Authors Articles byRaquel Hendrickson

Raquel Hendrickson

Raquel Hendrickson
1078 Articles 4 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.

The City of Maricopa has a total proposed budget of $114 million.

The city council approved the tentative budget May 19.

City Manager Gregory Rose said he is always proud to be able to say the budget is balanced, but it has been a painful process this year. He said there were many items requested by city departments “that legitimately should be funded” that could not be.

The primary and secondary tax rates are decreasing. The primary rate slides from $4.98 per $100 assessed value to $4.78. The secondary tax rate, which is paying off two voter-approved bonds for Copper Sky Regional Park, decreases 66 cents to $1.70.

That creates a total property tax rate of $6.48 for the new fiscal year compared to $7.34 last year. The maximum tax levy is rising from $11.2 million to $11.6 million. The city’s sales tax remains unchanged.

In arriving at the balanced budget, Rose said Maricopa’s top priorities were economic stability, transportation, public safety, quality of life and quality of municipal services.

He said all services remain the same except for an increase in the Police Department’s service levels. MPD is moving its dispatch services in-house in December or January when the substation at Copper Sky is completed.

In the operating budget of $51 million, general fund expenditures are $32 million. There is a contingency fund of $500,000. The budget should be in the black by $12,000.

“This is the first year in a few years where the operating budget actually balanced,” Finance Director Brian Ritschel said.

The strategy, Rose said, was to ensure “that we are adhering to the financial policies that have been adopted by the mayor and council, as well as ensuring we are as transparent as possible.”

Last year, the city was far short of estimates for capital improvement grant revenues. The city had budgeted for more than $55 million in CIP grants but attained $250,000, as government funding was cut. Total revenues not related to property taxes shrank from the early estimate of more than $100 million to the reality of $32 million.

For the new budget, the city is estimating total non-property-tax revenues of $70 million. “There was a slight increase in the state-shared revenue estimates,” Ritschel said.

Rose said the city is still seeking a grant for a new ladder truck. “Should we not receive it, we have already identified a way that we can fund the purchase of that” with an interfund that allows money to be moved from another area.

The city’s CIP has been narrowed from a 10-year plan to a five-year plan, “but for each project that has been identified in the CIP, we’ve identified a way of funding that project,” Rose said.

Four cars bumpered each other in the southbound lanes of State Route 347 this afternoon, causing a major backup of commuter traffic.

Maricopa Fire Department and Maricopa Police called it a minor accident.

Two people requested transportation to a hospital as a precaution but no serious injuries were reported, according to MFD.

The incident near the entrance to Rancho El Dorado and Cobblestone Farms is currently in a clean-up mode.

A base rate increase is in store for customers of the Maricopa Domestic Water Improvement District.

The cost of infrastructure maintenance is a leading cause, office manager Sara Sheehan said.

A public hearing on the tentative budget including the new base rates is scheduled for June 17 at 5:30 p.m. at the district office, 19756 N. John Wayne Parkway, Suite 109.

“We haven’t had a rate increase since 2010,” Sheehan said, adding the increase is only on the base rate, not on the commodity.

MDWID is a public utility serving about 300 customers in the Heritage District of Maricopa. Sheehan said it also manages four other districts for a total of about 600 customers.

Original infrastructure was put in place in the 1980s with upgrades in the 1990s. Two big blows during the current budget year – a major leak on State Route 347 and a well failure – cost the district around $30,000, Sheehan said.

“We have to maintain the system and manage the four other districts,” she said. “We only have five employees, and they have to do a lot of driving.”

The base rate increases
Residential ¾-inch: from $22 to $25
Residential 1-inch: from $38 to $40
Residential 2-inch: from $55 to $60
Residential ¾-inch out of district: from $44 to $50
Residential 2-inch out of district: from $110 to $115
Commercial ¾-inch: from $75 to $80
Commercial 1-inch: from $75 to $80
Commercial 2-inch: from $75 to $80
Commercial ¾-inch out of district: from $75 to $80
Commercial 3-inch: from $110 to $115
Commercial 4-inch: from $165 to $170

A split vote Wednesday approved the tentative Pinal County budget of $421.5 million.

Supervisors Anthony Smith and Steve Miller went against the majority, stating their opposition to the tax rate increase.

The final adoption of the budget is set for June 24.

As part of the budget, the supervisors approved a 20-cent increase in the county’s primary tax rate from $3.7999 per $100 of net assessed value to $3.999. It is the second highest rate in the state behind Pima County.

“I’m still convinced that we can manage our budget in Pinal County without a tax increase, but I’m also worried about the impact on businesses that are exempt from the 1-percent cap,” Smith said.

According to County Manager Greg Stanley, the 20-cent increase will bring in $4 million. A state shift in funding left Pinal County responsible for $4.6 million more than last year.

Miller echoed Smith’s opinion: “I think we could have done it without raising taxes.”

Supervisor Pete Rios pointed to an article in the Capitol Times accusing government entities of “sitting on” millions of dollars that could have gone to counties, cities and schools. “We’re having to do this (raise taxes) because they were hiding money,” he said. “And 90 members of the Legislature did not have the backbone to do what they had to do.”

The overall budget of Pinal County will increase $43 million. Stanley said that is because of $59 million in newly- financed capital projects like the public safety radio system, court expansion and improvements on Hunt Highway and Ironwood/Gantzel Road.

The General Fund will decrease $4.7 million, Stanley said. With “transfers out,” it will be $8.5 million less. The sheriff’s budget has been reduced from $55 million to $44 million.

“We had to deal with some pretty difficult decisions,” Stanley said. “A lot of it was still being done last week.”

“No one here wants to raise taxes,” Chairwoman Cheryl Chase said. “Our staff is exceptional, and even though things are not maybe the way we want them to be, I don’t know what more we could ask of them.”

Stanley said their reserve balance will be around 10 percent of projected expenditures. “We don’t budget so tight that departments are going to run out of money, so there is some flexibility there,” he said.

USS Liberty survivors Phillip Tourney, Ron Kukal and Larry Thorn lead a brief ceremony, including a reading of the names of those who died.

By Raquel Hendrickson

Frustrated and angry about being relegated to a footnote in the middle of one of the most tense military times in world history, survivors of the technical research ship USS Liberty continue to make a stand to be heard.

And they are doing so in Maricopa.

A deadly attack on the U.S. naval vessel in international waters by Israel Defense Forces on June 8, 1967, has continued to be a hot-button issue for those involved. Some survivors of the USS Liberty have made Maricopa their home, as have those who served on aircraft carriers involved in the incident.

Former crewmembers of the Liberty and the carriers gathered at Raceway Bar & Grill on Memorial Day weekend to pay tribute to the 34 men who were killed and the 172 injured. George Sokol, who was aboard the aircraft carrier USS America, has played a key role in getting local notice for the survivors and reuniting them. That includes getting a proclamation from the Maricopa City Council.

Liberty survivors Phillip Tourney, Ron Kukal and Larry Thorn led a brief ceremony, including a reading of the names of those who died.

“We want to tell the truth and honor our shipmates,” Tourney said.

Taking place as it did amid the Six-Day War between Israel and Arab nations and the Cold War friction between the United States and the Soviet Union in the Vietnam era, the impact of the incident was quickly minimized at the time.

Official reports, eye-witness accounts and the subsequent release of more records over the years have kept the attack a he-said-she-said affair even half a century later.

The ship was torpedoed, hit with napalm and strafed by the Israelis, but did not sink. Aircraft carriers USS Saratoga and USS America picked up survivors and dead. Ties among the veterans of the three vessels and others that came in support have remained strong over the years with the shared memory of that ugly day.

