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Staff Reports

Staff Reports
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In an online poll at, readers indicated their favorite omelet was dished up at 347 Grill’s brunch buffet. But other restaurants had their devotees, as well.

“Our omelet is simply the best because we use fresh ingredients consisting of fresh spinach, homemade sausage, fresh peppers and onions, fresh diced tomatoes, fresh cooked bacon and other fine ingredients with fresh cracked eggs. Our chefs make our omelets with pride and love.” — Executive Chef Frank Abeyta, 347 Grill, UltraStar Multi-tainment Center

By the numbers:
347 Grill (UltraStar) brunch buffet 157
Sunrise Café 113
Headquarters 89
Agave's at Harrah's Ak-Chin 27
Arroyo Grille at Southern Dunes 27
Silver Spur Grill at The Duke 17
The Buffet at Harrah's Ak-Chin 16
Other 30

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July is National Hot Dog Month. Here are some fun facts about an American staple.

1. Baseball fans consume more than 21 million hot dogs a year at Major League Baseball parks, according to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council.

2. Los Angeles consumes more hot dogs than any other American city. (More than 39 million annually.)

3. On the Fourth of July, Americans eat approximately 150 million hot dogs.

4. Americans spent about $2.5 billion on hot dogs in 2014.

5. Hot dogs are made from meat trimmings, fat, salt and preservatives like sodium nitrite.

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Home sales in Maricopa stayed steady through the second quarter, with prices ranging from $40,000 to $435,000. See the home sales report for June.

Most expensive home
22362 N. O’Sullivan Drive

The most expensive home sold in Maricopa in the last three months was a 4,066-square-foot single-family home in Rancho El Dorado. The four-bedroom home was originally listed at $475,000 and was on the market a little more than a month.

Sold price: $435,000
Square feet: 4,066
Price per s.f.: $106.98
Days on market: 41
Builder: Hacienda
Built: 2005
Bedrooms: 4
Bathrooms: 2.5
Community: Rancho El Dorado
Features: Includes private swimming pool, three-car garage, patio, built-in barbecue and loads of upgrades.
Seller’s agent: Susan Breunig, The Maricopa Real Estate Co.
Buyer’s agent: Christopher Davis, HomeSmart

Least expensive home
19250 N. Taft Ave.

The least expensive home sold in Maricopa in the last three months was an 850-square foot manufactured home on a 30,000-square foot-lot in the Heritage District. Built in 1982, it has three bedrooms and two bathrooms and sits across from Maricopa High School. It sold for $40,000 and was described as “needs work.”

Sold price: $40,000
Square feet: 850
Price per s.f.: $47.05
Days on Market: 8
Model: La Casa
Built: 1982
Bedrooms: 3
Bathrooms: 2
Community: Heritage District
Features: Covered patio, full bath in master bedroom, washer/dryer hookup.
Seller’s agents: Tara Meier and Robin Stone, The Maricopa Real Estate Co.
Buyer’s agent: Tara Meier, The Maricopa Real Estate Co.

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A Go Fund Me account has been set up for the Maricopa family injured in a collision that resulted in the arrest of a six-time deportee.

The single mother and her two children, age 5 and 2, were injured in the July 4 crash on Papago Road. The 5-year-old boy and his mother had to be air-lifted to the hospital.

The incident made national news because the driver being blamed for the collision, 29-year-old Manuel Perez-Vasquez, reportedly had been deported six times since 2012 and allegedly had marijuana in his system. His arrest coincided with the San Francisco arrest of a five-time deportee on murder charges, sparking heated political debate about border security.

After the crash, Perez-Vasquez allegedly ran from the scene with at least one other person but then returned and was taken into custody.

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A July 4 collision on Papago Road that injured two children is being blamed on a driver who was in the country illegally.

A woman with two children was driving a 2002 Oldsmobile Bravado west on Papago near the intersection of Amarillo Valley Road around 2 p.m. Saturday when it collided with an eastbound 2003 Ford Explorer driven by Manuel Perez-Vasquez.

Perez-Vasquez reportedly fled the scene with at least one passenger from the Explorer but later returned.

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu said Perez-Vasquez had been deported to Mexico six times since May 5, 2012.

A 5-year-old boy in the Oldsmobile received a significant laceration to the head, according to PCSO. He was transported to a hospital by air ambulance, and an injured 2-year-old girl was transported by ambulance.

Detectives from the PCSO Vehicular Crimes Unit determined Perez-Vasquez traveled left of center, causing the collision. Perez-Vasquez allegedly showed signs of drug impairment and was placed under arrest on suspicion of driving while impaired by drugs and leaving the scene of an injury collision, a felony. He allegedly confessed to smoking marijuana before the collision.

“He refused to give a blood sample when arrested because he knew he had drugs in his system,” Babeu said. “Detectives had to get a search warrant from a judge to obtain the blood sample.”

