a leader, I would never think to treat my subordinates with such careless disregard and to allow this to pass without strenuous objection is a discredit to me and, vicariously, to all of the wonderful employees of our great city.”

Copley did not name the two members of the council in his letter, and when reached by phone soon after the resignation was submitted, he declined to identify them.

After the council accepted Copley’s resignation, they appointed Deputy City Manager Barbara Goodrich to be acting city manager while they seek a permanent replacement.

Copley is the second high-ranking local government official to resign in 2018 and receive a severance payment. Coconino County Manager Cynthia Seelhammer’s resignation was approved by the county’s board of supervisors in January. As part of Seelhammer’s resignation, she was to be paid a lump sum of $88,600, plus a $10,000 contribution to her deferred compensation plan.

Aspen Place in Flagstaff nears full commercial occupancy

Eight years after RED Development stepped in to buy a portion of Aspen Place at the Sawmill when the original developer defaulted, the commercial spaces in the shopping center are nearing 100 percent occupancy.

Four businesses opened in the complex over the summer and six more are scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2018, Tessa Bajema, a spokeswoman for RED Development, said in a press release.

RED Development bought the northern portion of the development in 2010, which originally had about 45,000 feet of retail space, said Brandon Hoag, the senior vice president of management at RED Development. The developer then sold a portion of that land to the developer of the apartments, called The Village at Aspen Place.

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

A client gets some work out adjustments Thursday morning at Orange Therapy in Aspen Place

The developer of the apartments created retail spaces on the first floor of the residential mixed use building, which they then sold back to RED Development to lease out.

“It has been a very successful year leasing-wise,” Hoag said. “We have tenants that have recently opened and we have spaces that are finishing up construction.”

Hoag said the company has tried to be selective in choosing tenants, some of whom are new to the Flagstaff market.

“In this case we want to make sure we are putting the right tenant mix in place,” he said. “We need to make sure we are not leasing to competing uses, and many of the places are unique to the market.”

Some recent openings in the complex include Barre 3, Orange Theory Fitness, Local Juicery, Brush and Board, McSweeney Salon and Lia Leaf Tea House. Scheduled to open soon are Whisk and Whiskey Restaurant, Café Paleo Brio, HuHot Mongolian Grill and Ahi Poke Bowl.

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

The Aspen Place shopping center will have 100 percent occupancy when several businesses complete their buildouts.

The company has made a “conscious” effort to find businesses, including from Phoenix and Sedona, that are looking to expand to Flagstaff to lease in Aspen Place, Hoag said.

“The turnaround of Aspen Place is a great example of bringing the right mix of retailers to meet a community’s needs and we are very proud to say that many of the retailers we have brought in have been brand new to the market,” Mike Ebert, managing partner at RED Development said in a press release. “As a result, the center will be at 100 percent occupancy very soon and we understand that the apartments are also nearing the fully leased mark at 95 percent occupancy.”

Hoag said the apartment complex has been a “huge complement” to the commercial uses at the site.

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

A customer makes a purchase Thursday afternoon at the Majestic Marketplace at Aspen Place.

The developer completed a build-to-suit lease with REI in 2013, and later sold some of the commercial parcels in the front of the development to Alliance Bank of Arizona, Pacific Dental Services and Dutch Bros. Coffee.

Hoag said the Flagstaff community was nervous about a national chain like REI coming to town at first, but many people have since embraced the store and its community contributions.

“Generally we feel like we’ve recovered from the recession,” Hoag said. “We’re really excited about the tenants that are there.”

RED Development bought its share of the site in 2010, six years after the Valley-based Aspen Group bought the site and planned the development. In 2007, the city council approved creating an improvement district there, and authorized $19 million in city-backed bonds for streets and improvements.

In 2010, Aspen Group defaulted on the southern portion of the property and the city assumed control of the site, which it then sold to Campus Crest Development, the developer of The Grove at Flagstaff.

When RED Development acquired its portion in 2010, it agreed to take over about $9 million in bond payments over the next 23 years.

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

The Aspen Place shopping center will have 100 percent occupancy when several businesses complete their buildouts.

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Flagstaff businesses welcome February snow

A winter storm Friday brought whiteout conditions to Flagstaff and highway closures. But several businesses said the snow also brought a needed boost to Flagstaff’s economy over the weekend.

