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Pinal County

Sun Life Family Health Center is taking every precaution to provide for the health and safety of our patients, staff and visitors, and is reminding our communities to follow the most current recommended guidelines from the Pinal County Department of Health regarding the current increase in measles activity.

Pinal County now has 13 confirmed cases of measles.

If you think you or your family may have been exposed to measles, Pinal County Department of Health recommends the following:

* If you have a healthcare provider, contact them by phone and let them know that you may have been exposed to measles. They will let you know when to visit their office so as not to expose others in the waiting area.

* If you do not have a health care provider, you may need to be seen at your local hospital emergency room/urgent care center. Please call before going to let them know you may have measles. For more information on measles’ signs and symptoms or where you may find vaccine, please check with your healthcare provider or your county health department.

You are immune to measles if you have received two measles, mumps, and rubella [MMR] vaccines or were born before 1957 and have received one MMR vaccine.

Health care providers, like Sun Life, are required to report suspect cases of measles to their local health department. Public health continues to investigate contacts and places of exposure for these new cases. The Department will continue to provide updates and additional information on confirmed cases and potential public exposure as information becomes available.

For information on signs and symptoms of measles, or where you can find vaccine, please visit StoptheSpreadAZ.com. Medical questions should be directed to your health care provider. For outbreak-related questions, community members may call 602-839-2275.

Rich Vitiello

By Rich Vitiello

Gaining trust is sometimes not an easy task, especially when going up against a politician who muddles the truth. I don’t split hairs to redefine an action or a term — it is what it is.  That’s one of the differences between a politician and public servant. I’m not a politician.

When a public servant is seen as transparent and honest in his dealings, people will have confidence to trust that person. With 27 years of international business experience, I’m an experienced businessman who wants to bring his talents forth to help people. To be a public servant. That’s it.

I’ve cited things the incumbent has done that I don’t agree with. Many of the people in his district don’t agree with them, either. I truly believe that the people of Maricopa, Saddlebrooke, Stanfield, Arizona City and parts in between should be served by having an honest representative who is genuinely concerned not only about fiscal responsibility, accountability and public safety, but also about the health and welfare of the entire community.

Doing the right thing for the good of the people a public servant represents is the most important thing one can do. I switched from the city council to the county supervisor race because it needed to be done. I’m concerned about my family and community. My vision for being a supervisor is to be a servant to the community – to help others.

People need real, honest and transparent representation, not lip service. I will work with other people to better the lives of residents in Pinal County. I’ll sit down with residents, business persons, elected officials and county employees to listen, learn and understand their needs. I’ll agree with some opinions, and I’ll disagree with others. I will work hard to get things done with and for other people. But I won’t sell out.

People need to trust their elected officials, and that means they need honesty and openness in government — transparency.

I believe protecting our citizens and establishing a bond of trust and accountability is key to making Pinal County a better place to live and do business. Residents want a county supervisor who they have confidence in. The incumbent says he supports public safety, but his actions speak volumes otherwise. I’m business friendly, but not the kind of business that the incumbent is friendly with. I don’t support business enterprises that degrade our neighborhoods and quality of life.

Residents and businesses want security, peace of mind and success. I see that as a priority. I’ll work hard toward those ends. That’s what a public servant does.

Rich Vitiello is a resident of Maricopa. He is running against Anthony Smith for a seat on the Pinal County Board of Supervisors.

April 1, Pinal County Air Quality began issuing only three-day open burning permits.  All permits will expire by May 1 and Pinal County will suspend the issuance of open burning permits on April 28.

Burn permits allow for the disposal of plant material by open burning during limited daytime hours.
The annual cycle of rising temperatures will quickly dry seasonal vegetation, leading to an acute wildfire risk in the desert and upland areas of the County.
The suspension on burn permits will continue until the summer monsoons arrive and mitigate the dual risks to public safety and public health.
Additional information on the Pinal County Air Quality program can be found at www.pinalcountyaz.gov or by calling the Pinal County Air Quality Division at 520-866-6929.

