It was a big year for the city of Maricopa local government as funding, personnel and future plans all came into place for the city to move forward.
These are the top stories from 2015:
The park has been in the planning stages since 2007, and in 2015 Pinal County reached out to the public for feedback on the project.
The proposed regional park would take up 23,000 acres between State Route 238 to Interstate 8 west of Maricopa. The county’s hope is to have the park provide a plethora of opportunities for a variety of outdoors enthusiasts. “It is a huge, ambitious project,” chairperson of the Pinal County Open Space & Trails Advisory Commission Gina D’Abella said.
9. Rhonda Melvin joins the MUSD Governing Board
In late May, the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board brought in former candidate Rhonda Melvin to fill the board’s opening left by Leslie Carlyle-Burnett’s resignation the month before. Melvin was chosen from a pool of candidates and sworn in by Judge Lyle Riggs June 24.
Melvin will serve on the board for the remainder of Carlyle-Burnett’s term and be up for re-election in November 2016.
8. Personnel changes at City Hall
The city of Maricopa had director-level resignations, and City Manager Gregory Rose went on a national search to find the right personnel to fit each position.
Rose promoted Denyse Airheart to interim director of Economic Development in late April and hired Martin Scribner from Kentucky to fill the open position of director of Development Services in May. Airheart was later named the Economic Development director and dropped the “interim” tag from her title.
The city is still looking for a finance director, with expectations of filling the position in early 2016.
After budget cuts on the project, the Maricopa Police Department received $450,000 from the Ak-Chin Indian Community to add communication features to the new substation. The additional funding will allow the substation to become a communication hub for the city and bring dispatching services under MPD control (dispatching is currently done by the Buckeye Police Department).
Funding from the Ak-Chin community will also allow the substation to install a sound wall so sirens and equipment testing does not disturb the surrounding housing communities. The substation is expected to open in January.
6. CAC Tax Increase
In late June, members of the community rallied to oppose a proposed tax increase from Central Arizona College. The CAC Board of Governors originally approved a 45.4 percent increase to the primary tax rate, but lowered the tax increase to 20.3 percent due to public outcry. The primary tax was still raised to approximately $2.30 per $100, making it the highest primary tax CAC has had for a budget year.
The decision was met with scrutiny and protest from the public and led to a lawsuit and a petition to recall members of the board. The “Citizens for Fair Taxation” gathered enough signatures to recall Maricopa’s District 4 board member Rita Nader and Board President Gladys Christensen. Both board members resigned, and an election will be held to find their replacements in 2016.
Dan Frank and Brad Hinton were voted on to the Maricopa Flood Control District Board in October. Frank is a former Maricopa City Council member and chaired the 2040 Vision Steering Committee, and Hinton is a former employee of the City of Maricopa and now works for a development company.
Members of the Maricopa City Council highlighted the election as a vital piece of the city’s future. All registered voters who own property within the Flood Control District boundaries in Maricopa were eligible to vote, but only 175 voted.
The city of Maricopa developed a 2040 Vision. The project came from a collaboration of community members and is meant to serve as a guide for the city to work toward over the next 25 years.
The 2040 Vision Steering Committee outlined six areas the city needs to focus on. These areas consisted of well-planned quality growth and development, economic development, community resources and quality of life amenities, safe and livable community, community pride, and fiscal policies and management.
3. MUSD Override Decision
In November, the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board voted to pursue a 10-percent budget override for a seven year span during the general election in November 2016. The decision came after the school’s override committee recommended pursuing a 15-percent override over seven years, and districts across the Phoenix metropolitan area had their override requests approved by voters in November.
“I am pretty confident that together, with boots on the ground, we can get this passed,” MUSD Governing Board member Gary Miller said. “It is providing more services for our children.”
The Maricopa City Council requested the U.S. Census conduct a Special Census in Maricopa in 2015 instead of waiting for the 2020 count. Starting in October, census enumerators went door to door for six weeks to count every resident of Maricopa. City officials were hoping to see the census find more than 50,000 residents.
The cost was approximately $297,490 to hold the census and $473,325 to pay census workers. However, the anticipated results would offer the city $326 per new resident over the 43,482 that lived in Maricopa in 2010. If the population reached the projected 50,000 mark, the city could receive as much as $2.3 million per year, or $11.6 million over five years.
“I cannot in good conscience leave $10 million on the table,” Maricopa Mayor Christian Price said.
Since Maricopa was incorporated in 2003, it has been a priority of the city government to provide a grade-separation overpass to cross the railroad tracks on State Route 347. After years of speculation on whether the overpass would ever happen, the city of Maricopa received a $15 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant.
Once the Arizona Department of Transportation reaches 30 percent on the design, the funding will allow the city to move forward with clearing space.