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Maricopa

Obstacles were many and varied during the 2016 Mud Run.

More than 1,000 people participated in the Maricopa Mud Run and its contests for younger competitors Oct. 22 at Copper Sky Regional Park. See video by Mason Callejas and photos by Anita McLeod below.

MHS sophomore Jathan Washington scored two touchdowns Friday night. Photo by William Lange

Homecoming can be as distracting as it is motivating for a football team. It turned out to be both for Maricopa High School Friday night, as the varsity took down Ironwood 37-22 in its first 5A Metro competition.

The Rams’ defense appeared shaky early against the Eagles’ passing game, with missed assignments leading to touchdowns and vulnerable open-field tackling prolonging Ironwood’s momentum at times. Maricopa did not allow that to define the evening, however.

“It’s all fixable things,” Maricopa head coach Chris McDonald said.

The coach would have preferred not have the tight score of the third quarter against a team with only one win. Considering the disruptions inherent in Homecoming week and some internal conflict, he said the Rams maintained their composure well.

Maricopa scored first on a field goal from Sam Aviles. It was the start of a personally fruitful night for the senior kicker.

But Ironwood quickly answered with a touchdown on a 38-yard pass from Mason Nguyen to Dustin Hoffarth. That initiated back-and-forth scoring.

Ram junior Cameron Sanders ran in from the 12 yard line and Aviles kicked the extra point to put Maricopa up 10-7. Hoffarth took another pass from Nguyen from Ironwood’s own 33 to take a 14-10 lead.

Aviles scored three more points on a field goal with 5:06 left in the half, and the Rams trailed the Eagles 14-13. The Maricopa defense forced a fumble on the kickoff return, setting up Aviles for his third field goal to give the Rams a 16-14 lead. They never trailed again.

At the beginning of the second half, sophomore Jathan Washington ran the ball back 61 yards for a touchdown followed by an Aviles kick to widen the lead to 23-14.

Ironwood crawled back with a rushing touchdown followed by a 2-point conversion and was just one point behind with 5:47 left in the third quarter.

In front a boisterous Homecoming crowd, the Rams’ defense dug in to stop the Eagles the rest of the game.

After a fumble recovery and a run down to the 5 yard line, Sanders carried the ball in for another touchdown. Aviles kicked the PAT, and Maricopa had a 30-22 lead.

Washington scored again from the Maricopa 33 with 2:01 left in the game to complete the scoring.

It was not a pretty win in McDonald’s estimation, but he was happy to take it.

“I just wanted to see us play a cleaner game of football, especially defensively.” McDonald said. “We still have not put a full football game together where offense, defense and special teams play to best of their ability. It seems like every game it’s one or the other, which I guess can be a good thing, too, because we’re 4-2 and we still haven’t played good football yet.”

Washington led the Rams’ rushing with 104 yards on 13 carries. Sanders carried the ball nine times for 53 yards. Senior Kenny Oliver caught four passes for 67 yards and sophomore Jacob Cowing had six receptions for 66 yards. Senior quarterback Zachary Bachelder passed for 139 yards.

Aviles scored 13 points for Maricopa with his foot.

The Rams next play at Apollo High School (2-4) in Glendale Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. in more section play.

Maricopa joined in the Pokemon Go craze with an organized event as Copper Sky staff released 20 lures around the busy park on Saturday. Using it as an opportunity to promote outdoor activity, the parks and rec department also teamed with Maricopa American Legion. Post members served up a pancake breakfast for donations. Musician Laura Walsh sang the National Anthem.

From left, Easton, Zachary and Talyor Schroeder enjoy the American Legion's pancake breakfast during the Pokemon event at Copper Sky. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson
From left, Easton, Zachary and Talyor Schroeder enjoy the American Legion’s pancake breakfast during the Pokemon event at Copper Sky. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Councilmember Nancy Smith

By Nancy Smith

Education funding should be resolved at the state level. It is the state’s responsibility to fund Arizona’s education needs and provide superb education that allows us to compete at the same level in our nation and globally. Pressure should be placed appropriately, at the state level to solve this problem.

There are two methods that would resolve funding education in Arizona without raising property taxes.

1. Transfer federal owned land to Arizona:

In 1914 states were promised that federally owned land would be transferred to the states in which they exist (including surface rights, water, timber and mineral rights). This transfer has not happened in the West states the same as it has in the East states. As an example, in New York 97 percent of lands are under private ownership and generating property tax, and only 17 percent of Arizona lands are in private hands. With this record, is there any doubt as to why Arizona struggles with having the funds for education?

In 2015, some members of the Arizona Legislature met to request the transfer of federal lands to the State of Arizona for long term education funding. If this were to happen, as promised, it would create a larger state land trust and better fund education. Nearly half of the land in Arizona is owned by the federal government and results in a loss of $2 billion per year to taxpayers. If controlled by the state, Arizona would have choices in how to maximize the land to increase funding for education.

2. Arizona State Land Trust:

As we have learned over the past year with Prop 123, Arizona has a State Land Trust where the investments proceeds are used to fund education. What was not mentioned very much during this discussion was Arizona’s own ‘dragging their feet’ to sell land in this trust to put more land into private ownership. Selling land within the state trust would be helpful in two ways; 1) Proceeds of the land sale would increase the value of the State Land Trust allowing for an increase of funding to education. 2) Private ownership increases property tax which could be available for funding education.

These two movements would make a significant change to education in Arizona, far more than an override, without raising property taxes.

I would like to see our school boards, teacher unions and Override committee members participating in the American Lands Council to make these two transfer types happen and putting heavy pressure on our state and federal legislators to make this happen soon. This would be a permanent solution and not one where the public is continually asked to increase their property tax to fund what the state should be already be funding.

I believe our Maricopa City Council should have a liaison participating in the American Lands Council as well. If re-elected, I will volunteer my time to participate in this council and fight for the transfer of federal land in Arizona to the state.

Lastly, when asked whether I support the current MUSD Override at the city council debate, I sincerely answered, informing the public that I have been in discussions with the override chairman regarding some concerns that I and members of the public, who have shared their concerns with me, still have. Answering the current question, “Do you support the Maricopa Unified School District override?” in one word: Undecided.


Nancy Smith is a member of the Maricopa City Council.

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The team gets ready to move the food they collected to a volunteer's car for F.O.R. Maricopa. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The Maricopa High School football team challenged themselves to collect their weight in food to donate to F.O.R. Maricopa’s food bank. They went door to door and to supermarkets to ask for donations to the cause. The Rams said it was an opportunity to give back to the community that has supported them. The season starts Aug. 19 at Willow Canyon in Surprise.

The Rams display the nonperishable food items the collected in Maricopa for the food bank. Photo by William Lange
The Rams display the nonperishable food items the collected in Maricopa for the food bank. Photo by William Lange

Joshua Babb. (photo by Tyler Loveall)

By Joshua Babb

At the City Council debate on Monday, July 25, I was asked whether or not I supported the MUSD budget override. I stated at that time I was undecided I had many important questions that were not answered at that point.

I asked for a meeting with the chairman of the Vote Yes Maricopa committee, Vince Manfredi, and Dr. Steve Chestnut, MUSD superintendent, to answer some of the questions that I had on the issue. Both graciously gave up their time to meet with me and answered several questions in follow-up messages. One of the most important dealt with accountability. The question is, “How will taxpayers be assured that override revenue will do what it’s intended to do?”

I asked this because once the override is approved taxpayers shouldn’t have to wait several years to know if they made the right decision. It is important to me to keep the community informed on how their tax dollars are being spent and if it was a good investment. I was assured that the district would look at putting together a forum of communication that will keep voters informed on MUSD performance.

My next concerns were targeted at the current budgeting and planning so an override would not be necessary in seven years. Dr. Chestnut talked about working with the state to get the funding the school needed. As you and I know, the state Legislature has a history of raiding the education piggy bank to address economic downturn or balance the budget. This needs to stop and voters need to address these issues by voting out any legislator who supports raiding school funding. The state is responsible for funding schools and if it’s properly done, local communities won’t have to tax themselves to make up for shortfalls.

I am now confident in supporting the override.

There are still a few things Maricopa residents need to ask the school board, on a continuing basis and I will take the lead in doing that. I will, as a citizen or councilmember, work with MUSD and the School Board to answer these very important questions:

* “What are you doing to turn around those sixteen or so school busses that are leaving Maricopa every day?” We have a shop-local campaign – maybe we need an “educate local” campaign to convince parents and students that they’re needed and wanted here in Maricopa. Every student that attends school in MUSD brings along revenue that is needed to fund our schools and help make overrides unnecessary.
* What is MUSD long term strategy to ensure we don’t need future overrides?

We need outside-of-the-box solutions to decrease spending and increase classroom education.

Maricopa needs to stand on its own. Economic development depends on having a great local school district. At present, we are outsourcing the education of our kids to the Kyrene and Tempe districts because they have more programs and better overall ratings.

