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Cody Bashore-Perales / CODY BASHORE Arizona Daily Sun 

Northern Arizona's Matt Baxter runs to the finish line during Saturday's George Kyte Classic at Buffalo Park.

Cell tower proposal on church land concerns east side residents

A group of residents say they chose their homes on East Appalachian Road so they could enjoy the benefits of their closest neighbors, Mount Elden and the Coconino National Forest. There are trails to the forest that start, in the case of Appalachian resident Juliana Suby, right out of their backyards.

But her other neighbor, Trinity Heights United Methodist Church, is proposing to build a Verizon Wireless cell phone tower near the forest behind the church -- which has worried Suby and some of her neighbors.

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

Jan Sliva, foreground, and Juliana Suby, right, stand on a trail on the El Paso Natural Gas pipeline at the base of Mount Elden looking toward where a proposed cell tower would be built in the parking lot of the Trinity Heights United Methodist Church. The pair and a group of their neighbors have concerns about placing the cell tower so close to homes in a residential area.

“My home and my backyard are sanctuaries to me,” Suby said. “And to know now that I would be looking at a 65-foot cell phone tower every day, the neighborhood would no longer be, in my opinion, this serene, quiet residential neighborhood.”

Wednesday at 4 p.m., the Flagstaff Planning and Zoning Commission will review the proposed cell phone tower proposal that borders the Mount Elden Environmental Study Area, the land of Kinder Morgan pipeline and is near the residential area on Appalachian Road. The meeting will take place at Flagstaff City Hall.

The group of residents were concerned of the tower’s impacts on the animals in the environmental study area, the proposed construction’s impact on the gas pipeline that runs beneath the site and for the impact on the natural environment.

The cell phone tower is described as “stealth designed” with fake pine boughs to blend in with its environment and resemble a 65-foot tree. Some of the Appalachian residents have pointed out the surrounding wall and power station would not.

But Keith McClanahan, a member who spoke on behalf of the church and its Verizon contract, indicated that the church would honor the commission’s decision either way. He said that allowing Verizon to build a tower on their land could help the church.

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

A sign gives notice of a public hearing on a request for a conditional use permit to allow Verizon Wireless to have a cellphone tower installed in the parking lot of the Trinity Heights United Methodist Church.

“It allows us to do more mission work and support the community,” McClanahan said. “We continue to run out of money for people showing up at our door asking for gas and feed their families. Some asked that we send people down to the county, but that really didn’t feel like it was an appropriate response for our church.”

McClanahan said they notified their congregation, who were in complete support of the tower. One point that has annoyed Suby and other neighbors is how the church's congregation was notified about the tower contract in March 2015, and the neighbors were only notified after a public hearing notice was posted two weeks ago.

"I just wish the church would have been more transparent to the residents who will be living next to the tower," Suby said. "They get to go home at night. I am home."

Residents were told that the area’s cell phone towers are maxed out. Verizon spokesperson Jeannine Braggs explained that being maxed out doesn’t necessarily mean that users in the area would notice any problem with their service.

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

Concerned Shadow Mountain resident Brooks Hart stands in the parking lot of the Trinity Heights United Methodist Church near a spot where Verizon Wireless would like to install a cellphone tower disguised as a ponderosa pine tree.

Braggs underlined the idea that adding a tower might not necessarily improve an individual service, but add to the area’s capacity for more devices.

“Not necessarily something they would see or recognize, but it’s there,” Braggs said. “What we try to do as much as possible, we’re adding the capacity before there’s really a big issue.”

Some Appalachian residents want to protect the values they bought their homes for — their quiet neighbor of the Coconino National Forest. Stan Cornforth, Appalachian resident, mentioned that he built his home in the area 41 years ago, and said he never imagined that a cell tower would be built near the trails.

“Our boys earned their boy scout eagle ranks doing environmental studies within that area,” Cornforth said through email. If this is approved, the area will never be pristine again.”

Bill Johnson, a biology professor at Northern Arizona University, indicated that while there has been research done on the topic, there is still a lot unknown about the impacts of cell towers and phones on animals.

