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City of Maricopa

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The City of Maricopa marked Hispanic Heritage Month with a ceremony and proclamation, joined by mariachi from Eloy High School and Cuacualti Dance Group at City Hall Tuesday night. The event, presented by the Cultural Affairs Advisory Committee, kicked off a month of activities that include Grammy-winner Ramon Ayala in concert at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center on Saturday, a special Story Time at the library Sept. 27, Mexican Bingo (and chips and salsa) during Game Night at Copper Sky Sept. 28, “My Vida Robot” for Movies Under the Stars at UltraStar, a special event on the works of Frida Kahlo at the library Oct. 11, and Kids Bilingual Story Time and the library every Monday and Tuesday in October. See details on these events at InMaricopa.com/Calendar.

 

Among its incubation tasks, the now defunct Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship (MCE) distributed business loans funded by the City of Maricopa with a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Business Development grant.

The loans totaled $116,000 at a 5 percent interest rate. Years later, more than $98,000 remains to be paid on the loans.


Nine fledgling businesses benefited from loan programs since 2015. Loans ranged from $4,500 to $25,000. The last loan was dispensed Dec. 16, 2016, to River Jumpers LLC.

The MCE was launched in 2013 as an incubator for start-up businesses and a resource for existing companies. It was seeded by a USDA grant of $50,000. Another $120,000 of city-maintained funds was spent that year on a management agreement with Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology (NACET).

“It may have been a little bit before it’s time,” Mayor Christian Price said.

City Council fenced with three consecutive executive directors over how MCE reported its progress, its transparency and its accountability, including for business loans.

One qualifier for USDA loan candidates was that they had been turned down by a bank or other lending source. Low-interest business loans were an important part of MCE’s offerings since 2014.

Two businesses paid off their loans. Some businesses that obtained loans no longer exist and the loans remain outstanding. Others say they are pushing forward and working at paying back the loans.

Price said those results are the nature of incubating businesses just trying to get off the ground.

“As for repayment, that’s something we’re handling internally now,” said Cassandra Brown, the city’s grants coordinator.

The federally funded loans are in the City’s name, meant for MCE programs. Now the City and not MCE has the full task of tracking the loans. “We’re supporting these new businesses, and we’re actively working with these partners,” Brown said.

WYS Education and True Reflections Boutique had loans of $5,000 and $6,000 respectively, and both wiped them out in less than two years.

Several of the loan recipients no longer have functioning webpages and have not posted in social media in more than a year. In default or merely delinquent, four owe more than their original loan due to interest and fees.

HobbyScopes LLC was the first business to land an MCE loan, which was from a revolving loan fund (RLF) in 2015. As an RLF loan was paid off, the money went back into the program to fund more small-business loans. HobbyScopes’ loan was for $6,000, but the company struggled and still has a balance to be paid.

The next two recipients, Precious Hands Healthcare ($25,000) and ProX Detailing ($7,500), have had varying success paying down their loans.

In 2016, though still questioning MCE’s accountability for the loans, City Council unanimously approved up to $200,000 for MCE expenditures. Shortly after, NACET fired the executive director, Dan Beach. Last fall, the city council effectively fired NACET, and MCE closed in spring.

Price said that allowed the city to take a step back and find a different use for money it had dedicated to MCE.

“We’ve taken those funds and beefed up our Economic Development Department and reallocated it to other departments,” the mayor said.

Price said an incubator is still a good idea for Maricopa but will probably change the approach for “growing an economic garden.”

“We’ll probably focus more on partnerships and stair-step it up,” he said. “I envision we’ll have one in the future. I just don’t know when that future will be.”

Multiple attempts to reach loan recipients for comment were unsuccessful.

 

HobbyScopes LLC
Research-quality microscopes for hobbyists and children

Ketalog, Inc.
Advertising, apps and analytics

K&Q Clothing
Men’s and women’s clothing and accessories

Precious Hands Healthcare LLC
Home healthcare services

PropRX LLC
Property cleanup, preservation and house watch

ProX Detailing & Auto Glass
Auto detailing, washing, tinting, windshield repairs and replacement

River Jumpers LLC
Inflatable bouncers, waterslides, rock walls and other party accessories

True Reflections Boutique
Shop-from-home women’s clothing and accessories

WYS Education LLC
Write Your Story, for self-realization, insight and inspiration


This story appears in the August issue of InMaricopa.

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Maricopa Mayor Christian Price holds the gavel as league president.

Mayor Christian Price has been named president of the League of Arizona Cities and Towns.

The organization held its annual conference this week in Phoenix. The 25-member executive committee represents the interests of 91 municipalities.

“It is a tremendous honor and incredible responsibility to be elected president of the Arizona League of Cities and Towns,” Price said. “This position gives Maricopa unprecedented access to state lawmakers, helps to protect her interests and recognizes Maricopa as an influential participant in statewide policy-making.”

The league offers resources and technical assistance to municipalities and represents the league on issues before the Legislature that could impact local government.

Committee officers are elected to two-year terms. Price was the treasurer. He will replace Chandler Mayor Jay Tibshraeny as president.

Phase 1 of the Apex Motor Club project involves the part of the property south of the wash.

 

A lawsuit against the City of Maricopa and Private Motorsports Group is making its way to the Arizona Supreme Court.

Plaintiff Bonita Burks, represented by attorney Tim La Sota, filed a petition for review with the high court Aug. 14. Receipt was logged Aug. 21. The case status is still pending. It has not been assigned to the court schedule.

The case, Bonita Burks v. City of Maricopa, et al., alleges the city inappropriately granted a permit to Private Motorsports Group to build Apex Motor Club in an area that would cause her harm. Burks claimed in court filings the as-yet undeveloped Apex had potential noise and traffic issues not properly considered in city reports.

In July, the Court of Appeals in Tucson ruled Burks did not have standing because she could not prove her home in Rancho El Dorado would be especially impacted by the Apex development more than five miles away. The judges also declined to waive the standing requirement as La Sota requested.

The suit names the City of Maricopa, all councilmembers and the mayor individually, the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission and the zoning administrator, as well as Private Motorsports Group.

The case was initially filed July 19, 2017, when Burks was still represented by attorney Grant Woods. At the Superior Court level, Judge Robert Olson ruled against Burks, who then filed in the appeals court. During the appeals process, La Sota became Burks’ primary counsel.

La Sota had previously represented Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers, an out-of-town group that sued the City over the Apex approval. That case, too, reached the Arizona Supreme Court, where it was rejected for review.

The property in dispute is at the southeast corner of Highway 238 and Ralston Road.

La Sota did not respond to a request for comment. The City does not comment on ongoing litigation.

Taylor Earl talks to the Board of Adjustment about plans for an IHOP. Photo by Michelle Chance

The newest breakfast chain to express interest in serving up business in Maricopa appeared in front of a city board Wednesday afternoon at City Hall.

But, before planning department forwards the project for city council approval, representatives for the International House of Pancakes requested changes to a few of the city’s design requirements. The full-service, 4,764-square-foot restaurant is planned on the southwest corner of the Edison Pointe retail center.

A possible opening date was not discussed.

The Board of Adjustment heard arguments from IHOP representative Taylor Earl of Earl, Curley and Lagarde, a zoning and land use law firm in Phoenix. Earl requested the Board approve design changes that affect the restaurant’s proximity to nearby roadways, as well as the number, location and transparency of windows.

Earl said special circumstances warranted variances to certain commercial building zoning codes.

The layout of the 1.18-acre parcel of land where IHOP plans to open is “quirky,” according to Earl.

A large drainage channel, existing “monument” signage and public utility structures contribute to IHOP’s request to build the structure farther from Edison Road and John Wayne Parkway.

Rodolfo Lopez, senior planner with the City of Maricopa, said zoning code requires businesses to build close to main roadways.

Large, transparent windows aid in visual appeal, Lopez added. “Its purpose is to promote an environment through architectural and urban form design,” Lopez said.

The parcel, through the city’s zoning code specifications, would frame John Wayne Parkway and “celebrate” the building’s architecture.

Earl argued the parcel’s topography and shape make that difficult.

The westside features a sloping property line, and its northeast corner includes a “notch out,” or irregular shape, Earl said.

IHOP wants to limit the number of windows the city requires, mostly because of where the building would be situated on the parcel. Future patrons will enter the restaurant on its north end, nearest its parking lot.

Earl explained the kitchen will face south toward busy Edison Road.

The city prefers those windows exposed to roadways be transparent in an effort to embrace “people viewing” and window shopping, Lopez said.

However, Earl argued a clear view inside the kitchen and other back-of-house operations goes against the aesthetic intent incorporated in city zoning codes.

Earl also said current zoning would compromise the structure’s integrity and argued a need for fewer windows.

With those changes, the IHOP rep said the new eatery will still be easy on the eyes.

“I can tell you that this architecture is very well designed,” Earl said.

Board members passed IHOP’s requests in a 5-1 vote, with Vice Chair Thaddeus Holland opposing.

 

Submitted by Rep. Mark Finchem

Mark Finchem (submitted photo)

On Aug. 15, a news release was circulated by the City of Maricopa that claimed, “The Arizona Legislature Increased your Taxes,” going on to say, “the Arizona Legislature passed and the Governor signed Senate Bill 1529, which significantly changed school funding in selected districts across the state.” At least the press release got that part right, but a significant element of the truth was conspicuously missing.

