Authors Articles byDave Thomas

Dave Thomas

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    Although it appears police and school officials have known about one area man for some time, a recent call to inmaricopa.com brought concern from at least one parent.

    It turns out a Level 3 (high) sex offender lives across the street from the Legacy Montessori school which is on West Garvey Avenue.

    Dean Puerner, 77, has been living in the neighborhood since his release from prison. Puerner is listed on the Arizona Department of Public Safety’s Web site for registered sex offenders (az.gov/webapp/offender).

    The caller, who would not reveal her identity, said she is upset that police reportedly only recently informed the school. The caller said police should have informed school officials before the school opened in its present location.

    According to Maricopa Police Department Deputy Chief Kirk Fitch, Puerner, who was convicted of molestation of a child and public sexual indecency, has lived at the residence for at least a year.

    “He (Puerner) was living there before the Maricopa Police Department was formed one year ago,” Fitch said. “When we became aware of his status, while it was still just the chief (Patrick Melvin) and I, we contacted the school, and they indicated they were already notified of the individual.”

    Fitch said MPD has had preliminary meetings with the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) about taking over the sex offender program. “As of today, the county is still the agency which coordinates the records with DPS,” Fitch noted.

    Joe Hoover, owner/director of Legacy Montessori, said Puerner lives across the street from the school’s back property.

    Hoover noted that a wall had been erected in that area. Asked if the wall was erected because of Puerner’s presence in the neighborhood or if it had been previously planned, Hoover said the answer was yes to both. “We had planned to put a wall on the property eventually,” he said.

    Hoover added that school officials have kept parents informed of the situation.

    “We’ve kept our parents informed,” Hoover said. “I’m not aware of any concerns at this time.”

    It is estimated that 11,000 sex offenders in Arizona.

    As of Sept. 19, Arizona law requires that Level 3 sex offenders may not live within 1,000 feet of a school or a day care center (certain exemptions apply).

    Since Pruener lived in the residence prior to the new law being enacted, Hoover said he doesn’t know if authorities can keep Pruener from living in his current location.

    Legacy Montessori, which opened its doors in 2003, serves pre-school children of 18 months up to six years. The school is located at 45290 W. Garvey Ave.

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      If you think cutting through a business parking lot will save you a minute or two of time, think again.

      The Maricopa Police Department (MPD) has been cracking down on drivers using business parking lots to avoid traffic congestion, issuing more than 70 citations – at $175 each – in recent weeks to such drivers.

      According to MPD, business roadways/parking lots are private property and drivers can and will be cited if they are used to avoid traffic lights or traffic congestion.

      According to MPD Deputy Chief Kirk Fitch, officers are trying at least three strategies to combat this issue:

      1. Public education through the city Web site and the media
      2. Electronic traffic signs posted along State Route 238 warning drivers
      3. Enforcement by officers

      Asked what has been a primary target for officers, Fitch said the shopping center between SR 238 and the light at Cobblestone Farms has been an area of focus.

      Now that MPD is running almost 24 hours a day (the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office provides service during off times), expect officers to continue to pay close attention to this issue.

      File photo

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        A Monday evening fire at the Hyponex Corporation on White & Parker Road kept firefighters busy for several hours.

        According to MFD Division Chief Mark Boys, the fire was reported at approximately 9:45 p.m. and was contained around midnight. MFD responded along with personnel from the fire departments at Ak-Chin and Gila River.

        Boys said the fire apparently started in a pile of wood chips and does not appear to be suspicious in nature. Boys estimated the pile was 15 feet high and 30 to 40 feet long. “The environmental impact this time was much less than the tire plant fire back in September,” Boys said.

        Boys said the biggest challenge to fighting last night’s blaze was the fact that a lot of water was needed to put out the fire. “There is not a lot of water supply in the area and we had to call in water tenders,” Boys said.

        Another concern Boys noted was some power lines to the west of the fire, but the wind was not a major factor last evening, helping firefighters keep the blaze from spreading.

        There have been a couple fires in the past at the Hyponex plant, but Boys said the company has been doing a good job of maintaining its “housekeeping” to date. The company employs approximately 50 people.

        Hyponex, which kept a fire watch overnight, was reported back in operational mode today.

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        Although they struggled as far as their records, the Maricopa High junior varsity and freshmen girls’ volleyball teams netted progress this season on the court.

        Head coach April Hansen’s jayvee squad wound up with a 2-14 record this fall. Some key players for the Lady Rams included middle blocker Marissa Lubag and outside hitter Caitlin Snow (captain).

        “Overall the season was one of constant improvements,” Hansen said. “We are a better team now than we were at the beginning of the season and more prepared for next year. The girls most likely to move up to varsity next year will be those who participate in all of the summer workouts and attend some summer camps.”

        At the freshmen level, Maricopa did not win a game on the season.

        Key players this season on the team included outside hitter Kyrstin Duggins and middle blocker Justine Peters.

        “This season was a first-ever for freshmen volleyball at Maricopa High,” Hansen noted. “With that being said, it was a learning experience for the coaching staff and all of the players. We hope to see many of the players return to fill next year’s junior varsity team. Since only freshmen are allowed to play on the freshmen team, those who participate in all of the summer workouts and attend camps will be likely to make the junior varsity team next year.”

        As head coach Paul Olson’s varsity team grows, and progress continues at both the junior varsity and freshmen levels, the Maricopa High girls’ volleyball program should net progress in the years to come.

        File photo

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        Coming off of its fourth loss of the season, the Maricopa High football team will look to shut down one talented running back this Friday evening.

        Santa Cruz Valley (Eloy) visits town for a 7 p.m. showdown with the Rams. Maricopa will be facing the leading rusher in state play in Pat Cann. Cann has rushed for 1,575 yards and 24 TD’s this season.

        After losing two of their first three games, the Dust Devils have won four straight, including last week’s 43-22 win over Florence. Santa Cruz Valley’s two losses this season are to Parker and Wickenburg.

        Maricopa, meantime, dropped its second straight game last weekend in a 24-13 loss at Safford.

        Senior running back Matt Fierros has rushed for 952 yards and eight TD’s to lead the Maricopa ground game this season. QB Will Clemans has passed for 529 yards and four TD’s. On defense, Tony Jones has compiled 10 sacks.

        The Rams have three games left in the season, including this one. Maricopa will meet Florence (Oct. 19) and Globe (Oct. 26) in its final two contests.

        Photo by Mandy Hank

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          A familiar face on the Phoenix neighborhood tavern scene is coming to Maricopa in early 2008.

          Teakwoods Tavern & Grill will be occupying the building that once housed Ramsey’s American Grill at 21141 N. John Wayne Parkway.

          According to Tommy Celluro, who will be a partner in the new Maricopa venture, Teakwoods will most likely open sometime next February as it awaits approval for a liquor license.

          “We were looking for a new area, and a lot of people having been talking about the move to Maricopa,” Celluro said. “Our concept is that of a neighborhood tavern. We’re not a corporate operation. We plan to employ 50 to 60 people and we expect the majority of those jobs to be open to Maricopa residents.” Celluro said that some employees will come from the current Teakwoods operations, but that there will be a number of openings available for local residents.

          According to Celluro, management signed a five-year lease for the Maricopa location in the Fry’s Shopping Center. Celluro said Teakwoods will have around 5,000 square feet to work with at the former Ramsey’s location.

          “We’re known for our food and we make everything from scratch,” Celluro remarked. “We have 10 different burgers and a number of other available items.”

          Oh, and don’t forget those peanuts.

          Smashing a floor full of peanut shells as you walk in is part of a Teakwoods tradition, as patrons are encouraged to throw shells on the floor.

          Celluro said he expects the establishment to be open from 10:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. during the week and until 2 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

          Teakwoods, which first opened its doors in the greater Phoenix area in 1995, currently has locations in Gilbert, Chandler, Ahwatukee and Scottsdale.

          This may not be the last venture for Teakwoods.

          According to Celluro, the establishment is looking at possibly opening a location in Queen Creek.

          File photo

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            Maricopa resident Camerino Lopez III is the latest resident to throw his hat in the ring for a city council seat next spring.

            Lopez spoke with inmaricopa.com in an email interview about why he is running, the challenges Maricopa faces and more.

            inmaricopa.com: Talk a little bit about your background, where you’re from, what you do now, etc.

            Lopez: I was born at Mesa Lutheran Hospital in NW Mesa, AZ. I had lived in Mesa for all but one year before moving to Maricopa. I have never moved out of Arizona although I visit many other areas. I enjoyed living in the ‘city’ and became very accustomed to all the amenities associated with a population of 450,000. I watched Mesa grow from an orchard to a sprawling piece of the greater Phoenix area. My family was very apprehensive about moving to Maricopa due to the commute and the lack of large retailers. The school system was also a big concern for us as we moved from an excelling school. We purchased a home in January of 2006 and moved in December of 2006.

