Authors Articles byMichelle Chance

Michelle Chance

Avatar
423 Articles 0 COMMENTS

The wash closed down Porter Road at Farrell. Photo by Mason Callejas

Monsoon flooding closed various roads in Maricopa and surrounding areas after water levels rose in nearby washes Wednesday.

This afternoon the entry to the Santa Rosa wash at Porter Road was barricaded north of Farrell Road. 

Earlier this morning, the Vekol wash crossing on Ralston Road in the Ak-Chin Indian Community closed the intersection of Ralston and Farrell roads near Thunderbird Farms North.

“Road Flooded” signs were posted at entries for the same wash that runs through Thunderbird Farms South at Ralston Road north of Papago Road. Pinal County Communications Director Joe Pyritz said the road is not closed.

White and Parker Road was also closed due to a wash flooding between Barnes Road and Kortsen Road near Stanfield.

Pinal County Communications Director Joe Pyritz said workers at White and Parker Road “should be opening it up soon.”

Vekol Wash also shut down Ralston from Jean Drive to Mockingbird, Val Vista Road from Warren Road to Deer Trail and Farrell Road from Ralston Road to Carlyle Street.

In all cases, drivers are advised to use alternate routes and avoid entering flooded areas.

“We always warn people ‘turn around, don’t drown’” Pyritz said.

Police said a nude, 22-year-old man was taken to a hospital last week after he was seen running on State Route 347.

Gila River Police Department spokesperson Caroline Brown said officers made contact with the man July 14 at approximately 7:25 p.m. near milepost 179.

“He was turned over to medics on scene and transported to a local hospital for a psychological evaluation,” Brown said.

Gila River Police did not release the name of the man, but photos taken by drivers were posted to social media that night.

The photos show the nude man running barefoot on the asphalt.

Brown said the police report did not provide any information on whether the man gave statements to responding officers as to his motivation.

“No charges were filed against him due to his mental status,” Brown added.

The Department of Public Safety also received reports from concerned callers at 7:15 Friday night.

“As units were responding they were advised that a subject helped the man onto the right shoulder of the road,” said Quentin Mehr, DPS spokesman.

Mehr said DPS was in route to the scene when they were notified Gila River PD was taking over the case.

by -
New facility at TFID. Photo by Michelle Chance

Twenty customers of a local water district packed themselves into a conference room Thursday afternoon to hear an update on the utility’s plans to shrink its budget which had nearly doubled from the previous year.

“It pains my heart to expose that much risk to the community.” Engineer Nathan Meacham

The Thunderbird Farms Improvement District Governing Board announced plans at the meeting to trim the bloated 2017-18 budget by nearly $300,000, from $844,305 to $562,698.

Customers, who were angered during a June meeting by the district’s attempt to vote through a 11.52 percent tax levy to cover costs praised the district for its efforts to shrink the budget.

The board was successful in approving a $15 fee increase at the same meeting last month, despite the tax hike failing.

That fee, however, isn’t enough to cover expenses for the district, which recently constructed a new water treatment facility and office building.

The treatment facility was built as a result of the district being hit with multiple violation notices from county and state agencies for not meeting water regulations.

Board Chairman Patrick Lacey said in June the new facility was necessary for the district to stay in compliance.

District engineer Nathan Mecham led the budget modification discussion Thursday. Mecham recommended reductions to some of the most expensive line items, including repairs to ageing service lines and a reserve fund for maintenance on its three wells.

The reduced budget recommendations produced a wave of reconciliation from disgruntled customers, who began making cooperative recommendations of their own.

Though the changes eased tensions between the district and its customers, they have created unease with its engineer.

“It pains my heart to expose that much risk to the community,” Mecham said.

The district did propose increases in a few of its line items, however.

The most controversial was an increase in funds to pay for an additional office assistant, an expense many customers said the district could do without.

When the subject of another possible tax levy came up in discussions, customer Scott Crawford addressed the board with a warning.

“Live within your means,” Crawford said. “If you want [the tax] to go up, then you’re going to have another mutiny on your hands.”

Despite the district’s overall effort to better manage the budget, the newest draft still leaves a negative balance of $120,390.

The board will meet July 20 at 6 p.m. to continue budget modification discussions, including finding alternative resources of revenue.

The MUSD Business Services Department received awards in financial reporting. Photo by Michelle Chance

A new $43 million school budget was approved Wednesday night.

The Maricopa Unified School District unanimously adopted its 2017-18 budget after months of deliberation.

Working mostly behind the scenes were MUSD Business Services Director Aron Rausch and his staff.

Marked with a smile and donned with a money-printed tie, Rausch presented the board with his team’s finalized budget. It is a task he and his team have worked on for months and were happy to be nearing the finish line on Wednesday night.

“We started this in December,” Rausch said in regards to the budget. “All of the communication and all of the input all the way through now, and it’s July. Months and months and months of work.”

The adopted budget approval puts to rest a controversial debate over employees’ cost-of-living adjustment. The budget allows for a 3-percent increase in employee pay across the board.

However, a formal vote on the district’s budget for its maintenance and operation account was delayed until the board’s next meeting in August.

At the board’s previous meeting, “budget option 2” was the preferred budget out of three options.

This option included a 3 percent pay increase for all employees among other expenditures for the account’s $1.25 million.

Board member Torri Anderson said during Wednesday’s meeting that although the board agreed on the budget line items, she expressed desire to take a formal vote on it.

In previous years, Anderson said the board voted on which budget option they preferred, rather than moving forward through an informal consensus.

Anderson said although board members had expressed their preference for the budget option in conversations with Superintendent Steve Chestnut, it was her desire to express that decision in a public setting.

 “We can certainly all agree, but I feel more comfortable if we took a formal vote approving option two as a board, so it wasn’t just conversations off to the side, so that the public knew this is what we approved,” Anderson said.

The board is scheduled to take the vote at its next board meeting in August.

Rausch said that the board has approved the overall adopted budget, including the “budget option two” expenditures within the M&O account.

“Our school board wanted to endorse the budget option two in its entirety,” Rausch said.

The passing of the budget came the same night as the business department was awarded two certificates highlighting the district’s financial reports from 2016.

This is the 10th consecutive year MUSD has received both awards, Chestnut said.

The first was the Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting by the Association of School Business Officials International.

“The district was recognized for its comprehensive annual financial report for the fiscal year ending 2016,” according to ASBO International.

Next was the Government Finance Officers Association Certificate of Achievement for excellence in Financial Reporting presented to the district for the same financial report.

“There are only a handful of schools in the state that have received both of these awards, but we are proud of the good work in that office and we know that it’s led by Mr. Rausch, but it’s very much a team effort and he’d be the first to tell you that,” Chestnut said.  