For decades school districts have received “Desegregation supplemental funding” from both local property taxes (by way of the Primary Property Tax) and from the State General Fund. SB 1529, moved the desegregation supplemental funding from the Primary Property Tax load, to the Secondary Property Tax load, making those school districts who have been collecting Desegregation supplemental funding from the state, accountable for the use of the money to school district residents affected.

When the Legislature first began supplementing local school districts with gap-funding it was an arrangement to ease the strain on local budgets caused by the taxpayer approved 1 percent Property Tax Cap, and the arrangement was to be temporary. Over the years, the urgency to solve segregation was replaced with a sense of entitlement continuation, even though the money was intended to end segregation. In the case of MUSD, the only reason the State has funded desegregation is to address Maricopa’s property tax collection, that is over the 1 percent tax cap. Those school districts that are not over the 1 percent Property Tax Cap, and are under an OCR order to desegregate have never received money from the State, (Phoenix Union is an example). This a problem because the Pinal County and City of Maricopa governmental bodies have made it a problem with their spending habits.

During the 2016 Legislative Session, LD-11 Representatives Vince Leach and Mark Finchem asked about questions generated by the State Auditor General posed to then MUSD School Superintendent Steve Chestnut, “Where is $1,000,000 annually sent to MUSD going; what are you spending it on since after all of these years you have not achieved ‘unitary status’ (desegregation?” His response was short and illustrative of the condition of financial management in many school districts. He simply said, “I don’t know.” In fact, the Superintendent had to check with the Office of Civil Rights to find out how the money was supposed to be spent.

If desegregation has not ended, one is left to ask the tough question, why not? Is it a lack of political will? Or is it that desegregation has been achieved, but the school districts want to keep the tap open and taxpayer money flowing without accountability?

The News Release [also] claims, “The State Legislature passed a law that instituted a secondary property tax without putting it to a vote of those affected, which we believe is illegal and unconstitutional.” This is not a new tax, it is a tax moved from on funding source to another, putting the responsibility for funding on the community that uses the school system, and not other communities that do not have a segregation compliance problem with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of Civil Rights (OCR).

The truth is that with SB 1529, Arizona’s poorer, rural counties are no longer be asked to pay for the inability of allegedly segregated school districts to achieve desegregation, called “unitary status’ by the DOJ, OCR. It is important to emphasize, the money has been set aside for the highly specific purpose of desegregation. And while the News Release claims, “The responsibility for this new tax lies with the State Legislature and the Governor,” the real responsibility lies with the body that spends the money, not with the one that provides the funding.

The salient question for the residents of the City of Maricopa to ask is, “Why has MUSD desegregation not been achieved, is it because of a lack of political will to make the changes needed to desegregate?” Could it be that desegregation has already been achieved and the money is now redirected to another use? Or is it just shear incompetence on behalf of those who are supposed to be stewards of the public funds?

SB 1529 has corrected an inequity, namely taxation without representation. Arizona City residents don’t want to pay MUSD taxes for desegregation when they have precious few dollars for their own children education. It is indeed curious that the Board of Supervisors should have been told by their staff that not all the Desegregation Districts have a 1-percent cap tax problem, and that no state money flows to them thru the supplement, but only to those districts that are evading the vote of the voters that came from SB 1080, a vote to limit taxation on property to 1 percent.

Might it have something to do with the county rate of 3.75 percent (among the highest in the state) and the City of Maricopa at 5 percent (very high if not the highest city rate), leaving only 1.25 percent for CAC and MUSD to fight over?  We, of course, know they don’t–so all collectively go over the 1 percent cap-leaving the shortage for the rest of the state taxpayers to make up.  And the State gets the blame because local taxing jurisdictions can’t or won’t curtail spending?

The time has come for residents of the district to hold their locally elected school board officials, City and even County elected officials accountable for what they are doing with the tax dollars that they have been entrusted with.

Additional information can be found at http://www.arizonatax.org/sites/default/files/publications/position_papers/deseg_handout_1.pdf


Mark Finchem, a Republican, represents LD 11 in the Arizona House of Representatives.

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The City of Maricopa issued a statement that lashed out against state lawmakers this week, blaming the Legislature and Gov. Doug Ducey for tax increases expected to show up on the next property tax bill for Maricopa homeowners.

The raise in secondary property taxes in Maricopa will cost approximately $45 per $100,000 of assessed home value, according to a City Hall press release published Aug. 15.

The release was published on behalf of the City of Maricopa, Pinal County and Maricopa Unified School District, said City Manager Rick Horst.

What does the tax do?

The local tax pays for desegregation funding utilized by MUSD to hire qualified teachers, implement extra support for English Language Learners and other programming.

Nearly 20 Arizona school districts receive this money to aid in compliance with an order from the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights to remediate alleged or proven racial discrimination, according to statute.

MUSD has received desegregation funding since approximately the late 1990s, according to one school official.

The new law shifts the cost burden, previously assigned to taxpayers statewide, to homeowners who live in school districts that receive desegregation dollars.

It’s an issue complicated by Arizona’s complex tax system that mandates a 1 percent property tax cap. The state used to backfill those funds cut off by the cap. Now it’s up to resident homeowners.

Local pushback against the tax

The city says the shift in responsibility is unlawful because voters didn’t get a say.

Nancy Smith (City of Maricopa photo)

“The state Legislature passed a law that instituted a secondary property tax without putting it to a vote of those affected, which we believe is illegal and unconstitutional,” the press release stated.

Mayor Christian Price deferred comment on the subject to Councilmember Nancy Smith.

Smith said Pinal County, the City of Maricopa and Arizona school districts, including MUSD, will analyze the possibilities of legal options to appeal the tax.

Other alternative solutions include restructuring school funding and more dialogue with state legislators.

“We simply ask our state Legislature to come to the table with us to increase communication and allow us to help solve complex issues,” Smith said.

Smith has been a vocal critic of the Legislature, which, she said, often balances its budget “on the backs of towns, cities, counties,” and now school districts.

Smith said those decisions by the state force local governments to determine how to adapt increased costs passed down to them, often taking the form of tax increases.

“We believe it is disingenuous when we hear statements that indicate that our state budget has been passed without raising taxes, when in truth a portion of their budget has been passed to local governments,” Smith said.

The Pinal County Board of Supervisors approved the tax unanimously during a special meeting Wednesday – with some reluctance. 

 “I join with my fellow electeds in the City of Maricopa and Maricopa Unified School District as far as protesting this particular new tax,” said Supervisor Anthony Smith, husband of Nancy Smith. 

State lawmakers double down on tax legality

Senate Bill 1529, signed by Ducey and passed by the Legislature in May, alleges secondary property taxes “levied pursuant to this subsection do not require voter approval.”

State Rep. Mark Finchem (LD 11) maintained the tax’s legality in an opinion piece sent to InMaricopa Thursday.

Mark Finchem (submitted photo)

“This is not a new tax, it is a tax moved from one funding source to another, putting the responsibility for funding on the community that uses the school system, and not other communities that do not have a segregation compliance problem with the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Civil Rights,” Finchem wrote.

Desegregation funding has long been a thorn in many state lawmakers’ sides, with previous, unsuccessful efforts to alleviate the state’s funding portion in the past.

“This issue was on the table long before the now very successful 20×2020 was finalized,” said Rep. Vince Leach (LD 11) regarding Ducey’s teacher salary-raise plan included in this year’s state budget.

Leach suggested lowering local government spending and tax rates to fix the problem.

Sen. Steve Smith

State Sen. Steve Smith (LD 11) questioned how districts spend the money and whether those funds are necessary.

Smith said a solution to the tax debacle is simple: Strike out desegregation funding.

“It’s a bad tax that the local level should eliminate and get rid of it altogether,” Smith said.

MUSD: Desegregation funds crucial to success for every student

Superintendent Tracey Lopeman

District officials said the funding keeps classroom sizes manageable, provides

programming that aids in closing student achievement gaps and is necessary for teaching positions that primarily serve English Language Learners.

The district receives approximately $1.29 million annually in desegregation monies that fund the salaries of about 25 teachers throughout nine schools, according to Superintendent Tracey Lopeman.

“It would be devastating if we lost that funding,” Lopeman said.

In a resident’s lawsuit against the City of Maricopa and a sports-car club, both sides presented their cases to the Arizona Court of Appeals on Wednesday.

Bonita Burks sued the City and Private Motorsports Group after a permit was approved for Apex Motor Club. Apex is intended to be a private club for sports car enthusiasts, with a clubhouse, private racetrack and garages.

During oral arguments, the judges were trying to determine if Burks had legal standing to sue and, if not, whether the requirement should be waived. To show “standing,” Burks would have to prove she would be more impacted than the “community at large” by the potential noise, odor and traffic she complained of.

If the appeals court sides with Burks regarding her “standing,” it would open the legal case to the meat of the matter. That is, whether the City acted illegally in allowing Private Motorsports Group to obtain its permit under the old zoning code.

Pinal County Superior Court Judge Robert Olson has already written his opinion the City did not act correctly in that matter. That opinion, however, was not binding because it was an aside to his ruling Burks had no standing to sue.

The Apex site is at the northwest corner of State Route 238 and Ralston Road. Burks’ home is in Rancho El Dorado, 5.2 miles from the site.

For that reason, the City and Private Motorsports Group have argued Burks does not have standing to file suit. It was a point argued previously before Olson.

“Our argument is, she did not allege or establish at the hearing any facts of personalized injury,” said Roopali Desai of Coppersmith, Schermer & Brockelman, the law firm representing Private Motorsports Group.

Burks’ attorney, while arguing she could have standing because Rancho El Dorado is closer to the Apex site than several other subdivisions, sought to have the whole “standing” requirement waived.

