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Refuse service fee increase proposal tabled amid council concerns

SIERRA VISTA — A proposal to raise refuse service fees in order to place the city’s Refuse Enterprise Fund back in the black was tabled temporarily Thursday after one Sierra Vista Council member voiced concern that the plan was too vague and some residents might not be able to afford the increases.

The proposal will be revisited at the city council’s next meeting on Sept. 26.

For now, Councilwoman Carolyn Umphrey, who asked that the issue be placed on hold, is hoping to get a clearer explanation of how the proposed fee increase will give the Refuse Enterprise Fund a jump start.

At the council’s work session Tuesday, Public Works Director Sharon Flissar told the panel that the city was losing about $150,000 a year in operational costs for the refuse services provided. Flissar said the fees would be increased only for people who use the city’s refuse services.

Those services include the use of residential dumpsters, compost fees and special pick-ups for yard and non-yard waste. She said the revenues garnered by the current fee schedule are not enough to sustain the financial needs of the Refuse Enterprise Fund.

“The fee increases would make up the loss,” Flissar told council members on Tuesday.

But that’s where Umphrey wants more clarification. She also said that some of those who use the refuse services might not be able to afford the proposed fee hikes.

In fiscal year 2019 for example, the city did not charge a pull fee for dumpster rentals. The pull fee includes delivery of the dumpster, rental, pickup and disposal of the waste. In fiscal year 2020 though, a resident who rents a 3-cubic-yard dumpster will have to shell out $153.24 for the entire service.

The fee jumps to $181.64 if a resident rents a 6-cubic-yard dumpster.As far as compost goes,a Flissar said the city’s compost is so cheap that people were buying it and reselling it for more money. With the proposed fee schedule, Sierra Vista residents who use refuse services will go from paying nothing to $10 for an inbound fee for compost, and from $15 to $25 for an outbound fee for screened compost.Non-residents would pay $10 instead of the $5 they pay now. Special pickups for non-yard waste will jump from $14.40 to $44.85. Special pickups for yard waste will go from $0 to $44.85 as well.

“It’s such a drastic increase going from $0 to $44.85,” Umphrey said after the council meeting Thursday. “I think people use the refuse service because they may not have a truck to take it to the landfill themselves. They may not be able to afford this.”

“I think this could encourage illegal dumping,” Umphrey added.

Umphrey also mentioned the citywide 15 percent refuse rate increase that residents were hit with last year.

“The people who use the refuse services will now have to pay another increase. I think it’s unfair,” Umphrey said. “I also want to see a better breakdown of how these increases will get us there (in the black.)”

Councilwoman Gwen Calhoun agreed, telling Flissar, “We just want to understand it a little better.”

Flissar said she understands Umphrey’s concerns and will await questions from her and other council members.

In other business at Thursday’s meeting, the city council unanimously passed the following items: a pre-annexation and development agreement between the city and Cochise Roadworks LLC, an agreement between the city and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and acceptance of a grant from the city of Tucson to pay for overtime for a Sierra Vista police officer to participate in the DEA’s Southern Arizona Major Investigative Team.


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Paying tribute: Benson Marine Corps vet honored for years of high-profile service

BENSON — Most Benson residents know Franklin Hough via the popular restaurant he owned and operated for 25 years with his wife, Chloe.

But there’s a lot more to Franklin Hough, 79, than his entrepreneurial spirit and that iconic Benson eatery, Reb’s Café & Coffee Shop.

As a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, Hough was honored Tuesday for his military service in a special ceremony organized by Valor HospiceCare, with support from “We Honor Veterans,” a program of the Veterans Administration. Family, friends, a JROTC cadet, Valor HospiceCare staff and a group of veterans gathered at Hough’s home to pay tribute to his service and community contributions.

Terminally ill with supranuclear palsy, Hough is bedridden and in hospice care. While the debilitating condition has affected his speech, he recognizes friends and family and was able to shake hands and acknowledged those who lined up to see him during the tribute.

