Authors Articles byRaquel Hendrickson

Raquel Hendrickson

Raquel Hendrickson
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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.

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When a military veteran is in crisis, the police would rather have other service agencies involved before they get the call to intervene.

That is why the Maricopa Police Department used February’s Coffee with the Chief session to bring in a full delegation of organizations prepared to help veterans through a variety of issues.

“Cops can’t fix everything,” Chief Steve Stahl said at Saturday’s event.

MPD uses veterans as resources and to train its officers in how to deal with veterans in crisis. MPD has veterans within its ranks as well. But that is not a cure-all.

Stahl pointed out the two officers involved in the killing of an Iraq War veteran in Cobblestone Farms in January were both veterans themselves. The incident, which is still under investigation, was triggered by 911 calls from the home of Johnathon Guillory and a subsequent confrontation in which Guillory allegedly threatened Sgt. Leonard Perez and Officer Joshua Hawksworth with a weapon.

“There are so many services they can call before calling the police,” Stahl said. “We bring something no one else does, and that’s a gun.”

While many people are too embarrassed to call 911 because of the attention a police vehicle will bring to their home, other organizations arrive far less conspicuously to help, he said.

Alex Taylor, military liaison at La Frontera’s Empact Suicide Prevention Center, said of the 100 suicides in the country every day, 22 of them are veterans. He called that “a travesty.”

Added to that, there is an average of one active-duty suicide a day, Tracy Davis of the Blue Star Mothers of Maricopa said.

“We’re not veterans, we’re moms, but we want to take care of our kids,” Davis said.

Working in Maricopa, Tempe and Glendale, Empact is free to veterans. The program offers counseling, evaluation, outpatient services and case management. When a crisis situation shows a need to be transported to a clinic or other crisis location, Empact will pick up the veteran and take them there.

“A combat veteran in crisis wants to talk to another combat veteran,” Taylor said.

Mike Kemery, commander of Maricopa’s Veterans of Foreign Wars post, said the Veterans Suicide Prevention bill signed by President Obama on Thursday will provide direct funding to the Veterans Administration to hire more mental health practitioners.

Arizona Counseling and Treatment Services (ACTS), a provider for Cenpatico, offers peer support services, counseling, job skills services and psychiatric health services. According to Michelle Shook , human resources manager for ACTS, by contract they respond within an hour of a call, but by practice they try to arrive within half an hour.

La Frontera’s Military Veteran Navigator helps service members and veterans and their families map out services for their individual needs, including housing and food.

Maricopa’s American Legion post is working to involve family members, Commander Christopher Flores said.

“They are the first line of defense,” he said.

Flores and Kemery said they need more volunteers to locate and deliver resources for Maricopa’s veteran population, which is estimated at more than 4,000. That is nearly 10 percent of the city’s population, when the national average is 2-3 percent.

“All of us have been there,” Kemery said. “A lot of us really understand or at least are trying to understand today’s problems like PTSD.”

Guillory reportedly suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Stahl said, more than once, no matter what or who is involved, “I defend my officers’ right to defend their lives and the community.”

Community Bridges Inc. offers several services for veterans, from substance abuse recovery to transitioning into civilian life. They have six-month housing funding that is fully subsidized for three months and tiered down to 75 percent and 50 percent in the subsequent months until the veteran is ready to go it alone.

The Maricopa (County) Association of Governments also provides training in PTSD and traumatic brain injury along with help in domestic violence situations.

Kim Rodriguez, chairperson of Honoring/Hiring/Helping Our Heroes of Pinal County (HOHP), said Pinal County veterans are underserved. She said there are veterans living in the desert who have detached themselves from all society.

“We are not just veterans helping veterans,” she said. “As community members we owe them for signing on that dotted line.”

HOHP purchased a recreational vehicle (now dubbed Big Bertha) for $1 from Pinal County to be a mobile veterans’ outreach center. Once the vehicle is “wrapped” with its own identifying exterior, it will travel to communities within the county to deliver support services.

What Big Bertha needs now, Rodriguez said, is donations and gas cards to help fund that travel, as well as volunteer drivers.

Kemery said while some military veterans do not want to be involved in an organization like the VFW or American Legion or don’t quite qualify, the groups can still link them to resources for any help they need. The MPD website provides links to resources and crisis hotlines, but Kemery said the VFW and American Legion should have those available, too.

The Coffee with the Chief session drew mostly veterans and members of the MPD.

Taylor said he felt the event was a success. He said if those attending spread the word about the services, the law of six degrees of separation would reach 2,000 people.

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Doing business anywhere has its challenges.

Every community has its permitting processes and codes to live by. Some municipalities have a free-range approach to bringing in business, some act as roadblocks, and some seem to be amenable to new business but in reality tend to get in the way.

Often, it is about perception and communication.

Maricopa has an Economic Development Department to work with businesses. There is also a Development Services Department to keep codes and zoning clear. In 2012, the city published a “Small Business Startup Guide” to be even more helpful.

For all of that, a recent InMaricopa.com poll showed nearly 70 percent of respondents calling the City of Maricopa difficult to work with. As self-selecting and non-scientific as any online poll is, it still hinted at frustration in the marketplace.

“Oftentimes there is a lack of good information among businesspeople,” interim Economic Development Director Harold Stewart said, speaking of general circumstances. “They don’t know what the city’s processes are. They don’t know who to approach at the city for assistance.

“The economic development departments, particularly this one, are set up to try to be responsive. We try to serve as a resource for information.”

He said, from his experience, the communication breakdown comes because people do not know where to make the connection at City Hall.

“That can be frustrating as well as confusing because there are a lot of processes you have to deal with,” Stewart said. “You may have to deal with health department issues. We don’t do that. The city doesn’t do that. That’s a county function.”

The permitting process has been a popular topic.

Chamber of Commerce CEO Marla Lewis said complaints she hears from time to time about starting up a business in Maricopa “generally have to do with the permitting that is required.

“It’s not just the city permits; it’s the county permits and the state permits,” she said. “And then there is the tax ID and whether they are going to be an individual or a corporation.”

Lewis said she feels City Hall, through programs like Vision 2040, is looking at all of the issues that can make the start-up experience cumbersome.

That cumbersome experience is what Roman Bylkov went through in starting up Maricopa Auto Outlet. Though he said he understood the “why” of the permits for fencing and general aesthetics, the city’s drawn-out process had surprises and continued to cause delays.

Mike Richey, owner of Maricopa’s Ace Hardware and immediate past chairman of the chamber, has heard general complaints about “the amount of time to get a permit approved,” too, and noted it is not always about the city.

Getting a building permit along John Wayne Parkway is no picnic, but that is primarily because of the state, he said, “and the hoops you have to jump through, ingress and egress, traffic studies you have to run before they’ll even review it.”

Richey said he has also heard complaints about high rents in Maricopa, “and the city doesn’t have anything to do with that.”

He said the city’s attitude toward business is “certainly very supportive,” citing the creation of MCE.

Stewart said the Economic Development Department is in place to help business owners maneuver through the layers of bureaucracy and “try to make it easier and make sure communication is good. This office has always tried to reach out and let people know that we’re available.”

Michael Winer, a management analyst in the department, said the issues he has seen have been new business owners who are not aware of all the steps that must be taken in order to start a business and think it is a simple process. From financing to business licensing, help is often needed in many quarters.

“It can be frustrating, but it’s something we try to educate people on,” Winer said.

 “The city being a young city, it really does play into the fact that we don’t have all of the infrastructure in place, but we are working together,” Lewis said. “The chamber, the Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship and governing boards are working together to be able to come to a point where it will be easier for businesses to do business in Maricopa.”

For those wanting to know more about how to work with the City of Maricopa in starting up a business, City Hall’s next “Maricopa 101” session, scheduled for Feb. 18, focuses on the Economic Development Department, “the point of contact for individuals seeking local assistance with site selections, market, demographic information and business resources.”

The session is from 5 to 6 p.m. in the Zephyr Conference Room at City Hall, 39700 W. Civic Center Plaza.

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Michael Drunasky moved the headquarters of his company Druwest Landscape to Maricopa in late 2013. At the time, the move was more personal than business motivated, but that changed.

“When we first moved out here the main purpose was to be closer to family,” he said. “But it was small-town living with the potential for growth.”

Already covering an area that included Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert, south Scottsdale and south Phoenix, he decided to base Druwest out of Maricopa.

Drunasky has six employees in two crews and is building a third crew. There is also an office assistant. He said they usually respond to a call within 48 hours.

Before starting his own company in 2007, he worked a year as a sales representative for a high-end Scottsdale landscaping company. It provided ongoing training in the business.

He emphasizes his crews’ knowledge of the field. “It’s not just coming out and cutting up a yard, knowing the plant life and knowing what it takes to keep everything healthy and that green color.”

He also boasts of good customer service.

“Every company is going to make their share of mistakes, but with us we have supervisors and we have people who will answer for it and make sure it’s taken care of,” he said.

He said he expects Maricopa to grow tremendously and Druwest along with it.