“The zoning matter is a big deal in Maricopa,” said attorney Timothy La Sota, who took over Burks’ case late in the appeals process. He added the statewide concern with zoning issues qualified the case to have the “standing” requirement waived.

La Sota represented Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers in a previous suit against the City that also went before Judge Olson. That was a disagreement over whether the City had taken legislative action or administrative action in granting the permit. MCPT claimed it was legislative action that could be subject to referendum and thus placed on a ballot. The City claimed it was administrative action and not subject to referendum.

Olson ruled in favor of MCPT, but that ruling was overturned by the Court of Appeals in September. However, La Sota brought up that sore spot again during Wednesday’s arguments.

The City, he said, changed its actions to administrative “to get around the referendum” and was trying to do something similar by denying Burks’ standing in the case.

Desai argued the state sets an “incredibly high standard” for establishing standing, and for a reason. She rebuffed attempts by the judges to set up hypothetical situations, saying Burks might have standing if she had to drive SR 238 to work every day but that is not a fact in the case.

“She does not use 238 to access her subdivision,” Desai said.

She also noted facts not in the record from the lower-court case, that three master-planned communities, 1,000 homes, railroad tracks and some business properties lie between the Apex site and Burks’ home. She said a noise study and traffic study refuted attempts to claim personal injury.

La Sota said taking the appellee’s “linear” approach to judging impact of the space between was separating the case from the “true standard” of determining personal injury.

The judges pushed La Sota on the definition of “community at large,” saying the attorney had not supplied evidence Burks is being personally impacted more than the rest of Maricopa “other than saying she is more affected because I say she is.”

The Court of Appeals, Division II, in Tucson has taken the arguments under advisement. Both sides now await its decision. If the court waives the “standing” requirement, the City and Private Motorsports Group would have to again defend the City’s action on permits and zoning.

Though City Attorney Denis Fitzgibbons was present at Wednesday’s hearing, he did not make a presentation to the judges.

The American Legion hosted its annual softball game against city staff, elected officials and community members the morning of the Fourth of July at Copper Sky. Just for fun, the game included Legion baseball players, police and fire officials and current and former mayors while giving the Be Awesome Coalition a spotlight.

Still in early stages, a proposal for a Dutch Bros. Coffee store, with drive thru, came before the Heritage District Committee on Thursday.

Dutch Bros. Coffee is proposing a store in Maricopa, and the Heritage District Citizen Advisory Committee received an early look at plans Thursday.

That’s because the committee gets an opinion on any development in the Heritage District. Dutch Bros. Coffee’s proposal is on the north side of Fast & Friendly Car Wash.

City planner Rudy Lopez said the project still has to go through site plan review and meet criteria currently under discussion. Developers are also seeking a variance.

The project uses an existing access from John Wayne Parkway, but Lopez said there is an easement on the frontage.

“It’s like a no-build zone,” Lopez said, “so they’re going for a variance.”

Project Manager Michael Oakleaf of Archicon Architecture & Interiors said the current plans make sacrifices to fit into the area. That included abandoning some elements and using a color scheme that would “blend in” with the neighboring car wash.

Oakleaf said those concessions are unusual.

“We’re giving up a lot,” he said.

In what Chairman Brian Foose called “a formality,” the committee unanimously voted its support for the project.

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The City of Maricopa is proposing an increase in property taxes. A public hearing is set June 19 at 7 p.m. during city council’s regular session.

Finance Director Brenda Hasler said the primary tax rate will not increase but the tax levy will. The tax rate will stay at $4.7845 per $100 of net assessed value.

“Due to increased property values, the overall amount the City is proposing to collect will increase,” Hasler said.

That required the “Truth in Taxation” notice and the public hearing.

With the increase in the net assessed value in the city, the primary tax levy will increase by $492,761 (4.2 percent) from the 2017-18 fiscal year. The City’s primary property taxes on a $100,000 home would be $478.45, an increase of $19.33.

Trisha Sorensen is the interim city manager. Rick Horst starts June 25.

The city council will vote Tuesday whether to approve new powers and duties for its city manager.

On the agenda June 5 is an ordinance that would amend city code to allow the city manager the ability to “create, consolidate or eliminate” employees, offices, divisions and departments.

The city manager would also have the authority to reclassify full-time employees to other departments, amend their salaries and re-structure the city’s organizational chart. In the current code, the city manager must bring such recommendations to the city council for approval.

The amendment would provide the city manager flexibility to run city operations efficiently, according to Interim City Manager Trisha Sorensen, whose idea it was to amend the code.

“As the city manager, you need to be able to be responsive to changing needs and you never know when that’s going to happen — and to wait two weeks to go to council to get approval for something, sometimes you need that flexibility to do it right away and we don’t have that,” Sorensen said.

Sorensen said she has no plans to consolidate or eliminate any city departments.

If approved, any such actions taken by a city manager would be under two stipulations:

  • The action must be within the annual council-approved budget; and,
  • It must not increase the total full-time city employees approved by council.

Sorensen said the code change request is similar to that of other cities.

The idea to amend the code was a product of this year’s budget discussions when Sorensen said she needed to move existing positions to other departments but couldn’t do it without council approval.

If approved Tuesday night, the city manager’s new powers go into effect immediately under an “emergency measure” – meaning the city would not have to wait the typical 30 days for implementation.

Sorensen said the code change will not give the city manager too much authority, but she said there are checks and balances to a city manager who acts in bad faith.

“If you’ve got a city manager coming in and they’re abusing that authority, then the city council will handle that on an individual basis with the city manager,” Sorensen said.

Ricky Horst, Maricopa’s new city manager will begin work June 25, according to Sorensen.

 

Businesses within the area affected by grade-separation construction apply for temporary sign permits. (City of Maricopa)

 

Maricopa City Council approved a temporary sign permit on May 10 for businesses impacted by the construction of the overpass in midtown Maricopa.

The permit applies to businesses and nonprofits within 300 feet of the affected roads – John Wayne Parkway between Hathaway Avenue and Desert Cedars, Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway between John Wayne Parkway and the Maricopa Unified School District office, and Honeycutt Road between John Wayne Parkway and the MUSD Transportation office.

The temporary signs include a 32-square-foot banner and a 32-square-foot ground sign. They cannot be placed within 40 feet of another sign and cannot interfere with pedestrian or vehicle traffic.

Applications are available at City Hall. The application packet includes examples of specifications. The application process takes up to five days.

Interim City Manager Trisha Sorensen said the program is similar to the temporary holiday sign program the city offers.


This item appears in the June issue of InMaricopa.

Residents confused by a mailing from a water line warranty company bearing the City of Maricopa logo might be throwing them away, but City Hall is encouraging them to participate.

City council unanimously agreed to a partnership with Service Line Warranties of America in a Sept. 5 meeting. The soliciting letters that went out last week from SLWA came unannounced.

“It looks like a scam,” said Jay Robertson, a Rancho El Dorado resident since 2002. “Why is the City involved in this? This is between us and the water company.”

A news release by the City of Maricopa late Tuesday explained an announcement to residents had been planned before the letters went out. “Unfortunately, the email alerting the City to the date of the mailing did not make it through the City’s firewall, so the mailing was sent without prior notification of residents.”

SLWA is asking residents to enroll in its repair coverage program to fix damaged water lines on private property. The program is $5.33 monthly or $63.96 annually. Enrollment is voluntary. The letter, which is nearly identical to a sample letter presented to city council in September, reminds residents that homeowners are responsible for repairs to water lines between their homes and the water utility connection.

This was reiterated in a quote attributed to Mayor Christian Price in Friday’s news release: “Many homeowners do not know that damage to the service lines on their property is their responsibility to repair. In the event of a service line emergency, the homeowner is responsible for scheduling the repair and covering the associated cost. As the City of Maricopa homes age along with the infrastructure serving them, SLWA repair plans provide homeowners with an optional peace of mind solution so they can be better prepared in the event of these unexpected repairs.”

The agreement with the city allows SLWA to conduct up to three campaigns per year comprised of up to six mailings to make homeowners aware of the service. The company also has the right to use the city logo on letterhead, bills and marketing materials.

The city receives 50 cents “per product” as a license fee.

The program is endorsed by the Arizona League of Cities and Towns and used by the City of Phoenix.

Robertson still wasn’t sold on the idea of paying a third party for repairs for which he normally pays a plumber. “It’s like pouring sand down a gopher hole,” he said.

The program is meant to cover residences served by a utility and those on wells and septic tanks.

Not all who receive the notifications from SLWA are homeowners. The company uses a mailing list drawn from zip codes with the four-digit extension and they also purchase a list based on deeds, Ashley Shiwarski of Utility Service Partners, which runs the marketing, told the council in earlier discussions.

The news release also included comments from John Kitzie, CEO of SLWA parent HomeServe USA: “Our service plans not only cover the cost of the repair; they also provide homeowners with reputable, local contractors who will do the best possible job.”

The company has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. Though 17 of the 21 reviews there were negative, BBB takes into consideration a company’s longevity, response to complaints relative to the size of the business and transparency, among other factors, when deciding a rating.

According to the city, a second letter from SWLA is scheduled to be mailed on June 4.

MCE Executive Director Quintin Baker.

Last fall the City of Maricopa decided to not renew the annual contract with the Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship (NACET). The contract between the City of Maricopa and NACET has expired. The Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship (MCE) will close over the next few days.

Current clients working with MCE will be able to receive services from the Small Business Development Center located at Central Arizona College’s Maricopa Campus. The SBDC has business analysts dedicated to assisting local businesses in the City of Maricopa.

