Yavapai County was busy in 2018. From high voter turnout to new road projects, news certainly wasn’t in short supply this year. Here are some of the county’s biggest stories from 2018.
Yavapai County adopts texting while driving ordinance
You might want to avoid updating your Facebook status while driving in Yavapai County.
In October, the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a new ordinance banning the manual use of cellphones or other portable communication devices while driving.
The ordinance encompasses all unincorporated areas of the county and went into effect Nov. 2.
Violating this new ordinance may result in a $100 penalty in addition to other assessments and surcharges. A driver involved in a crash would receive a $250 penalty.
Some municipalities within the state such as Sedona, Oro Valley and Tucson, already banned any use of a hand-held cellphone behind the wheel.
Meanwhile, Arizona is one of only three states that still does not have a state-wide ban on texting while driving. Lawmakers like Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, have tried for years to pass a state-wide ban.
While Arizona may not have a state-wide ban yet, Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill last spring prohibiting teens from using any wireless device while holding a learner’s permit and during the first six months of their provisional license.
Verde Connect project gets $25 million from feds
In December, The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded a $25 million grant to Yavapai County to fund the “Verde Connect Project.”
“It takes it from possibly never happening to probably being done in next four to six years,” said Yavapai County District 3 Supervisor Randy Garrison. “A major project like this always starts out as a dream, and then a vision … with money always out there as an obstacle.”
The project is a 5- to 7-mile stretch of two-lane road that will connect the northern Middle Verde Road area, the Yavapai-Apache Nation and the northeastern portion of the Town of Camp Verde to State Route 260. Garrison said he expects the new road to intersect with Cornville Road to create a direct pass-through to Beaverhead Flat Road.
Before the grant, the project was merely in its talking stages. Objectives of the proposed project are to improve safety and enhance livability. The project is also meant to alleviate issues with commuting between communities.
District 2 Supervisor Thomas Thurman said, “This project has been on my radar since I took over for Supervisor (Chip) Davis on the Verde Valley Transportation Planning Organization. It is remarkable that we are the only awardee of this grant in Arizona and I am thrilled to see the efforts of the Yavapai County Public Works Department, and Jacobs Engineering, paying off to the benefit and safety of the citizens of the Verde Valley and all of Yavapai County.”
Randy Garrison takes gavel as chairman of Yavapai County Board of Supervisors
Yavapai County District 3 Supervisor Randy Garrison was unanimously voted in as Chairman during a Yavapai County Board of Supervisors meeting on Dec. 5. Supervisor Craig Brown was voted in as the new Vice Chairman.
The Chairman of the Board approves all items on the meeting agendas, maintains order during the Board meetings and signs all documents approved by the Board.
If the Chairman is not available, the vice chairman takes over these responsibilities.
These new titles will officially take effect on January 1, 2019.
A schedule for the Board meetings is available to the public at http://www.yavapai.us/meetings
Local agencies, PANT investigate fentanyl pills
Local law enforcement agencies in Yavapai County and Partners Against Narcotics Trafficking have been investigating cases involving pills/tablets containing fentanyl following several reported overdoses and drug seizures.
The seized tablets have no “visible indication” of their content, according to the Yavapai County Sherriff’s Office.
YCSO spokesman Dwight D’Evelyn said even small doses of fentanyl can be deadly. He said there have been cases of overdoses in Yavapai County in recent months.
“YCSO, its law enforcement partners and MatForce, urge families to talk now about the dangers of drug use,” D’Evelyn said. “With fentanyl-laced pills available in our community, it is very important that teens understand the life-threatening risk of sharing pills at parties, and how drug experimentation can have fatal consequences. You can help stop this drug epidemic from claiming more lives of those we love.”
Cottonwood Police Sgt. Monica Kuhlt called the cases a “nationwide epidemic” and that the situation is even worse in other states.
“We have also had local overdoses where it was believed (or possibly confirmed through toxicology) that pills and heroin the person injected/ingested contained fentanyl.” she wrote in an email.
State Route 260 project in winter hiatus
A surprisingly colder (and wetter) October halted final work on the State Route 260 widening project between Camp Verde in Cottonwood until next spring.
According to the Arizona Department of Transportation, all major work on the $62 million project was already completed.
Crews constructed two lanes in each direction, opened seven roundabouts and completed a new bridge over Cherry Creek near Cherry Creek road in a nine-mile stretch.
Initially, plans called for a final layer of pavement to go in before winter but unusually wet weather from Hurricane Rosa as well as a drop in temperatures delayed this plans. According to ADOT, the road surface needs to be around 85 degrees for pavement to cure properly.
As a result, road pavement – while save to drive on – will be a bit noisier this winter.
Voters overwhelmingly approve county jail tax
76 percent of Yavapai County voters voted to keep the jail tax in place in May.
The one-quarter percent jail tax will stay in place for another 20 years.
The tax currently generates nearly $9 million, which goes toward $18 million in annual costs.