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Michael Quinn 

Christine Lehnertz

Tiny houses find a home in Flagstaff

For the first time, Flagstaff residents may have a legal way to live in a tiny house -- that is, after the completion of a new tiny house village by local company Hope Construction.

The company signed a development agreement with the city last month allowing them to build a mobile home park on a currently undeveloped 2.9-acre piece of land at the intersection of Soliere Avenue and Fourth Street.

In a city that has seen a boom in large-scale developments, and in which affordable housing is top of mind for many, Hope Construction owner David Carpenter said he wants to build a community that provides housing for every kind of local resident.

“I want to prove that this is a new paradigm for mobile home parks,” Carpenter said. “Someone’s not going to come along here in 40 years and say, ‘oh, there’s a better use for this, let’s tear all these down.’”

The development will contain 30 units, most of which will be single-wide manufactured homes, Carpenter said.

But because the property neighbors a highway, Carpenter said zoning also allows them to put six spots designated for travel trailers that they can use for tiny homes.

Because they are technically regulated by the state as travel trailers, they have wheels and a hitch as opposed to any permanent foundation and can be a maximum of 399 square feet, although many are even smaller than that, Carpenter said.

These homes have seen growing popularity in recent years, often offering a cheaper and more minimalist alternative to more traditional forms of housing, said Ehren Michaelis, whose Elevation Tiny Homes company builds such trailers.

“When you think about how much space you actually need to live, it’s not that much,” Michaelis said. “It’s kind of the wave for the future.”

But many of those interested in living in such a way have run into the problem of where they are legally allowed to live, Michaelis said. Those who buy one or build one on their own may illegally park them or live out of them in back or side yards, in Flagstaff and across the country.

Carpenter said the six spots will put a dent in solving that problem in Flagstaff.

Of the six lots, Carpenter said two will likely be permanently taken by two tiny houses of his own construction. The other four spots will be open to tiny houses that other people may have built themselves and bring to the land, as long as their home meets the architectural standards and design aesthetics.

“I feel like if we market this right, somebody might have one of these things in Oregon and be like, ‘wow, there’s a place for me to live in Flagstaff, I’ll move there,’” Carpenter said.

Carpenter said it is still too early to know exactly how much it will cost to live at the park, but a lease for one of the tiny home lots will likely be around $500 to $600 a month.

Carpenter said the cost of tiny homes can also vary depending on how much work someone does themselves. The tiny house Carpenter has already built for the development cost him about $80,000, but he said he has spoken to others who have spent much less.

Like most other kinds of mobile home communities, Carpenter said the single-wide manufactured homes would be for sale. A resident would then lease the land the home sits on.

“I think the total cost is going to feel like what it costs to rent an apartment, except you’re going to get a yard as well. So you’re going to get apartment rent, but you’re also going to get a 2,000-square-foot yard,” Carpenter said.

Nationally, mobile homes make up 70 percent of housing that costs less than $150,000.

No date has been set to start construction on the project, but Carpenter said he hopes it will begin within the next year.

However, the development agreement with the city ties construction to when the city widens Fourth Street to limit the impact of construction in the area.

This means construction on the development will not begin until the city and the Arizona Department of Transportation begin a few neighboring infrastructure projects.

Nonetheless, Carpenter said he hopes the development will mark a turn for tiny houses in Flagstaff and the country.

“I read about it all across the whole country -- there are places where people are trying but the zoning, they’re just up against it. This could be the town where we figure it out,” Carpenter said.

CCC SimLab provides hands-on experiences with test dummies

“Do you know what city you’re in?” a paramedicine student asked a mannequin in a small hospital room at Coconino Community College’s Fourth Street Campus last Thursday.

“It’s Flagstaff,” the mannequin responded as its chest filled with air and its eyes blinked.

Meet Tom, a “smart” mannequin that allows students in the Emergency Medical Technician, Paramedicine and Allied Health (Nursing and Medical Assistant) programs to practice their skills on humanlike subjects.

CCC has a total of four smart mannequins in its Medical Simulation Lab (SimLab): two adult males (including Tom), one juvenile and an adult female who is able to give birth.

Students can check these patients’ vital signs, start an IV and even use the defibrillator on them when necessary. The mannequins will respond to students using the instructor’s voice.

David Manning, EMT and Paramedic instructor at CCC, said, “The mannequins are able to function pretty much as a real patient. I’m tied in via camera and microphone so that I can sit in the control room or my office and run a scenario from there. The idea is, when a paramedic goes in to deal with a patient, the evaluator is not going to be there for information, so they have to get all of their information from the patient.”