When we first started getting accounts out here, it was slow-going at the beginning. It seems like with each month we’re getting more and more calls,” he said. “I think it’s going to continue to boom.”

623-330-0010
DruwestLandscape.com

Michael Drunasky
Owner of Druwest Landscape

PERSONAL
Family: Wife and two sons, 7 years and 20 months
Hometown: Litchfield Park, Arizona
Interests: Family functions, coaching my son’s sports teams and DIY projects
Pets: One dog
Pet peeves: People who speed in residential neighborhoods and texting while driving
Car: F150 Lariat
I wish I was: Myself. I’m happy with where God has taken me, my family and my business

BUSINESS
First job: Sonic Drive-in carhop
Favorite job: Professional Paintballer and being the owner of Druwest Landscape
Gratest challenge: Learning to juggle owning a business as well as being involved in all family activities.
Greatest opportunity: the opportunity I had to ask my wife to marry me; greatest decision I ever made
Best business advice you ever received: “Work like there is someone working 24 hours a day to take it all away from you.” – Mark Cuban

FAVORITES
Food: Pizza… hands down
Beverage: Red Bull
Musician: George Strait
Movie: “The Bourne Identity”
Sport: Paintball, football
Charity: We, Druwest Landscape, have a program that helps service yards for those in need, as well as St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital
Travel destination: I would love to visit Italy and Ireland with my beautiful wife someday.
Book: The Bible
Currently reading: “The Measure of a Man” by Gene Gatz

“We have to be us. We have to be uniquely Maricopa,” Mayor Christian Price told a breakfast gathering of the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce.

The event was an opportunity for Price to give his State of the City presentation, a recap of the city’s successes and anticipated projects. It was a Powerpoint version of the formal state of the city address he gave in October.

While describing the city as resembling Chandler 50 years ago, the mayor said Maricopa needs to move in its own direction.

“I absolutely adore economic development,” Price said.

He said City Hall is doing everything it can to land jobs in Maricopa, but it is not the city’s function to create jobs. Instead, he said the city is creating an environment to bring businesses in.

The developing Estrella Gin Business Park will offer 35,000 square feet of flex space. It is also an opportunity to bring business traffic off of State Route 347. Price said flex space can be adjusted as businesses move in, grow or move out.

Price also said Maricopa Station, currently being built beside CVS, is “a great addition to the community.” It is being developed by Vintage Partners, which expects the opening of Chipotle and Starbucks in June, with Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers and other tenants opening later.

The mayor pointed out the segment next to Maricopa Station has been marked for a hospital.

Price also indicated the importance of the recent zoning code rewrite, a 24/7 Electronic Plan Review system and Maricopa’s 2040 Vision in strengthening its economic outlook. The 24/7 system will allow anyone submitting plans to the city to review and follow the approval process. Price said it will be “fully auditable” and “completely transparent.”

While the current city council cannot bind future councils, Vision 2040 is a way to give Maricopa direction, Price said. It will ensure “the basic principles of where we want to go as a city are intact,” he said.

The city’s creation of the Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship offers the opportunity to be more creative in growing businesses from within, he said.

Challenges continue to be transportation and flooding. The proposed 347 overpass over the railroad tracks “will change Maricopa forever,” he said. The Lower Santa Cruz River solution “is a massive project.”

The latter is a regional flood control project. And flooding has an impact on economic development.

“We want to make sure your home is protected when the next flood comes, and it will,” Price said.

The mayor also outlined happenings in various departments of City Hall.

Public Safety

The Maricopa Police Department is the first department in Pinal County to train in domestic violence lethality protocols. The city council recently approved the purchase of 43 on-body cameras for the officers. A police substation and Copper Sky Regional Park and a fire administration building (along with Public Works building) is planned at Estrella Gin. Fire Chief Brady Leffler has created a “culture of reducing expenditures.” Maricopa is listed as the fifth safest city in Arizona.

Parks, Recreation and Library

The Maricopa Public Library has 6,000 visitors a week and, for its size, is ranked as one of the busiest in the country. Copper Sky won the 2014 award for best parks and recreation facility in Arizona. For the second year, Maricopa won the Playful City award. Upgrades are continuing at Pacana Park.

Education

Price said strong schools help economic development. “CEOs want to go where schools are strong,” he said. Though the school district is a separate government entity from the City of Maricopa, City Hall was a major player in the Paint the Town Red homecoming venture. The city also played a part in an agreement with Albright College and Central Arizona College to offer three four-year degree programs. The University of Arizona will also expand its engineering offerings to Maricopa.

Transportation

The 347 overpass will increase the flow of traffic through Maricopa tenfold, the mayor said. He said it should not take as long to travel from Maricopa Meadows to Rancho El Dorado as it does to travel from Rancho El Dorado to Interstate 10. But he also reminded the gathering the project will take a very long time. Meanwhile there is ongoing work to expand Smith- Enke Road and Honeycutt Avenue and plans to widen 347. Paving dirt roads, a major factor in dust control, is also a priority for the city.

As the city moves forward on projects, Price asked for collaboration.

“If we try to do it alone, we will not be successful,” he said.
 

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It won’t be the last time Tom Schryer talks to the Pinal County Board of Supervisors about measles.

The director of the Public Health Services Department will be back before the board at their next regular meeting, but Wednesday he shared the bulk of the information about the recent measles outbreak in the county. His presentation included measles data and vaccination reports from some county schools.

The conversation was spurred by the diagnosis of measles in five Pinal County residents. Schryer said it is unlikely there will be any more cases stemming from an afflicted Kearny family. The incubation period ends Feb.  13, but he said it will be mid-March before the department considers the outbreak over.

He said if he had a do-over in the county’s response to the measles diagnosis, he would have had staff put up posters earlier in Kearny to alert the public.

Schryer, who has been very vocal about the need for measles vaccinations, also got personal in relating the history of battling the virus.

A child in his father’s family died from measles, he said. Most people born before 1957 were exposed to measles, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). A lot of older people can remember someone having complications from measles, he added.

Supervisor Todd House recalled having both measles and German measles (rubella) as a child.

The measles-mumps-rubella vaccine (MMR) was developed in the 1950s. Two doses are considered the best protection. Many people born after 1957, like Schryer, received only one vaccination and not the follow-up booster.

“I was born in 1966, so I only had one dose of MMR until I was in the military,” Schryer said. “A lot of people my age, in their 40s and 50s, are walking around with just one dose.”

There are about 125 new cases of measles nationwide.

Schryer said measles is “far more transmissible than Ebola ever would be.” He told the board if one person with measles walked into a room of 100 unvaccinated people, 90 of them would get the disease.

“It’s a miserable thing to undergo,” he said. “Not too many people forget having measles as a child.”

The CDC seemed to have licked the disease in the United States until about 15 years ago. A 1998 report by Andrew Wakefield, then a British surgeon, was published in the medical journal “The Lancet.” It claimed a link between the MMR vaccine and the development of autism.

In 2010, the British General Medical Council discredited Wakefield’s research and charged him with dishonesty. “The Lancet” recalled the article, calling it fraudulent. Wakefield later lost his medical license.

But the belief in a link to autism had already touched a chord among concerned parents and resulted in an anti-vaccine movement in Britain and the United States.

One of the concerns was the presence of thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative used in vaccines. According to CDC, it was removed from measles vaccines in 2001, but with no corresponding change to the frequency rate of autism diagnoses in the nation.

Arizona law allows parents to opt out of vaccinations for their children. Schryer said those who did opt out did not have to deal with the consequences until the recent outbreaks. He said several parents who had decided against vaccinations for their children have since come in to have the shots. Adults, too, are coming in for doses.

A study from the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) noted “Schools with high exemption rates were characterized by being predominantly white and higher income/middle class.

“Individuals who did exempt their children for personal beliefs were more likely to fear side effects of the vaccine and were less likely to trust their family doctor.”

In Pinal County the highest exemption rate is 17 percent at Legacy Traditional School in San Tan Valley, according to data from ADHS. The next highest was the LTS campus in Casa Grande with more than 12 percent opting out.

Schryer said it was not unusual for parents of charter school students to opt out because of a suspicion of the medical community and distrust of government.

However, at the LTS campus in Maricopa, last school year showed only a 1.8 percent exemption rate for the sixth grade. Pima Butte Elementary had the highest in the city, with 6.6 percent of sixth graders exempted from vaccines, according to the ADHS data.

Leading Edge Academy, a charter school, and Butterfield Elementary, a district school, both reported complete measles immunization coverage in sixth grade in 2013-14.

The ADHS study included a parent survey, with comments on why they chose or did not choose to vaccinate.

Representative comments from anti-vaccine parents include: “The pharmaceutical industry is corrupt and cannot be trusted. This is proven time and time again. What are parents to do when we cannot trust ADHS because ADHS relies so heavily on information they receive from the pharmaceutical industry?”

And: “I have two incredibly healthy, unvaccinated children and have zero doubts about this decision. The package insert warnings about seizures, death, etc., are enough for me to rely on nutrition and common sense to keep my precious babes healthy.”

Some parents saw some of the recommended vaccines as necessary but not all of them. Other parents were concerned about the number of shots their children were to receive in a short time span.