Photo by Michelle Chance

by -
A wide range of employers will be at the Maricopa Community Job Fair to be staged at Maricopa Unified School District administration building July 19.

Forty-five employers will be accepting applications at the Maricopa Community Job Fair next week.

Arizona@Work is partnering with local companies to host the event July 19 at the Maricopa Unified School District Administrative Building located at 44150 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway.

The first half-hour of the event is dedicated to veteran applicants, beginning at 10 a.m. The job fair opens to the general public at 10:30 a.m. and ends at 2 p.m.

“We have positions ranging from health care, law enforcement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, hospitality, education, banking, customer service, manufacturing, behavioral health technicians, retail correctional officers and much (more),” said Linda Martinez with Arizona@Work Pinal County.

Applicants are encouraged to bring multiple copies of their resumes and arrive dressed for an interview.

Employers attending the job fair:

Ak-Chin

Ak-Chin Indian Community

Harrah’s Ak-Chin

Hickman’s Family Farms

UltraStar Multi-tainment Center

Banking

Bank of America

Pinal County Federal Credit Union

Corrections

Corecivic/Eloy Detention Center

Arizona Department of Corrections

The Geo Group

Education

Canyon State Institute

Central Arizona College – Small Business Development

Maricopa Unified School District #20

Farm/Dairy

Shamrock Farms

Ehrmann AZ Dairy (Casa Grande)

Foundations

Arizona Foundation for the Handicapped

Government

Department of Economic Security – Division of Developmental Disabilities

Pinal County Public Works

Social Security Administration

Pinal County Housing

Healthcare

Accent Care – home healthcare services

Total Care Connections – home care and assisted living provider

Community Provider of Enrichment Services (CPES) – behavioral health

Delta-T Group – behavioral health staffing

Gila River Health Care

Law Enforcement

Pinal County Sheriff’s Office

Gila River Police Department

Maricopa Police Department

U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Manufacturing

Frito Lay

Military

U.S. Army

Army National Guard

Recruitment

Adecco Staffing

Staff Matters

Arizona@Work Pinal County

Linkages

Soldier Staffing

Retail/Customer Service

Tractor Supply Company – Casa Grande Distribution Center

Fast and Friendly Car Wash

Sam’s Club

Walmart

Sales

InMaricopa

Tax Preparation

H&R Block

Tech

Arvato

CDW

Warehouse/Logistics

Prologistix

 

by -
Expenses are rising for TFID, which completed construction on a new water treatment system this year. Photo by Michelle Chance

A rural domestic water district will hold a public meeting regarding a hotly contested budget increase Thursday afternoon.

The Thunderbird Farms Improvement District Governing Board will meet July 13 at 4 p.m. inside the district office located at 10675 N. Brewer Road.

According to its meeting agenda, “the board will meet to discuss changes to the district’s 2017-18 budget in order to reduce the overall budget.”

The proposed maintenance and operation budget is a $434,597 increase to $844,305 – nearly doubling the amount from the previous year. The district’s board attributed the sharp rise in cost to its new, “state-of-the-art” water treatment facility, office and related operation costs.

The district and its customers are also paying back a consolidated USDA loan.

To cover budget expenses, the district met in June to vote through a $15 monthly fee increase and an 11.52 percent tax levy on customers’ limited property values.

Board members and district employees were met with sharp protest at the meeting, where many customers demanded the district reconsider its budget.

In emotional and often angry pleas to the district, water customers said many would be left homeless with the proposed tax increases because they would not be able to afford their water bills.

After nearly three hours of public comment and mutual debate between customers and district personnel, the board approved the fee increase, but failed to pass the tax levy.

It tabled the vote on its proposed budget, deciding later to meet Thursday to re-work figures in an attempt to lower the amount.

The board will not take a vote on the budget Thursday night, according to the district’s agenda. 

Participants in Maricopa Rocks paint and hide stones, posting photos of found rocks. Photo by Mason Callejas

Maricopans have come together in a game of hide-and-seek — with a hard twist.

Members of the Facebook page “Maricopa Rocks” have been hiding painted stones around the city and then posting pictures with clues to their location.

Once found, the rocks can either be kept or hidden again.

If a stone is kept, however, members are encouraged to paint and hide more to keep the game running.

Cassandra Ruelas played the game in Casa Grande and thought Maricopa would like it, too. She created the page for Maricopa on June 30, and the fad has grown to nearly 800 members.

“I love Maricopa. I lived here for four years (and) the closeness we all share is amazing,” Ruelas said. “I know this will just get us all up, out and having fun.”

Maricopa resident Janine Harding spent seven hours Tuesday painting and hiding rocks around the city with her 9-year-old grandson and 13-year-old granddaughter.

In that time, Harding said the trio painted and hid 12 rocks, then found and re-hid 14 more.

“It’s easy to get the kids involved and it’s cheap to do,” Harding said.

Although the craze is rocking Maricopa in July when temperatures often soar above 110 degrees, Harding said it doesn’t stop her family from playing the game.

“They didn’t even notice the heat,” Harding said. “Most people are hiding (rocks) in places that the kids can find easy.”

Although rock hunting is fun, Ruelas and her family prefers to paint and to hide the stones. She said creating the art is therapeutic.

“My mother Rachel suffers with anxiety and she can sit there and paint and be so relaxed,” Ruelas said.

Her 11-year-old daughter enjoys tracking where her rocks end up via social media.

“Every rock we put out has retired, which means (finders of the rocks) keep them,” Ruelas said.

Although there are no hard rules to the game, Ruelas suggests political messages and offensive words be left off of the rocks.

“I just don’t want anyone upset,” she said. “My motto is just inspire someone, make someone’s day (because) there is so much negativity going on in the world, why not make someone smile?”

For more information visit the Maricopa Rocks Facebook page.

 

A public hearing for the Maricopa Unified School District’s proposed 2018 fiscal year budget is scheduled to take place Wednesday night.

The MUSD governing board will hear from the public inside the district’s administrative building prior to voting to adopt its budget, according to the board’s agenda.

Previously, hot budget topics have included a salary raise for all MUSD employees, the addition of activity buses for afterschool programs at the middle schools and high school, a sick-leave bank and the cost of lowering class sizes.

The board is expected to approve a 3 percent cost-of-living increase for its employees across the board.

After receiving input from the public, the board is expected to take a vote on its budget.

If approved, the district will submit the budget to the Arizona Department of Education for maintenance and operation expenditures, according to the agenda.

