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Russ Martin: Town can’t afford $75K for fort
Written by Mark Lineberger   
Thursday, 14 April 2011 00:00

The Town of Camp Verde isn’t going to be able to keep paying as much as it has been to keep Fort Verde State Historic Park open, Town Manager Russ Martin told the Town Council late last month.

Martin had said earlier in March he was working on a new plan, but now he feels fairly certain the town will have to cut back on its contribution.

Historical reenactors perform drills at Fort Verde State Historic Park during the fort’s annual History of the Soldier event Sunday, April 10. The Town of Camp Verde recently extended its financial support agreement with Arizona State Parks through Thursday, June 30, and hopes to be able to provide continued support next year.The 19th century military post, the historic heart of the town, was only kept open this past year because of an agreement between the town and Arizona State Parks. After the Arizona Legislature cut funding to the parks system, several parks across the state were in danger of closing.

Camp Verde was one of the first towns to step up and give money to the park system to help keep the fort open.

The town eventually came to a formal agreement to help keep the fort open from March 2010 through last month. The town paid $75,000 to the park system, which, along with $30,000 from Yavapai County and an extensive grassroots volunteer program, kept the fort up and running.

When that agreement expired, the town put up another $26,250 to keep the fort running through the end of the current fiscal year,  Thursday, June 30.

What the future holds for the fort is still up in the air.

“We’ve been negotiating for the last few months,” Martin said. “Every minute changes everything.”

Martin was referring to the uncertain situation with the overall state budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

“It depends on the [state Legislature’s] budget,” Martin said. “Right now it’s a moving target.”

Martin said he still thinks a deal can be reached, but it will have to take a different form than the previous agreement.

“I told the state parks that we could not afford to do it at the rate we were doing,” Martin said.

Martin said the two entities are still looking at other income possibilities to help operate the fort and the volunteer program might have to be expanded.

Martin told council the town may be looking at only being able to pay half as much as it did in the past, maybe less.

“We’re trying to get to a point between now and then when we hopefully adopt a budget. Several options will be on the table,” Martin said.

In the meantime, Martin said he is going to have to take a wait-and-see approach as to the status of the fort.

The state has explored other options.

A consulting firm recently sent a study to the state parks board looking at the feasibility of privatizing some or all of the operations of parks across the state. Another local group recently formed dedicated to keeping the fort open regardless of the state’s financial situation. There is a precedent; a local group ran the fort for years before handing it over to the state parks system in the 1970s.

The fort has continued to operate as normally as possible, according to park manager Sheila Stubler, holding events like this past weekend’s History of the Soldier.

 

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