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Barbara Antonsen Memorial Park Countdown

SedonaEye.com columnist Eddie Maddock

SedonaEye.com columnist Eddie Maddock

Sedona AZ (March 8, 2014)In 1982 the Sedona Arts Center, in preparation for sponsoring the first Jazz on the Rocks at the Posse Grounds, cleared the land, fixed up the stage, installed a drip system and seeded the site where the softball fields are now located at the Posse Grounds. 

Emceed by Sedona’s own Randy Mahanna, local star of KAZM radio and man about town, the third JOR festival occurred in September 1984. It was on the area where Barbara’s Park is proposed to be.

Those fortunate to have enjoyed the events and others at the “old time” Posse Grounds remain rich with reminiscent thoughts of “back in the day” when Sedona was friendly, cordial, and most definitely the epitome of a small town’s finest.

Sitting on the grass, trees were still abundant for adequate shade and the views were spectacular. It’s doubtful if even one soul in attendance ever perceived that one day a dome or other structure would be considered – which might even come close to altering the pleasure of a simple but luxurious experience that money could never buy.

Of course, that was then. Fast forward to 2014 and plans for a new concept for that far away scenario have advanced to the final stages.

For clarification and specific information from those “in the know” the Assistant to City Manager, Nick Gioello, City Manager Tim Ernster and City Attorney Mike Goimarac were generous enough to take time away from busy schedules to address a couple of questions:

  • 1. The design of the project shall not exceed $117,000 with $15,000 of that being split between the two architectural firms not chosen for stipends to help cover their design costs. The overall project is not to exceed $900,000 and of that total, $836,371 is budgeted for fiscal year 2014 and the remaining $63,629 for 2015. Is it correct that $15,000 will be split and awarded as “stipends” to the two architectural firms whose designs were not chosen? Is that a common practice or does this represent a new precedent? If this is a new policy, where did it come from? City Council? Staff? Both?


  • 2. A 100-point system will be used to possibly pick one of the three designs with the public vote serving as 15 points. In the end, the public will have a voice as to which one is chosen, but not the final decision. Based on the inadequate results on the less than one-mile city-owned portion of SR89A, which was largely designed by input from uptown businesses, it seems reasonable that the public should not make the final decision. Certainly engineering factors and other issues requiring professional judgment indicate the final decision should be made by “real” experts. What is your opinion?
Posse Grounds Park was the site for the original Jazz on the Rocks Festival

Posse Grounds Park was the site for the original Jazz on the Rocks Festival

In order to avoid misinterpretation by taking Mr. Gioello’s response out of context, following is his response, in his own words:


Thank you for your thoughtful questions. I will try to answer to the best of my abilities. One disclaimer I want to make first; this entire competition process was mostly set up by Kevin Snyder, the past Community and Economic Development Director. I was involved with this project up to the point of City Council deciding what features would be included in the redesign and then Kevin, as the new Director took it over. I recall being in a meeting with Kevin when the concept of a competition was first contemplated, but had no further involvement in setting up the details, guidelines, parameters and criteria. As far as I know, that was all done by Kevin. The entire concept also was presented to and approved by City Council. You can review the video on our website:


http://sedonaaz.swagit.com/play/09112013-720 (Item 3B-AB 1644: presentation/discussion/possible action on the proposed Competitive Design.)

You’ll note that Kevin refers to how the Arizona Revised Statutes were thoroughly followed. 

The Red Rock News was slightly off on the numbers they reported. The total budget is $900,000. Out of that, construction was not to exceed $768,000; design not to exceed $117,000; and $15,000 for stipend. Therefore, the stipend amount was not taken out of the design amount; it was taken out of the total budget.

The $15,000 stipend was designated for the two firms not chosen to receive an amount not to exceed $7,500 for actual work they did on the concept drawings. Tim gave you a rationale for why that was done. I can add that this concept of a stipend for the firms that do not win is spelled out in ARS 34-103(G), which allows the City to do a design competition and to award a stipend to unsuccessful offerors. The statute states in part:

G. If competitive designs are solicited, the agent shall publish notice of the competition at least thirty days before the date set for closing the competition. The notice shall include the following:

1. The project title and description.

2. The design and construction budget.

3. The competitive process and criteria to be used to select the winning offeror.

4. The amount of the stipend to be paid to the unsuccessful offerors.

5. The offerors’ response date.

6. The person to contact to obtain additional information regarding the competition.

7. Any other requirements established by the agent as appropriate.

Friends of Posse Grounds artistic rendering of the pavilion shell which collapsed during construction

Friends of Posse Grounds artistic rendering including landscaping of the pavilion shell which collapsed during construction

To your question of “Is that a common practice or does this represent a new precedent”? I will answer that to my knowledge, this is the first design competition the City has offered, so technically, yes this is a precedent. However, I think this kind of competition, with a stipend for the loser, is not unique in Arizona and was obviously contemplated by legislators and the Governor at some point when they passed or adopted ARS 34-103(G).