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Three vehicles collided on John Wayne Parkway Friday afternoon, causing some traffic backup in the middle of Maricopa.

A witness said a car ran a red light at the intersection between Wells Fargo and Panda Express.

Maricopa Police and Fire departments responded to the scene.

No life-threatening injuries were reported, but first responders looked at several passengers from all of the vehicles, from children to an elderly couple.

For a time traffic was backed up as emergency personnel helped Promise Towing move vehicles off the road.

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Two bodies believed to be Michael and Tina Careccia were recovered overnight at a Papago Road property south of Maricopa.

A man who was taken into custody yesterday as a “person of interest” is now being called a suspect by Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu. Jose Valenzuela, 38, was arrested Wednesday and charged with first-degree murder.

Babeu said the man lived at the property, 50669 W. Papapgo Road, which is owned by Jose Ignacio Valenzuela and Francisca Valenzuela.  Mike Careccia’s brother-in-law Geoff Dugan said in a news conference Wednesday that he was a friend of Mike.

PCSO announced the recovery of the two bodies at 2:30 a.m. after notifying family members of the discovery.

“Our investigators and staff continue to carefully gather evidence that we believe will prove critical to our investigation and result in a stronger criminal case,” Babeu said in the early-morning statement.

Dugan and his wife Lisa, Mike Careccia’s sister, own the property were the Careccia family live two streets away. Mike and Tina Careccia where last seen there sometime the evening of June 21 and were expected to leave home at 5 a.m. June 22 to go to Mesa.

PCSO was scheduled a news conference for noon today.

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The Pinal County Sheriff's Office released the redacted recording of the 911 call the teenage son of Michael Careccia made to report his father and stepmother Tina Careccia missing on June 22. Their car was found later that night. Their whereabouts are still unknown.

Redacted transcript of 911 call:

Male: I’m filing a missing persons report.
Dispatch: Where is the person missing from?
Male: Um

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An online credit card blog has named Maricopa the eighth best American city for veterans.

NerdWallet placed three Arizona cities in the top 10. All cities had higher than average veteran populations and were near at least one military base and had relatively easy access to services. The other Arizona cities making the list were Goodyear and Sierra Vista.

The blog’s study describes Maricopa as “near Luke Air Force Base, Sky Harbor Air National Guard Base, Phoenix Vet Center, Phoenix VA Health Care System and West Valley Vet Center. Maricopa is 35 miles from the former Williams Air Force Base, which shut down in 1993. The space is now used for businesses, colleges and the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.”

The report also lists the services available in nearby Maricopa County.

NerdWallet lists Maricopa’s veteran population as 14.3 percent. The median income for Maricopa veterans is $49,093.

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A $3,000 reward has been offered for information on a missing couple.

On Monday at 7:16 p.m. the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office received a call from an individual reporting Michael Careccia and his wife Tina Careccia had left their residence in the unincorporated area of Maricopa at 5 a.m. for work and never arrived.

An attempt to locate was broadcast to local law enforcement agencies.

At 10:09 p.m. the couples 2008 Honda Accord was located abandoned in the area North Ralston Road and West Papago Road.
If you have any information about their whereabouts, call Geoff at (480) 980-6673 or contact the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office at 520-866-5111.


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The Arizona Department of Transportation approved $36.2 million in funding for the overpass set to cross over the train tracks on State Route 347.
The decision came during an ADOT meeting in Lakeside, Arizona, on Friday attended by Maricopa Mayor Christian Price and other members of the City Council.
The timeline for constructing the overpass would’ve been heavily impacted if ADOT had chosen to allocate the funds elsewhere.
"This is a huge step forward in our countdown to construction of the 347 overpass," Price said. "This means that this project is going to happen. There are many hurdles to still overcome and things will not be built overnight, but this is a win for our city and our partners."
The funding is part of ADOT’s five-year Transportation Facilities Construction Program. This program outlines where the state will invest its funding for the next five years. The decision to fund the overpass reveals the importance of the overpass for the city and state.
“Currently 34,000 vehicles a day use State Route 347 competing with the 60 trains a day traveling the Union Pacific rail line, which creates a significant public safety risk,” Maricopa Assistant to the City Manager Jennifer Brown said in a statement. “The estimated $55 million overpass project will greatly enhance traffic safety, allow better access for first responders and alleviate traffic backups at the Union Pacific Railroad crossing in the city of Maricopa.”

Brown said the project’s funding is allocated in phases. Maricopa is funding the relocation of the Amtrak station as part of Phase I, and ADOT previously agreed to cover all the design and acquisition costs. 

The $36.2 million is expected to fully fund construction costs. The city projects construction will commence in 2020.
The city of Maricopa will continue to seek additional funding from partners such as Pinal County and Ak-Chin Indian Community to accelerate the project.

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Maricopa High School and Against Abuse Inc. are among the beneficiaries of the first RICO cycle of 2015.