It is why long-time Maricopa resident John Nuss, who was aboard the Saratoga, has been involved with the Liberty commemoration. Kukal, who came down from Wyoming for the event, said it was only by the grace of God he survived the attack in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

“The heroism by so many crewmembers saved that ship,” said Tourney, former president of the USS Liberty Veterans Association.

During the attack, aircraft from the America were sent in twice but recalled both times. Because the aircraft carried nuclear weapons, Tourney said “the Cuban Missile Crisis was a square dance” in comparison.

Those at the Memorial Day commemoration expressed bitterness toward Israel and, even more so, the Lyndon Johnson administration. Sokol said Johnson willfully left the Liberty crewmen out there to die to keep from embarrassing Israel.

Many medals and awards came to the crew of the Liberty in the wake of the attack, but very few commendations identify the antagonist in the action. Nor does the proclamation from the Maricopa City Council, which primarily honors the “Patriotism of all who served on USS Liberty.”
“Anytime you criticize Israel, you get called anti-Semitic,” Sokol said.

Israel’s official stance has always been that it was a case of mistaken identity, and its tired military personnel first thought the technical research ship was an Egyptian destroyer.

Tourney is among the survivors who call that nonsense and claim the attack was deliberate to prevent the Liberty from reporting Israel’s maneuvers in the Golan Heights. He dismisses Israel’s claim that pilots never saw the American flag on the Liberty even when the ensign that was shot down was replaced with a larger flag.

Many early military reports on the attack accused the Israel military of “gross negligence.” Though Israel has paid out more than $12 million in compensation to the United States over time, the veterans are not satisfied the nation has ever given a factual account of what happened and why.

The efforts in Maricopa, Sokol said, are small inroads toward gaining recognition for their experience.

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Margo Grant has been in the “creative hair solutions” business for 25 years.

Originally from California, she is opening “Mo” Hair Wig & Extension Bar in Maricopa on June 6. Grant describes her business as “enriching women’s natural beauty.”

She said pop culture has played a big part in the popularity of wigs and hair extensions and many customers are in their 20s and 30s. From Beyonce and Katy Perry to Lady Gaga and the cast of “Games of Thrones,” not-so-real hair is everywhere.

“It’s the trend. All the stars are doing it,” Grant said.

But hair replacement becomes important for cancer patients and others with illnesses that cause hair loss. That is where her lace front wig comes in with its natural looking hairline.

A wig bar allows Grant to create a niche where she can keep prices down. She has three pricing levels at her shop, which is just south of the railroad tracks at 19395 N. John Wayne Parkway. She is at the top of the stairs in Suite 13. Grant also offers private sessions.

A former college track athlete, Grant has worked various jobs over the course of her life but always came back to hair.

“I love how it can change a woman when she looks in the mirror or, these days, takes a selfie,” she said.

Though she investigated opening a shop in other cities, circumstances continued to point her toward Maricopa. Now, she has her sights set on opening a second shop in Maricopa in the coming years as she builds clientele.

951-712-1097
MoHairIndianHair@yahoo.com

Margo Grant, owner
“Mo” Hair Wig & Extension Bar

PERSONAL
Age: 48
Hometown: Riverside, California
Resides: The Villages at Rancho El Dorado
Education: Cal State L.A.
Family: Husband, three kids
Pet peeve: People trying to learn how to put in hair extensions online. Go to a professional!
Car: Cadillac Escalade
Hobbies/Interests: Vacationing

BUSINESS:
First job: Cashier at Target
Favorite job: Current one
Why this business: I like the way it makes women feel and look at themselves.
Why Maricopa: I think it’s where God needs me to be right now.
Greatest challenge: Communicating with others in the same business to grow the industry in a professional way.
Greatest opportunity: There was a lady that owned a shop and taught me the business and helped me get started.
Best business advice ever received: Never give up. Just keep trying no matter what. What’s for you is yours.

Sanai Munoz, 24, of Phoenix, faces multiple drug charges after being arrested in Maricopa by the Pinal County Sheriff's Office Thursday.

Munoz was stopped on State Route 347 at Farrell Road at 12:38 p.m. after apparently trying to flee. He is charged with marijuana possession for use, marijuana possession for sale, transport of marijuana, false reporting to law enforcement and unlawful flight from law enforcement.

His bond was set at $100,000. Munoz has a preliminary hearing in Judge Lyle Riggs’ Justice Court on June 12.

Less than an hour later, two men without stated addresses were stopped on White & Parker Road and both were arrested.

Lionel Armenta Chavez, 31, is charged with possession of a weapon by a prohibited person and possession of dangerous drugs. Omar Rodriguez Cerna, 44, has also been charged with possession of dangerous drugs.

Forty-six people were injured in collisions on State Route 347 between Maricopa and Interstate 10 in 2014. One person died.

Almost every serious crash on SR 347 reignites debate about the roadway and driving habits.

“Typically, driver behavior in rural areas is the No. 1 cause of serious crashes,” said Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) spokesman Dustin Krugel.

Statewide, speed is the most common factor in crashes that lead to citations. Whether causing a crash or not, speeders on SR 347 got a lot of attention from law enforcement last year.

Of the 853 citations issued by the Department of Public Safety (DPS) along that stretch of highway, 26 percent were for speeding. Another 4 percent got caught tailgating.

Three percent were charged with a variety of other dangerous habits like reckless driving, aggressive driving, drifting into occupied lanes and passing poorly, according to DPS.

DPS’ Highway Patrol and ADOT keep an eye on the same statistics for roads like SR 347. Both departments are assigned the task of keeping highways safe, but from different perspectives. How people drive the highways is the concern of the Highway Patrol. How the highways handle the drivers is ADOT’s domain.

“When evaluating safety along a roadway, ADOT considers the following countermeasures, including establishing speed limits, access management, pavement markings, roadside vegetation, lighting, turn lanes, signage, clear sight lines, etc.,” Krugel said.

That could help determine whether roads need changes. And that could impact how DPS patrols.

“When designing a roadway, ADOT's biggest priority is to reduce fatal crashes and other crashes,” Krugel said.

DPS reported 104 total crashes on SR 347 in 2014.

Citations are not a cure-all for bad habits. And adding lanes is not a safeguard. ADOT has no current plans to add lanes to SR 347.

“Widening a highway that is already a four-lane divided highway is not considered a safety enhancement, but would increase capacity by adding more lanes,” Krugel said.

In Arizona last year, the number of highway fatalities dropped 9 percent, according to ADOT’s 2014 Arizona Motor Vehicle Crash Facts. However, the number of total crashes went up 2 percent.

“The drop in fatal collisions was positive, but sadly, there are 774 people who did not go home to their families last year,” said Col. Frank Milstead, director of DPS.

Operation Care, a law-enforcement program created to reduce highway fatalities, has always listed the top causes of death on America’s roadways as speeding, impaired driving and failure to use occupant restraints.

But DUIs were not high on the list for SR 347 citations, though nearly every DUI stop led to an arrest.

Many homes and families have been in the Heritage District for generations.

By Raquel Hendrickson

In the Heritage District, the new collides with the old like nowhere else in Maricopa.

The reminders of an unincorporated “cow town” of 1,000 people are everywhere. Some residents and residences have been there for generations. Symbols of old Maricopa, like the water tower and properties along the railroad, are still holding ground.

The indications of future needs are also obvious.