"[It's] still a young area of research," Johnson said.

Komada Guilty
Former Killip teacher enters guilty plea for sex crimes with minors

Former Flagstaff teacher Ted Komada stood before a judge Tuesday and pleaded guilty to one count sexual conduct with a minor and another count of attempted child molestation.

Komada has been in the Coconino County Detention Facility for nearly a year since his booking last January. The plea agreement Komada accepted included 25 years in jail for his first count of sexual conduct with a minor and lifetime probation for attempted child molestation.

The former 2016 teacher of the year from Killip Elementary School stood in a blue detention facility jumpsuit with grown-out hair in the courtroom of Judge Cathleen Brown Nichols Tuesday afternoon.

Komada pleaded down the five counts against him, including three counts of sexual assault, to the two counts in his plea agreement.

Komada’s lawyer, David Bednar, explained that he thought Komada’s decision to accept the plea was because his conscience was affected by his actions.

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

Ted Komada talks with his attorney in Coconino County Superior Court Tuesday afternoon during a change of plea hearing.

“He feels terribly remorseful for his conduct,” Bednar said. “I think that’s a huge part of why he has entered the plea, so as not to put the victims through any trauma.”

Both sex crimes occurred with children under the age of 15 and happened off of school property. The victims had injuries consistent with the crimes, and had been frequently asked by Komada to perform sexual acts on him, according to a probable cause for arrest document.

An adult caught Komada molesting one of the victims and called the police. Komada's DNA was also found on multiple pieces of evidence.

When police arrived to arrest Komada he said that "I am disappointed in myself and the situation. My life is over."

Komada’s first arrest happened almost a year ago on Jan. 14, 2018, according to the state’s filed motions. He was first arrested on suspicion of sexual conduct with a minor, according to booking reports. After being released, he was booked a second time on a second charge of continuous sexual abuse of a child a week later.

A statement from the district and Flagstaff Police Department at the time indicated that Komada resigned from his position before the start of classes on Jan. 14, 2018.

“We are shocked and saddened to hear of the charges and the investigation into conduct occurring out of school by Mr. Komada,” Flagstaff Superintendent Mike Penca wrote in a statement at the time.

Parents and teachers were notified at the time of the charges.

Komada was a chess coach for 14 years in addition to being a teacher. According to police reports, Komada told a witness that he never abused any of his students.

Trump pleads on TV for wall money; Dems say he 'stokes fear'

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump urged congressional Democrats to fund his long-promised border wall Tuesday night in a somber televised address that was heavy with dark immigration rhetoric but offered little in the way of concessions or new ideas to break the standoff that has left large swaths of the government shuttered for 18 days.

Speaking to the nation from the Oval Office for the first time, Trump argued the wall was needed to resolve a security and humanitarian "crisis," blaming illegal immigration for what he said was a scourge of drugs and violence in the U.S. and asking: "How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job?"

Democrats in response accused Trump appealing to "fear, not facts" and manufacturing a border crisis for political gain.

Using the formal trappings of the White House, Trump hoped to gain the upper hand in the standoff over his demand for $5.7 billion to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. He plans a visit to the border Thursday as he continues to pitch what was a signature promise of his 2016 presidential campaign.

He addressed the nation as the shutdown stretched through its third week, with hundreds of thousands of federal workers going without pay and some congressional Republicans growing increasingly jittery about the spreading impact of the impasse. Trump will visit the Capitol today to meet with Senate Republicans, and has invited Democratic and Republican congressional leaders to return to the White House to meet with him later that day.

He claimed the standoff could be resolved in "45 minutes" if Democrats would just negotiate, but previous meetings have led to no agreement.

For now, Trump sees this as winning politics. TV networks had been reticent about providing him airtime to make what some feared would be a purely political speech. And that concern was heightened by the decision Tuesday by Trump's re-election campaign to send out fundraising emails and text messages to supporters trying to raise money off the speech. Their goal: A half-million dollars in a single day.