Pro-vaccine parents worried unvaccinated children would expose their children to measles and resulting side effects like encephalitis before they were old enough to be fully vaccinated.

“Parents who choose not to have their children immunized are endangering the health not only of their children but everyone,” one stated. “Diseases that were nearly wiped out are now returning at higher levels due to irrational fear.”

The Pinal County Board of Supervisors will be looking over the complicated history of Justice of the Peace courts trying to collect fees.

The board is being asked by the courts to authorize an ordinance that would allow them to defray expenses for providing records and other services to the public. It is part of a work session scheduled for Wednesday at 9:30 a.m.

The supervisors had an ordinance allowing courts to collect fees for records requests. Those requests had been called a burden on court staff.

The JP courts began collecting the fee for civil and criminal cases. But statute only allowed the collection of the fee for civil cases. Presiding Judge Roger Valdez ordered a stop to the collections in December.

Now being requested is an ordinance to correct the problem and allow collection of fees for storing and retrieving criminal case records, too.

The Public Service Fee Schedule ordinance was drawn up last year, but the County Attorney’s Office hesitated to put a stamp of approval on it until the county’s authority ordinance was clarified by the Superior Court.

Meanwhile, those who paid fees wrongfully collected do have precedent for getting their money back, if they can show proof. There was no account code established to track the fee.

A quail-hunting trip in the Sonoran Desert National Monument brought a rude awakening to a Maricopa resident.
 
Pockets of discarded backpacks, clothing, food wrappers and water bottles dotted the washes in the canyon. It was clear evidence of people on foot heading north. There were the tell-tale black water bottles tied in place at various locations for a nefarious “underground railroad” of illegal travelers.

That made Kevin Wilkins angry.

What raised the hairs on the back of his neck was the later discovery of full cans of gasoline paired with full water jugs waiting to be picked up. That was the sign of drug smugglers. It was the sign of real danger.

“You never know who’s watching you,” Wilkins said. “And it’s our land, our public land.”

As a hunter, Wilkins, of course, was armed. But he was concerned about casual hikers he encountered in the Sonoran Desert National Monument (SDNM) who not only did not have guns but had not even thought armed self-defense might be necessary.

That is despite years of federal and county efforts to tackle the illegal operations and inform the public of the risks. Finding the balance between invitation and caution has been frustrating for the Bureau of Land Management.

“It’s an issue we’ve been dealing with for a number of years,” BLM spokesman Dennis Godfrey said. “We have not closed lands due to smuggling, so they’re still available to the public. We are obviously advising people that there is potential danger.”

Wilkins said the SDNM, with its beautiful vistas, craggy mountains and tall saguaros, is the perfect example of the Southwest desert landscape.

BLM wants residents to be able to enjoy the beauty of the Sonoran Desert in peace. Godfrey said people who are recreating in daylight hours on monument land are “not in particular danger.”

Wilkins simply wanted to explore the Table Top Wilderness Area in the SDNM south of Maricopa. Some day, he would like to teach his young son to hunt those same hills. His experience in January gave him pause.

His concerns were twofold: the trash left on monument land and the illegal activity continually moving north through the Maricopa area.

“The Sonaran Desert National Monument is used as a corridor for illegal operations,” Godfrey said. “They are coming up from the border on the reservation and coming up through the monument, both there and through the Ironwood Forest National Monument west of Tucson.

“Those two are primary areas. They both border on the reservation; they both are used as conduits to get to transportation corridors.”

The canyons can serve as a funnel for anyone in the area to reach one of the roadways leading out of the wilderness and into Maricopa’s transportation corridor. The trash site Wilkins found up one canyon was news to BLM, which put it on a schedule for cleanup.  

“I’ve been on some of those sites, and they can be pretty groaty,” Godfrey said.

The BLM program Reclaim Our Arizona Monuments (Operation ROAM) organizes cleanups and provides security during those cleanup procedures. In the first two months of Operation ROAM, 88 bags of trash were picked up in the SDNM. More than 5,000 pounds of narcotics were seized.

“There have been surges, and the Sonoran Desert National Monument is a key area,” Godfrey said. “One of the things that we typically do is a cleanup of these trash sites, and we’ve done a remarkable job, I think, in the past three years of identifying where those sites are and then getting resources in to clean them up.”

Wilkins’ instinct was to start a community cleanup campaign to get garbage out of the area. Godfrey said that was understandable, but because of the circumstances BLM uses its own federal assets to accomplish the same thing.

“Just in terms of the public going out there to clean up trash, there are some hazards,” he said. “You don’t know what’s in that trash. Have you thought about how you’re going to carry it out of there? Who’s watching you? Who’s going to be in that general vicinity? We think it wise to use our resources.”

BLM does not use community volunteers for cleanup involving illegal operations. Instead, the department contracts with the Arizona Conservation Corps for that effort.

Godfrey said by calling in the location of a trash site, Wilkins was doing exactly what BLM would like the public to do. “And we very, very much appreciate it.”

He recommended to anyone coming across trash sites on public lands to contact the Phoenix district office or SDNM Manager Dave Scarbrough to give them a description and directions.

Most of that kind of debris in the SDNM is aged, obviously having been in the sun for a long time. The signs of drug smuggling are a lot fresher.

According to the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, this is the time of year that smuggling activity is reinvigorated after a holiday lull. So-called hilltop scouts are back in place in a targeted area west of Maricopa.

According to PCSO spokesman Jim Knupp, the scouts act as traffic guards, “alerting drug smugglers as to law enforcement activities and advising them on which paths to take through the desert.”

PCSO cited the success of last year’s sting operations on the Tohono O’odham Nation as part of its West Desert Task Force. There has been a history of armed hilltop scouts in that area.

In a place like Sonoran Desert National Monument, gas cans and water combinations tend to be left out for others arriving and needing fuel for all-terrain vehicles or other transportation.

Godfrey said something like that is “a point of conflict” and needs to be reported to law enforcement immediately.

“You don’t hang around to see who’s going to show up,” he said.

For most criminals, he said, the sight of hikers taking advantage of the Table Top trails or hunters in the canyons will cause them to move off for a while. Moving illegal products is their mission, not getting into a conflict, Godfrey said.

That is why BLM has chosen to keep the lands open.

“We have lots of acreage and a lot of land to patrol and to be responsible for and not too many officers, so it’s difficult for us,” Godfrey said. “But we’ve made inroads.”

That includes blocking illegal roads. About two years ago, they finished a mile of Normandy barrier near the south border of the SDNM, adding to the natural barriers in the area. It continues to be a game of cat-and-mouse, Godfrey said.

The next Pinal County Community Job Fair is scheduled for Feb. 18 at the Central Arizona College corporate center in Casa Grande.

“We try to make sure we partner with folks in the community so they can be a part of this event,” said Linda Martinez, business service liaison for Arizona Workforce Connection.

The county job fairs started last February with 35 vendors.

“From what I’ve heard from the businesses and the people that attended, it was a great success,” Martinez said. “We are really excited about this. And this year it grew, with more employers wanting to be a part of it.”

That first fair began a series of quarterly fairs. Now, a year, later, the job fair has 43 employers participating. Some are simply providing information at their booths, but many are hiring. They include schools, Pinal Energy, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and several others.

Martinez said the first two hours of the fair – from 10 a.m. to noon – is dedicated to veterans. “They get that first chance to come in and make a good impression and get the job,” she said.

Then the general public can participate from noon to 2 p.m.

Arizona Workforce Connection sent emails to employers with registration forms and went to places of business to see if they had job openings and recruit them as vendors for the fair.

“It’s a win-win for everybody, and it’s a networking opportunity for businesses because some people may not know they exist,” Martinez said.

She expects next year the organizers may have to look for a bigger venue.

“When our job seekers come to these job fair, the goal is for them to get jobs, and some of our vendors hire on the spot,” she said. “So we tell them when you go there, make sure you’re dressed for success and have that 30-second commercial ready.”

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Saying she was shocked there wasn’t another hotel in a community the size of Maricopa, a hotel market feasibility analyst delivered Core Distinction Group’s study in January.

“Looking at this population, it was shocking to me that there wasn’t a hotel development here,” Lisa Pennau said.

Interim Economic Development Director Harold Stewart said the hotel feasibility study was an important and critical document.

“The community understood there was demand,” he said. “This was a great way to solidify that and recognize that from a statistical standpoint.”

The conclusion was unsurprising: Maricopa is prime ground for a branded hotel. Specifically, Pennau said a 125-unit Residence Inn might be the best fit.

According to the study, “It is anticipated that a new, upscale, extended-stay, branded hotel would capture displaced lodging demand currently staying in markets surrounding Maricopa. Additionally, the newness of the hotel should be well received in the marketplace. Its location will be ideal to serve Maricopa and regional markets.”

Pennau said the study found most of the potential hotel business “leakage” was going to Chandler.

“Most of the people that we spoke to don’t want to drive to Chandler,” she said. “It’s just the best option.”