The City has funded MCE for the past four years. Over 100 clients have received services through the center’s programming assisting entrepreneurs in everything from transitioning from an employee to employer and mapping out weekly actions to developing a sales acumen and being mentored by local business leaders.

In advance of the expiration of the contract with NACET the City issued a request for qualifications to find an organization to offer support to local entrepreneurs.

“Building an ecosystem for entrepreneurs is not done in a vacuum; often times it includes partners like educational institutions, corporate partners, municipal governments, financial capital partners,” said Mayor Christian Price. “We are excited to continue to be a part of building this ecosystem as we evaluate creative solutions targeted for our City to produce excellent results while partnering with other public and private organizations.”

“The Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship has grown from a virtual location to a brick and mortar site which offered services to many growing entrepreneurs and served as a centralized location for the community to gather. I am excited to see what becomes of the entrepreneurial hub in the future,” said Quintin Baker, Executive Director for MCE.

“The Central Arizona College SBDC is pleased to provide ongoing support to Maricopa’s business community. The center provides confidential, no-cost counseling to businesses that are dedicated to creating jobs and economic impact to the local communities they serve,” said Kevin Fort, director of the CAC SBDC.

“The City of Maricopa has more than 600 businesses including more than 300 home-based businesses who we work with on a daily basis,” explains Economic Development Director Denyse Airheart. “We are committed to creating an environment for these businesses to grow and succeed. We are looking forward to evaluating our options to ensure we provide the services that will most benefit our community.”

Registration with the SBDC and an appointment are required to meet with their business analyst. To register for an appointment, go to https://centralaz.edu/community/business-outreach/small-business-development-center/ or call 520-494-6610. To contact the City’s Economic Development Department call 520-316-6990 or email economicdevelopment@maricopa-az.gov.

Rick Horst. Submitted photo

A finalist for the Maricopa city manager was awarded a three-year employment agreement Tuesday after city council voted to offer him the shorter-than-usual contract.

“[Maricopa] has a leakage of about $367 million where citizens are spending money in other communities, and my expertise is in how to reverse that.” — incoming City Manager Ricky Horst

Ricky Horst, the current city manager for Rocklin, California, will begin his contract in Maricopa on June 25 and receive $180,000 for the first year of the contract, paid in equal, bi-weekly installments. Each of the following two years he will have an opportunity to make even more, according to the stipulations of his contract.

“After the first year of this Agreement, the Employer may increase [Horst’s] salary as part of the City’s annual budget process [sic],” the contract states.

The three-year contract is shorter than usual for a reason, Mayor Christian Price said. It gives the city the option to revisit the contract in a few years to determine if things are working out, something which is harder to do with a five- or 10-year contract.

“I think everybody wants someone that is going to have buy-in,” Price said. “[But] there’s a flip side to that. What if you don’t like the individual? What if they’re not working out? What if things aren’t going so well?”

By keeping the contract shorter, Price said, it gives the city the ability to come back in a few years and assess the city manager’s performance.

In a phone interview Wednesday Horst said, he and his wife were elated to be coming to Maricopa, a city which dually shares his vision and could use his experience.

“[Maricopa] has a leakage of about $367 million where citizens are spending money in other communities, and my expertise is in how to reverse that,” Horst said. “So, then we can continue to provide for public safety, better infrastructure and quality of life amenities that will continue to make Maricopa the special place that it is.”

Horst went on to say Maricopa is offering him more than just a role in developing such a young city, and the city also fits the mold for a place he would like to call home.

“I’ve been at this for a while, and frankly I’ve had a lot of invites to go to a lot of cities to look at what they’re doing, but I have the right to be picky now,” Horst said Wednesday. “And I picked Maricopa both for career reasons and professional reasons, but also for personal reasons and quality-of-life reasons.”

A city Stakeholder Panel was convened to help in the city manager selection process. The nine-member group of residents, businesses owners and local organization leaders aided in the culling the original candidate selection down to two finalists – Horst and a former assistant to the Maricopa city manager, Nicole Lance.

The Stakeholder Panel consisted of Ioanna Morfessis, president and chief strategist of Io.Inc; AnnaMarie Knorr, Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board president; Dan Frank, president of Maricopa Flood Control District; Joe Hoover, owner of Legacy Montessori; John Stapleton, owner of CopaTV; Paul Shirk, president of Maricopa Historical Society; Linda Cheney, vice president of El Dorado Holdings; Glenda Kelly, board member of Maricopa Chamber of Commerce; and Mario Ortega, retired Maricopa Police officer.

Two finalists for the job of city manager are being brought before the public Tuesday.

The City of Maricopa announced its two finalists for the job of city manager. The city will host a meet-and-greet with the candidates Tuesday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at City Hall.

IF YOU GO
What: Meet and Greet
Who: City manager candidate
When: Tuesday, April 17, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Where: City Hall, 39700 W. Civic Center Plaza

Rick Horst is in the middle of his second five-year contract as city manager of Rocklin, California. A former Maricopa city employee, Nicole Lance is the assistant city manager in Surprise. One of them is in line to replace Gregory Rose, who served for almost four years before leaving in December to accept a job in Missouri.

The finalists were selected after being examined by a group of unidentified stakeholders. “We are not releasing the names of the community panelists,” Jennifer Brown, assistant to the city manager, told InMaricopa.

Originally from Florida, Horst has been in city management for 30 years. He has a master’s degree in recreation management and community resource development, according to biographical information on the Rocklin city website.

Lance had been the assistant to the city manager in Maricopa, who was then Kevin Evans, before moving on to Gilbert and then Surprise, where she was named assistant city manager a year ago. She has a a Master of Public Administration degree, concentration in urban management.


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The HVS study found Hilton’s Homewood A photo from the study shows Suites in Chandler to be a primary competitor for hotel traffic in Maricopa.

When the City of Maricopa last completed a hotel feasibility study, it was 2014 and Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino had not announced its hotel expansion.

Maricopa Economic Development Director Denyse Airheart said while that expansion has no effect on whether Maricopa can sustain a hotel, “as we began to talk to hoteliers and developers, they wanted to know how it would affect the feasibility of the project.”

Those requests turned into a new feasibility study, released in March, by HVS Consulting & Valuation.

The study specifically looked at the viability of a hotel proposed somewhere along State Route 347. Possible sites include acreage at the Copper Sky complex, property that is owned by the city and intended for hotel and retail establishments.

Harrah’s Ak-Chin is adding more than 200 rooms during its casino remodeling. Within Maricopa, there are no other lodging accommodations. Aside from the casino, a new hotel’s main competitors would be in Chandler.

“The new report by HVS states the community can sustain a 100-room, extended-stay, upper midscale hotel,” Airheart said.

According to the report, “heavy consideration” was given to Home2 Suites by Hilton, Staybridge Suites and TownePlace Suites by Marriott brands, though “a specific franchise affiliation and/or brand has yet to be finalized.”

The study also had the caveat that if a hotel were built outside the SR 347 corridor, it could alter the feasibility of the project.

HVS used the model of a 70 percent occupancy level and a base-year rate of $103 in making comparisons with current hotels in the surrounding area.

“The conclusion of this analysis indicates that an equity investor contributing $3,471,000 (roughly 30 percent of the $11,600,000 development cost) could expect to receive a 20.3 percent internal rate of return over a 10-year holding period,” the report stated. That is considered an above-average return.

Major demand generators for a hotel are listed as the Volkswagen proving grounds, Nissan testing center, Apex Motor Club, U.S. Arid Land Agricultural Research Center and Amtrak. Last year, VW alone needed an estimated 12,000 room nights, according to the report, accommodations that had to be made outside Maricopa.


This story appears in the April issue of InMaricopa.

Woo Kim of WRT Designs talks to Maricopans about the future of the city center around City Hall. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa’s general plan describes a development pattern of mixed-use core areas called Village Centers.

They were an important component in the creation of the city’s 2040 Vision. As delineated by the general plan, “Village Centers are higher intensity locations within a distinct geographic area along transit corridors and are a cluster of community-oriented neighborhood character areas with local commercial, office and mixed-use spaces. These centers should contain public gathering spaces with civic uses, such as schools, libraries and parks and have a distinct identity and village theme.”

Now, the City of Maricopa has put itself first on the list of planning such a village center. Despite the major obstacle of being in a flood plain, the 140 acres of city-owned property around the City Hall complex are targeted as a new city center.

City planner Ryan Wozniak said Maricopa does not have a destination location, a place that lets a visitor know, “I’ve arrived.” The village center concept is meant to create that sense of place.

In March, the city reached out to stakeholders to solicit feedback on ideas that might suit a Maricopa city center. The ideas were drawn from other communities in Arizona and around the country. Zoning Administrator Kazi Haque said the city would like to create a centralized corridor down Bowlin Road from City Hall to Central Arizona College and Banner and Walmart.

“I like the walkable space next to the college, and placing the retail next to the college is very good as well,” said Eli Pollard, a college student who plans to move to Maricopa. “I personally like to walk to areas that have parks and stuff, so I’d be inclined to go to the retail area, get a cup of coffee and then go and sit in the city center for a while. And I think the other college students would also be inclined to do that.”

Melissa Bailey, a resident, agreed. “I really like the idea of the mixed use, walkable, bikeable, arts and culture accessible, an amphitheater… just younger by like 30 years.”

Residents rate ideas for a city center. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Woo Kim, senior associate with WRT Design, walked residents through some of the case studies and incorporated their ideas as well. That included a library, senior center and community center around the City Hall plaza.

