Authors Articles byMichelle Chance

Michelle Chance

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The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) will host its annual training program in October.

The classes are free for up to 20 Maricopa residents interested in participating.

Administered by FEMA and under the direction of Maricopa Fire/Medical Department, a part of the program’s mission is to train ordinary people how to act in disaster situations when emergency responders are busy.

“The citizens are trained to take care of themselves, their family, their home, their neighbor and maybe their neighborhood,” said Bill Robertson, a CERT training lead.

Six Thursday evening classes teach residents on disaster preparedness, fire safety and utility controls, medical treatment and disaster psychology, light search and rescue, and terrorism.

CERT trainers will test participants in a mock drill Nov. 17.

Those who receive completion certificates can apply to become a volunteer with CERT team members in real life emergencies.

Volunteers work 24-hour, on-call shifts. This year, volunteers have responded to six structure fires in Maricopa where they rehabilitate overheated firefighters.

“Along with that we do crowd control and vendor inspections at city events,” said CERT Lead John Mulquin.

Volunteer applicants must pass a background check.

Training class begins Oct. 4. To register, email john.mulquin@maricopa-az.gov.

Shianne Holman guides students through the process of reading local news and using traditional media as they learn to consume information. Photo by Mason Callejas

 

In an age dominated by digital platforms, Shianne Holman’s fourth-grade students learn hands-on, practical skills like public speaking, reading a paper map and writing checks.

But it’s the teacher, with her bubbly personality and welcoming smile, that motivates students to come to social studies class at Sequoia Pathway Academy.

“She makes me feel joyful, happy and calm,” said 9-year-old James Newman.

Shianne Holman brought a background in education – from security to secretary to paraprofessional – to her newest position as fourth-grade teacher at Sequoia Pathway Academy. Photo by Mason Callejas

A native of Hawaii, Holman is in her second year teaching.

Prior to earning her master’s degree in Elementary Education, she built her resume with wide-ranging school positions in Washington state – from security to secretary to paraprofessional.

And she covers it all in class, too.

With segments in government, economics and state history, Holman’s students are exposed to real-world applications of modern-day issues.

In September, they begin lessons on current events. The children study news of the day from magazines and newsprint collected by Holman from local outlets.

“They need to know what’s happening,” Holman said. “They need to know what’s going on.”

Technology has evolved the education system. Its effects are present in every school’s computer lab and digital smart screens. Holman’s students, likely having navigating hand-held devices since a young age, are exposed in class to the idea that tech can – and does – fail.

That’s why students receive teachings from traditional textbooks, dissect and create map legends, and use their hands to flip through the tangible pages of a news magazine.

Through those lessons, Holman’s students learn to identify the structure of informational texts and gain experience with traditional mediums still produced today.

Photo by Mason Callejas

“I hope they are able to use their experiences that they’re learning now and apply it to become better for us,” Holman said. “They’re our future. Who’s going to take care of us?”

Being informed is an important key in Holman’s teaching philosophy.

Every year her students compose a classroom constitution and submit votes to a handmade ballot box.

“I try to make everything into a real-life situation. I tell them if our parents and grandparents hadn’t gone through what they went through, we wouldn’t have the things we have now, such as technology,” Holman said.

Holman’s educational nostalgia even reaches into the scripts of penmanship – with occasional worksheets on cursive handwriting.

Her fourth-grade teaching colleagues say Holman’s love for educating is illustrated not just by her personality, but also her sundry lesson plans.

“Shianne brings such a passion to teaching, and it shows because her students are always excited to enter her class,” said social studies teacher Dillon Shosted. “Shianne is always looking for new ways to reach all of her students with instructional practices.”

Holman has lived in Maricopa since 2014 with her husband Jonathan and their three daughters Tiani, 11, Nara, 9, and 6-year-old Azaria.

The new educator said she considers former and current students family and hopes her hands-on teachings will produce future leaders.

“I feel like maybe it will inspire one of the kids,” Holman said, “and if that’s one, then that’s better than none.”


This story appears in the September issue of InMaricopa.

 

Oliver Anderson, 88, moved to Maricopa in the 1950s. Photo by Mason Callejas

 

His story begins less than a month after Black Tuesday, America’s economic disaster that incited the Great Depression.

“He’s always served without fanfare, under the radar, wanting no recognition – just wanting the pure joy and knowledge that things will be better.” Kelly Anderson

Oliver Anderson, 88, was born a Phoenician on his family’s farm near Southern and 19th avenues in 1929. Life for all Americans then was a challenge. But the effects of the Wall Street crash were less noticeable to those who worked the ground.

“We grew our own food, and what you didn’t grow, you traded with your neighbors,” Anderson said.

From farm to island, Anderson later spent two years in Japan on a U.S. Air Force base.

In July 1954, the young cosmopolitan moved to Maricopa in the sweltering heat to work on a farm co-owned by his father and a business partner. Anderson-Palmisano Farms, started in 1949, grew cattle, cotton, grain and alfalfa.

Services in the dusty community were primitive – there were no residential phones and roads were paved with dirt. The 25-cycle electricity pumped currents so low, utility customers were bathed in beams of blinking lightbulbs.

“Maricopa was out in the country, but if you’re working seven days a week, time goes pretty fast – very rapidly,” Anderson said.

The rural town was inhabited with working people spread far from each other by the agriculture industry that provided most of them a living.

Townspeople saw each other once a week, usually at school functions or Headquarters Café.

Newsprint didn’t cover the happenings in the town yet, either. Residents visited Postmaster Fred Cole or the barber to stay informed.

“The haircut you received depended on his mood of that day,” Anderson said. “When you went in to get a haircut, that’s where you got the scoop.”

Those who made their mark in the early days didn’t do so without challenges, according to longtime Maricopa resident and farmer John Smith. Settling the rugged, desert land and transforming it into fertile ground was not always simple for many working in the often unforgiving agribusiness.

“Oliver has been successful out on that farm when very few people were,” Smith said. “Things got tough, but he managed to wade through — a few of us did — most didn’t.”

The Andersons made their contributions to the activities and culture in Maricopa, too.

Hermina, Anderson’s wife of 62 years, employed her musical prowess while directing dinner theaters at the school in the 1980s. She provided piano lessons to children and served on the school board.

With a small populace and no formal government, Maricopa pioneers, like Anderson, began a life of service to the community that would span decades.

With the Maricopa Rotary Club, Anderson helped the community in its effort to build a swimming pool. The annual Stage Coach Days celebration was launched to help fund it.

For 10 years Anderson served on the Maricopa School Board, before it became a unified district.

The Anderson family dressed for Stagecoach Days. Submitted photo

In the early 1980s, Anderson was asked to serve on an advisory committee to the University of Arizona dean of the burgeoning Maricopa Agricultural Center.

Anderson has served on the Pinal County Active Management Area Ground Water Users Advisory Committee for 45 years; the board of directors for the Arizona Cotton Growers Association for 35 years; the Pinal County Farm Bureau Board of Directors; the Arizona Farm Bureau Board of Directors and many more.

It’s a service to others he can’t seem to stop. “When I get on, I can’t get off,” he said, eyes glimmering.

Leadership seems to run in the Anderson family.

Anderson’s son Kelly was the first publicly elected mayor in 2004 and has himself served on many boards and committees, including a six-year appointment to the Arizona Department of Transportation’s State Transportation Board.

The eldest son of Anderson’s four children, Kelly Anderson attributes his civic success to his father.

“He’s always served without fanfare, under the radar, wanting no recognition – just wanting the pure joy and knowledge that things will be better,” Kelly said.