            During the year long wait we visited Maricopa every week and were amazed at the rate which the city is growing. Now that we have settled in we’ve become very accustomed to the ‘small town’ feel and the close community neighborhood. Since living in Maricopa I have begun coaching for the Parks and Recreation starting this past summer with basketball and I have just finished flag football. I plan to resume coaching at the beginning of the year. I am involved in the community and support local business. You may have seen me dancing with the dads at Founders Day or volunteering to take the neighborhood kids to the park. I currently work in Tempe and have been with the same company for seven years in the role of project manager. I began as a technician, moved into manufacturing management and now oversee project development. I implement, sustain and continually improve numerous projects. In this role I have had the wonderful opportunity of working with people from around the world. This has further enlightened me to the numerous cultural differences within our ever diversifying population.

            inmaricopa.com: What interested you in running for city council?

            Lopez: My parents were very adamant about voting and making a difference; both were in administration throughout their professional careers. They were also on numerous national and local committees or councils, some of which they still reside on. I have seen the impact one can make when involved with a dynamic team. The City of Maricopa has enormous potential for citizens, business and visitors. Because the city is so ‘fresh’ I feel that this is a great opportunity to help grow our community in a positive and constructive manner that has the potential to reap rewards well into the future.

            inmaricopa.com: What do you see as the top two or three challenges facing the citizens of Maricopa right now?

            Lopez: Every city has its challenges and fortunate for Maricopa we are in the early stages of development, which are very critical. The main concerns for every community are safety and general infrastructure. I see that the city has been doing a great job of trying to catch up with residential building. Two new elementary schools are scheduled to open next fall and there have been a few new fire houses rising up. The installation of a city police force was another positive gesture. With our municipals well on their way, and headed in the right direction, there are two topics I would like to address. The first being business, local business. Many stores I walk into have the owner or a family member there to greet you which is comforting. This is excellent as we should promote local entrepreneurs. At a glance it would be great to establish the corporate identities we have become reliant upon. The real benefit for our community would be to help grow the small start ups into larger retailers and service companies. These companies would have more of a tendency to address what’s good for Maricopa and not necessarily the bottom line. This is not an easy task and takes the entire city’s support. There is a need for large corporate buildings, but the emphasis should be on our community, its citizens and the local business.

            The other topic would be the rate of growth in our community. The revenue potential from taxes for the city is enormous, but we cannot let this lead us into hasty decisions. Maricopa should work to maintain the small town feel and promote the city as a coveted place to live and to raise a family. The city can evolve while balancing the community and commerce at a steady rate. The reputation of Maricopa should be so that people seek to live in an environment of good neighbors, clear air and bright stars.

            inmaricopa.com: If elected next spring, what would be your first priority as a councilman?

            Lopez: My first action as councilman would be to familiarize myself with all of the aspects involved in running a city. I would also familiarize myself personally with others who help to maintain the city. I believe that knowing the systems and how to accomplish tasks is important. In order to make sound decisions you must have the foresight, the vision to direct oneself. I could not make a decision on what is most important without consulting my advisors, the citizens of Maricopa, on which route may have the best impact or that is the most important to the city. I would also try to complete any relatively small project or proposals. There may be some that need minimal effort to return a large gain. All larger issues such as the limited roads out of town and the rate of growth are long term projects that will take a couple of terms to complete. Some are already in the works, and I would continue to promote them.

            inmaricopa.com: Do you currently attend council meetings? If so, what do you think of the current council?

            Lopez: I don’t currently attend council meetings although I read the minutes periodically. I like to see the decisions being made and motioned. It was just a curiosity at first but it seems to have grabbed a hold of me. It is very similar to running a business that has a board of directors; no one person has control. It seems to be a well-balanced system.

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              The Maricopa High football team ran into a buzzsaw Friday night in the form of the Winslow High Bulldogs.

              Winslow, rushing for more than 300 yards on the night, advanced in the state playoffs with a 38-13 victory over Maricopa. Winslow will meet Show Low in the next round on Friday. For Maricopa, the season ends at 6-5.

              Winslow (8-3), which features 26 seniors in its program, jumped out to an early lead and never looked back. The Bulldogs scored 21 points off of Maricopa turnovers. “If we don’t turn the ball over, we’re looking at a 17-13 game,” Maricopa High head coach Tyler Brandt said.

              Defensive challenges also impacted the Rams, as defensive end Tony Jones and linebacker Matt Fierros both missed most of the game due to injuries. “We needed to shut down their running game and we didn’t do that,” Brandt noted. Maricopa did manage to recover four turnovers on the evening.

              Highlights for the Rams on this night included a Will Clemans to Cody Seymore TD pass, but it was not nearly enough to stem the tide of the Bulldogs.

              Despite the loss, Brandt couldn’t say enough about his kids and their efforts this season.

              “We had some kids who showed some incredible leadership to our underclassmen,” Brandt said. “It is sad to see our seniors leave, but they’ve provided vision to our underclassmen for the off-season.”

              While Clemans was picked off several times in the game, Brandt noted the play of his senior QB this season. “Will did such an incredible job of running a complicated offense this season,” Brandt added.

              File photo

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                While the visible fire was put out more than a month ago, much work still remains at the site of September’s tire plant fire off the Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway at the Arizona Rubber Recycling Center.

                According to Maricopa Fire Department Division Chief/Investigator Mark Boys, the cease and desist operations order remains in effect for the plant.

                “They still have a stop work order,” Boys told inmaricopa.com. “We gave them a list of demands they have to meet to start work again. They haven’t met the issues yet.”

                Boys said highlighting those demands is that facility management must bring its water supply needs up to code, along with capping materials underground so that they won’t be a hazard. “They have been researching the idea of bringing in a fire pump,” Boys said.

                Boys noted that a meeting was held with plant management and the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality this past Monday. “The environmental clean up hasn’t begun yet,” Boys said.

                While management at the facility has been generally cooperative according to Boys, there is much work to be done in the coming weeks and months.

                “They did make sure a temporary fence was in place for security, as that was a major concern we had,” Boys said. “They did comply quickly with that.”

                While nothing is burning to the visible eye, Boys said the fire could go for months as far as smoldering and the ground being warm. “It is tough to tell the extent of ground contamination without testing,” Boys added.

                Even though electricity has been cut off to the site for weeks, Boys said officials are in regular contact with management via phone and email. Officials are also driving past the facility from time to time to make sure only clean up efforts are being conducted.

                City fire officials had been out to the recycling center location a few days prior to the fire in September to look at some follow up inspections.

                One of the concerns at the time was that tires were stacked too high on the three acre site.

                File photo

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                  The message was clear over the weekend. Police are hoping that drivers got the message.

                  A DUI operation was conducted in the city by the Maricopa Police Department Saturday evening. According to Deputy Chief Kirk Fitch, the operation ran on Saturday from the hours of 6 p.m. to 1 a.m.

                  “There are more planned for November and over the holidays,” Fitch said. “Some will be in Maricopa and some will be near the city or adjacent cities. We have other agencies involved in the DUI Task Force and it is a requirement, per the grant, that the city participate in several Task Force operations throughout the year.”

                  Fitch added that the monies originate from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. “It is a grant process that the city applied for approximately one year ago,” Fitch noted.

                  The Maricopa Police Department was the only agency working in this particular operation, and it consisted of a couple of officers working within the city limits, paid for by the DUI grant money.

                  The numbers from the DUI detail last Saturday in Maricopa show that there was one alcohol related injury, 10 seat belt citations, 27 speeding citations, one misdemeanor arrest, three other moving violations, and three non-moving violations.

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                  The Water Boy recently opened on West Honeycutt Road. Co-owner Sergio Hernandez spoke to inmaricopa.com about the business.

                  inmaricopa.com: How long did it take to get the business up and running?

                  Hernandez: It took us about a year from start to finish to finally open.

                  inmaricopa.com: What products/services does The Water Boy offer?

                  Hernandez: Well, we offer water, of course, Thrifty ice cream, soft serve, Hawaiian shaved ice, shakes, sundaes, banana splits, frost bites (similar to a blizzard), paletas, Mexican ice cream, agua frescas, candy, snacks, sodas, bottled drinks, danish, coffee, donuts, ice, fresh brewed ice tea, and different water bottles, jugs and crocks.

                  inmaricopa.com: How did the business get started?

                  Hernandez: The business was started because my partner, Robert, and I have always talked about going into business for ourselves instead of working for other people. If we’re going to work hard, why not be for us? We talked about a business plan and it just kind of grew from there.

                  inmaricopa.com: What brought you to open a business in Maricopa and what are your long-term goals here?

