Authors Articles byRaquel Hendrickson

Raquel Hendrickson

Raquel Hendrickson
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Raquel, a.k.a. Rocky, is a sixth-generation Arizonan who spent her formative years in the Missouri Ozarks. After attending Temple University in Philadelphia, she earned a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University and has been in the newspaper business since 1990. She has been a sports editor, general-assignment reporter, business editor, arts & entertainment editor, education reporter, government reporter and managing editor. After 16 years in the Verde Valley-Sedona, she moved to Maricopa in 2014. She loves the outdoors, the arts, great books and all kinds of animals.

The development is on the southeast corner of John Wayne Parkway and Hathaway Avenue. Photo by Kyle Norby

A Mexican restaurant is the stepping-off property for a new commercial development in Maricopa.

Riliberto’s Fresh Mexican Food is scheduled to open in March or April, according to Bryan Ledbetter of Western Retail Advisors, which is developing the lot on the southeast corner of John Wayne Parkway and Hathaway Avenue. The property south of Maricopa Self Storage has long been known in city development paperwork as Maricopa Town Plaza.

Ledbetter named other companies expected to fill in the area, as well. They include Hampton Inn, Goodyear Tire and Maricopa Vet Clinic, he said.

“We will have 1,365 square feet of space next to Riliberto’s with a patio for lease,” Ledbetter said.

An as-yet unnamed fast-food restaurant “specializing in chicken” is in negotiations for a pad next to Riliberto’s.

A Mexican eatery has been part of development paperwork on that property for years, back to when the land was attached to Holiday Inn Express.

DSPA Gems perform at the MHS Performing Arts Center.

IF YOU GO
What
: ArtsFest Maricopa “Music & Movement”
When: Oct. 19, 7 p.m. (doors open 6 p.m.)
Where: MHS Performing Arts Center, 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave.
How much: One night $18 at the door; two nights $24 thru Oct. 7 and $30 afterward
Tickets: ArtsFestMaricopa.BrownPaperTickets.com

A new, two-part cultural event for Maricopa will take a bow this fall showcasing the works of local professionals and student artists and performers.

ArtsFest Maricopa, organized by the city’s arts organizations, is scheduled to debut at the Maricopa High School Performing Arts Center Oct. 19 at 7:30 p.m. with the showcase “Music and Movement.”

The main-stage performances feature orchestral music by Maricopa Music Circle and dance by Desert Sun Performing Arts, plus introductions and commentary by actors from Maricopa Community Theatre. The intermission “Intermezzo” lobby performance will be by a small ensemble from a Maricopa school, to be enjoyed as audience members walk about viewing wall-art and sculptures by MHS students and established artists and crafters.

“ArtsFest Maricopa aims to present a core sample of all Maricopa’s artistic riches in fresh, glorious ‘re-introduction’ to our city,” said Judith Zaimont, co-founder of MMC and one of the organizers of the event, “especially so we all can savor together the demonstrated richness of talent in our hometown. New residents will gain first-hand experience of how the city’s cultural prong has grown and flourished over Maricopa’s first 16 incorporated years.”

The evenings have their presentations grouped around two themes: arts without words, and arts with words.

The second part of ArtsFest will be Feb. 1 with the “Song and Story” showcase. Main-stage performances will be by Maricopa Chorus and Copa Shorts Film Fest, with introductions and commentary by MCT actors. The intermission lobby performance will be by Poetry Slam performances, and there will be another art walk of local professional and student creations.

Both parts of ArtFest will have food trucks stationed nearby for refreshments throughout the evening. Doors will open at 6 p.m. so audience members can view the visual art displays in the lobby at length.

ArtsFest Maricopa is sponsored by the City of Maricopa Arts Committee and the independent nonprofit Maricopa Arts Council.


This story appears in the September issue of InMarciopa.

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Denny Hoeh shares a peek at the written works of some of the participants in the upcoming Maricopa Historical Society Speaker Series. Photo by Kyle Norby

To understand Arizona history, you have to learn about Italian explorer Eusebio Kino.

IF YOU GO
What
: Maricopa Historical Society Speaker Series
When: First Saturdays, October-April, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Maricopa Public Library
How much: Free
Info: MHS50.com

A Jesuit priest, Father Kino traveled around much of 17th century Arizona, including the area that is now Maricopa, as well as California and Sonora. While he was establishing dozens of Catholic missions, he was often the first non-Native through some areas to provide descriptions of the land and people.

Author Barbara Jarquay returns to the Maricopa Historical Society to talk about Father Kino and his legacy, one of eight historians who will participate in the new 2019-20 Speaker Series.

Other speakers’ topics range from POW camps in Pinal County to Maricopa’s archaeology and answer the big question: Why is Maricopa not in Mexico? The historical society’s vice president, Denny Hoeh, said the lineup may be even better than last year’s.

The year will also include a new fundraising dinner loaded with historical snippets, “Tales & Treasures.”

Oct. 7, local archaeologist Aaron Wright is scheduled to start things off. The focus of his studies has been the Great Bend of the Gila River and what he calls its “very impressive array” of archaeological sites. For the historical society, he will talk about the basics of Maricopa’s archaeology.

Hoeh said Wright’s award-winning work has disputed long-held beliefs about the source of some of the petroglyphs in southern Arizona, bringing the Patayan into the discussion. “He’s probably one of the national experts on the Patayan,” Hoeh said.

Nov. 4, Doug Whitbeck and Michael Daehler are scheduled to talk about the natural history of Sonoran Desert National Monument.

“People don’t know the Sonoran Desert is one of the most diverse areas on the planet,” Hoeh said.

Dec. 2, author Doug Hocking returns to talk about his new book coming out in October, “Terror on the Santa Fe Trail” about an Apache battle in the 1800s.

Jan. 6, Jaquay brings her new research in to Father Kino to the meeting. Also a geographer, she last spoke to the society about the history of Arizona sheepherding.

For Arizona, the Gadsden purchase of 1854 defined its current borders and placed what is now the city of Maricopa (not to mention Tucson and Yuma) into the United States. At the Feb. 3 meeting, historian Dan Judkins will explain how and why the crucial purchase came about.

March 2, Gerald T. Ahnert will discuss the Overland Mail Company that left its mark on Maricopa. He worked on a bill now in Congress waiting to be approved to designate the Butterfield Trails as a national historic trail. A native New Yorker, he has had his work featured in True West magazine.

“No Butterfield stage was ever held up by outlaws, and no one on his stages was ever killed during the company’s service on the Southern Overland Trail,” he wrote.

“He’s not a young man, but he is so adventuresome,” Hoeh said.

April 6, archivist Steve Hoza will wrap up the series with a talk about World War II prisoner-of-war camps in Pinal County. Hoeh said he even went to Germany to interview some of the former POWs and was a contributor to the History Channel’s “The Great Escapes of World War II.”

This year, Maricopa Historical Society will forego its traditional golf-tournament fundraiser and instead launch a new event. “Tales & Treasures” is scheduled for Oct. 26, a catered dinner at Leading Edge Academy that will dish up plenty of folklore and antiques.

The event is 3-6 p.m. and is $40 for members and $45 for nonmembers. Hoeh said the plan is to have local historians make the rounds during the meal, stopping at each table to share area history or at least the truth behind some tall tales. Funds raised go to the programs and projects of the society. Learn more in the October issue of InMaricopa.


This story appears in the September issue of InMaricopa.

The idea of a new library has floated under the radar for years, sometimes spoken of wistfully and often completely unknown by newcomers.

“When I first interviewed here six years ago, that’s when I first learned that the library expansion had already been approved by voters,” Library Manager Erik Surber said. “That weighed heavily in my decision to come here. It was something I really wanted to be part of.”

With re-imagined financing in place over the next two fiscal years, the new, 27,000-square-foot library is deep in the design stage. Groundbreaking is expected this winter followed by around 10 months of construction. The cost to the City is around $11 million.

Its funding comes from Highway User Revenue Funds (for an access road), development impact fees and capital improvement project funds. It is budgeted for $3.8 million this fiscal year and $7 million in FY21.

Maricopa voters approved a $65 million bond for a secondary property tax to build recreation and library facilities. The City spent $52 million of that, resulting in the development of Copper Sky.

Back in 2006, planners had been expecting to build a 60,000-square-foot facility costing over $15 million. That all collapsed with the Great Recession. Instead, the City built an 8,000-square-foot building for about $2 million, knowing it instantly would be too small for the population.

The industry standard is one square foot per resident. Maricopa’s population is now over 50,000. According to Mayor Christian Price, the library has issued 53,000 library cards during its existence.

Current floor plan of the proposed library

The Plan

From a bird’s eye view, the proposed building looks something like an X south of City Hall near the northeast corner of White & Parker Road and Bowlin Road.

Surber is part of a team of city staff who have been meeting with the architect for months.

“In the early designs, one was a big, square building and the next one was a big, square building,” he said. “The third one was the shape that it is. And we said, ‘Yeah, this is a better shape. Why didn’t you lead with that?’ So, it’s not a big, square, boring building, but it also isn’t wasteful. Everything, the shape and everything in it, has a purpose.”

Surber said in the X design, the points help shelter the entrances from the sun and elements.

The building will be about three times as large as the current library, with room to expand another 25,000 square feet.

“You tear down a wall, you put up a new entry point and you’ve created another wing,” Price said. “It’s a fascinating concept.”

The new library is planned for the northeast corner of White & Parker and Bowlin roads, with room for future expansion toward White & Parker. The front of the library faces east.

“The floor plan is pretty set at this point,” Surber said. “We were meeting with the architect for months, and we did have an open house where we got public input. The details now will be more like what materials we use, where to place electrical ports.”

There will be outdoor programming at the north entrance, which is shaded from the sun. The space will allow for a stage area and room for people to mill about or have lunch.

There will also be an entrance on the south end, but the main entrance will be on the east side.

“The thing that I hear back a lot is, ‘Do you have space for meeting rooms? Do you have space for study rooms?’” Surber said. “The answer is yes. I’m very pleased with the amount of rooms that we’ve got. That really does talk about how libraries are used.”

There will be a dedicated children’s story area, a teen area, a crafts room for all ages, a 2,000-square-foot conference room that can be divided into two rooms. That is where large programming such as the special-guest entertainers for the summer reading program will likely be.