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.

Pinal County’s unemployment dropped more than 1 percent over the last year.

Data released Thursday by the Arizona Department of Administration show January’s jobless rate was 5.6 percent. That number a year ago was 7 percent.

Unemployment was 5.7 percent in December.

In 2015, the lowest jobless rate recorded for the county was in May, and also 5.6 percent. Back then, the labor force was 155,526. In January, there were 160,052 people in the county’s labor force.

Tim Kanavel, manager of Economic Development for Pinal County, said employers are moving to Pinal County, including a new casino in Dudleyville. His department is targeting job sectors that include aerospace and defense, manufacturing, transportation and logistics, natural resources and health services.

“It’s important we have the workforce for the types of businesses we’re bringing in,” he told the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce at its monthly breakfast Thursday.

During 2015, the city of Maricopa’s unemployment fell from 6.0 in January to 5.3 percent in December. Casa Grande saw more dramatic shifts, starting with 6.8 percent and climbing as high as 7.5 percent before dropping to 5.4 – coinciding with the opening of Tractor Supply Company.

The state’s unemployment dropped from 5.9 percent in December to 5.6 percent in January.

Arizona Department of Administration research administrator Doug Walls said the loss of 48,600 jobs was typical in Arizona after the holidays. In the post-recessionary years of 2010-15, he said, “the average job losses in January were 51,300.”

He said the biggest losses were in trade, transportation and utilities, which dropped more than 18,000 jobs. The only job sector posting gains for the month was in financial activities, which picked up 200.

For the year, Walls said, Arizona showed job growth of 3 percent. Nine of 11 jobs sectors showed gains overall. The biggest growth occurred in education and health services with 19,700 jobs.

Professional and businesses services gained 17,300 jobs since last January. Despite the predictable January losses, trade, transportation and utilities picked up 13,900 jobs year-to-year.

Pinal County's unemployment rate in January matched the state's.
Pinal County’s unemployment rate (orange line) in January matched the state’s (green line).

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Paul Babeu

By Paul Babeu

To the residents and business community of Pinal County:

Over the past few months, you may have seen news reports that the American Civil Liberties Union is suing the State of Arizona, including the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, regarding the use of criminal monies that have been legally seized under the “Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations” act of 1970 (RICO funds).

Now this week, the Goldwater Institute submitted a public records request to our office and sent out their written opinion to local news organizations asking for information explaining how the seized funds are used, the groups these funds are given to, and what the County receives in return for the funds.

Much of the criticism over our use of the RICO funds have been leveled at our donations to Pinal County youth programs, organizations that help disabled veterans, shelters that assist domestic violence victims and organizations that help prevent teen suicides. The Goldwater people said in their “news release,” they want to know what we get back from these non-profit organizations.

To the people of Pinal County, the return is very clear. These programs make for healthier communities, yes, and safer communities for our residents to live and raise their families. Pinal County is rural and we don’t have the same funding sources as many urban population centers in our state. These programs would not thrive and grow in our communities if they didn’t receive financial assistance like that given by our office.

The Goldwater attorneys say they want to ensure “taxpayer money isn’t being misused for personal gain or in violation of the Arizona constitution.” The RICO funding is not taxpayer money, but it is public money that we have legally seized from organized crime syndicates like the Mexican Drug Cartels. Our choice to spend this public money to support our communities’ youth is well within the rules of the Department of Justice and the state laws governing the use of RICO funds. Our use of RICO funds is not in any way supplanting funds for normal government expenses, as has been alleged by the Goldwater attorneys. It is a legal and recognized proper use of these funds.

The Department of Justice has stated that up to $25,000 of Federal RICO funds can be used to “support of community-based programs.” The State RICO statutes say, “at least 10 percent of the monies in the fund shall be provided to private, non-profit community based organizations and gang prevention and intervention programs.” We are clearly following the directives of these regulatory agencies.