The board is also scheduled to vote to meet in a private, executive meeting after the budget decision. Board members and district leaders will “discuss or consider” Superintendent Steve Chestnut’s employment renewal.

The agenda stipulates that the discussion could, however, take place in public if a request is made by the superintendent to do so.

The board meeting begins 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, inside the district office administration building board room at 44150 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway. 

Photo by Michelle Chance

The ceremonies for the 15th annual Native American Basketball Invitational kicked off at Copper Sky Park Sunday evening. Sixty-four boys and girls teams from tribes across the United States and New Zealand participated in a parade of flags and meet-and-greet with fans.

Leaders from the Ak-Chin Indian Community, Gila River Indian Community and the city of Maricopa spoke to the crowd and gave words of encouragement to the players.

The NABI tournament began Monday and runs through July 15. For the full bracket visit the NABI site.

The Atlas Pet Rescue event had a dog-painting contest. Photo by Michelle Chance

A non-profit group seeking to start Maricopa’s first animal shelter held a fundraising event over the weekend to raise money for a facility.

Tammie Crawford, founder of Atlas Pet Rescue said the group needs to raise $2.8 million to fund the project.

“We are providing a multi-million-dollar facility, and that’s why we’re here raising money today … to pay our architect so we can start this building,” Crawford said.

She said she hopes the rescue group can eventually raise enough funds to break ground in less than a year.

The “dog days of summer” event held at the Copper Sky dog park Saturday was the group’s first effort in meeting that goal.

It featured a raffle, food vendors, music and various community organizations. The event provided kids the opportunity to cool off inside an inflatable pool and a slip and slide.

The most colorful attraction, however, was the dog painting competition.

Competing for a trophy, contestants used non-toxic paint and spray paint to express their creativity using their pup’s coats as canvases.

Although the event was canine-centered, Crawford said the future shelter and rescue would house not only dogs, but cats and horses too.

Plans for the shelter include training some of the shelter pets as full-service animals and companions.

“The best part is that we are taking animals from the shelter and working with two trainers to give dogs to veterans for PTSD,” Crawford said. “Then eventually we are going to be doing equine assisted therapy with some of our rescue horses.”

For more information contact Atlas Pet Rescue at 520-709-3966 or email tcrawford@atlaspetrescue.org

Kathryn Sinkevitch is accused of murdering ex-boyfriend Michael Agerter in Maricopa.

The woman charged with first degree murder in the shooting death of 31-year-old Michael Agerter last December had a new lawyer represent her in a Pinal County Superior Courtroom Monday.

Florence attorney Bret Huggins made his first appearance defending Kathryn Sinkevitch, 32, whose trial is scheduled to begin in May of next year.

The former public defender for Sinkevitch, James Mannato, withdrew from the case in June.

In court documents, Mannato motioned to withdraw from the Sinkevitch case, citing “conflict of interest” under the authority of Arizona State Bar Ethical Rule 1.16.

Mannato said he could not make public comment about nor clarify his decision to withdraw.

Huggins entered his notice of appearance to the court on June 28, and represented Sinkevitch for the first time in front of Judge Kevin White Monday morning.

His work on the case is just beginning as Huggins works to collect evidence and documents first obtained by Mannato.

“I’m trying to get the discovery that the public defender had and I haven’t got that all together yet,” Huggins said.

Court documents show the prosecution, in preparation for trial, has called the Phoenix Police Department Crime Lab as witness to the case. There is also notice to the defendant of evidence including jail mail, forensic audio, forensic video reports and power of attorney.

In June, the Pinal County Attorney’s Office motioned for the taking of a sample of Sinkevitch’s hair and buccal swabs for evidence by Maricopa Police Department Detective Michael Dennison.

Buccal swabs collect DNA from the inside of a person’s cheek or mouth.

“Defendants hair and buccal swabs are needed in order for the Federal Bureau of Investigations to conduct a comparison examination,” the motion stated.

Hair samples will also be forwarded to the Department of Public Safety for comparison examination as well, according to another court document.

Sinkevitch is accused of shooting Agerter, her ex-boyfriend, in the garage of his Maricopa rental home in December. The two lived separately, but had an infant son together.

Agerter was reportedly attempting to gain parental rights to the child who was 1-month-old at the time of the murder.

Sinkevitch will be in court for a review hearing Aug. 28 at 9 a.m.

Transformation of the Maricopa skyline is beginning its early phases as demolition crews tear down three properties in the Heritage District this week.

First buildings torn down for overpass construction

  • 44600 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway
  • 44302 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway
  • 44617 W. Honeycutt Road

The work located along Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway and Honeycutt Road comes in preparation for construction of the SR 347/Union Pacific Railroad overpass that is slated to begin later this year.

Of the two residential properties on Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway that were demolished, one was a structure used earlier in the year for Maricopa Police Department tactical training.

The third building, an equipment shed on Honeycutt Road, is also in the process of being torn down.

Workers are also removing foundations, fencing and vegetation at demolition sites.

Breinholt Contracting Company Inc. began demolition Wednesday and crews are expected to end the work July 12.

The Arizona Department of Transportation awarded the company $27,900 for the demolition, according to the Arizona State Transportation Board website.

ADOT went out to bid two weeks ago for the $37 million overpass construction, and will open the bids to candidate contractors Aug. 25. The full project, which includes realigning traffic flow on Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway and Honeycutt Road, property purchase and demolition, is estimated to cost $55 million.

ADOT Spokesman Tom Herrmann said overpass construction will begin in the fall.

“It will probably be October that we’ll actually start work on the bridge itself,” Herrmann said, adding the dates of future demolition projects in the Heritage District are yet to be scheduled.

Today's post office building in Maricopa is 27 years old. Photo by Mason Callejas

In the early 1950s, a man named Harry Brock moved to Maricopa to begin work as a rural mail carrier. He roomed in the two-story Maricopa Hotel, the largest building in town.

BY THE NUMBERS
Today’s Maricopa Post Office
Workers: 37
Routes: 30
Daily deliveries: 21,400
Source: USPS

Inside, it once held a grocery store and the post office. The post office had already moved to another location, which was lucky for the young mailman, because one month into his tenancy, the grand hotel burned to the ground.

It wasn’t the first time flames would destroy a building in old Maricopa. Years later in 1972, fire would consume the post office itself, this time from inside the old Honeycutt Shopping Center, which was located northeast of the present-day Maricopa High School baseball fields.

The genesis of Maricopa’s post office is chronicled by Brock’s wife, and longtime Maricopa Elementary School teacher, Patricia Brock in her book “Reflections of a Desert Town.”

“Nothing stops the mail service!” Patricia Brock wrote in her history book, published first in the 1990s and then revised in 2007.