I invite all residents that have any questions for me about my views on the override to contact me and I will gladly sit down and discuss my thoughts. I also welcome any discussion with the current School Board.

I approached this question like I will any issue that I am presented with as your councilmember. I will get the facts and vote from a position of being informed rather that what seems to be popular at the moment. I hope that each of you will vote the same way.


Joshua Babb is a Maricopa resident and a candidate for city council.

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Rayados Arizona players and coaches have been practicing at Copper Sky. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

A soccer academy for athletes for age 5 to 19 has had the young players going through their paces at Copper Sky Regional Park.

Rayados Arizona is an official school of Rayados de Monterrey (named for their vertically striped uniforms), a professional soccer club in Mexico. The club also has schools in Texas, Utah, Sonora and elsewhere. Some of the young footballers who play for Rayados Arizona have a chance to play in tournaments throughout the West and in Mexico.

Players are bilingual.

Coach Hugo Virgen said the international soccer academy also sets up player for a chance to play at the college level.

In May they participated in the college showcase Cerritos Memorial Challenge Cup in California. This week, some of the young players are part of the annual Copa Rayados at Universidad de Monterrey.

Call 520-360-1135 or visit RayadosArizona.com or find them on Facebook.

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It was standing-room-only in council chambers at City Hall for a primary election debate among seven candidates, including Joshua Babb (pictured). Photo by Tyler Loveall

Traffic on State Route 347, economic development, utility rates, the override at Maricopa Unified School District, the library and the flood plain were all topics of discussion at Monday’s debate forum among seven candidates for three seats on the Maricopa City Council.

Most of the candidates brought up SR 347 as a major issue to tackle.

The terms of Vice Mayor Marvin Brown and councilmembers Bridger Kimball and Nancy Smith are coming to an end this year, and all are running for re-election. Challengers are former councilmembers Dan Frank, Julia Gusse and Leon Potter and newcomer Joshua Babb.

Smith did not attend the debate but was allowed to participate by phone.

The forum was moderated by Sara Troyer, executive director of the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce.

When asked what change or conflict they would like to be involved in resolving:

Potter: Economic development on the east side of Maricopa

Brown: The change is already happening

Frank: SR 347

Babb: SR 347

Kimball: 1-percent tax cap

Gusse: Veterans services

Smith: SR 347 and 1-percent tax cap

Mayor Christian Price is running unopposed but did address the audience briefly. Photo by Tyler Loveall
Mayor Christian Price is running unopposed but did address the audience briefly. Photo by Tyler Loveall

With several mentions of the looming impact of the state’s 1-percent tax cap, Mayor Christian Price gave a “Reader’s Digest” overview of the issue at the end of the debate. Price is running unopposed for re-election. He said no state legislators understand the issue or how a government entity like the city of Maricopa is penalized for the actions of other jurisdictions.

The candidates mulled ways to tackle utility rates from Global Water. The idea of using bonds to purchase the water/sewer utility was floated by Potter. Gusse said the council must put forth a unified front in dealing with Global Water. Brown, reminding the audience of a committee formed to negotiate with the company, said buying a utility would be “very costly.”

Frank, who was chairman of the 2040 Vision committee that collected information for future planning, said “we heard over and over how the utility rates are negatively impacting” residents. But, he added, it might not be the right time for a feasibility study on purchasing the water utility.

Kimball said buying the utility is no guarantee the rates will go down.

When asked if they are supporting the MUSD override: See related editorial

Potter: Yes – “Class sizes were the reason I put my kids in a charter.”

Brown: Yes – “I was in favor of all the previous overrides.”

Frank: Did not answer – “Everyone has to vote their own conscience.”

Babb: Undecided – “Education is important to me … but you can’t throw money at a problem to fix it.”

Kimball: Yes – “I absolutely support the override.”

Gusse: Yes – “Our teachers are overworked, underpaid and not appreciated.”

Smith: Undecided – “The use of funds is clearly stated… All my criteria have been met… It’s the best organized override campaign… I have not made up my mind.”

Maricopa Public Library is a relatively new building but is considered too small for the community. While all candidates spoke highly of the library and noted its importance, there was reluctance to allocating money for a new library anytime soon.

Kimball said the reins were tight on all city departments in the current budget, and the library received about half of the money it needed. Frank said, with the city’s tight budget, it is not a good time to be taking on more debt.

Babb suggested creating a mobile library to further reach the community. Smith and Gusse used examples from other communities of libraries sharing space with schools or other government buildings.

Fielding personal questions about their candidacy after their previous controversial terms on council, Potter said he stands by his reasons for resigning, and Gusse there is a double-standard for women who speak their mind. Potter resigned from council to run for mayor after trying to recall Kimball. Gusse received an official warning from council after a violation of an ethics code she helped write.

“What made me run again was my love for Maricopa,” Potter said. “Trust is something that has to be earned.”

Gusse said she has been standing by her convictions and inferred she would have been treated differently had she been a man in the same circumstances.

Frank also previously served on council as an appointed member to fill out a term. He is now chairman of the Maricopa Flood Control District Board. He said serving on the board and the city council would not be a conflict of interest. Frank said he is concerned about the high insurance rates paid by homeowners in the floodplain, calling it “unacceptable.”

Candidates who survive the Aug. 30 primary and are not elected outright will be asked to participate in a general election debate in the fall.

By Ethan McSweeney

An extension of Edison Road west to State Route 238 will begin construction this summer pending approval of a contract by the Maricopa City Council in July.

That extension would allow the Estrella Gin Business Park, which is planned along the new Edison Road route, to move forward, but no definitive start date has been set for construction to begin on the project.

At its July 19 meeting, the Maricopa City Council will decide on a construction contract for the Edison Road extension past Maricopa Fire Department Station 575, where the road currently ends, said Josh Plumb, city engineering and floodplain manager. The extension would turn the two-lane road north through the future business park and connect to SR 238, providing an alternate route from State Route 347.

There is no price tag on the construction yet, Plumb said, as the details of the contract are still being negotiated.

Plumb said construction on the road extension will begin about one month after approval from the council, with construction slated to take about nine months.

“We’re anxious for it to get started,” Mayor Christian Price said. “It’s an important part of the future of business in our community.”

Both the Edison Road extension and the Estrella Gin Business Park have been delayed for years as the city has worked to negotiate the details of the projects with private landowners, Price said.

“I’d love it to be done already,” Price said. “The fact is we don’t control the private landowners, so whenever you work with someone, you have to work through different philosophies and different dreams.”

The City Council is also set to decide at its July 5 meeting on a contract with Electrical District No. 3 to build electrical infrastructure along the Edison Road extension as the road is being constructed, Plumb said. A contract with Global Water Resources is also scheduled for a vote from the council during that meeting.

The Boyer Company, a Salt Lake City-based real estate developer, plans to begin Estrella Gin Business Park’s construction with a 36,000-square-foot “flex space” building, said Denyse Airheart, economic development director for the city of Maricopa. The flex designation lets businesses use the space for office, warehouse or light industrial work.

“It allows tenants to have a wide variety of options for that space,” Airheart said.

It’s still unclear when exactly construction on the Estrella Gin Business Park will begin. Boyer will build the first building once it has attained 60 percent occupancy, Airheart said.

No one has signed a lease for space in the Estrella Gin Business Park yet, but information has been sent out to potential tenants, Airheart said. A prospective business would also sign a letter of intent before signing a lease for space in Estrella Gin.

Price said the lack of tenants is due to Boyer not marketing the space until recently because of the delayed progress on the Edison Road extension.

The delays to the Estrella Gin project through the years have frustrated Peter Cockle, owner of the shipping company SHIPFR8, who would like to move his business into the planned business park.

Cockle initially expressed his interest to move his business, which has locations in the Phoenix area, into Estrella Gin in 2012, when the then-economic development director for Maricopa told him about it. He signed a letter of intent and was told his business would be able to move in January 2014. Construction never got underway, and his letter of intent expired.

“We keep getting told they’re going to break ground, they’re going to break ground, they’re going to break ground,” Cockle said. “Last week, when I went over there, I didn’t see anything happening.”

Cockle has sought other options for places in Maricopa for his business, which needs plenty of space because of the trucks involved in his shipping. He said Boyer reached out to him a month ago to say the company would likely break ground before the end of the year.

“Yes, we’re interested, but we’ll believe it when we see it,” Cockle said.

Estrella Gin Business Park will have 40 acres of development for businesses, with buildings offering office, industrial and flex space. The firehouse and the City of Maricopa Maintenance Facility currently sit on the Estrella Gin property. Maricopa’s Amtrak station will also be relocated to the Estrella Gin property along Garvey Avenue.

Airheart is confident the space will be filled. “We have very low vacancy rates,” she said about Maricopa business space.

Estrella Gin would be Maricopa’s first light industrial business park. The city bought the 50-acre property in 2011 for $3.2 million.


This story appeared in the July issue of InMaricopa.