The Flagstaff Snow Park at Fort Tuthill County Park hit capacity and turned cars away both Saturday and Sunday, owner Jonathan Allen said. The park saw about 2,150 guests over Saturday and part of the day Sunday until melting snow forced them to cut the day short, Allen said. If fully open, the park can accommodate about 1,800 visitors daily, he said.

Arizona Snowbowl received 13 inches from the latest storm and saw its second-busiest weekend of the season behind Presidents Day weekend, General Manager J.R. Murray said.

About 9,000 skiers and snowboarders carved turns over Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Murray said.

Traffic in the Highway 180 corridor was flowing well Saturday evening, he said.

Last weekend was the last of the season for Mountain Express buses to shuttle skiers from downtown and the bottom of Snowbowl Road to the resort. In the event of another busy weekend, it will be up to Snowbowl’s three smaller shuttle buses to get skiers from the lower parking lot at Highway 180 to the ski area.

Hundreds also headed up the corridor to skim across the cross country ski trails at Arizona Nordic Village, manager Wendell Johnson said. Johnson estimated the ski center saw 500 skiers over Saturday and Sunday as well as an additional 250 people who came to hang out and be in the snow.

The 8 inches of snow that fell at the ski touring center was dry and powdery and melted fast, forcing it to close again Monday to everyone except season passholders, Johnson said.

He didn’t hear any complaints about traffic in the corridor, Johnson said.

Emery Cowan / Angela Mabe 

Sledders enjoy fresh snow near Schultz Pass Road.

“There is not enough snow and it’s too late in the season for that,” he said.

Conner Girardin, a manager at First Chair Rentals, said the weekend was busy for the ski and snowboard rental shop.

“Pretty much any weekend it snows, we get a lot of people in,” he said.

Snowbowl’s snowmaking has helped sustain the business because the ski resort is still open even when there is no natural snow, but it has been a slower year for the store, he said.

“The fact that they make snow helps a bunch, but it reminds us of years when they didn’t make snow and it was really hit or miss,” Girardin said. “Comparatively, this year has been worse than our good years, but it hasn’t been terrible.”

He said the store is expecting another boost later this week when more snow is expected to fall.

Ash Patel, the owner of several hotels in Flagstaff, said the storm brought business into hotels for different reasons: some travelers may have been stranded due to the snow, and others wanted to come from other places to see snow.

“We had a very good first big weekend of the year,” Patel said.

So far, occupancy in his hotels has been lower this winter than last winter, Patel said, due to the low snowfall.

“From what I see, January was lower than the prior year and February was lower until the snowfall,” he said.

Aside from an increase in hotel occupancy, Patel called the snow “practically God’s gift” because he said he has worried the fire season will be particularly intense without moisture over the winter.

Thanks to snowfall that preceded both of the past two weekends, businesses is looking more like a normal February, said Kelly Hanseth, marketing manager at Lumberyard Brewing Company.

The brewpub has seen business pick up and more traffic from out-of-towners, Hanseth said.

“The last couple of weekends is actually more of what a normal winter for us is business-wise,” she said.


Summit Fire and Medical District responded to two minor injury slide-off accidents on Highway 180 over the weekend. The district responds to emergencies in the area and at Arizona Snowbowl. A representative from the district said that they typically don’t have a problem with getting people down the mountain in an ambulance in an emergency.

Guardian usually stages an ambulance near the resort’s base and drives the patient down Snowbowl Road. A Summit EMT or paramedic meets up with the ambulance and rides with the patient to the hospital. If a patient has a critical injury, they may fly the patient directly to the hospital.

The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office responded to 31 non-injury accidents, 11 injury accidents and 19 motorists assists during the storm on Friday. The office responded to another 10 non-injury accidents, 10 injury accidents and 10 motorists assists over Saturday and Sunday. Not all of the accidents on Saturday and Sunday may have been due to the weather.

One of the Friday accidents involved the rollover of a truck on Snowbowl Road. According to the Sheriff's Office, the truck had a male driver, 57, and one male passenger, 32, in it from the Flagstaff area. The truck was traveling westbound on Snowbowl Road when the driver failed to navigate a corner and rolled the vehicle on its side. Both the driver and passenger were uninjured and able to exit the vehicle through the driver’s side window

Arizona Department of Public Safety troopers responded to 31 slide-offs, 17 non-injury collisions and two injury collisions on Friday. There were no fatal accidents.

