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Sierra Vista Spotlight Breakfast 2019: City presents its two-year strategic plan to community

SIERRA VISTA — A two-year-strategic plan that encompasses everything from improving the city’s presence on social media, to building an ambulance center in an area of Sierra Vista where emergency response times are slower, was unveiled Tuesday morning along with the municipality’s economic focus.

The one-hour presentation was given at the annual Spotlight Breakfast at Cochise College and covered the recently-approved 2019-2021 Strategic Plan. The latter lays out several goals that city officials hope to have completed by June 2021. They are outlined in four sections titled — engage, enhance, empower and enjoy.

One of the actions under the engage goal includes a plan to “record 1,000 positive mentions across social media platforms by the end of 2020.”

Assistant City Manager Victoria Yarbrough explained to the audience that “We want to create a more positive buzz on social media about Sierra Vista.”

On a more serious note under the enhance section, Yarbrough touched on improving emergency response times to the city’s southwest edge off Buffalo Soldier Trail.

Currently the average response time by fire and paramedics in the city’s Winterhaven subdivision is a little over eight minutes. The goal is to cut that by 25 percent. Yarbrough said the reason for the slower response times in the southwestern corner of the community has to do with location.

“If you look geographically where the fire stations are placed in Sierra Vista, you think of Sierra Vista as a triangle,” Yarbrough said. “Our fire stations are on Fry Boulevard, Julio Cesare and Avenida Cochise. So we missed this whole area.”

“We identified a perfect location that the city already owns (at Seventh Street and Buffalo Soldier) and we can reduce response times in that area by putting another station there,” Yarbrough added.

City Manager Chuck Potucek elicited laughter from the crowd when he mentioned his tongue-in-cheek name for that area. “I call it the ‘Circle of Death’ and I happen to live there,” he said. “This will be a great place for an ambulance center.”

The empower section of the strategic plan section looks at addressing homelessness, mental health issues and affordable housing in the city. Finally, the enjoy section tackles increasing the sports tourism revenue to $1 million and developing a plan to build a new sports complex.

Potucek followed Yarbrough with information regarding the city’s economic health, as well as projects and initiatives.

“The economy is growing — that’s a good thing,” Potucek said.

He pointed to the city’s unemployment rate, which is at 4.7 percent, compared to 2018 when it was 4.9 percent. He also said there were more civilian jobs at Fort Huachuca. In 2018 there were about 17,881 positions and so far this year there are 18,661.

He mentioned that a project the city is aiming for within the Fort involves a 203-acre plot — the city owns nine acres within that property and the rest is owned by the Fort. Potucek said he would like to see a “mission-related” project there.

The city manager also talked about the housing market, saying that housing sales jumped this past June compared to the same time last year. This June there were 164 property closings, a 22 percent increase over June 2018 when just under 140 properties closed.

Additionally, in June 2018, the median price of sold houses was $160,000; this June it climbed to $194,950.

The city also garnered more sales tax revenue this year as compared to 2018. Potucek said the Sierra Vista collected $18.8 million last year and so far this year, it has received $19.9 million.

“This is really, really good news,” he told the audience. “This will allow us to make improvements.”

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County secures more services for people with mental health issues

BISBEE — Cochise Health and Social Services (CHSS) is getting some help in dealing with people who present behavioral health issues and require an assessment under Title 36.

Board of Supervisors Peggy Judd, Ann English and Tom Borer approved entering an agreement with Palo Verde Behavioral Health in Tucson to provide medical services for $25,000 annually through June 30, 2021 during Tuesday’s meeting.

“Title 36 is an involuntary process for evaluation, care and treatment of persons with a mental disorder,” according to documents submitted by CHSS director Carrie Langley. “At any time during the process, the patient may choose to accept care and treatment voluntarily. If the person can and accepts voluntary treatment, the involuntary Title 36 process stops.”

With few resources within the county to provide these services, “Securing placement for Title 36 patients can be a long process, often resulting in limited options for care. It is essential CHSS find as many partners as possible.”

The two-year contract will provide a reliable backup to access care and treatment in a timely manner, Langley said.

The supervisors also approved a $4.614 million multi-county contract with the Arizona Department of Economic Security (ADES) for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) service delivery area which will run through June 30, 2021. The Cochise Private Industry Council, Inc. (CPIC) provides adult, youth, and dislocated worker training programs in Cochise, Graham, and Greenlee Counties. CPIC is reimbursed for their allowable expense through DOL and the State.

The WIOA programs are funded through the Department of Labor contracts which come through the state. Cochise County acts as a pass through, so there is no fiscal impact to Cochise County.

The University of Arizona South is seeking a grant from the National Science Foundation to be used for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) curriculum development and teacher training, and now has the support of the county.

The Cochise Conservation Network (CCRN) could offer teachers the opportunity to study the existing recharge projects and riparian ecology of the area to develop STEM-based curricula for students.

“A grant from the National Science Foundation would enhance the ability of our teachers to take advantage of the county’s rich natural history and assets and translate those assets into STEM-based learning materials for our county’s students. In a time where youth are becoming more disconnected from nature, opportunities like this are critical in fostering future generations of stewards and advocates for the environmental assets we are charged with protecting in Cochise County,” the letter stated.

The county, The City of Sierra Vista, The Nature Conservancy, The City of Bisbee and the Hereford Natural Resource Conservation District collaborate on plans, designs, engineering, construction and monitoring of aquifer recharge projects near the San Pedro River. Such efforts are modeled and designed to support the stream flow of the river and the riparian habitat of the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, a nationally recognized and important protected area in the heart of Cochise County.

The county, as a member of the CCRN and administrator of the project sites, welcomes relationships and agreements with the local school districts for the use of one or more of these project sites located in the Sierra Vista sub-watershed for educational purposes and teacher training, according to the letter.

Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services FILE  

Rep. Jay Lawrence