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Museum presents $3 million sale and conservation income options for 89 acres

Three million dollars.

That’s the magic number that the Museum of Northern Arizona has decided it needs to raise to save 89 acres of undeveloped land that the museum owns east of Fort Valley Road.

The land was purchased by the museum in 1977 as an investment and since then its sale has been put on and taken off the table several times as an option to raise money for museum operations.

Now, the board of trustees is again taking a serious look at monetizing the acreage, citing a need to put the museum on more stable financial ground after several years when unrestricted net income has dipped below or close to zero.

On Wednesday, at a meeting of about 130 museum members, boardmembers presented five options for the 89-acre parcel, which is being called the Colton Forest and Meadows. The goal was to get feedback as well as ideas on additional alternatives that should be considered.

The options represented different combinations of selling and conserving the land to raise $3 million, a number that boardmember Troy Gillenwater said reflects the land’s current market value.

Three of the proposals involve selling the 89 acres, either in one piece or divided into several large chunks. In each case, a conservation easement would be applied to the majority of the acreage -- between 80 percent and 90 percent -- that would preserve it from development and allow the museum access for research and programs.

Another option would be to find a benefactor or conservation group willing to make a $3 million donation or gift to the museum. In exchange the museum would create a conservation easement covering the entire property.

The final option, and the one preferred by a subcommittee of boardmembers assigned to research options for the land, involves the museum keeping the entire parcel and starting a fundraising campaign to raise the $3 million in chunks of $600,000. Each $600,000 would allow the museum to continue to own and permanently conserve another 18 acres, which the subcommittee is calling a pasture.

“As long as we’re making progress on preserving the pastures, this property will never go on the market,” Gillenwater told meeting attendees. He said the subcommittee has a goal of preserving at least one parcel in the next six months.

Currently, some informal trails cross the land and it is frequented by many animals. Some research also has been done on that land in the past, museum director Carrie Heinonen said. If the acreage were to be preserved, the museum would build up more research and program offerings focused on the site, Heinonen said.

Several boardmembers insisted the choice between raising money or selling the land wasn’t meant as an ultimatum.

“What we’re trying to do is create an impetus to say, ‘Look at this. We'd like to fix it and we don't want to wait five more years for this discussion to roll along,” boardmember Bob Gunnarson said.

Unlike selling pieces of artwork from its collection, which the museum got penalized for doing in 2002, the sale of the land would be proper, ethical and well-founded in history, Gunnarson said. It was specifically purchased as an investment and wasn’t among the lands donated by Harold and Mary-Russell Ferrell Colton in the early 1900s for the specific purpose of building the museum.

“It’s an investment so we want to realize it somehow,” Gunnarson said. There are also some donors who question why the museum isn’t leveraging the parcel before asking for other donations, Heinonen said.

UNSTABLE FINANCES

Thanks to an endowment of more than $10 million, the museum generally operates in the black. But its museum-specific operating income has fluctuated dramatically over the past 16 years. A chart of unrestricted net income shows it climbed to a surplus of almost $800,000 one year, ended up in the red by $900,000 another year and over the past four years has been in the black by an average of about $100,000.

The fear is that a number of things, from the new tax law to expensive capital improvement needs, could throw the museum back into a deficit, Gunnarson said.

Boardmembers already have several ideas for how to use the additional cash if they do raise it, including hiring more staff, increasing staff pay and having a financial cushion to be able to cover major repairs. The plan would be to put the money into a quasi-endowment that could add about $150,000 per year to the museum’s operating budget, said Kathe Shinham, chair of the museum’s board of directors.

INITIAL FEEDBACK

A number of written comments submitted by museum members at the meeting expressed support for the option of starting a $3 million fundraising campaign to preserve the Colton Forest and Meadows.

Other comments suggested exploring government funding for stewardship of the land, building a cultural park on the site and considering other funding sources to make sure it doesn’t find itself in the same position 10 or 20 years down the road.

One longtime member said the museum shouldn’t even be needing to rely on the land for a cash infusion.

“I know they can go out and get money in other ways but this board happens to like a quick fix,” Cynthia Perin said.

The board is trying to milk too much out of a small town like Flagstaff, Perin said. The land shouldn’t be in the equation at all, she said.

“It’s like holding people hostage. You do this or we're going to do that,” she said.

Recommendations for the land will likely be voted on by the museum’s board of trustees at its September meeting.