The quiet management style of the Anderson clan has lent well to their business.

Kelly is the third generation to manage the family farm.

The 600-acre operation on Farrell Road has evolved to specialty crops – producing dry flower products for big-name brands like Hobby Lobby, Pottery Barn and Michael’s.

Oliver and Hermina’s three other children – Troy, Lynn and Wendy – specialize in the arts, electronics and medical care.

It’s that kind of success of his own children and other Maricopa schoolchildren that routinely has Oliver steeped in pride, according to Kelly.

“A lot of (students) come back to Maricopa to have a career and do something. It’s a nice return on your time invested,” Kelly said.

Kelly’s wife, Torri Anderson, has served as president and board member of the Maricopa Unified School District for years.

Maricopa’s legacy is embedded in the souls of its people – who as Oliver Anderson said – consistently come together for the good of the community through flood, fire and fundraising.

“It’s the folks that came here initially and said, ‘Hey, by golly, regardless of if it’s dusty, regardless of it’s hot, regardless of if it’s a long way from town, this is my home, I want to live here,’” Oliver said.


This story appears in the September issue of InMaricopa.

Patti Coutre and Ben Owens will have seats on next year's MUSD Governing Board.

 

A longtime board member and one newcomer will fill two vacancies on the local school board, according to county documents.

Incumbent Patti Coutré and Ben Owens were elected to the Maricopa Unified School District by appointment Wednesday.

The Pinal County Board of Supervisors canceled the regular general elections for certain political subdivisions, including MUSD’s, where candidates were vying for unopposed seats.

The Board approved a resolution effectively electing the candidates during a meeting Sept. 5.

It will be Coutré’s third term behind the dais. Coutré previously served three of her eight years on the board as president.

Coutré thanked the community for choosing her to represent them during her last two terms.

“My goal is, and always has been, that every student receives the best education and is fully prepared for their future whether it is college, career, military service or life,” Coutré said in a statement.

Owens, an active MUSD parent and volunteer, said he’s excited to bring a parental perspective to the board in January.

“I believe that we’ve got a great school district and I just want to help us be the best district in Arizona,” Owens said.

A North Dakota native, Owens and his family have lived in Maricopa for the past four years.

Owens will take the seat of Vice President Gary Miller, who announced he would not seek re-election earlier this year.

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson
Nancy Saldana is ready for Spirit Week. Submitted photo

Students and community members will paint the town red in September. Maricopa High School will host its annual homecoming week Sept. 10-15.

Senior Nancy Saldana, 17, is spearheading the effort to promote school spirit on and off campus to media outlets.

“I want to make the most out of it, so I just took a leadership role by myself and I started talking to teachers, student council and the principal and started to make this happen,” Saldana said.

Spirit week at MHS will reflect this year’s “Once Upon a Time” homecoming theme.

It’s a weeklong show of school pride when students and staff attend classes dressed in coordinating costumes.

“We’re incorporating Disney into it,” Saldana said.

Spirit Days at MHS (students only)

Monday: Monsters University – College gear.

Tuesday: Sleeping Beauty – Pajama clothes.

Wednesday: Woody’s Roundup – Western clothing.

Thursday: Ohana Day – Hawaiian shirts.

Friday: Ram out – Red, white and black Ram gear.

The public is encouraged to attend events that are open to the community.

MHS staff will face off with students in a football contest Sept. 10 at Ram Stadium.

Ramfest will return this year to Copper Sky Sept. 13. The citywide party celebrating MHS pride includes vendors, live music, a bonfire, and the annual matchup between alumni and city football players.

Before the big game Sept. 14, the homecoming parade will make its way from Maricopa Wells Middle School  to Ram Stadium at MHS. The parade begins at 5:30 p.m.

Homecoming Week Events:

Monday, Sept. 10: Staff vs. Students Football Game, 7 p.m. at Ram Stadium. (Open to the public).

Tuesday, Sept. 11: Movies Under the Stars at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center at 7 p.m. (Students only).

Wednesday, Sept. 12: Freshman Football Game, 6 p.m. at Ram Stadium (Open to the public).

Thursday, Sept. 13: Ramfest, 6-9 p.m. at Copper Sky. (Open to the public).

Friday, Sept. 14: Homecoming Parade and Community tailgate at 5:30 p.m. Homecoming Game begins 7 p.m. at Ram Stadium. (Open to the public).

Saturday, Sept. 15: Homecoming Dance, 7-10 p.m. at MHS. (Students only).

 

ADOT photo

Department of Public Safety is investigating the cause of a five-vehicle collision that claimed the lives of a Maricopa woman and two children Wednesday.

The fiery crash occurred at approximately 9:52 a.m. in the westbound lanes of Interstate 10 between Wild Horse Pass Boulevard and Queen Creek Road.

Kim Frankel, 46, who had been a long-time teacher at Maricopa Unified School District, and her two young passengers, described as infants by DPS, were declared deceased at the scene.

The roadside tragedy was initiated in the eastbound lanes.

A 41-year-old commercial tractor-trailer driver from Mesa was traveling east on I-10 when he veered sharply left for an unknown reason. The tractor trailer struck a Chevy Tahoe, sending both vehicles through the median and over the cable barriers into westbound traffic.

Three vehicles, including the Toyota van driven by Frankel, were struck by the tractor-trailer rig.

Frankel’s van and the tractor trailer reportedly burst into flames after the crash, according to DPS. The driver of the tractor trailer sustained injuries and was transported to the hospital.

Two adults and two juvenile passengers in other vehicles were also transported to nearby hospitals for injuries.

The fatal crash shutdown the major artery into Phoenix for the entire day. Westbound lanes reopened around 6:45 p.m. that evening.

The DPS investigation is still ongoing.

https://www.gofundme.com/frankel-family-support

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After Tuesday’s Primary Election, the General Election for State House of Representatives (LD11) is shaping up. Three Republicans and three Democrats are running for the two seats.

Incumbent Mark Finchem (43 percent) and Bret Roberts (37 percent) currently lead the Republican race to the state house, according to early counts from the Secretary of State’s Office. Howell Jones, a self-branded outsider, trails the pack with more than 5,000 votes being reported (18.87 percent).

Finchem said he’s not surprised by the early vote count – both in his primary and others.

“What is not surprising as I look at results across the board, it looks like people are enjoying the fact that our economy is doing much better with the change of federal administration, and now with our tax policies kicking in here at the state level over the last four years, life is much better for a lot of people. So, I think the early voting is telling me that’s a vote of confidence,” Finchem said.

With fewer than 30,000 votes tabulated in the Republican primary so far, Roberts, who is current constable of Maricopa/Stanfield Justice Court, was hesitant to call the count a primary win just yet.

“There’s still a lot to be reported, but at this point I’m very happy looking at all the numbers in the primary, not only on the Republican side but on the Democrat side,” Roberts said.

Candidates Hollace Lyon (44.48 percent) and Marcela Quiroz (41.57 percent) appear to have easily come ahead of fellow Democrat Barry McCain (13.94 percent).

Quiroz chose caution over celebration after a read of the early votes, while Lyon said she’s ready to campaign in the general election.

“I think it’s interesting that Mark Finchem and Bret Roberts are so close in their numbers, so that tells me that I think I can beat one of the two of them and win a seat in the Legislature,” Lyon said.

The MUSD Governing Board discusses desegregation funds. Photo by Michelle Chance

 

School district leaders could join a lawsuit against the state Legislature.

The Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board discussed the possibility during a meeting Aug. 22.

The issue revolves around desegregation funding changes initiated by the state without including a vote by the people.