                  Hernandez: Maricopa is the city we live in. We have been residents of Maricopa since 2002. We wanted to get to know our community and contribute to it. Our goal is to remain a fixture in the community and to eventually franchise.

                  inmaricopa.com: Do you have any competition for your services in town? If so, who?

                  Hernandez: Yes, there is the other Water & Ice over by Bashas’. What sets us apart from the other water and ice is we open earlier and close later.

                  inmaricopa.com: What would you like residents of Maricopa to know about the business?

                  Hernandez: We are here to grow with our community and to meet their needs. We are always open for suggestions and ready to accommodate our customers. The customers’ opinions are valued and their ideas are always welcomed. We want them to stop by for water and treats, or just to say hi and converse with us. We are very friendly, outgoing, and very family oriented.

                  Hours of operation: Monday thru Saturday 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
                  Location: 44480 W. Honeycutt Rd., Suite 108
                  Phone: (520) 568-0111

                  Photo by Dave Thomas

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                    Soon, a sign kiosk program may be turning its way in Maricopa.

                    A presentation of such a program was made at a recent Planning & Zoning Commission meeting.

                    According to P&Z Chairman Anthony Smith, the original idea behind the program was to “clean up” the abundance of homebuilding signs that so mark Maricopa (see related opinion). A drive into town makes it seem like Maricopa is home to every homebuilder in North America.

                    At the P&Z meeting earlier this month, Smith noted that the Commission took the position to recommend that council consider two options:

                    1. Add local businesses and non-profits to the sign kiosk program;
                    2. Suspend immediately the enforcement of the sign ordinance to businesses and non-profits until a similar solution can be formulated for them.

                    Shena Rojemann, a planner with the city of Maricopa, told inmaricopa.com that the sign kiosk program is being organized with a couple of goals in mind.

                    Among the goals are eliminating the sign pollution along roadways throughout the city and to serve as a directional tool for residents, visitors and possible future residents of the city. It is likely that businesses would be a great beneficiary of such a program.

                    “This program was delayed so as to coordinate with the branding effort,” Rojemann said. “At this point in time, the city is seeking to establish a ‘final design’ for the kiosk to get the system up and running as soon as possible. I say ‘final design’ because the kiosk’s design at this point are in no way an indication of the colors, style, or design, etc. for the final logo for the city of Maricopa. Once branding has completed their process, the kiosks will then be updated to compliment the new city of Maricopa logo.”

                    Rojemann added that the kiosk program is an effort between the city of Maricopa and the hired consultant, ALB Industries of Tempe.

                    “Once a ‘final design’ has been approved and the kiosk locations have been determined, it will take approximately two months to finalize the financial package to get the system up and running,” Rojemann commented.

                    Asked if other cities have such a program in place, Rojemann said there are various communities and counties throughout Arizona that have incorporated similar programs; including the city of Surprise, Pinal County and the Superstition Foothills area.

                    Look for more discussion on this issue when council next convenes in November.

                    Photo by Mandy Hank

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                    The Maricopa Chamber of Commerce board nominations are in as Executive Director Terri Kingery looks to welcome some new members. Chamber members will have until approximately the middle of December to make their selections.

                    Those running for the board include:

                    Bill Bridwell, Golden Touch Realty
                    Bridwell owns and operates Bill Bridwell’s Golden Touch Realty and Developers in Casa Grande. He first opened this business in 1983 and has done business periodically in the Maricopa area since that time. As a member of The Maricopa Chamber of Commerce and a member of The Greater Casa Grande Chamber of Commerce for the last 24 years, Bridwell has served in Casa Grande on the board of directors for the last nine years. His final term on in Casa Grande expires at the end of this year.

                    Sheriolyn M. Curry-Lasley, Comfort Keepers
                    For the past six years, Curry-Lasley been the managing director and owner of a Comfort Keepers franchise, headquartered in Chandler. In 2006, she opened a satellite office in Maricopa, joining the Maricopa Chamber in early 2007. As a leading provider of non-medical home care services, their goal is not only to be a first-thought provider for these types of services, but also to educate and support families caring for loved ones in long-term care situations.

                    Amy Hannon, Maui Wowi Hawaiian Coffee And Smoothies
                    Hannon has been in the field of advertising, sales and marketing management for more than 19 years, most recently managing the classified advertising department at The Arizona Republic. She has served on the board of directors for The MCClatchy Federal Credit Union for McClatchy Newspaper Corp. Prior to her resignation three weeks ago from The Arizona Republic, she was to be on the board of directors for the Western Regional Classified Newspaper Association, but did not accept the position due to her leaving the industry to open Maui Wowi Hawaiian.

                    Al Ingersoll, DVD Game Depot
                    Ingersoll has lived in Hidden Valley for 13 years. He has 30-plus years in business, both retail and wholesale. Business: co-owner DVD Game Depot; Maricopa Chamber of Commerce member. Raised in the Midwest, Ingersoll has been in Arizona since 1975 and has helped to raise 10 nieces and nephews. His hobbies include hunting, fishing, camping, motorcycles. Charities include: Pediatric brain tumor foundation (has supported this since 2004 and this year he is the contact for the Maricopa/Casa Grande area), also supports the Little League, 4-H, Maricopa girls’ high school basketball, several PTO’s, the Stage Coach Days kids parade, local ATA Black belt by sponsoring an underprivileged student and the high school band boosters.

                    Keith Kirkman, Orbitel Communications
                    Kirkman is currently the president/CEO of Orbitel Communications and has served in that capacity since August 2005. Throughout his career, Kirkman has served on numerous boards in officer level positions, including the St. Croix Chamber of Commerce in the capacity of president and vice president.

                    Janice Pratt, Central Arizona College

                    Pratt has more than 16 years of experience in higher education, business and public administration, small business management, and service leadership. She is currently a board member of the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce. Pratt hopes to continue her work in helping small businesses succeed, promoting tourism and destination development, and expanding access for all Maricopa residents to higher education.

                    Bill Poulos, Arizona Shuttle Service
                    His background is in transportation management for more than 20 years. Poulos is the Phoenix operations manager for Arizona Shuttle Service, Maricopa. Since relocating from Massachusetts to Arizona one and a half years ago, Poulos has come to know and appreciate the business community of Maricopa.

                    Anthony Snider, Wells Fargo Bank
                    Snider moved to Maricopa in November of 2006 and took a job as branch manager of Wells Fargo Bank in Maricopa. Snider has been with Wells Fargo Bank for more than three years as a personal banker as well as branch manager. Snider is an active participant in Maricopa, serving as president-elect of the local Kiwanis club of Maricopa and a participating member of the newly formed Maricopa Educational Foundation.

                    Bill Wasowicz, The Wizards of Waz
                    Wasowicz has served on the current chamber board in the capacity of alternate for the past year. He brings the following experience to the Chamber:

                    Chair of the current events committee; Homer Chamber of Commerce (over 300 members) – six- year board member and two-year president; Kenai Peninsula Tourism and Marketing Council (over 700 members); three-year board member, president, interim executive director
                    Alaska Hotel and Motel Association (over 150 members); five-year board member Juneau lobbyist.

                    “I urge all of you to read the information carefully, attend the mixers and breakfasts to meet these individuals and make a informed decision,” Kingery said. “We are continuing to move forward and 2008 will prove to be another fantastic year for the chamber as well as the City of Maricopa.”

                    According to Kingery, chamber members will be receiving their ballots in the mail shortly. Each member company will receive one ballot addressed to the primary contact in the chamber’s data base.

                    Members may return the ballot either by mail or drop off at the chamber office. Voting will close on Dec. 14. The winners will be announced on Dec. 17.

                    Those winning this election will begin their terms on Jan. 1, 2008. At the first regular board meeting in January, board members in attendance will select officers for 2008. In addition and adhering to the bylaws, an alternate board member will also be appointed.

                    The newly elected board members will be joining the following individuals as the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors for 2008:

                    Danielle Casey, City of Maricopa (non-voting)
                    Mark Molus, 1st Impressions Ink
                    Vicki Pettes, The Communicator
                    Veronica Reeves , Wells Fargo Bank
                    Jake Romero, Chase Bank

                    Editor’s note: The bio information was supplied by the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce.

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                      Setting less than a stellar example for their kids, two youth football coaches were involved in a physical altercation in Tempe following a game earlier this month. The game was between the Maricopa Matadors and the Dragonz.

                      On an azfamily.com video Maricopa coach David Kennedy apparently pulls up in a red vehicle and blocks Tempe coach Terrance Payne’s white vehicle from leaving the area (click here to see video). There is reportedly only one way in and out of the field where the game was held.

                      After words are exchanged, the two begin fighting. Payne’s wife, Tiffany, is alleged to have stabbed Kennedy as more people get involved in the fight on the video.

                      According to one source, Kennedy was not badly injured in the confrontation.