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Bill Dering specializes in advance funeral planning for J. Warren Funeral Services, which has opened an arrangement center in Maricopa. Photo by Ethan McSweeney

By Ethan McSweeney

For years, Maricopans faced a unique problem when it came to death: there were no funeral parlors in the city.

That changed this month when J. Warren Funeral Services opened a small office, called the J. Warren Arrangement Center, in the Maricopa Business Center.

Janet Warren, chief financial officer and an owner at J. Warren, said the Casa Grande-based business decided to open in Maricopa to establish a larger foothold in the community.

“We’d like to be the first [funeral] business to serve the community,” Warren said. “Maricopa is a growing community.”

Currently, three people work out of the J. Warren Arrangement Center from Mondays through Wednesdays on a rotating basis. They haven’t seen anyone out of the Maricopa office, yet, but they hope to soon as they make their presence in the city known, said Bill Dering, who works in advanced funeral planning for J. Warren.

Dering works one day a week in the Maricopa office along with Sharon Gilbertson, outreach coordinator, and fellow advanced funeral planner Kristin Gramando.

J. Warren Funeral Services, founded in 1953, also has offices in Casa Grande, Eloy, Coolidge and Ajo. It operates the Mountain View Cemetery off Interstate 8 on Skyway Avenue in Casa Grande.

The family-owned business offers burial services, funeral planning, pre-arrangements, cremation and other services — a “one-stop service,” Dering said.

Warren, who has worked in the funeral business for 46 years, points out that J. Warren has been serving customers from Maricopa for years, even though it hasn’t had a storefront in the city.

The office in Maricopa is still growing, but someone who uses J. Warren for funeral services would have access to the company’s resources around Pinal County, Warren said.

“You can make any kind of arrangement out of the office,” she said.

Dering said while it’s not something people want to be thinking about, funeral planning is an important service.

“The only thing we’re guaranteed when we get a birth certificate is that eventually we’ll get a death certificate,” Dering said.

So, his area of focus for advanced funeral planning is serving people who want to plan ahead for their funerals rather than having loved ones make arrangements right after their death. That, he said, takes the grief out of the equation when it comes to trying to plan a funeral right after someone dies.

Pre-planning – and pre-purchasing – funeral arrangements also fixes costs before prices inevitably rise, Dering said.

Maricopa doesn’t have a cemetery, so burial would still need to take place elsewhere. Warren said the business would like to put in a funeral home — the current Maricopa office isn’t classified as a funeral home — and cemetery in Maricopa in the future as it expands.

Warren said the business hasn’t set a definitive plan yet for how it will expand in Maricopa.

“This is pretty limited at the moment,” Dering said about the office, “but you have to start somewhere.”


This story appeared in the July issue of InMaricopa.

Many donation bins around Maricopa may be for a good cause but don't have city permits. City of Maricopa photo

By Ethan McSweeney

Maricopa is moving to remove unpermitted donation bins around the city after the owners of the bins failed to come into compliance with the city’s regulations.

“These bins have become a nuisance,” said Martin Scribner, director of development services for the city of Maricopa. “A lot of trash has been accumulating around them. One time I saw a box full of trophies by one.”

In order to set out a donation bin in Maricopa, a person needs to apply with the city and receive approval. Several donation bins did not have the proper permits to operate, so, last month, the city launched an effort to bring them up to standards, Scribner said.

He said city workers went around to the donation bins and tried contacting the numbers listed or the landowners where the bins were. On June 6, the city placed notices on the unpermitted bins, ordering them to be removed.

Some of the unpermitted bins were removed after the notice was given, Scribner said. As of Wednesday afternoon, about eight bins remained at three locations around Maricopa.

Scribner said the city would give the owners of the remaining bins until Monday to pick them up.

“We’re hoping that the rest of them will be removed,” Scribner said.

The process for getting a permit for a donation bin is fairly simple, Scribner said.

Someone who would want to set one out would go to the city to go through a screening process. That person would also need to provide contact information to place on the donation bin, receive permission from the landowner for where the bin would be placed and set the bin a certain distance from the road, Scribner said.

The application — essentially a zoning permit — would go through a review by the city, which would only take a couple of days, Scribner said.

The owners of the donation bins that have been removed can still go back to the city to apply to put their bins back out, he said.

 

 

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City floodplain manager Josh Plumb (standing) talks to the Heritage District Citizens Committee about the floodplain. Photo by Ethan McSweeney

By Ethan McSweeney

Maricopa’s Heritage District doesn’t have too many options when it comes to addressing floodplain issues without a region-wide effort, according to a presentation to the district’s citizen advisory committee last week.

Josh Plumb, floodplain manager for the city of Maricopa, gave the Heritage District Citizen Advisory Committee an overview of the floodplain situation for the area and what would need to be done to find a solution to the issue.

Maricopa’s Heritage District has a 1 percent chance of flooding in any given year, also called a 100-year flood, as a result of being a low-lying area from the Santa Rosa Wash and the Vekol Wash. This means that the area has been designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a floodplain.

As a result of this status, if any redevelopment to a property within the Heritage District equals or is greater than 50 percent of the value of that property, then the property would need to be brought up to floodplain standards. It also requires that any homeowner in the area purchase flood insurance.

“The challenge to the area is that it limits what can be done in terms of redevelopment,” Plumb told the committee at its monthly meeting.

One couple who purchased a home in the Heritage District recently learned they would have to spend tens of thousands of dollars in order to bring their home up to floodplain standards.

Brian Foose, chairman of the Heritage District Citizen Advisory Committee, didn’t agree with the decision by FEMA to designate the area a floodplain.

“Unfortunately, the people in Washington who are looking through their satellites and their satellite imagery say that’s a lower area, that’s a floodplain,” Foose said.

Don Pearce, a member of the advisory committee and a long-time Maricopa resident, also didn’t believe that the floodplain status accurately reflects the situation, citing past experiences with flooding in the Maricopa area.

“This is ridiculous this floodplain,” he said. “I can’t see where they get this from.”

Plumb said any possible solution to the larger issue of limits to development in the floodplain would need to be addressed at a regional level with Pinal County, Pima County and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Santa Cruz River, from which the Santa Rosa and Vekol washes are tributaries, flows from Mexico through Santa Cruz and Pima counties north to Pinal County.

Some options that could help the Heritage District include a drainage project or a flood-retention area that would divert potential flooding.

“Obviously, funding is a major issue in terms of trying to do a regional solution for this,” Plumb said.

Ragon Sandoval is accused of stabbing a man in Maricopa. PCSO photo

A Maricopa man is in critical condition after being stabbed in a fight Thursday, and his alleged assailant is behind bars.

The fight took place in the 49000 block of Julie Lane south of Maricopa. Pinal County Sheriff’s Office was called around 9:45 p.m. by a resident who reported a man going door-to-door asking for help.

When a deputy arrived, a resident directed him to a man lying on a porch with four serious stab wounds. As the 39-year-old victim was being treated, he told first responders he was stabbed by Ragon Thomas Sandoval, a homeless man living in the area.

Sandoval, 29, turned out to be the man who was reported going door-to-door in the neighborhood.

“Deputies located Ragon Sandoval in an abandoned shack nearby the crime scene,” Sheriff Paul Babeu said. “He claimed to have been assaulted by a group of men in the street and he stabbed one man with a knife in self-defense. The investigators were unable to substantiate an assault that justified the suspect stabbing the victim.”

Sandoval was arrested and booked into PCSO jail pending charges of aggravated assault causing injury, aggravated assuault with a deadly weapon and being a fugitive from justice. The victim was flown to a Phoenix trauma center, where he remains.

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The City of Maricopa is updating its business license application process to make it easier and to allow online renewals. A committee has been formed from various city departments to improve the process.

Business license applications received in March 16-April 15:

Storefront: Beem Biologics, HRB Tax Group, Joseph Painting Company, JPCI Services, Precision Concrete Cutting, Tillers Equipment

Home-based: A to Z Guitar & Ampworks, Alto Software, Barn Management, Joie DeVivre Consulting, Keith’s Affordable Construction, Meraki Fire, Mr. Investment, New Conversations, Pros for America’s Youth, Thomas Danler, William Kleespie, Wilwood Distribution

Out of town: Bio Art Face and Body Painting, Blue Haven Gifts, Burns & McDonnell Engineering, Diamondback Plumbing Services, Flash Cleaning, G&V Commercial Cleaning Equipment Repair, Rentokil North America, Silver Lining Comics, US Tower Services


This item appeared in the May issue of InMaricopa.

United Maricopa Firefighters Local 4561 has completed its donation campaign for “Fill the Boot,” a charity event for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

With support from Fry’s Food Store, which allowed Local 4561 to use its storefront to solict funding, and donations from the community, the firefighters raised the equivalent of $7,000 this year.

All across the United States and Canada, firefighters from all International Association of Firefighters locals eagerly collect money for those that are afflicted with muscular dystrophy. As the single largest contributor, the IAFF has been doing this for the past 62 years.

The Maricopa event was coordinated by John Campanaro.