“We always try to squash the notion that the library is just a warehouse for books,” Surber said. “Libraries used to be designed that way. Fortunately, we’ve come a long way since then, and now we are designing libraries to fulfill the role of community meeting space.”

There are smaller conference rooms and three study rooms in the plan. An acoustics study will also inform the final design.

Surber said the additional space will allow the library to have more programs and make current programs more convenient for patrons, especially youth coming in after school.

The current library has about 50,000 items. “A lot” of that collection is on overflow shelves or in storage. The new library is expected to have space for 90,000 items. Surber said there also may be gallery space for local art.

Library Manager Erik Surber in the current municipal library on Smith-Enke Road. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The Funds

Price said Maricopa voters approved the bond that paid for parks, recreation and libraries because they were willing to sacrifice for the things they wanted.

In August, he walked a gathering of Maricopa Republicans through the process of setting aside funds after Copper Sky was built.

“When you do that, it leaves you a certain amount of money you can get to,” he said. “The problem is, you’re taking it out on credit. You can’t spend this other portion until you spend this part down. So, we’ve been paying this back for the last five years. We actually just refinanced this bond that will save you all a million dollars on repayment of that bond.”

Price said the City went back to the drawing board to look at financing a new library sooner rather than later. They looked at a combination of development impact fees (DIF), which are earmarked specifically, and the capital improvement projects (CIP) funds.

“With our capital improvement fund, we had all these big projects 10 years out, 15 years out, five years out, and there was all this money allocated to these different places,” he said. “It’s important to save for big things, but that’s 15 years out. I got needs now.”

He compared the CIP fund to a trust with monies that can be moved around. He said the City decided to accelerate the library.

“We’re not spending the tax dollars that we don’t have to,” Price said. “We’re spending the dollars we already have in the budget by re-organizing, finding efficiencies and making things better. At the same time, from a planning standpoint, [we know] that growth is going to continue, so we have something that satisfies those needs now and will also satisfy them in the future without having to spend gobs and gobs of money because we didn’t plan for growth and expansion.”

The mayor said it was about doing the most you can with what you have.

And Then Some

Surber said he’s happy about the domino effect that is expected when the library moves out, dividing the current space into the Maricopa Veterans Center and the city’s first senior center.

“A great benefit of us moving is that the City can repurpose this building to have a dedicated space for veterans, dedicated space for seniors, and the central area, which could be used by different community groups,” he said.

The City then plans to remodel the current veterans center on Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway into a museum for the Maricopa Historical Society.

Surber said Maricopa will go from a space-poor community to space-rich.

The Maricopa Library in 2004 was on Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway. The building is now the Maricopa Veterans Center, which is expected to move to the current library while Maricopa Historical Society takes over this building after a new public library is constructed.

Capital Improvement Funding
FY’20                     FY’21                     FY’22
New Library
Construction
Impact fees                            $3,280,221
HURF                                     $500,000
CIP                                          $50,309

Total                                       $3,830,530                $7,000,000

Current Library remodel (CIP)                                              $30,000
Veterans center remodel (CIP)                                                                              $100,000

Source: City of Maricopa


This story appears in the September issue of InMaricopa.

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The Maricopa High School cross country team competed twice at Chandler’s Tumbleweed Regional Park in two weeks.

Senior Zanaa Ramirez earned a medal by finishing in the top 10 at the Chandler Invite Sept. 4. Then on Sept. 14, six Rams ran personal-best times in the Ojo Rojo Invitational in the same park.

The Chandler Invite was divided into grades for the 5K. For the seniors, Ramirez was ninth among the girls in 22:44.66. Coreyuna Mitchell was 39th in 33:11.80. On the boys’ side, Quinton Stapleton finished 47th in 19:52.02.

In the girls’ junior race, Stella Richter was 60th in 27.49.57, Frances Trast was 76th in 33:05.45, and Beatriz Gallardo Avila was 83rd in 38:57.53. For the boys, Jovanni Fentes was 47th in 20:28.30

For the sophomores, Gabriel Garcia was 60th in 20:48.98, Xavier Rose was 78th in 22:04.37, and Charles Liermann was 101st in 24:10.22. For the girls, Anel Kenezhekeyeva was 85th in 1:07:28.66.

Saturday morning, 33 schools competed in the Ojo Rojo , with freshman, varsity and open divisions.

Ramirez reached a personal best in 22:31.8 while finishing 63rd. The two other girls running the varsity race with her also posted their best times yet. Richter was 129th in 27:17.0, and Trast was 138th in 30:33.8. Brynna McQuillen of Vista Grande won the race in 18:41.5.

The boys’ varsity ran a full team and finished 20th overall. Stapleton finished 102nd in 19:59.5. Garcia was 121st in 20:29.9, a personal best. Rose finished 128th in 20:51, also a personal best. Fentes was 149th in 21:31.9. Liermann was 171st in 23:39.2, and Nico McKinley was 184th in 32.32.6. Trent Holiday of Page High School won the race in 16:04.

In the freshman race, Blodgett finished 66th in 23:46.5, a personal best.

Quinton “Q” Stapleton has been the MHS boys’ team leader this season.

MHS junior Mister Chavis scored before being wrestled down by South Mountain. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa High School’s varsity football team battled South Mountain in a 5A conference contest, but the Homecoming game slipped away from the Rams in the fourth.

Losing 33-20 on Friday the 13th under a full moon, MHS now has a record of 2-2.

“As well as we played on some things, we didn’t stop the run,” head coach Brandon Harris said. “They did everything we said they would. We’ve got to make plays.”

The Rams executed a plan to throw the ball more but could not get a rhythm going. The Jaguars proved to be slippery for the Maricopa defense, with the Rams frequently in chase mode.

“We’ve got to take proper angles,” Harris said. “We talk about taking proper angles all week. We come out here and we don’t take proper angles.”

South Mountain struck first with just three and half minutes off the clock as team captain Devontae Ingram took the ball in from the 45. The Rams tied it up in the final minutes of the quarter with Tylek Mooney scoring and Roberto Esqueda kicking the extra point.

Maricopa took the lead with 2:29 left in the half when Mister Chavis rushed in from the 15 topped off by another extra point from Esqueda. South Mountain scored on an 11-yard-pass but missed the extra point, and the Rams maintained a 14-13 lead.

Chavis returned a kick all the way for a touchdown with seven seconds left in the half to put the Rams ahead by seven.

A big kickoff return and big pass completion to start the third quarter, however, put the Jaguars on the 41-yardline. Ingram scored again on a pass from Amier Boyd. With the extra point, the game was tied 20-20.

“I thought for the first time this year we had good plays in all facets of the game,” Harris said. “Our kicking game was great for the most part. We missed that extra point, but we kicked the ball deep. We had good field position. Took away field position on them, but then they marched down the field on us.”

During the game, Maricopa had two would-be touchdown passes fall in the end zone and a touchdown run brought back by a penalty.

The Jaguars also had a scoring run erased by a flag, but a 38-yard run on the next play put them in the lead for good, 26-20. Maricopa blocked the extra-point attempt and had 10:24 left to stage a comeback. The Rams’ offense, however, could never get going while the defense, despite big plays, still could not contain Boyd and powerful running back K’rashee Smith, who slipped through one more time to score yet again for South Mountain.

“We had a pretty decent week of practice. We did what we had to do. No surprises from them at all,” Harris said. “It seems the weight of the world is on our shoulders a lot of the time, and we need learn to play a little bit more relaxed.”

Next week, Maricopa travels to winless Central High in Phoenix.

Superintendent takes blame for implementation errors

Parent Tyler Wright speaks to the board before a capacity crowd Tuesday. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

A school policy updated in April has had unintended consequences at Maricopa High School this fall, and a room full of students and their parents explained the impact during Wednesday’s meeting of the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board.

At the request of board member Torri Anderson, the board held a work study on the implementation of Policy IIE, which states:

“It shall be the responsibility of the principal, with the cooperation of assigned counselors, to assist students in the scheduling of classes. All students in the high school, with the exception of graduating seniors, are required to enroll in six (6) credit-bearing classes.

Graduating seniors are required to enroll in the minimum of five (5) credit-bearing courses. Seniors wishing to participate in extra-curricular programs must adhere to Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) guidelines.”

Superintendent Tracey Lopeman said she had made an error in the implementation of the policy. It was meant to be in place for this year’s incoming freshmen and future classes rather than students already in high school.

“It was completely my error regarding the freshman implementation,” Lopeman said. “It was completely my oversight, and I apologize for that.”

Anderson called it a communications breakdown and said it should not have happened. Students said it was forcing them to choose between their church and school activities.

Eric Goettl, instructor of the Seminary program of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, earlier said the way the policy was implemented has “negatively impacted our youth and our ability to offer release-time religious education in an off-campus setting.”

Before Tuesday’s meeting, however, Goettl had a fruitful discussion with Lopeman about the situation. Currently, 150 students from MHS and other high schools attend Seminary in the church across the street from MHS for an hour during the school day.

MHS offered Odyssey courses outside the regular class schedule, during Zero Hour or Eighth Hour, for those students wanting to meet the required enrollment hours and still take time for Seminary. However, students said those course options did not include Advanced-Placement classes and they could not make up the lost credit as well as they did before. The long school day was also leaving students exhausted, they said, especially those trying to be involved in extracurricular activities or after-school jobs.

“I just panic all the time and am stressed out a bunch of the time, too,” student Kyle Jones said. “It’s really hard to keep up. I’m really surprised I’m only a few assignments behind in the class.”

Lopeman had discovered the discrepancy between policy and practice at the high school after some teachers raised the question about “weighted” grade point averages that gave higher results to students taking fewer classes and finishing higher in the class standings. Lopeman said the six-credit-bearing-classes policy has been in place for “quite a while” but had not been in practice at MHS. On the other hand, the previous policy had required seniors to take just four credit-bearing classes while in reality they were taking five.

“They have to take five because of early-release Wednesdays,” she said.

“I understand that this change was to make sure that we have all of our credits to graduate,” senior Katie Hanks said. “I know every single one of us knew as a freshman coming in that we would have to make up that credit. This hasn’t been a problem in the past and so it shouldn’t be a problem today.”