                      Despite the incident, Maricopa Youth Football League President Dan Shaw said there really isn’t much of an impact as far as the league goes. Kennedy was suspended as a result of the actions.

                      “You will have about six to 15 players players that will not play in this league next year due to the Board’s decision of suspending our coach,” Shaw said. “We as a non-profit and all-volunteer program work very hard to provide a youth tackle football league. The city does not have tackle football, so a lot of us hard-working parents are trying to provide a sport that keeps the kids off the streets.” According to Shaw, the program has 175 kids participating.

                      “We will learn from our mistakes and keep growing this youth football organization,” Shaw noted. “We started out with about 60 kids. Next year we will be around 250 kids. Remember, we have to think about the kids and not ourselves.”

                      Asked if a serious incident like this had ever taken place in the four years of the league involving coaches or kids, Shaw said this was the only time they have ever had a fight.

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                        It is taking on a new look that is more eye appealing, but will residents feel they got their money’s worth in the long run?

                        The paving project at city hall continues this week, along with the construction of Wilson Road south of Edison.

                        The project began on Oct. 1, with completion expected by Nov. 5, according to John Bemis, superintendent of public works for the City of Maricopa. Bemis added that the project is expected to come in on budget.

                        Back in August, city council members debated as to whether or not go ahead with the project.

                        Council discussed a request by then Public Works Director Bob Jackson to award a competitive bid contract to Achen-Gardner Inc. of Casa Grande in the amount of nearly $507,000 for the construction of Wilson Road south of Edison and paving the parking area at city hall.

                        In a 4-1 vote, (Councilman Joseph Estes opposed) council said the city should go forward and award the bid to Achen Gardner Inc. for construction of the road and paving of the city hall property.

                        Councilman Will Dunn was absent from that meeting, and Mayor Kelly Anderson had to recuse himself from the discussion since his family owns the property where city hall sits.

                        Councilman Edward Farrell questioned the idea of spending the money to pave the parking area at city hall back in August.

                        “We’d be spending money as a tenant and not a landowner,” Farrell said. “If we move city hall does the owner reimburse us for any enhancements we did to their land?”

                        Estes said at the time that his concerns were that the city will bear the costs of paving the parking lot when the lease for city hall is up in less than two years. Estes added there were and continue to be other priorities for the city right now and down the road than paving the parking area at city hall.

                        “I don’t see the need to spend that kind of money on a temporary parking lot,” Estes noted. Estes said he would rather see the city focus first on the library and city hall second.

                        According to Jackson at the time, when asked by Estes if work on the city hall area was not done, could the work planned for Wilson Road still be completed, Jackson said he didn’t think so.

                        So, temporary or not, workers began laying down the new surface at city hall this month, with no delays at this time seen in the schedule to complete the project.

                        According to Mike Mills of Achen-Gardner, the approximate cost to do the interim city hall paving is $370,000. The remainder of the figure ($507,000) mentioned above would go towards the Wilson Road portion of the project.

                        Asked if the project is moving along smoothly, Bemis noted, “There have been no major challenges thus far.”

                        According to Bemis, there are no other major city road projects planned at this time.

                        So as city hall gets a new look, taxpayers making the trip to the facility to pay bills will at least have a new surface to park their cars on.

                        Photo by Joyce Hollis

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                          W.S. James, owner of Fashions by Cexi in the Fry’s Marketplace, recently decided to discontinue business operations.

                          Fashions by Cexi, which had been in business for about a year according to James, is the third business to recently close in the shopping center, joining Ramsey’s American Grill and Century 21 Metro Alliance.

                          Despite beginning a liquidation sale last Thursday, James wanted to thank all customers for their patronage.

                          “It was a pleasure to serve the residents of Maricopa and a blessing to have had the honor and privilege of working with a staff who were the epitome of excellence,” James commented.

                          According to James, closing the business was a difficult decision to make, particularly when it impacts employees who he said have been completely wonderful in all aspects. James, however, said it was a necessary decision.

                          “The Barclay Group (property owner) has been remarkably responsive and cooperative, allowing the transition to progress seamlessly,” James added.

                          In the closing of Ramsey’s back in August, Barclay Group refused comment on why the business was shut down.

                          Jim Gardner, a spokesman for Barclay Group, told inmaricopa.com at that time in an email response that the company did not feel it had been correctly quoted or treated fairly by the “Press” in Maricopa. Therefore, the company said it had no comment.

                          There is no word yet on what will replace Fashions by Cexi in the shopping center once the liquidation sale is complete.

                          File photo

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                            For anyone thinking that a meeting at 11 a.m. on a work day may not be well attended, think again.

                            A standing-room-only crowd packed one of the rooms in the Pinal County Government Campus in Florence Friday morning to hear just where county officials are with proposed changes to zoning ordinances. The zoning ordiances have been in place since 1962.

                            After receiving a short update on the proposed changes, the crowd had plenty of questions for county officials, lasting past the scheduled 1 p.m. closing of the meeting.

                            The first in a series of public meetings, the gathering evoked passionate responses from residents of Maricopa, Casa Grande, Florence, Apache Junction and elsewhere. The biggest outcry was against proposed changes to how many large animals people could have on their properties.

                            Up to now, large animals have been limited to five per acre of land if the noted property is zoned General Rural. Animals falling into this category include cattle, horses, llamas, goats and sheep. A recent proposal would change that limit to only two per acre. The reason behind this thinking is that a greater percentage of Pinal County will become more urban in the years to come.

                            According to District 3 Pinal County Supervisor David Snider in a recent opinion piece on inmaricopa.com,, none of the new zoning categories are intended to be implemented until the time comes when there is landowner request for a change in a parcel’s zoning.

                            Thanks to public outcry, Snider said the Planning & Development staff has restored the limits on large animals to the original numbers in all five of the appropriate new zoning areas (RU-2, RU-3.3, RU-5, and RU-10).

                            District 2 Pinal County Supervisor Sandie Smith told the crowd Friday that public input on the originally proposed changes had been strong.

                            “The rights you have today do not change,” Smith said. Still, there seemed to be a fair amount of confusion in the room, both with residents and county officials.

                            Reminding residents that the current zoning language dates back 45 years, Smith said that present classifications do not give officials the tools they need to work with the growth that is currently and will be impacting the county.

                            The biggest outcry from citizens was the notion that proposed changes to the zoning ordinances is coming from developers who want to build in rural areas of the county. One resident said these proposed changes were a developer mandate aimed at being the first step to regulating the rural lifestyle of county citizens.

                            “I moved from Scottsdale to Casa Grande to have open roads to enjoy,” one woman said to the crowd. “If developers come in and want high density, you and I will be ousted. With the new changes, won’t that be easier to do?” she asked. One county official said they are looking at how well the new zoning proposals fit in with the existing zoning laws.

                            One Maricopa resident told those in attendance that these proposed zoning changes do impact people’s lives. “These changes are not desired by the residents,” she told officials. “This is the beginning of opening the door to changing everything that we know. It will be gone. This is not justified to the people who live here.”

                            As the meeting continued, the cry that developers are the main backers of these proposed changes became louder. While the crowd was mostly hospitable to county officials in attendance, the occasional shout out from the crowd was heard during the Q&A.

                            “You took out animal restrictions because of public outcry,” one citizen noted. Another citizen said this room is full because everyone is saying don’t do this. “Take animals out of the proposed draft,” they added.

                            According to Smith, the origin of the proposed zoning changes came from committees that were formed. Smith was responding to one resident who demanded to know who started all these restrictions.

                            “The committees were formed and they worked on drafts, had different meetings and put this information together, along with a consultant,” Smith said. “This is our first draft.” One resident uttered from the crowd that the consultant likely had ties to developers.

                            As more than a dozen people took to the microphone during the Q&A, it was clear that no one in the room was happy with what they were hearing.

                            One resident said she had moved from Tempe to Hidden Valley, after seeing Tempe destroyed by developers. “I moved out there to enjoy the rural life,” she said. “This is not a well-written document. This repeals public participation in the plan.”

                            Another citizen said the last thing portions of Pinal County needs now is more development. Noting the Maricopa area, the citizen remarked that added developments will have a more negative impact on traffic for one. “We have so many unoccupied homes we can’t sell now,” the citizen said. “So why are we building? “Try to go (drive) through Maricopa in the morning. You can’t do it.”

                            Saying they wanted Arizona to maintain its open land and rural lifestyle that many in the state have and currently enjoy, one woman had a simple message for officials. “If you want Arizona to be California, keep on going.”

                            Another public meeting is slated for Oct. 25 at 9 a.m. (runs from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., with animal discussion from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.) in the EOC Room at the Pinal County Government Campus, 31 N. Pinal St., Florence.