“There are some parking implications, but it’s manageable,” Kim said.

Communities used as case studies were Abacoa, Florida, Verrado in Buckeye, Stapleton in Denver, Colorado, Chandler Park in Chandler, The Glen in Glenview, Illinois, and High Street in Phoenix. Stapleton, the redevelopment of the former Denver airport, was an example of varied housing.

“One thing Stapleton does really well is mix the traditional and the modern, contemporary architecture,” Kim said.

A diverse group, from college students to millennials to seniors, the stakeholders agreed on several concepts for a city center. Primary among those ideas were the mix of retail and civic uses and multifamily housing like townhomes.

“I don’t want this to be a retirement community. It’s so much bigger than that,” said Joshua Logan, who moved to Maricopa in 2007. “It can incorporate all those great assets, but it needs to have [high income and low income] to grow, to be exactly what it was meant to be. I have a long time before retirement. I want to see my values go up.”

Participants tagged their favorite design elements in green areas, mixed-use retail areas and buildings. College student Taylor Buchanan said she wanted to be part of the process, “to be a part of the community and to help decide what we can do to make it better to bring other people into the community.”

Eli Pollard and Taylor Buchanan look at design concepts. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

In his last meeting as a Planning & Zoning commissioner, Bryon Joyce reminded city staff the ultimate discussion in bringing people to certain areas of the city is business. Joyce is reluctantly leaving Maricopa as his job moves farther north.

“As of right now, I’m not seeing a centerpiece to draw people there,” he said of the village center concept. “There’s no major, well-paying employer. There have to be companies that are going to locate here.”

Another area of Maricopa already identified for Village Center planning is the Heritage District and the Redevelopment Area within it. 

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

This story appears in the April issue of InMaricopa.

 

For those concerned with the status of development around Maricopa, the city’s Economic Development department is taking efforts to the next level.

The Maricopa City Council approved a $150,000 expenditure Tuesday to hire a customer analytical firm to help design and execute a plan to draw businesses to the city.

Council approved the $50,000 a year, three-year contract with the Buxton Company to provide “retail attraction data and psychographic profiles and resources” to assist in strengthening and executing a development strategy.

According to Buxton’s director of sales, Parker Key, the company specializes in a tedious analytical assessment to help private and public entities understand consumer trends and, more importantly, which businesses should be targeted.

“We go through this process of matching your community to a database of over 5,000 companies that we’re constantly studying,” Key said.

Simply put, Buxton acts as a type of filter, which, according to Economic Development Director Denyse Airheart, is a beneficial tool to increase the efficiency of economic development efforts.

“We’re not necessarily being strategic,” Airheart said. “We’re going after what is hip, hot, what we’d like to see, what we hear from our residents, what [council] tells us.”

That approach, she said, means the city could be “pursuing retailers that are perhaps not growing in the market, so it could be wasted efforts.”

Vice Mayor Peg Chapados expressed a supportive but critical sentiment toward the expense – “A partnership that we need to take a close look at but will be worth it in the long run.”

Councilmember Marvin Brown, who ultimately voted to approve the expense, echoed the Vice Mayor’s concerns, citing a contract the city had with Buxton 10 years ago.

“I can recall vividly in 2008 when a similar presentation was given to us… and I expressed to [council] at that point that I don’t think Maricopa had evolved enough and was mature enough to award an $80,000-dollar contract to Buxton,” Brown said. “And as a result, I was right, we got zilch out of that study.”

All on council voted to approve the contract, except councilmember Vince Manfredi, who felt the “considerable” growth Maricopa had experienced in recent years was done without Buxton, and the tool was ultimately just being hopeful.

“I’m not much of a hoper,” he said. “I hear flowery stories all the time and how well things can work for us. Then a year later, or two years later, I’m wondering why we spent $200,000 on something.”


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Homestead construction

 

As construction on residential housing ramps up in Maricopa, the city is considering ways to make the process easier for developers.

Last year the city received 500 residential building permits, and recent projections predict major growth ahead.

During a city council work session March 20, the Development Services Department presented the city’s current procedure: An eight-application process that usually entails two years of meetings and sub-steps before a builder receives a building permit.

A team of planners began brainstorming how to consolidate timewasting steps and documents about a year ago.

The result was a color-coded flow chart that details the city’s process used since pre-recession Maricopa as well as updated steps the department has identified and streamlined.

Development Services Director Martin Scribner said even with improvements, development processes are inherently complex across the nation.

“As a rule, the process is complicated,” Scribner said.

The process is detailed in a digital timeline that essentially serves as a snapshot of what developers could expect during the pre-development stages.

Some of the department’s major consolidation in the process affected the construction and inspection portion of the process.

SMARTGov, the city’s digital terminal for permit viewing and submittal, is a big part of that, according to Senior Planner Rodolfo Lopez.

“(Developers) don’t have to resubmit some of those documents unless something is changed or modified,” Lopez said. “This process streamlines it a lot quicker.”

The city has been teasing a redesign of its website and Mayor Christian Price indicated he’d like to see the process timeline posted on the city’s digital front page once the online update is completed.

Development Services is expected to compose a similar timeline for commercial development, which entails an even more complicated process.

Vice Mayor Peggy Chapados said the digital flow chart could decrease the number of complaints the city receives from commercial builders regarding perceived delays in the process.

The commercial development presentation is expected sometime in the future.

“The more information we get out there, the better,” Price said.

 

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A COMET bus awaits riders in Maricopa. Photo by Michelle Chance

 

The Maricopa City Council approved an application for federal transit funds Feb. 6. But those funds are just part of the budget puzzle for city transportation.

COMET Ridership (trips per year)
Year ending
June 2013: 2,695
June 2014: 2,714
June 2015: 3,142
June 2016: 4,814
January-December 2017: 6,739

Development Services Director Martin Scribner said the Section 5311 grant from the Federal Transit Administration is something the city applies for every two years. By continuing to do so, the FTA remains informed about the goals of the city, making it more likely to continue to receive the funds, which make up more than half of the transportation department’s budget.

For the next two fiscal years combined (2018-20), the proposed budget for the City of Maricopa Express Transit (COMET) is just under $924,000. Of that, $579,000 is from federal funds, leaving $344,366 to be paid locally.

That is where the recently passed Pinal Regional Transportation Authority could come into play. The plan provides $1 million annually to transit systems in the county. Though it has not been determined how much would come to Maricopa, it could be applied to offset COMET’s hit to the city budget.

The RTA may go into effect in April, but there is an active lawsuit by the Goldwater Institute attempting to stop it. However, there is not an injunction in place.

If the half-cent sales tax goes into effect and pays out money to transportation and transit projects for a year, and then the court rules against the RTA, Councilmember Marvin Brown questioned whether the used funds would be expected to be returned.

Mayor Christian Price said the tax collection will proceed if there is no injunction. He said there are a number of theories and “potential variances” at hand if a court rules in favor of the Goldwater Institute after money has been collected.

As for COMET, the city is hoping to use a combination of federal funds and funds from the RTA tax to purchase six more bus stop shelters to cover all 11 current stops on the scheduled route and have one as a reserve.

 

Rendering of proposed bus shelter courtesy City of Maricopa

Tena Dugan questions city staff about the business license process during Councilmember on the Corner. Photo by Michelle Chance

Last year, the city unveiled a new digital program designed to save residents time, money and paper when applying for various permits.

The City of Maricopa Online Services” system includes business license applications and renewals.

Development Services Director Martin Scribner said the city currently processes between 1,200 and 1,500 business licenses every year and, since the documents are submitted and approved online, the turnaround time for approval is significantly quicker than before.

Although the transition from paper to digital was made in part to make the process convenient for customers, some residents have said it’s done the opposite.

The discussion took place during Henry Wade’s “Councilmember on the Corner” public forum at Highway 238 Industrial Park Jan. 10.

Residents complained the website is not user-friendly and suggested the name of the link be changed to something relevant and recognizable.

As explained during a tutorial at the meeting, to access business license applications on the city website, residents can click a link titled “Access Online Permitting & Parcel Search,” which residents said is confusing. 

However, another link, “Apply for a Business License” is just below and takes residents to the same destination. 

Scribner said the city plans to edit the language on its website during a future redesign.

Resident and local business owner Tena Dugan said the city’s customer service over the telephone is another area in need of improvement.

“It’s very frustrating to call and not get your question answered,” Dugan said, adding employees were helpful when she reached them in the past.

Councilmember Henry Wade hosts Councilmember on the Corner. Photo by Michelle Chance

Scribner said staff inside the business licensing department works to answer every phone call and every question. However, he said he would like to hire more employees in the department in the future.

Residents also said the digital application process might be a hinderance to residents who are not well-versed with computers as well as to people who have limited or no access to computers. Dugan suggested a small-business “advocate” at City Hall be hired to help residents.

Isela Hernandez, an employee within the city’s business license department, reminded residents that there are computer kiosks inside City Hall where the applications can be completed with the assistance of a city employee during normal operation hours, Monday through Thursday.

Local business owner Eduardo Quirindongo said despite some of the issues with the new process, the online portal does have its perks.

“It’s a lot better than going to City Hall on Friday,” Quirindongo joked.

Another sticking point for Dugan was the lack of notice from the city for renewing her license.

Currently, every business license issued in Maricopa expires at the end of the year, flooding the department with renewal paperwork over the course of a short time.

Although the city attempts to send a renewal notice to every license holder, Scribner said sometimes there are “hiccups.”

