Authors Articles byRaquel Hendrickson

Raquel Hendrickson

Raquel Hendrickson
664 Articles 1 COMMENTS
Raquel, a.k.a. Rocky, is a sixth-generation Arizonan who spent her formative years in the Missouri Ozarks. After attending Temple University in Philadelphia, she earned a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University and has been in the newspaper business since 1990. She has been a sports editor, general-assignment reporter, business editor, arts & entertainment editor, education reporter, government reporter and managing editor. After 16 years in the Verde Valley-Sedona, she moved to Maricopa in 2014. She loves the outdoors, the arts, great books and all kinds of animals.

Important meetings and the city’s monthly Game Night are part of this week’s activities in Maricopa. Below, Sequoia Pathway student Kacie Swaffield invites the community to the school’s production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” For details on these and other listings, or to add your own, visit




Color Yourself Calm is at 11 a.m. at Maricopa Public Library, 41600 W. Smith-Enke Road.


 A Ray of Hope meeting of Narcotics Anonymous is at 7 p.m. at Maricopa Community Church, 44977 W. Hathaway Ave.




Day Trip to Sedona & Montezuma Castle leaves at 9 a.m. from Copper Sky Multigenerational Center, 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.


 Coffee with Friends of the Maricopa Library is at 1:30 p.m. at Maricopa Public Library, 41600 W. Smith-Enke Road.


 Maricopa Police Explorer Post Meeting is at 5 p.m. at Maricopa High School, 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave.


Celebrate Recovery Coffee & Karaoke is at 5 p.m. at Maricopa Community Church, 44977 W. Hathaway Ave.


Maricopa Youth Council meets at 6 p.m. in Multipurpose Room A at Copper Sky, 45345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Charcoal Drawing for Everyone, via Copper Sky, is at 6:30 p.m. at Central Arizona College – Maricopa Campus, 17945 N. Regent Drive.




Harrah’s Club 777 Toastmasters meet at 3 p.m. at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino, 15406 Maricopa Road.


Parks, Recreation and Libraries Committee meets at 6 p.m. at Maricopa City Hall, 39700 W. Civic Center Plaza.

MUSD Governing Board Meeting is at 6:30 p.m. at Maricopa Unified School District, 44150 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Hwy.




 MUSD Gifted Parent Meeting is at 5:30 p.m. at Saddleback Elementary School, 18600 N. Porter Road.


A Ray of Hope meeting of Narcotics Anonymous is at 7 p.m. at Ak-Chin Social Services, 48227 W. Farrell Road.




Multigenerational Game Night is at 6:30 p.m. at Copper Sky Multigenerational Center, 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.


“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is at 7 p.m. at Sequoia Pathway Academy, 19287 N Porter Road.


Strength & Hope Al-Anon Meeting is at 7 p.m. at Community of Hope Church, 45295 W. Honeycutt Ave.




“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is at 2 p.m. and again at 7 p.m. at Sequoia Pathway Academy, 19287 N Porter Road.




A Ray of Hope meeting of Narcotics Anonymous is at 7 p.m. at Maricopa Community Church, 44977 W. Hathaway Ave.

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Seniors (from left) Andrea Gallegos, Stephanie Palafox, Juliette Hawthorn, Makailah Hogg and Sabrina Montoya. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The Maricopa High School softball team ended a difficult year Thursday with a region loss to McClintock, 18-4. The Rams also said goodbye to five senior players that night after posting an overall record of 4-23.

 “We were really young, but we really learned a lot this year,” coach Brandi Howell said. “Every game we were making progress. When we were losing, we were making progress, and that’s huge.”

In their first year in the 5A Metro region, the girls were 1-9, defeating only Kellis. The Rams started the season with several inexperienced players.

 Howell said the beginning and end of the year were like “night and day.” She saw improvement throughout the season and said the girls were making difficult plays they could not have made at the beginning of the year.

 “Our mindset became different,” she said. “Even when we might not have been executing sometimes, our mind was there. We knew where to go before panicking a little bit.”

 Howell said even an umpire questioned whether she had the same team she had at the beginning of the year. “He said, ‘I know they’re losing, but they look so much better,’” Howell recalled.

 At the end of the game, Maricopa’s seniors handed out flowers to McClintock’s seniors. They were then honored by the team and families and were upbeat about the experience.

 “I’d like to give a shout-out to my teammates for making this a great last season for me,” senior Sabrina Montoya said.

 “My favorite memories were bonding with the team on bus rides, warmups and practice,” senior Andrea Gallegos said.

 A newcomer on the team this year, senior Makailah Hogg said her favorite memory was “pulling a Willie Mays catch that Coach Steve [Weiner] taught me.”

 For senior Juliette Hawthorn it was a painful but funny memory of running into the outfield fence. And for senior Montoya, it was diving into third base and home plate “because I wanted to get dirty.”

 Senior Stephanie Palafox thanked her teammates for making the season fun and her coaches Howell, Weiner and Tom Dugan for their time and effort.

 Though this season “didn’t pan out the way we wanted it to,” Howell thinks the team will come back strong in 2018.

 “I think we’ll have a pretty strong set of infielders coming back,” she said. “We’ll have to replace our outfield, but any time you can have a returning pitcher, it’s huge.”

The cast of "Beauty and the Beast" put on a show. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

A charming version of the stage adaptation of “Beauty and the Beast” is playing at Maricopa High School this weekend. The dancing-and-springing production by the MHS Theatre Company debuted Thursday at the Performing Arts Center.

Again, the troupe has combined strong performing talent with a remarkable sets and often extraordinary costuming. It’s a fitting sendoff for a handful of senior actors with a talent level rarely united on a high school stage. And it’s all kid-friendly.

The story of a beautiful, well-read young woman offering to exchange places with her errant father and live in a bizarre castle with a beastly, temperamental master is indeed a tale as old as time. With audience members very familiar at least with the animated Disney musical, if not the Broadway version, and in the wake of a highly popular live-action film, the trick was to make this production special.

It is that, and then some. Those who have seen recent productions by the MHS Theatre Company have come to expect a professional level of performance from Tyler Curtis, Nikolas Mase and Carlos O. Venegas. But many others elevate their parts, as well, to make it a memorable show all around.

While Lillian Chitwood had the nerve-wracking task of stepping out of the chorus, so to speak, to play the central character of Belle with a very empathetic touch, much of the first half of the performance has its energy focused on arrogant Gaston, played to the hilt by Jaron Hlebasko. He has the archetypal sidekick in Erick Livingston as Lefou.

The shift to the Beast’s castle is very effective, both in set design and lighting. With Camron Loomis, as Belle’s father, wandering in, we meet the enchanted staff in terrific costumes. Mase as rakish Lumiere the candelabra and Mahkai Ball as fussy Cogsworth the clock are great individually and instantly make an outstanding comic duo. Curtis as kindly housekeeper-turned-teapot Mrs. Potts is trailed by chip the teacup, played sweetly by Adrian Perdomo.

Mase, with an entertaining French accent, gets his showstopper with “Be Our Guest.” Curtis turns in a beautiful solo with the titular song.

Lurking about the castle in high dudgeon, Venegas nails his part as the wrathful Beast trying to change himself into a gentle man. He gets the best of the Broadway-added numbers, “If I Can’t Love Her,” and delivers impeccably. It’s a great counterpoint to Hlebasko’s swaggering bombast.

Brook Perona, the operatically-voiced armoire, and Kjirsten Lemon, the saucy feather duster, are scene-stealers in a crowded cast. For anyone not to be upstaged by the sets and costumes takes a lot of showmanship.

If the complexity of the production caused sleepless nights for director Cynthia Calhoun and technical director Kevin Piquette, the audience reaps the rewards.

The troupe soldiered on through some typical opening-night glitches and yips. Hopefully, those will be settled for the rest of the production.

Other performances are today at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets are $5 for students and $7 for adults. Kids age 5 and under get in free.

Mayor Christian Price (center) jokes with Councilmember Henry Wade and Vice Mayor Marvin Brown at the Tuesday morning ribbon-cutting on the Edison Road Extension. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Tuesday morning, the City of Maricopa officially opened a new loop connecting Edison Road to State Route 238.