                            Photo by Dave Thomas

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                              A resident and business owner had a simple message for city council Tuesday evening at its meeting. The request was for council to be more involved in helping and supporting local businesses.

                              Sue Carlisle, who has owned Entrees Made Easy on Honeycutt Road for some seven months with her husband, Brett, told council she was at the meeting as a business owner in the community.

                              “Like other business owners in our community, we are chamber members, we network, we promote each other’s businesses and do what we can to serve our community,” Carlisle said. “There is no greater pleasure than to give to others. Part of our official business plan is ‘to give back to the community’ and we gladly do so.”

                              Noting that city council is really not that different than the businesses that have opened thus far in Maricopa, Carlisle stated that both the city and local businesses are experiencing growing pains and have a limited amount of monies to spend before the well runs dry. “We both try to find out what works and what doesn’t,” Carlisle noted. “We both try to not only satisfy but exceed customers’ expectations. I do not envy the difficult tasks that are put before you on a daily basis.”

                              Carlisle told the council that she and her husband have put everything into this business including heart, soul and all of their capital. “We’re not giving up even though every day is a struggle as a new business to make ends meet, especially when you have everything you own on the line and you’re responsible for employees’ income streams as well,” Carlisle said.

                              It was then that Carlisle said she had major concerns with the city and how it is or isn’t helping local businesses.

                              “I must let you know that I was recently outraged together with other business leaders in the community on a communication that came from the city to the business owners,” Carlisle said. “It stated that by the gathering of key data about the existing business community in Maricopa it will allow for improved understanding of the city as a business location, and will help to create an early warning system of business intelligence in terms of opportunities and challenges that inevitably will emerge as the city develops.”

                              Carlisle continued by saying that the city does not need to wait for the interviews to be conducted and surveys to be completed.

                              “The vast majority of businesses that rent space are suffering, the early warning signs were months ago, and we already are constantly facing the challenges on a daily basis,” Carlisle said. “What can the council do for me and other businesses that rent space here in Maricopa?”

                              Carlisle said the best thing that the council and key personnel for the city can do is to get to know the stores that are opened and refer business to them.

                              “I’ll use Entrees Made Easy as an example,” Carlisle continued. “Some of you were at Entrees Made Easy’s ribbon cutting, but haven’t been back. Some of you and key city personnel have said that you’d try us, but I haven’t seen any orders yet from any of you except one from the city months ago for a lunch meeting. If you don’t want to be our customer, that is fine. What you can do for Entrees and other businesses though, as leaders of our community, is to get to know your local business to help promote us. Please get to know the Maricopa businesses, as it is vital to our success and yours as well.”

                              Carlisle also told council that there is no signage on the west side of the intersection at Honeycutt Road and John Wayne Parkway to direct people to the Maricopa Business Center. “I can’t tell you how many people don’t know where Honeycutt is or Maricopa Business Center,” Carlisle added.

                              Saying she was not running for a chamber seat or city council, Carlisle concluded by noting she was just trying to keep her business afloat.

                              Carlisle now waits to see if her message was heard.

                              Photo by Dave Thomas

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                              Maricopa residents look like they’ll have a new bank to call home sometime next year.

                              AmTrust Bank recently indicated that it will be bringing its services to Maricopa just up and across the street from the Fry’s Marketplace.

                              AmTrust Bank Public Relations Director Debbie Martinko said the branch is not due to open until April 2008. “That date is relatively tentative,” Martinko said. “I do not have much in the way of details to share at this point,” she added.

                              AmTrust Bank was founded more than 100 years ago in Cleveland and was originally known as Ohio Savings. According to the company, the bank ended its first year with one office and $20,000 in assets.

                              Today, the company is a player in retail banking, mortgage and construction lending, investment and insurance services. The company claims to be one of the 20 largest mortgage lenders in the U.S., and has more than $17 billion in assets.

                              Nearly 20 years ago, AmTrust Bank purchased Palm Plaza Savings Bank in Florida, and renamed it AmTrust Bank.

                              In addition to the branches in Florida, expansion into Arizona started in 2000 when the company opened its first AmTrust Bank branch in the Phoenix area.

                              Photo by Dave Thomas

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                                In a meeting that could be labeled less than dramatic, city council convened Tuesday night to hear a couple of presentations from the finance department staff regarding budgetary and fiscal status and an update on the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) process.

                                According to Finance Director Roger Kolman, the city will be ok when it comes to its finances. Kolman noted that finances are sluggish at the moment as a result of lagging housing development.

                                “We need to decide what our absolute needs are and what we can put off,” Kolman said. Saying he hates to use clichés, Kolman noted that the city must make sure to tighten its belts and hold the line where it can. Kolman added that transportation needs will continue to be a major issue for the city.

                                An update was also given on the status of the CIP. A preliminary draft will be made available to council at its next meeting on Nov. 6. A presentation of that plan is slated for council’s first meeting in December. If all goes well, council would then adopt the CIP, with capital budget for fiscal year 2009 at its final meeting of the year on Dec. 18.

                                In other matters, council did approve (6-0 vote, Councilman Will Dunn was absent) payment of accrued interest on previously refunded development impact fees as they relate to a lawsuit that had been brought by a homebuilding association against the city. In accordance with the decision handed down by the Pinal County Superior Court and the affirmation by the Court of Appeals, the city is required to pay interest at 10 percent per annum on all disputed fees collected by the city.

                                Earlier this year, the city lost its appeal of a verdict delivered in a lawsuit initiated by the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona. The lawsuit was on behalf of homebuilders who had development agreements in place with Pinal County prior to Maricopa’s incorporation four years ago.

                                The fees were obtained from late 2005 through June of this year for those builders affected by the development agreements. The development agreements in question affect the following subdivisions: Rancho El Dorado (Phases I-III), The Villages at Rancho El Dorado and Province.

                                The city got out its checkbook this summer to write a reimbursement check to the tune of $3,219,472 to homebuilders as a result of impact fees collected by Maricopa.

                                The homebuilders being reimbursed the accrued interest amount include Brown Communities ($905.80), Canterra Homes ($48,179.93), Centex ($24,068.40), DR Horton/Continental Homes ($6,168.07), Engle Homes ($195,523.38), Hacienda ($9,661.86), Meritage ($70,307.33) and U.S. Homes ($57,194.80). According to Kolman, the final total would come out to just over $412,000.

                                Finally, council did approve an event known as Hispanic Heritage Day. The event will be held on Oct. 27 at Rotary Park from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

                                As Mayor Kelly Anderson noted, the event pays tribute to and recognizes the numerous outstanding accomplishments, past and present that these individuals have made to the city, the state, nation and the world.

                                Council will next convene on Nov. 6 at the Global Water Facility. The work session begins at 6 p.m., with the public session slated for 7 p.m.

                                File photo

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                                Ever wanted to start a small business or learn how to keep one running?

                                The Maricopa Chamber of Commerce will host a small business workshop on Saturday, Oct. 27, 9 a.m. to noon at its office at 44870 W. Hathaway, Suite 5. The event is a seminar to aid and assist new and existing businesses.

                                “We held a focus group to determine what the needs/concerns are of the business people here in Maricopa,” Maricopa Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Terri Kingery said. “From the results came this, the first of many seminars.”

                                According to Kingery, the group is limited to 10 participants. “The goal is to keep the group small so we can provide much information in a small span of time,” Kingery noted.

                                The agenda for the half-day session will include: Welcome/introductions/situation analysis (9 a.m.); business planning for start-ups and expansions (9:15 a.m.); forms of legal organization: sole proprietorship/LLC/s-corporation (9:45 a.m.); sources of financing for business start-up and expansion (10 a.m.); break (10:20 a.m.); marketing and advertising strategies (10:30 a.m.); budgeting as a planning tool to control costs (11 a.m.); personnel recruitment and retention (11:15 a.m.); open time for questions and discussions (11:35 a.m.); and evaluation (11:50 a.m. – noon).

                                As Kingery sees it, the biggest challenges for new and existing businesses in Maricopa are to keep people shopping in town and communicating that there are businesses here.

                                According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, more than 50 percent of small businesses close their doors in the first five years.

                                For further information on the workshop, call (520) 568-2844.

                                To register for the event, visit www.maricopachamber.com/pages/event-registration.php .

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                                  Reaching out to residents of Pinal County has been the goal behind a number of planning workshops that were held around the county in recent weeks. The workshops are part of a comprehensive plan to determine the future of the county.

                                  The comprehensive plan first reviews the past development patterns of an area which have led directly to present conditions. Secondly, the plan offers a long range, futuristic view (normally 10 to 25 years) of how the study area should develop or redevelop.

                                  In this respect, the plan studies past trends in the county and utilizes various analytical planning techniques to determine desired future scenarios for Pinal County. In other terms, the comprehensive plan depicts where Pinal County has been, where it is presently, where it wants to go, and how it plans to reach that destination.