It resulted in increased secondary property taxes for Maricopa homeowners. Read more about that here.

MUSD, the City of Maricopa and Pinal County published a joint press release alleging the unconstitutionality of the new law.

Future action against the Legislature would likely happen in partnership with another school district.

Tucson Unified School District also receives desegregation funding. It voted unanimously last week to authorize a lawsuit.

Should the suit be filed, both plaintiff districts would face declaratory judgment action litigation, according to MUSD Board Attorney Denise Lowell-Britt.

That means a judge would determine whether the secondary property tax increase is – or is not – legal.

Board Member Torri Anderson said she’d support MUSD joining suit if Tucson files.

“On the constitutional side, me as a taxpayer, I want to pursue that,” Anderson said.

The impact to local homeowners is central to the controversy.

The desegregation tax alone would cost approximately $45 per $100,000 of assessed home value.

However, Lowell-Britt said the overall estimated difference in the secondary property tax from last year to this year is projected to be only $0.12 per $100,000 of assessed home value.

City Manager Rick Horst, who attended the school board meeting Wednesday, said this is due to market behavior that mitigate the deseg tax.

Anderson argued the lowered projected cost figure on tax bills doesn’t lessen her belief that the law was enacted illegally.

MUSD Superintendent Tracey Lopeman said the $1.29 million in desegregation funds the district receives “ensures we meet the needs of our beautiful and diverse student population.”

The district has received deseg funds since 1994 after a complaint the year prior alleging access and equality issues for limited English proficient students.

That money pays 25 teacher salaries and other programs for English Language Learners.

 

Sgt. Hal Koozer models uniform for MPD's new Community Response Team. Photo by Michelle Chance

 

A discussion that began earlier this year, after a shooter entered the halls of a Florida school and killed 17 students and staff members, evolved into possible action Wednesday night.

The Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board and the Maricopa Police Department discussed installing video cameras on school campuses.

Those cameras would stream live feeds 24/7 directly to MPD’s dispatch center.

The proposal is contingent on a $300,000 Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant applied for in July by the police department.

Sequoia Pathway Academy is also reportedly partnering with MPD and MUSD in the quest for that money from the Department of Justice.

“Everything on that video feed is evidence – it belongs to the police department and is stored with MPD once it becomes an investigation,” Stahl said.

Fearing a “police-state” operation inside schools, MUSD board members expressed some hesitancy on the camera topic.

Stahl explained MPD does not have the resources to monitor the feeds. Live recordings would only be accessed when the dispatch center was alerted to an emergency.

Recordings would be stored in the cloud and deleted after 48 hours.

Local schools would not be alone in turning to surveillance video for safety solutions, Stahl said.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida installed additional security cameras on campus after the mass shooting.

In March, MPD and local schools hosted a school-safety forum to answer community questions. Beefing up campus safety has been discussed in meetings that have dotted the agendas of Stahl and MUSD Superintendent Tracey Lopeman throughout the summer.

Those brainstorm sessions produced other ideas on how to spend the grant money in addition to the cameras.

The development of a cell phone app would give students the option of anonymously texting the police department in the case of suspicious activity.

Grant money would also likely fund the installation of classroom door locks, according to Lopeman and Stahl. But digital and mechanical measures weren’t the only solutions discussed.

School and police leaders will add manpower to school safety measures. Law enforcement muscle is commonly sought by districts through Student Resource Officers who provide education and protection on campus.

With city and school funding tight, there is only one SRO at MUSD – and the COPS grant does not support staffing.

“We started brainstorming a new program,” Stahl said. “It’s called the Community Response Team.”

Five officers, led by MPD Sgt. Hal Koozer, will soon cycle through neighborhoods that house schools nearby.

Stahl said the team will provide a quick response to campus emergencies. The team will also visit children at bus stops and make surprise appearances at lunchtime to encourage trust between students and officers.

Their presence around town will increase once Maricopa feels relief from summer temperatures, Stahl said.

The schools should learn whether their effort to receive grant money was successful sometime in October, Stahl said.

If MUSD is awarded the money, Lopeman said students, parents and staff will have a say within the Safety Committee, which is planned to convene in the next 90 days.

 

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Former county officials Lando Voyles and Paul Babeu maintain the RICO funds were not misspent.

Former Pinal County officials are at the center of a report from the Arizona Auditor General that found their offices allegedly misused anti-racketeering funds and violated conflict-of-interest policies.

The report, published Aug. 20, focused on $2.4 million managed by the offices of former Sheriff Paul Babeu and former Pinal County Attorney Lando Voyles from January 2013 to December 2016.

Auditor General Lindsey Perry forwarded the report to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office for further review.


RICO Funds

Anti-racketeering monies are forfeited to law enforcement agencies and include cash and proceeds from auctioning forfeited properties.

Those funds are supposed to be awarded to nonprofit community organizations to support substance abuse prevention, education, and gang prevention efforts.

The report found Voyles allegedly did not always follow procedures to ensure the money was spent appropriately.


Expenditures not monitored

Of the 82 awards given to 225 community organizations during the time period, 77 did not provide a memorandum of understanding with the county attorney.

“Accordingly, the uses of the awarded monies could not be determined,” the report stated.

Additionally, half of all the awards did not have applications or written proposals from the beneficiaries and those that did, included incomplete or missing documentation. The County allegedly could not provide documents to show the Community Outreach Fund Committee evaluated the awards as procedure requires.

In a majority of those awards reviewed by the state, the county attorney allegedly did not monitor the organizations’ expenditures.

“For example, monies were spent on unauthorized purposes such as appreciation events for county sheriff employees and their families and construction for a church dance studio,” according to the report.

Current Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer said in a response included with the report that his administration took action to account for and document all requests for anti-racketeering money when he took office in January 2017.

PCAO now requires those requests be accompanied by applications. Applicants must submit a letter explaining the intended uses and goals of expenditures.

Voyles previously threatened Volkmer with legal action in 2016 when Volkmer spoke out about the previous administration’s handling of RICO funds.


Former sheriff’s staff did not disclose conflicts of interest

The report also alleges Babeu and his staff allegedly violated conflict of interest policies and often did not abstain from involvement in anti-racketeering award decisions.

The Arizona Public Safety Foundation received the largest number of awards out of any organization, equaling a total of $683,406.

County sheriff employees held officer positions on the foundation’s Board, performed accounting functions, approved transactions, held foundation credit cards in their names and allegedly initiated some of those funds on the foundation’s behalf.

In all, the report states the former sheriff and county attorney dispersed $151,645 of community outreach award monies for unauthorized purposes that benefited their own programs, such as Babeu’s morale, welfare and recreation programs.

“These included events such as golf outings, holiday banquets, a Diamondbacks baseball game and movie nights,” the report stated.

More than $60,000 was used to produce public service announcements for both offices, unrelated to substance abuse prevention, education and gang prevention.

Current Sheriff Mark Lamb said PCSO has separated from the Public Safety Foundation and instituted a new process for the review of anti-racketeering fund requests. A new committee was formed to review those requests, along with other policy changes.


Former county officials say report found no wrongdoing

Babeu and Voyles maintained RICO funds were not misspent, according to a written statement sent to InMaricopa Thursday.

“The violations noted are not laws or statutes of Arizona or federal government,” Babeu wrote. “They are policies and procedures put in place by the former County Attorney Lando Voyles, as guidelines.”

Voyles said he welcomed the audit and it proved his office and Babeu’s were compliant with state and federal laws.

“I knew the audit would prove what every independent audit said, that we’ve vastly improved policies procedures and reporting,” Voyles said.