Mayor Christian Price said he spoke with Casa Grande Mayor Bob Jackson, who encouraged Maricopa to work with his city in accommodations, as well. Sports tournaments in the area tend to strain all available hotels, he said.

“I’m not sure if the hotels in that market are aging or there hasn’t been new development, but all of the demand here was going Chandler,” Pennau said.

She said the average occupancy rate in Chandler hotels was 71 percent. She considered that high in the trade and a reflection of the need for accommodations closer to Maricopa.

Vice Mayor Marvin Brown questioned that conclusion, however. “I’ve known several hotel managers,” he said. “If you’re lower than 90 percent you’re losing money. We’d like to be viable, at least.”

Some of the biggest demand for hotel accommodation in Maricopa comes from the auto proving grounds. More than 20-percent growth is expected at the Volkswagen facility, which annually needs rooms for around 2,000 people between April and October. At the Nissan facility, 5,000-7,500 visitors are estimated annually, and most hang their hats in Phoenix- area hotels because Harrah’s Ak-Chin is often full.

Michael Winer, the city’s economic development management analyst, said the hotel study was initiated “to assist in recruitment of a hotel to Maricopa by validating the community’s need and ability to support a hotel.”

Core Distinction Group was contracted last fall for the task. “Typically when it comes to a point where a community contacts me for a study, they are pretty confident that there is a need,” Pennau said.

Besides indicating the local demand for a hotel based on numerical data and on qualitative data gathered through interviews with business owners and community leaders, the study also shows other development and retail needs in Maricopa.

Councilmember Peggy Chapados said she found that encouraging. “One of the biggest needs we have here is meeting space, event space, banquet space and the ability to hold conferences and tournaments and that kind of thing, too,” she said.

In a five-mile radius, the study found a 72-percent leakage of potential retail trade to other communities because of a lack of supply in Maricopa. For instance, it found Maricopa had potential retail demand of $12 million for a clothing store but was supplying only about $1.8 million.

Overall, the study found the retail supply gap to be $279 million.

The study also outlines the top employers in Maricopa, demographics, recent economic development and the potential economic impact of a branded hotel.

Hotel developers want to know the opportunity for retail sales, dining establishment and unaccommodated demand, Pennau said.

“A lot of times when a hotel comes in they want to know there is other growth in the community,” she said. “Knowing whether or not a community supports it is a huge piece of the hotel development being successful.”

The Maricopa City Council agreed to buy 43 body cameras for police officers during its Feb. 3 meeting.

Of the $97,000 price tag, just under $21,000 was paid with a grant.

The police department had a 10-month pilot program testing three cameras on a DUI grant. It also developed a policy “vetted by 18 months of research through the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Police Executive Research Forum and several different agencies across the United States,” Chief Steve Stahl said.

More locally, the Maricopa Police Department looked at results in the Surprise and Mesa police departments.

Stahl said there has been growing support among police officers for the use of on-body cameras. Stahl, who was part of the pilot program at the Mesa PD, said the use of the body cameras has been responsible for a 70-percent reduction in complaints against police.

Surprise learned a key to that was letting citizens know they were on camera. Stahl said there was no reduction in complaints until Surprise PD created a policy that officers should make every attempt to let people know about the on-body camera.

“Not only does it correct the citizen’s behavior, but it corrects the officer’s behavior so that the interaction is much more friendly,” Stahl said.

Councilmember Nancy Smith said while she sees the growing support for body cameras, she is concerned for residents’ privacy.

“We think about the safety of our officer, but we don’t think about the fact that these cameras are going into people’s homes and their right to privacy,” she said.

Stahl said that is why it is part of MPD policy that officers “shall make every attempt to let the resident or whomever they’re in contact with know that they are being video recorded at that moment.”

He said some incidents happen too quickly for that information to be conveyed. In some incidents, such as a “covert operation,” he said, the police may not wish to share that information on the scene.

If citizens do not wish to be recorded, they can let the officer know, and then it will be up to the officer’s discretion. If the recording will be important in evidence or investigation, the officer may tell the residents “as politely as possible” the recording will continue, the chief said.

Being police property, the recordings become public record. Once a recording is downloaded into the MPD system it is treated like other records that may be requested through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Stahl said that raises the question of protecting people’s privacy such as the contents of a home and the identities of any children present at the time of the incident. Just as a written report can be redacted, Stahl said the program has a redacting component that allows police to blur out information the general public has “no right to see.”

During the 10-month pilot program, MPD received only two FOIA requests for a video recording. Stahl said one was for a court record and the other was for a person involved in an incident who wanted it “for posterity.”

Redacting files is part of the responsibilities of three personnel at MPD. Stahl said larger departments have full-time employees dedicated to just that task.

“We are very respectful of the city budget and the constraints right now, so we will do it with our three people,” he said. “We may not be as expeditious in responding to the FOIA requests but we will do it as quickly as time will allow us.”

People involved in a recorded incident have more right to more of the video than others, Stahl said. A person not involved but requesting a copy will receive a highly redacted version.

Councilmember Henry Wade asked how well the law enforcement community is embracing the on-body cameras.

Stahl said because the topic has been part of the police conversations for three years and there has been a fine-tuning of procedures and policy, support has grown in the ranks. Officers having input in the policy was of most importance.

He said during MPD’s pilot program with three cameras, the “techie officers” put the cameras through the works and helped the department create its policy.

“Now everybody wants the camera because they know it helps them do their job,” Stahl said.

It is not new to Pinal County, but it is new to Maricopa. Central Arizona Rainbow Education (CARE) is hosting a Drag Night tonight on the Maricopa campus of Central Arizona College.

The show starts at 7 p.m. in the A building, 17945 N. Regent Drive. The event is free.

Organizer Christopher Hall, a CARE founder, has been putting on drag shows at the Signal Peak campus for four years. He said it is meant to entertain and educate.

Hall said there will be performers from Arizona participating tonight. The show will be followed by a question-and-answer period.

“They’ll talk about what drag is, why we do it,” Hall said.

He said the impersonators will also talk about the history, the stigma and how drag is more accepted among some races than in others.

Art on the walls of a coffeehouse is nothing new, but the scope of a new exhibit coming to Bead & Berry is beyond anything yet seen in Maricopa.

The Maricopa Arts Council presents a juried gallery show that will hang for two months. The “Spotlight Showcase” features 20 pieces by 16 Maricopa artists.

The opening reception is Feb. 6 at 5:30 p.m. A quartet of musicians from the Maricopa Music Circle will perform, and there will be hors d’oeuvres.

“It will be a good kickoff,” Bead & Berry co-owner Gareth Kerlin said.

The show runs through March.

Kerlin was one of the five jurists for the show.

“We’ve got photography, pencil, still life, oil, modern art, macro photography. I feel like we’ve got all the skill levels,” Kerlin said. “All the artists got to submit two pieces, and then we as the jury selected the pieces for the show.”

Kerlin, an art major in college, said he was looking for “expertly done pieces,” strong genre pieces, passion and color. Even how a piece would pop against the café’s walls was a factor.

His main criteria, though, were “Whatever is excellent and whatever is beautiful,” he said.

That could mean different things to different jurists. Kerlin said part of the fun of the responsibility was talking out those ideas of art with the other jurists to find how and why they chose their favorites.

Judith Zaimont, co-director of the Maricopa Arts Council and founder of the Maricopa Music Circle, approached Kerlin about hosting the show.

She called the exhibit “very heavily discussed” in the manner it is being run. The entries were marked anonymously. “It was the quality of the work alone that led to acceptance,” she said.

Twenty-two artists applied to be in the show. JPGs of the works were sent to the jurors, who deliberated privately before coming together for a two-hour winnowing.

“They had with them three lists,” Zaimont said. “They had a list of their top eight, then they had a list of their next eight works, and then they had a list of their bottom four works.”

The show was populated with works from everybody’s top 12 picks, and the discussion went deep.

Zaimont said some favored a certain medium because it required a skill set different from the others while other favored a different medium with a different skill set altogether.

“The result is a very fine sieve through which the works had to pass,” she said. “They had to move through a multiplicity of viewpoints, and that was very good.”

Zaimont said Kerlin has high standards for live performance and art going on his walls. While selected artists will be part of the “permanent” exhibit, the showcase also includes the much more transient “Art Now” experience.

Throughout the showcase, 25-30 artists will create new works onsite. They will use chalk markers on black glass panels on the back wall. But they will only hang for only a couple of days before they are erased and more artists show what they can do.

“It’s art on the fly,” Zaimont said. “You have to catch it when it’s here.”

The “Art Now” works must be nature-themed in line with Bead & Berry’s tree logo.  Zaimont said they will be “food for thought and nuggets for conversation.”

On the opening weekend of the Spotlight Showcase, a few suites down, is Maricopa’s first pop-up gallery.

Maricopa Arts Council in partnership with the Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship (MCE) has brought in a variety of local artists for the weekend. Unlike the showcase, it is a first-come, first-show exhibit with space for sculpture as well. Other featured media include photography, paintings, drawings, bead work and more.

The pop-up gallery continues Thursday and Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. in Suite 104 of 20800 N. John Wayne Parkway, just a few doors down from Bead & Berry in Suite 112.

