12/31/2013 11:44:00 AM Year in review A look back at 2013's top stories in and around Williams
During the unveiling of the Williams veterans memorial Oct 19., sculptor Neil Logan (waving) gets a round of applause from the crowd as Williams Mayor John Moore, Arizona Speaker of the House Andy Tobin and veteran Bill Florez look on. Ryan Williams/WGCN
Williams Mayor John Moore and Flagstaff Mayor Jerry Nabours ride the Route 66 Zipline in downtown Williams Sept. 4. After hearing that Moore had yet to ride the new attraction, Nabours and Flagstaff City Councilman Jeff Oravits came to Williams to convince Moore to give the ride a try. Ryan Williams/WGCN
Williams veterans memorial unveiled, hundreds turn out to honor local veterans
Hundreds of people showed up to honor local veterans at the Williams Own Veterans Memorial dedication ceremony Oct. 19.
Years of planning, fundraising and sculpting by local artist Neil Logan culminated with local veterans unveiling the finished statue and memorial wall.
The memorial honors 14 Williams servicemen who were killed in action. At the ceremony, Charles Bassett read each service member's name and rang a bell after each one.
Before the unveiling, Mayor John Moore expressed his pride and gratitude to the people of Williams for contributing to the statue.
He said the two thoughts that come to mind when he thinks of the memorial are "freedom is not free" and "all gave some, some gave all."
"You just have to have a place in your heart and respect for those people," Moore said. "That's why we can stand here today and do what we want to do."
Andy Tobin, the speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, spoke at the ceremony about remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
"I see in front of me a plaque under this statue that shows a young lady and a child and a dog right here in Williams," he said. "Somebody's missing, somebody who didn't come home."
Tobin said citizens have an obligation to remember those who died in action, adding that he was honored to pay respect to our military heroes at the ceremony.
"Those who served and died for us all over the world in foreign lands in places they never knew are part of this today. They fought for an ideal," Tobin said. "America doesn't fight to acquire land and to be more prosperous. They fight for an ideal that made our nation. They fight for an ideal called freedom."
Camp Navajo Commander Colonel Kim L. Gage also spoke at the ceremony, thanking all veterans for their service.
"You are part of an unbroken chain of men and women who have served this country admirably, selflessly and with honor," he said. "This memorial and the hearts of these people here today are always with you and your families."
Gage said the memorial not only honors those who died serving, but all those who served, including several veterans who came home to Williams and are making contributions to the community.
Although Gage said the nation is now facing several challenges, he said he's hopeful that the country's best days are still ahead.
"The reason I feel that optimism is because of what I see and what I feel around me here today in the city of Williams," he said. "You serve as the heart of our great nation and that pulse is beating powerfully with strength and with passion."
City officials give zipline attraction the boot after one season
The Route 66 Zipline's first tourist season in Williams turned out to be its last, after Williams City Council members nixed the company's bid for another season at their Nov. 14 meeting.
The council voted 4-2 to decline the renewal of the lease agreement between the city and Zip Adventures LLC. Vice Mayor Don Dent and councilmen Jim Wurgler, Frank McNelly and Lee Payne voted to decline the renewal. Councilmen Bernie Hiemenz and Craig Fritsinger, in favor of keeping the zipline, voted against declining the renewal.
Council members approved Zip Adventures' original proposal for the installation of two Soaring Eagle zipline rides at the corner of Railroad Avenue and Grand Canyon Boulevard at their April 25 meeting by a 4-3 vote. At that meeting Wurgler voted in favor of the zipline, and Mayor John Moore broke the tie by also supporting the zipline.
The term of the original contract went through Dec. 31, 2013. Zip Adventures requested that the city renew the lease for an additional one tourist season term with the existing conditions.
Under the original agreement, the city received a one-time payment of $25,000, plus 18 percent of gross revenue after the $25,000 share was reached.
Revenues from the zipline's first season "only slightly exceeded the $25,000 deposit," according to City Manager Brandon Buchanan's staff report to the mayor and council.
In its original proposal, Zip Adventures projected the city would make about $271,000 per season.
However, because the zipline generated some revenue, as well as publicity and tourism interest, Buchanan recommended approval of the lease extension, saying "the positives outweigh the perceived negatives."
Before the vote, McNelly asked Logan Checketts of Zip Adventures why he thought the ride did not meet the company's expectations.
With the zipline opening June 12, Checketts said the company missed the beginning of the tourist season. He added he expected more tourists passing through Williams on their way to the Grand Canyon to ride the zipline.
In addition, Checketts said the monsoon season was a major factor.
"We did not fully appreciate how severe some of those storms are and how consistent it was," he said.
The company planned to improve its marketing for the zipline's second season, including using print media, social media and roadside billboards to attract riders.
"We're not saying we have a total grip on it yet but we've got good plans going forward," Checketts said.
John Holst, the vice chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission and owner of the Red Garter Bed and Bakery on Railroad Avenue, told the council that the possibility of the zipline was never discussed with the community and he found out about it "when it was a done deal."
"I think we're way out of whack here as far as a truly well looked at element that impacts the downtown in our community," Holst said. "I think we need to have a discussion about that first before we talk about renewing this."
At that point, Wurgler, who had made the motion to accept Zip Adventures' proposal in April, made a motion to decline renewal of the lease.
Dent asked, "Is your motion just to not even discuss it anymore and not take it to Planning and Zoning or is your motion to not approve it now and then take it through the process?"
Wurgler responded, "My motion is to not approve it now and to have it removed."
Dent seconded the motion, saying he agreed with Holst.
"I voted against this in the first place because I was concerned about the use of the parking lot, I was concerned about the use that it was in the historic district," he said. "I would not be opposed to at least going through the process and having the discussion with the community about whether we want it there or not."
However the motion passed without calling for any discussion.
Officials with Zip Adventures said after the meeting that the outcome of the vote was unexpected.