WILLCOX— In addition to the major discussions of the night, a few other items of note happened during Thursday night’s city council meeting.
A new member of the Planning and Zoning Commission was named after a brief discussion among city council members, including Carl Hestand, who wasn’t present due to personal reasons but made himself available on speaker phone via Mayor Mike Laws’ iPhone.
Vice mayor Tim Bowlby kicked off the discussion.
“Mr. Mayor, are we just looking for a nomination or is there going to be more discussion? What would you like?” Bowlby asked.
“I just want to say that we have struggled to find anyone. Is Joe (Stone) here?” Councilman Paul Sheats said.
Mayor Mike Laws said Stone was not present.
“He has Hospitality and construction experience. Kind of hard to find someone with construction experience,” Hestand added.
There was at least one more candidate, but the council pressed on.
“Do we have a second on Joe? Motion seconded. So I guess we’ll vote on Joe then. All in favor say I. So Joe will be our new appointee,” Laws added.
After Laws asked if Hestand could hear them on speakerphone, the city council unanimously voted to appoint Joe Stone as the new member of the Planning and Zoning Commission.
This was followed by Birds and Barrels Vineyards and Winery LLC’s public hearing to get a series 19 (remote tasting room) liquor license approved so it could set up a taproom like their partners Golden Rule Vineyards and Strive Vineyards.
Chad Preston, co-owner of Birds and Barrels with his wife, Monica, presented their case.
“We look forward to working with the city and keeping them up to date. We love our community and our county and our city,” Chad Preston said.
Councilwoman Becky Akes made a motion to approve the liquor license for Birds and Barrels.
Her motion was seconded and city council unanimously approved the license.
This decision was met with a thunderous roar of cheers and applause from Mark Phillips, Golden Rule Vineyards, alongside Desiree and Ryan Gerth of Strive Vineyards, who were in attendance to support their third business partner.
The hearing began at 5:43 and only lasted three minutes.
The third and final small take-away of the night was a brief discussion of what to do with the old airport land.
Blaschke briefly presented his thoughts on the matter to city council members.
“Any financial responsibility that an airport has, we assume. Any debt that that airport has, we assume,” he said.
“If we were to use our own staff, I don’t see us coming out of it with money.
“Other things that we are looking at: How we would zone an airport and what would be in that land around it?
“I just wanted to update the council on what I am working on behind the scenes.” Blaschke said.
Blaschke was echoed by Hestand.
“We’ve got a lot of other things on our plate, but this is more important,” Hestand said.
“Now I’m not advocating for an airport. I’m just presenting all of the facts. My job is to present an official business model. If we were to operate it, we’d operate it.
“What kind of investment? Who uses the airport? Those are the kinds of bigger questions that we need to be asking.”
“I don’t know the exact demographics or the exact numbers, but I can do my best to find an answer for you,” Blaschke said.
Bowlby chimed in after Blaschke finished his second round of remarks and shed light on a personal connection he has to the airport land.
“I’d just wanted to add that I grew up around that space,” Bowlby said. “I always thought that the airport wasn’t done. I don’t know what your aspirations are. Airports could turn into something profitable depending on how you run it, what you allow on to it, things like that.”
Bowlby also shed light on how Willcox’s airport has never hosted large groups of people attending any sort of conference.
“Do you want to have a reason to build a hotel? Now with all the people, now you have reason to build the hotel or you build hotels that people are never going to see,” he said.
Laws made his final thoughts of the night after the airport discussion wrapped up.
“We’re all facing trying times as a community due to the pandemic. We’ll do the best we can,” he said.