Hanks outlined her day, which included heading off to Zero Hour before 6 a.m. and coming home at 7 p.m. or later. Only then, she said, did she have time to do homework for her many AP and honors classes. Haley Lemon, president of the MHS Theatre Company, said its even worse for students in Tech Theatre, who may not get home before 10 p.m. when preparing for a production.

“It’s my understanding that a lot of this came to fruition because of some discussion or some concern about weighted GPAs and valedictorians and that kind of stuff,” Bishop Ryan Atwood said. “I’m sure there’s much more complexities than that. But I can tell you, the current solution is not acceptable.”

The GPA calculation was at the center of discord and will be part of the discussion as the district tries to work out a solution.

“I get it, the GPA boost that we got when you divide it by less number of credits,” student John Jackson said. “I know some of my member friends would talk about it in freshman year how, ‘Wow, we’re first in our class because of this GPA boost.’ But now, I’d argue, without the ability to take AP credits and honors credits A Hour or Eighth Hour and do it online, our numbers will have lower GPAs instead of the little bit higher GPA they had prior.”

The use of only the Odyssey program for online credits is also part of the conversation. Questioned by Board Vice President Ben Owens, Lopeman said the single program was adopted for consistency. After hearing from students, she said Odyssey is not adequate.

James McNelly and his mother Sue both explained how the implementation of the program had thrown off his plans after he adapted his schedule to fit in release-time Seminary.

“I have planned for graduation since my freshman year. I had taken a lot of my classes on Primavera, and these classes suddenly don’t matter because of this policy,” he said. “I just think it’s unfair that as a prepared individual, I can’t use those credits I’ve already taken. Now I’m in a Zero Hour class. I have to get up at 5:40 every morning. Getting kind of tired of it.”

Sue McNelly said her son had completed the credits necessary to make up for the time lost to Seminary his junior year. “And he was good to go. The district then changed the policy, and we were told those credits no long count.”

Anderson said not accepting online credits from other programs was “very disturbing” and said it was not explained when the policy was forwarded to the board. She also said the understanding was that the policy would affect incoming freshmen.

“I am very disappointed in the implementation of this policy,” she said. “I’m disappointed it’s affected this many families. We want these students in our schools who are honor students, who are civically responsible. This is what we build our public education system on. I am confident we will resolve this to the benefit of all of our children.”

Anderson also said the consequences should have been spelled out during board discussions over the summer before school started.

Several students spoke of the value of the Seminary class to them personally.

“You may be thinking if I didn’t take Seminary I wouldn’t have this problem at all,” Hanks said, “but I value my hour in seminary because I know it will help me throughout my entire life, and I want to go and learn what I can in that class.”

Johnna Belcher, the mother of three young children said she was concerned about the problems of accommodation. “This policy change is troubling for me as a parent. I attended Seminary when I was a youth. It was a place for me to be able to decompress during stressful days, and I know that a lot of days are stressful these days.”

Parent Tyler Wright said he has seen kids, including his daughter, on the verge of having a nervous breakdown trying to juggle school, homework, activities and some social life with the policy change.

“There’s has to be a way to allow these kids to play sports,” he said. “If they want to be the valedictorian, then let them fight it out. Let them work hard and earn it. Don’t give it to someone. That’s not right. They do not need to be burned out. They need to be educated.”

Board member Patti Coutre expressed empathy for parents dealing with stressed-out teens but also said it may come down to personal decisions.

“I know it is tough to make choices between what to do after school, wanting to participate. Sometimes those choices are going to be tough and you might have to choose to do Seminary versus theater or football or any other athletics,” she said. “It’s a lesson that’s hard to learn. I’m sorry you have to learn it as a kid, but you’ll be better rounded as an adult when you have to make those choices as an adult.”

Anderson said it wasn’t just LDS Seminary student impacted by the policy change. Her son, a senior, had expected to have a lighter load this year with maybe time to get a job but instead found himself at school five credit hours. She said that was true of seniors across the board.

Lopeman said in implementing the policy, Principal Brian Winter and counselors spoke with students they thought would be most impacted. The district also prepared to approve stipends for teachers to teach during Zero Hour and Eighth Hour.

“Zero Hour and Eighth Hour were added so students could continue to attend Seminary during the day,” Lopeman said. “We didn’t want to eliminate that option just blanketly. We wanted to create a transition.”

She said it became clear in her discussion with Goettl and his wife that following policy and community service did not have to be mutually exclusive. She said she is confident a solution can be found that is fair for all. Other elements of the issue include MHS’s closed-campus status and liability.

What was unclear was whether the district’s policy of six credit-bearing classes was based on state law, which requires 720 educational hours for high schoolers. That will be part of the research behind future conversations, prompting board member Joshua Judd to warn parents, “When we get these policies, it’s statewide. It’s not a flexible thing if it’s state-based.”

Anderson said she hopes to work out a resolution before Christmas so the conflict is not still in place next semester.

Board President AnnaMarie Knorr said she wants to see something evenhanded. “I want to be sure that whatever we do going forward is fair and equitable both for the students who do not leave campus and go to Seminary, that their GPAs aren’t less just because of that fact, but also for those who do, that they have the opportunity to take AP classes or honor classes or whatever it is to get the GPA that they want. It needs to go both ways. I’m hopeful that we can come up with a solution that does ensure that.”

A pilot and student were injured in a crash at Ak-Chin Regional Airport. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Two people were injured when a small plane crashed into a building at Ak-Chin Regional Airport on Tuesday morning.

A news release from Ak-Chin Indian Community stated a pilot instructor and a student were on board the plane, which tore into the Flight Operations Building nose-down from the roof. Both people were transported to Chandler Regional Hospital with injuries.

An airport employee inside the building made it out safely, according to the release. No other injuries were reported. The incident happened between 8:30 and 9 a.m.

The FAA has been notified, and the airport is open.

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Despite being shorthanded and battling Murphy’s Law during the first half, the Maricopa High School varsity football team tested its depth to overcome Apollo Friday, 21-9.

The Rams were behind until midway through the second quarter having suffered through a series of miscues that included a safety. They were coming off a physically punishing loss to Millennium the week before that showed in the lineup.

The win moved the Rams’ record to 2-1.

Maricopa kept quiet during the week about the fact they would not have standouts like Ilijah Johnson or Michael Flood on the field, but from the outset it was clear the Rams were a lot smaller and a little less diverse.

“We have a saying around here: Next Ram up,” head coach Brandon Harris said. “We don’t have the luxury of kids sitting around waiting to be knighted to play varsity football. They’ve got to come in; they’ve got to prepare as if they’re going to have to play tonight, because they might very well have to do that. So, we had a team out there that was not our projected starting lineup at all, but we hid it. We kept it quiet all week. We had some kids that came out here and worked real hard. They did a nice job.”

The defense started the scoring for Maricopa as junior Patrick Garcia intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown. With Mister Chavis rushing and receiving, not to mention returning the kickoff, for the first drive of the second half, Maricopa scored again to go up 14-2.

Apollo (0-2) scored its only touchdown in the final seven seconds of the third quarter. Maricopa answered with another touchdown with 10:27 remaining in the fourth and held back the Hawks the rest of the game.

“The defense played great,” Harris said. “They held the line for us,”

Harris credited his assistant coaches with getting the team game-ready despite the vacancies. He said the Rams need to get a lot healthier by getting some guys back in time for Friday’s Homecoming game against South Mountain.

“We’re very, very, very, very young. They’re learning how to play on the fly,” he said. “I’m proud of them. A lot of kids played both ways. A lot of kids didn’t leave the field, and that’s a huge win in Division 5.”

Maricopa is putting together its Complete Count plan for the 2020 U.S. Census.

Maricopa is gearing up for next year’s decennial U.S. Census.

Data from Census Bureau has become so important some cities, including Maricopa, funded special counts in off-years to try to prove their population. Population can help a company decide whether to invest in a community and it can decide if it’s time for a new congressional district.

There are changes to the way the census will be taken in 2020, and the City has formed a Complete Count Committee to educate the public and encourage them to participate. For instance, households will receive an “invitation” to complete the census survey online.

“Part of the encouragement,” said Dale Wiebusch, the City’s director of Intergovernmental Affairs, “is that the data is driven both by the monetary factor and political representation.”

Wiebusch heads the committee, which meets monthly to talk about strategy. He invited 50 participants, with up to 14, with a handful at any given meeting. The committee, he said, is comprised of people who can reach diverse groups, especially those who could be missed because of language barriers or lack of technology.

In the recent census campaigns, the city saw where portions of the population did not comply, including areas of the Heritage District. That is where committee members can step in to better explain the process and necessity of the census.

He said the census count would impact federal and state funding.

“There are 50 or more federal programs that rely on census data for disbursement of funds,” he said, adding that figure could be $3,000 per person.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 95 percent of households will receive census invitation by mail. Almost 5 percent will have their census invitation dropped off at their home. Less than 1 percent will be counted by a census taker.

“We do this in very remote areas like parts of northern Maine, remote Alaska and in select American Indian areas that ask to be counted in person,” the Bureau explained in unattributed documents. The department is based in Maryland and directed by Steven Dillingham.

Wiebusch said he would like to see the City have library computers dedicated to the census for those who do not have the Internet at home. The main census activity will take place in March and April, with reminders and other wrap-up activities into June.

Census invitations will begin going out in the mail in mid-March. If the household has not responded, a reminder letter will go out, and a reminder postcard, then a reminder letter and a paper questionnaire and then an in-person follow-up.

The project goes in stages, with Maricopa due to start its portion April 1.

“I find it hilarious we would do it on April Fool’s Day,” Wiebusch said.

Unlike a special census, the decennial census will count everyone who declares their main residence to be Maricopa, even if they live here only six months out of the year and even if they are not citizens.

Wiebusch emphasizes there is no “citizenship question” on the 2020 U.S. Census.

“I know a lot people think that’s about those without documentation,” he said, “but we have Canadians and we have a lot of other ‘snowbirds’ who live here a lot of the year.”

The City of Maricopa is working with Maricopa Association of Governments and Riester, a Phoenix-based advertising firm, to help with preparations for the census and outreach.