In 2017, those policies turned to law, according to Volkmer.

House Bill 2477 amended state law and required authorized purposes for county anti-racketeering funds. The law also now requires documentation and information to request and award those funds.

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

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

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

A possible opening date was not discussed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Submitted photo

A local troop is looking to grow their membership.

Submitted photo

Boy Scouts Troop 993 welcomes boys and girls in one of their three programs: Cub Scouts (ages 6-10), Boy Scouts (ages 11-18) and Venture Scouts (ages 14-20).

The troop welcomed two girls since last year and currently has 95 scouts altogether with room to grow.

Troop Committee Chairman Gerry Hahn said scouts learn life lessons, skills and citizenship. This year, the troop will trek on backpacking events, participate in scouting competitions, and canoe down the Colorado River.

The troop has produced 20 Eagle Scouts and expects two more to gain that rank by the end of the year.

“We are also starting a quarterly community service program this year where we will reach out to the community and see if there are some projects, within reason, that the scouts can do just to give back – not for Eagle Scout or anything, just to help out the community,” Hahn said.

This Spring, scouts completed a paver project from someone who didn’t have the ability or means to do it themselves, Hahn added.

High School students can also earn community service hours through scouting.

The Troop meets Thursdays at 7 p.m. inside the multipurpose room at Butterfield Elementary School.

For more information, contact Hahn at troop993@yahoo.com.

William Prentice chats with an interpreter during a demonstration call. Photo by Michelle Chance

 

Maricopa Resident William “Wilz” Prentice is one of an estimated 5,000 people living in Maricopa who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Prentice, who was born deaf, demonstrated Monday morning new technology that could revolutionize telecommunication for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community in the city.

The service was launched by the Maricopa Public Library Aug. 20 and is free to the public.

The new VideoPhone program aims to make communication services for those who use American Sign Language more accessible.

“This makes it a lot easier, a lot faster to communicate than the old TTY system,” Prentice said through an interpreter.

Considered outdated, TTY technology utilized phone and text through an interpreter to communicate. The service was complicated and required its users to have regular access to the equipment.

The new VideoPhone services at the library allow anyone to place video calls through their smart phone or on the library’s computer outfitted with a webcam to anyone in the country.

An interpreter, appearing by video, is available on the other line for calls placed to someone who does not use ASL.

Cindy Price is fluent in ASL and assisted in interpreting conversations during demonstrations Monday.

Price said the free VideoPhone service is one less barrier for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community.

“Having access at the library is great because if they really need to communicate, they can come here. It’s free. They don’t have to have additional resources so it’s actually a great equalizer for them,” Price said.

Fred Greenspan, who is hard of hearing, spearheaded the effort to bring VideoPhone services to Maricopa.

Greenspan believes the new program will help those who don’t have videophone ability on their cell phones and those hunting for a job.

“A person who is deaf can do anything,” Greenspan said.

An advocate for the Deaf community, Greenspan directed local politicians to try the technology themselves, including Congressman Tom O’Halleran, Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer and Mayor Christian Price.

Calls were placed to O’Halleran’s office in Washington, D.C., the Kansas Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Topeka, and others.

Volkmer and Casa Grande Public Library Manager Amber Kent expressed interest in implementing the service throughout Pinal County. The program is paid for by taxes on phone bills.

The presentation, the first of its kind locally, was educational for many.

“We are one of the few in the county that has this, and I learned a lot today,” said Mayor Price. “It’s revelatory. It really is.”

System instruction is available during Library hours: Monday-Thursday 9 a.m.-7 p.m. and Friday-Saturday 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

Kyra Richards works on a mural at Maricopa Elementary School. Photo by Michelle Chance

A new company is putting people to work with paintbrushes in hand and healing in mind.

VanGo 4 Kids hires independently contracted adult artists to paint outdoor murals and other artworks for customers.

“It’s just to spread joy. We are wanting to employ people to help inspire others to overcome adversity,” said owner Gary Miller.

Ten percent of proceeds will be donated to local organizations that help children. The idea came after a spontaneous painting session in Miller’s backyard.

“I was going through some difficult times myself,” Miller said. “For me spiritually, I just let God have my hand and just painted and the outcome was really cool.”

Miller, who has a doctorate in behavioral health, has spent the last four years on the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board.

He’s been its vice president since January. In June, Miller announced he would not seek re-election. He is also opting to avoid the congested morning commute into the Valley and spend more time with his family.

“It’s really forced me to be creative and to be able to work locally,” Miller said.

His new venture undertook its first mission at Maricopa Elementary School in July: a pro-bono project featuring a lighthouse mural reflecting the school’s new Leader In Me status.

Gary Miller

VanGo 4 Kids’ first resident artist, Kyra Richards, helped Miller sketch and illustrate the painting on the school’s gymnasium wall.

Richards is a recent Maricopa High School graduate who will pursue a degree in art therapy next year – unsurprising given her background.

At 7 days old, a car accident caused swelling and bleeding in her brain, seizures and other complications. She was unable to express herself with words.

Her mother improvised.

“My mom gave me crayons and paper and said, ‘Show me how you feel.’ I just moved up from there,” Richards said.

A combination of self-teachings and formal art instruction has helped Richards find her voice in unconventional media.

Frankie Miller. Submitted photo

“Honestly, (painting) feels freeing,” Richards said. “I do what I want and how I want it, so it’s like I have control and I have my imagination. It’s just like on an airplane. You feel nothing; you feel free.”

Miller wants his VanGo 4 Kids artists, and even his customers, to learn financial responsibility.

His son Frankie, 13, is already planning how he’ll save, spend and donate money he plans to make by selling his own art.

“I usually like metal and wire. I have good vision,” Frankie Miller said.

His dad envisions VanGo growing from mobile mural company to a company leading art classes, and even building a brick-and-mortar gallery one day.

And no matter if it’s the artists or the art lovers, Miller said he hopes VanGo will inspire catharsis.

“In some way, shape or form we are dealing with some type of adversity,” Miller said. “I discovered how well art can be in the healing process for all of us, whether it’s the artist or the person who’s buying the art.”

Kyra Richards. Photo by Michelle Chance
Photo by Michelle Chance

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

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

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

What does the tax do?

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

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

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

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

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

Local pushback against the tax

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

Nancy Smith (City of Maricopa photo)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

State lawmakers double down on tax legality

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

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

Mark Finchem (submitted photo)

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

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

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

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

Sen. Steve Smith

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

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

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

MUSD: Desegregation funds crucial to success for every student

Superintendent Tracey Lopeman

District officials said the funding keeps classroom sizes manageable, provides

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

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

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

The Parks brothers - Tanner, Cutter and David - are a formidable trio in junior pool leagues. Photo by Mason Callejas

 

Tanner, Cutter and David Parks have always had each other to entertain. Not dazzled by digital pastimes and video games, the Parks trio has become a force in junior pool leagues.

The 15-year-old triplets grew up around billiards inside their family’s pool hall, The New HQ, where they developed their competitive skill.

“We were playing since we could see over the edge of the tables,” David said.

The boys’ father, Darwin, gave them three sticks and let them play for fun. The family never expected to see the boys go so far.

“We were just happy to start playing pool,” Tanner recalled.

As his sons neared adolescence, Dad and his buddies in the local adult pool league – Amado Martinez, David James, Mario Bandin and Bill Huddart – taught the triplets the game.

“They’ve all picked it up extremely well. All three of them are very good shots,” Darwin said.

David Parks finished second in his division of the APA Junior Championships in St. Louis.