Scribner said the department would like to see a change in city code to allow renewal deadlines to reflect the anniversary of business license applications. Scribner said that way, renewals will be spread throughout the year and will be easier to process for employees.

“This is still new to us so next time we will definitely do better,” Hernandez said.

See this tutorial for more information.

 

 

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The Aquatic Center is a large portion of the expenditures at Copper Sky. Photo by Mason Callejas

 

For the past 15 years, city councilmembers, city managers, planners and other administrators have emphasized different areas of growth and identity in an attempt to put Maricopa “on the map.”

Parks & Rec Debt Service
Voter approved 2008 for $65.5 million
Paid through secondary property tax
Started Jan. 1, 2014 at 3%
Ends July 1, 2030 at 6.335%
Ak-Chin grant $7.4 million ($1.48 million annually) ends July 1, 2019
Rate of return: 65%

In 2008, a major move was made to bolster that development when voters approved a $65.5 million bond measure to expand the city’s parks, recreation and library facilities. The bonds were placed on a 15-year amortization schedule and are to be paid in full by 2030 via a secondary property tax.

After almost five years of planning, flood mitigation and eventually construction, Copper Sky Regional Park and Multi-Generational Center opened in the spring of 2014 at a cost of $52 million. The facility, being brand new, was expected to create an initial budgetary deficiency, Mayor Christian Price said.

“We’ve never operated a facility like this before… so you look around and see how other cities do it,” Price said. “But you have to remember that as soon as this facility comes out of the ground, you have a giant hit to the General Fund.”

To help cushion that blow, a $7.4 million grant was awarded to the city by the AK-Chin Indian Community to be distributed over the course of five years at $1.48 million annually.

To prevent undue burden on the city when the grant runs out, Price said, council set a goal.

That goal, he said, was to generate enough revenue through usage fees to cover at least 75 percent of operational costs and eventually shrink that margin to cover 100 percent of the cost.

Now, as the city enters the fifth and final year of the Ak-Chin grant, administrators are sifting through the facility’s budget in an attempt to lower overhead and get the facility on track to self-sustainability.

Not only will the $1.48 million cushion be taken away after next fiscal year, but the city is currently experiencing only about a 65 percent return, Interim Community Services director Fred Gray said.

In July, former Community Services Director Kristie Reister presented a financial review of Copper Sky at a Budget, Finance and Operations (BFO) Subcommittee meeting in an effort to address the impending situation and to both reduce costs and increase revenue.

The aquatic center was heavily scrutinized for its high overhead. Other suggested cuts were to simple expenses such as office supplies and advertising.

Additionally, in light of the recent increase in state minimum wage, increasing membership rates to reflect an increase in general labor costs was discussed at the July BFO meeting. This is most likely to take the form of increased day-use fees to encourage the purchase of monthly and annual memberships.

However, when considering rate increases, Price wants to err on the side of caution.

“Where’s the break-even point? How much do you let go so that you subsidize that because that’s what the taxpayers demand?” Price said. “They want to use [Copper Sky] for an economical price.”

Gray has since replaced Reister as head of the Community Services Department on an interim basis.

Gray has extensive experience in Community Services, including more than a decade as Tuscon’s Parks and Recreations director. And though his time with the City of Maricopa is currently considered provisional, he does agree changes must be made.

However, he said, any changes need to be done in such a way they “don’t impact services.”

Though officials seem to be working hard to compensate for the lack of a grant, Financial Services Director Brenda Hasler insisted that despite any potential shortcomings in the Copper Sky budget the city would never be in jeopardy of defaulting on any bond payments. Doing so would mean a significant blow to the city’s credit rating, so the city would make other budget shifts to prevent that from happening.

“We budget conservatively,” Hasler said. “We never budget [overall] expenditures over and above revenues.”

Accordingly, as the city prepares for life without the Ak-Chin grant, they must consider the impact of an increased burden on the city’s General Fund, the fund that AKIC grant money was channeled through.

And therein lies the rub.

As Price put it, the city must continue to subsidize the facility in such a way that rates do not price out the residents. As Gray put it, the city should be leery of sacrificing services. And as Hasler put it, the city cannot default on its debt obligations.

Instead, a balancing act must be performed that in the end keeps residents happy, Copper Sky afloat and the city financially solvent.

Additionally, for those who suggest issuing the remaining $13 million bond money to compensate, Price said, no way. The city doesn’t want to over-leverage itself and risk its credit-worthiness.

“Just because your credit card limit says $100,000, does it mean you should spend $100,000 if you only make $50,000 a year? No, it doesn’t.”

 


This story appears in the February issue of InMaricopa.

 

Apex Motor Club, owned by Private Motorsports Group, wants to open a private track in Maricopa.

An organization in opposition to the planned private motorsports complex, Apex, filed campaign finance reports with the City of Maricopa after being threatened with nearly $13,000 in fines for failing to do so.

“I think it’s everyone’s right to do what my clients did and to circulate a petition sheet on a matter such as this.” — Tim La Sota, attorney for Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers

Attorney Tim La Sota, counsel for Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers, filed the reports with the city Jan. 26, nearly three months after the organization lost a legal challenge against the proposed racetrack. (See video of Apex plans.)

Despite losing the legal battle, La Sota said his clients are pleased.

“We’re very happy with the resolution, and obviously not paying any kind of fine,” La Sota said. 

 The organization mounted the legal challenge last year after city council approved a conditional use permit for the racetrack to move forward with the project, saying the decision should have been brought to voters on the November ballot.

The case made it all the way to the Arizona Supreme Court, which ultimately dismissed the complaint against the City and Apex.

City Attorney Denis Fitzgibbons said this conclusion was amicable and likely the best they could have hoped for.

“They filed the reports, and that’s what we asked them to do,” Fitzgibbons said. “So, from my reading of it, I think the matter is resolved.”

Fitzgibbons added, when it comes to civil matters such as this, it’s hard to say for certain the issue is 100 percent quashed. Based on the opposition’s response, though, he feels the matter is closed.

Despite the organization’s lack of response to the city’s initial inquiries about campaign finance reports, Fitzgibbons said, La Sota was very cooperative in seeking a resolution.

“I don’t believe Tim La Sota ever got any of the original notices, because I don’t think [Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers] was sending those notices on to Tim,” Fitzgibbons said. “Once the City Clerk turned it over to me, then [La Sota] responded immediately, so I do think they were legitimately trying to get it resolved.”

As for those who initially filed the complaint with the city, Fitzgibbons said he did not believe they would have any sort of independent right to pursue the case further. 

Lawyers from the firm Coppersmith and Brockelman, representing Private Motorsports Group, Apex’s parent company, initially filed the complaint with the city Oct. 30.

In the complaint, attorney Roopali Desai alleges the organization not only violated Arizona campaign finance laws, but also the organization “is clearly sponsored by Danrick Builders, LLC (“Danrick”), and /or its principal, Daniel Erickson.”

Erickson and his company – Danrick Builders – are seeking to build a similar, though much larger, motorsports complex in Casa Grande named Attesa. In a letter to Pinal Central, Erickson endorsed Apex’s opponents saying, “the bottom line is the future of Apex has a direct effect on the future of Attesa.”

La Sota claimed to have no knowledge of Erickson or Attesa being behind Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers, saying “I don’t even know what that [Attesa] is.”

He did admit to meeting Erickson in November but again said he did not have any knowledge of his potential involvement in any Apex opposition group.

The campaign finance reports submitted by La Sota do not directly indicate Erickson was a benefactor. However, they do show the $5,204 in funds they received were paid for by Sovereign Land Assets, LLC, a company that listed as principal agent Joseph Villasenor, someone with alleged ties to both Erickson and lawyers who represent another Apex-opposition complaint filed on behalf of Maricopa resident Bonita Burks. 

Though InMaricopa has not been able to uncover any direct ties between Villasenor and Erickson, it has been discovered Villasenor and Burks’ lawyer, former Arizona attorney general Grant Woods, were both involved in a legal battle involving the Phoenix Coyotes and the Scottsdale Polo Championship.

The PR firm hired by the Coyotes to assist in defeating a similar 2013 referendum attempt in Glendale is the PR firm currently representing Apex – Rose+Moser+Allyn Public & Online Relations. The firm eventually sued the Coyotes seeking $250,000 they claim was promised to the Scottsdale Polo Championship, which is run by Rose+Moser+Allyn.

Neither the chairman for Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers, Robert Rebich, nor its treasurer, David Prom, live in Maricopa. The organization’s Application for Referendum Petition show their mailing addresses to be in either Phoenix or Scottsdale respectively.

When asked whether he believed it was appropriate for non-residents to attempt to participate in the political process, La Sota said his clients were in the right.

“I think it’s everyone’s right to do what my clients did and to circulate a petition sheet on a matter such as this,” La Sota said. “You don’t have to be a resident of Maricopa to engage in those activities.”

Additionally, any parties responsible for paying the legal costs accrued by Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers were not disclosed in the campaign finance report, La Sota said, citing an Arizona Law that allows for the exclusion of such details.

Both La Sota and Fitzgibbons agree to the legitimacy of the laws application, thus likely ending the city’s legal battle with the organization, which La Sota claims will soon be formally disbanded.

The Burks’ case, however, remains to be decided with the Arizona Court of Appeals.

An opening brief for that case is scheduled for Feb. 20.                