Together, the two shows “amplify in their totality Maricopa at large,” Zaimont said. “It’s an exciting spectrum of art.”

MCE had been working on the pop-up concept for weeks, and the timing for approval could not have been better as far as Zaimont was concerned.

“A lot of things fell into place with great serendipity,” she said. “It is the most exciting thing for the city.”

Maricopa Arts Council: http://maricopaartscouncil.wix.com/maricopaartscouncil
Bead & Berry Coffeehouse: http://www.beadandberry.com/ 520-252-5626

A bit of dissent caused the Maricopa City Council to put the brakes on new fees at its parks facilities at its Feb. 3 meeting.

Marty McDonald of the Maricopa Dukes Baseball League protested the proposed rental rates, calling them “obscene and excessive.” He said the prices attached to renting a field, a home run fence and other necessities for playing a game would have a team shelling out $300 before a pitch is thrown.

McDonald challenged the cost of labor put forth by the proposal and said his organization was willing to put in sweat equity to put up the home-run fencing and chalk the baselines themselves.

The new fees were vetted and approved by the Parks, Recreation and Library committee last year before being posted for public feedback in November.

Councilmember Bridger Kimball said the council should have had a work session on the proposal before having to decide. He said the fees can add up to “quite a bit of money” for a double-header.

“This is definitely something that we probably should have been debating before,” Councilmember Henry Wade said.

McDonald said a lot of the fee made sense, like a towel service fee, but others would be unaffordable.

Wade suggested putting the decision on pause for 30 days to give the PRL board a chance to look over the fees again and bring in all teams and leagues that use the playing fields at Pacana Park and Copper Sky.

Community Services Director Kristie Riester said her department had done its due diligence in gathering information to settle on the proposed fees.

As proposed, the towel service would be $3 per person or $5 per couple for residents, and $4.50 and $7.50, respectively, for non-residents. Room rental would be $10 an hour for senior groups, $20 an hour for nonprofits and $30 an hour for everyone else. A $100 deposit would also be required.

The home run fencing would be $125 per event per field with a $200 deposit. The bases permit is $5. Additional staff time would cost $35 per hour.

Rental of the small parking lot would be $150 per day for residents. The large parking lot would go for $500 per day. The dog park could be rented for $50 an hour up to a $500 maximum, and the skate park would be $100 per hour up to $1,000 maximum.

Pacana Park lake could be rented for $100 an hour with small ramada rental. Copper Sky lake could be rented for $100 an hour with great lawn or group ramada rental. The concession stand at Pacana Park could be rented for $10 an hour with $100 deposit.

Under current fees, Pacana’s small ramada rental is $10 hour, Copper Sky’s group ramada is $50 an hour, and the great lawn rents for $50 an hour.

Councilmember Peggy Chapados reminded the council the debate started in November, when there was “ample opportunity for the public and council to weigh in.” She said the fees were well thought-out.

Though Vice Mayor Marvin Brown proposed tabling the issue because of the disagreement on the rates, he said stakeholders could have been involved in the issue months ago. “We shouldn’t be tap-dancing on these issues tonight,” he said.

Nearly every member of the city council had a different idea of how the Copper Sky Recreation Complex should handle fee waivers.

During a Jan. 20 meeting, the council stitched together a workable guidance for a staff trying to find balance in how it accommodates nonprofits. The council also considered additional park rental fees at its Feb. 3 meeting.

Community Services Director Kristie Riester requested a “fair and consistent” waiver policy that would “ensure all requests are properly considered.”

She said there was a high number of requests this year to waive the use fee or at least reduce it for a variety of functions. The policy would cover rental of facility space, the ramada, playing fields or courts and the portable stage. It also involves use of lights and the city’s special-events fees.

“The reason for developing a policy, in part, is because we still need to pay for the facility,” City Manager Gregory Rose said.

Mayor Christian Price called Copper Sky an “astronomical consumer of dollars from the general fund.” Though the park is a “crown jewel” for Maricopa, “we have to recover costs,” he said.

Riester said costs to the city add up from labor, utilities and materials.

For residents, rental of the large ramada is $50 per hour with a two-hour minimum. The cost is the same for the great lawn. Residents can rent half of a gymnasium at Copper Sky for $100, or $200 for the whole gym. Renting a baseball or softball field is $5-$15 for resident youth and $10-$20 for resident adults.

The proposed fee-waiver policy would have required a 60-day advance notice, with no more than one event allowed to have fees waived per 12-month period.

Riester said staff wanted to limit it to one event “so we’re not inundated with several requests from the same organization.”

But the council picked apart the details of the proposed policy.

Councilmember Vincent Manfredi, referencing Little League, suggested raising the limit to two events. Councilmember Peggy Chapados said organizations could put similar events on the same application and make them one multi-date event. Manfredi said that could apply to Little League hosting the same event for both of its seasons.

“Based on the proposed policy, there is no such thing as a totally free event,” Chapados said.

She said she would like to leave much of the decision-making to the discretion of staff and the committee. She said the Parks, Recreation and Libraries Committee (PRL) does a thorough job of vetting the proposals and making applicants accountable.

The fee waiver is meant only for programs and events that are open to the general public. They must also have cultural, educational, entertainment or recreational value to the public. There are exceptions and special cases.

Riester said she takes unusual or large requests to the city manager, and he decides whether it should go before the council. The lowest request that has come to the department was $120. The highest was almost $4,000, she said.

Rose described one event, a hastily arranged baseball tournament to raise funds for a cause, in which he used his own discretion to lower the use fees for the organization. The council agreed to maintain that latitude for the city manager.

Councilmember Nancy Smith said she advised the Relay for Life Committee, of which she was an organizing member,  to plan “in one vision what do you want to ask for, for the entire year.” She said she was not in favor of limiting the number of events per organization.

One application laying out a nonprofit organization’s plans for the year would stop the influx of applications, she said. That would minimize the impact on the PRL and staff, Smith said.

Price said the 60-day requirement was “too onerous.” Many organizations do not plan a year out, and some event fee waiver requests come last-minute from a reaction to something that has happened in the community. He said he would recommend no longer than 30 days. Councilmember Bridger Kimball agreed, saying only events that need a special-event permit should have the 60-day requirement.

Riester said 60 days was requested so staff could go through the special-event process and get the request to the PRL committee in time and, if necessary, the council itself. A special-event permit is required for large-scale event and those involving alcohol.

A letter from a 7-year-old girl is not a typical correspondence for the Maricopa Police Department.

But Mara Fortunato is not typical, either.

Her acquaintance with a police officer developed into a friendship that was remarkable in Mara’s experience.

Mara is high-functioning autistic. She was paired with Officer Arielle Cohen for the Shop with a Cop event in December.

“I was very nervous having my daughter take part,” Mara’s mother Karen Fortunato said. She said social situations can be challenging for her daughter. She was unsure if her daughter would ask for help if she needed a drink or the bathroom during the event at Walmart.

Cohen came to their home to tell Mara she had been chosen and they would be together. Karen said having the two female officers at the door to talk to her before the event made a big difference. The morning of Shop with a Cop, “Mara saw Arielle and knew her face, so she was a bit comforted,” Fortunato said.

A morning shopping with a cop was not the end of it.

When the family came home Christmas night, they found a note Cohen left for Mara.

“That was the one thing that touched me and our family,” Fortunato said. “To know Arielle thought of Mara enough to stop by was huge.”

She said her daughter has a special connection to Cohen now.

“People who know Mara know the challenge it is to win her approval. Whatever Arielle said to Mara made an impact,” Fortunato said.

Mara has sent text messages to Cohen, who responds when she is able.

Following a discussion with her mother about recognizing people who do good things, Mara decided on her own to write a letter to Chief Steve Stahl about Cohen. Friday after school, they dropped off the note at police headquarters.

Maricopa veterans groups are working hand in hand with Honoring/Hiring/Helping Our Heroes of Pinal (HOHP) Mobile Veteran Outreach Center to spread the word about available resources.

HOHP, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion will participate in this month’s “Coffee with the Chief” session, which will focus on veterans’ needs.

“Coffee with the Chief” with Police Chief Steve Stahl is scheduled for Feb. 14 from 8 to 9:30 a.m. at the Maricopa Police Department, 39675 W. Civic Center Plaza South.

According to MPD spokesman Ricardo Alvarado, “This event will have information from various groups who collaborate with the police department and respond to Maricopa and other cities within Pinal County for veteran crisis needs.”

VFW Post 12043 Commander Mike Kemery said outreach also includes VFW Charities and “we have our own relief funds for needy veterans.”

But he points out a disparity in the number of veterans said to be living in Maricopa (around 4,000) and the number involved with veterans organizations (less than 400). So getting veterans directed to the appropriate resources can be challenging.

Kemery said the VFW’s directive, especially for its service officer, is to take care of vets, whether they are members or not. He said some veterans don’t want to be involved in organizations “because they’re fed up with the military. But they need help, and we render assistance. It’s vets taking care of vets.”