From the moment an overpass was proposed for State Route 347 over the Union Pacific Railroad tracks, the impact on the Heritage District became a primary concern.

Some buildings will go away when an overpass is constructed. Other changes will occur before that happens if the city can find the right balance in the distinctive neighborhoods of the Heritage District.

“It has challenges that are unique in the city, and it has its own character,” Interim Development Services Director Dana Burkhardt said.

The goal of meeting the special needs of old Maricopa and setting up new Maricopa with modern development tools resulted in overlay districts during the zoning code rewrite process. The Transportation Corridor overlay meets the Mixed-Use Heritage District overlay at the heart of Maricopa – the Heritage District.

“The purpose of the overlay project is to develop unique codes and tools for a specific area,” Burkhardt said, “and to encourage a certain character.”

The city hosted three open houses to explain the overlays and what they could mean for redevelopment in the neighborhood.

“Comments from the open house meetings, I think, have been very supportive,” Senior Planner Rudy Lopez said.

Lopez said there was concern expressed in a letter from Union Pacific as well as from Arizona Grain and Pinal Energy, which own impacted property, before an explanation of the Transportation Corridor (TC) overlay was provided.

The TC overlay applies to the first 150 feet of applicable parcels fronting SR 347, SR 238 and Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway.

The TC overlay is meant to “prevent developments which would conflict with the vision in the General
Plan for these corridors or interrupt the transit, bicycle and pedestrian experience,” according to Article 301 of the zoning code.

The TC overlay is meant to encourage mixed uses that are conducive to pedestrian and bicycle traffic. Burkhardt said where the TC overlay district encounters the Mixed-Use Heritage overlay district, the TC has precedence.

Since 2009, the district has been designated as a redevelopment district under state definitions, making it eligible for Community Development Block Grants and other funding. “That kind of started everything,” Burkhardt said.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have any designated historical structures in Maricopa.”

He said the overlays encourage the development of existing properties to have that historic identity.

After incorporation, the Heritage District had general rural (GR) zoning left over from Pinal County. Burkhardt said that was in place because the area did not have infrastructure such as sewer.

Buildings were on septic systems, creating a problem for anyone subdividing any smaller than an acre. Burkhardt said anything denser than that leads to groundwater issues.

But the Heritage District already had much smaller lots, even 8,000 square feet (less than one-fifth of an acre).

Then the city got pressure to allow residents in the Heritage District to convert their homes into businesses or to make changes to the homes stifled with large setbacks. Burkhardt said approvals were on a block-by-block basis in neighborhood collection of nonconforming uses.

With few storefronts available in the area, accommodating the requests was a way to encourage investment in the neighborhoods. Burkhardt said city staff asked, “How do we create an almost incubator opportunity for people?”

The neighborhoods already defined “mixed use” before the overlays were adopted.

The Mixed-Use Heritage overlay intends to “promote pedestrian-oriented infill development, intensification and reuse of land consistent with the General Plan and the Heritage District Redevelopment Area Plan.”

Maricopa has applied for Community Development Block Grant that could help repair some homes and demolish others that are not salvageable. The city is also seeking a State Special Projects grant for more fire hydrants to improve infrastructure.

Resident Ed Rodriguez noted the cautionary facts that the area is in a floodplain with the FEMA remapping and was also defined as slum and blight in the Redevelopment District Area Plan in 2009.

“It’s not really slum and blighted,” Planning Manager Kazi Haque told the Heritage District Committee. “We just need to remove some structures.”

The Mixed-Use Heritage and Transportation Corridor overlays meet in the Heritage District.

Members of the Maricopa Youth Council package items for the homeless. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson.

By Raquel Hendrickson

If judged on good deeds, it was a fruitful session for the Maricopa Youth Council.

The council wound down its term this week in typical fashion with a service project at its final meeting. Though not officially appointed until mid-December, the 14-member group was productive.

“We’ve done more in a shorter amount of time than others had,” member Caitlynn Barnes said.

Part of Tuesday’s meeting was dedicated to sorting through toiletry items donated by residents for Copa Care Boxes. That is a drive to provide basic necessities like blankets and hygiene products to area homeless people. The winter Copa Care Boxes gathered enough items to help 18 people. The summer drive is still in motion.

Earlier, the council hosted a drive to register bone marrow donors. In two and a half hours of work at Copper Sky Recreation Center, they registered 34 people.

“We have done so much stuff this year,” Samantha Corrales said, “even stuff that was not affiliated with the city.”

The Youth Council members were involved in community events like Salsa Fest and Relay for Life. There was also Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Global Youth Service Day, field trips and the Crime Victims Rights poster contest.

More relaxed than other city committee meetings, the Youth Council meetings are generally held at Copper Sky, and pizza is not uncommon.

The council is comprised of high school and middle school students. With only two graduating, coordinator Heather Lozano encouraged everyone to apply again for the next appointments, if they were dedicated to the council.

In reviewing the term, the members agreed there was a problem with unexcused absenteeism at meetings and events. City council members in attendance suggested they incorporate rules closer to those of other committees, which replace members with chronic absences.

The members at the final meeting were Na Talya James, Alyssa Hollingsworth, Caitlynn Barnes, Evan Grace, Samantha Corrales, Alexis Lozano and Bianca Guzman.

City Councilmember Vincent Manfredi praised the council for its work and ideas. All received pins for their volunteer service.

Duane Layton finally realized his goal of opening a Jersey Mike’s franchise in Maricopa. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Duane Layton was convinced Maricopa was the right place at the right time for a Jersey Mike’s Subs franchise.

In fact, he and his wife Alicia Rosenfield felt that way a year and a half ago when they tried to convince the company to let them go far afield. The couple already had seven franchises in Arizona.

“I knew the people here would want a good, quality sub with something a little different,” Layton said in the throes of a hectic opening week. “So they gave us permission to go out of our territory.”

Jersey Mike’s is the second store to open in the Maricopa Station complex at 21423 N. John Wayne Parkway.

“I had never heard of Jersey Mike’s before,” said customer Rich Inferrera, who showed up with his mother Caroline. Originally from Boston, he called his introductory sub (a double #13 original Italian) “devastating,” in a good way. “It was the best I’ve ever had. It was built perfectly and didn’t fall apart. I asked them to toast it, and they grilled it, which is so much better.”

It was the food that drew Layton (also an aficionado of #13) to the company in the first place.

“We like Jersey Mike’s because of the quality of the food,” Layton said. “It’s a little bit more expensive than our competitors, I admit, but that’s because of the quality of the meats.”

Opening day had customers lined up out the door and a staff trying to find a rhythm. For training, he had carpooled staff up to Phoenix to learn the ropes, but the first onslaught did cause some frenzy. Layton and his support staff stayed on the line to help and guide.

“Day One jitters are over and we’re a lot faster now,” Layton said.

The 1,400-square-foot shop employs 16 people, most of whom live in Maricopa. Manager Renee Bartos used to live in Maricopa and now may move back.

“I saw the employment ads for a Jersey Mike’s in Maricopa and I thought, ‘I always loved that little town,” she said.

The staff is trained to be upbeat and personable. Bartos worked the room to check on patrons, happily giving customer Norm Kydd an autograph. Kydd said besides the food he liked the location near Starbucks.

Layton said he is also happy to be in the same building with Chipotle Mexican Grill, another common franchise partner.

Layton and Rosenfield have long restaurant backgrounds. Layton has worked in eateries for 25 years. Rosenfield’s father owned about 100 restaurants. They met in Colorado and have been married four years. Layton has lived in Arizona for about 20 years.