Also, we the City decide when to do a design competition and it does not set a precedent from this point forward that we have to do competitions for everything or ever again. I will guess that it would be years, if ever, that we use this process again. Even with the design competition, there is no risk of applicants flooding the process to get a stipend. The initial phase was a call for qualifications with no stipend, from which we choose three design teams that we entered into agreements with for their inclusion into phase II. From this point on is when a stipend could be paid. So in effect we could have had 50 applicants apply, who receive nothing, then we select the three we felt most qualified to move forward. Also, the entire process was spelled out in the public notice. Let me know if you want a copy.

Regarding your question about the public input being insignificant at 15 out of the 100 points; I agree that it seems small. I think it was a figure Kevin chose based on his previous experience with design competitions in another state, and probably for some of the reasons you speculate about. Had I been putting this competition together, perhaps I would have given it 25 points? That’s easy to say now looking at this with hind sight. I do think (and if this ends up being the case, I will make a strong case for with the design jury) if the voting turns out to be very lopsided towards one design, that we should consider that with more weight than a vote that has slim margins between the three designs.

I also agree with your observation that “the final decision should be made by ‘real’ experts”. I think all three of the designs have pluses and minuses and any of them can be made to achieve the goals we set. As part of the contract negotiation with the selected designer we will have the ability for our “experts” to tweak the design to make sure it meets all building safety, Land Development Code, waste water and grading and drainage standards.

I hope this answers your questions. If you have more, please contact me.”

Nicholas R. Gioello, M. Adm.
Assistant to the City Manager
Government Relations Manager
Office: 928-203-5100
Fax: 928-204-7124
ngioello@sedonaaz.gov   (end Gioello email)

City Manager Tim Ernster responded with the following:

“As far as your question is concerned, Nick and the city attorney are researching the state statutes to determine if it says anything about the stipend, but my recollection is that because we were asking architects to submit detailed renderings and studies, up to and including actual models, we believed it was necessary to include some kind of stipend as an incentive in order to get the architects to actually submit a proposal. All three firms spent a considerable sum of money based on the quality and quantity of the renderings. One firm even submitted a model. We followed the state statutes in order to make sure we were within the law as far as how we structured the competition, and Mike is checking to see if the appropriate state statute said anything about the stipend. Prior to Kevin Snyder leaving, he was instrumental in crafting the process and I believe that he had some previous experience with this kind of competition.

Hope this is helpful Eddie. As soon as we have more information, Nick will forward it to you.

Tim”  (end Ernster email)

City of Sedona Arizona has a population of approximately 10K of which about 6K are considered year round residents.

City of Sedona Arizona has a population of approximately 10K of which about 6K are considered year round residents.

And the final word came from City Attorney, Mike Goimarac:


All I can add to what has been said is that, yes, Arizona law does allow for the award of stipends to unsuccessful proposers in a design competition. While some people may question this, I think the idea is that we want firms submitting proposals to put a maximum amount of time and effort into it, and by creating an incentive through the award of a stipend they will in fact do that. It also encourages more firms to submit and thereby enhances the chance of having a truly exceptional product in the end.

When this process was discussed and decided upon, it was all done in an open meeting after full written disclosure of what staff was proposing with an opportunity for the public to comment and express concerns. My recollection is that there were no concerns expressed about the scoring methodology or the stipend incentive.


Michael Goimarac
Sedona City Attorney
work: 928-204-7200
fax: 928-204-7188 

mgoimarac@sedonaaz.gov”     (end Goimarac email)

In conclusion following is the sign-off communication relating to the update on the Barbara Antonsen Memorial saga:

From: Eddie Maddock

Date: 3/5/2014 2:00:48 PM

To: NGioello@sedonaaz.gov; Tim Ernster; Mike Goimarac

Subject: Re: Fw: BARB’S PARK

Thanks, Mike.