The phrase depicts the persevering attitude of Maricopa postal workers who often faced natural disasters like flood and flame.

Immediately after the ’72 fire, Postmaster Fred Cole rose the operation from its ashes and sorted envelopes on his front porch after the mail was delivered from Phoenix. That same March morning, Brock is seen in a black-and-white photo with Cole and others as they sift through the mail and prepare it for Harry’s route.

Eventually, the post office was rebuilt on the same site where the shopping center stood. It wouldn’t be until 1990 when construction on the current post office building would finish on Hathaway Avenue. The operation expanded 20 years later to include an annex building on Honeycutt Road, which serves as home base for mail carriers.

The modern-day Maricopa Post Office boasts a large operation in what is still considered a rural community.

USPS spokesman Peter Hass said it employs 37 workers and serves 30 mail routes with a total of 21,400 deliveries daily.

Despite its expansion, the growth of the Maricopa Post Office was not delivered overnight.

Its earliest location dates back to the pre-civil war era when the town was located northwest of the Pima Butte “M” mountain and south of the Gila River.

Back then, the pre-territorial community was referred to as Maricopa Wells. Records show the post office was in operation for 20 years before relocating approximately eight miles south to Maricopaville.

Mail was delivered there for eight years, until the post office was discontinued and local mail was forwarded to Phoenix.

One year later, in 1888, the revived post office moved to the location of present-day Maricopa, referred to then as Maricopa Junction.

The nomadic nature of the Maricopa Post Office was due in large part to the town’s richest resource: The location of the Southern Pacific Railroad. In fact, trains delivered mail to Maricopa until 1957.

Patricia Brock wrote that after the town settled in its current location, the post office bounced around to various temporary sites. It is theorized it was first housed within the Hotel Williams, whose owner was also the postmaster. It is reported that Postmaster Perry Williams’ pet bobcat was kept outside of the post office for nine years, and was a favorite tourist attraction.

After statehood in 1912, the post office functioned inside a grocery store, then later within Postmaster Arthur DeHart’s home, and finally inside the doomed Maricopa Hotel by 1936.

The rest is history.

Harry Brock’s career as mail carrier at the Post Office would span 40 years. He received awards for his service including the U.S. Postal Service Pride Excellence Award for Outstanding Customer Service for the western region of the United States. In 2008, Patricia wrote in Harry’s biography he later became part of the “Million Mile Club” of USPS for outstanding performance, which included driving 1 million miles over 30 years without a preventable accident.

Patricia Brock said despite various weather roadblocks, Harry “always got his mail delivered.” He passed away in 2012.

In the biography, Harry Brock recounts his opportunity to become postmaster before deciding that it was not his dream.

For him, the appeal of independence delivering mail as he drove down desert roads outweighed a position indoors.

“I enjoyed the freedom and open air,” Harry Brock said. “I enjoyed talking to the people, the few that I met every day.”

Once, Patricia Brock said, she accompanied Harry on his route, which included trekking as far as Bon, Stanfield and Hidden Valley. At the time, he was the only mail carrier in Maricopa. She was dazzled by the desert’s beauty and at the warm relationship her husband had with the rural inhabitants to whom he delivered mail.

“To a few of these people, Harry was the only human contact they had for weeks and sometimes, months,” she said.

He traveled 60 miles a day to deliver mail to 70 boxes when he first started in 1954. His route grew to 160 miles and 400 mailboxes by the time he retired in 1994.

Those figures continue to grow as Maricopa’s population booms. It seems the post office has finally found its permanent home after its harrowing past. Despite the city’s growth, USPS officials said there are no plans to expand its current retail location.


This story appears in the July issue of InMaricopa.

Multigenerational Game Night at Copper Sky has been a place for Maricopans to make friends and learn classic games. Photo by Michelle Chance

It started out as a popular game night inside Lynn Bernier’s home every Friday evening.

“We’ve had anywhere from a dozen to 30 people come to my house at one time,” Bernier said.

The parties grew so large, however, she turned to her co-members on the Age-Friendly Committee to see what could be done.

“Fast forward and we got involved,” said Peg Chapados, City of Maricopa councilmember and liaison to the Age-Friendly Committee.

From there, Bernier’s game night found a home inside a room at Copper Sky on the last Friday of every month. It grew to include not only seniors, but people of every generation.

Anyone 12 years and older is welcome to the free monthly event, which runs from January through October.

“We had two teenagers registered here tonight that are fairly frequent flyers here,” Chapados said Friday evening.

Councilwoman Nancy Smith is also a liaison to the Age-Friendly Committee. She said seniors often feel disconnected from other generations and the game night at Copper Sky is an opportunity to bridge the gap on both sides.

“This is a chance (for teenagers) to learn games that they might not otherwise play because none of these are video games,” Smith said.

A variety of card games including Po-Ke-No, Euchre, Quiddler, Canasta and Pinochle are available for play at various tables around the room. Players also have access to classic board games like Scrabble, Checkers, Trivial Pursuit and many others.

Much like Bernier’s traditional game night with her friends – which still runs the other Fridays out of the month – the game night at Copper Sky provides light refreshments and snacks.

“The idea is to get seniors together to give them a place to socialize, to meet people,” said Age-Friendly Committee Member Joan Koczor.

To attend, register in advance at www.maricopa-az.gov.

Wally Brown uses his backhoe to help his neighbors in the Thunderbird Farms area. He is 93 years old and a veteran of World War II. Photo by Michelle Chance

Wallace Brown, 93, flew a P-51 Mustang as a fighter pilot in the U.S. Army Air Corp during World War II.

“I’ve seen most everything. I’ve done most everything. I’ve reached the speed of sound,” he said, reminiscing inside his home in Thunderbird Farms.

“I just accept things as they come along, that’s the way life is. Take it, embrace it.” — Wallace Brown

One of seven children, Brown was born in Alabama in 1923 with dreams of soaring the sky. He entered basic training in 1943 and eventually earned his wings and commission as an officer.

Brown’s time in the service ended in 1945 when the war concluded. The veteran’s experiences in the air did not come without sacrifice, however.

While participating in an advanced training exercise at Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix in 1944, Brown’s plane crashed after a mid-air collision with another aircraft that was attempting to get back in formation.

Aided by his training and his parachute, Brown floated safely to the ground.

“When you are up in the sky and you are out on your own, everything falls at the same rate of speed. Your body, pieces of metal — I could have picked it up and put it in my pocket, see,” Brown said.

He found out not long after landing the man in the other plane had died in the explosive accident.

That man was Brown’s friend, Robert “Bobby” Boyles.