The Parks brothers took their skills to junior pool leagues in the Valley, spending many Sundays the past few years traveling State Route 347 to compete.

In July, all three competed in the American Poolplayers Association Junior Championships in St. Louis, Missouri.

“It was very nerve-racking, very nervous, emotional. It was all of the above out there with them,” Darwin said.

Tanner, playing in the 3 division with 93 other competitors, played five matches and finished in the round of 16. David and Cutter played in the 4-5 division.

“I prayed that these two would be at opposite ends of the bracket so that the only way they would meet it each other is if it was all the way for first and second,” Darwin said.

To Dad’s disappointment, David and Cutter were both scheduled at the bottom half of the bracket, setting up an eventual showdown between brothers.

“I was nervous because they had to play each other because I wanted both of them to make it far,” Tanner said.

David came out the victor in the tense, sibling game in the quarterfinals.

Having competed in the Billiard Education Foundation’s Junior National Championships in Las Vegas the year prior, David said he felt he had the advantage when it came to tournament play.

“I’m happy that at least one of us got to make it to the championships,” Cutter said.

David brought home the runner-up trophy in his division after a 31-33 score in the title game.

The triplets want to take their competitiveness to more tournaments in the future and perhaps introduce a junior league in Maricopa if they could drum up enough interest.

Their mother Jocelyn views pool as the final group sport the triplets will participate in before adulthood.

“I do believe they’ll grow up and go their own way,” Jocelyn said, “but, it’s fun, too. Especially because they can do it together.”

 


This story appears in the August issue of InMaricopa.

This year's MHS Rams include (from left) Trey Keel, Jake Meyer, Jordan Huddleston, Tylen Coleman and Michael Flood. Photo by Victor Moreno

 

There was very little leisure for Maricopa High School football players this summer.

“We call it ‘one heartbeat;’ it’s kind of the analogy we use. We all have to work in concert for it to work.” — Coach Brandon Harris

New head coach Brandon Harris ran practices every morning, five days a week. Many nights were filled by 7-on-7 tournaments. Two weeks before the first day of school, the team left to its annual football camp in Winslow.

The coaches spend more time with athletes than ever before, Harris said, a practice in measuring the team’s pulse on – and off – the field.

MHS head coach Brandon Harris. Photo by Mason Callejas

“We call it ‘one heartbeat;’ it’s kind of the analogy we use,” Harris said of the team’s culture. “We all have to work in concert for it to work.”

When they weren’t running drills, teammates worked in unison fundraising for the program. They were coached by Harris on representing the school and the city well, he said.

The kids reportedly received compliments on their polite behavior during car washes and other engagements where athletes and coaches introduced themselves to the community.

“We are working smart; we’re working hard,” Harris said.

This summer, athletes hit the weight room after their meals – an intake of protein and carbohydrates developed by coaching staff. And while participating in any activity together, Harris only allows uplifting communication between the group.

“We don’t coach from any negativity or fear because fear is very close to hatred and you can’t play well with either one of those feelings,” Harris said.

Harris is an experienced leader on the gridiron, having previously coached championship high school state team sand collegiately.

His goal is to reinvent the Rams, who will sport redesigned uniforms, into a team that not only wins games, but wins in life.

New district Athletic Director Jacob Neill likes the approach.

“If you have a high level of participation and you’re successful in what you’re doing with the kids in your program, it’s going to ultimately have a positive impact on the culture of not just your athletics program but your entire school,” Neill said.

In 2016, Neill left the district after working four years as head basketball coach at MHS. He was the AD and assistant principal of Poston Butte High School in San Tan Valley before his recent return to Maricopa.

That experience has lent well to the football program under Harris.

“First of all, he’s a former coach,” Harris said of Neill. “He’s been doing this awhile and he gets it.”

While the Rams work to recreate themselves and improve upon last year’s 6-4 record, the team is also adjusting to a new, competitive region.

Harris said the team had “flashes of spectacular play” against opponents in the 5A San Tan Region during the 7-on-7s this summer.

But Neill and Harris agreed the region will be a great test for the program that is still developing its pulse.

“We are a team that’s loaded with a lot of players and talent, and now it’s just a matter of us putting that talent to use,” Harris said.

MHS Football
All varsity games at 7 p.m.
Aug. 17 vs. McClintock
Aug. 24 @ Millennium
Aug. 31 @ Apollo
Sept. 7 @ South Mountain
Sept. 14 vs. Central
Sept. 21 vs. Higley
Sept. 28 @ Campo Verde
Oct. 5 @ Williams Field
Oct. 19 vs. Casteel
Oct. 26 vs. Gilbert


This story appears in the August issue of InMaricopa.

 

From left, Carlos Ibarra Sr., Ak-Chin Councilmember Ann Marie Antone and Carlos Ibarra Jr. show off seed packets at the groundbreaking for Ibarra Family Farms at the Santa Cruz Commerce Center. Photo by Michelle Chance

The Ak-Chin Indian Community has deep roots in traditional agriculture. In July, it welcomed a new kind of agribusiness to its enterprise – hydroponics.

Ibarra Family Farms recently broke ground on a 1.2-acre parcel at Santa Cruz Commerce Center and hopes to be ready for production before January.

“Although it’s different technology, we are longtime farmers, and this is going to work out perfect together,” said Ak-Chin Tribal Council Member Ann Marie Antone during a groundbreaking ceremony July 19.

Hydroponics is a soilless cultivation that utilizes recycled nutrient solution to grow small crops. Ibarra Family Farms estimates it will save up to 95 percent of traditional water usage, pumped from underground Ak-Chin water.

Owner Carlos Ibarra, his wife, sons and daughter will operate their future 16,128-square-foot greenhouse that is unlike any other in the country.

“What I did with this and the design is I adapted everything, technologies from different parts of the world, and I’m trying to adapt it to Arizona weather conditions,” Ibarra said.

The greenhouse will be lower in height than traditional structures. A motor-operated weather station will open and close the roof automatically, depending on weather conditions.

The cosmopolitan operation will include hydroponic channels from Brazil, a Canadian greenhouse and various equipment from the United States.

Ibarra is a third-generation farmer with previous operations in Mexico spanning more than 25 years, growing a variety of crops from sugarcane to soy beans. His latest project will produce organically and conventionally grown lettuce, kale and spinach year-round, thanks to the adapted greenhouse design.

Ibarra’s son Carlos Ibarra Jr. will take up marketing for the Maricopa location. He hopes to bring a fresh perspective to the farm’s philosophy as the next Ibarra generation to cultivate the family business.

“It’s also good to have the best of both worlds; the older generation and our new generation, in a more sustainable way, a greener way,” Ibarra Jr. said.

As the farm grows, Ibarra Jr. would like to explore solar power options to its greenhouse and include sustainable friendly packaging and labeling for its produce.

Phase 2 of the project could see new crops including edible flowers and other vegetables.

Maria Hernandez, vice chair of the Ak-Chin Industrial Park Board, said the Ibarra Family Farms project has been two years in the making. She views the operation as the beginning of what’s next in the local agro-industry.

“We’re a farming community, but this is a different aspect of farming where we are getting into more of what’s in the future: Hydroponics,” Hernandez said. “It was kind of exciting because this is what we always wanted this area to be: More agribusiness type.”


This story appears in the August issue of InMaricopa.

Photo by Michelle Chance

It’s election season, and advocates for those with disabilities are paying attention.

Nearly 40 Maricopa residents discussed special needs services offered by the city Saturday morning at Global Water.

A joint event of Coffee with Maricopa Police Department Chief Stahl and Henry Wade’s Councilmember on the Corner addressed solutions to obstacles residents with disabilities face statewide – much of it due to a lack of funding.