Family life has made the timing of the opening of the Maricopa restaurant even busier. Rosenfield has been at home with two newborns, and there are already two teenagers.

The five-day grand opening included a free-sub fund-raiser for nine schools in the Maricopa Unified School District. Layton said schools and the Phoenix Children’s Hospital are the two primary pathways for community involvement for Jersey Mike’s. The franchise will occasionally donate funds for local causes but is much more likely to help sponsor events, Layton said.

Jersey Mike’s is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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Electrical District 3 customers going solar after July 1 will be paying more than their neighbors already using panels.

ED3 General Manager William Stacy said the company is changing its solar program due to “rate impact, system reliability and safety.”

ED3 will increase its fixed cost recovery charge from 70 cents to $3. The company will also limit new solar installations to 30 per month.

Stacy spoke to the Maricopa City Council at Tuesday’s meeting during the Call to the Public rather than in an agendized presentation. The council cannot respond to issues not on the agenda, but Mayor Christian Price invited Stacy to return at a future meeting.

There are 793 rooftop solar systems in the district. That is 3.45 percent of its customers. In Maricopa alone, solar installations since January are up 273 percent compared to the same time period last year, according to data from the Development Services Department.

“There has been a tremendous increase, almost exponentially, since the first of the year, and that’s caused us some concern,” Stacy said.

The estimated $730 “unrecovered fixed cost” for each system has a $579,000 impact on rates, he said. “And we don’t want that to continue.”

“Instead of finding a way to embrace technology, the utility companies are always playing these chess games,” said Paul Melnik, a solar consultant with Advanced Energy Systems. “They don’t mention their savings, like not having to buy electricity at high rates during the peak times, because that when solar produces the most – and on your roof where it needs to be.”

Melnik was also concerned about how ED3 was going to implement its monthly limit of additional systems. “We should be among the top three solar locations in the world. It’s sad, it’s really sad,” he said.

ED3’s policy change does not change his confidence in the economic feasibility of solar.

“Solar customers are still going to save 80 to 90 percent on their electric bills,” Melnik added.

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Duane Layton was convinced Maricopa was the right place at the right time for a Jersey Mike’s Subs franchise.

In fact, he and his wife Alicia Rosenfield felt that way a year and a half ago when they tried to convince the company to let them go far afield. The couple already had seven franchises in Arizona.

“I knew the people here would want a good, quality sub with something a little different,” Layton said in the throes of a hectic opening week. “So they gave us permission to go out of our territory.”

Jersey Mike’s is the second store to open in the Maricopa Station complex at 21423 N. John Wayne Parkway.

“I had never heard of Jersey Mike’s before,” said customer Rich Inferrera, who showed up with his mother Caroline. Originally from Boston, he called his introductory sub (a double #13 original Italian) “devastating,” in a good way. “It was the best I’ve ever had. It was built perfectly and didn’t fall apart. I asked them to toast it, and they grilled it, which is so much better.”

It was the food that drew Layton (also an aficionado of #13) to the company in the first place.

“We like Jersey Mike’s because of the quality of the food,” Layton said. “It’s a little bit more expensive than our competitors, I admit, but that’s because of the quality of the meats.”

Opening day had customers lined up out the door and a staff trying to find a rhythm. For training, he had carpooled staff up to Phoenix to learn the ropes, but the first onslaught did cause some frenzy. Layton and his support staff stayed on the line to help and guide.

“Day One jitters are over and we’re a lot faster now,” Layton said.

The 1,400-square-foot shop employs 16 people, most of whom live in Maricopa. Manager Renee Bartos used to live in Maricopa and now may move back.

“I saw the employment ads for a Jersey Mike’s in Maricopa and I thought, ‘I always loved that little town,” she said.

The staff is trained to be upbeat and personable. Bartos worked the room to check on patrons, happily giving customer Norm Kydd an autograph. Kydd said besides the food he liked the location near Starbucks.

Layton said he is also happy to be in the same building with Chipotle Mexican Grill, another common franchise partner.

Layton and Rosenfield have long restaurant backgrounds. Layton has worked in eateries for 25 years. Rosenfield’s father owned about 100 restaurants. They met in Colorado and have been married four years. Layton has lived in Arizona for about 20 years.

If judged on good deeds, it was a fruitful session for the Maricopa Youth Council.

The council wound down its term this week in typical fashion with a service project at its final meeting. Though not officially appointed until mid-December, the 14-member group was productive.

“We’ve done more in a shorter amount of time than others had,” member Caitlynn Barnes said.

Part of Tuesday’s meeting was dedicated to sorting through toiletry items donated by residents for Copa Care Boxes. That is a drive to provide basic necessities like blankets and hygiene products to area homeless people. The winter Copa Care Boxes gathered enough items to help 18 people. The summer drive is still in motion.

Earlier, the council hosted a drive to register bone marrow donors. In two and a half hours of work at Copper Sky Recreation Center, they registered 34 people.

“We have done so much stuff this year,” Samantha Corrales said, “even stuff that was not affiliated with the city.”

The Youth Council members were involved in community events like Salsa Fest and Relay for Life. There was also Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Global Youth Service Day, field trips and the Crime Victims Rights poster contest.

More relaxed than other city committee meetings, the Youth Council meetings are generally held at Copper Sky, and pizza is not uncommon.

The council is comprised of high school and middle school students. With only two graduating, coordinator Heather Lozano encouraged everyone to apply again for the next appointments, if they were dedicated to the council.

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Grab your goggles. A new grant will allow the Maricopa Public Library to get into 3D gaming.

The Maricopa library will receive $9,450 from the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records. The division has awarded more than half a million dollars to library projects around the state this year.

Maricopa Library Manager Erik Surber said the funds will go toward developing a virtual reality gaming program.

“There is an educational aspect that’s pretty obvious,” Surber said. “But it’s also a lot of fun.”

The available games are new and still in a beta-testing mode. Surber said he hopes by early next year there will be a viable program. Besides new games, existing games like Minecraft could be adapted.

He said the library would like to have its virtual reality gaming program in place by September, even if it is just an early version.

Already, people can take virtual trips to Paris, Surber said. He hopes Maricopa kids and adults can take a virtual trip to outer space — or into a haunted house.

The State Library is a division of the Secretary of State’s Office. Secretary of State Michele Reagan said the uses of the grant funds were a sign of the changing times at Arizona libraries. She said they are becoming technology centers.

Besides traditional services, libraries are using the funding for literacy programs, engineering, 3D printers, math spaces, arts, tutoring for teens and more.

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It’s not just mad dogs and Englishmen. A variety of vocations require workers to be out in the midday sun. With triple-digit heat at hand in Maricopa, health experts, employers and workers have been preparing for the onslaught for weeks.

The Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health (ADOSH) provides seminars and webinars training employees on the signs of heat distress. For most situations, measures can be taken to reduce the risks.

“Water, rest and shade” is the ADOSH mantra to employers.

Mike Riggs, parks manager for the City of Maricopa, said his crews are now starting an hour earlier at 5 a.m. With days consisting of mowing, weeding, tree trimming, irrigation, ball field preparation and other park maintenance, they have a lot of exposure to the sun.

“We provide ice, all the guys have water jugs, we have electrolytes,” Riggs said. “We pretty much let them regulate themselves, depending on what they’re doing.”

Street maintenance crews get started even earlier, according to Public Works Director Bill Fay. And his department has water in its health and safety budget. Most of the street department equipment is air conditioned, though some have open cabs. The department supplies workers with hard hats with shade extenders.