“The palsy affects his ability to move and his balance, and it limits his ability to speak,” said Chloe Hough. “This is a debilitating illness that progressed quickly.”

Between his experiences in the Marines and his role as a local restaurant owner, Franklin has had a fascinating life, she said.

“Sergeant Franklin Hough served as an MP (military police) in the United States Marine Corps from 1956 to 1960,” Tombstone High School JROTC Cadet Lachlan Gee said as he fastened a pin onto Hough’s shirt as part of the ceremony. “During his military career, he was assigned as a bodyguard for high-ranking officials, including Soviet statesman Nikita Khrushchev,” who visited the U.S. in September of 1959 during President Dwight Eisenhower’s administration.

Khrushchev’s visit marked the first time a Soviet or Russian leader set foot in the Western Hemisphere.

Because he was such a high profile dignitary, Khrushchev’s visit drew a heavy crowd and media presence, which made Hough’s job as his bodyguard both interesting and a bit challenging.

Hough also provided security detail for President Eisenhower.

Steve Deskins, one of Hough’s nephews and among the veterans who attended the tribute, describes his uncle as “an inspiration” and someone he admired from the time he first met him.

“I met Uncle Frank when he was in the Marines, and I joined the Marine Corps in 1970 because of him,” Deskins said. “He has an interesting background. Along with serving as Eisenhower’s bodyguard, he was with a detachment that was sent to Lebanon in 1958 to evacuate American citizens during the Lebanese political crisis.

“This was a dangerous assignment, and I’m very proud of his service to our country. I joined the Marines in 1970 because he had such an influence on me, and I served until 1992.”

Moira Walker, Hough’s 16-year-old granddaughter, has fond memories of Reb’s Café and spending time with her grandfather.

“I’m very proud of my grandfather,” she said. “Reb’s was my favorite restaurant when I was growing up and it always will be. I was going there from the time I was born. The food was amazing and it was always busy because everyone loved eating there. I was sad when it closed.”

While Reb’s Café was Hough’s last business endeavor before his retirement, his son, Frank Hough, said his father was in the restaurant business for as long as he can remember.

“He had a hamburger stand in St. David by the high school at one time and he cooked at the Horseshoe Cafe (& Bakery) for several years. Reb’s first opened in 1982 in one location, but my dad relocated the restaurant to 1020 W. Fourth St. where it remained until he and Chloe closed the business in 2017.”

Between the two locations, Reb’s served Benson for nearly 40 years. Hough closed the restaurant when he was 77, marking the end of a Benson landmark.

As a token of appreciation for his military service, Hough was presented with two pins at Tuesday’s ceremony: the U.S. flag by JROTC Cadet Lachlan Geen and the U.S. Marine Corps pin, by Heather Collins. He also received a certificate from Meagan Gee-Henry, volunteer coordinator for Valor HospiceCare.

“Mr. Hough, thank you for your service to our nation,” Gee-Henry said when presenting the certificate. “Thank you for the sacrifices you made and your willingness to serve our country. You endured hardships and were willing to risk your life to maintain our freedom.

“On behalf of the United States Veteran’s Administration and our staff at Valor HospiceCare, please accept our thanks and gratitude. When you see these pins, know that your service to the nation is deeply appreciated. We thank you.”

Following the ceremony, every veteran lined up to shake Hough’s hand and thank him for his service. U.S. Army Veteran Richard Moon served in the Gulf War during Operation Desert Storm and represented the only Army vet in a long line of Marines.

“I thought they did a fantastic job with the ceremony,” he said. “It was a very nice, well deserved tribute.”


MARK LEVY HERALD/REVIEW, FILE 

fest 1

Above, Larry Powers serves up some suds at the Knights of Columbus stand under the beer tent during Oktoberfest in the park in Sierra Vista in 2018. At left, Oktoberfest bratwurst on the grill.