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Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Committee
The purpose of the Age-Friendly Committee is to help “connect people 60 years plus with people of all ages in order to decrease social isolation and to increase access to services, social opportunities and recreation.” Meetings are usually held at City Hall the Monday of the month at 4 p.m.
(Members: Lynn Bernier, Andy Lockridge, Joan Koczor, Carol Machovec, Viola Najar, Thomas Rein, Scott Summers)

Board of Adjustment
The seven-member Board of Adjustment is designed to “review and approve or deny variances from zoning ordinance requirements and administrative decisions which create hardships in the development of property due to exceptional or extraordinary conditions.” With such a specific purpose, the BOA meets on an as-needed basis, typically on a Tuesday or Thursday evening at City Hall.
(Members: Greg Campbell, Richard Vitiello, Dean Tevault, Gary Miller, Thaddeus Holland, Christopher Shoemaker, Rachel Leffall)

Cultural Affairs Advisory Committee
The seven Cultural Affairs Advisory Committee members are tasked with helping “promote an environment that fosters diversity and inclusion within Maricopa.” Regular meetings are typically held the last Thursday of every month, and special meetings are held to address important, time-sensitive matters. Their meetings usually take place at City Hall, with special meetings sometimes happening at Copper Sky Recreation Center.
(Members: Cynthia Portrey, Joanna Vanderpool, Ammar Abed, Constance Jackson, Grace Robinson, Joann Vitiello, Chrystal O’Jon)

Heritage District Citizen Advisory Committee
The seven-member Heritage District Advisory Committee is responsible for bolstering the success of the Heritage District Area Plan. The group assists and advises the city council on issues relating to the city’s historical neighborhoods. They meet on the second Thursday of the month.
(Members: Don Pearce, Lucia Rodriguez, Terrence Vyfhuis, Brian Foose, Melodee Breazeale, Thomas DeGraphenreed II)

Parks, Recreation and Libraries Committee
The seven members of the Parks, Recreation and Libraries Committee assist the Community Services Department in developing quality programs to meet the community’s recreational needs. They help with general park design to the planning of special events. The committee meets on the last Wednesday of every month, typically at City Hall.
(Members: Kristena Dugan, Rebecca Check, Albert Brandenburg, Shelley McClaren, Tommy Ronca, Lucinda Boyd, Diane Morrow)

Planning and Zoning Commission
The seven-member Planning and Zoning Commission “reviews and makes recommendations on various projects and applications made to the city for legislative action by the city council.” This commission plays an integral role in the community’s development. The P&Z Commission usually meets at City Hall the second Monday of the month.
(Members: Linda Huggins, Bob Marsh, Ted Yocum, Michael Sharpe, Bryon Joyce, James Irving, Leon Potter)

Veterans Affairs Committee
The Veterans Affairs Committee is made up of seven members, both veteran and non-veteran, who help provide area veterans and their families access to resources and benefits information. They help with the “preparation of forms and supporting documentation,” and organize “support events and activities that honor veterans and active military personnel.” Meetings most often occur on the last Tuesday or Thursday of the month.
(Members: Bree Lyons, DeMone DeMar, Jennifer Scribner, Derek Jeske, Tracy Davis, Marc Montgomery)

 

Other Boards Commissions & Committees
Arts Task Force
Budget, Finance and Opportunities Council Subcommittee 
Cultural Affairs Advisory Committee
Industrial Development Authority Board
Marketing and Communications Council Subcommittee
Merit Board
Personnel and Benefits Council Subcommittee
Public Safety Personnel Retirement System Board
Transportation Committee
Youth Internship
Youth Council

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Maricopa City Council: (seated, from left) Vice Mayor Marvin Brown, Mayor Christian Price, Councilmember Peggy Chapados; (standing) Councilmembers Nancy Smith, Henry Wade, Julia Gusse and Vincent Manfredi (City of Maricopa photo)

City of Maricopa
39700 W. Civic Center Plaza
520-568-9098
Maricopa-AZ.gov

 

Mayor
Christian Price
520-316-6821
Christian.Price@Maricopa-AZ.gov

City Council
Vice Mayor Peggy Chapados
520-316-3826
Peggy.Chapados@Maricopa-AZ.gov

Councilmember Marvin L. Brown
520-316-2020
Marvin.Brown@Maricopa-AZ.gov

Councilmember Julia Gusse
520-568-9098
Julia.Gusse@Maricopa-AZ.gov

Councilmember Vincent Manfredi
520-316-6823
Vincent.Manfredi@Maricopa-AZ.gov

Councilmember Nancy Smith
520-316-6822
Nancy.Smith@Maricopa-AZ.gov

Councilmember Henry Wade
520-316-6825
Henry.Wade@Maricopa-AZ.gov

 

Maricopa Unified School District
44150 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Hwy.
520-568-5100
MUSD20.org

Governing Board
President AnnaMarie Knorr
AKnorr@musd20.org

Vice President Gary Miller
GMiller@musd20.org

Member Torri Anderson
TorriAnderson@musd20.org

Member Patti Coutré
PCoutre@musd20.org

Member Joshua Judd
JoshJudd@musd20.org

 

Maricopa Flood Control District
480-980-0531

Board of Directors
President Dan Frank
Secretary Brad Hinton
Member Scott Kelly

 

Pinal County

Sheriff
Mark Lamb
971 Jason Lopez Circle, Building C, Florence
520-866-5997
PinalCountyAZ.gov/Sheriff

County Attorney
Kent Volkmer
30 N. Florence St, Building D, Florence
520-866-6271
PinalCountyAttorney@PinalCountyAZ.gov
PinalCountyAZ.gov/CountyAttorney

Justice of the Peace – Precinct 8 (Maricopa/Stanfield)
Lyle Riggs
19955 N. Wilson Ave.
520-866-3999
PinalCountyAZ.gov/Judicial

Constable – Precinct 8 (Maricopa/Stanfield)
Bret Roberts
19955 N. Wilson Ave.
520-840-5294
Bret.Roberts@PinalCountyAZ.gov

Assessor
Douglas Wolf
31 N. Pinal St, Building E, Florence
520-866-6353
Assessor@PinalCountyAZ.gov
PinalCountyAZ.gov/Assessor

Recorder
Virginia Ross
31 N. Pinal St, Building E, Florence
520-866-6830
Recorder@PinalCountyAZ.gov
PinalCountyAZ.gov/Recorder

Board of Supervisors
135 N. Pinal St, Building A, Florence
520-866-6220
PinalCountyAZ.gov/BOS

Supervisor Anthony Smith [District 4, Maricopa] 41600 W. Smith-Enke Road, Suite 128
520-866-3960
Anthony.Smith@PinalCountyAZ.gov

Supervisor Pete Rios [District 1] 520-866-7830
Pete.Rios@PinalCountyAZ.gov

Supervisor Mike Goodman [District 2] 520-866-8080
Mike.Goodman@PinalCountyAZ.gov

Supervisor Stephen Miller [District 3] 520-866-7401
Steve.Miller@PinalCountyAZ.gov

Supervisor Todd House [District 5] 480-982-0659
Todd.House@PinalCountyAZ.gov

 

Central Arizona College (Pinal County Community College District) Governing Board
8470 N. Overfield Road, Coolidge
800-237-9814
CentralAZ.edu

Member Dan Miller [District 4 – Maricopa] Dan.Miller2@CentralAZ.edu

President Gladys Christensen [District 1] Gladys.Christensen@CentralAZ.edu

Member Debra Banks [District 2] Debra.Banks@CentralAZ.edu

Member Rick Gibson [District 3] Rick.Gibson@CentralAZ.edu

Member Jack Yarrington
Jack.Yarrington@CentralAZ.edu

 

State of Arizona

Governor
Doug Ducey
1700 W. Washington St., Phoenix
602-542-4331
Engage@AZ.gov
AZGovernor.gov

State Legislators
Steve Smith – State Senator – District 11 (Maricopa)
1700 W. Washington St, Room 33, Phoenix
602-926-5685
STSmith@AZLeg.gov
AZLeg.gov

Mark Finchem – State Representative – District 11 (Maricopa)
1700 W. Washington St, Room 129, Phoenix
602-926-3122
MFinchem@AZLeg.gov
AZLeg.gov

Vince Leach – State Representative – District 11 (Maricopa)
1700 W. Washington St, Room 226, Phoenix
602-926-3106
VLeach@AZLeg.gov
AZLeg.gov

Secretary of State
Michelle Reagan
1700 W. Washington St., 7th Floor, Phoenix
1-800-458-5842
AZSOS.gov

Attorney General
Mark Brnovich
1275 W. Washington St., Phoenix
602-542-5025
AZAG.gov

State Treasurer
Jeff Dewit
1700 W. Washington St, 1st Floor, Phoenix
602-542-7800
AZTreasury.gov

State Mine Inspector
Joe Hart
1700 W. Washington St, 4th Floor, Phoenix
602-542-5971
ASMI.AZ.gov

State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Diane Douglas
1535 W. Jefferson St., Phoenix
800-352-4558
adeinbox@AZED.gov
AZED.gov/superintendent

Corporation Commission
1200 W. Washington St, Commissioners Wing, 2nd Floor, Phoenix
AZCC.gov

Chairman Tom Forese
602-542-3933
foresee-web@AZCC.gov

Commissioner Bob Burns
602-542-3682
rburns-web@AZCC.gov

Commissioner Doug Little
602-542-0742
little-web@AZCC.gov

Commissioner Andy Tobin
602-542-3625
tobin-web@AZCC.gov

Commissioner Boyd W. Dunn
602-542-3935
dunn-web@AZCC.gov

 

U.S. Congress

Tom O’Halleran –  U.S. Representative – U.S. House District 1
126 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, D.C.
202-225-3361
211 N. Florence St, Suite 1, Casa Grande
520-316-0839
3037 W. Ina Road, Suite 101, Tucson
928-304-0131
OHalleran.House.gov

John McCain – U.S. Senator
218 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C.
202-224-2235
2201 E. Camelback Road, Suite 115, Phoenix
602-952-2410
407 W. Congress St, Suite 103, Tucson
520-670-6334
McCain.Senate.gov

Jeff Flake – U.S. Senator
Senate Russell Office Building 413, Washington, D.C.
202-224-4521
2200 E. Camelback Road, Suite 120, Phoenix
602-840-1891
6840 N. Oracle Road, Suite 150, Tucson
520-575-8633
Flake.Senate.gov

 

President of the United States
Donald Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.
Phone (White House Switchboard): 202-456-1111
Phone (Comments): 202-456-1414
Phone (TTY/TTD): 202-456-6213
Phone (Visitors Office): 202-456-2121
WhiteHouse.gov


2018 is an election year. For updated elected official information, visit http://www.inmaricopa.com/newresidentguide/

Prisoners from Florence work projects for the City of Maricopa.