Jessie Atencio, ADOSH assistant director, offered tips for employers and employees to prevent heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Workers frequently deal with the sun and the heat radiating off heavy equipment, he said. His advice also applies to those involved in leisure activities in the sun.

1. Preplan the day.
When temperatures rise, “you have a lot of employees out there doing heavy, strenuous work,” Atencio said. “It’s important for employers to know what planning and what projects [they] need to do during the most intense portion of the day when the heat is the worst, and shift work.”

Construction workers commonly work at night or in the early morning to avoid the danger zone of 2-6 p.m. Part of preplanning when work is in remote areas is to have emergency training if a worker suffers a heat-related illness and it will take several minutes for paramedics to arrive.

2. Get training on signs of symptoms.
According to Atencio, symptoms of heat exhaustion, which many dismiss as a simple headache or as just being tired or hungry, include headaches, dizziness, weakness, moist skin, mood changes and an upset stomach. The more serious heat stroke causes dry, hot skin with no sweating, mental confusion and seizures or convulsions. Ultimately, either condition can lead to death, he said. That makes training in recognizing the signs personally and in co-workers vital.

Atencio said best-practices companies provide outreach and reminders, making a game of it with flash cards. ADOSH seeks to create open dialogue between employer and employees regarding the conditions and whether there is adequate water available.

3. Wear appropriate clothing and sunscreen.
Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. In the hot sun, a hat and sunscreen is helpful, Atencio said. Wear light, loose-wicking clothing so sweat can evaporate. Wear a hat that provides shade and ventilation. Sunblock should be at least SPF 15.

Umbrellas on the job site are also becoming commonplace. “That’s excellent,” Atencio said. “The last time I looked there weren’t a lot of trees along the major interstates in Arizona. If you pay close enough attention, you’ll see these work trucks with tools set up in the bed, and they’ll have an umbrella or shade.”

4. Make healthy food and drink choices.
“We’re in an age of caffeinated drinks, and I don’t see that stopping,” Atencio said. “When they’re drinking caffeinated drinks the day before they’re going to have strenuous work, the employee is more susceptible and more vulnerable to heat stress.”

He said electrolyte drinks like Gatorade and the new Squincher packets are good, “but there is never, ever an excuse for not having water. Water should never be substituted.”

He said anyone engaged in activities in high temperatures should drink eight ounces of water every 15 minutes. Avoid hot foods, alcohol and heavy foods that increase your core temperature.

5. Take rest breaks in the shade.
Equally important as staying hydrated is ensuring you are taking adequate breaks in a shaded area. Employees should always take breaks of at least five minutes. Depending on how hot it is, the breaks can take place every 30 to 60 minutes.

For Maricopa parks crews, most of the equipment has shades. The department provides sunscreen and summer hats and recommends crew members wear long-sleeve shirts.

“The big thing for us is making sure they stay hydrated,” Riggs said.

Atencio, ADOSH’s training program manager, said ADOSH offers free training on dealing with heat, with no threat of reprisals or fines. They can call the toll-free number 855-268-5251.

ADOSH has a quarterly newsletter called the ADOSH Advocate, part of an effort to reach vulnerable populations with information on job safety. It also contains a list of free training sessions. There are also posters and brochures to remind workers of tips they have already received.

Employees schooling themselves and employers looking after their employees’ needs are vital to making it through the hot summer days.

“We can’t afford not to,” Riggs said.

 

Upcoming ADOSH heat safety trainings
Three-hour classes on Heat Stress and Haboob Safety will be offered throughout the summer and early fall to remind employers and employees of the hazards of working in hot environments, the need to hydrate and how lifestyle choices can put them at risk for heat-related illness, even heat stroke. Signs and symptoms of heat stress are discussed and the requirements for employers to provide protection through engineering, work practice or personal protective equipment controls. The Haboob Safety portion will address the hazards associated with working and driving during a dust storm and the need to train employees regarding the hazard of contracting Valley Fever, a fungus caused respiratory and systemic illness.

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Though Pinal County’s jobless figures ticked up two-tenths of a point to 6 percent in April, the county gained nearly 800 workers in the available labor force, according to a report released this week.

Many of those entering the work force are finding jobs. About 520 more people were working in Pinal County in April compared to March. Since January, the county has seen more than 2,000 people land jobs.

Pinal County Economic Development Manager Tim Kanavel said it is all in keeping with Pinal’s population growth rate of 1.8 percent.

“We typically gain 8,000 to 9,000 people a year, especially after a bad winter like they had in other parts of the country,” Kanavel said. “Pinal County has more than 5,000 businesses, so the new workers could be a little bit of everywhere.”

He noted there will probably be more job gains reported when Tractor Supply opens in Casa Grande. It is expected to employ 300.

Overall, Arizona’s unemployment rate dropped from 6.2 to 6 percent during the month, but still trailed the national average of 5.4 percent.

The Maricopa City Council moved to “seal the deal between us and the county” for the land to run a recycling center, as Intergovernmental Affairs Director Paul Jepson put it.

Tuesday, the council approved an intergovernmental agreement with Pinal County to lease the land at the Recycle Association of Maricopa (RAM), 46250 McDavid Road, for $1 a year.

Then the council welcomed Right Away Disposal with an agreement for recycling services. RAD “had the most responsive bid” out of only two completed bids for the work, Jepson said.

“We’re ready to start as early as Saturday,” RAD President Jeremy Takas said.

Previously, the city contracted with Gina D’Abella’s Environmental Concerns Organization to handle household recyclables and hazardous wastes. ECO was previously the only bidder on the services, but competition came in this year.

ECO’s extended contract ended in January while the city sought interest from other companies. D’Abella previously said the requirements in the city’s request for proposals made it difficult to keep her costs down.

“Gina has been very involved in the transition process,” Jepson said.

Councilmember Peggy Chapados thanked D’Abella for “years and years of service to the City of Maricopa, often at her own expense, her dedication and her time. You’ve provided valuable service here, and we couldn’t have done this without you.”

The city budgeted $122,000, though the contract is “not to exceed $192,000.” Jepson said there were contingency funds to cover the gap, “but this will get the ball rolling.”

A grant for a fire truck for the city was rescinded, and Maricopa was able to place back into the contingency budget the $130,000 it set aside in matching funds.

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Some of your favorite icons from the past century will hit the stage at the Performing Arts Center on May 30.

The ninth annual Desert Sun Performing Arts dance recital starts at 2 p.m., and tickets are going fast.

The recital theme is “Iconic.” The dances will honor the world’s icons to the music of Elvis, Madonna and more.

“We are all very excited about the recital,” artistic director Ceylan Gentilella said. She opened her studio in Maricopa in 2006.

Performers range from 2 years old to adults. They will perform a variety of genres, including ballet, hip hop, clogging and jazz.

There are three levels of seating in the PAC. Tickets in the rear amphitheater of the auditorium (diamond section) are $15. Tickets in rows 8-14 (sapphire section) are $18. Tickets in the first seven rows (ruby section) are $20.

Though it has a slim margin of $12,000, the proposed operating budget for the City of Maricopa will be balanced.

“This is the first year in a few years where the operating budget actually balanced,” Finance Director Brian Ritschel said. He credited fiscal prudency in the city manager’s office.

The tentative budget comes before the city council for a vote tonight. The final budget is expected June 15.

The total proposed budget is $114 million.

That includes a drop in the tax rates. The primary property tax rate decreases nearly 20 cents to $4.78 per $100 net assessed value. “The net assessed valuation went up,” Ritschel explained.