Mayor Christian Price called it “a pretty monumental day.”

The extension was built to provide access to the Estrella Gin area that is intended to be a business park. Maricopa bought the property in 2011 for $3.2 million. Converting it to industry has not been an easy process.

Elijah Williams, president of engineer firm EPS, which also designed the coming overpass, recalled sitting down with then-Economic Development Director Micah Miranda to discuss all the challenges connected to the property. That included dealing with the Arizona Department of Transportation, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and Arizona Corporation Commission for permitting, traffic studies, environmental studies, cultural resource studies and water.

“I said, ‘Don’t worry, Micah, I’ll get you through this.’ And with the help of so many great people in the City of Maricopa, that’s what’s been able to happen,” Williams said.

“It’s very rare to find a leadership group that not only sees what needs to be done but has the will and the ability to see it done. And such is the case here in the city of Maricopa. Citizens of Maricopa should be grateful to have such leadership here.”

Developing the road took longer than expected as the city also forged agreements with neighboring landowners and worked with local utilities. Price and Councilmember Julia Gusse both touched on the necessity of patience.

“Economic development takes a long time, and it’s so frustrating at times,” Price said, “but the reality is that the longer you put into it and the more effort you put into it, the better results you get. You build a lot of partnerships and you work together to accomplish great things.”

The proposed business park is meant for flex spaces for light industry. The intention is not to build until leases have been signed. That has not yet happened.

In noting how the city has shifted from being a cotton-heavy, agricultural area to a residential-heavy city of nearly 50,000 in a short amount of time, Gusse said, “Times have changed, but that doesn’t mean progress has stopped. With that progress, that change, we’re going to need a lot of patience from the community … If we don’t get the patience from our residents, we’re all going to be doomed as far as standing up here before you.”

The road is four lanes with curb and gutter, sidewalks and medians with turn lanes as it loops from westbound to northbound. It then meets SR 238 as a two-lane road. Trees are already planted along a berm near the city’s new maintenance building. SR 238 also had to be improved at its junction with the road. There is also a connector road running south from Edison Road to Garvey Avenue.

“We don’t normally get to build roads in the proverbial 40-acre field. Usually they become a constant state of decay because they’re always being used as we build them,” said John Walstrom, president of the construction company on the job, Achen-Gardner. “But this was a lot of fun.”

Fun was also the term used by Mayor Price. He said it was fun to see previous construction at the site, like the fire station and the maintenance facility.

“Progress is fun,” he said. “It’s not always easy; it certainly doesn’t get there overnight, and it takes a lot of time.”

City Manager Gregory Rose said the Public Works Department and Director Bill Fay “did an outstanding job.”

Price called Edison Road Mariopa’s first mini-loop.

“It may just be a road to many people, but to me it’s the future of our economic development,” he said.

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino’s third annual 5K Poker Run race drew 326 participants to the course around the fields south of the casino. Casey Keys, 30, was the overall winner in 19:22.3, outpacing Mark Huber and Daniel Pena, who finished second and third, respectively. Cynthia Jimenez, 38, was the top female finisher and was 12th overall. Maxine Ormsby was second, and Maureen Greco was third. While runners enjoyed a pool party afterward, portions of the proceeds benefited United Way of Pinal County, Girls on the Run and the Ocular Melanoma Foundation.

The 13th annual Maricopa Easter Egg Hunt Saturday drew hundreds of children and parents to the great lawn at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center. Presented by Community of Hope Church, the event included inflatables, carnival games, face-painting and a petting zoo.

Josephine Langford was among 25 residents receiving certificates for completing MPD's first Citizens Police Academy. Photo by Mason Callejas

The first class of Maricopa Police Department’s Citizens Police Academy received completion certificates in a ceremony April 10 at the Copper Sky Substation. Receiving certificates were Margo Vietti, Elizabeth Scaff, Lisa Scaff, Tamara King, Lorenzo Hernandez, Pete Duran, Eddie Lucas, Lynn Anson Coverdell, Kathy Verdoza, Jared Stevenson, Brian Dalhover, Erica Jimenez, Brian Petershein, First Ferreby, Jim Ferreby, Leonard Gonchar, Pamela Hume, Lois Gonchar, Josephine Langford, Veronica Riley, Khyle Burnham, Nicole Covington, Jared Covington, Joshua Smihula, Deb Churn and Brian Russo.

Commissioners Michael Sharpe, Linda Huggins (chair), Bob Marsh, Jim Irving and Bryon Joyce mull the application from Apex Motor Sports. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Despite a letter of opposition from some residents and an argument from attorney Grant Woods, the Maricopa Planning & Zoning Commission recommended a use permit for Apex Motor Club Monday.

Owned by Private Motorsports Group, Apex is planned as a private club where members can try out their luxury sports cars. The property is 280 acres sitting west of Ak-Chin Southern Dunes and north of State Route 238 and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks. Trains played a role in the request to grant the permit.

The application required a noise study because Apex will have high-performance cars driving fast on a road course within the property. For the noise study, decibel readings were taken at the railroad tracks and, for comparison, at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Complex, where there is open-wheel and other types of racing.

The study found the trains were louder than the racecars would be.

Saying he was speaking on behalf of several business owners in the area, Woods dismissed the acoustics analysis as “a three-page alleged noise study” that could have been completed for $100. But Commissioner Bryon Joyce, an architect, said it was a “very complete report.”

Grant said Apex’s development process was being rushed through without proper planning or consideration of “serious ramifications.” He said city staff members “haven’t done the work.”

City planner Rodolfo Lopez said Apex followed all codes and procedures. Apex Motor Sports President Jason Plotke said the group has never made a secret of its plans in Maricopa and had news stories written about the development last fall.

By code, there had to be notification of Maricopa property owners within 300 feet of the parcel, a site posting, public notice, neighborhood meeting and public hearing. Commissioner Leon Potter said he was concerned Ak-Chin Indian Community, being outside but sandwiched by city limits, might not have been included in the process.

Cameron Carter of Rose Law Group. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Commissioner Bob Marsh brought up the nearby golf course in what has been a relatively quiet area aside from the trains.

“I hope the council will consider Ak-Chin’s input going forward,” he said.

Lopez said Apex has been asked to inform both Ak-Chin and the Gila River Indian Community, which borders the property on the north side.

Cameron Carter of Rose Law Group, representing Private Motorsports Group, estimated the $30 million project will employ 150 people during the three-phase construction and permanently hire another 30 workers as staff. The project plans include a clubhouse, garage condos, maintenance department and track.

Zoning allows operation from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Part of the recommended use permit included a traffic study, as well. Woods argued there could be a large impact on the highway.

Commissioner Jim Irving said he understood the neighbors’ concerns “but people won’t be flooding out there, because it’s private.”

City code also limits the number of any public events Apex might host, Lopez said.

The next development hearing on the project will include a report on drainage.

Lopez said the coincidence of having the golf course and a sky-diving business nearby had created “a unique corridor of activities.” Commission Chairperson Linda Huggins said she looked at it as a “fun area.”

With Commissioner Ted Yocum absent, the commission voted 6-0 to recommend approval of the use permit to city council. Four members of the city council attended Monday’s meeting, and Mayor Christian Price was also in the building.

By Betty Beeman

Plant basil, black-eyed peas, sweet corn, popcorn, cucumbers, eggplant, jicama, melons, okra, peppers, pumpkins, squash, sunflowers and tomato transplants.

Due to the number of calls regarding citrus, I have decided to try and answer some of your questions relating to selection, planting, fertilizing, pruning and watering.

Betty Beeman
Betty Beeman

Citrus can be planted year-around but the best months are March, April and October. The smaller the tree, the easier it is to plant and the less risk you will have of transplant shock problems. Small trees mean 15 gallon containers or smaller.

Dig a hole twice the diameter of your container and the same depth. Digging down lower to soften the soil is not recommended. The ideal depth of the hole is where the soil level on the trunk is the same or slightly lower as it is in the container. Having the soil level higher on the tree trunk is a disease risk.

