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Jake Bacon, Ariozna Daily Sun file 

Northland Prep’s Megan Swinney (99) pitches against Page during a game last season.


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A ROOM AND MORE ON ROGERS LAKE
Frontiere mansion on Rogers Lake back out for bid

Coconino County has officially started the search for a new entity to manage a 30-acre, two-building property at the edge of Rogers Lake southwest of Flagstaff. A request for proposals released last week seeks someone with the knowledge, expertise and experience to manage and operate the county-owned Frontiere property.

The buildings include a six-bedroom residence above a 16-stall equestrian stable, a three-bedroom caretaker quarters with a five-car garage and a 6,000 square-foot unfinished foundation. 

The county has so far been approached by seven individuals interested in the property, including people with equestrian groups and others looking at it for a residency-type rehab or counseling program, said Cynthia Nemeth-Briehn, director of the county’s parks and recreation department.

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

A huge room for entertaining occupies more than a third of the main residence on the Frontiere property, donated to Coconino County in 2011. The property sits at the edge of Rogers Lake and has been used for weddings and for an artist-in-residence program in the past.  

Marca McCallie, president of the board of Sage Home, represents one of the groups planning to submit a proposal to the county. The young nonprofit is looking for a place to establish a program for new parents with substance abuse issues to live with their babies while going through the treatment and recovery process. Usually, babies are placed into foster care while their parents get treatment, McCallie said.

The nonprofit is looking at many options, but an advantage to the Frontiere property is it could serve as a residence and could be used as an event venue, allowing clients to develop job training skills, McCallie said.

For the past three years, Northern Arizona University has used the property for a summer artists-in-residence program, but it has decided not to renew its contract after this month.The county is open to a range of ideas for future use of the property, Nemeth-Briehn said.

“We didn’t want to put a lot of parameters because we wanted people to be creative,” she said.

The current use permit has an overnight limit of 18 people and a day-use limit of 53 people, with exceptions for less frequent, larger events managed by the parks and recreation department. Nemeth-Briehn said that due to limited sewer and water infrastructure, occupancy limits would likely be similar for a new user, though the last word would be up to the community development department. The property could possibly accommodate more people if they camped or portable restrooms were brought in during an event, for example, she said.

“We want to be able to see what comes through the door see how we can work through any of these ideas,” she said.

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

A sixteen stall stable complete with four separate tack rooms and two offices is part of a main building that sits on land donated to Coconino County by the late St. Louis Rams owner Georgia Frontiere. 

There are about 50 parking spots on site, but Nemeth-Briehn said an applicant could apply for more.

Any contractor would operate under a shared revenue model with the county and would need to propose a use compatible with the county’s conservation values for the property and the Rogers Lake Natural Area management plan, according to the request for proposals.

The document also says the county’s goal is for an operator to effectively market and promote the property to maximize its use.

The forest road that leads to the Frontiere site, which is about six miles from the intersection of Woody Mountain Road and Route 66, is not plowed and can be gated during the winter. But if a contractor wanted to use the property year-round, Nemeth-Briehn said users can work with the Forest Service to get a permit to maintain and access the dirt road.

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

A queen size bed sits in a corner of the vast master bedroom in the main residence of the Frontiere property, which was donated to Coconino County in 2011. The county is looking for an entity to operate and manage 30 acres of the property, including onsite buildings. 

Utility and maintenance costs are also high for the facility, so potential users should have a clear vision for how to handle those, said Art Babbott, Coconino County supervisor.

The county already permitted two weddings at the Frontiere property in May and June but has held off on any more requests as it searches for a new operator, Nemeth-Briehn said.

Photos: Frontiere mansion on Rogers Lake

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

A huge room for entertaining occupies more than a third of the main residence on the Frontiere property, donated to Coconino County in 2011. The property sits at the edge of Rogers Lake and has been used for weddings and for an artist-in-residence program in the past.  


Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

A six-bedroom residence above a 16-stall stable is among the buildings on a property near Rogers Lake that was donated to Coconino County by the late St. Louis Rams owner Georgia Frontiere in 2011. The county is now looking for someone to manage and operate part of the property with a revenue-sharing model.  


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2019 FLAG BUDGET
Flagstaff city budget: Revenues up $4.5 million in 2019

Large construction projects throughout the city gave Flagstaff a boost in sales tax revenue this year, but city officials caution that such a bump may not come in future years if the amount of construction levels off.