The Pinal County Attorney’s Office and County Attorney Lando Voyles dispersed $55,500 in Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) funds to 18 county-wide organizations.

Other organizations awarded were the American Legion Fred A. Humphreys Post 8, Boys and Girls Club of Casa Grande, Casa Grande Elementary School District, Central Arizona College Foundation, Coolidge Police Department, Coolidge Youth Coalition, Florence High School, Florence Little League, Hope Women’s Center, Mammoth Christian Youth Center, Pinal County Juvenile Court Community Advisory Board, Pinal Hispanic Council, San Tan Valley Think Tank, Teen Challenge of Arizona, the Town of Superior and CORR.

Organizations apply for RICO funding during two cycles throughout the year. They use the money to supplement funding of substance abuse prevention programs and community education and awareness programs. Local law enforcement partners also apply for funds to help with trainings and equipment for their departments.

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All Maricopa establishments inspected by Pinal County Public Health Services in April received “Excellent” marks.

• Barro’s Pizzo
• Brooklyn Boys Italian Restaurant & Pizza
• Central Arizona College-Maricopa café
• Children’s Learning Adventure Childcare Centers
• Cilantro’s Mexican Cocina
• Circle K (19864 N. Maricopa Road)
• Crate Enterprises
• Helen’s Kitchen
• Honeycutt Coffee
• McDonald’s (20700 N. John Wayne Pkwy.)
• McDonald’s (41710 W. Maricopa Casa Grande Hwy)
• Maricopa High School
• Maricopa Head Start
• Panda Express
• Papa Murphy’s Pizza
• O’Shay’s
• Sonic Drive-In

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McDonald’s 3451
‘Mo’ Hair Wig & Extension Bar
New Towers LLC
Starbucks Coffee
Valley Subs of Arizona LLC (dba Jersey Mike’s Subs)

Aunt Nina’s BBQ
Blueline Promotions LLC
D & J Resale
Legacy Storytellers
M&J Automotive & Cycle
Midwest Food Company LC

Out of town
BTC Construction Inc.
Industrial Electric Inc.
Pressure Sensitive Products Dist. Inc.
Shannon Construction LLC
Solar LLC
Tappendorf Engineering Consultants PLLC
TCM Masonry, Inc.
Tolin Mechanical Systems Company

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School is winding down, but school activities are booming, and other special events are in store this week.

Maricopa Unified School District Gifted CogAT Testing
is Monday-Friday. If you would like your child tested, It is recommended students score in the exceeding category on Galileo Reading or Galileo Math prior to testing.

Friends of the Maricopa Public Library meets at 5:30 p.m. at Maricopa Public Library, 41600 W. Smith-Enke Road. They are dedicated to the service and support of the library. Some of our projects are programs to encourage reading, reading to children, fundraisers, book club, scholarships, and book sales. New members are always welcome.

The Maricopa Planning & Zoning commission meets at 6 p.m. at Maricopa City Hall, 39700 W. Civic Center Plaza. The commission will discuss the proposed Mixed-Use Heritage overlay district and Transportation Corridor overlay district.

Tortosa Blood Drive
is from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Tortosa HOA Office, 36340 W. Picasso St. See Buddy the 25-foot Blood Drop.
Coffee with Friends Maricopa Library is 1:30-3 p.m. at Maricopa Public Library, 41600 W. Smith-Enke Road. Come join the Friends of the Maricopa Public Library for refreshments, conversation, and get acquainted with our Library.

Fifth and Sixth Grade Academic League Finals for the Maricopa Unified School District are at 4 p.m. at Santa Cruz Elementary School, 19845 N Costa Del Sol.

Maricopa Elementary School has a Site Council Meeting is at 5:30 p.m. followed by a PTO Meeting at 6:30 p.m. at the school, 18150 N. Alterra Parkway.

MUSD Title VII Night is at 6 p.m. at the district office, 44150 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Hwy.

The Butterfield Elementary Talent Show starts at 6 p.m. at 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave.

Maricopa Lions Club meets at 7 p.m. at Barro’s Pizza, 44600 Smith-Enke Road. Find out more about Maricopa’s newest service organization.

Pima Butte Elementary School
hosts a Talent Show at 5 p.m., followed by an Art Walk at 6 p.m. at 42202 W. Rancho El Dorado.
The MUSD Governing Board meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. at the district office, 44150 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Hwy. Action items include a budget revision and the hiring of a new principal for Santa Cruz Elementary.

Creative Sister Arts and Crafts weekly meeting is from 9 a.m. to noon at the Copa Center, 44585 W. Honeycutt Road. Open to Maricopa residents 55 or older who enjoy arts and crafts.

The Maricopa Chamber of Commerce Breakfast
hosts Ak-Chin Chairman Louis Manuel Jr., who will speak at the Chamber of Commerce breakfast. He will be presenting an update and overview of Ak-Chin projects and the impact they have on Maricopa.