Citrus do best if they are heavily watered and then given time to dry out between watering. Frequency varies, depending on your local soil. Rocky or sandy soil will need to be watered more often than those in soil that has a lot of clay. Typically, trees will need to be watered every one to two weeks in the summer and every three to four weeks in the winter.

The most common problems such as leaf curl, leaf discoloration, root rot and split fruit are usually related to overwatering. Before determining your personal watering schedule, try digging down a few inches, inserting a soil moisture meter or inserting a screwdriver in the soil to test for moisture.

Watering your trees for a few minutes every few days is not acceptable. It causes salt buildup in the soil and is an ideal environment for root diseases. It is best to water at the canopy edge and one foot beyond. This is where the roots’ growing tips are absorbing water and nutrients. Use slow deep applications of water to help leach or push salt build-up below the root zone to the bottom of the wet soil. Ideally water needs to soak down at least two feet into the soil.

Citrus should be fertilized in February, May and early October. Newly planted trees usually do not need fertilizer for the first year. The best fertilizer is one that says it is for citrus trees right on the bag. Read and follow the instructions. It is best not to fertilize after October because it encourages the tree to start new growth during the winter when there is danger of frost.

Pruning citrus is completely unnecessary. Trees will grow best if they aren’t pruned and are allowed to grow as big bushes with branches almost to the ground. If you want to trim trees for appearance or remove broken branches, make sure your pruning doesn’t leave the trunk or major branches exposed to direct sunlight.

Citrus will sunburn. That’s why you see trunks of citrus trees painted white. The white paint acts as sun protection for trunks that are directly exposed to the sun. You may have to set up a shade cloth to protect new trees from the heat the first year.

Keep in mind that a new tree isn’t producing fruit during the first few years. If it does, you should remove most fruit from young, newly planted trees to encourage root development. If your older tree drops some fruit, don’t worry, it’s adjusting to heat and dry wind this time of year.

Reach out to a local Master Gardner
520-374-6263 M–F 9 a.m.-noon

This column appears in the April issue of InMaricopa.

Lillian Chitwood plays Belle in the upcoming production of "Beauty and the Beast," with Carlos Venegas (left) as Beast and Jeron Hlebasko as Gaston. Photo by Mason Callejas

It is sheer coincidence that brings the Disney musical “Beauty & the Beast” to the Maricopa High School stage as the live-action film version is in movie theaters.

What: “Beauty & The Beast”
When: April 20-22, 7 p.m., April 22, 2 p.m.
Where: Maricopa High School Performing Arts Center, 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave.
How much: $5

“I didn’t even make the connection until a few months ago,” said MHS theater instructor Cynthia Calhoun. “I think it’ll all work out OK.”

The musical is the MHS Theatre Company’s effort to “go big again” for its spring production.

After the troupe metaphorically blew the roof off with “Les Miserables” last year, returning players felt they needed to follow up strong.

“I was actually thinking about another show,” Calhoun said. “But I had a couple of actors come to me and suggest this one. I always loved this show and wanted to do it.”

The plot is based on the French tale of a beautiful girl, Belle, who agrees to stay in an enchanted castle at the whims of its beastly proprietor in order to save her father (and escape a handsome but pompous suitor Gaston). The show originated as a 1991 animated film by Disney with songs by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. When it was later adapted for Broadway, more lyrics were added by Tim Rice.

CAST: Belle – Lillian Chitwood; Beast – Carlos Venegas; Gaston – Jeron Hlebasko; Maurice – Camron Loomis; LeFou – Erick Livingston; Mrs. Potts – Tyler Curtis; Lumiere – Nikolas Mase; Cogsworth – Mahkai Ball; Babette – Kjirsten Lemon; Chip – Adrian Perdomo; Madame de la Grande Bouche – Brook Perona; Monsieur D’Arque – Corey Simmons; Silly Girls – Setera Miller, Hannah Panter, Sarah Ledbetter; Beggar/Enchantress – Kari Bejmowicz; Prince – Jacob Loomis; Villagers – Morgan Lee, Taryn Story, Alex Hurley, Antonio Gonzales, Azeri Hanson, Logan Spaulding, Lindsey Matos, Rebekka Harris, Porter Jones, Aleyna Call, Dylan Stradling, Caleb Wilson, Emily Goncalves, Jacob Loomis, Skylar Trast, Harrison Delap, Francis Trast, Thiraphat Kongeinta, Hannah Crean, Patrice Perrone, McKenzie Durovka, Kaylin Griffin, Brianna Hollingsworth, Landin Thomas, Madison Ewald, Britney Daniels, Alana Daniels, Kayla Matos; Enchanted Objects – Kari Bejmowicz, Evelyn Bates, Chaienne Zoller, Stirling Luckey, Evelyn Young, Haley Lemon, Hailey Gross, Brychelle Jackson, Freya Abraham, Britney Montgomery, RyAnn Liermann, Derek Blakely, Keara Burke, Ivie Keene, Fides Bernales Joie Guela , Lindsay Hubbard, Alexia Esquivel, Savannah Jones, Ethan Stradling, Autumn Fausz, Alexis Price, Heidi Smith, Julia Edens, Tamara Hanania, Dallas Grimm, Justin Atkinson, Wynnie Grissom, Zephanie Coleman, Makayla Horn, Mikayla McLaughlin; Male Swings – Porter Jones, Stirling Luckey; Female Swings – Britney Montgomery, Aidyn Curtis.

In auditions, senior Lillian Chitwood stood out, though she was accustomed to supporting roles. Her work landed her the role of Belle.

“She’s grown so much as an actor,” Calhoun said.

Chitwood said she has been singing her whole life.

“I thought it would be cool to finally get the lead,” she said. “It’s hard being confident in myself, that I can do this.”

Belle sets the stage for the production by singing the song “Belle” with the villagers, and that happens to be Chitwood’s favorite. To pick up tips for creating different chemistry with different characters, she has studied other productions on

The Beast is played by senior Carlos Venegas. He was also the lead in “Les Miserables” and scored a “superior” at Central Arizona Festival of Theatre this year with a highlight number from that musical to qualify for international competition.

“I’ve always wanted to do the show of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ since I was younger,” Venegas said. “Like in my mind I thought, if I ever did ‘Beauty and the Beast’ I really, really want to be Beast. And so when I finally got the opportunity I went for it. I wanted it really bad.”

Jeron Hlebasko was just as eager to play the arrogant Gaston. Calhoun pointed out the senior was used to playing romantic love interests, like Marius in “Les Miserables.” He wanted a change, and Gaston fit the bill.

“He wasn’t always on stage but he was someone big, someone important, someone just powerful,” Hlebasko said. “I prefer power over calm.”

Like Belle and Beast, his character is well-known, and Hlebasko wants to add his own flair. “I want to be able to add a little more of who I am into it,” he said.

Calhoun is working with a cast of around 80 students. Technical and construction students are vital to the production as well, building a castle and village. Art students are creating 3D objects to complete the set.

This story appears in the April issue of InMaricopa.

Mayor Christian Price presents a proclamation to MPD for Telemcommunications Week. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa victims of abuse or assault often have to travel more than 90 minutes round-trip for treatment and preserving evidence for criminal investigation.

San Tan Valley and Eloy have family advocacy centers, created specifically for these victims. Eloy’s unit focuses on children. There is no similar clinic in the western side of the county, and little chance of Pinal County creating one.

That has galvanized Maricopa Police Department to start organizing a family advocacy center in Maricopa.

“It is essential that the west side of Pinal County get a family advocacy center,” MPD Chief Steve Stahl said.

He said MPD’s Victim Services Unit had 586 victims in 2016. Of those, 55 involved sex offenses, 29 were child abuse cases and 20 were attempted strangulations. Because the proposed FAC would also treat victims from Ak-Chin and Gila River communities, those statistics would multiply dramatically, he said.

“Most people are not aware that for us to go to a family advocacy center to take a victim and possibly their entire family is at least a 45-minute drive,” Stahl said. “When you look at victimology, it basically revictimizes the victim. It does not give our victims dignity, and in some cases victims have recanted their stories and thus we get no prosecution on the back end.”