“I’ll just make one political statement: It is important to vote,” said Wade. “It’s important to know who you’re voting for and what they have done for and with you over a period of time that they’ve been in office.”

The Primary Election is Aug. 28.

Stahl expressed his frustration with state officials who he said reallocated money originally designated to improve emergency communication for those with vision, hearing and other special needs.

Next Generation 9-1-1 would offer multimedia emergency call, text and video options, Stahl said.

Police communication centers around the nation use the system, according to Stahl, but Arizona is not one of them.

“I’m not going to cast blame; I’ve already done that to their face,” Stahl said of state lawmakers. “I’m asking you to ask them ‘How are you going to fix it?’ because this needs to be fixed immediately.”

MPD offers a variety of services to the city without the state’s assistance.

You Are Not Alone, implemented three years ago, sends volunteers to make visits and phone calls to homebound residents living alone.

The recently unveiled Special Needs Registry  is a voluntary service that provides emergency personnel information about those with cognitive, medical and physical needs should they come in contact with Maricopa Police or Fire.

The city also provides a residential lockbox program providing first responders direct access to residents’ homes during emergencies.

Other services are available countywide.

Independent Living Skills Advocate Rosalie Perry with Phoenix-based non-profit Ability360 works with people with disabilities throughout Pinal County. The organization is federally funded. 

Perry, who is wheelchair bound, drives Pinal’s 5,000 square miles providing mostly free resources and referrals to those with disabilities.

“I had thought back when I acquired my disability 20 years ago that life was over, life was not happening for me. But through support and working with Ability360, I’m able to gain that confidence and now I’m out here talking to you,” Perry told residents Saturday.

The “empowering citizens with disabilities” event also highlighted the ways the city supports those whose challenges are not always immediately apparent, like those with chronic pain and people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Suzette Gilbreth said she’s a resident with an “invisible disability” who, after attending the event, was surprised to see how many others in attendance were as interested in disability advocacy as she is.

Gilbreth said she’s motivated to begin pressuring lawmakers.

“I’m glad to know there’s this many people out here and now my thoughts are, how can we help Henry (Wade) get that word out to more people to start really bugging the government and start saying ‘hey, we have a voice now and what can we do?’” Gilbreth said.

For more information about Ability360, call Rosalie Perry at 602-443-0707 or email RosalieP@ability360.org.

Angela Russo - submitted photo

It’s been more than two years since a Maricopa family’s frantic search for 24-year-old Angela Russo ended in tragedy.

On Wednesday, a jury convicted her suspected killer, LaShawn Johnson, of first-degree murder in Maricopa County Superior Court.

Diana Schalow, Russo’s mother, said justice has been served.  

“It’s exactly what she would have wanted,” Schalow said. “I have dreamt of her telling me, ‘Mom, it has to be first degree-murder,’ and we were blessed today by that decision.”

Russo never returned from an online date with Johnson April 19, 2016, prompting a five-week search by family, friends and law enforcement.

Police in Tonopah found her body buried in the desert more than a month later along with her torched vehicle.

The jury also found Johnson, 28, guilty of arson, auto theft and concealing a body, Schalow said.

Russo’s family will read victim impact statements during his scheduled sentencing Oct. 5, where Johnson could face a term of life in prison.

That day will mark the end of an agonizing two years for the Schalow family — with many days spent inside the South Tower of the courthouse attending every hearing where Johnson made an appearance.

Although the verdict helps the family heal, Schalow said there’s still a long road ahead.

“That’s the hard part to try and get over as a parent is not being able to protect your child, no matter what their age is,” Schalow said.

Angela Alert, a Facebook page created by Angela’s family that shares information about missing adults, could evolve and become Schalow’s new mission.

LaShawn Johnson is accused of killing Angela Russo. MCSO photo

With help from the family’s attorney and a non-profit organization, Schalow said she plans to lobby state lawmakers to create an alert in her daughter’s name for missing adults ages 18-64 .

“We created (Angela Alert Facebook page) for anyone who doesn’t fall under the Silver Alert or the Amber Alert because adults can just go missing and they’re not considered endangered, and that’s even with a family definite that there is foul play going on,” Schalow said.

The nearly four-week trial took its emotional and physical toll on Russo’s loved ones.

Schalow said the weight on her shoulders and the churning in her stomach, caused by the uncertainty of the trial’s outcome, is settled.

“We’re still a strong, Maricopa family,” Schalow said.

The Maricopa Chamber Breakfast Aug. 8 was host to a small candidate forum for those running in the city council race. Candidates Linette Caroselli, Vincent Manfredi (incumbent) Bob Marsh, Cynthia Morgan, Rich Vitiello and write-in candidate Leon Potter were present. Photo by Michelle Chance

Five of six city council candidates and a write-in contender discussed their platforms on city spending, senior services and economic development with Maricopa Chamber of Commerce members Thursday.

The chamber’s monthly breakfast served as the third public debate for council candidates. A fee was required for entrance, and approximately 20 people attended.

Linette Caroselli, incumbent Vincent Manfredi, Bob Marsh, Cynthia Morgan, Rich Vitiello and write-in Leon Potter attended. Candidates Paige Richie and Henry Wade were not in attendance.

Pinal County Supervisor Anthony Smith, a chamber member, asked candidates what they would do with $500,000 of hypothetical funds available in the city council budget.

Manfredi  and Marsh said they’d fund a senior center. Also on Marsh’s budget wishlist is marketing for the city, as was Vitiello’s.

Caroselli said she would fund a veterans center, after-school programs and loans for small businesses.

Saving the additional funds for a rainy day was Potter’s preference.

Morgan said she would use the money to create an animal shelter and community center.

Adam Saks, UltraStar Multi-tainment Center general manager and former chamber board member, asked candidates how they would promote cohesion between the city and various business chambers.

Morgan, who chairs the chamber’s special events committee, said she’s been working with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Power Networking Group on behalf of the Maricopa Chamber in an effort to combine.

Potter said he’s a member of many local networking groups and, as a councilmember, would remain impartial to all chambers and support them in their individual missions.

Vitiello said although he believes chambers are important to cities, he would not approve supporting them financially through city dollars.

Committing himself to becoming the council liaison to the Maricopa and Hispanic chambers was Marsh’s answer.

Caroselli said she’d develop a council with delegates from each group that would bring the organizations together to discuss unity with the city.

A solution to chamber factions is already being addressed, according to Manfredi, by a new position at City Hall that will work with small businesses and various chambers to “bring them together and figure out a path for Maricopa.”

Six candidates plus the write-in are vying for three open City Council seats. The primary election is Aug. 28.

The Maricopa Chamber has for months been grappling with its future.

Timeline: Rocky road of leadership at Chamber of Commerce

In May, the chamber announced it was leaving its office on Honeycutt Road and would operate “virtually” inside business spaces of its members.

The chamber switched strategies in July and announced it found a new, physical location, inside HomeSmart Success, 19756 N. John Wayne Parkway.

Manfredi is a minority owner of InMaricopa.

 

Hazardous weather conditions had a local school district on alert Wednesday.

The Pinal County Department of Air Quality issued a High Pollution Advisory Aug. 8, which is expected to last into Thursday.

A strong outflow of winds is projected to jump start significant storms and blowing dust Wednesday afternoon.

The dust is expected to contain airborne coarse particle contaminants that “can aggravate heart and lung disease conditions” in older adults, children and those with asthma, according to the county alert published on the National Weather Service website.