Flagstaff Police Department responded to 62 collisions on Friday.

Americans say Congress is listening to all the wrong people

WASHINGTON — Looking for common ground with your neighbor these days? Try switching subjects from the weather to Congress. Chances are, you both agree it's terrible.

In red, blue or purple states, in middle America or on the coasts, most Americans loathe the nation's legislature. One big reason: Most think lawmakers are listening to all the wrong people, suggests a new study by researchers at Stanford University and the University of California-Santa Barbara with the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

"We have the best Congress you can buy and pay for," said Chester Trahan, 78, of Palm Coast, Fla. "Congress, they're subject to the special interest groups and that's really who's running the show."

Hating Congress has become a lasting feature of American politics, regardless of which party is in power or whether the 435 House members and 100 senators pass lots of legislation — or don't do much of anything at all.

A new poll from the AP-NORC Center found that 85 percent of Americans, including 89 percent of Democrats and 82 percent of Republicans, disapprove of the job Congress is doing. That might matter in this midterm election year, as Republicans defend their majorities in the House and Senate.

In the study by Stanford, UC-Santa Barbara and the AP-NORC Center, which was conducted in 2015 and again in 2017, only about 2 in 10 said they think Congress pays much attention to their own constituents or Americans as a whole, or even give much consideration to the best interests of those people.

Instead, most said Congress does listen to lobbyists, donors and the wealthy.

That's exactly the opposite of the way people think Congress should function, the study found. The highest levels of disapproval came from Americans who felt the largest sense of disconnect between whom they think Congress should listen to and whom they believe Congress actually listens to.

That disconnect played out in the public square last week as the nation reeled from yet another mass shooting — this time, the Valentine's Day killing of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Many raged over what they see as the National Rifle Association's power to stifle efforts to tighten gun laws, including a ban on assault rifles.

"Can you tell me right now that you will not accept a single donation from the NRA?" student Cameron Kasky demanded of Sen. Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican who appeared on CNN's "Stand Up" town hall.

Rubio, one of the gun rights groups' top beneficiaries over his political career, would not make that pledge. Nor have other congressional Republicans, who are overwhelmingly favored by gun rights supporters when it comes to campaign contributions.

The disillusionment is not just about guns, and it's not new. Democrats and Republicans alike see members of Congress as mostly listening to elites and donors rather than the ordinary people they represent.

Congress has rarely been especially popular in polls conducted over the past several decades, but approval of the House and Senate's performance has been particularly low over the past several years. In polling by Gallup, Congress' approval rating has been below 20 percent for eight straight years.

Americans are more likely to approve of their own member of Congress than of Congress generally, but even that rating is less than stellar. In the latest AP-NORC poll, 44 percent of Americans — 41 percent of Democrats and 50 percent of Republicans — approve of the person representing their district.

American antipathy toward their lawmakers has become an area of scholarly study, with some researchers contending that when Congress doesn't act, it's often representing a divided electorate that can't resolve disagreements, either.

That certainly describes the United States now, which is deeply divided over such uncomfortable matters as immigration, gun control and President Donald Trump. Even with Republicans in control of the presidency and the House and Senate, Congress passed just one significant piece of legislation during Trump's first year in office — a $1.5 trillion overhaul of U.S. tax laws that Republicans hope will begin to boost American paychecks this year.

"It is not crumbs," Trump said earlier this month in a brushback to Democratic efforts to campaign against the tax cuts.

In November, voters cast ballots for every House seat and 34 in the Senate. And it's fair to say plenty of members of Congress have had enough of Congress, too — including more than 50 House members who have opted to leave rather than seek re-election.

Among the other reasons for all the Congress hate, fewer than 2 in 10 Americans in the new study said they think Congress passes mostly good laws. The remainder considers congressional output to be at best neutral, with over a third seeing it as mostly bad. At the same time, Americans who felt Congress should be passing either more laws or fewer of them were far more likely to disapprove of Congress than those who felt the number of laws passed by Congress is about right.

"Most of them have got it wrong," said David Peterson, 67, a Republican-leaning Vietnam veteran from Torrance, Calif. "The fact that Congress can't seem to come to grips with health care, can't seem to come to grips with immigration, can't seem to come to grips with legislating firearms. It makes me less optimistic."