Stahl updated the city council on the status of his plans, leaving members with a lot of budgetary questions to mull over the next two weeks.

A family advocacy center is an expensive venture.

So far, MPD has identified a house for lease that could fit the needs of an FAC. It has a grant from Ak-Chin Indian Community for $270,000 that must be put to use by September. That money can be used for a one-year lease of the house plus remodeling.

After that, the annual operating costs would be about $96,000, according to estimates presented by Stahl. He said the project anticipates another grant of $250,000 from Gila River Indian Community.

The expected lease is $48,000 per year, and liability insurance is $860. Utilities are estimated to average $7,200 annually, with another $5,000 or more for maintenance. However, other funding for on-call nurses could remove $32,000 from the annual costs, Stahl said.

Stakeholders, including some organizations that could provide up to $10,000 a year, are Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, Pinal County Attorney’s Office, Casa Grande Police Department, Dignity Health, Honor Health, First Things First, Arizona Counseling Treatment, Women’s Hope Center, Pinal County Public Health, Cenpatico, Toyota Foundation, Winged Hope Family Advocacy Center and more.

The cost of the project and the form of management were a sticking point for some members of council. Stahl showed options for city management, partnership management and nonprofit management.

“This is a Pinal County problem that needs to be resolved on the west side of the county,” Councilmember Nancy Smith said. “I’m leaning in the direction of a nonprofit. I don’t think the City of Maricopa should take on all that risk financially.”

Stahl said MPD did not have time for Pinal County to catch up after five years. If they want to be on board they need to get on board right now,” he said.

Councilmember Vincent Manfredi said he did not think Pinal County had the intention or interest to solve the problem on the west side.

“I hate spending money, as you know, but to me it really does seem like a no-brainer,” he said. “I don’t see Pinal County ever taking the lead on this, and I do see that we are a community that needs it. We’re a community that can provide the service.”

Mayor Christian Price said there is a need for the FAC, but he was financially cautious.

“I don’t think we can make these kinds of decisions without looking at the whole picture,” Price said. “While my heartstrings do tug at this, I fear putting out a service that we can’t maintain over time.
We’re not ready to make a decision. I’m willing to say let’s move this forward. Let’s move this as part of the process, but let’s put it into the budgetary process where it belongs so that we can analyze it and talk about it in full discussion.”

“It is not my intention to add any expense to the city budget at all for five years,” Stahl said.

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

State Route 347 cannot be shut down during construction, and no property access can be cut off.

Arizona Department of Transportation hosted an informational meeting Wednesday to update residents on the upcoming overpass project. ADOT and consulting firm EPS answered concerns about the project itself and the impact of construction.

The project builds an overpass over the Union Pacific Railroad tracks at State Route 347. Construction is expected to begin in late fall.

Project engineer Elijah Williams, a familiar face at these meetings for years, is president of EPS, which was hired by ADOT to design the overpass. He presented the update to a packed board room at the Maricopa Unified School District.

Williams said EPS will recommend to the construction contractor the timeline for putting the project together. That involves not only the overpass but also new street alignments north and south of the railroad tracks. See ADOT 3D video models

“These bridges, they’re the things that take the longest to build. So they’re going to want to start on those early and not want to get into disrupting traffic for as long as they can avoid it,” Williams said.

Honeycutt Avenue, next to Maricopa High School, will be realigned, connecting with State Route 347 a little farther southeast than its current intersection. More extensively, Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway will be realigned to take traffic north to Honeycutt Road by utilizing a realigned Plainview Street next to MUSD’s district office and transportation department.

A traffic signal will be installed at the intersection of Honeycutt Road and Plainview Street. The traffic signal currently at SR 347 and Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway will be moved to SR 347 and Honeycutt Road.

Part of the current SR 347, where it passes long-time business like Headquarters and NAPA, will remain in place, passing under the new overpass, and become the access to eastbound Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway.

On SR 347 itself, there will be three lanes both directions between Edison Road and the current alignment at Desert Cedars/Alterra Parkway south of the First Baptist Church.

Though endangered in the early designs of the overpass, the church, Amtrak station and NAPA Auto Parts will not have to move.

The project is estimated to cost $55 million. Maricopa’s contribution to that is just short of $14 million. The city approved an intergovernmental agreement with ADOT on Tuesday for the construction of the overpass.

Bob Marsh, a resident of Desert Cedars, said when currently-empty, commercial property south of the tracks is finally developed, new access points may need to be cut into SR 347. Those vacant parcels will be on both sides of the alignment.

Economic Development Director Denyse Airheart is proud of the teamwork that created the Edison Road extension.

The Edison Road extension is complete.

Edison Pointe is finalizing leases.

Commercial development at Copper Sky may also see some stimulation in 2017.

Estrella Gin Business Park is still waiting for the light to shine.

City of Maricopa Town Hall Meeting

Public Works Director Bill Fay will give an update on the SR347 Overpass, Economic Development Director Denyse Airheart will let you know the latest information on the Edison Pointe development, and the mayor and councilmembers will be there to answer your questions and listen to your concerns.

What: City of Maricopa Town Hall Meeting
When: Tuesday, April 11 at 6 p.m.
Where: City Hall, 39700 W. Civic Center Plaza
Who: All residents are invited.

Pieces are in motion for construction of an overpass to begin this year. Developers are reviving nearly-forgotten subdivision plans. APEX Motor Club and Denny’s have shown plans to build in Maricopa.

Economic development in Maricopa is showing varying signs of progress this year as the city has studied approaches to growing the economic base of the community.

The improving economy has not necessarily created changes to the demographics of Maricopa. Denyse Airheart, the director of the city’s Economic Development Department, does not predict major changes to the methodology when the Economic Development Strategic Plan takes form this year.

“We target companies based off the assets of the community,” Airheart said.

That includes the youth (the average age of Maricopa residents is 33.8 years), income and education level of the population. Those selling points look much as they did three years ago.

A draft of the Economic Development Strategic Plan is scheduled to come before city council in April.

Maricopa may broaden its target sectors, Airheart said. Growth of employment opportunities within Pinal County, especially Casa Grande, may also impact the plan. But Maricopa is still selling itself.

Nailing down a description of Maricopa for prospective companies and creating a narrative of its future is not just a challenge for City Hall. Retail developers have had similar tests.

Edison Pointe

Edison Pointe, at the northeast corner of John Wayne Parkway and Edison Road, is about a year behind leasing a typical development of its size, according to Vintage Partners leasing director Casey Treadwell. He said it has been difficult educating retailers on the attributes of Maricopa.

“I know it’s been frustrating for people wanting to see something going,” he said. At a Maricopa Advocates Program meeting in February, he predicted movement on the ground within a couple of weeks. But a month later, he said Vintage was still putting final leases in place.

Businesses he announced as part of the development are Ross, Burger King, Planet Fitness, Dunkin’ Donuts and Petco.

Mayor Christian Price has called it a game of enticement.

“The city’s doesn’t control economic development,” he said. “We can advocate for it and we can entice for it. We can go out and sell our wares as to why it’s a great place to be, but I can’t make somebody locate here.”

Copper Sky

The City itself knows the irritation of owning commercial property that stands empty for years. It has property at Copper Sky intended for commercial development since the park’s inception. An effort to develop the land may soon be renewed.

“In 2014 we went out to bid, and it just wasn’t the right time, we believe, for the economy,” Airheart said. “We anticipate we would go out sometime in 2017.”

The conceptual plan includes mixed-use commercial, a hotel and a restaurant.

“What we envision there is a destination where people can go and enjoy themselves, where people can go and get an ice cream and sit and enjoy people-watching,” Airheart said. “As you know, we sort of don’t have that sense of place because of how quickly we sprung up.”

Edison Road

The City of Maricopa also owns commercial property at what is planned as the Estrella Gin Business Park. Luring companies to the site has been a struggle, but the six-year effort has produced a new roadway – the Edison Road extension.

Airheart calls the new road one of the proudest achievements of her department.

“All the partners had to work together to make Edison Road a project,” she said.

The road was completed in March and provides another bypass between State Route 238 and John Wayne Parkway. Using a federal grant, the city worked with private landowners and utilities for years to construct the road, which includes sidewalks, curb, gutter and a center median.

