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Ben Shanahan, Arizona Daily Sun 

Flagstaff's Brianna White (7) evades multiple Coconino defenders Thursday afternoon at Coconino High School.

Proposed Flagstaff cell tower remains contentious after community meeting

About 100 neighbors and nearby residents piled into a room in the United Trinity Methodist Church on Wednesday night for a city-mandated community meeting to discuss a proposed Verizon cell tower facility.

The gathering came after the planning and zoning commission postponed its decision on the tower after discovering the project never received a community meeting.

The Federal Communications Commission controls the ways in which municipalities can regulate cell towers. Among those regulations are that municipalities cannot take concerns over the health effects of radio frequencies into account when making a determination.

Nonetheless, much of the meeting was taken up with the issue of health concerns over the radio waves emitted by the service tower.

Michelle Lamoureux, with Pinnacle Consulting Inc., said they still want to address the issue as the health effects of towers are a concern to many residents.

The health impact of radio waves emitted by the tower lessen drastically the farther one gets from them, and they are already about 50 times lower than could be harmful per FCC regulations, said Steve Kennedy, a radio frequency engineer working on behalf of Verizon.

Kennedy added the World Health Organization ranks the radiation emitted by cell phones and the towers that serve them in the same category as coffee, with both designated as "possibly carcinogenic to humans."

Many residents were not so convinced, however, and the vast majority of those who attended voiced their opposition to the tower, while many remained worried about negative health outcomes due to the tower's construction.

Some attendees alluded to the fact that the current guidelines for health that the FCC uses to regulate towers were drawn up in the 1990s. Others pointed to more recent studies that suggest a stronger link between the radio waves emitted by cell towers and negative health effects.

The community meeting was preceded the night before by another meeting on the cell tower devoted to parishioners of the United Trinity Methodist Church.

Of the families that attend the church, Reverend Lynn Bartlow said about 10 live in the neighborhood and attended the meeting.

In all, Bartlow said about 26 people from the church attended the meeting, with a number of residents who are not members of the church also in attendance.

During that meeting, the majority of comments made about the project were positive, with most criticism coming from the non-church members who attended, according to those who either oppose or support the tower.

Invitations to the first meeting were also sent out to the parents of children who attend preschool at the church, but Bartlow said none of the parents came. The reverend speculated their apparent lack of interest could be because most of their children will no longer be attending preschool at the church when the tower goes up, should it be approved.

Flagstaff Police Department report sheds light on Railroad Springs shooting

The Flagstaff Police Department released its report on how the agency was involved with an Arizona Department of Public Safety case, shedding light on an incident that ended with an officer-involved shooting in Flagstaff's Railroad Springs neighborhood on Jan. 23.

Charles Hernandez, spokesperson for Flagstaff Police, said that a total of 13 of their officers responded to assist DPS at West Topeka Avenue. DPS reports that the incident started off as a traffic stop on Historic Route 66, and ended with Marcus Gishal, 20, and Preston Oszust, 20, dead from gunshot wounds and a DPS officer shot in his left hand.

Sixteen bullets from the firefight peppered a blue manufactured home close to the location of the shooting, homeowners allege.

DPS has not released its report for the case at this time or responded to questions about what guns were used or their firearm-use policy. A Flagstaff police officer observed in his report that two bullets used were .223 caliber and a .40 caliber.

While DPS has already reported that the two men died of gunshot wounds, without the Medical Examiner's Report, more details about the official cause and manner of death are still to come.

Ten officers shared their testimony for the report, and Hernandez added that three ambulances responded to the scene. No Flagstaff police officers fired rounds in the shooting, according to their reports.

Flagstaff police officers reported that their most recent information about the two suspects' location before the shooting was that the two were near a shed on West Topeka Avenue.

An officer reported that a civilian flagged him down to show them their home-surveillance footage, which showed one of the suspects running through his yard with “what looked like a firearm.” Some Flagstaff police officers reported equipping themselves with rifles before the shooting took place.

Another Flagstaff officer reported that they were the first to approach what appears to be Gishal directly after the shooting. The officer moved Gishal out onto the driveway as another checked for weapons, according to the officer's report.

