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Exotic animals invade DPL

Wildman Phil Rakoci made a stop at the Douglas Public Library last week where he entertained those taking part in the summer reading program with his exotic animals.

Rakoci, who hails from Casa Grande, offers a variety of entertaining and educational performances for festivals, fairs, schools, corporate events/team building, and private parties.

At his show in Douglas, Wildman Phil displayed a vinegaroon, a tarantula, a gila monster, a couple of different kinds of snakes, a hedge hog, a soft shelled turtle that lives in the water. and at the end, he displayed a five-foot long alligator which many of the students were able to pet once the presentation had ended.

He explained to the standing room only audience where each animal he displayed came from, what kinds of food they like to eat and what some of their defensive traits are.

The event was part of the Douglas Public Library’s Summer Reading Program called “A Universe of Stories”. The program began June 3 and ended July 20 with a party at The Placita on G Avenue which included free hotdogs, water games and prizes. Throughout the summer there were weekly activities and presentations for those who were taking part.

Diana Manquero, one of those in charge of the summer reading program, stated she had 160 participants this summer and the winners of those who read the most books would be announced in the coming weeks.

Those winners will be announced shortly in The Douglas Dispatch.


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Community leaders receive feasibility study update from GSA

The General Service Administration Feasibility Study on the proposed port of entry expansion is just about complete, Anthony Kleppe told community leaders at a meeting in Douglas Monday, July 15.

“When we came down in March and presented the first 55 percent document to the region there was a desire to get a close out on the feasibility study and understand the direction the GSA is going with that in regards to the Douglas Port of Entry,” he said. “Today I basically shared what we found in the development of the feasibility study.”

Kleppe said the report is basically 95 percent complete at this point.

“I anticipate we will be closing it out in the next 30-days,” he said. “The next step will be us packaging the project for consideration for the future administrations budget and then waiting for acceptance of that project.”

The feasibility study shows the Raul Castro Port of Entry no longer meets CBP’s mission requirements. The current facilities are outdated and undersized and cannot accommodate current traffic flows. The study supports the need for a two-port solution with the second site, which will be a free standing port for commercial vehicles, being located on an 80 acre section of land outside of Douglas on James Ranch Road.

Kleppe said a successful GSA project requires a solid partnership with its regional partners.

“The City of Douglas and Cochise County have been great to work with,” he said. “We appreciate their leadership and development of the resolution they passed earlier this year. This will be our last update until the project makes its way to the administration’s budget. In the meantime the city and county will be working on a master plan for development in the area provisioning utilities to the port of entry site.”

Cochise County Supervisor Ann English said the county has committed to hiring a firm that could design the whole area as far as where utilities need to go.

“But we haven’t pulled the cord on that yet until we were absolutely sure it was going to happen,” she said.

Kleppe noted that once completed, the feasibility study will not become a public document.

“What we don’t want to do is hand it out to people and have essentially procurement information out in the community,” he said.

Mayor Robert Uribe said this project has been a long time coming and both he and his staff need to continue to move forward.

“We need to keep collaborating with the federal government so we can secure funding for 2021,” he said. “I think today was very important for Douglas. This is good news, something great for the community. We’ve been working so hard for this project. It’s an exciting time for us.”


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Council meeting date moved up to begin tax collections in September

The Douglas City Council aims to implement increases in the city sales and bed taxes a month earlier than they had announced by moving up the third reading of the proposals to Monday, July 29.

The move means the city will collect about $145,000 more than imposing the tax a month later as had been announced. Under the plan, the sales tax levy will increase by 35 percent from 2.38 percent to 3.38 percent and the bed tax would double from 2 percent to 4 percent.

A special meeting has been scheduled for Monday at 5:30 p.m. in the City Hall council chambers at which time the final reading and the adoption of the proposed increases in the sales tax/use and bed tax will take place, city officials said.

The third reading was originally scheduled for Aug. 14 with the tax increase scheduled to go into effect Oct. 1. Should the increase be approved at the July 24 meeting, the new sales and bed taxes are expected to go into effect Sept. 1.

In a guest opinion published on Page. 4 of today’s Douglas Dispatch, the city’s Finance Director Luis Pedroza explains what the taxes will be used for and how they are meant to benefit various city programs.

Regarding the meeting for the third reading, Interim City Manager Jerene Watson told the Dispatch that Douglas learned from the Arizona League of Cities & Towns that the city needs to offer a fourth and final opportunity for public comment on this item in July in order to begin tax collections from the Arizona Department of Revenue (ADOR) by September.

“Douglas is in a unique situation in that we collect more than half of our sales/use tax from non-residents,” she said. “Leveraging our resident tax dollars with even more taxes received from those not living here permanently gives us a good return on our resident investment in our community. To be aware we might forego a month of increased revenues expected to be at least $145,000 in additional monies when we still have time to meet the July deadline and not set up the opportunity for council would be irresponsible on my part. Weighing the decision to course correct by moving the final hearing up by two weeks was strategic, but the decision also had to include a meeting date and time so it allows any who are interested to attend.”

Watson added, “The new budget expenditures were projected based on us having the money by then and our understanding that we would. If we wait until October for the state to start collecting, then we won’t actually receive the funding until December. There is a two-month delay in the state’s collection of revenues to when they pass it back to a city. It is valuable that our citizens have and use these opportunities to comment and make their voice known supporting or opposing the work of the council.”

It is unclear at the moment, what other items will be on the agenda at the July 29 special meeting.

There will be a Call to the Public agenda item at this meeting when citizens will have the opportunity to address the mayor and council provided they have filled out the required card and have it turned in to the city clerk prior to the start of the meeting.

“The city is making every effort to communicate to the public in as many ways as possible about the final hearing on the sales/use tax change,” Watson said.

Questions or comments may be directed to Pedroza at 520-417-7319;

luis.pedroza@douglasaz.gov; or Watson, at 520-417-7303;

jerene.watson@douglasaz.gov.