                                  The Design Charrettes (workshops) give residents an opportunity to apply the concepts of the draft vision to land use planning. Becoming “planners for a day”, participants are able to discuss where they wanted open space, economic development, residential and other services throughout the county.

                                  In a meeting last week at the Pima Butte Elementary School, some 30 individuals participated, according to Audra Koester Thomas of Partners for Strategic Action Inc.

                                  “Participants at the Maricopa event helped validate the draft vision,” Koester Thomas said. “Their concerns and priorities for the county were those outlined in the vision, including open space preservation, economic vitality and maintaining a unique community.”

                                  Koester Thomas said that Pinal County officials have been pleased with the participation levels for the recent workshops.

                                  “Maricopa’s event fell on the first Diamondbacks playoff game, so we were pleased that so many residents came out and contributed to the ongoing comprehensive plan effort,” Koester Thomas said. “While the Design Charrettes were the last major public involvement events for the year, we will again be offering events at the beginning of 2008. In the meantime, work on policy and alternatives will continue as well as additional activities in our schools.”

                                  The plan began earlier this summer with nine road shows in July and subsequently in Augsut, seven visioning workshops. More than 600 people have reportedly participated in these events to help determine the county’s future.

                                  During the road shows, residents said they wanted to see as part of the Pinal County Vision Statement: Education opportunities, protection of water resources; maintenance of open space; alternative energy usage, environmental preservation and conservation, and the protection of natural beauty.

                                  Prior to the meeting in Maricopa last week, workshops were also held in Apache Junction, Coolidge, Mammoth, Queen Creek, and Eloy.

                                  For further information, visit the project Web site at www.pinalcountyplan.com.

                                  Editor’s note: The Pinal County Comprehensive Plan Compendium of Existing Conditions is now available on the project Web site. The 71-page document provides a comprehensive review of conditions in Pinal County. The compendium is listed under “Project Documents” on the Web site.

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                                    What once seemed like a plan for a new school in Maricopa that was dead in its tracks has again emerged. But just when city council will get to partake in the discussions is up in the air.

                                    At the next city council meeting (Oct. 16), a public hearing was originally slated to be held regarding the proposed New Hope Montessori School. That hearing, though, has now been scrubbed.

                                    According to City of Maricopa Public Affairs Manager Jennifer Grentz, the public hearing will officially be canceled at the meeting by council. Grentz said the hearing will be canceled because the public hearing process was not complete.

                                    It was in early September that Shannon and Kari Johns backed away from plans to build the school after running into what they felt was a lack of cooperation from the city.

                                    In a letter to city officials on Sept. 13, the Johns’ requested to formally withdraw the conditional use permit and the site plan applications for Montessori School from further consideration and review by the City of Maricopa.

                                    In a change of heart not too long after, Shannon Johns said there were hopes once again for the school.

                                    According to a memorandum from Kazi Haque, senior planner for the city, per statutory requirements, the request for the conditional use permit, which requires a public hearing was advertised and placed on council’s agenda for the Oct. 16 meeting.

                                    Haque, however, said that since the case had been officially withdrawn, the public hearing notifications process, for example, posting of the public hearing notice on the site, mailing to adjacent property owners, etc. were not completed by staff to meet the statutory requirements. As such, Haque said the public hearing could be canceled without having to open it up for discussion or comments, unless the council desires otherwise. According to Haque, staff recommended that the public hearing be canceled at this time.

                                    Haque said that since the withdrawal letter was sent to the city, the applicant, Shannon Johns had changed his mind and requested that this case be reinstated for review and approval once again. This will require a new public hearing and all the statutory notifications requirements must be met before this case can be placed as an agenda item in the future. Haque said staff will notify city council of this public hearing once the date has been confirmed.

                                    New Hope Montessori School is seeking approval of a conditional use permit and a site plan for two temporary modular buildings for a daycare facility (Montessori School). The school would be situated at the northwest corner of Wilson and Lexington Avenues and designated in the general plan as a special planning area. The site is presently zoned general rural, which allows for a single family residential dwelling unit (min. 1.25 acres).

                                    If the request is approved, Shannon and Kari Johns are requesting a duration of three years for the conditional use permit before the permanent building site will be constructed.

                                    The couple originally said that added costs required by the city to construct half street improvements prior to opening would not be financially feasible to operate a business.

                                    Shannon Johns earlier told inmaricopa.com that he was “surprised to see that council took more of a serious look at their situation than what the city’s planning and development department had done. They’re willing to do whatever it takes to get more options here in Maricopa for preschool education. Hopefully, we can get it through,” Johns said.

                                    Originally, the couple thought they could file for a temporary use permit but were later told to file for a conditional use, being led to believe that perhaps they could place the half-street issue on as a condition to be met at a later date.

                                    After a recent council meeting, Shannon Johns said he spoke with a few of the council members as well as Amy Haberbosch (planning director) to see what the couple could do to get this approved.

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                                      As Maricopa grows so does Founders Day. The 4th annual celebration is slated to kick off this afternoon at 2 p.m. at Pacana Park.

                                      The celebration would not be possible if not for the many people involved in putting the event together. Often no more important to an event this size is the sponsors. A number of them are participating again this year.

                                      “We have generated a good collection of sponsors for the 4th Annual Founders Day Presented by Wells Fargo,” Marty McDonald, director of Parks, Recreation and Libraries said. “Wells Fargo has partnered with the city on this event for three consecutive years. In total, they’ve committed $30,000 in hard money towards this significant event. Their involvement and financial commitment to the event allows us to keep the event free, bring in quality entertainment and offer fun give-away prizes and a whole lot more.”

                                      As McDonald sees it, often in government, you’re supposed to ‘do more with less.’ Mc Donald, though, doesn’t agree with that.

                                      “As a government, we should do more with more,” McDonald said. “Our ability to leverage partnerships, sponsorships and raise revenue through our Vendor Village will allow us to recover 90 percent of the true event costs. The balance of the event is funded through budgeted dollars from the general fund. Without great sponsorship support, we would not be able to produce an event of this size and magnitude,” McDonald added.

                                      McDonald noted that Harrah’s Ak-Chin Hotel and Casino has stepped up to the plate as well. “We’ve developed an outstanding corporate partnership with them and they are a significant contributor to Founders Day and the Salsa Festival,” McDonald said. “On top of their financial investment into the community, they are active participants in the event themselves, often giving away over $10,000 worth of Harrah’s branded merchandise at each event.”

                                      McDonald also noted the commitments of Global Water, Orbitel Communications, Waste Management and inmaricopa.com as consistent event sponsors. “I’m honored that they continue to invest in our special events and we’ve formed great partnerships as a result,” McDonald said.

                                      A number of new sponsors have been added this year that include Maricopa Chamber of Commerce, Lantis Fireworks, 1st Impressions Ink, Oracle Realty and Arizona Solar Window Graphics. “We hope this is the beginning of a wonderful relationship with those companies,” McDonald said. “We feel honored that they believe in the value of what we do to make a financial investment in Founders Day.”

                                      According to McDonald, sponsors are actually down this year but that was by design.

                                      “We wanted to tap into established relationships and partnerships for this event in terms of gathering sponsorship revenue,” McDonald commented. “We have produced the largest Vendor Village in Maricopa for the last three years. We wanted to grow that segment of the event this year to record numbers and showcase the local options available to our residents. Large scale events like Founders Day allow local companies to market to thousands of Maricopa residents in one venue. The purpose of the Vendor Village was to create awareness about local businesses and the different options that do exist locally for our residents. We all need to shop local, buy local and stay local in terms of supporting small business. By doing so, it keeps tax dollars within the city and allows us to develop much needed facilities like a new library or bigger parks.”

                                      There are 97 different vendors this year, breaking the previous record of 74.

                                      “We have another dozen companies on the waiting list,” McDonald noted. “If we had a larger park for this event, we could do more with more. Our events have become critical out reach opportunities for local companies and service groups.”

                                      McDonald said sponsorship opportunities are going to take a new direction under the PRL department’s new marketing program beginning next year.

                                      Just what do sponsors get in return for their participation in the event? “Name recognition, heightened perception about the company, increased awareness and the ability to generate future business are just some of the benefits,” McDonald said. “As with anything in life, you get out of it what you put into it. In this case, the ‘it’ is making sure we deliver on our promise and to make sure they receive the proper recognition they deserve.”

                                      The 4th Annual Founders Day will include helicopter rides (beginning at 2:10 p.m.), music by The Freddie Duran Plan (2:15 p.m.), a chili cook off (2:30 p.m.), community dance demonstrations (3:45 p.m.), the presentation of founding families (4:15 p.m.), and music by Anarbor (4:25 p.m.) and the Gin Blossoms (6 p.m.).