 

Maricopa residents may have been noticing a few orange jumpsuits assisting with public works projects around the city in recent months.

As part of a cost-saving program, inmates from a state prison in Florence have been working with the city to tackle various improvement projects around the community.

Public Works Director Bill Fay said the city has been using the program for roughly four months. The department has estimated the program could save the city $260,000 annually.

Inmates primarily work to trim overgrowth in rights of way and in some of the washes around town, Fay said. They also help with the occasional minor concrete repair such as filling potholes and sealing cracks in roadways.  

“As they get better at it, we may use them for more and more asphalt repair,” Fay said.

As for the inmates’ attitudes and work ethic, he said, they are “the best-behaved guys.”

In his experience working with similar programs in other cities, inmates like this are hardworking and often maintain good behavior in order to participate.

“If they mess up at all, they get pulled off the crew,” Fay said.

The inmate workers are not accompanied by correctional officers or law enforcement, Fay said, which is an indication of the kind of security threat they may pose.

These inmates are not violent and do not pose security concern, he said. Most are extreme DUI cases or other non-violent offenders.

There is a city employee who facilitates the work, but that facilitator is not security detail.

“If somebody decides to take off, his job is not to stop them. His job is to pick up the phone,” Fay said.

However, it’s unlikely they would run, he added.  

“These guys might have a two-year sentence and they’re one year into it. If they escape, they’ll get picked up someday in the future and end up serving eight or 10 years,” he said. “It’s kind of like getting a home equity loan. If they know you’ve got a big pile of home equity they’re willing to loan you money because they know you’re not going to walk away from it.”

The only expense the city sees with this program is the use of a city van and the extra time it takes one employee to pick up and drop off the workers in Florence.

Fay said he is unsure about any rehabilitative effect the program has, aside from the good behavior inmates must exhibit to participate, but he knows they strive to maintain their places on the crew.

“It’s hard labor, it’s hot and dirty work, but they’re fighting to do it,” Fay said. “I may not understand what all the values going into it are, but they do and they’re voting with their time.”


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Apex Motor Club plans to build a private race course for sports cars on property in northwest Maricopa. After Maricopa granted the permit, both the city and Apex were sued.

 

City officials are alleging a political action committee formed in opposition to a planned private motorsports complex in Maricopa violated Arizona campaign finance laws by failing to disclose donors, an inaction that could cost the organization nearly $13,000 in penalties.

In a Notice of Violation letter to the committee Maricopa Citizens Protecting Tax Payers dated Nov. 8, 2017, Maricopa City Attorney Denis Fitzgibbons claims the group is in violation of state law for “failing to file the requisite campaign finance reports.”

By doing so, the letter further declares, the group has incurred nearly $12,675 in penalties with the city.

According to the city, the committee should have then filed finance reports by July 15 or Oct. 15, 2017, which it did not.

Attorney Timothy La Sota, counsel for the committee, responded to the allegations in a letter dated Nov. 10, 2017, saying a change in state law no longer required a PAC to “register and report at the petition circulation stage, and now they only have to register and report if they are seeking to influence ‘an election.’”

In an initial legal confrontation, Maricopa Citizens Protecting Tax Payers failed to force the zoning change of a parcel of land on the western edge of Maricopa to a city-wide referendum. Thus, La Sota argued, the election never happened, negating any reporting requirements.

Fitzgibbons countered the argument in a Notice of Imposition of Penalty dated Jan. 18, 2018, saying Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers filed a statement of organization with the Maricopa City Clerk May 11, 2017, planning to “engage in ballot measure expenditures and is required by Arizona Revised Statues to file certain reports related to its activities.”

The argument posed by La Sota, suggesting the committee was not required to register, and subsequently not required to report, was erroneous, Fitzgibbons said.

The committee had indeed already registered, he said, thus “subjecting itself to the various rules and regulations concerning committees, including, but not limited to, the mandatory filing of campaign finance reports.”

Furthermore, Fitzgibbons said, the fact Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers sued the city and associated parties, “further reinforces the fact that the committee must comply with various rules and regulations related to political action committees.”

The city is offering to quash the $12,675 in penalties if Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers “files complete, accurate and truthful campaign finance reports” within 10 days of the issuance of the Notice of Imposition of Penalty letter.

If the reports are not filed by the Jan. 28 deadline, the city plans to seek a legal judgment to enforce any fines or penalties.

Notices of Violation and Imposition of Penalty were sent to the committee’s chairperson, Robert Rebich, and the committee’s treasurer, David Prom, neither of whom live in Maricopa.

The parcel of land that prompted this legal fight is located on the northwest corner of Ralston Road and State Route 238 and is the proposed site of a private motorsports club called Apex.

It has been alleged Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers was funded, either in part or in total, by developer Dan Erickson and partners who are planning to build an even larger motorsports complex near Casa Grande called Attesa.

In an Oct. 2017 open letter to Pinal Central, Erickson said he agreed with both the committee and a separate Maricopa resident named Bonita Burks who also attempted to mount a legal opposition.

In the letter, Erickson claimed, “my primary goal is and always has been ensuring the success of Attessa… The bottom line is the future of Apex has a direct effect on the future of Attesa.”

To ensure this, Erickson said, he believes the City of Maricopa needs to “adopt an enforceable sound ordinance with Apex agreeing to the same noise stipulations AMP [Attesa Motorsports Park] agreed to, and the development should be subject to proper zoning [sic].”

Attorneys for both Maricopa Citizens Protecting Tax Payers, and the second complainant – Burks – have denied affiliations with Erickson.

If Erickson is, in fact, the committee’s benefactor, campaign finance reports could prove the allegations.


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Apex Motor Club, owned by Private Motorsports Group, wants to open a private track in Maricopa.

Lawyers representing the private racetrack Apex have filed a complaint against a political action committee that took Apex to court.

The complaint, filed with the City of Maricopa by the lawfirm of Coppersmith-Brockleman, targets the group that took both the city and Apex to court in recent months regarding the company’s planned racetrack in Maricopa.

In the complaint, attorneys representing Apex argue the group known as Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers, acting as a political action committee, broke Arizona state election law when officers failed to file campaign finance reports.

By not filing a campaign finance report in both July and October of 2017, the complaint says, MCPT violated A.R.S. 16-927 and 16-927 in not disclosing who paid for the “disbursement” of funds used to pay for “petition circulation and litigation that should have been captured on such reports.”

Second, the complaint says, the committee further violated state law A.R.S. 16-906(B)(1)(b) when it failed to identify in its name its “sponsor’s name or commonly known nickname.”

“As a consequence, the Committee never registered and properly formed as a committee, and has been improperly operating in the city,” the complaint says.

According to the complaint, “the Committee is clearly the brain child and outsourced operation of Mr. Erickson.”

During a hearing regarding another lawsuit filed against the city and Apex by Maricopa resident Bonita Burks, lawyers for Burks denied allegations claiming that Dan Erickson and his company – Danrick Builders – are behind the Burks lawsuit.

However, in a Sept. 26 letter to the Maricopa city attorney, Burks’ lead counsel, former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods said both Burks and Erickson wish to settle the matter.

“This letter is to confirm that the parties currently opposing the Apex development are, and have been, willing to discuss settling this matter in an amicable way,” Woods wrote. “I have spoken to Ms. Burks and with Daniel Erickson to get his feedback on an approach to put this controversy to rest.”

Erickson also mentioned Burks in an Oct. 10 letter to Pinal Central, claiming it was never Burks’ intention to “prevent Apex from opening; they merely wanted more due diligence done and proper procedures followed in processing the conditional use permit.”

Because of this connection, Apex attorneys believe they have evidence of collusion between Erickson and the two opposition parties that filed separate suits against the city and Apex.

“Indeed, it is now clear that the Committee’s activities were but one piece of a comprehensive strategy employed by Danrick and its principal, Mr. Erickson,” the complaint states.

Pinal County Superior Court Judge Robert Olson originally issued a judgment in favor of MCPT Aug. 9. However, both the Arizona Court of Appeals and the state Supreme Court later sided with the city and Apex, tossing out the lower court’s ruling.

In Burks’ case, a Sept. 13 judgment by Olson ruled her suit lacked “standing.”

Burks filed an appeal Nov. 1 and is awaiting judgement.

“As with its failure to file timely campaign finance reports,” the Apex complaint says, “the effect of the Committee’s noncompliance with governing campaign finance laws serves only to conceal from the people of the City the identity of those who have meddled in its administrative affairs at great expense.”