Multiple officers detailed different bullet wounds on Gishal that included a gunshot to his left knee and chest. Gishal did not survive his wounds and was declared dead after the medics responded to the scene and attended to him for over 20 minutes, according to the report.

Oszust was attended to by an officer who described him as having a wound to the neck. As soon as the officer reported giving CPR, a medic arrived. Oszust was later transported to the Flagstaff Medical Center, but did not survive his wounds, DPS reported.

Past arrest records allege that Gishal was contacted by DPS officers in 2017 for a traffic stop. The officer attempted to arrest Gishal on drug-related charges, but DPS alleged that Gishal resisted, causing a fight. DPS also reported that Oszust had an active felony warrant for a probation violation.

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

An Arizona Department of Public Safety trooper mans a crime scene perimeter last week in Railroad Springs after an officer-involved shooting.

Arizona joins Colorado River drought plan

PHOENIX — Arizona will join a drought plan for the Colorado River, narrowly meeting a federal deadline that threatened to blow up a compromise years in the making for the seven states that draw water from the constrained river.

The Arizona House and Senate overwhelmingly supported the legislation and Gov. Doug Ducey promptly signed it, delivering the final puzzle piece needed to avoid potentially more severe cutbacks imposed by the federal government.

The river serves 40 million people in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation director Brenda Burman set a Jan. 31 deadline for all parties to agree to voluntary cutbacks.

Arizona was the only state that required legislative approval to join the agreement in which states would take less water from the river in hopes of keeping major reservoirs from reaching catastrophically low levels.

"We inherited as human beings a pristine land with pristine water, and we messed it up as human beings ourselves," said Sen. Jamescita Peshlakai, a Democrat who represents the Navajo reservation in northeastern Arizona and voted to join the drought plan. "It is incumbent for us to safeguard, protect what we have left."

The nightmare scenario for Arizona, California, Nevada and Mexico — which draw from Lake Mead — is a phenomenon called "dead pool," in which the level of the lake's surface falls below the gates that let water out. To avoid it, the agreement calls for an escalating array of cutbacks as the lake level drops.

Arizona has junior rights to river water and would be hit first and hardest if Lake Mead on its border with Nevada drops to shortage levels. Most residents will not see an impact from cutbacks, which will primarily hit farmers in Pinal County — between Phoenix and Tucson — who have the lowest-priority access to Colorado River water and stand to lose the most.

The Arizona legislation is the product of months of negotiations between major water users in the state, who agreed to reduce their take in exchange for cash or access to groundwater in the future. The farmers, who reluctantly supported the agreement, said it would require them to fallow as much as 40 percent of the county's farmland.

"We know nothing is perfect, but this is pretty darn good," said Senate President Karen Fann, a Republican from Prescott.

Arizona water officials say joining the agreement is critical to the state's water future.

"The drought is real, and there's less water in the river," Dennis Patch, chairman of the Colorado River Indian Tribes, told lawmakers this week. "We can see it. We must all take a realistic view of this river and realize it does not have as much water as it used to."

Opposition came from a handful of Democrats who said the deal didn't do enough to rein in the state's water consumption. Sen. Juan Mendez characterized the deal as a giveaway to interest groups that promotes unsustainable water policy, ignores climate change and doesn't address the fact that Arizona will have less water in the future.

If Arizona were serious about the drought, Mendez said, "we would be entertaining an honest assessment of whether we can continue to base our state's economy on continuous growth and on welfare for water intensive uses." Mendez, a Tempe Democrat, was one of only a handful of lawmakers to vote against the measures.

Arizona agreed in the 1960s to take the lowest-priority position for Colorado River water in exchange for votes from California members of Congress to build the Central Arizona Project. The massive canal system moves Colorado River water to the desert of central and southern Arizona.

The bargain provided drinking water for fast-growing Phoenix and Tucson and for farmers. But in drought, it means Arizona is hit first and hardest if the river can't deliver a full allotment of water.

Arizona lawmakers backed two measures. One allows Arizona to join the multi-state agreement. The other includes a variety of measures to help Pinal County farmers. Those include $9 million for the farmers to drill wells, dig ditches and build other infrastructure needed for them to change from the river to groundwater.