This story appears in the September issue of InMaricopa.

A series of fights on and near campus have marred campus life at Maricopa High School this month.

A fight broke out Wednesday after school, bringing police to Honeycutt Avenue. That fight reportedly ended up in a Maricopa Meadows park west of the school. Thursday, Maricopa Police Department was on campus investigating what Mariopa Unified School District described as “three separate incidents involving an isolated number of students.”

MPD spokesman Ricardo Alvarado said there were charges pending.

“Investigations are still ongoing, and discipline will be aligned to our discipline matrix,” MUSD spokesperson Mishell Terry said, explaining the release of further details could violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. “That said, the District will cooperate with law enforcement authorities if requested, to the full extent it can lawfully do so.”

MUSD sent out a message to parents signed by Principal Brian Winter explaining why the front office was briefly closed while MPD worked with students and families. “Please know the safety of our students and staff is always our first priority, and we will continue to partner with you to ensure Maricopa High School provides a safe and secure environment,” he stated.

Friday, however, another fight was reported in a campus building, again bringing additional police to campus.

Parents expressed anger and anxiety about the situation, with one parent telling InMaricopa his daughter is terrified of going to school.

By Fran Lyons

IF YOU GO
What:
Kids Day Maricopa
When: Sept. 21, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Where: Maricopa Wells Middle School, 45725 W. Honeycutt Ave.
How much: Free
Info: kidsdaymaricopa@yahoo.com

Celebrating its 12th year, Kids Day Maricopa will be Sept. 21 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Maricopa Wells Middle School, 45725 W. Honeycutt Ave.

Free, fun and educational, Kids Day Maricopa offers an array of resources that expand awareness and bring attention to the three key components of the event: Health, Safety and Environmental considerations.

With the focus on children, specific topics this year will address how to prepare for and manage excessive heat in our desert climate, water safety and “Stranger Danger.”  Tips and tools will inform and illustrate how to recognize potential risks, develop strategies and form a plan to maximize safety.

Of course, almost any kid will tell you the biggest reason to go to Kids Day Maricopa is the free stuff.  Free food, free toys and free balloons.  Also at the top of list is face painting, appearances by sports mascots “Big Red” of the Cardinals, the Diamondbacks’ “Baxter” and “Striker” and “The Sidewinders” of the Rattlers.

There will also be a special appearance by “Smokey Bear” who is handing out cupcakes in celebration of his 75th birthday. McGruff, the crime prevention dog, will also be there waiting to greet kids and share some great ideas.

Maricopa Police Department will feature K-9 demos and motorcycle demos, among their presentations designed to inform and instruct, as well provide an exciting experience and entertain the audience. Say hi to Sgt. Hal Koozer while you’re there.

You won’t want to miss former Harlem Globetrotter Anthony “Buckets” Blakes’ presentation “Above the Influence.” Using the game of basketball as a model and a practice, along with his youth program’s four tenets – communication, attitude, respect and education, Blakes teaches kids to rise above peer pressure and develop personal life skills.

All this and much more is being delivered by Dr. John Donohue and his wife May, the founders and hosts of the event, with the help and support of a core group of dedicated senior volunteers and recruited volunteer teams, including students.

“Over the years we have amassed over 1,000 contacts and a multitude of event resources,” Donohue said. “Our volunteers are the heart of the program. Just the joy and the impact of Kids Day Maricopa on the community is an inspiration and my greatest reward. That is our mission accomplished.”

For information on hosting a booth, being a sponsor or volunteering call 520-494-7788 or e-mail: kidsdaymaricopa@yahoo.com or drjohnd1@yahoo.com.

Photo by Kyle Norby

A warm and humid weekend lies ahead for Maricopa, with high temperatures eventually falling out of the triple digits and hinting at rain next week, according to the National Weather Service.

Today is sunny with an expected high of 108 degrees F. Tonight will be mostly clear with a low around 81 and increased breezes.

Friday will be nearly identical, a sunny day with a high of 108 followed by a mostly clear night with a low around 82.

Saturday will likely start out the same, but the weather will shift by evening. The day is forecast to be sunny with a high near 108. The mostly clear night will have a low of 79, but breezes will pick up, gusting as high as 20 mph while blowing moisture into the area.

Sunday, there is a 20-percent chance of showers on a mostly sunny day with a high near 103 and winds of 5-15 mph gusting to 20 mph. The possibility of rain increases to 30 percent overnight, which is expected to be partly cloudy with a low around 76

The likelihood of rain continues through mid-week, with daily high temperatures in the upper 90s.

Photo by Victor Moreno

 

FOOTBALL

MHS plays hard, fast against tough foes
There is no off-season for Maricopa High School football; just out-of-season. That’s where head coach Brandon Harris has tracked improvement in the players coming back from a team that was 5-6 and qualified for state play from the tough 5A San Tan.

“Summer was good for us,” Harris said. “We participated in a lot of 7-on-7 tournaments. It was nice. We came home and won the whole tournament here at Copper Sky.”

Out-of-season he had them working on speed and agility, skills and drills. Some players migrated to track and field to stay in shape.

“Seven-on-7 isn’t football; I say that all the time,” Harris said, “but it gives you an indication of how you match up skill-wise with other teams in the state. I think we match up really well this year, more so than we did last year. We’ve got weapons everywhere.”

Neill likes the direction the program is headed.

“We’re just getting compliments on how hard we play, in talking with football coaches who maybe didn’t expect the game they got from us,” Athletic Director Jake Neill said. “That’s a credit to the kids and coach Harris and his coaching staff. The consensus is that if a team is going to get a win [against MHS], it’s going to be a tough one.”

The 7-on-7 participation told the most about the growth of senior quarterback Daxton Redfern.

Daxton Redfern
Photo by Victor Moreno

“We realized how good he was when we went down to U of A in Tucson,” Harris said. “He’s grown exponentially. He knows our offense really well.”

In that 7-on-7 tournament, Redfern threw 42 touchdowns in 13 games against one interception. Coming up behind him is sophomore Merhauti Xepera, who is a tight end when not quarterbacking. “He’s a big kid, an athletic kid,” Harris said. “He’s going to be the future.”

Other expected standouts include junior Mister Chavis, Ilijah Johnson, Tylek Mooney, Steven Forrester, Anthony Valenzuela, Hunter Taylor and Bryan Pick, among other Rams who want to make a name for themselves.

“We’ll be fast. We’re always going to be fast here, explosive, resilient, family, very close team this year,” Harris said. “We got into the playoffs. Now the next step is to win some games in the playoffs, which is what I’m used to doing. That’s the goal. We think we have a really good chance of doing that.”

MHS
W, 33-22              at McClintock
L, 0-47                  vs. Millennium
Sept. 6                  7 p.m. vs. Apollo
Sept. 13                7 p.m. vs. South Mountain (Homecoming)
Sept. 20                7 p.m. at Central
Sept. 27                7 p.m. at Higley
Oct. 4                    7 p.m. vs. Campo Verde
Oct. 18                  7 p.m. vs. Williams Field (Senior Night)
Oct. 25                  7 p.m. at Casteel
Nov. 1                   7 p.m. at Gilbert


Jacob McIntyre
Photo by Victor Moreno

Sequoia Pathway gets new coach for growing program
Sequoia Pathway Academy has a new varsity football coach, but he’s no stranger to football in Maricopa. Donnie Margerum moves across town from MHS’s freshman team.

Coach Donnie Margerum
Photo by Victor Moreno

“This year, with Coach Donnie, it’s creating a new culture,” said Glen Hale, the school’s athletic director. “He came in with a new system. He also has another assistant coach from MHS, Corey Nelson.”

The Pumas grew from eight-man to 11-man football a couple of seasons ago, and this year are joined by more charter school teams in the Open division of the Canyon Athletic Association. In 2018 they finished third with a 4-3 record, but football didn’t end with the season.

“I’ve been saying, just taking it to the next level of play and playing throughout the season instead of just coming in through the season,” Hale said. “Now we’re moving to where it’s year-round and giving our kids opportunities to travel to places and compete against higher competition.”

Returning seniors include Shane Miller, Gavin Buchberger, Jacob McIntyre, Ajani Elliot and Patrick Lisby. The high school team has grown to 35 players.

“We had to go get more helmets and equipment, which is a good thing.”

Sequoia Pathway
W, 14-8                vs. Canyon State
Sept. 6                  7 p.m. vs. South Pointe
Sept. 19                6:15 p.m. at Canyon State Academy
Sept. 27                7 p.m. vs. San Tan Charter
Oct. 4                    7 p.m. vs ASU Prep
Oct. 11                  7 p.m. at South Pointe
Oct. 18                  7 p.m. at San Tan Charter
Oct. 25                  7 p.m. at ASU Prep


Shakira Gillespie
Photo by Victor Moreno

VOLLEYBALL

MHS trying to restore self-confidence
The Rams are trying to rebuild a team after a haphazard volleyball season in AIA 5A.

Returning as head coach for MHS varsity is Theresa Abernathy, who is also an instructor at Copper Sky. She is trying to overhaul a team that was 2-20 last season.

“We are completely going to start fresh,” Abernathy said. “We’re building the program from the ground up.”

Expected returning players include juniors Shakira Gillespie, Brooke Smith and Ashley Brown along with senior Tayler Riley-Coleman. But it looks to be a young team.

“They have improved an awful lot,” Abernathy said. “They listen to what I’m saying, and they seem to like each other.”

After the discouragement of 2018, she said they need to restore their self-confidence. She is encouraging more year-round play. In today’s volleyball climate, it is difficult for players who only play during the high school year to compete against those who participate in clubs.

“They need to believe they can win and be competitive with every team,” she said. “They need to be a team.”