                                      A Kidz Zone will also be held during the celebration. The first 1,000 people entering Founders Day will receive a “treasure bag” to embark upon the Vendor Village Scavenger Hunt.

                                      File photos

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                                        Maricopa Unified School District Board Member Tim White is being investigated regarding an alleged assault in the high school parking lot following the Sept. 26 board meeting.

                                        When contacted by inmaricopa.com, White declined to comment on the matter.

                                        “I won’t give any comments until after the district attorney decides what he’s going to do with these charges,” White responded.

                                        It is alleged that after the meeting on Sept. 26, White screamed at a school employee, threatened and grabbed them. The reported victim said that White came within four or five inches of their face and was screaming. The victim also reported saying White’s breathe smelled of cigarettes, indicating that he was within the victim’s personal space.

                                        Several witnesses reportedly backed this version of the alleged incident. The employee reportedly sought medical attention following the alleged altercation, saying White grabbed her by the shoulder.

                                        According to a case report written by Cpl. Kent Ogaard, the school resources officer, the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office contacted the home of White on Oct. 1 and spoke with White’s wife. White’s wife said White was not home at the time.

                                        Tim White later reportedly contacted the PCSO and indicated he was going out of town, but could discuss any matters over the phone. White reportedly spoke with the PCSO at that time.

                                        Asked about the alleged confrontation with the school employee, White reportedly told the officer over the phone that he absolutely, categorically did not touch anyone. He also told the officer he estimated he was more like three or four feet from the individual making the charges.

                                        White did reportedly request information on who supposedly witnessed the alleged assault, but the PCSO did not provide White with that information. According to the report, White would not meet with the officer in person at a later time, having nothing further to say.

                                        Charges for aggravated assault and threats and intimidation were to be forwarded to the Pinal County Attorney’s Office for review.

                                        Editor’s note: The PCSO would not release the name of the alleged victim.

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                                          A Maricopa resident is in custody following a fatal shooting last evening at a house at the intersection of Honeycutt Road and McCord Drive.

                                          inmaricopa.com has learned that the suspect is James Tanner, 39, of Maricopa. Tanner, who has been charged with first degree murder, was booked into the Pinal County jail facility and will be arraigned at a later date.

                                          Tanner allegedly came home to the house in the 44000 block of McCord Drive and confronted Maricopa resident Paul Spencer at the residence. Spencer, who was the manager of Barro’s Pizza in Maricopa, died of a gunshot wound. A sign on the front door of Barro’s Pizza on Wednesday said the shop was closed as a result of unforeseen circumstances.

                                          Spencer was the husband of Stephannie Spencer, an employee at Santa Rosa Elementary School. Paul Spencer was married with three children; Tanner is married with four children. The home where the shooting occured is reportedly owned by James and Anissa Tanner.

                                          According to a city release, the Maricopa Police Department received a call referencing shots fired inside a residence. The shooting appears to be a domestic dispute between an estranged husband and wife.

                                          Maricopa Police Department, DPS Criminal Investigations Unit and a Deputy County Attorney are working together on this case.

                                          More details will be released as they become available.

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                                            For Maricopa resident and businessman Mike Chance, last Friday’s sentencing of Robert Lemke to life in prison brings some closure to an ordeal that has gone on for five years.

                                            It was Lemke, 29, who confessed to the 2002 murder in a Tempe motel room of Empire Auto Glass owner Rick Chance, Mike’s brother. Lemke will be eligible for parole once he completes nearly 25 years of sentences for other crimes.

                                            In 2005, Lemke was found guilty of theft and conspiracy to commit theft. Jurors, however, were hung regarding the murder charge. Lemke later changed his plea to guilty and admitted shooting Chance in the chest during the robbery in the motel room.

                                            Rick Chance, who grew up in Maricopa, had gone to the motel with a woman who played a part in a robbery gone badly.

                                            Brandi Hungerford was sentenced last month to 14 years in prison for her role in the case. Hungerford pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, armed robbery and conspiracy charges. Investigators said Hungerford was not in the room at the time of the shooting.

                                            Both Hungerford and Lemke have already served close to five years.

                                            In a conversation with inmaricopa.com, Mike Chance said Friday’s court proceedings allows his family the opportunity to move on, but the loss of his older brother will never go away.

                                            Describing the court scene, Chance said it was a very powerful moment.

                                            “We had sentencing for Brandi last month, and it wasn’t the type of situation where I could address her directly,” Chance commented. “This time (Lemke sentencing), I was able to address him. I sensed he just wanted to get it over with. To call it a dramatic moment would be an understatement. I just spoke from the heart and kept my emotions in check. You wait a little over five years for this moment to talk to the person who killed your brother. The intensity meter was off the charts.”

                                            Chance said other family members were in the courtroom, including his sister and mother.

                                            “Rick’s daughter had planned on attending but it proved very difficult for her and she didn’t go,” Chance said. His (Lemke) confessing to where he pulled the trigger allows us to get past this. Had we gone to court and gotten a conviction, he still may not have confessed. Some may have theorized that Brandi set him up. This ends any speculation as to who pulled the trigger.”

                                            Moving forward, Chance said the last few days have brought out emotions in him.

                                            “We’ve really had to delay mourning my brother with all the time in court,” Chance said. “You never really have the opportunity to move past it because every hearing stirs it up again. We can now find closure and mourn him in a more appropriate way. We’re a close-knit group, and I can’t say enough about the friends I have in Maricopa and Casa Grande” Chance’s family has been a part of Maricopa since 1952.

                                            Asked if Rick would be satisfied with the outcome, Chance said he thought he would.

                                            Chance also wanted to make clear the flamboyant side people saw of Rick Chance in television advertisements for his auto glass company and elsewhere was “a fraction of his personality.”

                                            “This has given me a whole new perspective on what victims’ families go through,” Chance said. “There are families out there that have had it far worse when their loved one goes missing. I don’t know how people go through living with that. The concept of justice and closure must seem like pie in the sky. This took a long time, but justice was served.”

                                            Asked about Lemke’s accomplice, Chance said Hungerford did show remorse for her role in the crime.

                                            “What she agreed to do was reprehensible, but I don’t think she thought he (Rick) would be killed,” Chance noted. “When you think about it, he (Lemke) was the only living witness. She probably knew what happened, but I think she was smart enough not to let him know she knew what happened. We all were actually surprised when they found her alive days later.”

                                            Hungerford and Lemke were discovered a few days after the murder in Washington State when they were arrested.

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                                            Danielle Casey is a Management Assistant II in the city manager’s office in Maricopa. inmaricopa.com recently spoke with her to learn more about her job, what a typical day is like for her, and where she sees the city going.

                                            85239: Talk a little bit about your job, what you’re responsible for, etc.?

                                            Casey: Generally, a management assistant does exactly what it sounds like – they assist in management related tasks, such as performing research and managing programs and projects for various departments. My position has evolved through time, and I have worn a number of hats. At one point I was the public information contact, the addressor, the economic development assistant, the drafter of various personnel policies and procedures, and a manager of a variety of other tasks such as arranging the Governor’s visit event to training new hires and general supervision. My duties have evolved to a concentration in the economic development arena as we have been fortunate enough to fill positions, such as the public affairs manager position. At the same time under Dr. Ioanna Morfessis’ expertise and guidance we’ve expanded our economic development toolkit, and participation and representation of Maricopa on a truly regional and national level in organizations like the Arizona Association for Economic Development, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, and the International Economic Development Council.

                                            85239: What is a ‘typical’ day like for you on the job?

                                            Casey: A typical day runs from about 7:40 a.m. until about 6 p.m. or later, depending on if there is an evening meeting scheduled. My tasks for the day can range from responding to an economic development prospect inquiry, providing updated data to developers we are already working with in Maricopa, constantly researching and revising our economic development materials, sending out an E-newsletter, working with our branding consultants, attending a Maricopa Chamber of Commerce board meeting or a meeting at GPEC, and maybe doing some general management research such as analysis on needs and equipment options for a new postage meter that will serve all departments at the City. Throw in a few more meetings and about 80 various emails to be sorted through and answered and there you have it.

                                            85239: What attracted you to working in Maricopa?

                                            Casey: I think my main attraction to the position was the amazing chance to serve the very community in which I live and apply my skills to helping build something that will be here even after I am long retired.

                                            85239: At the end of the day what is the best/most challenging thing about working for the city?

                                            Casey: The best thing about working for the City of Maricopa is knowing that every day I have the opportunity to contribute to the growth of this wonderful community. The biggest challenge in that is realizing that some things take time. The people I work with – the amazing team that I am lucky enough to be a part of – make working for the City hugely rewarding every day. Every one of them comes to work every day in order to provide this community with the highest level of service possible.