"I just addressed the nation on Border Security. Now need you to stand with me," read one message sent out after his remarks.

In their own televised remarks, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer accused Trump of misrepresenting the situation on the border as they urged him to reopen closed government departments and turn loose paychecks for hundreds of thousands of workers.

Negotiations on wall funding could proceed in the meantime, they said.

Schumer said Trump "just used the backdrop of the Oval Office to manufacture a crisis, stoke fear and divert attention from the turmoil in his administration."

In his dire address, Trump ticked off a string of statistics and claims to make his case that there is a crisis at the border, but a number of his statements were misleading, such as saying the new trade deal with Mexico would pay for the wall, or suggesting through gruesome examples that immigrants are more likely to commit crime.

Trump, who has long railed against illegal immigration at the border, has recently seized on humanitarian concerns to argue there is a broader crisis that can only be solved with a wall. But critics say the security risks are overblown and the administration is at least partly to blame for the humanitarian situation.

Trump used emotional language, referring to Americans who were killed by people in the country illegally, saying: "I've met with dozens of families whose loved ones were stolen by illegal immigration. I've held the hands of the weeping mothers and embraced the grief-stricken fathers. So sad. So terrible."

The president often highlights such incidents, though studies over several years have found immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the United States.

Trump has been discussing the idea of declaring a national emergency to allow him to move forward with the wall without getting congressional approval for the billions he's requested. But he did not mention that Tuesday night.

Trump was nearly halfway through his 9-minute address before he ever mentioned the border wall, describing it as a request from law enforcement rather than his own longstanding political pledge. He also suggested that his proposal to build the wall from steel, rather than concrete, was a concession to Democrats, although they don't see it that way.

Trump sought to put the blame on Democrats for the shutdown, which reached its 18th day, saying they "will not fund border security." In fact, House Democrats passed legislation the day they took control of the House that offered $1.3 billion for border security. And Senate Democrats have approved similar funding year after year.

Ahead of the speech, the White House sought to shore up GOP support on Capitol Hill, where a growing number of Republicans have been expressing unease with the extended shutdown. But GOP lawmakers were still raising concerns Tuesday, talking about disruptions in payments to farmers and troubles for home buyers trying to get government-backed mortgage loans.

Student death
Medical Examiner: NAU student found in Rio de Flag died by drowning

The Coconino County Medical Examiner's Office released a report on Tuesday citing that Northern Arizona University student Kain Turner died by drowning after falling into the cold waters of the Rio de Flag.

Turner was last seen before his death near the Rio during the early morning hours of Sunday Dec. 2, 2018.

The included toxicology report showed the 21-year-old student had "acute alcohol intoxication" with a blood alcohol content level of .202 percent at the time of his death. For context, the limit for driving after drinking alcohol is .08 percent.

Michael Madsen, assistant medical examiner, wrote in the report that the investigations did not indicate any other life-threatening injuries or drugs contributed to his death.

"He was witnessed to fall in a creek near the area where he was found," Madsen said. "[Turner] reportedly refused assistance and walked away."

The official cause of death was not known until the report, but temperatures on the early morning of his death dropped to 11 degrees after having snowed the day before, according to the National Weather Service.

A friend who was out with Turner in the hours before he went missing told police that Turner's intoxication levels were "pretty high." The same friend reported that Turner was kicked out of the bar for being too intoxicated.

Details of the police report showed that a woman who was downtown in the early morning hours reported seeing Turner, before his disappearance, drunkenly stumbling through the Rio. The woman told police she asked Turner if he needed help, which he denied.

After reporting Turner missing to the Northern Arizona University Police Department, Turner's friends organized a search party on Dec. 3, according to a Flagstaff police report. The report detailed that the search party eventually found Turner in the Rio and reported it to police.

Turner was originally from Cottonwood and was studying at NAU to pursue a bachelor of science. He was expected to graduate in fall 2020.

Courtesy photo 

This photo of NAU student Kain Turner was used for a missing person poster shared on social media.