MHS
W, 3-0                   at Camelback
W, 3-1                   vs. Fairfax
L, 0-3                    vs. Verrado
Sept. 10                6 p.m. at Paradise Valley
Sept. 12                6 p.m. vs. North Canyon
Sept. 16                6 p.m. at Campo Verde
Sept. 17                6 p.m. vs. Ironwood
Sept. 24                6 p.m. at Williams Field
Sept. 25                6 p.m. at Centennial
Sept. 26                6 p.m. at Higley
Oct. 1                    6 p.m. vs. Casteel
Oct. 3                    6 p.m. vs. Gilbert
Oct. 15                  6 p.m. vs. Campo Verde
Oct. 17                  6 p.m. vs. Williams Field
Oct. 22                  6 p.m. vs. Higley (Senior Night)
Oct. 24                  6 p.m. at Casteel
Oct. 29                  6 p.m. at Gilbert


Lynniece Andrews
Photo by Victor Moreno

Sequoia Pathway works to improve on remarkable year
Pathway wants to build off a hot year that saw them reach the Final Four in Canyon Athletic Association’s Division II, and has had a strong turnout of players. Varsity coach LaShieka Holley is keeping nine, while there are 16 in junior varsity, and 42 came out for junior high.

“I’m asking all the coaches from varsity to reach down into the elementary level, to reach down into the middle school level, so we’re not just working on one program; we’re building as a whole,” Hale said. “She’s done a really good job with that. She’s actually the coach of the junior high, too. It’s been good to see how that transition is happening with the girls, and how they’re just growing.”

Puma captains are Lynniece Andrews and Mikayla Gallon, returning from the team that was undefeated in the regular season.

“This summer they went to an ASU camp. That was amazing,” Hale said. “Once again, they competed against AIA schools. Some were state champions, so they got that experience of playing with top-level competition. That’s where we heading as an athletic program. We want to play people that are better than us so we can get better.”

Sequoia Pathway
W, 3-0                  vs. Basis-Peoria
W, 3-0                  at Basis-Chandler
W, 3-0                  at San Tan Charter
L, 2-3                  vs. Heritage-Gateway
Sept. 5                  7 p.m. at Imagine-Coolidge
Sept. 11                5:30 p.m. at Sequoia Charter
Sept. 12                7 p.m. vs. Mission Heights
Sept. 17                4 p.m. at Imagine-Coolidge
Sept. 19                7 p.m. vs. EVAC
Sept. 24                6:30 p.m. at Mission Heights
Sept. 26                7 p.m. vs. Heritage-Mesa
Oct. 1                    4 p.m. at South Ridge
Oct. 3                    7 p.m. vs. Desert Heights


Kian Carroll and Eva Zavala
Photo by Victor Moreno

SWIMMING

MHS dives into 2nd swimming season
Coming off a rookie season in AIA competition, the MHS swimming team has about 30 returning swimmers and around 45 overall.

“We lost some to the new high school (Heritage Academy), but we have a lot of freshmen coming back from last year,” coach Laura Logan said.

She said having a year under their belts is allowing her to coach more instead of just teaching the basics of swimming as much as she did in 2018.

“They have a base of knowledge that they can build on,” Logan said. “We had so many kids with no experience whatsoever.”

She expects her team leaders to again Olivia Byers, now a junior, and Connor Schrader, a sophomore. The four seniors are Jose Perez Barraza, Kian Carroll, Jacob Davis and Eva Zavala. There are a few more boys than girls participating.

The team includes 16 sophomores and 14 freshmen.

A team goal is to get swimmers qualified for state competition and show the more established swim programs “what Maricopa is becoming.”

The Rams compete in AIA Division II.

Sept. 5                  4 p.m.                   at Apache Junction
Sept. 12                4 p.m.                   at Copper Sky
Sept. 24                4 p.m.                   at Saguaro
Oct. 3                    4 p.m.                   at Copper Sky
Oct. 10                  4 p.m.                   at Copper Sky
Oct. 17                  4 p.m.                   at Copper Sky
Oct. 23                  9:30 a.m.             at Apache Junction
Nov. 2-3               TBA                        State Championship


Quinton Stapleton and Zanaa Ramirez
Photo by Victor Moreno

CROSS COUNTRY

MHS finding new motivation
MHS cross country is recuperating from a difficult year that saw flagging motivation on the boys’ team and not even a full team on the girls’ side.

“Right now, we’re definitely rebuilding,” coach Heather Abel said. “I think we’re looking at a better situation than we were last season, where we were real small and didn’t see a lot of commitment from kids who should have been committed. That seems like it’s changing this year.”

She bases those hopes on the initiative she sees runners taking for themselves and their teammates.

Abel considers this year’s leaders to be Jovanni Fentes, Quinton Stapleton and Zanaa Ramirez.

“Quinton’s really dedicating himself this year,” she said. “They live in San Tan Valley now, so he’s commuting like I am every day and coming to practice every day.”

Ramirez, meanwhile, is a member of the West Coast Striders, a club team based in Maricopa and coached by Corey Nelson. She qualified for the 800-meter run in the Hershey’s Junior Olympics National Championship in Sacramento in July.

Abel sees that level of competition giving Ramirez newfound confidence on the 5K course for cross country. Though literally miles apart, both events take a lot of mental toughness and physical endurance.

To grow the boys’ team, she has been encouraging athletes in other sports to run cross country to stay in shape between their seasons. Wrestlers have been doing just that. Freshman boys are also turning out.

Her goal is to get her runners in good shoes and keep them hydrated and healthy and they come to understand pack strategy while running not just for themselves but for the team.

“What they’re doing is really hard, and they don’t get a lot of recognition for what they’re doing,” Abel said. “Most people won’t do this because it’s hard.”

Sept. 4                  4:30 p.m.             at Vista Grande
Sept. 7                  7 a.m.                    at Chandler Invite
Sept. 14                7 a.m.                    at Fountain Hills Invitational
Sept. 14                7:30 a.m.             at Ojo Rojo Invitational
Sept. 27                TBA                        Nike Desert Twilight
Oct. 12                  TBA                        O’Connor Invitational
Oct. 26                  TBA                        Eye of the Tiger Invite
Nov. 8                   TBA                        State Sectionals


Tyler Kientzler
Photo by Victor Moreno

BOYS’ SOCCER

Sequoia Pathway wants to bounce back
The Sequoia Pathway boys struggled last fall, posting a 2-8 record. This year, the school took advantage of the opportunity to play more out-of-season soccer to improve.

Coach Juan Garavito is “real excited about this year, being able to work through summer and just being able to work with the kids outside of school,” Hale said. “I’m looking for definitely this year seeing improvement. I think it’s only up from there.”

The team is returning a couple of players from last year’s squad – Anthony Saldana and Tyler Kientzler – and are a little fewer in number. They play home games at Pacana Park.

“We did a summer program,” Hale said. “A major focus of ours is to start early and build that program. It’s always been, ‘Are you honing your craft?’”

W, 5-4                  vs. Imagine-Coolidge
W, 1-0                  vs. Basis-Scottsdale
W, 1-0                   vs. Mission Heights Prep
Sept. 5                  4:30 p.m. at Mission Heights Prep
Sept. 11                6:15 p.m. at BASIS-Chandler
Sept. 23                4 p.m. vs. Heritage-Gateway
Sept. 25                4 p.m. vs. Sequoia Charter
Oct. 1                    4 p.m. vs. Canyon State
Oct. 15                  4:30 p.m. at ASU Prep Polytechnic


Karson Collazo
Photo by Victor Moreno

BOYS’ GOLF – Division I Yuma

MHS
Sept. 3                  2 p.m.                   at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes
Sept. 10                3:30 p.m.             at Arcadia
Sept. 12                3:30 p.m.             at Tempe
Sept. 17                3 p.m.                   at Westwood
Sept. 24                3:30 p.m.             at Ocotillo Golf Course
Oct. 1                    2 p.m.                   at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes
Oct. 15                  3 p.m.                   at McCormick Ranch Golf Course

 

GIRLS’ GOLF – Developmental

MHS
Sept. 4                  3 p.m.                   at Western Skies Golf Club
Sept. 12                3 p.m.                   at Las Colinas Golf Course
Sept. 16                2 p.m.                   at Marcos de Niza
Sept. 18                3 p.m.                   at Granite Falls South Course
Sept. 25                3 p.m.                   at Apache Junction
Sept. 30                3 p.m.                   at Apache Creek Golf Course
Oct. 2                    2 p.m.                   at The Duke at Rancho El Dorado
Oct. 4                    1 p.m.                   at Girls Golf Developmental Invitational – Encanto 9


This story appears in the September issue of InMaricopa.

A political action committee for a school bond to fund a second high school in Maricopa Unified School District has a short time to educate voters.

Many of the PAC members, acting as private individuals, are also on the governing board or are employed by the district. In its first meeting Aug. 1, the PAC laid out a plan as the Nov. 5 election approaches. That includes creating social media accounts under the name “Yes for Maricopa Schools.”

The board is asking voters for a $68 million bond. With Maricopa High School more than 500 students over capacity, MUSD is seeking funds for an additional high school and for capital projects for aging buildings, like replacing heating/cooling units and roofs.

As the board debated the amount to ask in a bond, Superintendent Tracey Lopeman said a second high school alone will cost around $67-$75 million. The district received $26 million for construction plus funding for land from the state’s School Facilities Board. Under questioning from board member Patti Coutré, she said a $68 million high school would be a small but comprehensive school that might serve 2,600 students but without some of the programs of the current high school.

The PAC was created to campaign for the bond. “We are up. We are ready to accept checks,” said Paul Ulin of Primary Consultants, hired to manage the process.

“Outside of this room and about three other people, no one else knows there’s an election going on,” Ulin told the PAC. “It’s really after Labor Day that the campaign kicks off.”

Pro and con statements for the voter pamphlet had to be submitted in August. Ballots go out to military and overseas registered voters Sept. 21.

With a tight timeline to get the word out, Ulin explained what board members and employees are and are not allowed to do regarding letters of support and campaigning.

Jim Irving, volunteer coordinator at MUSD, said every election the district has covered the dos and don’ts of campaigning with PTOs and site councils. Mishell Terry, MUSD communications coordinator, said the same information had been given to all employees.

That included whether teachers can campaign for the bond election at community events or even school sports events like a football game.

“We’re not there in our official capacity; we’re there to watch a football game,” Maricopa High School Vice Principal Heidi Vratil said.

“At community events, and football games are great example, if you are a teacher and your school or another school are there, and you’re not there in the capacity of being a teacher, you’re there to watch the kids play, your kid play, and support the school; you are allowed to electioneer. And it should be outside that fence. In that case we don’t need to rent space,” Ulin said.