Ben Shanahan, Arizona Daily Sun 

David Manning, the EMT and Paramedic Instructor at Coconino Community College speaks to his students about the upcoming simulations they will be practicing Thursday afternoon in the Coconino Community College simulation lab.

Each student is given a different scenario that ranges from the basics, like treating asthma or an allergic reaction, to more advanced trauma situations. Manning said the scenarios can be built and stored for future student use.

Prior to teaching, Manning was captain paramedic with the City of Flagstaff. He said these mannequins are a huge step up from the dummies he originally learned on.

Students also appreciate the advanced – albeit unsettling – technology available to them.

“It’s a weird mindset just because you’re talking to a dummy, and the dummy’s talking back to you, but it’s actually been pretty nice because it’s easier than talking to a dumb mannequin,” said Tyler Packer, a paramedicine student and EMT with the Ponderosa Fire Department in Bellemont.

Dawnae James works as an EMT at the Navajo Nation Emergency Medical Services and said working in the SimLab for her paramedicine studies has been a great opportunity.

“The first time I went in there, it was pretty scary for me, to be honest, because I’d never seen anything like this. I was so used to looking at my proctor and asking him questions rather than looking at the patient," she said. "It’s a different feeling once you walk into that lab because you know that no one else is in that room. It’s just you and the patient."

By interacting with the mannequins like they would with a real patient, students are already showing improvement in their practical skills.

Katherine Costa, director of the CCC nursing program, said students are more comfortable when they start working at local medical centers because the SimLab gave them the chance to learn from their own mistakes and from watching other students, without endangering anyone.


The lifelike quality of these mannequins is not their only notable feature, though.

Ben Shanahan, Arizona Daily Sun 

David Manning, the EMT and Paramedic Instructor at Coconino Community College, looks over patient information paperwork used by students as practice Thursday afternoon in the Coconino Community College simulation lab.

Their home, the SimLab, is unlike other classrooms because it was custom built by students for students.

For 14 weeks, 45 construction technology management (CTM) students designed, researched and built the space that now resembles two hospital rooms with a “Control Room” for instructor observation through a one-way mirror and video stream in the middle.

CTM Instructor Ken Myers said this one-of-a-kind opportunity allowed his students to complete an entire project, including everything from pitching a design to their clients (instructors whose students would be using the lab) and managing the project to verifying all building codes and installing insulation, drywall, wiring, doors and windows.

The only thing the CTM students didn’t do was apply the final coat of paint.

“I want to take [students] out of the book and have them touch and feel everything in an area that’s not going to cost them any money or safety. They can only learn so much from a book,” Myers said. “Every student who walked through that door learned something and I could see an ‘Aha!’ moment on their face when they walked out.”

Manning said the project cost about $3,500 for students to complete instead of an estimated $30,000 by external construction companies. More than 90 percent of the funding was provided by local organizations.

Robert Kearns, one of the CTM students who worked on the project, said it was an awesome experience that fit well with other classes.

“The job site was right there next to our classroom, so it was pretty convenient,” he said.

The success of the project has instructors like Manning hoping to repeat the process and expand the space available for students to work with the mannequins.

Myers said he expects similar opportunities for his students to come up in the future because of the benefit it has had across the college.

“Not only did our 45 students in the construction program learn something, but every nursing student and EMT and paramedic student that walks through those doors will learn something,” he said.

County budgets for predicted recession

As another anticipated national recession looms, Coconino County is armed with something it didn’t have last time – a detailed plan.

“The question of a recession is not if it’s going to happen, it’s when,” said Mike Townsend, chief financial officer for the county.

Although the county switched from a five-year financial planning process to a 10-year process in the 2007 fiscal year, it did not have nearly enough time to implement the policy before the economy came crashing down in what is now known as the Great Recession.

During the recession, northern Arizona was not exempt from the heightened unemployment rates resulting from the reductions in consumer spending.

The State of Working America reported that in 2008 and 2009, 8.4 million jobs were lost nationally, becoming the most dramatic drop in employment percentage since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Nevertheless, as an employer, the county fared rather well, Townsend said, with no layoffs of locally funded employees. It did experience some budget cuts and vacancies, though.

He hopes to do even better when the next recession hits through the allocation of funding for operations, employee pensions and long-term facility improvements that has been occurring since the end of the last recession.

The goal is not to predict when the recession may occur, but to be ready for it when it does happen.

For now, county finance representatives are now using the words of former Coconino County Manager Steve Peru as a sort of guiding slogan: “We don’t want the decisions we make today to put us in a worse position in the future.”

Townsend said the county’s budget works like a personal budget. Similar to an employee’s salary, the county does not have much control of the funding it will receive; however, it can control what it spends in the event that something unexpected occurs, like a costly roof or car replacement in a personal budget.