Brown, prompted by the death of his friend, wrote to Boyles’ parents in Illinois after the crash, but was asked to cease his communication with them.

“I didn’t write back anymore. I didn’t stop by. I wanted to go visit his folks, but I wouldn’t do it. He was a pretty good guy, I liked him,” Brown said.

The parachute that saved Brown hangs framed in his living room wall. It is a testament to his survival, and to the memory of the day he lost his friend.

After the military, Brown opened his own business and eventually made his way to Maricopa, where his company installed large water tanks.

In 1975, he bought property in Thunderbird Farms and made his home there years later.

Brown is now retired from work and from flight, but the former fighter pilot hasn’t lost much speed: He operates heavy machinery like his backhoe, rides his ATV and lives independently.

Brown said he has been able to keep an active lifestyle because of his military training.

“It all goes back to the Air Force and the cadet training — they teach you discipline. You just don’t do things that aren’t right. You do things that are right,” Brown said.

The local hero attributes his long life to helping others and to doing the right thing.

“I just accept things as they come along, that’s the way life is. Take it, embrace it. If you can discard something you don’t want, do it. If you take it, go with it, that’s what makes you feel good. That’s what keeps you young,” he said.

Fireworks are a traditional part of the party at Copper Sky for Independence Day.

Independence Day in Maricopa is often marked by traditional firework displays and sweltering heat.

This year, the city of Maricopa will combat the summer weather during its annual Great American 4th Celebration by incorporating a pool party into the event.

Online registration prior to the pool party will be required for admission inside the Copper Sky Aquatic Center. Copper Sky members over the age of 3 can purchase a wristband through the city website for $10. Non-members will pay $15.

The pool party is open for the duration of the celebration from 6 to 10 p.m.

As in previous years, the evening will include free admission to the event held on the grounds of Copper Sky Regional Park. The city will host live entertainment, a kids zone, food vendors and a beer garden.

Special Events and Marketing Manager Niesha Whitman said the patriotic celebration is a convenient, family-friendly option for residents.

“Maricopa is always about family and togetherness, so we want to celebrate that and encourage people to come out and support local,” Whitman said.

Homegrown, three-man band Combust will lead off the night’s entertainment, followed by a set from local singer Laura Walsh. Headliners Outside the Line will perform from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

General parking at the event will be $5; VIP parking will cost $20 and must be purchased online prior to the event.

The city will provide a free shuttle service from 5:30 to 11 p.m. at seven locations: Santa Rosa Elementary School, Santa Cruz Elementary School, Butterfield Elementary School, Saddleback Elementary School, Maricopa Elementary School, Maricopa Wells Middle School and Ace Hardware.

Whitman said fireworks will begin around 9:10 p.m., after remarks by Mayor Christian Price and city councilmembers.


This story appears in the July issue of InMaricopa.

Photo by Michelle Chance

Future high school baseball players wrapped up a three-day camp at Matt Huffman Field Friday morning. Athletes between third and eighth grades participated in the annual Maricopa High School Rams Youth Baseball Camp fielding balls and practicing their swings under the direction of Coach Andrew Pollak and staff.

Perhaps most popular was the sliding exercise, where players traded uniforms for swim trunks in a chance to cool down.

 

The debate over different cost-of-living increases between certified and classified staff at the Maricopa Unified School District caused public concern Wednesday night.

Five people, many of them MUSD employees, took to the podium at the district’s governing board meeting to voice their dismay over the direction of the board’s conversation at its previous meeting June 14. The discussion argued raising teacher’s salary to 3 percent while raising classified employee pay by just 2 percent.

One speaker was Karen Honeycutt, who works in the business department for the district.

“It is my hope you will consider the wellbeing of all Maricopa Unified School District Employees, and think of us collectively, rather than as a segregated group,” Honeycutt said.

Pamela Brown is a classified employee who also works in the business department.

“I believe there are other ways to handle this so you are not creating a division of employees and the perception that one group is more important in value than another group,” Brown said.

In meetings prior, the board had agreed to keep all employees at a 3 percent pay increase across the board.

The inquiry into different salary figures two weeks ago was prompted by board member Torri Anderson, and initially supported by AnnaMarie Knorr, who said teachers could be attracted to the district if their pay increase was slated slightly higher than other positions.

Attracting and keeping qualified teachers at the district is something all board members said has been difficult for MUSD, albeit most maintained a preference for an equal pay-raise for all employees. The increase originally proposed would cost the district $817,500.

After the call to the public concluded Wednesday, MUSD Superintendent Steve Chestnut provided three salary options to the board. Anderson was not present during the meeting due to a family emergency.

Option A:
Classified Employee: 2 percent increase
Certified Employees (including administrators): 3 percent increase

Option B:
Classified Employees: 2 percent increase
Certified Employees (excluding administrators): 3 percent increase

Option C:
Classified Employees: 2 percent increase
ADE Certified Teachers (excluding administrators): 3 percent increase

After hearing the options, board members agreed to keep a 3 percent increase in MUSD staff cost-of-living adjustment.

“We would send a really bad message if we didn’t raise it 3 percent across the board, and I would never want to do that,” MUSD Board President Patti Coutré said.

Coutré said Chestnut will soon compare classified employee salary with those across other districts. The data will then be shared with the board to measure whether classified employees are being paid competitively enough.

Alternative program for students behind on credits

MHS Assistant Principal Stephen Ybarra is the administrator over Ram Academy, which operates as part of Maricopa High School. Photo by Michelle Chance

Around 125 high school students will soon enter an alternative program at Maricopa High School.

Ram Academy is set to open Aug. 7 for students who have fallen behind in their coursework.

The man who will run the school is MHS Assistant Principal Stephen Ybarra.

“The alternative school is going to take students who are four or more credits behind and transition them into this academy,” he said.

The program will function on campus grounds. Three classrooms will be used inside the school’s existing Career & Technical Education building. Math and English classrooms will sit just north of the CTE department inside two portable buildings that have yet to arrive.

Once school begins, students will attend class from 2 to 7:45 p.m., Monday through Thursday, allowing the academy to operate in classroom spaces that will be unoccupied by traditional MHS students and staff by that time.

Students will also have the option to attend school on Friday to complete extra work, but Ybarra said that it is not required.

Through the voter-approved override, Ybarra hired five teachers for the academy. Subjects taught will be English, math, science, social studies and art.

Ybarra said the program will have about a 25-to-1 student-teacher ratio inside classrooms.

“Everybody that I’ve hired is an experienced teacher. When I did the interviews I was looking for people who are going to create relationships with students,” Ybarra said.