Ben Shanahan, Arizona Daily Sun 

A cowboy pulls back on his lasso Thursday evening after attempting to rope a steer during the team roping event at the Flagstaff Pro Rodeo. The rodeo continues Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Fort Tuthill Arena.


National
AP
Gunman kills 5 in attack targeting Maryland newspaper

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A man armed with smoke grenades and a shotgun attacked a newspaper in Maryland's capital Thursday, killing four journalists and a staffer before police quickly stormed the building and arrested him, police and witnesses said.

The shooting came amid months of verbal and online attacks on the "fake news media" from politicians and others from President Donald Trump on down. It prompted New York City police to immediately tighten security at news organizations in the nation's media capital.

Police in Annapolis said a white man in his late 30s was in custody after the rampage at The Capital Gazette. A law enforcement official said the suspect was identified as Jarrod W. Ramos. The official wasn't authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Acting Police Chief William Krampf of Anne Arundel County called it a targeted attack in which the gunman "looked for his victims."

"This person was prepared today to come in, this person was prepared to shoot people," Krampf said.

The dead included veteran journalist and columnist Rob Hiaasen, 59, brother of novelist Carl Hiaasen. Carl Hiaasen said he was "devastated and heartsick" at losing his brother, "one of the most gentle and funny people I've ever known." Also slain were editorial page editor Gerald Fischman; special publications editor Wendi Winters; writer John McNamara, and sales assistant Rebecca Smith. Police said two others had minor injuries, and the newspaper later reported two employees were subsequently released from a hospital with injuries not considered life-threatening.

Krampf said the gunman was a Maryland resident, but didn't name him.

Phil Davis, a reporter who covers courts and crime for the paper, tweeted that the gunman shot out the glass door to the office and fired into the newsroom, sending people scrambling under desks.

"There is nothing more terrifying than hearing multiple people get shot while you're under your desk and then hear the gunman reload," he wrote.

At the White House, spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said: "There is no room for violence, and we stick by that. Violence is never tolerated in any form, no matter whom it is against."

Meanwhile, investigators said they would seek to learn more of the gunman's motives.

"The shooter has not been very forthcoming, so we don't have any information yet on motive," Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh said.

In 2012, Ramos filed a defamation lawsuit against the paper, alleging he was harmed by an article about his conviction in a criminal harassment case a year earlier. The suit was dismissed by a judge who wrote Ramos hadn't shown "anything that was published about you is, in fact, false." An appeals court later upheld the dismissal.

In an interview appearing on The Capital Gazette's online site, Davis said it "was like a war zone" inside the newspaper's offices.

"I'm a police reporter. I write about this stuff — not necessarily to this extent, but shootings and death — all the time," he said. "But as much as I'm going to try to articulate how traumatizing it is to be hiding under your desk, you don't know until you're there and you feel helpless."

The attacker had mutilated his fingers in an apparent attempt to make it harder to identify him, according to a law enforcement official who was not authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity. Another official who also spoke on condition of anonymity said he was identified with help of facial recognition technology.

Police spokesman Lt. Ryan Frashure said his local agency couldn't confirm those accounts.

Frashure said officers arrived within about 60 seconds and took the gunman into custody without an exchange of gunfire. About 170 people were evacuated, many leaving with their hands up as police and other emergency vehicles arrived.

Reporter Selene San Felice told CNN she ran after hearing shots but found a back door locked, then watched as a colleague was shot.

"I heard footsteps a couple of times ... I was breathing really loud and was trying not to, but I couldn't be quiet," she added.

The reporter recalled a June 2016 mass shooting attack on Orlando's gay nightclub Pulse and how terrified people crouching inside had texted loved ones as dozens were killed. She added: "And there I was sitting under a desk, texting my parents and telling them I loved them."

Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley said the community was grieving the attack on its paper.

"These are the guys that come to city council meetings, have to listen to boring politicians and sit there," Buckley said. "They don't make a lot of money. It's just immoral that their lives should be in danger."

The newspaper is part of Capital Gazette Communications, which also publishes the Maryland Gazette and CapitalGazette.com. It is owned by The Baltimore Sun.

The Associated Press Media Editors have promised to help Capital Gazette journalists as they recover. An APME statement called on newspapers nationwide to help the paper and its journalists so they can continue to cover their community and fight for freedom of the press.