The secondary tax rate, which is paying off two voter-approved bonds for Copper Sky Regional Park, decreases 66 cents to $1.70.

Ritschel said the primary tax levy is staying consistent. This fiscal year, the levy was $10.3 million. Next fiscal year, it is $10.5 million. The overall tax levy drops from $15.3 million to $14.3 million.

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What was that?

An item too large and slow to move down a typical street was relegated to Maricopa’s back roads Monday, and had an escort from the Department of Public Safety to boot.

According to Arizona Department of Transportation spokesman Tom Herrmann, Ace Heavy Haul was pulling a reactor head from New Mexico to California.

The equipment weighs an estimated 375,000 pounds and is 171 feet long, 25.5 feet wide and 18 feet tall.

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“We’re here to grow this economy,” Ak-Chin Indian Community Chairman Louis Manuel Jr. told the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce Thursday.

In describing some of the areas the community is investigating for the future, Manuel also gave the attendees at the monthly Chamber breakfast a history lesson.

Though much identified with Harrah’s Ak-Chin casino and hotel, Ak-Chin is a farming community, Manuel said. It is also trying to build its industrial areas, exploring the feasibility of fiber optics and looking at ways to further develop its airport. Last week, Golf Advisor ranked Ak-Chin Southern Dunes tops in the nation in its power rankings.

Those are the kinds of projects in which Ak-Chin has invested on its own land and land it purchased. The community expanded its farmland with the purchase of land currently being used for vineyards and other property that contained petroglyphs.

He remained oblique on the specifics of his council’s plans, but competing with Maricopa was not part of the strategy.

“We want to be able to grow and strengthen, and then grow others, too,” Manuel said.

When finding ways to help “the people,” the tribal council views Maricopa and Ak-Chin as one community, he said.

That sparked Ak-Chin’s investments in and donations to local schools and other entities beyond the edicts of revenue-sharing from its gaming compact.

“We want to reach out and identify what we can do,” Manuel said. When the Ak-Chin saw Maricopa wanted a movie theater, it negotiated a deal with San Diego-based UltraStar Cinemas to make it happen. When a push was on for Copper Sky Regional Park, Ak-Chin worked out a deal to chip in.

Future community-wide investments will include contributing to the construction of an overpass on State Route 347 and Interstate 11. Ak-Chin has also been putting its money in projects in Phoenix and Glendale, including hosting Super Bowl events.

“Once you invest that far out, they know that you’re serious,” Manuel said.

Back in the 1940s, the Ak-Chin Community was leasing its agricultural lands to Maricopa farmers, but while the Ak-Chin remained “dirt poor,” several farmers were making a lot of money.

“We took it upon ourselves to save some of those leases and do it ourselves,” he said. That was despite predictions of failure from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and difficulty getting start-up financing. Ak-Chin finally worked out an agreement with the Anderson-Clayton Cotton Gin for farm financing. Local farmers allowed Ak-Chin to use their farming equipment.

The desire for a farming operation played a major part in the creation of the Ak-Chin Constitution in 1961. By 1963, Ak-Chin farms had a profit of $3,000.

About five years ago, that surpassed $2 million, Manuel said. Ak-Chin’s agricultural operation is on 15,000 acres and includes corn, potatoes and cotton.

“The ability to produce and grow is not taken lightly,” the chairman said. “We are stewards of the land.”

While job training, Manuel went through the casino’s management program, which had him working in every department to learn how things were run.

Months after first alleging her predecessor gave the county attorney access to sealed files, Clerk of the Superior Court Amanda Stanford released most of the case numbers affected Friday.

She called the release of the file numbers “a public service.”

Of the 139 cases, Stanford said there were 657 viewings logged. According to the Office of the Clerk of the Superior Court, all but three of the breaches occurred during the administration of Chad Roche, whom Stanford defeated in last year’s Republican primary.

The 105 released cases included criminal, domestic and juvenile proceedings and even marriage license information. Crimes included forgery, endangerment, assault, abuse, illegal drugs and sexual exploitation of a minor.

According to the Pinal County Attorney’s Office (PCAO), however, the access issue was with the Office of the Clerk of the Court. PCAO disputed the characterization of most of the files as sealed. The “vast majority” of the documents cited are allowed to be accessed by the county attorney’s office, the PCAO responded.

“The Pinal County Attorney’s Office believes no cases were jeopardized and no defendants deprived of justice,” Pinal County Attorney Lando Voyles said in a statement Monday. “We continue to vigorously prosecute those who violate the law in Pinal County in an effort to continue keeping Pinal families safe.”

Three cases of breached files in 2013 came to light last year, including a death-penalty case from which the Pinal County Attorney’s Office was eventually disqualified from prosecuting. The visiting judge in that case, Gila County Superior Court Judge Peter Cahill, ruled Voyles and his staff showed “deliberate disregard of court orders” in accessing sealed records.

In February, Roche said the 2013 issues had been resolved by the time he left office and “everything that happened has been addressed multiple times publicly and there were no further issues under my administration.”

The state Supreme Court stepped in to train the Clerk of the Court on how to use and secure the system, according to PCAO.

The “system” is the Arizona Judicial Automated Case System (AJACS). The Office of the Clerk of the Court did not blame AJACS either.

“It is not a fault within the system,” said Odette Apodaca, Business Operations manager. “It was an issue within the assignment of securities.”

According to the clerk’s office, cases were viewed by non-court personnel and at public access terminals in the Florence office. The clerk’s staff is also examining records in the Casa Grande and Apache Junction satellite offices to see if there was incorrect access at those sites as well.

The lobby computers were shut down and access permissions removed.

PCAO put the responsibility for managing the system on the shoulders of the clerk’s office.

The Office of the Clerk of the Superior Court sent its data to the Arizona Supreme Court, the Administrative Office of the Courts, the Attorney General’s Office and the presiding judge and criminal presiding judge of Pinal County.

“We do know that it is the current intention of AOC to appoint a Special Master Judge,” Stanford stated in Friday’s press release, “but it is too preliminary in the process to comment further.”

CRIMINAL CASES
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Just as an escalation in property tax rates becomes real for jurisdictions in Pinal and Pima counties, Pima is taking the state to court over the very issue causing the higher bills.

“Utterly bizarre” is how lobbyist Michael Racy of Racy Associates described the legislative budget formula and how it came to be passed in the wee hours of the last day of the session. He said the process was full of procedural errors that may have been unconstitutional.

Rep. Vince Leach (R-District 11) said the Legislature was following the Arizona Constitution.

The legislative budget moved $46 million in state liability to the counties. That created a surprise deficit of an estimated $4.6 million for Pinal County and $22 million for Pima, according to the County Supervisors Association.

In response to the budget move, the Pinal County Board of Supervisors voted to increase its property tax rate 20 cents. The Pima County supervisors voted to pursue legal action against the Legislature.

Racy lobbied legislators and the governor’s office for months trying to modify the 1 percent property tax cap liability language that impacted only Pima and Pinal counties along with 27 school districts. The cap alone would make Pinal County liable for an estimated $2.8 million.

State Sen. Steve Smith (R-District 11) said he made two phone calls to the governor’s office to try to temper the rollout of the impact, but the legislation went forward as written.

“For whatever it’s worth, I tried to slow it down,” Smith said.

Next budget year, the cap could impact taxing districts in Cochise and Yavapai counties, “even school districts in Maricopa County,” Racy said.

1 percent property tax cap
The voter-initiated, 1-percent cap has been in place 34 years. The law never spelled out what happened if the limit was surpassed.

“No one thought 1 percent would ever be approached,” Leach said.