Apache Junction, Casa Grande, Coolidge and Florence are targeted most at risk in the advisory, but Maricopa Unified School District notified parents Wednesday of their decision to issue face masks to children who walk or ride their bikes home.

 

MUSD Human Resources Director Tom Beckett said the district has been monitoring updates from the county.

“The past two days our air quality has hovered in the ‘red-flag zone.’” Beckett said. “After last evening’s rain, the air quality level was lowered to orange, but as the day progressed, we received notice from Pinal County that the city of Maricopa was under a ‘red-flag’ warning.”

Some after school activities were also cancelled.

The county advises residents, especially those with respiratory or heart ailments, to limit outdoor recreational activities and to stay indoors during high pollution alerts.

Maricopa High School golf, swimming and cross-country practices are cancelled. Volleyball and football will meet indoors at the multipurpose room.

“Our actions were taken to protect our students and staff and keep them safe from the poor air quality we are experiencing,” Beckett said.

The alert advises county residents to consolidate travel, stabilize loose soils, slow down or avoid travel on dirt roads, reduce or eliminate fireplace use and avoid using gas-powered lawn equipment.

The National Weather Service predicts 5-10 mph winds and a 10 percent chance of thunderstorms Wednesday afternoon that increases to 20 percent by in the evening.

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Arizona Corporation Commission candidates Justin Olson, Jim O'Connor and Bill Mundell congratulate each other after taking audience questions Aug. 4. Photo by Victor Moreno

Candidates running for state and legislative seats answered questions from the public at the InMaricopa.com Town Hall Saturday. From Arizona Corporation Commission to treasurer, they address a wide range of issues.

Maricopa resident Tena Dugan asked candidates campaigning for seats on the Corporation Commission what they would do for Global Water Customers.

Candidates largely referenced claims of corruption on the current commission and their promises to act in consumers’ best interests on how they would protect local water customers.

Former Commissioner Sandra Kennedy, who is fighting to return to the commission, said she has experience with the company.

“I worked very hard during my tenure, and I fought tooth and nail with Global Water,” Kennedy said. “I came down here during their rate case hearing and I listened to the people and I heard every word you said and everything you said to me, I put it in writing and I made Global Water do everything that the community down here wanted.”

Six State Representatives candidates for LD 11 discussed SR 347 funding, taxes and higher education funding.

Maricopa Councilmember Nancy Smith took the microphone to confront one incumbent and the other five hopefuls on how they would stop “passing the buck” to cities and counties while balancing the state budget.

“I am a protector of our city budget, I take it very seriously,” Smith said. “I have a big concern with the common practice that our legislatures have of balancing the budget on the backs of cities and counties.”

Smith said in the past, state budgets have cause Pinal County to increase taxes and the city to forego helpful programs to residents.

Democratic candidate Hollace Lyon said the state should “collaborate, not dictate” with cities and towns.

In the LD11 Senate race, in which there is no primary election, Republican Vince Leach, in his second term in the state house, and Democrat Ralph Atchue tackled public education funding and charter schools.

Talitha Martin, MHS English teacher, asked Leach if he supports transparency in public dollars spent by charter schools.
Leach said he does, as outlined through state statute.

“(Charter schools) have their own rules. You may not like that, I get that. You may not like that, but that was set up in 1998 and that’s how it is,” Leach said.

Leach referenced an article from U.S. News and World Report that he said showed Legislative District 11 boasts nine of the top 29 schools in Arizona.

“Charters are filling up overnight. Why are they filling up? Because they are getting a better education,” Leach said.

Atchue challenged Leach’s claims.

“If things are so great in Arizona why are we losing teachers every day to other states?” Atchue asked.

Maricopa/Stanfield Justice Court Judge Lyle Riggs facilitated the non-primary governor debate between Kelly Fryer (D) and Ken Bennett (R), as well as the treasurer race featuring Republican Jo Ann Sabbagh, the first accountant to run for the position.

MHS Educator Rick Abel moderated candidates campaigning to be Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The race includes candidates with public and charter school backgrounds. The debate predictably touched on education funding and school safety, as well as improving services for gifted students.

The eight-hour marathon town hall event at Maricopa High School featured debates from 11 Arizona races. The event was organized by InMaricopa.com and broadcast live on Facebook. To view the full debates, visit the InMaricopa Facebook page.

Steve Smith (seated) listens to primary opponent Tiffany Shedd speak during a town hall session for U.S. Congressional District 1 facilitated by Mayor Christian Price (left). Photo by Victor Moreno

Engaged citizens quizzed nearly 40 candidates vying for federal, state and local offices Saturday in an InMaricopa.com Town Hall. Among them were three candidates who want to work in Washington, D.C.

Voters fired off questions in person, too, spanning hot-button issues like education, immigration, State Route 347 and healthcare.

Improving and creating opportunities for rural infrastructure projects was on the mind of a local politician not campaigning during the debate Aug. 4.

Pinal County Supervisor Anthony Smith asked candidates in the U.S. House of Representatives race what projects in Legislative District 11 they’d advocate for if elected to serve in Washington.

Steve Smith (R), current state senator and Maricopa resident who is campaigning to be a congressman, said State Route 347 and the proposed Interstate 11 are his priority projects.

“When President (Donald) Trump says, ‘I want to pledge $1 trillion of revenue growth to infrastructure,’ I’ve got a list of what we need done,” Steve Smith said.

Supplying electricity to the Navajo Nation, widening Interstate 10 and constructing off ramps through the Gila River Indian Reservation to improve opportunities for economic development were projects near to the heart of fellow Republican candidate Tiffany Shedd.

Shedd said she’d support the repeal of a 1930s-era labor law that “pushes costs of (federal) infrastructure projects through the roof.”

Maricopa’s overpass was funded partially from a $15 million federal TIGER grant, as well as $15 million in local contributions, and another $19 million from the Arizona Department of Transportation.

“We really need to repeal these draconian laws that drive the cost of a project up once federal money touches it, so that our rural communities can have enough to grab on to some of that infrastructure money and it doesn’t just go to cities like Phoenix, New York City, Los Angeles,” Shedd said.

Wendy Rogers, the third Republican in the U.S. Congress LD11 race, did not attend the debate though scheduled to appear.

Two Democrats and three Republicans are hoping for a job in the U.S. Senate, including Kyrsten Sinema (D), Deedra Abboud (D), Martha McSally (R), Kelli Ward (R) and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (R).

Ward, a former state senator, and the only participant in her race at the debate, faced-off with critics during a confrontational solo campaign appearance.

After discussing civility in politics and healthcare, Ward, in her statements about border security fired off against hecklers in the audience.

“I’d appreciate not being heckled by the left,” Ward said amid shouts from the crowd. “Is anyone not from the left who is heckling?”

U.S. Senate candidate Kelli Ward dealt with a partisan crowd at the town hall. Photo by Angelica Ramis

Maricopa resident Reid Martin answered back, proclaiming his political beliefs align with the Republican party as a moderate.

From the back of the room, Martin said he was frustrated with Ward’s decorum.

Martin said he’s been a registered Republican in every election but said this is the first election where that might change.

He said he came to the Town Hall to question candidates face-to-face.

“If you read enough and you follow these guys enough, our representatives are now running for federal level, you know where they’re going, you know what they voted for, but it’s different to actually hear it come out of their mouths and go on the record,” Martin said.

The eight-hour marathon town hall event at Maricopa High School featured debates from 11 Arizona races. The event was organized by InMaricopa.com and broadcast live on Facebook. To view the full debates, visit the InMaricopa Facebook page.

InMaricopa photo

Danger on the road rose last year in Maricopa, according to a state report published Tuesday.