At events on school grounds not classified as “community events,” the PAC can get insurance and rent space to electioneer.

“What you can do is hand out information,” Irving said. “What we’ve always done, not using teachers, is just remind people of when the election is.”

He said the challenge in an off-year election is getting people to come out and vote.

Early ballots are mailed Oct. 9.

If this year’s bond passes but there is still not enough money for major capital expenditures like rooftops, HVAC and safety measures, the district may ask for a capital override or another bond. Board President AnnaMarie Knorr said she could see the day in the next five to six years when the district will need another middle school or another elementary school.

RESIDENTS SPEAK OUT ON FACEBOOK.COM/INMARICOPA

Dikta Reid The long overdue override was for staff and teachers. Bonds are for buildings, books and buses. Educating voters is the key, too many uninformed citizens go to the polls!

Gary Miller An overcrowded HS will indeed effect learning. If having strong schools and an overall strong district can have a positive effect on home prices, then I’m for the bond. My mind is on my money and money is on my mind after paying 378k for a home that dropped 70% in value. To be a destination city, we must have strong schools that are sustainable over time, are innovative and will improve the learning process.

Merry Grace What happens if there is no approval for a new high school? This district serves the majority of our student population including Ak Chin, special ed, ELL, homeless, gifted, etc. Neighborhoods are growing with still more new homes being built which means more students. You cannot grow your community without growing your schools.

Kassie Walsh Something needs to be decided, and quickly. The school is overcrowded and it’s only getting worse as more and more houses go up. And with the prospect of an apartment complex, a solution is needed sooner rather than later. It’s not safe to crowd that many people into a small school and argue over a $10 million difference. Besides, I’m sure a school closer to the other side of town might alleviate the bus problem that occurs every single school year

Joshua Babb I have been in budget committee meetings and all they want to do is to find ways to spend more not how to spend smarter. This is one voter who is going to vote no to any bond this time around. They also are not taking into account the additional charter schools coming into the area for the high school kids that will take stress off the high school. Additionally, the state has given MUSD land and 20 something million to start the project. Before I consider any additional money I want a detailed outline of dollar by dollar where they intend on spending it.

Duane Vick I’ve advocated against overrides in the past because they didn’t yield any concrete data as to their purpose. I supported the last one because it was very specific about how the funds will be used. We need a second high school. Overcrowding leads to kids getting less education. The back row moves even further back. A second high school will move them toward the front of the class instead.

Dan J. Borman Come on Maricopa. For once don’t vote yourself another tax increase.

POLLS

Should Maricopa Unified School District seek a bond to help fund a second high school?
Yes         46%
No          44%
Maybe 10%
Source: InMaricopa.com Total votes: 261

 

How would you rate the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board?
Poor                      41%
Fair                         30%
Good                     20%
Excellent              9%
Source: InMaricopa.com Total votes: 218


This story appears in the September issue of InMaricopa.

Maricopa had its hands full with Millennium Aug. 30. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The Maricopa High School football team had backward momentum against a big Millennium squad Friday and suffered a blowout loss, 47-0, in front of a home crowd.

“You meet a team that physically is your equal or greater, the thing that separates you is how you play your technique,” MHS head coach Brandon Harris said. “If you don’t play with technique, you get beat, you get beat bad, and that’s what happened tonight.”

The home game evened the Rams’ record at 1-1. It was the Tigers’ first game of the season.

While Maricopa struggled to execute its game plan, Millennium was hitting four touchdown passes by junior quarterback Jalan Early. The Ram defense had its struggles, but the offense never got on its legs.

When the Rams felt overwhelmed, the coach said, they reverted to old habits and abandoned proper technique. The end result, he said, was something MHS deserved.

“They blitzed. We know what we’re supposed to do. We had checks for their blitzes the same as we did last year. We didn’t check to the plays we were supposed to go to. Simple as that,” Harris said. “They blitz the inside A gaps; we pitch the ball to the outside. We didn’t pitch the ball to the outside. You don’t stay with the play, you get sacked. If our quarterback drops his eyes and doesn’t look downfield, we don’t get the ball out to guys that are wide open.”

Millennium scored twice in each of the first three quarters. Next up for the Rams is a home game against Apollo (1-1), which suffered a similar shellacking at the hands of Casteel, 53-7.

“We’ve got to be prepared. We’ve got to be honest about where we are, who we are and what we did, and then go back and get better at it,” Harris said. “The nice thing about what happened tonight is that it’s all fixable. We just have to do what we’re supposed to do.”

Talks about prosecution philosophy, plea deals, marijuana and the challenges of the office

Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer talks about his time in office. Photo by Kyle Norby

Kent Volkmer, a Republican, was elected Pinal County Attorney in 2016 after several years in private practice. He sat down with InMaricopa to talk about criminal justice and some of the issues his office is tackling.

What is a day in the life of the county attorney?
A lot of meetings, as opposed to being in the courtroom every day. I would say any given day, probably three or four different meetings with various entities, various agencies. Typically, Monday is my most consistent day getting kind of caught up on stuff that happened on the weekend. On every Monday afternoon for about two hours, I meet with my chief of criminal, my chief deputy, my chief of staff as well as my head of civil, and we talk about kind of issues that are upcoming issues and preparing for what’s going on.

You rarely do appear in court. How many attorneys does your office have?
I believe we have 45 current attorneys.

In what circumstances do you go to court?
Honestly, there’s very, very few reasons. I actually am handling a trial coming up soon simply because it was a very unique situation. I felt comfortable handling the matter and didn’t want to put somebody else in that position just because of the unique circumstances surrounding it. Otherwise, it’s normally just saying, ‘Hi,’ to people. Actually, formally appearing on the record, I can’t tell the last time that happened.

Pinal County General Fund distribution

A giant chunk of the county budget (63 percent) goes to law enforcement, courts and prosecutions. What are your office’s costs?
Personnel. Ninety percent is just people.

What are your opportunities for keeping costs down?
There are some. Oh, yes, we absolutely do have grants. We have the JAG Byrne grant [Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant], which is federal prosecution grant. We have a number of other grants that come forward. Actually, in this current budget cycle here, I was able to request, and our Board of Supervisors gave me, a grant coordinator, so we’re actually going to have a dedicated person in our office that’s looking at those costs to see if there are any grants available. There are a number of federal grants. A lot of time when you do a pilot program or you do programs that other people aren’t doing, the government’s willing to give you those resources to get kick-started. That’s kind of how we kick-started our diversion program. The state gave us about $400,000 to really offset the costs to the taxpayer and then try to make the program sustainable.

How is the Diversion Program working?
I’m thrilled with it. About 2.5 percent of our felony cases are diverted and a bunch of our misdemeanor cases. So about 600, 650 cases in a given year are diverted. What that means is people that we identify as not being a danger to society but made a dumb decision, a poor decision, are given the opportunity to complete consequences, do a risk assessment, hopefully fix whatever caused them to make that bad decision in the first place, and then the charges are ultimately dismissed, so there’s no conviction on their record.

What are you enjoying most about your job so far?
That’s a good question. I think the ability that it gives me to really effect change in our community. There are a lot of different things I’ve been able to do, one of the things I’m very proud of is, under Arizona law when we’ve talked about marijuana specifically, prosecutors are given the opportunity to charge it either as a felony or as a misdemeanor. It’s sort of our decision. What I discovered is my office is making these decisions often without the input of law enforcement, without the input of the people who are on the ground interacting with these people. One of the things that we did is we flipped that and we allow the officer at the scene to make the initial decision and then we sort of review it on the back side. What we’ve discovered is that’s reduced about 750 felony charging of marijuana year-over-year. The other thing that does is significantly reduces the bookings at the jail, which is a huge cost savings to everyone. Just those types of things where we get to sit back and ask, ‘What’s the right thing to do? What’s the best thing for our community? What’s the safest thing we can do?’ This job gives me that opportunity. It’s a powerful position, but it’s also a humbling position and I love it.

Speaking of marijuana, if recreational marijuana were legalized in the state, how would that impact your office?
At the felony level, it would not have nearly the full impact. I have not had the opportunity to review all of the proposal, but I do know that they limit the amount of personal possession to one ounce, which I do like. Two and a half ounces is about a hundred joints. To say that’s personal possession has always kind of struck me as a little bit odd. So, they’ve reduced that number. There’s still going to be a gap between 18 and 21; I’m not sure how they want to treat that. There’s also still going to be above that threshold, how they’re going to handle it. Most of the time, when we’re prosecuting at the felony level, it’s going to be the sale amounts; it’s going to be the huge amounts. Depending on how that law is actually written, whether it’s passed, it’ll have some impact but not the impact it would have had, say, three or four years ago.

What is your philosophy when it comes to plea deals in cases of violent felonies?
Pleas are a necessary evil. About 98 percent of our cases resolve via plea. And that’s for a number of reasons, one of which is, frankly, the financial aspect of it. You mentioned most of our county budget goes to law enforcement. Our budget’s about $12 million of taxpayer dollars that we receive. If we were to try many more cases, that number would necessarily have to increase correspondingly. It’s not necessarily a dollar-for-dollar increase, but it would have to go up. So we do have to use those pleas. I’m much more comfortable using them in the non-violent cases. It’s the violent ones that are much more difficult, because part of my obligation is to make sure that I keep this community safe. I’m not going to say we don’t offer pleas, but typically on those murder cases, those real high-end cases, all of those pleas are normally staffed. That means the attorney assigned has reviewed it along with their supervisor and then usually my chief deputy and myself and the team to look at those and figure out what an appropriate resolution is.

In the violent cases, would it that state feels there’s a vulnerability in the case more than the cost?
It’s not a vulnerability in the case; it’s typically a vulnerability to the community. The law gives us the ability to put people away for a really long time. The issue is if someone has a violent propensity and they commit this offense, the law says, ‘Well, presumptive sentence, for example, is 10.5 years.’ And we say, ‘We’re going to give you 3.5 years.’ My concern is if that person gets out in 3.5 years and then commits another violent offense, how do I look that victim in the face and say, ‘Yeah, I know the law told me this is what I was supposed to do, but it was really expensive, so I put finances above your safety.’ Sometimes it does have to do with vulnerability of cases, but typically it’s what do we really need to do to make sure our community’s safe, and what does this person really need? Is this somebody who, again, maybe has a drug addiction, maybe has some violent tendencies? Is this somebody that we can put in prison and have them come out on probation to give what they need to return to our community, or is this somebody that we have to put away because we can trust them to follow our societal laws to keep us safe?