Pickleball players in Maricopa. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

For a couple of years now, a passion for pickleball has been apparent in Maricopa. It has now reached the point that aficionados are asking the City of Maricopa for courts of their own.

The pickleballers’ estimated cost of eight dedicated pickleball courts is $200,000.

Pickleball ambassador and advocate Rocky Myers is convinced having a bigger pickleball presence will be a boost to the Maricopa economy.

“It will bring in more retirees, and pretty soon retirees will make up one in five of the population,” Myers said.

He said he knew families that moved out of Sun Lakes because there were not enough pickleball courts.

Myers is afraid the same could happen in Maricopa.

“Right now pickleball is really growing but there is no place to play,” he said. “There’s plenty of room there at Copper Sky. If they build courts, people will come.”

Maricopan pickleballers have three mornings a week to use half of the gymnasium at Copper Sky, with pickleball lines interspersed with markings from other sports and a surface they do not consider ideal. Outside, they try to play on the tennis courts, which have a net that is too high.

“It’s hard on the tennis players, too,” said Robert Matysiak, 68. “They try to accommodate us, but it’s their court.”

Two years ago, the city added pickleball markings to its tennis courts at Pacana Park.

Pickleball has rules similar to tennis, badminton and ping pong. It was created in the 1960s in Washington.

Matysiak said one of the reasons he enjoys pickleball is the close proximity of the opponents.

“We can talk to each other and joke across the net,” he said. “In tennis, you have to yell across the court.”

It is also not as demanding on the body as tennis while still providing exercise and health benefits. In Maricopa, pickleball first scored in the 55+ community of Province, which was where Myers was introduced to it.

Locally, that has given pickleball the reputation of being a retirees’ game, but Margo Malouf wants to see younger players in Maricopa.

Malouf is also an ambassador, an official title with the USA Pickleball Association.

“When you go around the country, you see a lot of young adults and kids playing,” she said.

In communities with dedicated pickleball courts, children and grandparents alike are playing. “It makes the game more fun,” she said.

For many years, Myers was a competitor in marathon and Ironman events, and he loved playing tennis in college. He thought physical activity of any account was over when he had his knees replaced in 2009.

He discovered pickleball in Province in 2013 and fell in love with it. But he is not a resident of Province. To get his pickleball fix, he would travel to Sun Lakes. He has also played in Ahwatukee, Surprise, Palm Creek and Robson Ranch.

When Copper Sky offered pickleball classes, public interest began to grow. Myers estimated about 300 people play in Maricopa.

“This year, we have noticed more and more people picking up the sport and we find it is harder to get on any court to play,” Glennwilde resident Marilyn Cory said. “We have often driven to each tennis court only to find they are all in use and there are others waiting to play.”

Jeff Whipple, 55, a self-described snowbird from Alberta, Canada, started coming to Maricopa two years ago.

“I came looking for something to do,” he said. “I never heard of pickleball until last year. Now I’m addicted.”

He was one of several players who wrote to Maricopa City Council asking for dedicated courts like the nine in Province.

“Sitting, waiting for courts is very frustrating,” he said. “We completely understand that play falls off after the snowbirds go home, but we believe it is a big drawing card for the city to have public courts.”

He said the eight courts Myers asked city council to consider would be just a start.

“If we had eight courts, we could start having tournaments,” he said.

It is just that idea Myers wants to sell to councilmembers to persuade them pickleball has economic benefits to Maricopa.

“I don’t see any big industry relocating here,” he said. “But I’m convinced people will move here to play pickleball. And some won’t move here because there is really no place to play.”

Pickleball courts are not in the city’s budget.

Contact Rocky Myers at 520-494-2030.


This story appeared in the May issue of InMaricopa.

Caregivers walked a lap during the early evening of Relay for Life at Copper Sky Regional Park Saturday. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Relay for Life of Maricopa again had blustery conditions Saturday, but participants soldiered on at Copper Sky through strong wind gusts. Thirty-nine teams raised nearly $50,000 for cancer research for the event, which was Saturday at 6 p.m. through Sunday at 6 a.m.

Evan Grace, a freshman at Maricopa High School, was the top individual money-raiser. His “Bras for a Cause” project to bring awareness of breast cancer brought in $3,040. City councilmembers Bridger Kimball and Henry Wade promised him they would walk laps in a brassiere if  he raised $2,500. Mayor Christian Price said it would take $3,000 for him to wear a bra. They and other Maricopa men followed through on the pledge.

The top fund-raising team was City of Maricopa Copa 4 A Cure, which raised $5,860. Caped CUREsaders brought in $5,632.40.

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Submitted photo

The Maricopa Lions Club sold entries into its inaugural golf-ball drop on March 26. Electrical District No. 3 provided a “cherry picker” to drop the 854 numbered balls and one red ball onto the grassy surface at Rotary Park. Maricopa Police Chief Steve Stahl was the official judge to determine which ball was closest to the red ball.

The golf balls sold for $5 each. Zack Park, who bought ball No. 73, was presented with a check for $1,895 at the April 12 Lions Club meeting. Park said he bought his ticket outside Ace Hardware, and he and his wife will use his winnings to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary.

The presentation was made by Dave Bailey, chairman of the ball drop event, and Dave Bock, club president. The Lions Club’s goal next year is to sell all 1,000 balls. The prize will increase to $2,500.

Vincent Manfredi (left), Christian Price, Bridger Kimball and Nancy Smith voted in favor of the CCW ordinance. Photos by Raquel Hendrickson

No, you may not carry a concealed weapon into Maricopa’s municipal court. Or the police station. Or a fire station.

But Tuesday the Maricopa City Council approved on a split vote an ordinance that will allow concealed-weapons permit-holders to carry their weapons in most public buildings.

Mayor Christian Price ended up being the deciding vote that went 4-2-1 in favor of the ordinance. Councilmembers Peggy Chapados and Henry Wade voted against it. Vice Mayor Marvin Brown abstained from the vote, saying it is likely upcoming state legislation will make any city decision moot anyway.

Senate Bill 1257 “prevents public entities from prohibiting individuals with Concealed Carry Weapons (CCW) permits from carrying firearms on their premises except when certain security measures are taken.  The entity may ban firearms if it provides security personnel at its entrance along with a screening device.”

Though Price said there is a “false assumption” that people with a CCW permit have additional training (no longer required under state law), he said the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution “allows this to take place.”

“How do we legislate personal responsibility?” he asked. He said he agreed with Brown that state lawmakers will soon remove the power for municipalities to make those decisions for themselves.

Councilmember Vincent Manfredi gave impassioned speeches in favor of the ordinance. He said most CCW holders just want to protect themselves and their families. He said making them handle their guns in public by removing them and putting them in a safe is more dangerous.

Peggy Chapados and Henry Wade voted against the ordinance. Photos by Raquel Hendrickson
Peggy Chapados and Henry Wade voted against the ordinance. Photos by Raquel Hendrickson

Councilmember Nancy Smith wanted the wording of the ordinance to clarify that the weapon must be on the person and not just in a bag or a purse.

Because the municipal court shares a building with the county’s justice court, which bans its employees from carrying concealed weapons, the new ordinance also bans city employees from taking conceal weapons into the court building.

Councilmember Bridger Kimball added language to the ordinance that would also ban the public from bringing concealed weapons into the Maricopa Police Department’s buildings or the Maricopa Fire Department buildings.

Fire Chief Brady Leffler said his firefighters are not allowed to carry concealed weapons at any time. “I would be adamant that my guys do not carry,” he said.

Police Chief Steve Stahl reminded the council they initially based their discussions on a similar measure enacted by the Gilbert Town Council. He said after the vote Gilbert also decided to hire paid security for council meetings.

Police Chief Steve Stahl talks to the council.
Police Chief Steve Stahl talks to the council.

A previous Maricopa council meeting on the issue drew several residents to speak, all in favor. At Tuesday’s meeting, only two members of the audience addressed the council in person.

Gary Metivier spoke briefly in favor of the ordinance. “It’s the role of government to protect our rights,” he said.

Eric Phillips spoke at length against the decision. He cited a U.S. Supreme Court decision written by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, saying the Second Amendment is not unlimited. He decried the universal carry legislation adopted by the state as dangerous deregulation.

“I don’t think people are learning how to properly take care of their firearms,” said Phillips, whose mother was a police officer for 33 years.

Chapados said she could think of no reason anyone would need to bring a gun into a library, especially around children. “I think we’re trying to create problems that don’t exist,” she said.

Wade, a veteran and a gun owner, said he had wrestled with the issue and also listened to the concerns of employees at Copper Sky Recreational Complex.

“Why do we feel we have to have a loaded weapon to protect ourselves?” he asked.

Residents Gary Metivier (left) and Eric Phillips spoke on opposite sides of the issue. Photos by Raquel Hendrickson
Residents Gary Metivier (left) and Eric Phillips spoke on opposite sides of the issue. Photos by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa High School students rehearse for "Les Miserables." Photo by Jake Johnson

All kinds of learning experiences, important community meetings and student productions of theater classics are in store this week in Maricopa. For details on the following events and others, or to add your own, visit InMaricopa.com/Calendar.