Estrella Gin

The road was created to access Estrella Gin, and that project has been a problem. The city contracted with The Boyer Company to market the flex space in the business park. That contract expires in June.

Matt Jensen, a partner in Boyer, said there has been a lot of interest from small companies needing only 1,200 square feet while the city is trying to market to industrial businesses. A couple of proposals have gone out to larger enterprises. There is also an ongoing discussion with the City of Maricopa about moving the fire department administration offices to Estrella Gin.

“That would actually be fantastic,” Jensen said.

Without leases in place, the city will not begin construction, but Airheart said the city is looking at “multiple options” if the contract expires without tenants being signed. She maintains a positive attitude about city-owned commercial property.

“A community that’s investing in itself means that it’s a healthy community. So we’re showing the development community there are investments to be made,” she said.

This story appears in the April issue of InMaricopa.

Photo by Mason Callejas
Photo by Mason Callejas

Fletcher's Tire is being converted into a Firestone Complete Auto Care.

Fletcher’s Tire & Auto Service is in the process of becoming Firestone Complete Auto Care.

Based out of Nashville, Tennessee, Firestone is part of Bridgestone Americas. Bridgestone completed its acquisition of Fletcher’s Tire on March 14. The move involved 31 stores in the Phoenix and southern Arizona markets.

“We’re currently in the process of converting the locations to the Firestone Complete Auto Care store brand,” Bridgestone spokesperson Susan Steeno said. “We expect that work to be completed within the next 90 days.”

Fletcher’s Tire moved into the Maricopa Fiesta plaza in late 2005.

For now, the signs still say Fletcher’s. A week after the Firestone acquisition, owners James and Charlotte Refvem applied for permits to replace signage at the Maricopa location, 20926 N. John Wayne Parkway. The application is under review.

The Bridgestone network includes Firestone Complete Auto Care, Tires Plus, Hibdon Tires Plus and Wheel Works brands, as well as Bridgestone dealers, making it the largest tire and rubber company in the world.

Steeno said Firestone providres automotive maintenance and repair, including “engine work, transmissions, batteries, heating and cooling systems, brakes, radiators, tune-ups and inspections; plus extensive tire offerings, including complete Bridgestone and Firestone product lines along with related tire services like rotations and alignments.”

She said the acquisition gives consumers more access to the company’s products and services and builds more equity in the brands.

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Submitted photo

About 500 freshmen at Maricopa High School heard a presentation this week from intervention specialists Rob and Lucinda Boyd.

The founders of The Streets Don’t Love You Back program showed a Reelz episode of “Gangsters: America’s Most Evil,” which features Rob Boyd talking about his gang life. Boyd then spoke to them personally.

“The students were really receptive and respectful for the most part,” teacher Forrest Nuzum said. “Some of the students gathered more information from him after the presentation.”

The Boyds talked at six assemblies of students Monday and Tuesday. Lucinda Boyd shared her life experience about overcoming abuse and other challenges.

The Streets Don’t Love You Back educates against gangs, drugs, violence and abuse. Lucinda Boyd created the program’s life skills intervention program and wrote its accompanying booklet.

In March, the Boyds spoke at MHS’s Parent University. Nuzum said he thought their story would be enlightening for the freshmen he teaches.

“A lot of it was material that we touch on in the classroom,” he said. “I thought it was very productive.”

The Boyds present the intervention program for free at the Maricopa courthouse on Mondays from 4 to 5 p.m.

Photo by Jack Jackson

Maricopa photographer Jack Jackson took photos by drone for the Maricopa Historical Society to capture the appearance of the city around the State Route 347/Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway intersection before construction of the overpass. The photos include a topside view of the iconic water tower. The photos will be considered “historical” within a couple of years as the overpass transforms the appearance of that part of the city, and the Society wanted a photographic catalogue of the area. MHS President Paul Shirk presented the photos at an April 3 meeting of the Society at Maricopa Public Library. Arizona Department of Transportation will present an informational update about the project on Wednesday.

File photo

Does Maricopa need more diverse housing?

That’s the question posed by City Hall in a survey conducted this winter. The survey ran on the city’s website in late February through today. It asked residents what housing should look like in Maricopa in the next decade.

The city had a booth at Salsa Festival to question residents in person.

Rebecca Rothenberg of Atria Planning said the survey was meant to get feedback that helps the city “streamline zoning.” Atria was contracted to conduct the survey.

A presentation of a housing update is due to come before Maricopa City Council at its work session Wednesday at 6 p.m. A final draft of the housing report is due in May.

Rothenberger said while several residents indicated concern about apartments bringing crime or causing lower home values, a large portion of single-family homes (up to a third) are already occupied by renters.

The draft study shows 97 percent of housing is in single-family units, and “no housing for single individuals, regardless of income.” There are also no senior apartments or other housing for seniors in the low- to medium-income brackets. Rothenberger said more diversity in housing makes a community more sustainable.

Home ownership is considered affordable ($100,000 to $200,000) but renting is not, with most houses renting for at least $1,000 a month.

If Maricopa encourages diversity in available housing, planner Kazi Haque said there are options and zoning available for them. Besides apartments, that includes duplexes, condominiums, executive homes and townhomes.

The survey asked Maricopans what they want, if any, of those options.

A housing steering committee will have a workshop on the survey results Tuesday morning in council chambers before the presentation to city council that evening.


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Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Families First CDC hosted its sixth annual Prom Fashion Show and Red Carpet event Friday night at Maricopa High School to make Prom Night affordable to everyone. With a live band and entertainment by MHS dancers, the event also had guest speakers encouraging teens to have a fun but safe prom.

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa Relay for Life brought together cancer survivors, family, friends and caregivers for the annual event to raise money to fight the disease. The relay at Copper Sky Saturday also commemorated those who died. Organizers opted this year to start the 12-hour event at 11 a.m. rather than the traditional 6 p.m., and the weather cooperated with mild temperatures. Participants raised money through donations and activities, like the Maricopa High School Air Force Junior ROTC’s pie throwing booth.

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Maricopa High School senior Tyra Williams was named 5A Metro Region Player of the Year, and Melvin Mitchell was named Region Coach of the Year. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

After the inaugural season of the 5A Metro region’s winter sports, Maricopa High School athletes have drawn notice.

Senior Tyra Williams was named Region Player of the Year in girls’ basketball. She called the honor “awesome.”

Williams averaged 18.4 points per game this year (fifth in the 5A conference), totaling 461. She had 216 rebounds, 87 steals, 32 assists and 56 blocks. Her season high was 33 points in a win over McClintock.

“I’m going to South Mountain [Community College] for a year; then I’m going to transfer to NAU,” she said.

At South Mountain she will be in familiar company. Former Rams Raegene Womack, the Cougars’ top player this season, and Ashliegh Haley were both part of MHS’s 2015 state championship team.

Maricopa’s Melvin Mitchell was named 5A Metro’s first Region Coach of the Year.

“I thought it was really, really cool,” he said. “It definitely feels pretty good to get the honor.”

But Mitchell also felt the honor from other coaches was due to their low expectations of his team after graduating seven seniors including stars like Womack and Danae Ruiz, who has gone on to lead the women’s team at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

“They figured we’d be OK but not worthy of making the run,” Mitchell said.

The Rams finished on top of the region, eking out a winning percentage fractions better than rival Ironwood. Maricopa lost in the first round of the state playoffs to Ironwood Ridge finishing the season 22-5.

Mitchell had even higher expectations of his team, knowing their hard work, scoring ability and the Maricopa calling card of pressure defense. Even with Williams graduating this year, he has high hopes for next year’s team, with two team leaders coming back – Sydni Callis and Jayla Johnson – and some 6-foot girls moving up from junior varsity.

Callis, a junior, was named First Team All Region. She was second in the conference in steals with 6.4 per game and fourth in assists, averaging 5.6. She averaged 11.5 points and totaled 129 rebounds. Johnson, a sophomore, was named Second Team All Region after averaging 10.9 points. She had 90 steals and 47 assists.