                                            85239: If you had a vision for what Maricopa would look like two to three years from now, what would it be?

                                            Casey: In two to three years, I would like to see continued progress toward realizing Maricopa’s vision of sustainable development and growth. I hope to see the attraction of companies and jobs through the encouragement and development of business and industrial parks, and plans for developing downtown into a true pedestrian-friendly live/work/play atmosphere will likely be in place and beginning development. Most of all, I would like to see Maricopa ever-moving toward the ideals that have been brought forth by community members as part of the branding process. Frequently mentioned values have included sustainability, family-friendliness, and a retention of Maricopa’s history and old town values while embracing innovative growth and development.

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                                              Road improvements for Maricopa Casa Grande Highway, a discussion involving union negotiations between the firefighters and the city, a rundown on last month’s tire plant fire at Arizona Rubber Recycling Company and approval of several liquor licenses and/or permits were among some of the topics covered at Tuesday evening’s city council meeting.

                                              Council heard from Bob Jackson, the former public works director, now mayor of Casa Grande, on improvements to Maricopa Casa Grande Highway, including the intersection with White and Parker Road.

                                              Jackson, who labeled the intersection “the most dangerous intersection in town”, told the crowd that a signal is a definite need for the site to minimize the chances of accidents. “We have a traffic problem getting onto Casa Grande Highway from White and Parker,” Jackson said.

                                              Council backed the idea (6-0 vote, Councilman Kelly Haddad was not in attendance) of installing a signal at the intersection, but told Jackson that plans for a grade separation project at the railroad crossing at White and Parker should stay on a priority list for now. Jackson noted that $2 million was budgeted to do the signal project. Funds not used for the signal cost will go towards road improvements on Maricopa Casa Grande Highway.

                                              Meantime, saying a proposed grade separation could take a number of years, Jackson said city officials have been meeting on a regular basis with representatives from Union Pacific Railroad (UPR) to address improvements in the area of the crossing.

                                              “We don’t have control of all the pieces there,” Jackson said, referring to UPR’s jurisdiction when it comes to the area involving the railroad. “A lot of the discussion there involves Union Pacific. Union Pacific is a stumbling block.”

                                              Jackson noted that the grade separation’s total cost would be around $25 million, with at least four to five years needed to accomplish everything.

                                              Councilman Joseph Estes said timing on road improvements has been a big issue.

                                              “The length of time of discussions is the biggest frustration,” Estes said. Estes asked Jackson if it was wise for the city to designate a full-time person to deal with these problems. “Brent (Billingsley) does a big chunk of that already,” Jackson added. Billingsley is the city’s transportation director.

                                              • Council heard from Greg Fretz regarding the possibility of the city starting negotiations with the Fire Fighter’s Association on a memorandum of understanding. Fretz consults with the City of Chandler.

                                              Fretz, who said he is a big fan of collective bargaining, told the attendees that he was here to explain the process of meet and confer for wages, benefits and other terms of employment. He said that employees have the right to participate or not participate, but the memorandum of understanding applies to everyone.

                                              Fretz said the preference in any negotiations is to reach agreement at the bargaining table and not go to mediation.

                                              Councilman Will Dunn applauded the efforts of the firefighters (several were in attendance along with Chief William Kelleher), noting “I want to thank the firefighters for their patience. We’d like to get this thing moving. It is time to get it done,” Dunn noted.

                                              Mayor Kelly Anderson added that Kelleher’s leadership in involving firefighters’ sentiments on station plans, uniforms and more has been important.

                                              • Kelleher updated council on the tire plant fire that burned last month at the Arizona Rubber Recycling Co.

                                              According to Kelleher, the facility had been cited for violations just prior to the fire. When firefighters arrived on the scene on Sept. 20, they discovered some three acres of high-piled scrap tires on fire.

                                              Maricopa Fire Division Chief Mark Boys had given the new general manager of Arizona Rubber Recycling a 15-day extension to fix a number of safety violations, including tires being stacked too close to each other, a lack of adequate water for fire suppression, an overload of waste product stored at the site and improper fencing to secure the area. Boys told inmaricopa.com at the time that management at the facility was working with the city to mitigate the issues.

                                              Maricopa had assistance from a number of fire departments at the time, including Gila River, Ak-Chin and Casa Grande. The Phoenix Fire Department also assisted, sending crews to cover the City of Maricopa while its firefighters were battling the blaze.

                                              The fire burned nearly seven acres of tires and smoke impacted residents as far away as Scottsdale. A voluntary evacuation for Maricopa residents was made available by providing Red Cross personnel at the high school, but no one took advantage of it. A day after the fire, a smoke advisory was issued for the city.

                                              Boys issued a cease and desist order to prevent the facility from reopening until it corrected the problems.

                                              Two previous fires occurred at the facility in 2003 and 2005.

                                              • Finally, several special event permits and/or liquor license recommendations for the Arizona State Liquor Board met with approval.

                                              City council gave its blessing for special event liquor licenses for the Maricopa Rotary Club to serve alcohol at the Cotton Picking Barn Dance on Oct. 20; and to Pat Kieny with Native New Yorker to serve alcohol at the 4th Annual Founders Day Celebration on Oct. 13 at Pacana Park.

                                              Also getting approval was a request from Jim Johnson to conduct a special event called the Fall Harvest Festival slated for Oct. 31, 6 to 9 p.m., at the First Baptist Church at 18705 N. John Wayne Parkway; and Torri Anderson to conduct a special event known as the Against Abuse Inc. Seeds of Change Gala on Feb. 23, 2008, 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., at the Global Water Center.

                                              Finally, approval was given on a recommendation for Taco Del Mar for a liquor license update at the restaurant at 21101 N. John Wayne Parkway. The current owner had been operating on an interim permit until December of this year.

                                              Council will next convene on Oct. 16 for a 6 p.m. work session, followed by the 7 p.m. public meeting.

                                              Photo by Dave Thomas

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                                                Placing a number of requirements on operators of motorized play vehicles while riding in the City of Maricopa sent some members of council full speed forward Tuesday night.

                                                Vice Mayor and Public Safety Committee Chair Brent Murphree defended his views that operators of the vehicles, oftentimes kids, should be required to wear helmets among other things.

                                                On the other side of the table, Councilmen Will Dunn and Joseph Estes questioned just how far the city would go in legislation on such an item. Dunn also wondered if parents, who had just purchased a motor scooter for their child, would go out and spend another $75 or more for a helmet.

                                                The conversation back-and-forth carried on for some time, with Murphree standing firm in his belief that the motorized play vehicle ordinance go forward.

                                                “Head protection will save lives,” Murphree said. “If they wear it,” Dunn responded.
                                                Estes then wondered, “At what point do we stop legislating parental responsibility?”

                                                “Public safety feels strongly about this,” Murphree added. “We looked at an outright ban (of motorized play vehicles or motorized skateboards) versus some guidelines.”

                                                Murphree said that the public safety committee agreed as a body that this motorized vehicle play ordinance was a good idea. Committee member Carl Diedrich told the audience that there had not been one objection to the proposed ordinance. “I would urge you to pass this,” Diedrich told council.

                                                The committee had formed comprehensive rules and regulations relating to the establishment of procedures regulating motorized play vehicles within the City of Maricopa.

                                                According to the proposed ordinance, all traffic laws shall apply to persons riding motorized play vehicles and motorized skateboards. Among the prohibited areas of operation are on any sidewalk, except for use in crossing such sidewalk by the most direct route to gain access to any public or private road or driveway; in any city parking structure or city park, except for use on public roadways within the park, or designated hike/bike trails; on any public property that has been posted or designated by the owner of such property as an area prohibiting the use of “skateboards”; on any public roadway consisting of a total of four (4) or more marked traffic lanes, or having an established speed limit of greater than thirty-five (35) miles per hour; and on any private property of another, or any public property which is not held open to the public for vehicle use, without the written permission of the owner, the person entitled to immediate possession of the property, or the authorized agent of either. General operating restrictions include no child under 13 shall operate a motorized play vehicle or motorized skateboard.

                                                The proposed ordinance involving headgear states that any operator of a motorized play vehicle or motorized skateboard under the age of 18 being operated on a roadway shall at all times wear a full-face protective helmet on his or her head. Also, no person shall operate such a vehicle without eye protection.

                                                The ordinance adds that violators are civil traffic violations and shall be cited and penalized in the same manner as provided by law for other civil violations.

                                                While saying he is for safety, Dunn said his fear is that the committee is asking parents to do more than they will. “What information do we have to justify this?” Estes added.

                                                Before making any decision on the matter, Dunn said he would like to sit in on the next public safety meeting (Oct. 15) to learn more.

                                                In doing that, council decided to table the proposed motorized play vehicle ordinance for further discussion at its first meeting next month (Nov. 6).

                                                File photo