SUNDAY

A Ray of Hope meeting of Narcotics Anonymous is at 7 p.m. at the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce Office, 44480 W. Honeycutt Road, Suite 106.

MONDAY

Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Committee meets at 4 p.m. at City Hall, 39700 W. Civic Center Plaza, for a hefty agenda, including updates on transportaion, senior activities and the upcoming Game Night.

Tumbling, pom and cheer class for ages 4-12 is at 5 p.m. at Copper Sky Multigenerational Center, 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Chef Cody’s Culinary Adventure for ages 16 and up is at 5:30 p.m. at Copper Sky Multigenerational Center, 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

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

TUESDAY

Pinal County Open Space and Trails will be featured at Lunch ‘n’ Learn at noon at Central Arizona College, 17945 N. Regent Drive, in Room A-101.

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

Trip to the Planetarium at Mesa Community College for ages 18 and up leaves from Copper Sky Multigenerational Center, 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., at 3 p.m. and returns at 8 p.m.

Maricopa City Council Work Session starts at 5 p.m. at City Hall, 39700 W. Civic Center Plaza. The agenda includes discussion of the 10-Year Capital Improvement Plan.

Maricopa Children’s Theatre: Beauty Is a Beast is at 6 p.m. Tuesday and Thursdays through May 12 at Copper Sky Multigenerational Center, 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Maricopa City Council Meeting is at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 39700 W. Civic Center Plaza. The agenda includes an ordinance that will allow people with a permit to carry concealed weapons to carry those concealed weapons in all city buildings except the court building.

WEDNESDAY

Hip Hop Dance Class for ages 4-7 is at 4 p.m. at Copper Sky Multigenerational Center, 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Maricopa 101 – Workforce Development, with special guest Joel Millman of Arizona@Work, is at 5 p.m. in the Zephyr Conference Room at City Hall, 39700 W. Civic Center Plaza.

THURSDAY

First Steps Ballet and Tumbling for ages 3-4 is at 4 p.m. at Copper Sky Multigenerational Center, 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

First Steps Ballet and Jazz for ages 5-7 is at 5 p.m. at Copper Sky Multigenerational Center, 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

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

THURSDAY-SATURDAY

Les Miserables will be performed by the Maricopa High School Theater company at 7 p.m. nightly and at 2 p.m. on Saturday as well in the Performing Arts Center, 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave.

FRIDAY

Nate Ford Community Night/Baseball Senior Night is at 6 p.m. at Matt Huffman Field at Maricopa High School, 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave., with raffles and concessions.

FRIDAY-SATURDAY

Spoon River will be performed at 7 p.m. by junior high and high school students at Sequoia Pathway Academy football field, 19265 N. Porter Road.

SATURDAY

Tiny Tot Sports for ages 2-3 is at 9 a.m. at Copper Sky Regional Park, 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Tiny Tot Sports for ages 3-4 is at 10 a.m. Copper Sky Regional Park, 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Latin Dance Class for adults age 16 and up is at 6:30 p.m. at Copper Sky Multigenerational Center, 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Nancy Jones stands at her unique 1957 home in the Heritage District. She and her husband were “devastated” by the demands of a floodplain permit to improve the house. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa wants to revitalize the Heritage District.

The Heritage District is in a floodplain.

The impasse that creates for homeowners wishing to improve property can be frustrating and expensive.

A solution will be a long time coming.

Bill and Nancy Jones live in Senita but found a 1950s house on Condrey Avenue with “tons of potential.” They discovered it on the real estate website Trulia. A victim of foreclosure, the house had been empty five years.

Of course, empty is a relative term. Clearly animals and humans had made use of it. The entire quarter-acre property was full of trash.

As Washington snowbirds, the Joneses are do-it-yourselfers who saw the many challenges the home presented. But they did not even know about the biggest challenge.

What they knew about the property was that it was mid-century modern and had been in foreclosure.

“The bank foreclosed, sent the owners the paperwork, but they never followed through, so it went to a tax sale,” Nancy Jones said. “The people we bought it from bought it on taxes, and then we bought it off of them. So there were no disclosures. They didn’t know anything about the property, and we didn’t know anything about it.

The Joneses knew they had an expensive challenge in restoring the home on Condrey Avenue but were unprepared for the floodplain permitting process. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson
The Joneses knew they had an expensive challenge in restoring the home on Condrey Avenue but were unprepared for the floodplain permitting process. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

“If we had, we never would have bought it.”

Bill Jones said they hauled off 12 tons of trash from the house, the front yard and the back yard. The kitchen and bathrooms had already been stripped out. The Joneses took down all the sheetrock and plaster.

“It looks ugly, but there is nothing wrong with what we’ve got for a base,” Nancy said. “We’re working with an architect who has fabulous ideas for us. Until we get the floodplain permit, we can’t do anything.”

That has put the brakes on all of their plans.

In working with city planners on issues like setback waivers and variances, the floodplain issue came up. The Joneses were in contact with the Pinal County Flood Control District, which delivered the devastating news.

Engineer Chris Wannamaker told the Joneses the 1957 home on property that had not been surveyed since 1956 was built 26 years before the first floodplain map went in to effect. It is in a floodplain now, requiring a floodplain permit before any construction can be done, and that work must follow the “substantial improvement rules.”

“These rules state that if the cost of the improvements (including materials and labor) are more than 50 percent of the current value of the structure then the entire structure needs to be brought into compliance with the current floodplain regulations,” Wannamaker said. “In the case of this home, it would very likely mean elevating the entire structure.”

Half of the value of the Condrey house is about $16,000, a fraction of what their construction improvements will be.

“That’s the roof,” Nancy said. “We can’t get homeowners insurance because of the roof.”

They were able to get commercial insurance, which Bill said is $500-$600 per year.

“We’re out now about $55,000, and it just keeps adding and adding and adding,” Nancy said.

“I’d like to see the city of Maricopa get off their tushes and get that flood-retention area built that they need.” –Nancy Jones

That’s well beyond the full value of the home, so the work automatically requires the floodplain permit. That means before they can do anything else to the house, the Joneses must do one of two things.

“The only thing we can do right now is get a company to come in, burrow underneath the slab, lift it up two feet, backfill it with gravel, and then put the house back down,” Nancy said. “Or tear the whole thing down. At a minimum that would cost $15,000 to $20,000. Then we have to start from scratch.

“It’s a solid-built place. It’s disgusting to think that to do anything, we have to destroy it.”

For Maricopa, the option to help everyone in the Heritage District floodplain is to construct a flood-retention area or drainage project.

Joshua Plumb, a floodplain manager at City Hall, said a study to do a design for drainage is more than five years away. Then any plan must get approval from Pinal County at the Federal Emergency Management Agency. His best guess is six to seven years at the earliest before Maricopa has a project.

“Nobody’s taking a serious stand,” Bill Jones said.

“I’d like to see the city of Maricopa get off their tushes and get that flood-retention area built that they need,” Nancy Jones said. “Until the city gets their act together, anybody that wants to do anything in this area can’t.”

It is even a complicated situation for the city, which has property in the Heritage District it plans to develop. Plumb said an outside option is the opportunity for a development company to create its own drainage plan that meets FEMA requirements for much of the area.

“We’re always looking for development,” he said.

Nancy Jones said city planners were “wonderful” and very supportive of what the couple wanted to do with the house. The Heritage District Advisory Committee, too, heard their plight with compassion.

“We are sympathetic to what you have to go through,” said Brian Foose, committee chairman. “The whole 347 corridor is constrained because of the floodplain.”

“My heart goes out to you people,” committee member Renate Chamberlin said.

“My heart goes out to the neighbors,” Nancy Jones replied. “We want to get going on it.”

She called the situation “devastating.”

Plumb said the city tries to inform the public about the demands of being in a floodplain. It is considered one of Maricopa’s top three issues. While a city solution for the Heritage District is a long-range goal, potential homeowners wanting to improve the oldest section of town are forewarned.

“You have to know what you’re coming into,” Plumb said.


This story appeared in the April issue of InMaricopa.

Don Pearce owns a Honeycutt Road salvage yard that is in the path of the planned overpass on State Route 347 at the Union Pacific Railroad tracks. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

When the grade-separation overpass on State Route 347 becomes a reality, it will alter several properties. Most are businesses.

Some will be bought and demolished. Others will have their access dramatically changed. All have to wait for the Arizona Department of Transportation.

“It’s teaching us patience,” said Pastor Jim Johnson of the First Baptist Church, which might be in the way.

The expected southbound path of the overpass removes the current dogleg curve to the west at Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway and follows a straighter route. That would run the overpass over Maricopa Fire Department’s administration buildings, near F.O.R. Maricopa food bank, the former La Roca bar property, a salvage yard, part of Copa Center, NAPA Auto Parts, Spoon’s Café, the Amtrak station and First Baptist Church.