“We’re still balancing to the bottom of a recession,” Townsend said of current county operations. “We don’t want to be off [in our prediction] by several years, but being off by a year is not going to be a huge difference because we’ve already planned for how to deal with it.”

To do so, Townsend said the financial team has emphasized critical services like payroll and utilities, while setting funding aside for projects so they can occur even in the event another recession hits.

The county website describes this as a “more accurate forecasting methodology” than a more reactionary form of short-term budgeting.

Townsend said he expects this process – planning ahead instead of merely reacting to crises as they arrive – could save the county more than $7 million over 25 years, allowing it to provide more services for its employees and customers.

Pre-planning can also save county residents money. In October, for example, the Board of Supervisors approved a one-time payment of $10 million of saved internal funds to public safety pensions, which is expected to save county taxpayers $30 million over the next 20 years.

The public safety pensions are now more than 75 percent funded by the county itself, compared to 25 percent three years ago.

“As we go through that next economic cycle, we’re going to be closer and closer to being 100 percent funded, which guarantees those pensions are going to be there for those staff in the future,” Townsend said.

He said that an accurate population count in Census 2020 will have a significant effect on revenues in the county, but the new jobs the census will bring to the area will not have a major impact on this planning process.

The annual county budgeting process, which occurs in addition to the long-term financial planning process, is scheduled to begin in April.

As investigations swirl, Trump team ready to fight, distract

WASHINGTON — The White House has beefed up its legal team. Its political team is ready to distract and disparage. And President Donald Trump is venting against Democratic prying.

Trump's plan for responding to the multiplying congressional probes into his campaign, White House and personal affairs is coming into focus as newly empowered Democrats intensify their efforts. Deploying a mix of legal legwork and political posturing, the administration is trying to minimize its exposure while casting the president as the victim of overzealous partisans.

"It's a disgrace, it's a disgrace for our country," Trump said at the White House on Tuesday as he accused Democrats of "presidential harassment."

Typically used to setting the national or global agenda, presidents are by definition on their back foot when they come under investigation. And the latest fusillade of requests for information has the Trump White House, already increasingly focused on the twin challenges of dealing with the probes and the 2020 election, in a reactive position.

Trump's response points to his increasing frustration with Congress and his intention to seize on the investigations as evidence that he is under siege in Washington.

While Trump is far from the first president to bristle at Capitol Hill oversight, his enthusiastic embrace of political victimhood is still novel — and stands to serve as a key part of his re-election argument. Trump has made railing against the so-called "witch hunt" against him a staple of his rallies and speeches, revving up crowds by mocking his investigators and news coverage of their proceedings.

That attitude was emphasized Tuesday by Trump's son Eric, who was among the 81 people and organizations that the House Judiciary Committee has contacted seeking documents as part of a probe into possible obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power. Calling Congress "incompetent," Eric Trump told Fox News Radio "we're going to fight the hell out of it. And we'll fight where we need and we'll cooperate where we need, but the desperation shows."

Aware that the shift to divided government would usher in an onslaught of investigations, the White House began making defensive moves late last year. Seeking to be ready for the Democratic-led House, more than a dozen lawyers were added to the White House Counsel's Office and a seasoned attorney was added to the communications team to handle questions related to the probes.

After Democrats took the House last November, Trump declared that they had to choose between investigating him and earning White House cooperation on matters of bipartisan concern like health care and infrastructure. Trump assessed publicly Tuesday that Democrats had made their choice, saying, "So the campaign begins."

His aides had already made that determination, with press secretary Sarah Sanders issuing an acerbic statement late Monday calling the Judiciary Committee probe a "disgraceful and abusive investigation." Trump's campaign spokeswoman, Kayleigh McEnany, accused Democrats of stopping "at nothing, including destroying the lives and reputations of many innocent Americans who only have sought to serve their country honorably, but who hold different political views than their own."

White House officials described their plan for addressing the mounting requests as multi-layered. Lawyers in the counsel's office plan to be cooperative, but are unlikely to provide Democrats with the vast array of documents they're looking for. In particular, they intend to be deeply protective of executive power and privilege — a defense used by previous administrations against probing lawmakers with varying degrees of success.

Trump said President Barack Obama "didn't give one letter" when his administration came under congressional investigation. But Obama spokesman Eric Shultz tweeted that the Obama White House produced hundreds of thousands of documents for various congressional inquiries.

Meanwhile, others in the White House and the president's orbit are preparing to do what they can to bring the fight to Democrats, preparing dossiers about Obama's invocation of executive privilege when House Republicans investigated his administration. And all acknowledge there is no chance that Trump will stop commenting and criticizing the investigations.