Though jurisdictions inched above the cap it was not excessive even into the recession years. But in 2014, Pima County raised its overall tax rate 63 cents only a year after a 25-cent jump, and that got the attention of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, Leach said.

“The JLBC was saying, ‘What’s going on here? This line item keeps growing,’” he said. “That’s what got us to where we are today.”

Leach and Racy agreed that part of the cause of districts exceeding the cap has been the low valuations without a corresponding drop in property taxes. But Leach said some jurisdictions all over the state were relying on the state “backfilling” any encroachment of the 1-percent cap. That was estimated to be $40 million in the next fiscal year, Leach said.

Smith said allowing the backfill had been well intentioned but some districts were taking advantage of the safety net.

With the state’s new budget, in any county that exceeds the 1-percent cap plus $1 million, the taxing jurisdictions within the county must pay proportionally.

Racy said that is “really troubling and really problematic because you end up with one jurisdiction paying other jurisdictions’ bills.” He called that unconstitutional. A provision on tax breaks was added in the final day of the budget discussions.

The Legislature delegates the interpretation of the law and its provisions to the Property Tax Oversight Commission, which uses the statewide average to determine which jurisdictions are impacted.

Racy said his work to clarify the budget language through the Legislature seemed to have many on board, but it never moved off the floor. “Almost no one wants to take ownership of the issue,” he said.

Pinal County impact
That piece of the state budget has taxing districts within the county in a quandary and even at odds with one another. Maricopa officials have spoken out against Pinal County’s tax hike to 3.999 and a proposed increase in the Central Arizona College tax rate.

Mayor Christian Price frequently has equated the liability formula to a balloon. “You can squeeze one end, and the other end goes up, but there is no more air in this balloon,” he said.

Smith, who is from Maricopa, said the impact of the cap’s liability shift on taxing jurisdictions in Pinal County was clear as he sat in on the Senate budget hearings. The item only showed up in “the waning days” of the session, he said.

“This was an alarm to me because it affected basically our entire district,” he said. “Whether you agree with the 1 percent or not, the backfill or not, the state pursuing it or not, the decision to do it through Pima and Pinal counties directly affected our District 11.”

CAC has proposed raising its primary tax rate from 1.91 to 2.76. The CAC board meets May 19 for a public hearing on the increase.

Last week, Price, City Manager Gregory Rose, Finance Director Brian Ritschel and Intergovernmental Affairs Director Paul Jepson met with CAC President Doris Helmich to explain what the budget shift means among the taxing entities. Price said he and the city officials were there to protect the interests of Maricopa.

“We all cross reference each other’s revenues based on the taxation,” Price said. “If we raise our taxes, we just pull from CAC and Pinal County and vice versa.”

Helmich said the college board understands a tax rate increase could have consequences on other jurisdictions like Maricopa.

“The thing is, no one knows what it will mean yet, because it’s the Property Tax Oversight Commission that decides how it’s going to get done, and they don’t meet until September,” Helmich said. “We’re all left not knowing how it affects each other.”

During the meeting, Helmich touted the economic development CAC brings to Maricopa.

Estimates tend to shift on the financial impact increased rates from the county and the college would have on Maricopa. Price said the current estimate is $250,000 “on top of the $1.75 million the state is taking from us.”

Smith said he and Senate President Andy Biggs pointed out to the governor’s office the hardship the implementation of the budget formula would have on Pinal and Pima, already with difficult budget decisions. He said they sought to have it phased in instead of being implemented all at once.

“I tried to slow it down or stop it,” Smith said. “It doesn’t it mean I necessarily agree or disagree with it. It’s just tough economic times for a lot of us, especially in our county. Is there another alternative?

“The plea was made, but unfortunately it was not able to change the direction.”

Why a lawsuit?
Helmich hopes the Pima County suit will resolve the issue, at least in an injunction.

Price said it’s too early to tell how successful the lawsuit might be.

“It needs to be brought to the governor’s attention and the Legislature’s attention,” he said. “Unfortunately, it seems the court is the only way to go.”

“You cannot tax one entity and give it to another, which is sort of the premise of this whole thing,” Helmich. “The way that they’re putting entities into categories is very difficult to understand.”

She called the 1-percent cap liability shift a penalty, “because I don’t know what else to call it.”

Leach, on the other hand, calls it “the Constitution.” He also took issue with the use of the term "shift," but said the real shift is collecting money from districts under the 1-percent cap and giving it to districts over the cap.

Helmich said the college board feels this may be the last time they will be able to get the levy they need. Combined with the secondary rate, CAC’s total rate would be $3.11 for a countywide district. She said that hardly compares to the Maricopa Unified School District rate of $6.60.

Without the possible injunction, Helmich said CAC would lose another $1.5 million.

***ADVERTISEMENT***The college’s future costs include maintenance on the Signal Peak campus on a pay-as-you-go plan, fully staffing its Maricopa campus and replacing a 20-year-old computer system. The latter is more than $3 million, and the administration wants to spread that over two fiscal years.

Price said Maricopa has worked to absorb its pending budget reductions by going without some programs. “The question is, how long can you do that? Sooner or later, you have to pay the piper.”

Pima County is seeking other entities to join in its lawsuit, which is being handled pro bono. Neither CAC nor Maricopa has considered that yet. Price said City Hall would have to evaluate any political fallout that move could have.

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Steven Roberts is deaf. More than a condition, it is its own culture, and he has sought out other deaf residents of the Maricopa area for some time.

They are few and far between.

“I wanted to get socially with the deaf,” he said, translated by his grandson Stephen Roberts, who is hearing. Stephen said he has known American Sign Language since he was 2 to communicate with his grandparents.

Get-togethers in the Phoenix area include nights of poker or bingo, but they are too far away, he said. Roberts learned there may be around 20 deaf people in Maricopa. But how to find them?

Steven, Stephen and Penny Roberts participated in a “Here Us, Hear Us” gathering in April in Maricopa. The event was organized by Fred Greenspan, president of Tylin Promotions, who is hard of hearing.

Greenspan said it was primarily a social gathering to let deaf and hearing intermingle, but he also invited the police and fire departments.

“It’s difficult for them to communicate with the deaf because they don’t encounter the deaf until ‘it’ happens,” Greenspan said.

MPD Officer Mike Knueppel was assigned to the gathering. As hoped, the evening turned into an opportunity to teach basic signs.

Steven Roberts explained the signs for license and registration. At Penny’s urging, he whipped out a card issued by another state to hand to police if there is an incident. The card explains the holder is deaf and does not read lips and provides information about communicating.

Knueppel said he took some ASL in high school. “I don’t remember a whole lot of it, but it’s a lot better than my Spanish,” he said. “I’m not good, but I can do the hard-of-hearing type stuff.”

On scene, he tells people he’s learning, “so please sign slow.” He will also finger-spell and use pen and paper to communicate.

Knueppel said MPD is moving toward immersion in training to deal with a variety of cultures and communities, including the deaf.

Greenspan said Tylin Promotions, which teaches deaf-sensitivity seminars, just received a grant to help teach law enforcement how to better interact with the deaf and hard of hearing.

Greenspan said the deaf are often minimized or ignored in society, leading to a lot of misinformation.

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O’Shays Bar & Grill is undergoing some changes that will be fully realized this summer.

The establishment at 20800 N. John Wayne Parkway has been closed for more than a week, but the bar is expected to re-open sometime this week, according to owner Ralph Skrzypczak.