One of those hires who Ybarra said fits that profile is English teacher Sandy Juniper. She previously taught at Compadre Academy, an alternative high school in the Tempe Union High School District, Ybarra said.

Academy students will attend four classes per day, instead of the usual six, Ybarra said. The block schedule will lengthen class times to 105 minutes each, and will allow students to accumulate credit faster.

“Students are going to get credit every nine weeks,” Ybarra said. “They will have the same number of hours in class, but because we are going longer, they are going to get credit a little quicker.”

The range of credit deficiency between some incoming students is between one and 12.5 credits, Ybarra said.

A snapshot of the academy’s first class includes around 55 “fifth-year seniors” or “seniors who should have graduated, but haven’t yet,” Ybarra said.

Filling the rest of the seats will be 55 incoming seniors and 15 juniors. Student will not be able to participate in sports or other extra-curricular activities that are held in the evenings because of the class hours of the academy.

Buses will transport students to and from school, Ybarra said, and they will also be provided a meal after their second class of the day.

Ybarra said the academy is at capacity, but as some students graduate out of the program early, new students will be let in.

Once students receive enough credits to graduate, they will be given a diploma from Maricopa High School and are eligible to walk during the graduation ceremony in May.

“We are just trying to create a pathway for them to be successful,” Ybarra said. 

Evan Grace. Submitted photo

 A Maricopa teen will celebrate his 16th birthday this year by holding a fund-raiser to support members of the military.

Evan Grace will partner with Zoyo Neighborhood Yogurt on Friday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. to raise money for Blue Star Mothers of Maricopa, Arizona – a local chapter of a national organization of military moms.

Zoyo is located at 21423 N. John Wayne Parkway, Suite 102.

Twenty percent of sales will go toward the cause when the fund-raiser is mentioned at the register before purchase. The funds will benefit care packages the organization sends to deployed troops.

This is the fourth year Grace has held an event aiding the Blue Star Mothers during his birthday month. Previously, he held sock and toiletry drives.

“It’s been a thing that I’ve been doing for a while and I think it’s good to keep supporting them,” Evan said.

Evan’s mother Merry Grace said he helped move his grandparents from Texas to Arizona this summer and in the interest of time, decided to host a fund-raiser instead of a donation drive.

“This was his solution as he still wanted to be able to help for his birthday,” Merry Grace said.

Grace said he hopes the community will help raise $300 Friday.

Tracy Davis, president of Blue Star Mothers of Maricopa, said the cash will help the organization supplement the care packages with items and, in some cases, even help pay the postage to send them.

“He’s doing something really extraordinary for a teenager because it doesn’t help him,” Davis said. “He’s doing something to help other people.”

Davis said supporters are encouraged to wear a red item of clothing on Friday to support military members. R.E.D. represents the acronym “Remember Everyone Deployed,” Davis added.

Information about Blue Star Mothers of Maricopa will be available at the event. For more details about the fundraiser visit https://www.facebook.com/events/245760965908120/

 

 

The Maricopa Police Department has forwarded charges against the drivers involved in a highly-publicized, road-rage incident that occurred Monday on John Wayne Parkway and Smith-Enke Road.

The charges against motorists Holden Elsea and James Kingery include disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace, said MPD Spokesman Ricardo Alvardo.

“The incident resulted in Elsea being struck in the face by Kingery and his driver-side window broken to his vehicle,” Alvarado said. “Elsea then damaged Kingery’s vehicle by striking the rear window with a tire iron.”

The incident was recorded on a cell phone and later posted to social media.

Alvarado said MPD decided to forward charges based on the facts and circumstances of the case “and after reviewing video of the incident.”

The disorderly conduct charges resulted from “engaging in fighting or seriously disruptive behavior which resulted in obstructing the flow of traffic on a highway,” Alvarado said.

MPD said the second charges were brought about after the men allegedly “disturb(ed) the peace of several citizens, who called and reported the incident.”

Alvarado said both men are aware of the pending charges against them.

The charges will be forwarded to the City Prosecutor’s Office for review and charging on behalf of the state of Arizona, Alvarado said.

“MPD wants to remind the motoring public, driving can be dangerous and motorists should use patience and their better judgement while driving. This case proves actions like this will not be tolerated and could lead to serious charges or worse yet, a serious accident and harm to other motorists,” Alvarado said.

The NABI tournament is returning to Maricopa and Ak-Chin in July with 128 teams competing.

A showcase of Native American athletic talent will soon return to Maricopa.

Beginning July 9 at 6 p.m., The Native American Basketball Invitational will kick- off their 15th annual tournament with opening ceremonies at Copper Sky Park.

The tourney is presented by the Ak-Chin Indian Community, Nike N7, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, and the Gila River Indian Community.

NABI Co-Founder and President GinaMarie Scarpa said it is the first time the organization has opened the event to the public.

“Usually our opening ceremonies was closed to the public,” Scarpa said. “We held it last year at UltraStar at Ak-Chin Circle and it was great.”

Scarpa said this year the entire community is welcomed to the event. NABI teamed up with the Ak-Chin Indian Community and the City of Maricopa to host a public ceremony.

Kristie Riester, community services director with the city, said the tournament is another opportunity for the community to celebrate its youth.

“We encourage the community to come out and participate and support these kids who are coming out to play in the tournament,” Riester said during a city council meeting last week at city hall.

One hundred twenty-eight high school-age teams will begin the opening ceremony with a parade of flags representing over 300 Native American tribes from the United States and New Zealand.  A public meet-and-greet with nearly 1,600 players will follow.

“Ak-Chin is one of our biggest supporters of the event so we were really excited to partner with them and the City of Maricopa to bring it south,” Scarpa said.

Riester said food vendors will be on hand during the festivities along with music supplied by a DJ.

“Nike N7, which is their Native American line, is going to be doing their new release presentation to present their new line,” Scarpa added.

The ceremony will conclude after a fireworks presentation at 9:45 p.m.

Scarpa said NABI’s mission is to support young, Native American athletes and academics.

“Our Native youth is so underserved, just because (of the) desolation of a lot of the reservations, so they get overlooked and there is so much talent athletically and academically,” Scarpa said, “So to go out of country to look for this talent is insane when we have it right here.”

Before opening ceremonies begin, Scarpa said there will be a college and career fair for the student-athletes.

“The whole purpose of the tournament is to open up opportunities and to inspire them to higher education,” Scarpa said.

The tournament runs July 10 through July 14 at various local gyms including: Maricopa High School, Ak-Chin Indian Community Recreation Center, Leading Edge Academy, Vah-Ki Multipurpose Service Center in Bapchule, and Stanfield Elementary School.

The championship games will take place July 15 at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix.