The 2017 Crash Facts for the State of Arizona, an annual summary prepared by the Arizona Department of Transportation, showed vehicle accidents increased nearly 5 percent within city limits from the year before.

There were 298 automobile accidents reported in Maricopa in 2017 – earning the city a third-place rank in Pinal County for the highest number of crashes behind Casa Grande (761) and Apache Junction (456).

Maricopa placed second in the county in the number of alcohol-related crashes last year.

The city experienced 25 accidents that involved alcohol, up from 11 crashes in 2016. Casa Grande again led the category with 26 crashes; Apache Junction followed Maricopa with 21.

In 2017, people injured from alcohol related crashes rose by one (from 9 people the year before to 10).

There were zero crash fatalities attributed to alcohol last year. One death was caused by an alcohol-related crash in 2016.

Maricopa placed third in the number of injury accidents (87), number of property damage only crashes (210), and the number of persons injured in accidents (117). Casa Grande and Apache Junction preceded Maricopa respectively in rank in each of those categories in 2017.

A positive statistic reported in the data showed auto fatalities lowered from the year before.

The number of people killed in Maricopa auto accidents reportedly decreased from three deaths in 2016 to one fatality last year, according to the report.

The statewide report used data compiled from Arizona Traffic Crash Reports that are submitted to ADOT by state, county, city, tribal and other law enforcement agencies, according to the report.

Unincorporated area statistics are not broken down in the summary. View the report here.

Pinal County experienced nearly 4,000 traffic accidents last year – No. 3 in the state behind Maricopa County (93,596) and Pima County (11,707).

In 2017, 1,000 people were killed on roadways statewide.

 

ADOT

Pinal County residents have been paying an extra half-cent retail sales tax since April to fund future transportation projects.

Wednesday, a Maricopa County Superior Court Tax Court judge said that violates state law. That puts the breaks on plans to widen State Route 347, at least for the moment.

Now the battle may be fought inside the Arizona Court of Appeals.

Voters narrowly approved Prop 417 in November, the funding mechanism of the Pinal County Regional Transportation Authority’s Prop 416 that would provide a 20-year plan to create and improve roads. That plan seeks to add lanes to SR 347.

Phoenix-based conservative thinktank The Goldwater Institute filed suit in December, challenging the tax’s legality in the case Harold Vangilder, et al. v. Arizona Department of Revenue, et al. Goldwater later motioned the court to delay the collection of the tax.

Judge Christopher Whitten denied the request in March and the tax was implemented April 1. Those funds are held in escrow until the conclusion of the case.

Aug. 2, Whitten ruled the county-wide tax did not coincide with statute as it too narrowly targets a tax on retail and not on all sales tax categories, according to court documents.

The Goldwater Institute applauded Whitten’s most recent decision in a press release published to its website the day of the ruling.

“Thanks to the Court’s decision, Pinal County taxpayers are the real winners today,” Goldwater Institute Vice President for Litigation Timothy Sandefur said. “Had this sales tax gone forward, the damage to taxpayers’ wallets and to economic opportunity in Pinal County would have been immense.”

The Institute claimed the monies collected since April will have to be refunded by the county.

A statement on the Pinal RTA website challenged the judge’s ruling and argued voters knew in November the tax applies to all classifications and not just retail sales. Whitten said the wording of Prop 417 was “insufficient” to establish that.

Pinal RTA indicated the war over the funding may not be over.

“…We disagree with Judge Whitten’s ruling and will consult with outside counsel regarding an appeal to the State Court of Appeals,” according to the Pinal RTA statement.

“I’m disappointed with the ruling, but confident we will win on appeal,” Pinal County Supervisor Anthony Smith said. “The sooner we get this done, the sooner we reduce accidents, save lives and build for the future.”

Requests for comments from Pinal RTA General Manager Andy Smith, Pinal County spokesman Joe Pyritz, Pinal RTA Citizens Advisory Committee Member Tena Dugan, and Mayor Christian Price, who is a Pinal RTA Board Member, were not immediately returned.


This story has been updated to include remarks from Anthony Smith.

See future leaders at work: Maricopa High School students and Be Awesome Youth Coalition will be on the scene to help run the InMaricopa Town Hall on Saturday.

Students will get a peek at the democratic process during a candidate debate in August.

The Primary Election Town Hall, an InMaricopa.com event, will host candidates vying for local, state and federal positions.

Tentative Itinerary for InMaricopa Town Hall

Teens from around Maricopa will volunteer there with various organizations, the leaders of which hope the students will learn real-world skills like representation, proper debate and public interaction.

“The kids who will show up to an event like this will be engaged kids who are serious and polite who want to be involved and know their issues,” said Priscilla Behnke, program youth director for Be Awesome Youth Coalition.

Up to eight teens will represent the group during the town hall, including students from Maricopa High School and Sequoia Pathway Academy.

It’s Behnke’s view that those who learn to get involved with the community early earn personal benefits like confidence later in life.

“You can’t just wish it, you have to go out there and shake hands and go to the meetings,” Behnke said. “You can be an influencer if you want to.”

BAYC participants attend various events in Maricopa every year. Behnke said she stresses to teens the importance of customer service, honesty and advocacy when her group makes public appearances.

She hopes students will observe the way candidates present themselves and how knowledgeable their responses are.

Behnke also preaches to teens the importance of finding their voices through community engagement, an act she hopes will lead them to “advocate for themselves and for their causes.”

Other student groups and clubs at Maricopa High School are volunteering at the event in various capacities, from student ambassadors to greeters and photographers.

Student Council, Air Force Junior ROTC and other campus organizations of future leaders will be both up front and behind the scenes.

The debate begins 10 a.m. on Aug. 4 at Maricopa High School. Click here to learn more.

 

Bill Stacy

After more than a decade running Maricopa’s only utility company, Electrical District No. 3 CEO and General Manager Bill Stacy will soon retire.

“The Lord has blessed me to bring me out here into the desert, and it’s been a great place to live,” Stacy said.

The native Southerner worked in the utility industry for 38 years and came to Maricopa from North Carolina when ED3 hired him.

He’ll work through January while preparing to teach the ropes to his replacement. Applicants have until Aug. 15 to submit resumes and ED3 hopes to hire the right candidate by November.

A committee will choose a number of candidates for interviews after the submission deadline. ED3 is slated to welcome its new GM by November. Once hired, the position will report to the company’s Board of Directors.

Stacy will spend retirement living at his home in North Carolina, he said, enjoying its four seasons, green landscapes and outdoor recreation.

“All of our family is back on the East Coast, so I’ll spend time with my wife and family and do a little boating,” Stacy said.

As he nears the end of his career, Stacy said he’s most proud of renegotiating old contracts with APS and helping ED3 become a part of the Southwest Public Power Agency, a group he chairs.

Under Stacy, ED3 lowered rates 7 percent (5 percent in 2015 and 2 percent in 2017), and he said customers have not been subject to a rate increase in eight years.

Stacy’s replacement will face running a company that, on its own, serves a community projected for rapid growth.

Already averaging around 100 new meters a month, ED3 will likely expand to accommodate incoming commercial and residential services. The company also serves agriculture and irrigation customers.

“I always say that if the growth comes too fast it could be harder on the company, but we’ve got a lot of capacity,” Stacy said.

ED3’s new substation and system maintenance are two factors Stacy attributes to the company’s preparedness to handle a possible population boom.

Stacy said the new leader of ED3 may face broader challenges like future power costs and renewable energy.

“We’ve been here since 1926 and we plan to be a part of the community for a long time,” Stacy added.