Desert Wind Middle School Awards Night starts at 6:30 p.m. at 35565 W. Honeycutt Road. They will honor Principal List, Honor Roll, and Athletics.

Santa Cruz Elementary’s Talent Show will be at 9 a.m. and again at 1:30 p.m. at 19845 N. Costa del Sol.

Saddleback Talent Show starts at 6 p.m. at Saddleback Elementary School, 18600 N. Porter Road.

Cheer Parent Night is from 6 to 8 p.m. at Maricopa High School, 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave.
Maricopa Elementary Leadership Day
is from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. at 18150 N. Alterra Parkway. MES has implemented a leadership model, The Leader in Me, that integrates the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Dr. Stephen R. Covey. Leadership Day is an opportunity to showcase their achievements and continue to develop their leadership skills.

MUSD Preschool Child Find is from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the District Office, 44150 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Hwy.

Central Arizona College Commencement for all campuses starts at 7 p.m. at the Signal Peak Campus in Coolidge, 8470 N. Overfield Road.

is from 1:45 to 9 p.m. at the Maricopa High School Performing Arts Center, 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave. More than seven of hours of student music at different locations in the PAC puts the MUSD's fine arts program on display.

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The city kicks off its Movies in the Park series tonight, and UltraStar Multi-tainment center is preparing its Summer Kids’ Movie Series. Meanwhile, Venture Court Productions is ready to launch its “3-Hour Movie Critic” program.

Maricopa’s Movies in the Park series runs bi-weekly on Fridays at Copper Sky Regional Park. Movies are appropriate for families, are shown on an inflatable screen and usually start between 6:30 and 7 p.m.

The series is free. Bring a picnic dinner or enjoy snacks from local concessions.

The Movies in the Park schedule:
May 8 – Planes: Fire & Rescue, in the gymnasium
May 22 – a movie about master builders, in the gymnasium
June 5 – Big Hero 6, in the outdoor amphitheatre
June 19 – a movie about a heroic little fish, in the Copper Sky pool

For film-goers seeking to share their love of movies and learn insider information about current films, Venture Court Productions has launched “3-Hour Movie Critic,” a unique program showing first-run movies.

Starting May 23, the new program is monthly on Saturday mornings in UltraStar’s luxurious Star Class theaters. Adults age 21 and up are invited to register for this program, which will include a movie introduction session, viewing of the film and a critique/analysis session after the showing. Due to the limited size of the plush-seating theaters, the group size is limited.

“Since everyone loves to be a critic, UltraStar’s theaters are the perfect venue to share that interest with others,” program director and screenwriter/movie critic Roger Gillespie said, “We are choosing first-run movies with popular concepts and appeal for our viewers to discuss.”

3-Hour Movie Critic films scheduled:
May 23 – Tomorrowland, the adventure-mystery-sci-fi film stars George Clooney, Hugh Laurie and Britt Robertson with Brad Bird directing.
June 13 – Jurassic World, the next adventure in the sci-fi adventure franchise stars Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard.
July 11 – Minions, the spinoff animated comedy has the voices of Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm and Michael Keaton.

The start time of each film will vary, depending on the theater schedule. The $16 fee includes the ticket, Star Class upgrade, and the pre-viewing introduction and post-movie critique sessions.

Advance registration will be required to guarantee a seat for the limited seating. To register and reserve a seat or for questions, contact: or call 520-568-0199. Registrants will be notified of the Saturday program start time early the week of the showing.

UltraStar kicks off its annual Summer Kids’ Movie Series on May 25.

The series is Monday through Friday. Doors open at 9 a.m. for the feature screening at 9:30 a.m. All films will be presented in 2D format and are rated G or PG.  

To purchase a movie series pass, guests select the day of the week they would like to attend for the one-time ticket price of $5. Each week, they return on the same day to see all 10 weeks of films. Tickets for individual days (not pre-selected in advance) can be purchased at the door for $1 each. Children 2 and under are admitted for free.

Schedule for Summer Kids' Movie Series:
May 25-29 – Dolphin Tale
June 1-5 – Dolphin Tale 2
June 8-12 – The LEGO Movie
June 15-19 – How to Train Your Dragon 2
June 22-26 – Rio 2
June 29-July 3 – Mr. Peabody & Sherman
July 6-July 10 – Penguins of Madagascar
July 13-17 – The Boxtrolls
July 20-24 – The Lorax
July 27-31 – Hotel Transylvania

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At least seven vehicles in the Alterra subdivision were vandalized early Friday morning.

Rear windows and side windows were damaged or completely smashed along Jack Rabbit Trail. Damaged car windows were also reported on Buckhorn Trail.

According to the Maricopa Police Department, the damage was discovered by an officer on patrol at 2 a.m.

A juvenile is suspected of the damage. 

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Maricopa Ace Hardware achieved the designation as a “Pinnacle Performance Retailing” store for its outstanding performance in 2014.