Over the past seven years, the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office has donated approximately $1.5 million of seized criminal money to support youth programs like the Boys & Girls Club, YMCA, High School Graduation Night Lock-in events, youth sports programs, victim assistance programs and drug rehabilitation programs such as the “Home of Hope.

The primary job of law enforcement is to protect our citizens. We are doing just that by using money we have seized from drug dealers and other criminals and reinvesting the money into programs to improve the quality of life in Pinal County. As long as the bad guys keep trying to make a living through committing crimes, we will continue to fight them by seizing their illegal gains and use the money to support organizations that help victims and help keep our youth free from drugs, criminal activity and gangs.

Paul Babeu is the sheriff of Pinal County.

Transportation issues also addressed by General Plan

Maricopa resident looks over the transportation portion of the draft General Plan while planner Ryan Wozniak (from left), transportation manager David Maestas and Tortosa residents Liz and Anita Cecini look on. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

A crash Jan. 29 at the Casa Blanca intersection with State Route 347 during morning rush hour backed up traffic into Maricopa along John Wayne Parkway and its arterial streets.

The situation is not as uncommon as residents would like. Any improvement to the experience of driving on SR 347 is in demand.

One possible solution would have voters raising their own taxes for a Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) that could add lanes to the highway.

“Most likely, the question will be put before voters on the November ballot,” County Supervisor Anthony Smith said. “If it’s approved by the voters, then new transportation projects across the whole county will be funded by that half-cent sales tax, which accumulates a total revenue of about $640 million.”

Because governments cannot base plans on the unknown opinion of the public, the possible RTA and its implications for SR 347 are not part of the Maricopa General Plan. Other transportation proposals are included in that vision, however.

Anita Cecini of Tortosa said future plans of an Interstate 11 from Nevada to Nogales were fine for Maricopans wanting to go to Las Vegas but do nothing to relieve the stress of traveling to Chandler.

“This does not help,” she said, looking at transportation display boards at one of the city’s four open house events on the General Plan in January.

The sessions were meant to gather public feedback as the city prepared to present the draft plan to its various advisory committees. It shows the scope of 2040 Vision and what city zoning and transportation could look like at build-out in 25 years. It also showed the five-year plan that includes an overpass on John Wayne Parkway at the railroad tracks.

Resident Dana Jennings said the presentations looked like the city was expecting population growth without taking care of the SR 347 issue.

But Pinal County’s proposed RTA includes two projects in the Maricopa area. One of those projects would widen SR 347 to six lanes.

“If that information was promoted here, it would alleviate a lot of people’s questions about why are we blowing everything up,” Jennings said of the General Plan’s growth calculations.

“There’s going to be a lot of publicity on the RTA because we know there is going to be a vote anytime we try to increase taxes,” Maricopa Transportation Manager David Maestas said.

Smith said more information on the RTA would be presented in the spring and summer. He said he expects supervisors to vote on whether to place it on the November ballot during their sessions in June or July.

If approved, SR 347 is the first major project on the RTA list, with design starting in 2017 and construction completed by 2020, he said. 2020 is also the year targeted for the construction of the overpass.

The RTA would provide $28.8 million to make SR 347 six lanes from Maricopa to I-10. That does not necessarily involve widening the existing road bed. SR 347 runs through land belonging to the Gila River Indian Community, and only a certain width is allocated. But the existing four lanes with median do have enough room for six lanes if designers are creative, Smith said.

Anita Cecini’s sister Liz Cecini, a former planner, said information about a possible RTA should be top-most in the city’s discussions with the public about transportation planning. She grilled city staff and committee members on the General Plan process.

“What does success look like?” she asked repeatedly. “It’s good that that’s 2040, and this is the five-year plan, but I want to know what’s in between.”

Maricopa Zoning Administrator Kazi Haque said staff will report public feedback on the General Plan to the city council. How it is processed, he said, will depend on the council’s priorities.

Frequently appearing on priority lists is the creation of a leg of I-11 through Pinal County. That possibility shows up on General Plan maps. It is also the second Maricopa-area project on the potential RTA list.

