COOLIDGE — The Coolidge Unified School District will not require masks for students, at least for now.
After a thorough discussion of the latest health metrics and situation around the community, the board voted 4-1 to table a potential mask mandate until a later meeting. The lone dissenting vote came from board Vice President Keith Seaman, who was in favor of mandatory indoor masks for at least a month.
“Now we are faced with this again,” said board President Michael Flores. “I have been very strict and I believe in masks, and that hasn’t changed, but this time around I truly believe this should be a family decision, a parents’ decision, I should not dictate.”
Flores went on to say that he does feel parents have a responsibility to help reduce exposure to COVID-19 for the health and safety of the community.
Ultimately, a variety of factors led to the board opting to stick with the current district rules. Board members cited general satisfaction with safety measures and the need to keep kids in school. But with Sept. 29 looming as a key date after which mask mandates may be disallowed in Arizona, the board felt it was better to wait for further clarification on state law.
“We believe health and safety is a priority as a district,” said Superintendent Dawn Hodge, “but we also believe keeping kids in school and in-person school is another priority. We don’t want to have to cancel activities and events.”
Several parents expressed concerns during the meeting about the possibility of mandating masks or quarantining students but also praised the district for providing a virtual learning option.
So far, the district has had 18 on-campus confirmed COVID cases, 94% of which were students, and has had to quarantine 700 students district-wide off and on to begin the year, including the entire middle school for the final 10 days of August.
The district did take action on one important item prior to the discussion on masks. The city of Coolidge executed the final sale of the North School property, purchasing the building for roughly $200,000.
Although currently the property, which had been taken over by the Artisan Village, is being used for some Parks and Recreation programs, board member Linda Heath said she hoped in the future it would be used more extensively.
“My very first teaching year was at North School,” Heath said. “So it really holds a place in my heart. I’m hoping that by selling this to the city they can actually use it for something. It’s a wonderful old building.”
COOLIDGE — “Every drop counts!”
That is the message of Coolidge’s upcoming water conservation campaign, created jointly with Arizona Water Company. The city plans to launch the campaign on Oct. 2, during the Coolidge Days celebration.
“We need to find a way to make our water supplies last longer and go farther,” said AWC President Fred Schneider. “Water’s in the news and making the headlines.”
According to Schneider, the company has been working with cities like Coolidge on conservation programs for the past several years.
AWC water conservation specialist Raluca Mihalcescu gave a presentation during Monday’s City Council meeting on what the campaign would entail. Mihalcescu praised Coolidge’s current “robust” conservation mandates in the general plan, such as landscaping requirements in the zoning code for drought tolerant plants.
“These programs are important to build relationships with the communities we serve,” Mihalcescu said of the “Every Drop Counts!” campaign, which features a mascot, Willie the Water Drop.
Mihalcescu said the campaign would include conservation kits for new homeowners, a public education component including school programs and a marketing campaign.
Currently, Coolidge residents use 93 gallons per capita per day of water, compared to a state average of 120.
During the regular portion of the meeting, Mayor Jon Thompson cited concerns about the rising cost of installing solar panels at the wastewater treatment plan. The contract price with Urban Energy Solutions jumped up in the latest draft from $390,000 to $477,000.
“The price continues to rise and we haven’t turned a lick,” Thompson said.
City Manager Rick Miller said that the price increase is due to the solar array design being larger than expected, but that it would also generate more power once built and create energy savings.
Eventually, the item was approved by the council.
Later, the council authorized a land swap with property owner Willie Masters, who had unknowingly purchased a parcel several years ago that the city had been maintaining as a stormwater retention basin.
Masters recently approached the city with the possibility of conveying the property, which is in front of the Cota Ranch subdivision, in exchange for dismissing city liens of over $5,000 on a different property he had purchased.
The city did not own the basin property, but had been taking care of the ditch, cleaning out weeds and other detritus, because there was no homeowners association for Cota Ranch.
“I didn’t see the hole on the aerial map,” Masters joked at the meeting, who described the swap as a “win-win” since the city could be taking over land it was maintaining anyway.
The agreement with Masters was approved, with one dissenting vote.
COOLIDGE — City Council members recently revisited and unanimously approved an updated street parking ordinance in order to provide relief to residents and business owners who are concerned about clogged streets.
The new ordinance focuses on untended, unattached trailers specifically, city-wide, but can include unattached work trailers, off-highway vehicles on trailers, boats on trailers and RVs that are parked along the sides of roads continuously and for long periods of time.
Exclusions to the ordinance include a 48-hour loading and unloading buffer. "Friendly" code enforcement will be in effect through the Coolidge Police Department.
Owners of said vehicles and trailers that pose a risk will be asked to move them. A buffer zone of 20 feet around each vehicle is necessary in order to prevent blind spots to motorists.
Once owners are notified to move said vehicle(s), the Police Department will have the teeth to cite owners and take steps necessary to protect citizens. If said vehicles are parked on and blocking sidewalks, owners can also be cited and may be subject to fines up to $250 under Arizona Revised Statute 2395, a state law prohibiting the blockage of sidewalks.
Concerned residents have raised the issue on numerous occasions, according to city staff, citing safety and passing issues on narrow streets. Clogged streets lined with untended trailers, boats, RVs and other unattached utility trailers make passing and traveling streets a dangerous undertaking.
According to council discussions during the meeting on Aug. 9, motorists often must pull over and let other cars and trucks pass while both sides of the streets are lined with parked vehicles and unattached trailers.
These types of situations are especially risky in newer subdivisions, which have been built with narrower streets.
“This addition to the ordinance provides recourse where unattached trailers are specifically posing a hazard in the public right of way and on local streets,” said Gilbert Lopez, the city’s development services director. “It gives the Police Department and the city of Coolidge an option to cite and follow-up with owners who don’t comply with the regulation and request to move the vehicle.”
Newer, narrow streets are not designed to handle two-way traffic lined with parked vehicles. Arterial and neighborhood streets that are clogged, he said, make it difficult for commuters, residents, emergency vehicles and general traffic to safely navigate.
In older areas of the city, where the streets and lots are larger, there are also evolving issues as the numbers of parked, unattended vehicles, trailers, RVs and semi-trucks continue to increase. Some older properties have RV gates that are off the streets and not an issue in most cases.