Several of those lots belong to the city. Maricopa bought and demolished La Roca last year. The MFD buildings and Park-n-Ride lot belong to the city as does the Copa Center. Of the other property owners, some are certain their property will be acquired by the city while others don’t know because of the uncertainties of ADOT’s plans.

There are anxieties for both as they wait for ADOT to move forward on its design.

“Until they finish the design to 30 percent, they won’t be able to tell us for sure,” Johnson said.

ADOT is using what it is calling Alternate H. That plan runs straight over First Baptist Church, which is more than 60 years old. While there has been talk at the city and state level of somehow accommodating the church into the plans, all Johnson knows for certain is ADOT prefers Alternate H.

“We’ve been investigating different properties in Maricopa,” Johnson said. “We’re trying to figure out what size property we’re going to need.”

The church had already been raising funds to build two other buildings on its 1.06 acres. If necessary, those funds could go toward purchasing a new property when combined with money from the city’s right-of-way acquisition. Its full cash value has most recently been assessed at $150,000. Its market value will be the point of negotiation.

Johnson is just as worried ADOT’s final plan will not force the demolition of the church but will bring the overpass traffic dangerously near the church and make access difficult.

Businesses on both sides of State Route 347 south of the tracks will have their access impacted.

“There will be a dead end on 347. There’ll be a dead end on Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway. They’ll put about 10 businesses out of business,” said Don Pearce, who does not think the overpass is necessary.

Pearce owns property full of salvaged vehicles next to Copa Center. It was four lots when he bought it and now is two parcels of a quarter-acre each.

He said there was once a home on the property, which is marked as residential, but that is just a concrete slab now. He put up the newer building he uses as garage, workshop and storage unit.

Whatever he uses the property for at the moment, it is definitely in the path of the overpass.

“They’re supposed to negotiate a price on it,” Pearce said.

He said some buyers had been interested in the property until the overpass discussion started. Now he’s worried he will not get the value of the property as real estate prices begin to rise. One of the lots has a full cash value of $46,367 and the other $48,764.

Pearce expects a bid soon on most of the contents of the lot. The vehicles that are not for sale he will move to another parcel.

“A guy called me from ADOT about my property the other day,” he said. “When I asked him how long it was going to be before I’d know anything, he said he didn’t have anything to do with purchasing, but it’ll take a year and a half to purchase the property.”

Acquiring right-of-way is the responsibility of the City of Maricopa. In March, the city council signed an intergovernmental agreement with ADOT to that effect.

ADOT is in the middle of a public-comment period on its updated five-year program. The Maricopa overpass is among ADOT’s suggestions to move forward on a quicker timeline. The State Transportation Board will finalize the projects and timelines for the five-year plan in June.

The project is set to receive $19 million from the state, $15 million from a federal TIGER grant and $15 million in local contributions.

Meanwhile, First Baptist Church has been consulting with attorneys who specialize in property value negotiations. Johnson said he has also spoken with leaders at Ahwatukee’s Mountain Park Community Church, which is going through a similar situation with the Loop 202 extension.

Like Pearce, he is concerned about rising real estate prices as First Baptist considers buying another property. He said not knowing yet what ADOT’s plans will mean for the church parcel has left them in a holding pattern as the church membership tries to figure out its future.

“We’re trying to do due diligence,” Johnson said. “We will trust in God that it will work out.”


This story appeared in the April edition of InMaricopa.

The Johnson family works together as a team for academic and athletic success: (from left) Jayla, Johnny Jr., Josh, Johnny Sr., Shontray and Jabari. Photo by Michelle Chance

By Michelle Chance

The Johnson siblings are defeating the common narrative that student-athletes must often sacrifice their academic performance to excel on the court and field.

In fact, Maricopa High School students Johnny Jr., Josh and Jayla Johnson are proving they not only can balance the demands of the classroom and their sports, but they exceed in both as well.

Parents Johnny Sr. and Shontray Johnson said they have reinforced the importance of academics and athletics to their children from the beginning.

“First of all, we let them know that they are students first and then athletes,” Shontray said. “It’s a privilege to be an athlete.”

The Johnsons have seven children. Jaulisa lives in Colorado, Kyndra graduated from the University of Arizona, and Jahnei graduated from MHS in 2014 (she scored 546 points in two basketball seasons) and is attending Central Arizona College.

The family’s philosophy of setting high expectations in education and sports has clearly been embraced by the Johnson kids.

Johnny, Josh and Jayla play some informal hoops at the park. Photo by Michelle Chance
Johnny, Josh and Jayla play some informal hoops at the park. Photo by Michelle Chance

Johnny Jr., a senior at MHS, recently signed a letter of intent to play football at Scottsdale Community College. He was named All Section First Team in basketball, and he was honored during Black History Month by the City of Maricopa and The Flock Ministries for his classroom performance and being a young man of good character.

Johnny Jr. said overcoming social distractions in high school has been one of his biggest obstacles, but he said he keeps focused in part because of his long-term goal of becoming a top high school and collegiate athlete.

However, he also attributed his and his siblings’ success to their parents, both of whom were celebrated student-athletes themselves – Shontray played basketball at the University of Detroit Mercy, and Johnny Sr. played tennis at Montbello High School in Denver.

“They know the struggle between athletes and academics, so they push us because they know it’s hard,” Johnny Jr. said.

Shontray said she and Johnny Sr. use their experience to help guide their children to manage their time wisely.

“The balance in your life is extremely important when you are trying to play while in school,” Shontray said.

A sophomore, Josh was a point guard on the varsity basketball team, another All Section First Team selection, who said he recognizes a lot of student-athletes have a hard time, but “our parents really manage us and make sure we are on top of stuff at school, as well as sports.”

Photo by Michelle Chance
Photo by Michelle Chance

The youngest of the gifted trio, Jayla is a freshman basketball player at MHS who averaged 14 points a game before being promoted to the varsity team during the state tournament.

“It was exciting,” Jayla said, noting that despite being a young player in a position many would consider to carry a lot of pressure, the experience for her was positive.

Although her performance on the court is impressive, basketball does not dominate her time.

“Academics come before athletics,” Jayla said.

That all sets an example for Jabari, the youngest.

According to Johnny Sr., the family moved to Maricopa from Denver in 2010, and like a team on any field or court, the Johnsons have strived to flourish as a unit.

In fact, staying together as a family is how the family defines success.

“We love each other, we care for each other, we support each other,” Shontray said. “The most important thing for success is family.”

Three of the seven Johnson siblings, Josh, Jayla and Johnny Jr. all played basketball for Maricopa High School this year. Johnny is set to graduate in May. Photo by Michelle Chance
Three of the seven Johnson siblings, Josh, Jayla and Johnny Jr. all played basketball for Maricopa High School this year. Johnny is set to graduate in May. Photo by Michelle Chance

This story was published in the April issue of InMaricopa.

Maricopa Police Chief Steve Stahl has tried to be a catalyst for change during his four years on the job. Photo by Jake Johnson

By Katie Mayer

A little more than 19 years into Maricopa Police Chief Steve Stahl’s law enforcement career, he grew disenchanted and planned to retire once he hit the 20-year mark.

At the time, Stahl was a commander with the Mesa Police Department, where morale had dipped and he didn’t see a whole lot of growth potential.

But then a new chief stepped in. Former Los Angeles Police Department Assistant Chief George Gascón brought big city-crime-fighting techniques, strong leadership and a heavy helping of hope to a department that so greatly needed it.

“When Chief Gascón came in, I said ‘I’m going to give this chief six months and see if he reinvigorates me,’” Stahl recalled.

It was worth the wait. Gascón’s leadership inspired Stahl to remain in his profession and set him on a trajectory to become the chief he is today.

“He reinvigorated what leadership should be and reignited that passion for police work,” Stahl said.

Stahl decided to stay – and many would say it’s a good thing he did. Because today – like the leader who once inspired him – Stahl has been the catalyst for change in a department that appeared to have lost its way. Through accountability, leadership and a strong vision, Stahl has boosted the morale of his rank-and-file, reduced crime and connected deeply with the community he serves.
chief-coffee_3-12
February marked four years Stahl has served as Maricopa’s police chief. In that time, he is credited with forming broader and deeper bonds with the community, bringing world-class training and resources to his police officers, reducing Part I crimes and providing better support for victims of domestic violence.

“I think in every aspect of what he does as a police chief, he pursues the ideal of excellence,” said Maricopa City Manager Gregory Rose. “I think that permeates throughout the rest of the police department.”

Stahl’s commitment to hard work was instilled in him early. Born in the 1,200-resident town of Redfield, South Dakota, Stahl grew up on a farm and ranch where “you worked until everything is done.” School was held in a single K-12 classroom and the nearest city was 25 miles away.

“That work ethic was drilled into me early on,” Stahl said.

After graduating from South Dakota State University, Stahl managed a water bed store and fitness center. One summer, he visited some family in Arizona and “enjoyed the heck out of” himself.