The RTA would allocate $4.8 million by 2024 to acquire right of way for either a leg of I-11 or another high-capacity parkway south of Maricopa.

Discussions of an RTA sales tax came about because state and federal money was slow in coming to help Pinal County’s transportation problems.

In the past 15 years, Smith said, Pinal County doubled in population and Maricopa grew 4,000 percent, but residents are still using the pre-boom roads.

“We know from studies that in 2017, SR 347 will begin experiencing gridlock,” he said. (That is expected to be full gridlock sometime between 2020 and 2024.) “So we’ve got to get ahead of the curve. Otherwise we’re going to be suffering some serious quality-of-life issues here in the city of Maricopa.”

This story appeared in the February issue of InMaricopa News.

According to Pinal County, Jersey Mike's was inspected twice in October and scored an E both times.

Six out of 10 establishments inspected by the Pinal County Health Department received ratings of Excellent (“E”) in October.

Two eateries were found Satisfactory (“S”), correcting violations during inspection. Barro’s Pizza was told to clean the walk-in refrigerator and pizza oven, provide a metal stem food thermometer and cover an employee’s drink in the kitchen. Honeycutt Coffee had to bring a refrigerator down to 41 degrees.

Two establishments were marked as Needs Improvement (“N”). Good Donuts was told to provide a food temperature measuring device and provide chlorine test papers to measure the sanitizer. Helen’s Kitchen was told to use food-contact gloves, not latex gloves, replace a light shield and place a required consumer advisory for raw/undercooked food on its menu.

[No violations found]
99 Cents Only Store
Carl’s Jr.
Children’s Learning Adventure Childcare Center
Cilantro’s Mexican Cocina
Firehouse Subs
Jersey Mike’s Subs (x2)

[Violations corrected during inspection]
Barro’s Pizza
Honeycutt Coffee

Needs Improvement
[Critical item noted during inspection cannot be corrected immediately, requiring follow-up inspection]
Good Donuts
Helen’s Kitchen

[Gross, unsanitary conditions necessitating the discontinuation of operations]

The Army Corps of Engineers will hold a public meeting regarding the scope of the upcoming Lower Santa Cruz River Flood Risk Management Feasibility Study.

The meeting will take place on Monday, Nov. 9, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Casa Grande Council Chambers, 510 E. Florence Boulevard.

The Army Corps of Engineers will provide information regarding the study and take public comment regarding the scope, potential alternatives and environmental resources of concern. The Corps also encourages anyone from affected federal, state and local resource agencies, Native American groups and concerned groups or individuals to attend.

“The project is focused on minimizing flood risks on the Santa Cruz resulting from large rainstorms south of Pinal County,” Supervisor Anthony Smith said. “The damage from the numerous flooding events over the years has caused millions of dollars in property damage.”

Smith is also on the Executive Committee of the Lower Santa Cruz River Alliance.

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Supervisor Anthony Smith

Pinal County Supervisor Anthony Smith will be meeting with residents of Hidden Valley, Thunderbird Farms and Papago Butte for another Sessions with the Supervisor on Thursday, Nov. 5, from 6 to 8 p.m.

The meeting will be held at the Hidden Valley/Thunderbird Farms/Papago Butte Public Works Facility, 43910 W. Meadowview Road in Maricopa.

Smith stated this meeting will include Pinal County Animal Care and Control Director Audra Michael from 6 to 7 p.m..  The supervisor will field questions and speak on issues regarding Pinal County from 7 to 8 p.m.

“There are usually a lot of questions for our folks at Animal Care and Control,” Smith said. “I will be on hand to talk with residents regarding issues happening at the County Seat and fielding any questions or concerns they might have.”

Appointments are not required but are encouraged to help reduce time spent waiting. To make an appointment, please email marlene.pearce@pinalcountyaz.gov or call 520-866-3960.

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Examples of other logos can be used for inspiration. (submitted)

The Pinal County Open Space and Trails Advisory Commission announced a contest to design a logo for the County’s Regional Trail network.