Rick Tadder, the management services director for the city, told the city council at the budget retreat last week that construction and contracting taxes were the largest sales tax gain in the city so far this fiscal year. That category of sales tax made up about a third of the nearly $1.5 million increase in sales tax the city is on track to experience over the 2017 fiscal year.

City sales tax represented the highest single increase in reported revenue, but most revenue sources, except for franchise fees, experienced increases and are projected to end with increases this fiscal year, Tadder said. In the 2018 fiscal year, the city is projected to collect $20.5 million in city sales tax, up from $19 million in 2017.

In Tadder’s presentation, the projected sales tax revenue for the 2019 fiscal year was $20.6 million. Tadder said he was keeping the projection “rather flat” because the city could not rely on construction and contracting sales tax to continue to grow at the same rate as the 2018 fiscal year.

However, while the city is projecting new revenues of about $4.68 million this coming fiscal year through a combination of one-time and continued funding, new fixed and committed costs could be up by $3.16 million, Finance Director Brandi Suda told the council.

One of the biggest increasing costs is the city’s required contribution to pension systems, including one for public safety and another for other city employees. The increased contribution is projected to cost the city $1 million this budget cycle, Suda said in her presentation. The city also has employee raises written into its committed costs, and could cost the city between $500,000 and $1.5 million.

Tadder said the city is anticipating steady growth in revenues for the next three years, but the city has built in a plan for a recession in its five-year projections.

Interim City Manager Barbara Goodrich will present the council with a proposed budget in April. But for now, many departments are asking for extra funding with any of the $1.5 million or more that is left over after the city has paid its fixed and committed costs.

Both the police and fire departments addressed the council and described increases in calls for service from both departments while having lower staffing than before the recession.

Kevin Treadway, the police chief, said the department often spends time and money training recruits, only to have them leave the department soon after for a job in the private sector or with another department that provides merit-based raises, which the city ended years ago.

Treadway said Coconino County Sheriff’s deputies make nearly the same amount as police officers but do not have the call volume police officers do, and the department competes with the county for staffing. Merit-based raises, Treadway said, could provide an incentive for officers who train in Flagstaff to stay in the department.

As part of the budget discussion, the council gave directions to move forward with a November bond election to fund affordable housing. Housing Director Sarah Darr will come back before the council with possibilities for ballot language, which could include funding land acquisition, construction and redevelopment. A recent ECONA report said the city's affordable housing gap is close to a crisis. 

The council also discussed allotting money to graffiti abatement, working with the Indigenous Circle of Flagstaff to create a strategic plan for future work and signing a letter of support for grant funding for service providers in the city for the disabled and other vulnerable populations that rely on Medicaid and state funding and have been adversely affected by chronic underfunding and increasing costs, like a higher minimum wage.

During the 2018 fiscal year budget cycle, which ends June 30,  the council opted to raise the city's primary property tax levy by 7 percent, or about $400,000,  to fund extra positions for police and fire. The increase was part of a planned, retroactive two-phase increase that would include the council approving another 7 percent increase in the 2019 fiscal year. 

That plan meant a $17 tax hike on a home worth $300,000 in the first year, plus an additional $17 increase the second year, with a combining effect of a $34 increase.

The council has yet to weigh in on the second phase of the property tax increase. 

Letter to the Editor: Deep in the heart of taxes

Over $100 million in unfunded pensions. $35 million for Rio de Flag with a recommended stormwater fee payment of $1,100 per average house. Parks and Recreation sales tax increase proposal of 0.125 percent for $56 million in projects. Extension of the transportation tax that doesn't expire until 2020 of 0.426% (and yes, a tax renewal is a new tax or it wouldn't be on the ballot). Oh, and we increased sales taxes in 2014 by 0.63% (city and county) for road repairs.


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Flagstaff education advocates set focus on preschool, tech ed

 Kulpinski

LAUNCH Flagstaff has released its first baseline report on education in Flagstaff. The organization focused on two of its five goals in the report: kindergarten readiness and post-secondary education and training.

The organization plans to take the data back to its volunteer partners to determine the best possible solutions to meet the education needs of all of Flagstaff’s children, said Paul Kulpinski, LAUNCH’S partnership director.

LAUNCH used information gathered from Arizona First Things First, Flagstaff Unified School District, the 2013 Coconino County Education Report, the 2017 Coconino County Community Needs Assessment and the 2017 Regional Health Equity Assessment.

