Big Park Regional Coordinating Council
FEBRUARY 9TH, 2023
Call to Order: President John Wichert called the meeting to order at 9:00am welcoming guest speakers Tom Binnings, James Curry and Duane Thompson.
Guest Speakers: Tom Binnings and James Curry of the Greater Sedona Broadband Initiative.
Tom thanked the Big Park Council for assisting with their survey of broadband reception within the community. He explained that according to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) information, the VOC/Big Park area has broadband service as it falls within the top service category of 80% to 100% of households. He showed a map of the recent community survey illustrating that this is correct. The map further shows individual Internet Service Providers (ISP) by the survey respondents’ location. Tom then summarized the survey’s results of broadband speeds in comparison to what the ISP’s have reported to the FCC. Although the reported ISP speeds are high, they are not readily available throughout the community. With FCC recommended minimum speeds of 100/20 mbps, the VOC/Big Park community is clearly underserved and would qualify for (Broadband Equity Access & Deployment) BEAD funding. He further noted that fixed fiber installation would provide 1000/1000 mbps speeds. Tom credited James Curry with identification of where all current fixed fiber was located, noting that Lumen/Century Link installed these as a result of a grant received by the school district. He then explained that although fixed fiber was installed along SR179 and Verde Valley School Road, customers need to take an additional step to get connected to it which requires cooperation of ISPs and Lumen who does not seem interested at this time. Options currently available to the remainder of community without fixed fiber are 1. Accept what we have, 2. Pursue fixed wireless which involves construction of multiple towers to provide the signal and 3. Connect via satellites offering higher speeds. He proposes multiple paths moving forward. 1. Collaborate with the City of Sedona who has hired a consultant, 2. Reach out to Yavapai County together with the Yavapai County Superintendent of Schools and Library Director and 3. Request a presentation by the Director of Broadband in the Arizona Commerce Authority. He expressed concern that the way forward was unclear, and that communication of the steps being taken needs improvement, noting that BEAD funding must be requested by the ISP’s and economic feasibility is a consideration. John Wichert said that he would be briefing Supervisor Michaels on the results at a meeting later this month.
In answer to a question on signal reliability, Tom said that was not one of the questions on the survey. The survey only focused on signal speed and location. Click HERE for a copy of Tom’s presentation.
Guest Speaker: Duane Thompson of the BPC APS Transmission Line Subcommittee.
Duane reported that a survey of APS outages in the VOC/Big Park area was conducted between Jan 23 and Feb 6 with 158 total responses received, of which 113 provided detailed outage information between 2020 and 2022. He reminded the Council that the BPC has filed a letter of opposition to additional above-ground power lines, not to a back-up power solution. Duane then summarized a comparison of APS reported outages over a 10-year period to the BPC three-year survey results. Respondents had logged onto the APS website and listed APS reported outages over a three-year period for their residence for the BPC survey.
The APS outage data provided to the USFS for its draft decision document listed one outage event of 4 hours each year along with rotating outages of 150-160 hours per year, but Duane noted that, despite numerous requests from the Subcommittee, APS has not provided actual data to support these averages. BPC results show two outage events every three years averaging 42 minutes each and no evidence of rotating outages. He then noted that 74% of VOC/Big Park residents responded to a survey question that they are not too concerned or not at all concerned with future outages. Participation in the survey included residents from around the Village, roughly 55% West of SR 179 and 45% East. Duane submitted a request to APS the prior day seeking clarification of the discrepancies between the two reports.
Duane stressed that for approval of a construction project, the USFS requires a clear “social need,” and in this instance, power outages were claimed to be the “social need”. The BPC survey results question the urgent social need for the project and will argue that the social need can be mitigated though underground burial of the proposed power lines, as well as consideration of other alternatives. He expressed his opinion that the proposed power lines probably more a part of APS’s overall business plan than a social need.
In conjunction with the main proposal for additional power lines, APS has recently requested permission to conduct a geotechnical survey along the proposed route. Comments are due to the USFS by Feb. 12. BPC sent a letter to the USFS questioning why the geotechnical survey has been requested before the project itself has been fully evaluated and approved. BPC President John Wichert and Duane, along with a KSB representative, will be meeting with the new Coconino Forest Supervisor on Feb 17 to review the proposal. A final USFS Environmental Assessment (EA) decision is not expected until late spring/early summer. Click HERE for a copy of Duane’s presentation.
Roll Call: Secretary Mary Pope confirmed a quorum of 14 member organizations present along with 4 alternates and 10 guests.
President’s Report: John Wichert noted that as he and Colleen get to know and understand the Big Park Council, they’ve spoken to a number of individuals who’ve worked within and alongside the Council over the years as well as people who he will be working with in the future. He thanked Mary Pope for her knowledge of the organization and continuing support and Camille Cox for her efforts in saving it during a difficult period. John and Colleen see their primary task this year to make the BPC self-sustaining and to foster growth. Identifying sources of additional funding will be critical moving ahead.
John then expressed his thanks to Rick Harroun for accepting the position of liaison to the USFS and thanking Paul Sullivan for his service in this role over the years.
He listed P&Z Standing Committee members proposed by the committee chair as Bob Marriott, Chair Pro-tem, Nancy Maple, Phil Feiner, David Gill, Michael McGaughey and Dave Norton with advisors Paul Cooley, Duane Thompson and Mary Morris. A motion was made by Carolyn Fisher, seconded by Dave Norton to approve the committee members as listed. Motion passed unanimously.