In 2007, the Pinal County Board of Supervisors approved the Pinal County Open Space and Trails Master Plan (OS&T Plan). The OS&T Plan is the County’s future vision for the regional park, open space and trail resources. The planned regional trails will provide an interconnected multi-use trail network offering a variety of passive and active recreation opportunities, while connecting communities, parks and recreation areas. The planned trail network includes approximately 970 miles of non-motorized, multi use trails and 295 miles of motorized trails. Currently Pinal County manages approximately 55 miles of regional trails and is actively planning to add additional miles in the next 5-10 years.

As the regional trail network is planned to expand, the Commission identified the need to create a uniform logo to be used for project signage, publicity and marketing of the regional trail network.

The logo design contest is open to all interested parties. School age children are especially encouraged to participate. The guidelines for the contest are as follows:
* Logos should be created within a triangle, circle or oval border (see attached samples)
* Logo should use no more than four colors
* Logos should convey the history and character of Pinal County
* Logos should be fairly simple in design so that they can be easily reproduced, enlarged and reduced as needed.

Submission should be emailed to parks@pinalcountyaz.gov no later December 11, 2015. Adobe Illustrator, PDF or similar image formats are preferred, thought all formats including hand-drawn copies will be accepted for consideration. Hard copies can be mailed to Pinal County Open Space and Trails, PO Box 2973 Florence AZ 85132.
Submissions will become the property of Pinal County and may be altered, reproduced or otherwise used as needed. The Commission will review all submissions during its January 12, 2016 meeting and may select a winner at that time.

The winner will receive a $100 gift certificate, recognition at a future Commission meeting, in County press releases and on the County website.

For more information about this contest, please contact Kent Taylor at 520-866-6910 or by email at kent.taylor@pinalcountyaz.gov.

The Arizona Department of Corrections needs to fill hundreds of jobs.

Pinal County’s jobless rate is close to its January numbers after ticking up slightly in July.

According to statistics released today by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment rate remained the same compared to June while Arizona’s rate grew from 5.9 percent to 6.1 percent.

In Pinal County, joblessness was at 6.9 percent in July. That was up from 6.5 percent in June and just under January’s 7 percent.

During the month, Arizona had a net loss of 7,200 jobs. The biggest losses were in education, which had a drop of 12,900, comprising most of the 13,500 government job losses. The largest gain in employment was in professional services, which picked up 3,700 jobs.

Pinal County’s available labor force shrank by almost 1,000 between the June and July reports, but the number of unemployed grew by about 500 people.

The Arizona Department of Corrections announced it has 539 positions open around the state, and nearly 300 in Pinal County. Arizona Workforce Connection will be hosting a “hiring event” for the Arizona Department of Corrections in September.

The majority of the DOC jobs are out of Florence, but there are opportunities for job seekers in many parts of Arizona. The event will be hosted at the Arizona Workforce Connection office at 1015 E. Florence Blvd. in Casa Grande.

“[The event] will be on Sept. 23 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.,” Arizona Workforce Connection business service liaison Linda Martinez said. “There are over 500 positions statewide and 289 positions in Florence.”

To be considered for a position, job seekers must have a high school diploma or GED, be at least 21 years of age, have no felonies in their background and have a valid driver’s license. Applicants will also be subject to a comprehensive knowledge exam, background check, and pre-employment drug testing. All of which must be passed in order to be considered for a position.

However, if an applicant is chosen, they’ll have the opportunity to receive paid training, health and dental insurance, vacation and holiday pay, opportunities for retirement after 25 years and tuition assistance for those looking to go back to school. Other benefits include job stability, opportunities for advancement and higher salaries for more experienced officers.

Compared to July 2014, Arizona has had a net gain of 67,600 jobs.

There was a year-over-year jump of 6.5 percent in construction jobs in the Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale Metropolitan Area, which includes Pinal County. Private-sector jobs have grown 0.1 percent month-to-month and 3.6 percent year-to-year.