“[Store owner] Mike Richey has won the Pinnacle for the third year in a row. [Maricopa ACE Hardware] is one of the best stores in America, and by far one of the highest volume stores in the state and America,” said John Venhuizen, president and CEO of Ace Hardware Corporation, who visited the store Wednesday. “Pinnacle performance means he is the elite at ACE.”

Developed as part of Ace’s long-term retail growth strategy, 20/20 Vision, Pinnacle Performance Retailing is on Ace’s customers, helping to ensure that Ace stores deliver on its brand promise day in and day out. The team at Maricopa Ace Hardware is one of only 366 Ace retailers to achieve this prestigious Pinnacle status in 2014. To achieve the Pinnacle award, the team at Maricopa Ace successfully completed eight performance drivers that will help them provide a better overall shopping experience.

“Our success in Maricopa is attributed to Maricopa,” Mike Richey said. “Maricopa has really embraced ACE Hardware, and we try to embrace them right back. We support the community, and that’s the key to our success.”

One example of a proven performance driver is “Helpful Certification,” the foundational element of Ace’s “Certified Ace Helpful” retail training curriculum. To become certified, Ace Hardware associates complete courses such as Helpful 101 and 20,1 and the store conducts a week-long team-based certification event.

“For a store to achieve Pinnacle Performance Retailing is an outstanding accomplishment,” said Venhuizen said. “We’re pleased to recognize Maricopa Ace and its associates for their outstanding achievements, and proud to say they’re a part of the Ace family.”

A special individual award for a special employee was also presented Wednesday. Longtime Maricopa store associate Paul Rouse received a Moment of Truth certificate, which was given to him by Venhuizen.

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Classes, meetings, get-togethers and fun are all part of events going on this week in Maricopa.

Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Committee
meets at 5 p.m. at City Hall, 39700 W. Civic Center Plaza. Among other items, the committee will receive a presentation/recommendation from Maria Lewis, president/CEO of the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce, regarding a partnership with senior volunteers.

Maricopa Historical Society meets from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Maricopa Public Library, 41600 W. Smith-Enke Road, to discuss ongoing projects., 602-810-1171.

Coffee with Friends Maricopa Library
is from 1:30 to 3 p.m. at Maricopa Public Library, 41600 W. Smith-Enke Road. Come join the Friends of the Maricopa Public Library for refreshments, conversation, and get acquainted with the Library. All ages are welcome., 520-431-9198.

Public Safety Personnel Retirement System Board meeting starts at 4:30 p.m. at Maricopa City Hall, Human Resources Conference Room, 39700 W. Civic Center Plaza. Five new members of the Maricopa Police Department are coming into the system and two are going out. Two are leaving the system from the fire department.

Maricopa City Council meeting starts at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 39700 W. Civic Center Plaza. Action items include the 2040 Vision and Strategic Plan, a transportation/transit plan, the Non-Profit Funding Program and more.

Butterfield Elementary School
will have its night at Yogurt Jungle from 5 to 7 p.m. at 21101 N. John Wayne Parkway.

Saddleback Elementary School’s Site Council
meeting is from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. at 18600 N. Porter Road. 520-568-6110.

Creative Ram’s Maker Showcase is from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Maricopa High School Library, 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave. Come see what makers of all ages have created using the Creative Ram resources; 3-D printing, Arduino electronic boards, Raspberry Pi computers, iPads, and more., 520-568-8100, ext. 4147.

Santa Cruz Elementary School’s PTO meeting is at 4 p.m. at 19845 N. Costa del Sol. 520-568-5170.

The Maricopa Unified School District Art Walk is from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the district office, 44150 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Hwy. 520-568-8100.

Maricopa High School Evening of Honors is at 6 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center at Maricopa High School, 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave. Honor the success of students in all grades who have demonstrated outstanding achievements in academics, athletics and attendance and those who have received scholarships. 520-568-8100.

Central Arizona College-Maricopa Final Exams
begin and continue through May 14 at 17945 N. Regent Drive. 520-494-6400.

Second Saturday Copa Market
is from 8 a.m. to noon at Copper Sky Regional Park, 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Support your local businesses and check out fresh produce and homemade arts and crafts. kelsie.orrock@maricopa-az, 520-316-6865.

Mental Health Awareness event runs from 9 to 11 a.m. on the Great Lawn at Copper Sky Regional Park, 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Changing the way we think about mental health – includes a balloon release and one-mile walk. Guest speaker is Erin Callinan, author of "Beautifully Bipolar." 520-316-6844.