Columnists
HIT THE TRAIL
Hit the Trail: One weird hike among the hoodoos

EDITOR'S NOTE:  Although major parts of four national forests are closed to the public due to extreme fire danger, there are still plenty of trails and other destinations open near Flagstaff. Today, visit another extinct -- and distinctive -- volcano in this trip report from 2012.

You'd think after 740,000 years, the volcanic cone known as Red Mountain would be stabilized by now.

And it is.

But each time I visit, the weirdness seems to grow.

This past Saturday, I noticed for the first time the hollowed-out holes halfway up the 800-foot cliff. The white goo dripping out of them was no doubt bird guano.

But even after a look through the binoculars, I couldn't be sure I wasn't looking at some kind of art installation, as if white sheets had been hung from the porthole windows of a red ocean liner.

As I said, Red Mountain is a just plain weird place.

It has 20-foot-high "hoodoo" cinder pillars capped by dense lava "sombreros," the better to keep them from eroding.

It has giant, yellow-belly ponderosas growing right out of the cinders in a giant amphitheater at the foot of the cliffs.

It has shiny black mineral "walnuts" trying to push their way out of the sandstone walls.

And it has deceptively smooth-looking climbing "chutes" with surfaces like rough sandpaper that can scrape skin from fingertips at the slightest slip.

The Mangums, in their book, "Flagstaff Hikes," say Red Mountain has an Easter Island feel, what with all the hoodoos perched around the amphitheater. My impression, after winding through the narrow, dead-end passageways between the rows of hoodoos, is more of a carnival funhouse, the kind where you never know what is around the next corner.

Whatever imagery you want to conjure up, it will be a vivid one -- Red Mountain is that strange. It is easily accessible by a 1-mile, slightly uphill walk from the trailhead parking lot, and there is even a ladder now to climb over the rock dam built to hold back the silt in the drainage from the crater.

The hike can be a hot one in the summer, so I'd recommend doing the trip well before noon. And if you have extra time, check out the trail up Slate Mountain just to the south -- the top has panoramic views of not only Red Mountain but also the Peaks and the Painted Desert, too.


Richard Foreman, Jr. 

This image released by Sony Pictures shows Benicio Del Toro, left, and Josh Brolin in "Sicario: Day of the Soldado." (Richard Foreman, Jr./Sony Pictures via AP)


Local
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COCONINO COUNTY
Coconino County supervisors appoint county manager out of public view

James Jayne

Without a public vote or any public discussion, the Coconino County Board of Supervisors has decided to forgo a search for a new county manager and promote the interim manager to the post instead.

James (Jimmy) Jayne succeeds Cynthia Seelhammer, who resigned suddenly in January after receiving an $89,000 severance payment.

Jayne, who was initially hired by the county in August 2017 as director of special initiatives, was appointed interim manager after Seelhammer’s departure.

It was in a series of closed meetings in recent weeks that the board decided in private to skip a county manager search and promote Jayne to the permanent position. The board issued a statement Thursday announcing the selection, even though the promotion will not be made official until they vote in a special board meeting July 11.

Supervisors' chair Matt Ryan said the board came to its decision after agreeing that even if it did a search, Jayne would be one of the top, if not the top, candidates due to his background and history in Arizona government.

“We would expend $40,00 for a search to find a top candidate and he has all the qualifications and has proven himself from within,” Ryan said of Jayne.

There was not a competitive process to select Jayne for the interim manager position, either -- his name was the only one that came up, Ryan said. And his hiring last year was to fill a newly created position and not advertised.

In response to questions about the announcement of Jayne’s appointment before it had been discussed or acted upon in public, Ryan said supervisors’ discussion was tied to Jayne’s personnel review, which is exempt from public meetings laws. He added that the board still has the opportunity “to not vote in that direction on July 11.”

Previously, Jayne was the Navajo County manager for 14 years. His other past positions include chief of staff in the Arizona House of Representatives, executive secretary for the Arizona Corporation Commission and staff positions at the Arizona Water Banking Authority and the United States Congress, according to information provided by the county.

Jayne said one of his upcoming projects as county manager will be the launch of a comprehensive county-wide strategic planning process and work on the county’s capital development program.

“I have always appreciated Coconino County, the people here and the organization,” he said. “Coconino County is a thought leader in local government.”


Emery Cowan / Mike Mahoney Media 

James Jayne