“I think Jayla and Sydni are two of the best in the backcourt in the state, but I might be biased,” Mitchell said.

Among the boys, junior Josh Johnson was named First Team All Region after leading the team into the state playoffs. Senior Darrell Handy-Johnson, in his first season for Maricopa, was given honorable mention.

Apollo’s Holland Woods, who averaged 27 points a game, was Region Player of the Year, and coach Jacob Marin was named Region Coach of the Year.

Four MHS soccer players were First Team picks in 5A Metro.

Midfielder Jacob Padilla and defender Elijah Aviles, both seniors, were named to the boys’ first team, with junior forward Diego Castro making Second Team All Region. The Rams were 8-8-1 overall.

For the girls, senior forward Amanda Maciel, who scored 24 goals, and senior defender Lauren Davis were named First Team All Region. Sophomore forward Shannon Coutre and defender Taylor Russo were named Second Team All Region. The girls were 11-7-1 overall.

Global Water CEO Ron Fleming answers questions from customers at a company forum Thursday. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

In the first of what is expected to be monthly customer forums, representatives from Global Water Resources took questions and complaints from the public Thursday.

Topics ranged from high rates to lack of notification when meters were being changed out. The forum was the result of a public hearing called by the City of Maricopa in February with an angry audience of customers in the wake of water main breaks last fall.

At Thursday’s forum at Elements Event Center, the room was divided into areas to funnel specific questions to the appropriate administrator. CEO Ron Fleming had a regular scrum of people around him. He thought he would get many more questions about rates and cost of service but surmised they had been directed to other tables.

“People mentioned their bills have gone up and struggled with finding out why,” he said.

“If they wanted input as to the rates and stuff, I would tell them I’d really like to see it perhaps done on a per-gallon basis as opposed to the flat rate that everybody pays whether you use water or not,” said Barry Trush.

He and his wife Janice live in Maricopa only about six months out of the year but have a $100 monthly bill year-round in Glennwilde.

“At the end of the day, it’s not a horrible expense,” Trush said. “No matter where you are, in any city, you’re going to be paying for water and wastewater treatment.”

He said at their home in Thunder Bay, Ontario, the monthly water bill is only around $70, “but on the other hand, we pay about four times as much for a hydrant.”

Resident Susan Cameron said her bill has been regular for eight years, but she attended to be a watchdog for friends who have seen an unexplained jump in usage on their bills.

Debbie Richards asks CFO Mike Liebman about the rebate program.
Debbie Richards asks CFO Mike Liebman about the rebate program.

“I have neighbors who’ve gone from like $100 one month to $300 for the next. I just don’t like to hear about people being screwed over,” she said. “I never know. I could be next: ‘You owe $500.’ I did the math on that. If you used 40,000 gallons in a month, that means your house is now a boat.”

Maricopa Meadows resident Debbie Richards came with questions about the rebate program.

“My husband told me I was wasting my time, that I wasn’t going to find out anything because usually you come to these things and they say, ‘Oh, I don’t know, I’ll have to look into that for you,’ and they never really do,” she said. “And Global Water hasn’t exactly had the best reputation.”

In this case, however, Richards said she received an explanation about the rebate.

“It didn’t seem to make sense to me every time I looked at my bills because you get a lower amount for 1,000 gallons than you do if you use 2,000 gallons,” she said. “He told me it’s because it’s a 60 percent savings if you’re over 6,000 gallons, and that makes sense if it’s a percentage.”

But there were concerns voiced that required later follow-up. That included the responsibility of cleaning and weeding the Santa Rosa Wash falling on the residents of Rancho El Dorado, the position of Global Water being a privately-owned company answerable to investors, and the door-hangers being used (or not) as notifications.

Global Water is in the process of changing 18,000 meters. The plan was to have each home notified with a door-hanger stating the day and approximate time the water would be turned off. Fleming said it is apparent workers are not always hanging the door-hangers correctly.

“Hanging it right means doing it,” he said. “By the feedback we’re getting, that didn’t go according to plan.”

Global Water’s own data showed the dramatic dip in customer service in November, when main breaks occurred. Fleming said the call center always receives a lot of customer calls from Maricopa “for some reason,” typically 10,000 to 12,000 a month. But in November, that jumped to 16,334.

At the same time the level of service for those phoning in dropped to 55 percent, the company’s lowest of the year. More than 1,500 customers hung up after waiting more than two minutes for a representative. The average wait time was nearly seven minutes.

The service stats rebounded in December but began to slide again in January and February.

Fleming said the turnout for the forum was “decent” compared to the large crowd he was expecting. He said the next forum might not be in an open house format but might be a presentation at the Global Water office. The company is also starting a new website specifically for its Maricopa customers.

“We weren’t here in one meeting thinking we were going to completely change the minds of customers with concerns on certain topics,” he said. “It’s really to hear that, tell them an immediate response – here’s our side – and we’ll work with them moving forward. Hopefully that was effective for the people that came here.”

A Global Water Timeline

March 2017 – Global Water hosts customer forum.

February 2017 – City of Maricopa hosts meeting to air public complaints about Global Water.

January 2017 – Global Water begins upgrading meters.

January 2017 – Water main breaks in Province.

November 2016 – Water main breaks on Porter Road.

November 2016 – Water main breaks on Honeycutt Road.

November 2016 – Global Water negotiates with Maricopa Fire & Medical over removal and prevention of sediment buildup at hydrants.

April 2015 – Residents of Senita, Rancho El Dorado, The Villages at Rancho El Dorado and Province complain about fees to clean up 404 Wash.

January 2015 – New Global Water rates go into effect, raising monthly water bills 4.4 percent to begin an eight-year, annual series of rate increases as approved by Arizona Corporation Commission and agreed to by City of Maricopa, Residential Utility Consumer Office and 14 HOAs.

April 2014 – Water main breaks on Honeycutt Road.

August 2013 – Settlement agreement filed with Arizona Corporation Commission increases wastewater bills 10.5 percent and water bills 42.5 percent; rate increases will go into effect in 2015, and Global Water is prohibited from requesting another rate increase until May 2017.

May 2013 – Public hearing on proposed Global Water rate increases.

February 2013 – City of Maricopa applies with Arizona Corporation Commission to intervene in rate case.

January 2013 – City forms task force to respond to rate-increase proposal.

July 2012 – Global Water says it is getting no rate of return in Maricopa as determined by the Arizona Corporation Commission and is seeking a rate increase.

June 2011 – Maricopa City Council adopts Amended MOU with Global Water “to maintain appropriately priced, high-quality water and wastewater services.”

June 2011 – Maricopa City Council adopts Resolution No. 11-40 to support use of Infrastructure Coordination and Finance Agreements as a means for financing water, wastewater and recycled water infrastructure.

August 2010 – Arizona Corporation Commission approves rate increase that will take average residential water/sewer bill from $76 to $96 by 2012.

July 2010 – Administrative Law judge recommends decreasing Global Water’s requested rate increase by 40 percent

December 2009 – Global Water pledges to spend $150,000 each year for five years to implement water-conservation practices for its larger water users.

December 2009 – Arizona Corporation Commission holds hearing in Maricopa as part of three weeks of hearings over proposed increase in Global Water rates.

November 2009 – Global Water seeks 34 percent gross revenue increase from Santa Cruz system and 130 percent gross revenue increase from Palo Verde wastewater system.

August 2007 – Global Water shuts down Smith Well over water quality.

January 2006 – MOU goes into effect. Global Water will pay $50 per residence fee for connections in city limits and $100 per residence fee outside city limits.

December 2005 – Global Water and City of Maricopa enter public-private partnership for water and wastewater services in Maricopa and outlying areas.

June 2005 – Global Water agrees to purchase 387 Domestic Water Improvement District from Sonoran Utility Services, serving HOAs south of the railroad tracks.

2004 – Global Water purchases Santa Cruz Water Company and Palo Verde Utilities Company, acquiring 175 square miles of service area.

2003 – Global Water Resources forms.

2001 – Palo Verde Utilities Company and Santa Cruz Water Company merge into one limited liability company.