The spotlight turned on veterans’ needs in the wake of an officer-involved shooting that ended the life of an Iraq War veteran said to be suffering from PTSD. The resources currently available and soon to arrive in Maricopa will be highlighted at the “Coffee with the Chief.”

The event is open to the public.

Stahl will update residents about the MPD, followed by a question-and-answer period. Specifically, though, the event will provide connections to resources for veterans. The event was planned even before a public outpouring for better veterans’ services that came before the city council on Tuesday.

Kemery is on Stahl’s advisory panel. “A lot of people don’t realize that Maricopa is more veteran-friendly than almost any other community,” he said.

The commander credited the city with being acutely aware of its war veterans and said city hall had never denied anything to the vets. He said the city has played an important role in the struggle to get the Veterans Administration to recognize Maricopa and its needs.

“I believe we have the resources to nip this thing,” American Legion Commander Chris Flores told the city council Feb. 3. “The big thing we need right now are volunteers.”

He said sometimes all a vet needs is someone to talk to and they are far more likely to talk to another veteran.

“This is the time for solutions, this is the time for answers,” Flores said. “We need to work together to achieve a common goal.”

"The list of things we are doing is long but there is always more to do," Mayor Christian Price said.

Proposed fee changes for Maricopa parks have been posted since November. The adoption of the fees comes before the city council on Tuesday.

The new charges include towel service at Copper Sky, home run fencing, parking lot rentals, dog park rentals and rental of the skate park. The proposal is an effort “to recover a percentage of what the program actually costs to run.”

As proposed, the towel service would be $3 per person or $5 per couple for residents, and $4.50 and $7.50, respectively, for non-residents. Room rental would be $10 an hour for senior groups, $20 an hour for nonprofits and $30 an hour for everyone else. A $100 deposit would also be required.

The home run fencing would be $125 per event per field with a $200 deposit. The bases permit is $5. Additional staff time would cost $35 per hour.

Rental of the small parking lot would be $150 per day for residents. The large parking lot would go for $500 per day. The dog park could be rented for $50 an hour up to a $500 maximum, and the skate park would be $100 per hour up to $1,000 maximum.

Pacana Park lake could be rented for $100 an hour with small ramada rental. Copper Sky lake could be rented for $100 an hour with great lawn or group ramada rental. The concession stand at Pacana Park could be rented for $10 an hour with $100 deposit.

Under current fees, Pacana’s small ramada rental is $10 hour, Copper Sky’s group ramada is $50 an hour, and the great lawn rents for $50 an hour.

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Adam Saks had a busy week even by his standards.

The general manager of UltraStar Multi-tainment Center was promoted to chief operating officer of UltraStar Cinemas. He had just been elected to the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce board and then elected its vice president.

And UltraStar had just been given the chamber’s Waz Business of the Year award.

Saks said being named COO will allow UltraStar “to align corporate operations and maximize use of our properties. Ak-Chin is our No. 1 priority.”

Staying visible and prominent at the local UltraStar is a personal priority for him. The promotion will allow him to be even more involved in information and promotion and the direction of the company.

“I’ll be able to weigh in on other situations,” Saks said. “It will allow me to take my experiences and apply them to a broader range of situations.”

He said UltraStar CEO Alan Grossberg saw the change as Saks taking a leadership position to better support the Ak-Chin building. As COO he will have a role in spreading the multi-tainment model within the company.

The local UltraStar center includes a restaurant, bowling alleys, arcade and games center, food vendors and the movie theaters. The Ak-Chin Indian  Community's partnership with the Super Bowl Host Committee is bringing a Super-Size Party on Super Bowl Sunday to the Ultra-Star and utilizing all of its features. It's that kind of thing that keeps Saks so busy.

Two movie goers recently became Adam Saks fans rather unwittingly when he embraced company policy of responding to community wishes.

That involved the screening of “American Sniper.”

Jack and Peggy Podojil described an audience struck silent by the power of the film. Only after the closing credits did they slowly shuffle into the hall and lobby. “An awesome movie,” Jack Podojil said. “When you leave that theater nobody’s saying a word.”

Outside the theater doors they were greeted by an American flag and more information about the movie’s subject, Chris Kyle. The unexpected flag had a dramatic impact, too.

“We started asking, ‘Who put up the American flag?’” Podojil said. “We wanted to thank them.”

They were pointed in the direction of UltraStar employee Bud Ryan, a past commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars post, and Adam Saks.

“For an individual to take it upon himself to bring a flag, and the theater to let him do that, we thought that was amazing,” Peggy Podojil said.

“We felt this movie needed to be treated with the utmost respect and reverence,” Saks said. “We thought, ‘Hey, could we have something more symbolic?’”

The right kind of flag to display in the right way was right up Ryan’s alley.

“Bud’s an amazing man in his love for veterans,” Saks said.

Saks said it was about following the UltraStar tenets of being a neighborhood theater and responding to unique situations.

The Podojils compared it to the situation in San Diego, UltraStar’s headquarters, when 50 World War II veterans had asked other local theaters to make arrangements for them to see the WWII film “Unbroken” together.  The theaters’ response was negative.

“Alan Grossberg heard about that and said there was no greater service the theater could do,” Saks said. Grossberg invited the vets to the Mission Valley location for a free viewing and even brought in a band to play the national anthem.

Saks said the company seeks that kind of community partnership.

He said the story of Chris Kyle deserved particular notice, though Ryan’s display was done without fanfare or promotion. It was a service to the moviegoers.

That kind of service keeps Saks one of the busiest guys in Maricopa. Now with his new responsibilities, he’s even busier than ever.

Six men were arrested Monday in Maricopa in a marijuana bust on John Wayne Parkway.

According to a spokesman for the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, the arrests are part of a larger investigation. Similar group arrests in the county occurred within a week of that incident.

All six men face the same five charges – possession of marijuana for use, possession of marijuana for sale, transportation of marijuana, conspiracy and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Manuel Lopez Cruz, 30, of Stanfield, was the only one of the five with a residence listed. Others included Raul Deanda Reynaga, 50, Juan C. Lopez Cuen, 34, Luis Martinez Pereyda, 27, Reynoldo Torres Quinonez, 24 and Luis R. Urias Arment, 20.

PCSO expects to release more information on the investigation next week, spokesman Tim Gaffney said.

On Friday, a Stanfield man was among four men arrested in the 20000 block of North John Wayne Parkway. Again, most of the charges involved marijuana.

Arturo Negrete, 21, faces charges of possession of marijuana for use, possession of marijuana for sale, two charges of transportation of marijuana and unlawful flight from law enforcement.

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William Inge’s American play “Bus Stop” forces an odd assortment of cross-country passengers into a small diner in the middle of a snowstorm. In the course of just a few hours lives are changed.

Maricopa Community Theatre will present four performances Jan. 29-31. Thursday is a preview performance at 7 p.m. Tickets are $8.

Regular performances are Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. and again at 7 p.m. General admission is $12. All performances are at the Performing Arts Center at Maricopa High School.

Described as “an Edward Hopper painting with dialogue,” “Bus Stop” mixes four bus passengers and their driver with local denizens of a small-town café in the wee hours. Tensions quickly arise from personality conflicts and pseudo-romantic endeavors.

Jerry Allen plays the male lead, Bo Decker, a loud and pushy young cowboy who is not everything he makes himself out to be.

“This part is the complete polar opposite of who I am,” Allen said. “Bo Decker is definitely pompous. When he’s in the room, you definitely know he’s there.”

Allen has become accustomed to such brash parts, having played Conrad in “Bye-Bye Birdie” and Petruchio in “The Taming of the Shrew.”

In the course of the plot of “Bus Stop,” he gets to dig under the layers of Bo Decker to find the real vulnerability. Bo fancies himself husband material for would-be nightclub singer Cherie, played by Natalie Bell.

It is a bit of a departure for Bell, whose youthful appearance mainly has her in ingénue roles. Playing Cherie demands a different mindset, she said.

Cherie has been around the block, so to speak, and has seen too much of life to want anything to do with Bo. Bell said though Cherie may appear to be a certain type on the outside, “there is a lot more to her than that.”

The cast also includes Carl Diedrich as the bus driver Carl, who has a little something going on with diner owner Elma, played by Hailey Rean Smith. Gabriel Jenkins plays Will Masters, the local sheriff, Cindy Kennedy is the young waitress Grace, veteran actor Timothy Avent is the troubled professor Dr. Lyman and David Vargas plays old cowboy Virgil Blessing, a father figure to Bo.

Bell and Allen are long-time friends and, like the rest of the cast, have worked with director Carrie Vargas before. Allen has been acting since 2004 and, like Jenkins, was taught by Vargas in high school.

Bell has been at the craft since doing theater workshop at age 4. She started working with Vargas in 2010, continued theater in high school and at Arizona State University.

“I’ve been passionate about it my whole life,” she said.

Despite the fact “I look like I’m 12,” Bell has played wide-ranging roles from the innocent to the darkly destructive. Cherie is somewhere in between, she said.

One of the challenges she and Allen face is setting aside their almost-sibling friendship and creating romantic chemistry on stage. What is naturally uncomfortable and even awkward they have been able to use in the clumsy relationship between Cherie and Bo.