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2 cups sugar
2 cups gluten free flour (I use Trader Joe’s All Purpose Flour)
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup canola oil
3 eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1.    Preheat oven at 325°.
2.    Grease baking pan and dust with flour.
3.    Combine ingredients in a large bowl.
4.    Bake 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

About the Baker: Celina Shepherd
Family: Husband and daughter
Occupation: Client Loyalty Coordinator, InMaricopa
Home: Native Arizonan, one year Maricopan
Why gluten-free: My family and I have felt wonderful since switching to gluten-free food approximately two years ago and feel it has been the most rewarding health decision we’ve made so far.
Why this recipe:  This recipe is a great example of how baking gluten- free can be both cost-effective and simple.
Favorite baker: Christa Shauger, my amazing friend and baking coach
Favorite cooking show: “The Pioneer Woman”

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After years as a community volunteer as well as serving on the Maricopa Unified School District’s Budget Committee, Gary Miller was elected to the MUSD Governing Board in 2014. A behavioral health specialist, he and his wife are also foster parents.

Why did you want to be on the school board?  Friends and people in the community asked me to run for governing board. My purpose is to be an active citizen in our community. Now that I have school-age children, I want to be involved with the schools the best way I know how. Much of my life involves school. Aha moments are imperative to the learning process. I am a stoic that believes the more education that I receive the more that I understand how much I don’t know.

What has interested you in politics? As a political scientist my concern is with the origins and sources of governmental organizations, their growth and their decline as well as the processes and structure of government and their impact on the people.  

In the campaign, you talked a lot about “access” at MUSD. Can you explain your concerns? To the best of my knowledge, access refers to the timely availability of education services to achieve the best outcomes. Rural areas may have barriers to accessing essential services, which naturally will contribute to poorer outcomes such as access to specialists, transportation, technology, affordable after school care, etc. As our budget continues to decrease, I believe MUSD is doing the best the system can do with the limited resources they have, which is why I vision the community will, within the length of their cable tow, step up more to help meet the need.

How will your background benefit you on the governing board? I have participated on many boards and feel comfortable to advocate for the best interest of the people served by a system. My conservative framework is focused on solutions and measurable outcomes for a more sustainable future.  

What legacy do you want to leave at MUSD? I honestly would rather “do good in secret” (Intoku) than attempt to be a legend, but my goal is to help MUSD to be an A-rated district.

How would you like to see MUSD balance its budget concerns with the focus on being an A-rated district? The obvious goal is for the revenues to equal the expenditures but there are many unknowns over the next few years. I’m interested to know how much the unfunded mandates will cost MUSD after fully implementing the Common Core Standards. To promote access, budget cuts should be as far away from the students as possible. With recent cuts in the state budget and because of the unfunded mandates, we may need to look at deeper budget cuts such as administrative salaries for new administrators or even leasing out a school. I support grant writing that would help fund new medical and behavioral health programs. Fundraising is also imperative to help replace lost revenue to the district as well as help build the reserve fund for a rainy day. I vision a close relationship will develop between MUSD and the City of Maricopa to share non-economic resources to help MUSD become and maintain an A-rated district.

What are your favorite things about the school district? Being present to see the positive collective conscious of the community evolve to build culture within the school and community is priceless. Our district is highly competitive, and I believe competition through school choice may naturally bring forth innovation that serves the best interest of students and their family. I have met many great teachers, administrators, parents, volunteers and community leaders that are dedicated to better the learning experience for the children in our community.

What are the district’s greatest liabilities? No candy coating – as a Constitutional Conservative, I honestly believe Common Core is the greatest liability. I know that some may not agree with me, but because children are all unique with their own strengths and limitations, I don’t see how one size fits all, let alone see a need to further federalize control over state education. Unfunded mandates by the federal government alone raises many sustainability questions. I’m also concerned for teacher low morale and burnout in light of the new challenges posed by Common Core that give rise to a growing number of good teachers leaving the profession.  

What lessons have your children taught you?  
Patience. Patience. Patience. As a parent, there are many demands in our day. I discover that children respond better when we spend quality time with each one of them and actively listen with empathy.  Because we all have a difficult person inside us, children are no different. Rolling with the resistance is a good skill to learn. Being a dad and having the opportunity to teach and observe strengths and new adaptive behaviors is an honor.

: 41
Family:  Wife Jolene, two sons, up to three foster children
Education: Doctorate in behavioral health from ASU. Graduate degree in social work and undergraduate degree is in political science.
Occupation: Delivers cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions that help set the new standard for timely and accurate data collection in the form of a Patient Health Record – “but most importantly, I’m a husband and dad.”
Hobbies: Community service and martial arts. Recently returned to the mat and earned Shodan degree in Shin shin Toitsu Aikido.
Maricopan since: 2005

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Two investigations led to the seizure of 670 pounds of marijuana by the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday.

Around 2 a.m., Manuel A. Breton, 20, of Tolleson was arrested after being stopped on State Route 347 east of Stanfield. According to PCSO, the Isuzu Trooper he was driving contained about 255 pounds of marijuana.

A deputy had driven up alongside the Trooper traveling north and allegedly saw cellophane-wrapped bales in the back seat. During questioning, Breton reportedly admitted being paid to transport 13 bales of marijuana to a site on Interstate 10.