“I picked up a Sunday paper and noticed one of the leading waterbed companies was hiring,” Stahl recalled. “I interviewed and flew back home…seven days later I’m in Arizona.”

Soon, he got to know his next-door neighbor, who was a Tempe police officer. The neighbor encouraged him to consider a career in law enforcement.

“I applied at Tempe and Mesa,” Stahl said, “and Mesa called first.”

During his time with the Mesa Police Department, Stahl worked in nearly every area of the department. He credits former Mesa Police Chief Frank Milstead with encouraging him to branch out.

“He taught me all the jobs you have are not going to be glamorous,” Stahl said.

At first, this was a tough pill to swallow for Stahl, who had spent 15 years on the Mesa Police Department’s action-packed SWAT team.

“He also gave me those opportunities that put a glimmer in my mind that ‘Can I be chief?’ and ‘Do I want to be a chief?” Stahl said. “I would’ve never been ready otherwise.”

Like his own police chief in Mesa, Stahl stepped into a department in 2011 in need of leadership. The department had just gone through two external audits and morale was low.

In his new role, Stahl formed a vision statement, articulated his high expectations to officers and invested in their training and equipment.

“When I came here, you could tell in briefings and ride-alongs that they craved that leadership,” Stahl said. “And it wasn’t hard to (turn things around) because they are professionals.”
Stahl_Coffee-wChief_10-10_Hendrickson
He added, “Those who did what they needed to do stayed and those who didn’t went away.”

And while working on internal matters, Stahl also placed an emphasis on customer service in Maricopa. As part of his vision statement he required the officers to “make every contact excellent.” He also rolled out community engagement events such as “Coffee with the Chief,” where residents could come and have some face time with Stahl.

Chris Hashisaki, community manager at CCMC at Tortosa, said the customer service has been visible to her residents.

“I do think they are becoming more successful about creating that personal relationship with the citizens and police departments,” Hashisaki said. “We are a little ways out here, but we still get the patrol and recognition definitely from the police department and him.”

And the business community has taken notice as well.

Ace Hardware owner Mike Richey calls Stahl one of the “premier civil servants in the community.”

“I think the department clearly reflects his confidence,” Richey said. “When you’ve got somebody at the top that projects himself in the community the way Chief Stahl does, it’s a trickle-down effect – everything starts at the top.”

Although Stahl makes leadership look easy, his four years have not been without challenges. In January, an Army veteran’s widow sued the city and two police officers over the 2015 fatal shooting of her husband, who had contacted police two days earlier to talk about his post-traumatic stress disorder.

While the department has declined to talk about pending litigation, Mike Kemery, commander of the VFW, said he has been happy with Stahl and his leadership.

“One day he stopped in around lunch time at the Veterans Center, and we talked for an hour,” Kemery said. “He has been very attentive to whatever group he might be with, and he takes an interest.”

Photo by Jake Johnson
Photo by Jake Johnson

Kemery said he and his veteran victim advocate colleague have been called out to situations in the community involving veterans and have worked with police to help the veterans obtain resources.

“From a veteran’s point of view, this town is keenly aware of the veterans and they do take an interest and Chief Stahl leads the charge,” Kemery said.

Also, during a time when police departments across the country have been accused of racial bias, Maricopa Police Department has not been immune. Last year, when Maricopa police responded to a report of a jogger pushed down by an attacker described as a “black teenage male,” the department faced some scrutiny after questioning black teenagers in connection with the crime.

However, Stahl, a member of the NAACP, said he and his officers have never faced any problems related to racism and remain engaged with the black community and work closely with a civilian advisory board consisting of diverse residents of Maricopa.

“The great thing is we all have on-body cameras,” Stahl said, “so even the suspect can come in and we handle it right then and there.”

Stahl is now looking forward to even greater changes in the future, most notably, Maricopa joining the Regional Wireless Cooperative and the department taking over its own dispatching on May 5. The change means officers can now have radios reception in other parts of Arizona and communicate with other police departments.

Stahl is also working to train and promote his staff so that some day when he makes the decision to retire, there is leadership available to step up and take over.

“When I leave, if you have to look externally for a chief, then I have not done my job,” Stahl said.

Rose said he supports the chief as he prepares for the future, but hopes “he is here for a very long time.”

Although being chief means Stahl has largely sacrificed time with his wife and family, and his beloved tee times are nearly impossible to squeeze into his schedule, he calls the job “one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had in my career” and said he is “blessed to be here.”

“When I walk the hallway and do ride-alongs with officers and see the light in their eyes, it reminds me of the first time I pinned the badge on,” Stahl said. “It’s all about them, not about me.”


This story appeared in the April issue of InMaricopa.

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Members of the MES staff being honored by Sigma Gamma Rho are Jennifer Robinson, Tasha Carpenter and Priscilla Behnke.

The ladies of the Kappa Eta Sigma Chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc. will host a Women’s Day Scholarship Brunch – “Dedicated to Service, Committed to Progress.” Seven women in Arizona, including four from Maricopa, will be honored for their service.

In addition, the chapter is raising money for book scholarships. The goal is to demonstrate that when we work together, we create a strong “community village” positioned to support our young people. All district staff is invited to attend.

This community service event will be May 7 at Scottsdale Marriott Suites Old Town, 7325 E. Third Ave., Scottsdale, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Kappa Eta Sigma Chapter is honoring the following Maricopa Elementary School (MES) staff members: Dr. Jennifer Robinson, MES principal, Tasha Carpenter, MES teacher on special assignment, and Priscilla Behnke, program director of the Maricopa Ak-Chin Community Alliance Against Substance Abuse. Her organization offers services to Maricopa Unified School District students at Saddleback, Santa Rosa and Butterfield Elementary Schools.

Also being honored from Maricopa is Pastor Yolanda Ewing of United International Fellowship Ministries.

Other Arizona women being honored include state Sen. Leah Landrum Taylor, Dr. Vanessa Power Anderson, Western Regional Director of Sigma Gamma Rho, and Charlene Tarver, Esq. of the Tarver Law Group.

If you are interested in attending the event, contact Linette Y. Caroselli at scottsdalesgrho@gmail.com.

Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. has more than 500 chapters in the United States, Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada, Germany, Korea and the Virgin Islands. Seven educators founded Sigma Gamma Rho on November 12, 1922, at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Mayor Christian Price (center) was on hand to accept Maricopa's third Battle of the Burbs contest. Photo by William Lange

By this time, the trophy could be named after Maricopa.

After winning its third consecutive Battle of the Burbs title from radio station Mix 96.9’s online contest, Maricopa received another trophy at a victory party Friday night. The community is now officially retired from the competition to give other Phoenix suburbs a chance.

In the free celebratory concert Friday, attendees were entertained by local groups Arizona All-Stars Fyrestorm Cheer, ATA Martial Arts and the Maricopa High School Marching Band. Then Arizona band Divided Minds performed before the trophy presentation. Headliners The Summer Set from Scottsdale closed out the evening at Copper Sky Regional Park.

Another Battle of the Burbs Victory Party is planned Friday at Copper Sky. InMaricopa file photo

The City of Maricopa has updates its concert information for the celebration of Battle of the Burbs on Friday night:

Here’s the lineup for the evening (some details have changed since the last release):
•    4 p.m. – Gates, food trucks and bounce houses open
•    4:30 p.m. – Local entertainment and Mix 96.9 D.J. begins
•    6:30 p.m. – “Divided Minds” performance
•    7:25 p.m. – Trophy presentation followed by “The Summer Set” performance
Local Business Boodle Bouncers will have two bounce houses set up for the kids to enjoy at a cost of $2 per child (cash only.) Local food vendors lined up for the event include; Helen’s Kitchen, Hot Sauce and Big Papa Concessions. Local performers will include; ATA Martial Arts, Fyrestorm Cheer and the Maricopa High School Marching Band.

 

PREVIOUS STORY


 

It wasn’t even close.

After a tough battle to reach the finals in the third annual Mix 96.9 Battle of the ‘Burbs, Maricopa sailed to victory over Mesa by a 70-point margin.

It was the third straight win for Maricopa in the contest based on online votes. The city is now retired from the competition.

As a result, Maricopa also won a free concert from two Arizona bands.

The celebration is Friday at Copper Sky Regional Park. According to the tentative schedule, gates open at 4 p.m., and food trucks will be available along with D.J. entertainment from Mix 96.9.

Local performers will entertain at 6 p.m. The trophy presentation is at 6:30 p.m., followed by the concert by Divided Minds and The Summer Set.

The March Madness-like voting started with the Top 25 suburbs of Phoenix. Daily voting by each suburb’s respective fans pushed each town through the bracket. Maricopa’s toughest competition turned out to be Gilbert, which rallied with more than 17,000 votes in the semifinals. Maricopans, however, came through with more than 18,000.

No one expected the little city to knock out the competition three years in a row. Even Maricopa’s first win in the radio-sponsored contest was unlikely.