Bell said the play “is such a good look at people and relationships, growing to love someone when you actually see them.”

Casting for the play was last fall, with rehearsals starting before Christmas. During the holiday break, however, cast members where mostly on their own to memorize lines and work out the characters.

“Processing your character is so hard on your own,” Allen said.

MCT has had a theme this season of gathering disparate characters into close confines – witness “The Diary of Anne Frank.”

Vargas describes “Bus Stop” as a play “about the best and worst of humanity being thrust together and how they cope with it in the course of an evening.”

The play makes one mention of a circus, and she saw that as the theme of the play.

“It’s who’s swooping into the center of the circus to be the focus at that time,” she said. “Life is kind of circus-y. You get different people, sets of volatile people in a room, and that’s how we practice.”

Sometimes a character is just outside the ring, and sometimes he’s in the spotlight. Vargas has decided to enhance that through her interpretation of the play.

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In Hollywood, they call this awards season. But for the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce, it is really a time to honor those giving back to the community.

For the chamber’s annual Night of Heroes awards banquet, there were 37 nominees for seven awards. Presented Saturday at Harrah’s Ak-Chin, the awards honored a cross-section of the community, from teachers to big business.

According to Chamber CEO Marla Lewis, the awards are meant to recognize individuals and businesses in Maricopa “who make it a special place to live, work and play. They are all heroes on an everyday basis.”

Lee Anne Clark, a long-time volunteer at the F.O.R. Maricopa Food Bank, received the Renate Chamberlin Volunteer of the Year award.

Torri Anderson, a member Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board and board member for Against Abuse, was named the Sonny Dunn Citizen of the Year. "I was so shocked, first of all, that I forgot to thank my husband," she said. Anderson said her time with Against Abuse, completing the construction of a shelter building, has been a labor of love.

Of the organizations, UltraStar Mult-Tainment Center received “The Waz” Business of the Year award. General Manager Adam Saks and Director of Entertainment Operations Dan Terry were among those on hand to receive the award. Other finalists for the award were Dignity Health Urgent Care and Maricopa Banner Health.

"We were thrilled," Saks said. "We really appreciate the team that we have here and we just want to create great experiences."

Susana Buhisan, who teaches first grade at Butterfield Elementary School in the MUSD, was named Educator the Year.

Mary Witkofski, the community programs manager with the Maricopa Police Department, was named Civil Servant of the Year.

Hey Maricopa TV took the award for Small Business of the Year, and Gina D’Abella’s Recycling Association of Maricopa/ECO Center was named Nonprofit of the Year.

Lewis said nominations for the award were opened up to the entire Maricopa community. The 37 nominees were narrowed to the 21 finalists.

“Anyone, chamber members and community members were encouraged to make nominations,” she said. “We had a nominating committee that was made up of chamber members and past award winners, and they selected the three finalists from the nominations that we received.”

As two police officers were waiting to return to work, a roadside memorial was going up near where Johnathon Guillory was shot.

Maricopa Police Chief Steve Stahl updated his officers on the mental state of the two on automatic leave, and Guillory neighbor Eric Parten exhorted the city council, at its Jan. 20 meeting, to be more involved. And the MPD was sticking to policy.

Sgt. Leonard Perez and Officer Joshua Hawksworth both fired at Guillory in a common area of the Cobblestone Farms development during a confrontation Jan. 18. Guillory died.

The Department of Public Safety quickly took over the investigation, which continues.

Perez and Hawksworth were handled according to MPD policy. Only supervisors, investigators and their Peer Support Team were allowed contact with them during their paid leave, and only on a limited basis.

Stahl was one of the superiors allowed to be in contact with them. He said it was important to them to know their fellow officers wanted to offer support. The chief told his officers the incident was something that would stay with Perez and Hawksworth for the rest of their lives.

Reportedly suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following military service in Iraq and as a contractor in Afghanistan, Guillory had previous dealings with the police at his home on Garden Lane. He also had prior arrests in Maricopa County, according to court records.

In 2013 in Maricopa County, charges included driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, DUI with a blood-alcohol content of .08 or more, driving on a canceled license, possession of false driver license and speeding. In 2014, charges included possession of narcotics and drug paraphernalia, theft by misrepresentation and disorderly conduct. He was convicted of the class 1 misdemeanor theft charge and given probation.

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office was attempting to vacate the suspension of prosecution. The Superior Court had set a status conference on reinstating prosecution for Feb. 2.

Guillory was licensed as an unarmed security guard through DPS.

Now, Parten’s main concerns are for a 4-year-old, a 9-year-old and a widow

He told InMaricopa.com Guillory’s young children often came down the street to play with his children.

“As a community, we need to be a voice for these children, making sure the deceased get appropriate legal representation,” Parten said. “We had a killing in this community. I heard that a family member said there is no reason that this should have happened.”

He said the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ website for the National Center for PTSD and military.com list the first action to take for a veteran suffering a PTSD crisis is to call 911. By early reports on the incident, that is what Guillory did that day.

The 911 calls from the house were listed as hang-ups when MPD responded. MPD later reported Guillory was outside with a gun, which he pointed at the responding officers.

According to MPD policy 1.68, “Officers involved at the scene of a shooting incident shall take those measures that are reasonably necessary to protect themselves, the public, ensure the safety of the officers and to preserve any and all evidence.”

By policy, the top priorities at a shooting scene are preservation of life, scene stabilization, suspect apprehension, property preservation, evidence collection and environmental protection.

Afterward, even supervisors are only allowed to ask general questions of the involved officers about the incident, with the details reserved for the investigating organization and the officers’ attorneys.

DPS is limiting the amount of information on the shooting it is releasing to the public.

“I just don’t want this to die and go away. It would be an injustice to our community,” Parten said.

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She's not your everyday beauty queen. Taking a page from Sandra Bullock, Jaime Buchholz used her passion for a cause, healthy living and a talent for chest compressions to ride to the title of Miss City of Maricopa 2015.

See our gallery.

In a competition Saturday night at Maricopa's Performing Arts Center, the Phoenix resident rose above four other contestants for the crown and the chance to represent the city in the Miss Arizona pageant.

Buchholz, 23, is an Arizona State University graduate working on an advanced degree. She nurses veterans for a living, and her platform of bringing awareness and education of post-traumatic stress disorder brought her into the contest in the first place.

She said military veterans have to know there is no shame in PTSD, and the public needs to better informed about it. From the West Valley, Buchholz said she had learned of the veteran issues in Maricopa, and thought the pageant was a good way to reach out. She used her knowledge of CPR as her talent. Winning did not cross her mind until her name was called.

"I can't wait to work with the City of Maricopa and the veterans here," she said.

The win gives her a $600 scholarship. She also won the Quality of Life award, which was a medal and gift basket.

In the Outstanding Teen competition, two girls brand new to pageants took the titles.

Cristaly Betancourt, 16, is the 2015 Miss City of Maricopa Outstanding Teen. Shyann Dugan, 17, was named Miss Pinal County Outstanding Teen. Both are students at Maricopa High School.

They will also  compete in the state pageant.

Betancourt, a native of Puerto Rico, moved to Maricopa four years ago and lives in Homestead. The daughter of Aidyl Sanchez and Luis Rodriguez, she said she was shocked to win the competition among seven teenagers.

Dugan is a Maricopa native and lives in the Villages at Rancho El Dorado. She said she has been warned to expect a whirlwind and have most of her weekends full for the rest of the year.

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When it comes to community parties in Maricopa, it doesn’t get much better than the festival at Our Lady of Grace Parish.

The eighth annual event is a combination of community gathering, parish anniversary celebration and fund-raiser for the parish’s new church.

With festival activities and carnival rides, the event is set for Friday through Sunday.

Friday’s events run from 4 to 10 p.m.

Saturday the carnival gets going at 10:30 a.m., and the fun lasts until 10 p.m.

Sunday times are noon to 8 p.m.

“It’s our largest fund-raiser, but it’s really a community event for everyone to come just to have a family-friendly event,” parish spokesperson Patti Coutre said.

Festival admission is free. All-day carnival ride wristbands are $18 per day in advance. After noon Friday, the prices are $25 for Friday and $30 Saturday and Sunday.

Live entertainment on Friday starts with the Maricopa High School Marching Band, which is followed by People Who Could Fly and TL;DR. On stage Saturday are Fyrestorm Cheer, Laura Walsh, Cougar Hill, Andy Murray Unplugged, Heather Tyler and Corporate Lockdown.

On Sunday, performers include Matachines, Ballet Folklorico, Charlie West and Eagleheart.

Coutre said the festival also includes a vendor walkway, from solar to dentistry to entrepreneurs, games in KidTown, horse rides, raffles, beer garden, silent auction and tasty foods.

The parish is at 45295 W. Honeycutt Ave. Visit www.OurLadyGraceChurch.org or call 520-568-4605 for more information.

