DOUGLAS — Douglas’ search for a new city manager is moving forward.

Following an executive session that was held in a special meeting prior to the Feb. 10 regularly scheduled Douglas City Council meeting, mayor Donald Huish announced that there were 20 applicants for the city manager position.

“That number is more than we anticipated,” the mayor said. “We will look at all of the applicants and see who meets the qualifications and will have a paring down interview by myself and Vice Mayor (Margaret) Morales and then make a recommendation of those that we want to interview as a full council. We will not be releasing any names at this time of those that have applied.”

During the regular meeting that followed, eight local businesses that have been in Douglas for five to longer than 30 years were recognized by the mayor and council.

In other business, Fitzgibbons Law Office of Casa Grande was approved by the council to serve as its new legal services representative.

The mayor and council reportedly gave staff direction to seek out contract attorney services that will provide necessary legal services for all city related matters. A RFQ (request for quote) was published and just two bids were turned in.

Fitzgibbons received the highest score among the three raters that included Luis Pedroza, Alma Andrade and Dawn Prince. The two firms that submitted RFQ’s met qualifications, expertise and experience requirements. One, however, did not have municipal law within its practice areas, which led to the recommendation of Fitzgibbons.

The hourly fee from Fitzgibbons is reportedly $225 per hour for the city attorney; $200 per hour for the assistant attorney; $175 per hour for an associate attorney; $110 for a paralegals and $50 per hour for law clerks.

“We additionally checked Fitzgibbons references and the city of Coolidge said they were very satisfied with their performance,” the council’s information packet noted. “They currently use them in all city legal matters such as ordinances, contracts, employment, council meeting attendance, prosecution and all other municipal needs. The city of Maricopa also expressed their satisfaction and same use as Coolidge saying that Fitzgibbons is very responsive, innovative and competent in doing their job.”

The mayor and council also approved a second reading of an ordinance that deals with zoning codes and the regulation of recreational marijuana, imposing license fees and setting forth violations while providing for enforcement and penalties.

Peter Gardner, city planner, said this ordinance will help establish the land use law on recreational and dual use marijuana dispensaries.

“What we’re requesting to do is take the currently permitted use with a variety of setbacks to a conditional use requiring approval by the Planning and Zoning Commission,” he said. “There are two changes from the previous reading we’d like to highlight. The first being the 1,000-foot setback from schools, churches, libraries and licensed childcare facilities. We’d like to add residences to that. We hope to protect the residences. The second deals with the language about the odor, vibrations, vapors. If that smell is pervasive and it’s bothering the neighbors this does give us the authority to rectify that.”

Gardner, who resides in Bisbee and commutes daily, lives near a marijuana dispensary and has experienced the line of people waiting in front of his residence to get their marijuana. He stated he has received seven requests from business looking to open some kind of facility in Douglas.

“We’re probably going to be revisiting this later on in the year as the regulations get developed at the state level and filters down to how it will affect us,” the mayor said.

Luis Pedroza, Douglas’ interim city manager, provided the city council with an update regarding the border wall builders, Southwest Valley Contractors, who are in the process of leaving Douglas now that the border wall project has been suspended.

“Ninety percent of their workforce has left Douglas,” he said. “There is some work left, however, which includes about one mile of wall construction as well as some security features such as lighting and road construction. What we were told is they expect to leave here completely no later than April 1.”

The mayor and council also approved the first reading of an ordinance regarding pet cremation services.

The Douglas Animal Shelter, by way of agreement with Lasting Paws Pet Memorial Services (formerly Ames Diversified Services L.L.C.), currently provides animal cremation services to Douglas and the surrounding community.

A fee scale based on weight was established and remained unchanged from when the agreement was signed on or about Dec. 11, 2013. On or about Jan. 1, 2021, the city received notice from Lasting Paws Pet Memorial Services that the weight class would be modified and associate fees would increase by $3 to $6 per weight class. Staff recommended that the cremation fees be modified to the following:

Up to 3 lbs.: $75

3 lbs. to 30 lbs.: $100

30 lbs. to 60 lbs.: $115

60 lbs. to 90 lbs.: $130

Over 90 lbs.: $155