What have you accomplished so far and what would you like to accomplish before the end of this term?
Seems like I should know the answer to that question. I think the things that we’ve done have really been incremental. I don’t know that there’s been a lot of wide-sweeping, giant modifications that we’ve done. One of the things we’ve done is we’ve tried to streamline the process. I think my greatest accomplishment is, I believe, that my office is looking at each case as an individual case. We’re not looking at it as numbers. We’re not looking at it as paperwork, but these are humans that we’re trying to make an individualized decision on, to do what’s best not only for that person but for the community as a whole. That’s a mindset. It really is, because it’s easy to say, ‘No, no, this is what we’re going to do, and we can just run through these cases very quickly.’ It takes more time, it takes more willpower, it takes more emotional investment to look at an individual case and say, ‘Yeah, I know that these are both burglaries, but we need to treat these different because of the impact on the community, because of the impact on the victim, because the actual sort of criminal mindset that’s involved.’ I think my office is doing an exceptional job of carrying out that mission.

Did you have anything that you’d specifically like to accomplish by the end of this term?
I don’t know that I do. Our job is to see justice done. It’s not to gain convictions. It’s not to have a trial rate or put so many people in prison or put so many people on probation. Our job is to do everything we can to keep this community safe. Our community, we’re safer than any of the other big communities. The likelihood of one of our residents being victimized is about half the rate it is if you live in Maricopa County. It 2.5 times more likely in Pima County to be victimized. We’re safer than Yavapai County and Prescott, we’re safer than Yuma, we’re safer than all the other counties. My job is to make sure we keep that train headed in the right direction.

What has been your biggest challenge as county attorney?
The biggest challenge, I think, is finding the balance between what the law says we should do and what individualized justice is and figuring out what is truly in the best interest of our community. I’ll give you a perfect example. If you have two prior felonies and you’re caught selling drugs, let’s say a very small amount in hand-to-hand sales. You had half a gram, which is half an M&M, and you sell half of that amount to your friend for just the amount you paid for it. That’s a Class 2 felony. Under our laws, if you have those two prior felonies you should be serving 15.75 years in prison. I think most people would say 15.75 years is more than necessary. It’s sort of that ‘The strictest justice is the greatest injustice.’ But the question is, how far do you pull that back? What’s the appropriate amount? What’s really fair and just under those circumstances? Because, again, if somebody’s harmed or that person gets high and drives in a vehicle and kills somebody, it’s really hard to look those victims in the eye and say, ‘Well, I’m sorry, I took a chance and I was wrong.’ Maybe letting that person on probation isn’t right, but there’s got to be a balance, and I’m really trying to figure out what that balance is, what the community wants. I’m a representative of the community; I’ve been elected by the community to represent the will of the community. We are a representative democracy; we are a republic. We are not mob rule. So there is this delicate balance of trying to figure out what is really the thing that we should be doing for our community. What should we be doing that is in the interest of all the residents that are here? And then you also have that second sort of balance. What are other counties doing? Because we have a few different cities now that are sharing borders. We have Apache Junction that is on both sides. We have Queen Creek that’s on us both sides. We have kind of Oracle/Oro Valley/Catalina area there. We also have Marana who’s now growing. Depending on what side of the street you’re on should not make a huge difference in what your consequences are. You shouldn’t get probation if you’re on one side and prison on the other. That becomes justice by geography. That’s just as fundamentally flawed.


This story appears in part in the September issue of InMaricopa.

Athletic Directors Jake Neill (left) of Maricopa Unified School District and Glen Hale of Sequoia Pathway see changes ahead.

As Maricopa schools dig into their fall sports, much appears the same on the surface, but there could be changes afoot.

It’s not about personnel, though the athletic departments of Maricopa High School and Sequoia Pathway hired a couple of varsity coaches each. (For MHS it was baseball coach Brad Vericker and boys’ basketball coach Paul Gretkierewicz; for Pathway, football coach Donnie Margerum and boys’ basketball coach George Courtney.)

“The future’s looking like there is going to be a little bit of change because we’re growing so much,” said Jake Neill, Maricopa Unified School District athletic director. “If there’s a change in the next two-year block we could end up being a 6A school. Very good chance of that actually.”

MUSD reports enrollment to the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) in October and then is assigned a conference for a two-year block starting the next school year. However, close on the heels of that, is an election in November. If voters agree to a bond to build a second high school for MUSD, it could trigger a change in district athletics down the road.

Neill said he doesn’t even want to think about that until November, and then will wait to see how things fall out. A second school, for instance, might not have sports initially. Even if it does, it could be years away.

“It really depends on the timing of how everything happens,” Neill said. “What we hope to avoid is turning in our numbers and then split schools and be playing a 6A schedule with two schools of 1,500 kids. We can prepare for that and inform the AIA if that should ever happen.”

For now, the fall season is looking comfortably familiar.

“The good thing is there’s nothing new,” Neill said. “There’s a little bit of consistency from last year to this year. We’re still competing in the always tough 5A San Tan region with the likes of Williams Field, Casteel, Campo Verde, Gilbert High. So, we definitely have our challenges with being in probably the most competitive region in the 5A conference again, but for the most part we’re status quo.”

Maricopa High School’s fall sports include football, volleyball, cross country, swimming and boys’ and girls’ golf.

He said MHS is building a reputation for having great student-athletes, and programs are improving. Tying into that is creating strong bonds between middle school and high school programs. Neill said a recent change made to junior high scheduling could foster more of that.

MUSD’s middle schools are joining the Signal Peak Athletic Conference, playing mostly schools in the Casa Grande area rather than Queen Creek and Apache Junction.

“It’s going to benefit the program because our parents can get to their kids’ games on time. Our students and our coaches that are teachers aren’t going to be missing as much class time and instruction time,” Neill said. “When you look at middle-school athletics, it’s not supposed to be taxing on the student. Just traveling as much as we were, it was taxing on the student. We want to make sure we set our kids up to succeed.”

It may also make it easier for high school coaches to be involved with the middle school sports, he said.

“It’s an expectation that our varsity coaches are somehow, someway involved in our middle school athletics, and everyone does a good job with that,” Neill said. “Being seen and talking to kids. Just creating that connection with kids and getting them excited to be a Ram and come to MHS and maybe future high school No. 2.”

At Pathway, which enrolls about 275 high schoolers, Athletic Director Glen Hale also expects his varsity coaches to maintain a strong link to the junior high. That includes instilling this year’s motto, “Expect great things.”

“It encompasses life,” he said. “If they come to practice, if they’re on time, if they work hard, they can expect great things to happen. Grade-wise, if they’re in the classroom and they’re making their grades and doing their homework and they’re working hard, they can expect great things to happen.”

He said that starts with the coaches working hard and doing their jobs, modeling their behavior they want to see in the student-athletes.

“Each coach, as we go to the next level, is going to sacrifice things so we can get better,” Hale said.

The “next level” could mean a change if Hale gets his way. He intends to apply to join the AIA. Pathway is currently in the Canyon Athletic Association, comprised of charter schools.

“We basically want our kids to play higher competition,” he said. “The CAA is really good, but everybody knows the AIA.”

If accepted, it would mean a big shift for the athletes, who would be facing completely new competition. Having watched the kids face AIA teams during summer competitions, Hale said it could help them grow. He also looks forward to adding girls’ soccer to the array of high school offerings.

“We’re homing in on academics, we’re homing in on character, we’re homing in on serving our community and playing at the next level.”

See the upcoming September issue of InMaricopa for more on this year’s teams.

MHS Varsity Football
W 33-22               at McClintock
Aug. 30                7 p.m. vs. Millennium
Sept. 6                  7 p.m. vs. Apollo
Sept. 13                7 p.m. vs. South Mountain (Homecoming)
Sept. 20                7 p.m. at Central
Sept. 27                7 p.m. at Higley
Oct. 4                    7 p.m. vs. Campo Verde
Oct. 18                  7 p.m. vs. Williams Field (Senior Night)
Oct. 25                  7 p.m. at Casteel
Nov. 1                   7 p.m. at Gilbert

Sequoia Pathway Varsity Football
Aug. 30                7 p.m. vs. Canyon State Academy
Sept. 6                  7 p.m. vs. South Pointe
Sept. 19                6:15 p.m. at Canyon State Academy
Sept. 27                7 p.m. vs. San Tan Charter
Oct. 4                    7 p.m. vs ASU Prep
Oct. 11                  7 p.m. at South Pointe
Oct. 18                  7 p.m. at San Tan Charter
Oct. 25                  7 p.m. at ASU Prep

MHS Varsity Volleyball
Sept. 3                  6 p.m. at Camelback
Sept. 4                  6 p.m. vs. Fairfax
Sept. 5                  6 p.m. vs. Verrado
Sept. 10                6 p.m. at Paradise Valley
Sept. 12                6 p.m. vs. North Canyon
Sept. 16                6 p.m. at Campo Verde
Sept. 17                6 p.m. vs. Ironwood
Sept. 24                6 p.m. at Williams Field
Sept. 25                6 p.m. at Centennial
Sept. 26                6 p.m. at Higley
Oct. 1                    6 p.m. vs. Casteel
Oct. 3                    6 p.m. vs. Gilbert
Oct. 15                  6 p.m. vs. Campo Verde
Oct. 17                  6 p.m. vs. Williams Field
Oct. 22                  6 p.m. vs. Higley (Senior Night)
Oct. 24                  6 p.m. at Casteel
Oct. 29                  6 p.m. at Gilbert