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– Mayor Christian Price was on television this morning talking about the Copper Sky facility and all good things Maricopa on “Sonoran Living,” on ABC 15. Catch the segment here.

– The new Starbucks in the Maricopa Station complex will have a “soft” opening Thursday afternoon. The City of Maricopa and the Chamber of Commerce board will be part of semi-private event with a ribbon-cutting at 5:15 p.m. The store’s hours initially will be 4:30 a.m.-10 p.m., which will be adjusted based on demand.

– The Heritage District Citizen Advisory Committee still has two vacancies. Members are no longer limited to property owners or residents within the district, according to City Clerk Vanessa Bueras. The city’s Board of Adjustment also has two vacancies, as does the Transportation Committee. Learn more at

– HISTORICAL NOTE: Headquarters Restaurant stands on the site of the first schoolhouse in Maricopa. It was built of railroad ties and bridge timbers in 1912. In the 1950s, the school was converted into a restaurant, which was destroyed in a fire but was a predecessor to the dining mainstay.

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A traffic stop on State Route 347 early Tuesday morning led to the arrest of five people. Chief among them was the driver, who faces charges of transporting illegal aliens – for which he was also arrested by PCSO in 2012.

Sergio Salas-Orozco, 27, of Casa Grande, was driving a 2001 Ford Expedition northbound on SR 347 just before 6 a.m. when he was observed by a PCSO Anti-Smuggling Enforcement Unit working an operation in Hidden Valley. According to the report, the detective saw him commit several traffic violations and attempted to stop him.

When the detective turned on his emergency lights, the Ford did not stop and continued on 347 at 60 mph. The vehicle then moved onto the shoulder, still traveling at 60 mph before driving through a fence into the desert. It was stopped by a group of bushes and trees.

Salas-Orozco and seven passengers ran from the vehicle. The detective apprehended Salas-Orozco. Other deputies and members of the U.S. Border patrol arrived and took four more people into custody. The other three passengers were not found.

According to the report, the four passengers admitted to being in the United States illegally.

Salas-Orozco claimed he had picked up the passengers on the side of the road when they asked for a ride.

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A former Maricopa resident died in custody at the Pinal County Jail on Saturday.

Skyler Clem, 22, of Florence, was arrested Friday night by the Florence Police Department on two outstanding warrants for failure to appear related to DUI charges. According to the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, Clem was booked at the jail at 7:14 p.m. and was screened by detention staff and healthcare workers. He denied having any health condition, ingesting drugs or alcohol or having other issues that would require medical attention, according to the report.

“He denied having any experience with the withdrawal affects from drugs and or alcohol and he understood he could request healthcare at any time while he was in jail,” PCSO spokesman Tim Gaffney stated.

Clem was described as cooperative throughout the arrest process. According to the report, he was put into a cell with other inmates and went to sleep.

Saturday morning, he was found unresponsive. He was taken to Anthem Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

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The Maricopa Planning & Zoning Commission
will meet at 6 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall, 39700 W. Civic Center Plaza. They will look at a request to recommend the approval of the Transportation Corridor Overlay District and the Mixed-Use Heritage Overlay District. Contact 520-316-6971.

Maricopa City Council Retreat
starts at 8 a.m. in council chambers at City Hall, 39700 W. Civic Center Plaza. Topics will be the preliminary 2015-16 budget and city department budget requests. Contact 520-568-9098.

The Family Picnic hosted by Saddleback Elementary School, 18600 N. Porter Road, begins at 5 p.m. Call 520-568-6110.

Maricopa Coffee and Book Club meets at 5:30 p.m. at Bead & Berry, 19756 N. John Wayne Pkwy, Suite 106. Join the group for a great discussion about books related to spirituality, yoga, and many other topics that inspire the soul.

Spring Maker Night is 5:30-7:30 p.m. in the Creative Ram Makerspace at Maricopa High School Library, 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave. for a free family event. Take what you make. Call 520-568-8100.

Maricopa Youth Council meets at 6 p.m. in multipurpose room A in Copper Sky Multigenerational Center, 45345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. The agenda includes information on Copa Care Packages, a Spring Field Trip and more. Contact 520-568-9098.

Basic Victims’ Rights Training is Wednesday 9 a.m.-3 p.m. and Thursday from 9 a.m.-noon in Copper Sky Training Room A, 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Offered by the Arizona Attorney General's Office of Victim Services. Registration. Contact 602-542-8456.

The Fun Van comes to Maricopa Public Library, 41600 W. Smith-Enke Road, free weekly literacy event for parents and caregivers of children age 0-5. Programs start at 9 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 2:15 a.m.

Desert Wind Middle School McDonald’s Night is from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at McDonald’s Restaurant, 20700 N. John Wayne Pkwy. Educators will be serving up dinner as a school fund-raiser. Call 520-568-7110.

Student Awards Ceremony for the Maricopa campus of Central Arizona College, 17945 N. Regent Drive, is at 6 p.m. in Building A, Room 101. Students will be recognized for outstanding academic achievements. Call 520-494-6400.