He listed the Dark-Sky Standing Committee members proposed by the committee co-chairs as Curt Schneider, Co-Chair, Dave Norton, Co-Chair, Phil Feiner, Kirk Smith and Curt Czarsty. A motion was made by David Gill, seconded by Carolyn Fisher to approve the committee members as listed. Motion passed unanimously.
John then noted that the Meeting Agenda had been modified to move Committee Reports forward.
Art in the Roundabouts (AiR): Camille Cox acknowledged Rolf Funk and Steve Fiedler as co-chairs and reviewed the purpose, scope and structure of the committee. She explained the working relationship between the BPC and Sedona Village Partnership (SVP) for this project and expressed the Mission of the committee as “To display the story of our community with inspiring public art”. Rolf Funk then summarized the progress the committee has made, noting the successful launch party October 4th.
Work is nearly completed on a website, funded by SVP, called OurVillageArt.org, which will be very artistic to sparkle and inspire both residents and artists. Next steps include a plan to issue a public survey and a call for entries. In answer to a question, Camille noted that the committee has remained in touch with the original artwork donors and as the project progresses will determine if the donations are in accordance with what the community wants displayed on the roundabouts. Sufficient time will be allowed for new entries to be received and reviewed. Click HERE for a copy of the AiR Committee presentation.
Emergency Preparedness (EPPiC): Gwen Hanna briefly noted the purpose and scope of the committee emphasizing the creation of a disaster resource repository to provide the information needed in a Big Park Community emergency. The repository would reside within the newly planned BPC website and Gwen noted that the committee was pleased to be able to join the website prototyping efforts. She noted that the committee felt it did not have sufficient printed materials to host a booth for the Community BBQ in April, and were focusing efforts on hosting a Community Forum, including frontline agencies instead. The committee is reaching out to Supervisor Michaels seeking her support and participation in the forum.
Secretary’s Report: Mary Pope asked if there were any adjustments to the draft council minutes from January 12 meeting and hearing none, Carolyn Fisher moved, and Paul Sullivan seconded that the minutes be accepted as written. Motion passed unanimously. Mary then reported no changes to membership or representatives.
Treasurer’s Report: Patty Reski reported that she’s already filed the IRS 990N report and that expenses for January were normal. Annual assessments have been received or are known to be in the mail for all but two of the member organizations. Assessments are late as of February 1 but don’t accrue a penalty until March 1.
Audit Report: Colleen Hinds reported on behalf of the Audit Committee, complimenting Treasurer Patty Reski on the thoroughness and orderliness of the BPC financial records, making the audit quick and easy to complete. She then listed general questions and concerns expressed by the committee with respect to multiple websites and MailChimp accounts and the desire for the Community Plan committee to present its progress to the Council. Patty Reski explained that the Council is no longer supporting multiple accounts and that a check was received in January covering the remainder of the Community Plan’s expenses that had been paid by the Council and that no additional Council funds would be used for the Community Plan committee’s activities. Comments from the Council agreed that an update from the Community Plan committee would be appreciated.
501(c) 6 vs 501(c) 3: Colleen Hinds noted that after studying the differences between the BPC current IRS designation of 501(c) 6 and potentially changing it to 501(c)3, the Executive Board recommends changing. The one-time cost would be $600. Colleen explained that the perspective of the Council has evolved over the past several years to include educational outreach programs as an additional way to meet the organization’s purpose of seeking solutions to issues affecting the community. This continuing educational emphasis (e.g. Dark-Sky and Emergency Preparedness) is more in line with an IRS 501(c)3 designation. An added benefit to 501(c)3 designation would be the ability to apply for grants and to fund-raise as tax-deductible. In answer to a question on what would be lost moving away from a 501(c) 6 designation, Colleen explained that we would no longer be able to financially support political candidates or lobby. BPC does neither. Colleen also affirmed that BPC would remain a membership-based organization and that the 501(c) 6 designation was applied for in 2016. Prior to that BPC was a non-profit without a specific IRS designation. After discussion it was agreed that the Representatives would like to receive a letter explaining the pros/cons of the change to review with their member organizations, and actively solicit feedback, before voting on the recommendation at the March meeting. John Wichert agreed to do so.
Notice of Bylaw Revision: Mary Pope reported that in accordance with the expansion of educational efforts by BPC committees over the last two to three years, she recommended a change to Article I, Section 1 Purpose to include the words “education as well as.” A vote on this recommended change will take place at the March meeting.
Reactivation of the Membership Committee: John Wichert noted that the purpose and scope of this committee was now envisioned as including recruitment and that Nancy Maple was appointed as his Co-chair along with Peggy Hutson and Garey Schmidt. Colleen Hinds will be the Council Alternate Representative heading this committee. The committee will meet and prepare a revised Purpose and Scope for Council approval at the March meeting.
Website Task Force: John Wichert explained that the task-force purpose is to explore a professionally developed and maintained website for the BPC, including Emergency Preparedness (EPPiC) and Dark-Sky information as well as other BPC committees, local information and Council documents. A local website developer is providing an estimate which should be available shortly. John explained that once the website was created, maintenance will be an on-going function. He noted that this maintenance involves content management as well as technical support. He then showed a three-page example of what the website might look like. The example was based on a prototype he developed using the SquareSpace web technology with additional content illustrated by Mary Pope. He then named a task force of himself, Phil Feiner, Pat Robles and Mary Pope. Dave Norton asked to also participate. John asked the Council whether or not to proceed with the project and received an enthusiastic “go for it” response.
Colleen Hinds asked that committees with information to share with the public should provide her with it and in addition to regular BPC MailChimp emails, she’ll put it on Facebook.
Carolyn Fisher announced that the Village Library will again sponsor Novel Night fund raiser with a date set for September 30.
The meeting was adjourned at 11:10am.