1998 – Palo Verde Utilities Company files for Certificate of Convenience & Necessity from Arizona Corporation Commission to provide sewer service.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning play "Wit" will be on stage Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

As the human body shuts down, the mind can race into strange territory. The battle between the intellectual and the physical, poetry and science in the last days of life is at the center of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Wit,” to be performed Saturday by the Maricopa High School Theatre Company.

If You Go
What: “Wit”
When: April 1, 2 p.m. & 7 p.m.
Where: Black Box Theatre on west side to MHS Performing Arts Center, 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave.
Who: MHS Theatre Company
How much: Free (donations encouraged)

“Wit” is the second student-directed production of the season, following the entertaining whodunit “And Then There Were None.”

Directed by senior Carlos Venegas, “Wit” has a cast of students and teachers. Performances are at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. in the Black Box Theatre at the Performing Arts Center.

“I’ve wanted to direct a show ever since my sophomore year, and this year it’s actually become a reality,” Venegas said.

He and “Wit” have something of a history.

“I’ve done projects on it since my sophomore year, and it kept coming up,” he said. “Finally, we were like, ‘Let’s just do it.’”

The partnered project two years ago included creating a technical design with which he was not satisfied. He tackled it again his junior year and was much happier with the results.

“That’s when I really grew attached to the show,” Venegas said.

First performed in 1995 and written by Margaret Edson, the play has appeared on and off-Broadway, winning Obie and Tony awards.

The central character, Vivian Bearing, is a professor of English literature in the final stages of terminal ovarian cancer. She is undergoing relentless tests and has become the subject of study by medical students in the hospital. And she is not exactly likeable.

“She is a very cold, uncompromising, very highly-motivated, driven professor,” said MHS drama instructor Cynthia Calhoun, who plays Vivian. “She comes across as actually incredibly mean. For her, knowledge is everything.”

The script is comprised of many monologues for Vivian as she tries to approach her fate cerebrally at first. Her specialty is the 17th century poetry of John Donne, whose metaphysical work plays a big part in her mental exercises as she deals with bad news after bad news.

A clinical fellow on the oncology team is one of her former students (played by Collin Martin), but it is soon clear he is not very different from Vivian – sentiment-free – and his interest in her is only as a scientific study rather than a dying human needing kindness.

Not just a keen portrait of the cancer experience, “Wit” is intellectual, stark, transforming and often bitingly funny.

“I majored in English when I first found this play when I was doing my master’s degree in English, and I wrote about it and loved it,” Calhoun said. “Something struck me about this character. She’s having to live with this illness, and it’s terminal, and she knows it’s going to kill her; she knows it’s going to affect her quality of life, and she knows they’re trying to do research. Me personally, I live with chronic illness, and there’s no cure, no treatment for it. I completely understand that feeling like a little piece of her body is giving up as she goes through this. Each new scene, it’s like another piece is done.”

Venegas said directing has been an education.

“I had no idea about a lot of the stuff that happens behind the scenes because I’ve always been on stage,” he said. He’s been helped out by assistant director Rachel Blakely, who also stepped in to play a role.

While Calhoun has enjoyed not having the burden of directing “And Then There Were None” and “Wit,” it has been a challenge keeping her fingers out of the decision-making process.

“I know all of the little pieces of things that need to happen for it all to come together, and the hard part for me is not jumping in and saying, ‘You need to do this and this and this,’” she said. “Carlos is perfectly capable of that, but there’s a point where he has to figure out how he’s going to get certain technical things done, how he’s going to make set changes happen.

“It’s been kind fun to watch.”

Students auditioned for most of the roles, but Venegas directly asked Calhoun and teacher Tyler Miller, who plays Dr. Kelekian. It is his stage debut.

Rounding out the cast are Kari Bejmowicz, Nikolas Mase, Ivie Keene, Chaienne Zoller, Aleyna Call and Mahkai Ball.

Admission is free, but donations are encouraged to help defray costs of sending state-qualifying student-actors to national competition this summer.

Still to come April 20-22 is the MHS Theatre Company’s big spring musical, “Beauty & the Beast.”

Kathryn Sinkevitch is accused of murdering ex-boyfriend Michael Agerter in Maricopa.

A woman accused of killing her ex-boyfriend won’t face the death penalty, and she most likely will not see a trial until next spring.

Kathryn Sinkevitch was in court Monday for a pre-trial hearing on the first-degree murder case. She is accused of shooting to death Michael Agerter, 31, in the garage of his rental home in Rancho El Dorado on Dec. 16.

Sinkevitch has a 4-month-old child with the victim.

Prosecutor Sean Coll said though capital punishment is off the table as the deadline has passed, the Pinal County Attorney’s Office is not making a plea offer.

At the time of Agerter’s murder, the son Sinkevitch had with Agerter was only about a month old. The case involved mutual accusations of domestic abuse and Agerter’s attempt to claim custody of his son.

Sinkevitch, whose residence was in Tempe, is accused of driving to Agerter’s home in Maricopa, waiting for him to arrive and shooting him before driving away. Footage of a hooded suspect and a minivan was captured by a surveillance camera Agerter had installed at his house.

The date of trial is tentative. Timing of the case was aimed at a January 2018, but Public Defender James Mannato said another high-profile murder case would make that difficult.

Mannato is also defending Jose Valenzuela, accused of murdering Mike and Tina Careccia of Maricopa. That trial is set to start Jan. 23.

“That will be a very lengthy trial due to being a capital trial,” Mannato said. “I don’t want to place this in front of Mr. Valenzuela’s because I’m not going to have a whole lot of time to dedicate to Ms. Sinkevith’s case.”

Coll said he was unaware of Mannato’s time conflict and asked for another status hearing to set a “realistic date” for Sinkevitch’s trial. He was amenable to pushing back the date into March or April.

But Coll did put up a light protest to Mannato’s request for another extension to challenge the grand jury proceedings.

“This has been extended once already,” Coll said. “If there is an extension, it should be brief and come with a deadline.”

He said a lot of evidence, including “a couple hundred photographs” of the crime scene, was not available at the time of the grand jury because the prosecutor’s did not have it yet.

“Discovery is ever ongoing, ever evolving,” Coll said.

Superior Court Judge Kevin White allowed Mannato the extension, setting that date for April 14. Mannato was previously successful in getting the first grand-jury indictment of Valenzuela tossed.

Salsa lovers line up for their kits to try the array of salsas. Photo by Michelle Chance

Salsa Fest attracted thousands of people to Copper Sky with an array of salsas to judge, entertainment, food vendors, fun activities for the kids and Science City, which included a rocket challenge earlier in the day. Crazy Cranberry again won Most Unique and Best Overall salsa from the voting public.

Send your best shots of the day to and qualify to win a $20 gift certificate.

Tammie Crawford (and friend)

Tammie Crawford has started a nonprofit in hopes of creating an animal shelter in Maricopa.

Hometown: American Canyon, California
Residence: Rancho El Dorado
Maricopan since: 2014
Occupation: Pet resource specialist for Arizona Humane Society
Family: I live with my son, his wife, and my 2 grandchildren
Pets: We have a family cat. He was found under a vacant home. We nursed him to health and decided to keep him.
Cars: Jeep Patriot
Hobbies: Horses, grandkids, building Atlas Pet Rescue
Dream vacation: Scotland
Like most about Maricopa: The people. I am always chatting with people in line, etc., and they always chat back… even found a new friend that way.
Like least about Maricopa: The lack of resources. The last thing we need is another fast food place.

Favorite …
Charity: Arizona Humane Society and of course, Atlas Pet Rescue
Book: “House of Thunder,” by Dean Koontz
Movie: 50 first dates
Actor: Sandra Bulock, Sean Connery
Food: Chinese, Mexican, and steak and pasta
Drink: I am a whiskey girl, but not too often
Meal: Chicken Fetucini
Restaurant: Sunrise Cafe
Quote: We can’t save the world by ourselves, but together we can change the world for pets.
Words to live by: It is better to ask forgivness than permission.
Anything else we should know? Though I have held many different types of jobs, none is more rewarding the helping pets and helping people with their pets.

By bikeriderlondon

A special Highway Patrol detail Wednesday caught speeders and more on State Route 347.