For the record, it wasn’t my mission to expose the city for having been dishonest. From my own perspective there have been and remain so many issues on the table it’s difficult to keep up. Never do I recall a city council that has held so many meetings, and it should be no surprise that opposition didn’t surface if people weren’t aware. And, of course, the responsibility remains with them for not keeping informed. Just my opinion mind you, and I do not speak for others. My purpose is to present with objectivity the process in a comprehensive manner and all of you, Tim, Nick and, of course, yourself have given me adequate information to hopefully assist in quashing future complaints should the occasion arise.

Onward and upward,

Eddie   (end Maddock email)

* * * * * * * * *

As has been suggested, chances are slim to none that circumstances for a similar procedure will occur in Sedona. Or are they? What about the Cultural Park? 

We have witnessed first hand retaliation of a sort when unfit choices were applied.

Did the Cultural Park belly-up due to absence of a feasibility study or improper management?

What about Karma or Divine Intervention? Or perhaps when Yavapai Apache Elder Vincent Randall bestowed his blessing on the Cultural Park opening in May of 2000, was his blessing fulfilled when the Cultural Park failed?

What about the collapse of the dome at “Barbara’s Park?” Two coveted parcels of land seemingly wreaked by havoc? Are these questions worth thinking about?

“No legacy is so rich as Honesty.” ~William Shakespeare

For the best in Arizona news and views, read www.SedonaEye.com daily!

For the best in Arizona news and views, read www.SedonaEye.com daily!


  1. Donna Joy says:

    Liked this article on Facebook.

  2. Liked this article on Facebook.

  3. Liked this article on Facebook.

  4. Peter says:

    Well since the sale of the 3.5 acres on Brewer Road to the city for the over appraised price of $640,000 will be official on March 15th, maybe this stipend idea will prove worthy of further consideration in addition to the possibility at the Cultural Park.

    If this small plot of land is to become the “Heart of Sedona” then isn’t it going to take a few creative masterminds to figure out where the masses will park their cars? Of course stated intentions to collaborate with other organizations to develop the property will surely relieve incorporated Sedona from being on the hook for further indebtedness including offers of stipends. Phew! That’s a relief.

  5. liked this article on Facebook.

  6. Thank you Ms. Maddock for continuing to keep us informed. I love how honest and fair you are.

    Can you clarify, two architectural firms ( not chosen) got paid for submitting a bid? Do I understand this correctly? If so, I have never heard of such blatant misuse of municipalities monies. It makes me want to see how else the City is spending taxpayer’s money.
    Thank you.

  7. Charles says:

    This is pretty amazing. Staff and City Council are meticulous in getting the best bang for their 900,000 bucks on the design for Barb’s Park and yet they think nothing of handing over one million dollars to the Chamber of Commerce for Destination Marketing without benefit of Requests for Proposals. Go figure!

  8. Thank you, Donna Joy, for your flattering remarks. However, without the cooperation of city staff members as mentioned in my article, the story could not have been written.

    As explained by Nick Gioello, Tim Ernster, and Mike Goimarac, the situation with the bids on the Barbara Antonsen Memorial Park were not regular Requests for Participation. The process was in the form of a “competition” whereby specific standards were set for candidates who chose to participate. This created much more time consuming efforts which was the criteria upon which the decision to offer stipends to the two losing proposals was decided.

    A question remains unanswered. Will Sedona have future projects warranting this special competitive category? That, of course, remains to be seen. However, speculating on changes the revised Community Plan will impose relating to land use, it appears chances for that to become a reality might very well be elevated. Almost all reference to maintaining a small town atmosphere have been eliminated reinforcing the intention for increased density and, perhaps, eventually an enclosed recreation center, etc. We shall see.

  9. Carol N. says:

    Because of some pretty overbearing and hateful comments posted recently, I came back to this article and read the opening paragraphs about how Sedona used to be. Oh for the good old days. No doubt even this more upbeat remark will also be under siege. It appears Sedona Eye is being targeted by certain individuals. Wonder why?

  10. Agreeing that some of the comments on other articles are becoming almost abusive, differences of opinions have been exchanged on this web site for a long time, but without the hostility. Does bullying and intimidation offer anything to be admired? I think not.

  11. Ben says:

    to Carol N.

    You’re right. And your upbeat words fall like petals on this old guys ears. Thanks

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