For ticket information, as well as specific dates and locations of games, visit http://www.nabifoundation.org/nabi_basketball.html

NABI has partnered with the National Basketball Association and will also hold a Jr. Basketball Camp for freshman-aged Native American athletes. The camps will be hosted by NBA staff, coaches and players and is closed to the public, Scarpa said.

 

 What appears to be an act of road rage was caught on camera Monday afternoon in Maricopa.

Maricopa resident Nathan Corp filmed the incident on his phone around 4 p.m. at the intersection of Smith-Enke Road and John Wayne Parkway.

“As I was pulling up to where they were stopped, the gentleman in the sedan came to a full stop, jumped out of his car, punched out the window of the SUV and started to punch the driver in the face,” Corp said.

Corp then shared the footage on social media.

The video shows the driver of a dark sedan get back into his vehicle which is parked in the left-hand turn lane of the intersection. The driver of the white SUV proceeds to exit his car, parked adjacently, and strikes the back glass of the sedan, shattering it.

Following the damage, both drivers re-enter their vehicles and head south on John Wayne Parkway.

“I don’t know what brought them to that point though. I didn’t see them driving recklessly or anything like that,” Corp said.

 Maricopa Police Department Spokesman Ricardo Alvarado said MPD is currently responding to the case.

“It was just reported to us so I have no information as of yet,” Alvarado said.

Photo by Michelle Chance

The puppet cast of “The Little Red Hen” entertained a roomful of children at the Maricopa Library Monday morning. Puppeteer Nancy Smith of Great Arizona Puppet Theater performed every role in a one-woman show that included interactive song and movement with the kids.

The event is part of the library’s Summer Reading Program. Future library events can be found on InMaricopa’s calendar.

Maricopa Unified School District Administrative Office

District administrators at Maricopa Unified Schools are preparing to implement a new, equal, sick leave policy for their employees.

Beginning July 1, all MUSD staff will accumulate one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, said Human Resources Director Tom Beckett during a governing board meeting last week.

The policy affects part-time and full-time workers across the board, regardless of position.

“(It’s the) same standard whether they are substitutes here at the district or the director of HR, it makes no difference,” Beckett said. “Everybody will get the exact same benefit.”

According to the Industrial Commission of Arizona’s website, earned paid sick time is “sick time accrued by an employee that is compensated at the same hourly rate and with the same benefits, including health care benefits, as the employee normally earns during hours worked.”

The move stems from a compliancy effort by the district after Prop 206 was passed statewide by voters last November.

The Fair Wages and Healthy Families Act requires employers with over 15 workers to allow their employees to accrue one hour of earned paid sick time for every 30 hours they have worked.

The “first reading” of MUSD’s sick leave policy also reflects a limit required by the act.

“Staff members shall not be able to accrue or use more than 40 hours of earned paid sick time per year,” according to a district document.

The district’s legal team worked on the draft for nearly three months before Beckett submitted the first reading of it to the MUSD Governing Board last week, the HR director said.

The district is also working to track its “restricted use sick leave” policy.

It entitles “personnel who are employed at least 29 hours per week a designated amount of compensated leave that is to be granted to a staff member who, through personal or family illness, injury or quarantine, is unable to perform the duties assigned.”

MUSD documents state each staff member will be credited with a restricted use sick leave allowance of one-half day per pay period of up to six or eight days.

Employees who work 12 months out of the year will receive eight days; 10-month employees will receive six.

“The best thing I can say overall it does not penalize our current employees’ sick leave and adds a benefit to our part-time staff,” Beckett said.  “So it’s a good thing overall for our staff.”

Board members Gary Miller and Torri Anderson asked Beckett if he had enough resources to track new data the act will require the district to follow in order to stay in compliance.

MUSD will use software and staff to ensure it is fulfilling requirements. The state and county will also monitor the data, Beckett said.

“This is a continuing process and we’ll probably have a few bumps in the road, but I’m confident that we’ll be able to figure this out,” Beckett said.

The board unanimously passed the first reading of the policy. 

Earlier in the year, the Fair Wages and Healthy Families Act also required employers to enact a $10 state minimum wage by Jan. 1.

J.J. the Clydesdale visits children at Maricopa Public Library. Photo by Michelle Chance

A gentle giant named J.J. stomped through the doors of the Maricopa Public Library Thursday afternoon. The Clydesdale followed its much smaller companion, a pony named Chancey, inside the room filled with excited children during the event that is part of the Summer Reading Program.

Nancie Roahrig, founder of Step Up Into T.L.C. Inc., gave a presentation about her equine friends to the crowd. Afterward, children lined up to greet and pet the horses.

Principal Nate Lamma has stepped aside after eight years at Sequoia Pathway. Stepping in is Alfonso Alva.

Sequoia Pathway Academy High School will gain new leadership in the upcoming school year.

Former principal Nathan Lamma said he will not be returning. Lamma said he is leaving to be closer to home and to spend more time with his family.

“The staff, families and students have been my life for the last eight years, and great things will keep happening for the Pumas,” Lamma said.

The new high school principal at Pathway is Alfonso Alva, who serves as campus director.

“I am looking forward to meeting our students, staff, parents and community members,” Alva said.

Before coming to Pathway, Alva was the college campus chair for the College of Education at the University of Phoenix, according to a statement supplied by Alva.

Pathway’s new principal said he has 20 years of experience in education ranging from classroom teacher to a variety of administrator positions including assistant principal, principal, district director and university chair.

“Dr. Alva holds a B.A. in Elementary Education from Prescott College, an M.Ed. in Elementary Education from Northern Arizona University, and an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University. In 2009, he completed his Ed.D in Educational Leadership and Innovation from Arizona State University,” the statement reads.

Sequoia Pathway Academy Elementary School will also see changes in its administration. Lamma confirmed Assistant Principal Aundre Bell has resigned. Bell could not be reached for comment.

Demond Williams, high school head football coach, is also leaving Pathway. The school has posted an opening for the position on its website.

Ryan Hahn (right) works on his Eagle Scout problem with (from left) Raul Rivera, Derek Blakely and Braydon Sanders. Photo by Michelle Chance

Three years ago a Maricopa woman rushed her husband to the emergency room. Doug Urbaniak, 64 at the time, wasn’t feeling well and momentarily lost consciousness.

Once admitted to the hospital, Urbaniak woke up and gave his son a call – but he ended the conversation abruptly.

Urbaniak has been paralyzed from that moment on, his wife Pat Urbaniak said.

Doug Urbaniak has been paralyzed for three years. His wife Pat is his caregiver. Photo by Michelle Chance

“He was talking to his son on the phone in Ohio and all of a sudden he said ‘I think I have to go’; His hand dropped and he never moved again,” Pat said. “It happened that quickly.”