Tucson would get more groundwater credits for treated wastewater, allowing the city to pump more in the future in exchange for providing water to Pinal farmers.

The drought plan requires Arizona to find a way to reduce its use of Colorado River water by up to 700,000 acre-feet — more than twice Nevada's yearly allocation under the drought plan. An acre-foot is enough for one to two households a year.

Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico had their plans done in December.

Coconino Community College offers university transfer program online

Community college to university transfer students in northern Arizona now have a way to complete their lower-division liberal studies courses from home through Coconino Community College’s online Arizona General Education Curriculum (AGEC) certificate.

This month, CCC will launch its fully online AGEC-A certificate program, a 35-credit curriculum block of courses that fulfill general education requirements at all three state universities. It also marks the first major step in CCC’s digital expansion efforts.

CCC Associate Provost Gonzalo Perez said, “We want to start small, with baby steps, but we have big visions. We just have to make sure we take those steps and plan accordingly.”

The online certificate will allow the college to better reach rural students as well as those with schedules that make it difficult to attend classes in person.

Kenisha Manley, former CCC student and assistant to the Associate Provost, explained that the benefits of this program will be widespread.

“CCC serves nontraditional students. Our students in rural areas, we haven’t forgotten about them, and we’re making strides to try and serve them,” she said. “A lot of the students we have currently are parents or they work full time or have two jobs, so I think the online certificate would also help those type of students.”

The AGEC has three distinct certifications (A, B and S) that were established in the late 1990s to create a standard for transfer students. It ensures that, because not all classes are created equal, these students would not lose their completed lower-division credits when transferring to Northern Arizona University, Arizona State University and the University of Arizona. Courses instead transfer as a block, with additional university coursework based on institution and major. Completion of the AGEC with at least a 2.5 grade point average also guarantees admission to these universities.

The AGEC-A is designed for future liberal arts majors, but it is the most versatile of the AGEC certificates, compared to the AGEC-B for business students and the AGEC-S for science and STEM students. Manley said she was able to apply her AGEC-A certificate to a degree in biochemistry. At CCC, about 80 to 90 percent of AGEC students choose the AGEC-A; 169 students completed their certificate last year.

Courses required by the AGEC-A include introductory English, mathematics and sciences courses, as well as those promoting awareness in history and ethnicity, race or gender.

“It’s a program you can use to transfer to the three universities and you can also use it in some cases to combine with other community college courses,” said Brian Francis, CCC director of Advising and Career Development. “Most students that are going into NAU, ASU or U of A are focusing on completing an AGEC and a lot of that will be the AGEC-A, but it could also be the AGEC-B or AGEC-S.”

He added that AGEC is appealing to students because, even when online, community colleges will have smaller class sizes than similar courses at a university.

Other colleges throughout the state also have one or more of these certificates available online. Pima Community College offers both the AGEC-A and -B, for example, while Mesa Community College offers all three types online.


The CCC team -- including Perez, using his experience as a chief innovation officer -- is working to provide more online programs to students in northern Arizona.

Perez says the next phase of the project will be to offer entire degree programs online.

Specifically, the college will work toward online degree programs in areas like psychology, sociology, and hotel and restaurant management because they build off of the AGEC-A certificate and many of these courses are already available online.

This is a more logical next step than offering the other two AGEC certificates online because of their substantial math and science requirements, courses proven to be more challenging for online learners, Perez said.

“We have seen more success in the arts, and we want to address that first before we move forward. We want to make sure those courses are pleasant experiences,” he said.

Much of that experience is dependent on bringing the face-to-face communication occurring for on-campus students, both in and out of the classroom, to the Internet. Perez says the team will be developing these projects – which could include live video interactions with faculty, advisors or tutors – this spring to implement them in the fall semester.

Orientation services will also be targeted to these online-only students.

“You just can’t assume that if a student can get on the internet that they will be a good online student. There’s an additional skill set, there’s an additional layer that they need to be prepared for, so we’re working on a module to make [orientation] really robust to ensure a student a good pathway to success,” Perez said.

CCC is expecting to see a 10 to 15 percent increase in online enrollment through this new option.