According to Sgt. Steven Sekrecki, State Troopers made 88 traffic stops in eight hours and handed out 65 speeding tickets. The fastest speed recorded was 82 mph in a 55 mph.

There were six citations for failure to wear a seatbelt. Two vehicles were impounded because the driver was driving without a valid license. There were two arrests for possession of drug paraphernalia.

Sekrecki said there were also 11 citations issued for non-hazardous violations, such as not having proper registration and insurance.

The detailed involved three State Troopers and a sergeant with the Arizona Highway Patrol in Casa Grande and one officer from the Gila River Police Department.

Sekrecki said special details are conducted to reduce collisions and get impaired drivers off of the highway. Data resulting from the detail may be used to enhance enforcement efforts in the county.

Midday temperatures in the 90s didn’t halt the ’80s enthusiasm of participants in the annual Copa Color Run at Copper Sky on Saturday, though many took the abbreviated option. Hosted by the City of Maricopa, the 5K Run/Walk included games and contests with a 1980s theme.

Jose Valenzuela is accused of the June 2015 murders of Tina and Michael Careccia. PCSO photo

Gary Husk made his first appearance in Pinal Superior Court Thursday as special prosecutor in the state’s murder case against Jose Valenzuela of Maricopa.

Assigned by Navajo County after Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer recused his office from prosecution, Husk said he spent the last few weeks getting oriented to the death-penalty case. Volkmer, a former defense attorney, was already tied to Valenzuela’s case as guardian ad litum for Valenzuela’s son before he campaigned for county attorney. In November, Volkmer defeated Lando Voyles, who first brought the charges against Valenzuela two years ago.

Valenzuela is accused of murdering Michael and Tina Careccia on June 21, 2015, and burying their bodies in his yard on Papago Road. The trial date has been set for January 2018.

Asked by Judge Kevin White if the trial date was still realistic given the amount of homework on his plate, Husk said he was confident he would be prepared.

Husk said he has been in discussion with Public Defender James Mannato about the motions up to this point and is ready to begin interviews.

His first act in court, in fact, was to agree with a motion by Mannato to preserve all recordings made related to the case, despite the cost to the court.

Mannato said his intent in preserving the recordings was to have “an accurate set of facts even as it pertains to witness interviews” and decrease the chance of any argument with the court reporter.

Husk said because many of the witnesses are primarily Spanish-speakers, “it would be much more beneficial to have an interpreter and have it recorded” rather than the time-consuming task of transcribing the conversation.

Saying he had sympathy with the request, White expressed concern about the preservation costs. He said he would take the request under advisement and consult with other judges who may have presided over similar circumstances.

Mannato expressed impatience to move the case forward again, as it has been in “a condition of hiatus for several months.”

“While the trial date seems far away, it is coming quickly,” he said. “We really need to get going.”

A central part of the delay was Volkmer’s conflict of interest and the hunt for a special prosecutor.

Husk came to the case with his own baggage, a 2014 guilty plea to misdemeanor conspiracy that involved his work as a lobbyist for the Fiesta Bowl. He was sentenced to community service, restitution and probation.

Navajo County assigned Husk to the Valenzuela case and a homicide case out of Eloy for a flat fee of $160,000. That fee is paid by Pinal County.

The next status conference, which could include oral arguments on motions already filed, was set for April 17 at 3 p.m. Relatives of the Careccias have consistently been present for each hearing.

MFD personnel gather to work an accident scene on John Wayne Parkway. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

A four-vehicle bumper-to-bumper crash on John Wayne Parkway backed up northbound traffic Friday afternoon as first responders worked the scene. City of Maricopa Fire/Medical and Maricopa Police Department personnel were on site quickly after the accident just south of the intersection with Edison Road to evaluate any injuries and move traffic out of the area.

MPD cited inattention by the driver of a big box truck as the cause of the domino-effect impact. That truck ran into the back of a pest-control pickup truck, which hit the back of an SUV, which in turn hit another SUV, which had stopped for a red light at the intersection. A 14-year-old in the front vehicle was transported to a hospital as a precaution for neck pains.

Some fluids were detected leaking from the pest-control vehicle but were determined to be unharmful to the public. MFMD personnel used soaking agents to clear those and other liquids left at the scene. The accident was cleared by 1:30 p.m.

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Taylor Belcher, a junior, has been effective on the mound and at bat this season. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Midway through their season, the Maricopa High School Rams have an even record of 6-6 on the baseball field and are gearing up for region play.

Outside of tournament competition, the Rams are 3-1. In those three victories, Maricopa put up double-digits against the opponents.

After jumping all over Glendale 12-2 on Monday, however, Maricopa dropped Wednesday’s cross-county game to Vista Grande, 5-0.

“We’ve been playing some good baseball,” head coach Andrew Pollak said. “Today obviously wasn’t one of those days, but we had four games last week where we did some really good things. We had a good game Monday night. Today’s just one of those days.”

The Rams have more than a week to practice for their next game, which is March 23 hosting Mesquite. After that, all but three of their games will be against 5A Metro region competition.

“Our team is really young. Before today they’d really been playing solid,” Pollak said.

That is a point of pride, but he is still looking for strong leadership to emerge on the team as competition gets intense over the next month. The Rams play all region teams twice. That includes McClintock, Ironwood, Raymond S. Kellis, Sunnyslope and Apollo.

“We’re in a good spot. We’ve got to take care of our region,” Pollak said.

In Monday’s route of Glendale, Maricopa scored three runs in the first inning. The Rams followed up with five in the fourth and four in the fifth to claim the game via the 10-run rule.

Sophomore Nico Bandin had two hits, drove in three runs and scored three. Senior Marcos Cano was 3-for-3 at the plate and picked up an RBI. Sophomore Devin Fiala and junior Taylor Belcher both had two RBIs. Senior Jackson Stensgard had the team’s only extra-base hit, a double.

Junior Tyler Belcher pitched four innings, striking out nine, for the victory. Only one of the two runs scored against him was earned.

In Wednesday’s loss at home to Vista Grande, the Rams could not get anything started offensively and had some defensive mistakes as well.  The Spartans clung to a 1-0 lead through four innings before breaking out with four more in the fifth.

The Rams managed just three hits, a double from sophomore Malachi Hogg and singles from Bandin and Stensgard.

Carter Paine pitched five innings, striking out four and walking five. Taylor Belcher pitched two innings.

Overall this season, Maricopa is batting .322. That is led by Paine’s .459 average through 12 games. Cano is hitting .400, and Taylor Belcher is batting .353. Bandin and sophomore Renzo Silva are at .324. Stensgard has played in only the last four games and is batting .462.

Paine has pitched 19 and a third innings and has a 2-2 record with an ERA of 4.34. He has struck out 19, given up 19 hits and walked 16. Tyler Belcher has thrown for 14 innings, giving up 11 runs for ERA of 5.50. He has struck out 17 and walked 11.

Feb. 22-25    Pinon-Huffman Tourney
Tempe                   W     4-3
Higley                    L     4-10
Dobson                  L     5-9
Apache Junction    W    11-7
March 2        Sierra Linda           W    10-2
March 3        Desert Edge           W    11-7
March 8-11   Boras Baseball Classic
Corona del Sol       L    0-5
Prescott                 L    3-14
Centennial            W    8-7
Arcadia                  L    2-5
March 13      Glendale               W    12-2
March 15      Vista Grande         L     0-5
March 23      Mesquite          4 p.m.    Home
March 24      Ironwood*        4 p.m.    Home
March 28      Kellis*              3:45       Away
March 30      Casa Grande    4 p.m.    Home
March 31      Kellis*             4 p.m.     Home
April 4          Sunnyslope*    4 p.m.    Home
April 6          Verrado            3:45      Away
April 7          Sunnyslope*    4 p.m.    Away
April 11        Apollo*            4 p.m.    Away
April 12        Ironwood*       3:45       Away
April 13        Apollo*            4 p.m.    Home
April 18        McClintock*        4 p.m.    Home
April 20        McClintock*        4 p.m.    Away
April 21        Williams Field    4 p.m.    Home

*5A Metro