 For the first two weeks, hospital staff in Chandler referred to Doug Urbaniak as their “mystery patient.”

Finally, after spinal taps and bloodwork, doctors diagnosed Doug with the West Nile virus, an infection transmitted by mosquitos. A physician said he probably contracted it in the backyard of their Maricopa home, Pat said.

After lengthy hospital stays, Doug was transferred to a skilled nursing facility in Scottsdale for rehabilitation. He would spend almost three years there and regain the use of one arm.

Five months ago Urbaniak finally returned home.

Pat is Doug’s dedicated companion and caregiver. At night Pat is summoned by Doug’s bedside bell every two hours to suction his lungs, which Pat said are also paralyzed.

“When he rings I zoom back out here,” Pat said.

Ryan Hahn (back) with scouts (from left) Raul Rivera, Derek Blakely, Braiden Whitworth and Braydon Sanders. Submitted photo

At the couple’s house, Doug enjoys the company of his cocker spaniels and the kind of comfort, Doug said, only being at home can bring.

“There is something about being back at your own place that is more relaxing, soothing – that’s good medicine,” Doug said. “The dogs are very comforting as well.”

But one obstacle has prevented him from one of his most basic needs: bathing.

The Urbaniak’s shower is not wheelchair accessible, forcing Pat to help Doug bathe using the sink and a wet cloth,a process Pat said takes over an hour to complete.

“It has really been challenging,” Pat said.

Pat sought resources to help with the cost of installing an appropriate shower she estimated would have cost her thousands of dollars in labor and supplies. Despite her outreach to county and city agencies, she said every effort led to a dead-end.

“Unfortunately in Pinal County, there are very few services available,” Pat said. “In my effort to try and find services to help remodel the bathroom so he can take a shower, I made I can’t even tell you how many calls.”

That’s where a group of teenagers come in.

Seventeen-year-old Ryan Hahn is a Boy Scout in local Troop 993. He was looking for a project that would help him gain rank as an Eagle Scout.

Ryan’s dad Gerry Hahn is the troop’s committee chair. Gerry heard about the Urbaniak’s from a friend and thought the shower installation would be a way for his son to help the community, as well as complete his Eagle Scout project.

Gerry Hahn said to earn rank as an Eagle Scout, scouts are required to plan, develop and give leadership to a project that is of no cost to the person whom it benefits.

The Urbaniak’s shower remodel was also an opportunity, Hahn said, for scouts to participate in a project that is “outside of the box” compared to previous Eagle Scout projects.

In the past, Hahn said, scouts have gained rank by completing various projects in local parks around the city.

“Lately our boys have been doing the same thing over and over,” Hahn said. “I want somebody to do something noteworthy.”

Ryan began fundraising for the project three months ago by holding a car wash and asking for donations from family and friends. The remodel cost nearly $1,000, Hahn said, with the custom shower base requiring the majority of that cost.

The shower base is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and will allow Urbaniak to shower himself.

“He’ll be able to sit in a shower chair, and I’ll push him in, and he’ll be able to hold a handheld (nozzle) and shower himself. (It will) give him a little dignity,” Pat said.

Last week, Ryan and Gerry Hahn, along with four other scouts, began the remodel.

It took the teens 2.5 days to finish the project that included demolition and the installation of sheet rock, trim work and the shower base.

“It feels really cool to help out people that couldn’t help themselves,” Ryan Hahn said.

For Urbaniak, the new shower not only represents a form of independence, but the project also holds sentimental value to him as well.

“It means a lot because I haven’t had a real shower in several months and it’s very kind of the young man to volunteer to do that,” Doug Urbaniak said. “My own son was an Eagle Scout, so I know what the project means to him.” 

Gerry and Ryan Hahn. Photo by Michelle Chance

Bacon and eggs got crusty but not cooked in this experiment in hot-weather silliness.

Temperatures this week are inching closer to record-breaking figures. The excessive heat warning across the Valley has prompted many to stay indoors and away from the dangerous weather outside.

The InMaricopa editorial team decided to test how hot streets and cars get when temperatures near 120 degrees.

Reporters wanted to test the question many people ask this time of year: Can asphalt and the inside of vehicles heat up enough to cook food?

We investigated the theory behind blacktop breakfast and car-baked cookies Tuesday afternoon and found interesting results.

By the end of the experiment, reporters concluded that bacon and eggs are better prepared by traditional means. Although the pairing hardened in the sun, the asphalt did not cook either food item thoroughly.

However, cookie dough placed on a metal sheet inside a vehicle for nearly two hours did bake the dessert somewhat like an oven.

For health reasons it is best not to try these experiments at home, and don’t eat improperly cooked food.

Tracy Davis of Blue Star Mothers - Maricopa.

The Blue Star Mothers of Maricopa will be busy Wednesday night packing boxes to send to sailors of the USS Fitzgerald in Japan.

The donated items will benefit the crew of the Navy destroyer that collided with a large, commercial ship in Japan over the weekend. Seven of those sailors died.

Donations can be dropped off at 6 p.m. inside the Maricopa Center of Entrepreneurship.

“We just want to do what we can do to tide that feeling of helplessness,” said Tracy Davis, president of Blue Star Mothers of Maricopa.

Davis said donations of non-perishable snack food items like jerky and granola bars are especially helpful to the grieving sailors who she said often work long days without much time to break for lunch.

The cause is close to Davis’ heart. Her son Blane Davis once served aboard a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier in Japan for three years.

“Every time I think about it I tear up because my own kid was there. He sailed those very same waters so there is a kinship. They’re not biologically my kids, but they are my kids,” Davis said.

Letters of support will also be accepted at the donation drive.

“They’re mourning too,” Davis said. “They think of their crewmates as sisters and brothers.”

Travel sized items that can be donated include:

Foot powder, eye contact solution, disposable razors
Lip balm, eye glass cleaner, deodorant (stick; no antiperspirant), Band-Aids
Body wash, (preferably 3-in-1)
Toothbrushes (individually packaged), toothpaste, mouthwash
Coffee (ground, vacuum-packed bags), chewing gum
Rice Krispies Treats, granola bars, Pop-Tarts
Crackers (Saltines), Graham Crackers, Jerky
Power bars, Energy bars, Trail Mix Soup, Ramen noodle dry packages
Pre-sweetened powdered drink packets (Gatorade, Kool-aide, etc.)
Hard candy (no chocolate)

Davis said cash donations are also welcomed. She said those funds will help the organization buy items listed above that they still may need after the donation drive concludes Wednesday night.