 

Stage Schedule
Jan. 23
4 p.m. Maricopa High School Marching Band
6 p.m. People Who Could Fly
8 p.m. TL;DR

Jan. 24
12:30 p.m.  Fyrestorm Cheer
1:30 p.m.  Local Youth Talent
2:30 p.m.  Laura Walsh
3 p.m.  Cougar Hill
4 p.m.  Andy Murray Unplugged
5 p.m.  Heather Tyler
7:30 p.m.  Corporate Lockdown

“We are still in good hands,” Terry Enos said as he stepped down from the Ak-Chin Tribal Council. “It’s a new era for everybody.

Two newly elected council members were sworn in Wednesday morning and immediately got down to council business.

Ann Marie Antone and Gabriel Lopez won the two seats in the January elections, with Enos coming in third.

“I’m excited and ready to lead,” Antone said.

Antone is new to the council but she’s well known for her work in the community. Lopez is returning the council after a spell away. He previously served three consecutive terms.

“I used to be the youngest person on the council,” Lopez said. “Now I’ll be one of the older members.”

After the swearing-in event, the council met and re-elected Louis Manuel Jr. as chairman and selected Delia Carlyle as vice-chair.

“I am honored to have once again been selected to serve my Community as the chairman,” said Manuel. “Together, the entire Tribal Council, as a team, will continue to be advocates for the Ak-Chin Indian Community and continue to build upon a strong foundation for a strong economy and job growth for our Community members.”

“The Ak-Chin Indian Community has a vision for the future and we will work very hard to turn that vision into reality,” Carlyle said.    

Robert Miguel rounds out the 2015 tribal council.

Four of their counterparts on the Maricopa City Council were in attendance at the ceremony – Mayor Christian Price, Peggy Chapados, Henry Wade and Vincent Manfredi.

Lopez delivered remarks bilingually. “We have to listen to our people and lead our people,” he said. “It’s not just one person; it’s all five of us.”

When the City of Maricopa created its Nonprofit Funding Program two years ago, it reserved the right to cut that funding.

That depends on the budget cycle and the accountability of the nonprofits. So, each year, the nonprofits benefiting from the program must explain their handling of the public funding.

That review process brought three nonprofit leaders before the council during Tuesday’s work session to explain their respective programs’ progress.

“It gives us the opportunity after so many months to come back and hear from some of these groups whom we’ve awarded these to, to hear how they are spending the money,” Mayor Christian Price said.

Cynthia Vargo, regional director of the Alzheimer’s Association, said the organization had reached 220 local individuals through its helpline, outreach and visits. They have also worked to increase awareness of the disease and opportunities for help, she said.

The association received $7,500 from the city in 2014.

Maricopa is in the Desert Southwest Chapter, where the association wants to be able to reach more caretakers and “enhance the care they are able to provide to those with dementia,” Vargo said.

They have achieved 60-70 percent of their goals.

“More important than the numbers are the outcomes,” Vargo said. Of those, she cited 96 percent of participants reporting they had increased knowledge and skills, and a decreased sense of isolation.

Cortney Kellenaers, president of the Barcelona AZ Maricopa Soccer Club, said the group trained 13 coaches for their level 4 and 5 diplomas. Eight were not affiliated with Barcelona.

Councilmember Henry Wade pressed Kellenaers to describe how money from the city, which was $15,000, directly benefited students.

“In my opinion as an educator, the more you invest in the educator the more the youth receives. So the better trained your coaches are the better training your kids are going to get,” said Kellenaers, a teacher and coach at Maricopa High School.

Kellenaers narrowed it down to about 40 percent of the funds going directly to the students.

Wade, a new member of council, is still sorting out what his expectations of participants in the program should be.

“His answer told me how he used the funds and that he felt it was a legitimate use of the award. I still question how much went directly to the kids,” Wade said afterward.

Not a team, the academy teaches soccer skills. Kellenaers said outside of the coach training, money from the city was spent on the wages of the professional coaching staff. That freed up the group to use other incoming funds for referees, field maintenance and scholarships.

Maricopa Alliance Against Substance Abuse received $25,000 from the city’s Nonprofit Funding Program.

MAASA Program Director Priscilla Behnke said their mentoring program had been focusing on fatherless students because that was a trend they saw in their participants. Nearly 50 percent of the Maricopa Elementary School where the youth center is located did not have a father in the home, and there were resulting behavioral issues.

Behnke has documented changes in behavior among those in the program. She said 62 percent had no or fewer behavior infractions in the second quarter compared to the first quarter. The number was 59 percent when compared to the previous year.

MAASA also has created group sessions, which they hope to increase in the future, she said. The organization is also trying to recruit more volunteers.

Daniel Rauch, a patrol officer on the swing shift for the Maricopa Police Department, is the department’s first recipient of a quarterly award.

Rauch, 30, joined MPD three years ago after serving time as a detention officer for Maricopa County.

He did not expect the award primarily because he was the officer that suggested the morale-boosting “employee of the quarter” to his superiors. The award acknowledges job performance for the last quarter of 2014.

“The recognition is really an honor,” Rauch said. “I just want to go out and do the best I can for the citizens here.”

He received the award in front of several fellow officers and his fiancée Chantal on Wednesday. Rauch is a resident of Gilbert.

“He’s kind of a gadget man,” Chief Steve Stahl said. He noted that among Rauch’s contributions to the department, he was in the pilot program for the on-body cameras to help the department form policy.

Rauch said he had expressed an interest in the cameras as a means of documenting evidence and community interactions.

Rauch also participated on the DUI Task Force.

Kelly Anderson is the 2015 chairman of the Arizona Transportation Board. The first elected mayor of Maricopa, he continues to be involved in other boards and organizations as well while farming and managing Anderson Palmisano Farms.

First and foremost, he’s happy to be Mr. Mom.

He and his wife Torri have two boys, ages 15 and 13. Torri, is a member of the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board and officer for the Arizona School Boards Association, tasks that often leaves Kelly with the children. He says he enjoys making the rounds of school functions and ball practices.

While he was mayor in 2007, Maricopa hosted the State Transportation Board to discuss public safety issues and connectivity. The proposed grade separation at the railroad tracks was already an idea, and there were several other corridor traffic flow issues in Maricopa.

On the transportation board, District 4 represents Gila, Graham and Pinal counties. Representation cycles through each county. At the time, it had been two cycles since Pinal had a representative on the Transportation Board and was coming due.

“I thought this was something I might be interested in and I decided to throw my hat in the ring,” he says. Anderson was appointed by the governor in 2010.

He says it has been a “fantastic opportunity” to meet with communities around the state about transportation. It has also had its frustrations.

“We’ve seen a lot of things not take place in the state because of funding,” he says.

But he says it has been a learning experience taking a different view from a broader perspective rather than down in the trenches.

The Maricopa Police Department has identified the two officers involved in the shooting of 32-year-old Johnathon Guillory on Sunday.

Sgt. Leonard Perez and Officer Joshua Hawksworth responded to Guillory’s home in Cobblestone Farms on a welfare check after 911 calls originated from the home.

When police arrived, Guillory was walking outside and was believed to have a weapon. An ensuing confrontation led to the man being shot when the officers felt threatened, according to MPD spokesman Ricardo Alvarado.

The Department of Public Safety is investigating the incident. DPS has released no information on the weapon Guillory may have possessed at the time.

He was transported to Chandler Regional Medical Center and was pronounced dead from his wounds.

Guillory served in the military in Iraq. He is survived by a wife and two children. MPD had multiple contacts with Guillory prior to Sunday, according to DPS.

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The contestants had their final rehearsals last week and are now completing their preparations for Saturday’s Miss City of Maricopa pageant.

But there is still time to sign up for a shot at the title and the scholarship that goes with it.

The event in the Performing Arts Center at Maricopa High School includes competitions for Miss City of Maricopa and Miss Pinal County as well as Miss City of Maricopa Outstanding Teen and Miss Pinal County Outstanding Teen.

According to Amanda Zimmerman, co-director of the event, there are currently eight “Miss” competitors, six “Teen” competitors and 10 princesses. The pageant is affiliated with the Miss America organization.

Zimmerman said young women can sign up until the day of competition. More sponsors are welcome, as well.

“They are amazing, educated, very intelligent,” Zimmerman said of this year’s field of competitors. “They have very healthy lifestyles and eating habits. They have to be enrolled in school or expecting to be.”

She points out they are not competing for money but for college scholarships. Miss City of Maricopa contestants must be between the ages of 17 and 24 with a high school diploma or completed GED. They must be U.S. citizens with no previous marriage or children.

Those who have already received their bachelor’s degree can use the scholarship money to pursue an advanced degree, Zimmerman said. There are funds for the runners-up as well. In 2014, the winner received a $2,000 scholarship. The first runner-up received a $1,500 scholarship, and the second runner-up $1,000.

For the Outstanding Teen winners, “it pays their way into State,” said production manager Carrie Vargas.

“Arizona is trying to elevate its level of competition,” Vargas said.

Maricopa is doing its part. Miss City of Maricopa 2013 Jennifer Smested went on to win the Miss Arizona title. Last year, Outstanding Teen Amber Barto won the state title.

Reigning Miss City of Maricopa Sydnee Akers won the interview portion of the 2014 state contest.