Maricopa Wells Middle School 20+1
program is taking a field trip to Biosphere II. Call 520-568-7100.

Fourth Grade Parent Café
at Maricopa Elementary School, 18150 N. Alterra Pkwy., begins at 8:30 a.m.

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A memorial Mass for Maricopa resident and Country Music Association award-winning radio personality Ronald “Big Daddy” Bee is May 2 in Liverpool, New York.

Bee passed away March 18 in Seattle, Washington, after battling acute myeloid leukemia. He was 67.

A Vietnam War veteran, he was on the air for 35 years in central New York radio markets, including WOLF, WSEN and, most enduringly WBBS (B104.7) in Syracuse, where he was co-host of the “Ron and Becky Show” with Becky Palmer.

In 2004, “The Ron & Becky Show” won the CMA award for Best Radio Personalities in Medium Market.”

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The Maricopa resident who died in a crash on State Route 347 Thursday morning has been identified as LaCrisa Gamble, 39.

According to Department of Public Safety spokesman Bart Graves, the rear-end collision happened at 11:42 a.m. and affected three vehicles at milepost 182.

Graves said a four-door Honda sedan was stopped at a red light in the northbound lanes along with a semi-tractor trailer rig. A Nissan four-door SUV failed to stop and collided with the back of the semi, pushing the truck into the Honda.

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42463 W. Blue Suede Shoes Lane

The most expensive home sold in Maricopa in the first quarter was a 3,173-square-foot single-family home on the waterfront in Province. The four-bedroom, four-bath home includes two master suites. It sold for $447,500.

Sold price: $447,500
Square feet: 3,173
Price per s.f.: $141.03
Days on market: 58
Builder: Engle Homes
Built: 2006
Bedrooms: 4
Bathrooms: 4
Community: Province
Features: Waterfront lot, three-car garage, covered patio, more than $190,000 in upgrades, 12-foot ceilings and Jacuzzi in a gated community
Listing agent: Jay Shaver, TheMaricopa Real Estate Co.
Selling agent: Ryan Kading, Morrison Residential

See list of home sales in March in Maricopa.

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A Celebration of Life for Amy Cole is scheduled at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church on Wednesday. Rosary/Scripture is from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., following which the family will host a potluck dinner, sharing of memories and lots of love.

A long-time Maricopa resident, Amy Cole died April 20. She led the Maricopa Salvation Army for more than 20 years and also served as a nurse at Maricopa High School before working in hospice care.

Though born in Hastings, Michigan, she spent most of her childhood in Maricopa, where her parents Fred and Naoma Cole moved in the 1950s. Amy graduated from Maricopa High School and earned her nursing degree from Central Arizona Community College. She returned to Maricopa after her son Troy was born and worked as a nurse and community volunteer.

“She was the sweetest, most helpful person,” said June Celaya, whose first year as principal at Maricopa High School was Amy’s last year as school nurse. Celaya said Amy “genuinely had the hearts of the kids and the community. She had a real affinity for the needs of the kids.”

From her obituary, written by her niece Coleen Niemann:

“Amy Cole had heart – a big one – and she shared it with everyone. She was a special person, selfless, loving, generous in spirit and deed. On April 20, God called back Amy, probably because her beautiful granddaughter Jerzee needed a most special guardian angel to watch over her.

“As a beloved mother, grandmother, sister, and aunt, Amy's caring spirit and generosity sheltered the people who loved her most. She is survived by her son, Troy Cole (Jayme Kesler); granddaughter Jerzee; grandson Kholt; brother John (Marcia); and nieces Coleen Niemann, Jenna Cole and nephew John W. Cole. She is preceded in death by her parents, Fred and Naoma, and her brother Andrew.

 “As a single mother, Amy was deeply involved in Troy's activities. She was a nurse by day, a "baseball mom" by night, and still found time to tend to other families in need. She was the person who stayed all night with a dying neighbor; the one to bring meals to grieving families; the person who supported Troy's friends during life's many challenges. In fact, she was a second mom to many of Troy's childhood best buddies, and was particularly close to Uli Rojas, Chacho Iglesias and Ray Nieves.

“Amy carried this love of community to strangers, too. She was in charge of Maricopa's Salvation Army chapter, raising money and buying Christmas gifts for families without. Her volunteer work was an extension of her empathy for people in need, and deep-felt responsibility to help ease a burden, whenever she could.

“Amy's love of her neighbors extended even into her professional life. She was a devoted nurse in various roles in our community. Amy worked at one of Maricopa's first healthcare clinics, caring for children and families who often lacked access to medical care. She also was Maricopa High School's school nurse.

“Amy's true passion was to provide care – medical and emotional – for people facing their final days. She spent many years as a hospice nurse in this area, allowing people to die with dignity and peace. Just as important to her, she cared for patients' families, nurturing their souls to ease grief.