The opening of the bar section of the business is a taste of things to come. The restaurant has undergone a change in ownership. Skrzypczak said the O’Shays name will stay a little longer. Meanwhile, the restaurant part of the bar & grill is undergoing construction for a major remodel.

“We are working to turn it into a fun and innovative venue,” he said.

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Two guys hanging out in a garage often become a band. Tyler Penny and Rashaud Bell became a clothing company.

Penny, 20, a 2012 graduate of Maricopa High School now working at Intel, and Bell, who is enrolled at the San Francisco Art Institute, dreamed up the Purple Candy Clothing Company while ruminating at home.

They were thinking of simple clothing with simple designs reflecting the sweet life of skateboarding, free-styling and just hangin’.

In fact, Penny said, “sweet life” is the company motto.

Purple Candy Clothing Company was launched in 2014. The name came from the same kicked-back garage sessions, Penny said. Everybody likes candy; and who doesn’t like purple?

Bell’s access to screen printing and Penny’s access to distribution portals have allowed them to create, sell and ship.

“The designs are really simple right now,” Penny said.

There are five selections of light cotton shirts – Sweet Life, First Born, TC, PC and Candy Girl. Each comes in small, medium and large sizes. All are built for comfort while skateboarding or just having fun and enjoying life.

For the moment, Purple Candy is a hobby. As far as Penny is concerned, it will move into a real business category once the revenue starts meeting the investment being put into it.

“Right now, we want to see what we can get from it and how far it can go,” he said.

Co-owner Tyler Penny
Purple Candy Clothing Company

PERSONAL
Family: Mother, grandmother
Hometown: Maricopa
Interests: Skateboarding, creating videos for a YouTube channel
Pets: Dog and cat
Car: 2015 Ford Fiesta

In the Heritage District, the new collides with the old like nowhere else in Maricopa.

The reminders of an unincorporated “cow town” of fewer than 5,000 people are everywhere. Some residents and residences have been there for generations. Symbols of old Maricopa, like the water tower and the railroad properties, are still holding ground.

The indications of future needs are also obvious.

From the moment an overpass was proposed for State Route 347 over the Union-Pacific Railroad tracks, the impact on the Heritage District became a primary issue.

Some buildings will go away when an overpass is constructed. Other changes will occur before that happens if the city can find the right balance in the distinctive neighborhoods of the Heritage District.

“It has challenges that are unique in the city, and it has its own character,” Interim Development Director Dana Burkhardt said.

The goal of meeting the special needs of old Maricopa and setting up new Maricopa with modern development tools resulted in proposals for overlay districts during the zoning code rewrite process. The Transportation Corridor overlay meets the Mixed-Use Heritage District overlay at the heart of Maricopa – the Heritage District.

The Maricopa Planning & Zoning Commission will look at the proposed amendment to the zoning code to allow implementation of the overlay districts Monday at 6 p.m. in city council chambers.

When the Pinal County Board of Supervisors voted to raise the primary property tax rate by 20 cents, it was not Anthony Smith’s idea.

Raising the tax rate, he said, should have been a last resort.

“As mayor (of Maricopa), raising the tax rate was the last, last option,” Smith said. “I could face the people of Pinal County a lot better if we do everything possible and not raise the tax rate.”

The District 4 supervisor, representing the Maricopa area, Smith said he feared the “unintended consequences” the action would cause among other taxing districts like cities and schools within the county.

“We’ve got a strategic plan that we would like to be able get the tax rate down at the state average (2.1779) at some particular point. And just from a whole host of economic development reasons, it appears as though (a tax increase) would be the wrong direction,” Smith said.

District 3 Supervisor Stephen Miller and Smith voted to keep the rate at 3.7999, but no one else did.

After hearing the impact more cuts would have on county departments and services, the board voted 3-2 to bump the rate back to $3.9999 per $100 net assessed value.

The county is facing an additional $4.6 million burden after the state Legislature shifted $45 million in costs to the counties to balance its budget.

The approved tax increase is expected to make up $4 million.

The biggest chunk of Pinal County’s budget impact from the state action comes from a 1 percent property tax cap liability shift. According to the County Supervisors Association of Arizona, the cap applies the Property Tax Oversight Commission’s interpretation of the law that uses statewide average property tax rates to determine which jurisdictions will be impacted.

On that score, only Pinal and Pima counties were hit, Pinal to the tune of $2.8 million.

“Since this state seems to be determined to penalize taxing districts above the state average, it really puts us in the wrong position that, if we continue to go up, takes us that much longer to get out of this penalty box,” Smith said.

Pima has the highest primary tax rate in the state at 4.2779. Pinal is third after Gila County. Pinal’s secondary rate is the fifth lowest, making the combined rate the fourth highest in Arizona.

Pinal was also one of only three counties impacted by additional loss of lottery revenue of $550,000. Yavapai and Mohave also had their lottery appropriations removed.

Pinal County already had 2 percent reductions in its budget. On top of the tax increase, the supervisors voted in April to cut the budget another 4 percent.

It was the lowest amount being considered and could have been as high as 7 percent, or a total of 9 percent when added to the previous cuts.

“Cuts that are too severe will result in less service to your constituents,” said Lynn Hurley, chief deputy for the clerk of the Superior Court. “It will result in longer delivery times and, most importantly, it would result in cutting off our ability to generate more revenue for the general fund.”

Sheriff Paul Babeu said just a 1 percent cut was equal to $250,000, but he and other department heads said they could live with the 4 percent reduction.

The possibility of even deeper cuts in county services swayed the majority of the supervisors toward the primary tax increase. Todd House, District 5, said cutting county services more would negatively affect economic development.

“Economic development in Pinal County is at an all-time high right now. We’ve never seen this kind of increase before in the history of Pinal County,” House said. “Why would I want to do something to endanger that? If you limit services even a little bit, if you make it more difficult to do business even a little bit, they will go somewhere else.”

Maricopa let go of its vision of funding nonprofits … for now.

The city council voted to suspend the program until funding is more secure. Had the city approved the requested funds from its Non-Profit Funding Program, it would have cost $281,450.

“If we continued with funding $300,000 approximately, we would be $300,000 in the hole,” Mayor Christian Price said. “Until we know the true amount from the formula the state is working on –unfortunately, they don’t even know how the formula works, which is very frustrating to us… — we don’t have a lot of choice here.”

Twelve local nonprofit organizations had applied and been evaluated by a committee, with Against Abuse Inc. ranking No. 1.

“Almost $2 million has been struck from the budget this year out of a $30 million budget,” Price said. Half of that goes to police and fire services.

He said the city should know mid-year exactly how much the state would be withholding. Then, he said, the city would have “a new position to bargain from.”

Meanwhile, he and the rest of the council felt it most prudent to suspend the Non-Profit Funding Program. If the city gets more money than expected, the council could go back and restore some funding to the nonprofits.

Councilmember Nancy Smith suggested the city could be a middle agent for the nonprofits to apply for the Proposition 202 funds from the Tohono O’odham Nation. She showed a letter from the nation administration expressing interest in forming partnerships for nonprofits to apply for that money.

The council did approve two requests for the Maricopa Academic Scholarship Match Program. The Maricopa Rotary Club received $3,000, and the Maricopa Friends of the Library received $2,000.

The culmination of the Rotary’s $3,000 fund-raising effort came only a day before the council meeting with a raffle drawing at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center. The matching funds from the city allowed the 10-member club to deliver four scholarships Thursday night at Maricopa High School’s Evening of Honors. The Rotary announced a $3,000 scholarship, a $2,000 scholarship and two $250 scholarships.