Divided Minds will open for the main act in Friday's celebration concert.
Divided Minds will open for the main act in Friday’s celebration concert.

“The very first year we were put on it, they did it in a bracket-style system. And when they did that, they needed one more spot, and they couldn’t figure out what other city to put in there,” Mayor Christian Price said. “At the very last minute they said, ‘Oh, there’s this little city called Maricopa. We’ll throw them on there, too.’”

He said the main reason the city of Maricopa became so involved in the contest was the free publicity.

“You’ve got to understand that as a small city we don’t have the advertising dollars that the behemoths do like Mesa or Chandler or others,” he said. “From an economic development standpoint, you have to get creative. And you have to look at ways in which you can get free advertising without having to spend [taxpayers’] dollars, and this is one of the ways to do it.”

He thanked Maricopans for getting involved.

As an aside, the mayor said he would not be dancing this year at the celebration.

The Summer Set is based in Scottsdale. They are headlining Friday's free concert at Copper Sky.
The Summer Set is based in Scottsdale. They are headlining Friday’s free concert at Copper Sky.

Costa Rica championship team Saprissa is scheduled to train in Maricopa this summer.

“This is huge,” Mayor Christian Price said in announcing a major event.

“We are in the process of bringing an international soccer team to the city of Maricopa,” he said.

Deportivo Saprissa is a three-time winner of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) Cup and the national championship team from Costa Rica. Saprissa was named CONCACAF’s Team of the 20th Century.

Price said its preseason appearance in Maricopa would draw national and international attention from businesses and fans.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Maricopa City Council, Price introduced local businessman Peter Cockle, instrumental in bringing the team to town at the end of June.

Cockle said Sapressa will play two teams during their preseason training in Maricopa. One is a professional team from San Diego and the other a team comprised of players selected from Arizona. He said each game is expected to draw 6,000 fans.

When the Saprissa team leaves Maricopa, it will travel to Denver to play in front of 70,000.

Maricopa businessman and sometime soccer scout Peter Cockle talks about the plans for Saprissa to train in Maricopa as Mayor Christian Price looks on. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson
Maricopa businessman and sometime soccer scout Peter Cockle talks about the plans for Saprissa to train in Maricopa as Mayor Christian Price looks on. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

“Where we think football is big in this country, soccer – professionally and internationally – dwarfs the NFL,” said Price, a lifelong soccer fan.

The mayor said he related the Saprissa visit to a business associate from Mexico. “He said, ‘That’s incredible. Coming to Maricopa?” His friend said he would expect his extended family and their entourage of 300 people from Texas to travel to Maricopa to watch El “S” play.

Juan Carlos Rojas, president of Deportivo Saprissa, appeared via video to introduce the club to Maricopa. He said the team’s stay in Maricopa would include coaching clinics, pro combines and summer camps.

“We are very glad to be visiting the Casa Grande and Maricopa communities for Saprissa’s preseason,” he said.

Cockle said the training camp is just the beginning of his plans. For one thing, it is not just a one-off event. “They’ve committed to three years. So they’ll be here next year; they want to play more games next year,” he said.

He said he is working to draw soccer fans from all over the state and build local support.

“If all goes well and the community buys into this, in January 2017 we will have our own professional soccer team here in Maricopa,” he said.

Cockle said pro teams that have trained at Grande Sports World in Casa Grande were unhappy with having to travel to Tucson for games. He suggested they come instead in Maricopa. He said they want to be involved with the Saprissa training next year.

“This is really going to put Maricopa on the map,” he said.

The plan is to have the training and games at Maricopa High School’s Rams Stadium. That deal includes a donation to the MHS soccer program. Cockle is partnering with Maricopa Unified School District, the city and businesses in Arizona and worldwide.

“This is what it takes. It takes creative thinking, outside the box, finding a vision and looking for a way to say ‘How do we make this happen?’” Price said.

Plans are still coming together, and the mayor said, “We have a long way to go.”

Cockle invites businesses interested in sponsorships or tickets to contact him at cockle.peter@gmail.com.

A trip to Peppersauce Cave is among the events this week in Maricopa.

This week holds lots of opportunities to learn new talents at Copper Sky Multigenerational Center, but you may also solve a murder mystery or go on an overnight camping adventure. For details on the following events or to add your own, visit InMaricopa.com/Calendar.

SUNDAY

 

A Ray of Hope meeting of Narcotics Anonymous is at 7 p.m. at Maricopa Chamber of Commerce, 44480 W. Honeycutt Road, Suite 106.

MONDAY

 

Tumbling, pom and cheer class for ages 4-12 starts at 5 p.m. Mondays through April 25 at Copper Sky Multigenerational Center, 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Chef Cody’s Culinary Adventure starts at 5:30 p.m. Mondays through June 27 at Copper Sky Multigenerational Center, 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Cooking lesson from cuisines around the world. Classes will include interactive cooking demonstrations.

A Ray of Hope meeting of Narcotics Anonymous is at 7 p.m. at Maricopa Community Church, 44977 W. Hathaway Ave. (enter through door on right side of building)

TUESDAY

 

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

Leading Edge Academy Kindergarten Round-Up is at 6 p.m. at 18700 N. Porter Road.

Maricopa Children’s Theatre: Beauty Is a Beast is 6-8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Copper Sky Multigenerational Center, 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Maricopa City Council Work Session is at 6 p.m. at Maricopa City Hall, 39700 W. Civic Center Plaza. Discussions include a new city seal, trends at the library and a minor amendment to the subdivision ordinance.

Maricopa City Council Meeting is at 7 p.m. at Maricopa City Hall, 39700 W. Civic Center Plaza. The council has 11 items on its consent agenda and one item on its regular agenda.

WEDNESDAY

Hip Hop Dance Class is at 4 p.m. for age 4-7 at Copper Sky Multigenerational Center, 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Pitch, Hit & Run is hosted by Maricopa Little League for all children ages 7-14 at Pacana Park, 19000 N. Porter Road.

THURSDAY

First Steps Ballet and Tumbling class for ages 3-4 starts at 4 p.m. at Copper Sky Multigenerational Center, 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

First Steps Ballet and Jazz class for ages 5-7 starts at 5 p.m. at Copper Sky Multigenerational Center, 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

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

FRIDAY

Peppersauce Camping & Caving adventure for adults leaves at 6 p.m. from Copper Sky Multigenerational Center, 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Mandatory pre-trip meeting at 6 p.m. on April 5.

SATURDAY

Til Death Do Us Part Murder Mystery Dinner is at 6 p.m. includes a night of fun theatrics and a three-course meal at Elements Event Center, 16000 N. Maricopa Road.

Latin Dance Class for adults 16 and up starts at 6:30 p.m. each Saturday through April 30 at Copper Sky Multigenerational Center, 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

The previous open house on the possible Palo Verde Regional Park drew an was at Copper Sky in April. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Facing a vocal and hostile group of residents, proponents of a regional park west of Maricopa tried to spell out the purpose of the plan Thursday night.

Though there have been meetings and discussions about a possible park since 2007, when the Open Space & Trails Master Plan was approved, and the meeting at Copper Sky Multigenerational Center was the second open house in four months, many in the room said they knew nothing about a Palo Verde Regional Park.

They were angry about what they felt was lack of meeting notification in the rural area and they were angry about the park concept itself.

“This is BS,” said Mike Johnson, who said his property is near the 23,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management territory being considered for the park. “We don’t want to pay for something we already get for free.”

Johnson also said bringing more people into the area would increase the danger from drug-smuggling spotters in the mountains.

Kent Taylor, director of the Pinal County Open Space & Trail Department, and Michael Park, landscape architect with Environmental Planning Group (EPG), bore the brunt of the push-back from about 15 residents. An equal number stayed silent or spoke up for the park concept.

Planning for the park began last fall.

Taylor said the open house was a continuation of the information-gathering stage. As residents continued to complain about lack of notification and question the impact on taxes, lifestyle and law enforcement, Taylor repeatedly encouraged them to write their concerns on the comment forms provided at the meeting.

A handful of those attending saw the park plan as an improvement in public safety.

The most popular items on the list of possibilities for a Palo Verde Park were non-motorized trails, according to an online poll conducted by the OS&T Department.

“Trails are fairly easy to build and will probably be in Phase 1,” Park said.

The county could also regulate the shooting area that already exists and develop campsites.

“The county gets a lot of its funds from camp fees,” he said.

Most other activities proposed for the parkland have been spoken of as fee-free. The Open Space & Trails Advisory Commission has hosted field trips into the BLM land to create more discussion on the recreational possibilities of a park.

County Supervisor Anthony Smith said creating the park would be funded by development impact fees. Smith spoke to the crowd off the cuff. Though Maricopa city staff was present, they did not wander into the fray.

Johnson said it was all just another government money-grab.

Taylor said the park proposal would not come to a public vote but would go through intermediate county staff before ultimately coming to a vote of the Board of Supervisors.

The next public meeting on the park plans is scheduled for June 9. There will be a preliminary meeting for stakeholders June 2.