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Verde Valley Habitat for Humanity is known for two things: Helping low-income families achieve home ownership and reselling items in its ReStore.

When Arizona Public Service offered a 3,600-square-foot modular building to Verde Valley Habitat for Humanity this spring, the nonprofit’s Executive Director Tania Simms saw the parallel between her organization’s mission and APS’ act of charity.

Puns aside, natural gas leaks are no laughing matter. Cottonwood Fire and Medical Department responded to a natural gas line leak in the 600 block of West Mingus Avenue around 11:30 a.m. Oct. 10.

Personnel found an active leak from an underground gas line that had been damaged by earth-moving equipment working in the area. UniSource Energy Services, the owner and servicer of the natural gas line, sent utility crews to the scene and stopped the flow of gas from the damaged gas main.

Cottonwood Police Department and Cottonwood Public Works personnel responded to the scene to coordinate the closure of West Mingus Avenue between State Route 89A and Candy Lane.

“In this case, this was a substantial leak because the damage was done by moving equipment,” CFMD Chief Mike Kuykendall said. “Gas was coming up from the ground. Any time you have gas leaking from a pipe [the gas may reach] a flammable limit.”

The flammable or explosive limit is reached when the density of gas in the air is ideal for ignition. Fearing these conditions during a gas leak, CFMD immediately seeks to minimize the danger by isolating ignition sources and moving people as far from the site as possible.

“You could have a flash and subsequent fire,” Kuykendall said, adding that CFMD’s responding engine crew of three immediately donned air packs and protective clothing. UniSource personnel, likewise, worked with protective clothing as they dug to the line using a backhoe before moving to shovels.

The backhoe uses diesel fuel, minimizing potential sparks from the motor. The handheld tools are made of brass to minimize sparking. “They’re unsung heroes,” Kuykendall said of the UniSource crew. “They’re experts and they did an exceptional job …. They were on scene within just minutes [and] in this case they were able to clamp the line. People don’t realize how important they are in ensuring our safety. They’re first responders, too.” 

Point in fact, CFMD trains with gas company personnel regularly to ensure safe and efficient responses to gas leaks and other natural resource emergencies. Personnel coordinate efforts, making sure everyone knows what duties are being covered by whom.

“We work together as a team,” Kuykendall said. “Our job is primarily to cover them if there’s a fire [and] help suppress it while they’re in the danger zone …. We also isolate the area to try to minimize ignition sources.”

Although not perfect, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Health Administration has a lot of fans in the Verde Valley.

On Thursday, Oct. 12, the Northern Arizona VA Health Care System held a town hall meeting for veterans at the Cottonwood Public Library.

Cottonwood’s busiest intersection may soon get overhauled. In September, U.S. Rep. Tom O’Halleran [D-District 1] requested a list of transportation infrastructure priorities for the state’s Congressional District 1, which encompasses much of Northern Arizona.

O’Halleran intends to include the recommendations as part of the federal administration’s anticipated infrastructure bill. O’Halleran is partnering with the Northern Arizona Council of Governments to develop the list.

A hiker near Dead Horse Ranch State Park discovered a body in the Verde River Wednesday, Sept. 27.

At approximately 8 a.m., the Cottonwood Police Department dispatched officers to the hiker’s location. The hiker led the officers to the body located 200 yards east of the 10th Street bridge near the park.

The third annual Project Connect resource fair, hosted by the Verde Valley Homeless Coalition Sept. 25 at the Old Town Mission, provided homeless individuals access to services and highlighted an acute need in the Verde Valley.

“All the area service providers got together,” Cottonwood Mayor Timothy Elinski said. Elinksi acted as a greeter at the event, helping people sign in. “It was pretty intense .... There’s a lot of need in our area.”

They say victory is sweet — though in this case it’s more appropriate to say victory is savory and spicy, full of meat and beans.

In May, city of Cottonwood Mayor Timothy Elinski won the Great Sedona Chili Cook-off’s community challenge, beating out Sedona’s city manager Justin Clifton, and winning $250. On Monday, Sept. 25, Elinski took those winnings and donated them to Cottonwood Public Library’s children’s services department toward the purchase of new books and materials.

If you drove past the Vineyards at Cottonwood construction site in August, you likely saw stalled progress while the city and the developer, Prescott-based Granite Mountain Asset Management, came to terms on a financing assurance agreement.

Located at Grosetta Ranch Road and State Route 89A, Vineyards at Cottonwood is a master-planned community of 100.83 acres and approximately 550 homes. The projected length for build-out is seven to 10 years, comprising six housing phases, each with similar mixes of single-family, patio homes and condominiums.

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