In the kindergarten readiness area, LAUNCH found that 47 percent of 5-year-olds in 2013 in Flagstaff were ready for kindergarten. Boys were less prepared for kindergarten than girls and students from low-income families were less ready than those from families with higher incomes.

LAUNCH also looked at a cohort of about 107 third-graders who participated in KinderCamp in 2013, got a Kindergarten Development Assessment when they entered kindergarten at FUSD and took the third-grade English Language Arts section of AzMERIT last spring.

From this cohort, LAUNCH found that students who had strong reading skills when they entered kindergarten had a higher score on the AzMERIT English Language Arts section in third grade. They also found a relationship between a child’s preschool experience, their family’s income status and their parents’ education level and their score on AzMERIT.

LAUNCH also surveyed about 116 families with preschool age children in September and found that most parents (53 percent) chose their child’s preschool based on financial reasons. The next highest factor (23 percent) was educational enrichment activities.

Those same parents rated affordable quality preschool (at 34 percent) as the greatest item that would help them prepare their child for kindergarten.

Kulpinksi said one of the items LAUNCH wants to focus on in the near future with its members is to increase the quality of preschools and their number in the Flagstaff area. According to information from First Things First, approximately 77 percent of children up to age 4 are not enrolled in a preschool or are enrolled in preschool of unknown quality. The organization also wants to make sure that all Flagstaff parents have an equal opportunity to enroll their child in a quality preschool. The organization is still working on its definition of “quality preschool education.”

LAUNCH also wants to work with local organizations on listing and creating other early childhood education opportunities for families in Flagstaff who may choose not to put their child in preschool or cannot find a preschool that they can afford. Of particular concern to LAUNCH are those families who may have once qualified for a subsidized Head Start preschool but because of Flagstaff’s new minimum wage level no longer qualify for that program. LAUNCH is also looking at ways of educating and supporting parents on those opportunities and teaching parents how to use everyday experiences to teach their young children.

“Even a trip to the grocery store can be a learning experience for a child,” Kulpinski said.

Because most preschoolers regularly visit their pediatrician, LAUNCH is looking to partner with local pediatricians to reach out to families with tips and information on early childhood education and support services for families with young children.

LAUNCH also looked at what happens to Flagstaff area students after they graduate from high school and how to improve their career readiness. Kulpinski said the organization found that about 61 percent of Flagstaff area high school students went on to college, a trade school or into the military, and 70 percent of Flagstaff students who completed a Career and Technical Education program did so.

LAUNCH also found that students who filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and/or took dual enrollment classes in high school at FUSD were more likely to go on to college or trade school.

After filling one out many students realize that they can pay for college or a two-year degree, Kulpinski said. Even students who didn’t think they would qualify for financial aid get a boost from filling out a FAFSA because a number of colleges use the form to determine grants and scholarship eligibility.

Students who completed internships at local businesses or organizations for high school credit were also more likely to go on to college, a trade school or into a career, he said.

In order to help high school grads move on to college or into a rewarding career, LAUNCH would like to hold more communitywide events to help parents and students fill out FAFSA, Kulpinski said. The organization is also working with its education partners to increase the number of dual enrollment and Career and Technical Education courses available. It’s also working with the Coconino County Career Center and its business partners to create more internship opportunities for high schoolers.

The remaining education areas that LAUNCH is looking to study are third grade reading, eighth grade math and high school graduation rates, he said. The organization hopes that by improving preschool skills in students, scores in third and eighth grade reading and math will improve. And by showing students that there are options for them after high school, high school graduation rates will improve.

LAUNCH was created after former Coconino County Superintendent of Schools Robert Kelty got the results of the first Coconino County Education Report in 2013. The study, which was sponsored by the Coconino County Education Service Agency and United Way of Northern Arizona, showed that Flagstaff has a number of good educational programs and organizations but very few of those programs work with each other or talk to each other.

In 2016, the organization created five goals for education in Flagstaff. Its purpose isn’t to create a new education system or lobby politically for education improvements but to gather local stakeholders together to discuss improving education in the area.

More information on LAUNCH and ways to volunteer are at www.launchflagstaff.org.

Ed. Note: This story has been changed from its original.


Corina Vanek / Courtesy of LAUNCH Flagstaff 

 Kulpinski