Sequoia Pathway Varsity Volleyball
W, 3-0                  vs. Basis-Peoria
W, 3-0                  at Basis-Chandler
W, 3-0                  vs. Phoenix College Prep
Sept. 3                  6 p.m. vs. Heritage-Gateway
Sept. 5                  7 p.m. at Imagine-Coolidge
Sept. 11                5:30 p.m. at Sequoia Charter
Sept. 12                7 p.m. vs. Mission Heights
Sept. 17                4 p.m. at Imagine-Coolidge
Sept. 19                7 p.m. vs. EVAC
Sept. 24                6:30 p.m. at Mission Heights
Sept. 26                7 p.m. vs. Heritage-Mesa
Oct. 1                    4 p.m. at South Ridge
Oct. 3                    7 p.m. vs. Desert Heights

MHS Swimming
Sept. 5                  4 p.m.                   at Apache Junction
Sept. 12                4 p.m.                   at Copper Sky
Sept. 24                4 p.m.                   at Saguaro
Oct. 3                    4 p.m.                   at Copper Sky
Oct. 10                  4 p.m.                   at Copper Sky
Oct. 17                  4 p.m.                   at Copper Sky
Oct. 23                  9:30 a.m.             at Apache Junction
Nov. 2-3               TBA                        State Championship

MHS Cross Country
Sept. 4                  4:30 p.m.             at Vista Grande
Sept. 7                  7 a.m.                    at Chandler Invite
Sept. 14                7 a.m.                    at Fountain Hills Invitational
Sept. 14                7:30 a.m.             at Ojo Rojo Invitational
Sept. 27                TBA                        Nike Desert Twilight
Oct. 12                  TBA                        O’Connor Invitational
Oct. 26                  TBA                        Eye of the Tiger Invite
Nov. 8                   TBA                        State Sectionals

Sequoia Pathway Boys’ Soccer
Aug. 29                6 p.m.                   vs. Imagine Prep-Coolidge
Aug. 30                5 p.m.                   at Basis-S
Sept. 2                  5 p.m.                   vs. Mission Heights Prep
Sept. 5                  4:30 p.m.             at Mission Heights Prep
Sept. 11                6:15 p.m.             at BASIS-Chandler
Sept. 23                4 p.m.                   vs. Heritage-Gateway
Sept. 25                4 p.m.                   vs. Sequoia Charter
Oct. 1                    4 p.m.                   vs. Canyon State
Oct. 15                  4:30 p.m.             at ASU Prep Polytechnic

MHS Boys’ Golf
Aug. 22                 3 p.m.                   at Las Colinas Golf Course
Aug. 27                 2 p.m.                   at Ken McDonald Golf Course
Sept. 3                  2 p.m.                   at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes
Sept. 10                3:30 p.m.             at Arcadia
Sept. 12                3:30 p.m.             at Tempe
Sept. 17                3 p.m.                   at Westwood
Sept. 24                3:30 p.m.             at Ocotillo Golf Course
Oct. 1                    2 p.m.                   at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes
Oct. 15                  3 p.m.                   at McCormick Ranch Golf Course

MHS Girls’ Golf (Developmental)
Sept. 4                  3 p.m.                   at Western Skies Golf Club
Sept. 12                3 p.m.                   at Las Colinas Golf Course
Sept. 16                2 p.m.                   at Marcos de Niza
Sept. 18                3 p.m.                   at Granite Falls South Course
Sept. 25                3 p.m.                   at Apache Junction
Sept. 30                3 p.m.                   at Apache Creek Golf Course
Oct. 2                    2 p.m.                   at The Duke at Rancho El Dorado
Oct. 4                    1 p.m.                   at Girls Golf Developmental Invitational – Encanto 9

 

State legislator Mark Finchem speaks with residents of Hidden Valley. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Republican Mark Finchem and Democrat Tom O’Halleran agree on at least one thing regarding Interstate 11. Both expect to be deceased before the proposed roadway becomes a reality.

Finchem, a District 11 state representative spoke to Hidden Valley residents last week in a gathering attended by Blanca Varela, a representative from Congressman O’Halleran’s office, at Mountain View Community Church.

The proposed interstate is a long-range goal of Arizona Department of Transportation and is expected to pass through Hidden Valley south of Maricopa.

While Finchem has been outspoken against I-11, O’Halleran has remained neutral. Varela said the congressman had expressed to her the project was too far off for him to take a stand.

Projections are for construction of I-11 in Arizona to begin in 25 to 30 years, if it is approved.

As a Republican, Finchem said he was a voice in the wilderness asking the process to slow down.

“I’ll be the first one to disclose that I’m at odds with the Pinal County supervisors and some folks that are elected officials in the [City] of Maricopa,” Finchem said. “They see economic development for an expressway coming up. Well, maybe.”

County Supervisor Anthony Smith and Mayor Christian Price have expressed support for an I-11 route that would sweep close to south Maricopa as it travels from Mexico to Wickenburg. Its ultimate destination is Las Vegas, Nevada. Smith said at an Aug. 8 GOP gathering in Maricopa there may be a decision on the route details by spring.

Several residents of Hidden Valley are already opposed to the idea because of the choice of route that would cut through Hidden Valley, taking a handful of existing homes. They have been pushing for a route that would take Interstate 8 traffic to Gila Bend and then north to west Phoenix.

Finchem has not warmed to the idea of any route. He said the push for I-11 was a sign priorities are off.

“We have secondary roads, county roads, that are in such a state of disrepair that generally you have to drive about 15 mph below the speed limit just so you don’t rattle yourself to death,” he said. “We don’t have financial resources to pay for even more roadway that’s going to require maintenance.”

He said he preferred infrastructure projects that support areas where growth has already occurred. Primarily, he pushed for rail to accomplish what he said is the main purpose of I-11.

“The justification for I-11 has been freight. Not passenger-car traffic. It’s freight,” he said. “I’m missing something here. Let’s move the freight from Mexico to a switching yard and railyard on the west side of Phoenix, which, by the way, is more jobs, offload the trailers and tractors, pair them up, and they can go on to the piece of road that’s already there.”

Both Finchem and Varela said a “huge mistake” constituents make when providing public comment on projects like I-11 is “signing their name to somebody else’s letter.” While organized groups may find it convenient to copy a letter written by one of them and have everyone send it in individually with their own name attached, Finchem said it becomes obvious fairly quickly.

“All of those letters, in our minds, count as one,” he said.

Varela said personal letters about personal impact carry much more weight.

Blanca Varela (left) represents the office Congressman Tom O’Hallern at the meeting. Next to her is Maryeileen Flanagan, one of the organizers of an anti-I-11 campaign in Hidden Valley. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa High School opened the varsity football season with zip, with quarterback Daxton Redfern connecting Ilijah Johnson for scoring touchdowns three times in defeating McClintock 33-22 Friday.

The game had all the earmarks of a first game, with miscues by players and referees alike. But Maricopa scored in every quarter and mostly dominated the Chargers.

The up-and-down nature of the quality of play was a learning lesson, head coach Brandon Harris said, as many of the Rams had not started varsity before.

“We were confident. We had a good game plan and we executed it mostly,” Harris said. “I thought our defense played extremely well. We held them for the better part of three quarters to two points.”

McClintock had its only lead after an early safety, but the Rams came back quickly as Redfern hit Johnson, who executing some fancy running to take it into the end zone.

Three minutes later, Johnson took another Redfern pass 32 yards for another touchdown. Despite a blocked point after, Maricopa was up 13-2.

Junior Tylek Mooney, playing both ways on the night, took an interception 70 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, and Maricopa led 19-3.

The Rams were limited to a field goal in the third while the defense continued to put up a wall. McClintock came through with its first touchdown with just 27 seconds left in the quarter.

At the top of the fourth, Redfern again found Johnson for a touchdown, with Redfern keeping the ball himself for the two-point conversion. After the Chargers scored from the 4, Maricopa responded with another field goal.

While the Rams were getting more players into the game for some playing time, McClintock scored a final touchdown in the final two minutes.

Maricopa worked to reinvigorate its running game in the fourth quarter, getting running room for junior Mister Chavis. Harris said he liked the resiliency he saw from his players and was happy with their conditioning, which held up on a warm and humid night.

Next up, the Rams host Millennium Aug. 30 at 7 p.m.

Total Yards
Maricopa 292 McClintock 352

Passing yards
Daxton Redfern, Maricopa 14-for-19, 149 yards, 3 touchdowns
Xavier Venitez, McClintock 13-for-30, 233 yards, 1 touchdown

Top rushing
Mister Chavis, Maricopa 24 carries, 126 yards
Jaden Mason, McClintock 23 carries, 110 yards, 2 touchdowns

Top receiving
Ilijah Johnson, Maricopa 5 catches, 84 yards, 3 touchdowns
Bryce Tate, McClinock 7 catches, 104 yards

Top tackling
Maricopa: Patrick Garcia 14, Anthony Valenzuela 9
McClintock: David Cisneros 10, David Felix 10

Sacks
Maricopa: Quintone Green-Seabrooks 2
McClintock: Kerrion Dates 1, Scott Jones 1

Interceptions
Maricopa: Tylek Mooney 1 (touchdown)

Kicking
Maricopa: Roberto Esqueda 1 PAT, 2 FG
McClintock: Felipe Sanchez 2 PAT

New pickleball courts are ready to open at Copper Sky. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

After years of effort on the part of scores of pickleball players, newly installed courts are ready for an opening-day celebration Saturday.

IF YOU GO
What: Pickleball Grand Opening
When: Aug. 24, 7 a.m.
Where: Copper Sky Regional Park
How much: Free
Info: 520-316-4600

The six courts are between the skate park and the tennis courts at Copper Sky. There are six courts separated in threes by a shaded walkway with benches. The courts are divided by three-foot fencing. Each court has its own entry gate.

“They look fantastic,” said pickleball ambassador Rocky Myers. “I think they may be the best public courts in the Phoenix area.”

He touts the fact parking and restrooms are within easy distance, but added the City still needs to work on improving nighttime lighting on the north courts. Players are likely to play only in the early morning and after sundown until daytime temperatures cool off in the late autumn.

Until the courts were built, pickleball aficionados who do not live in Province had taken over gym space inside the Copper Sky facility to create a facsimile of courts. The wait to get on a court was often long. Though the players had been campaigning at City Hall since at least 2016, the announcement from the city council that it was spending $400,000 for new courts caused some gasps.

Now that the courts are finished, Myers enthusiastic about the possibilities, including tournaments and clinics, that could bring more visitors to town. He wants to offer free classes.

“I just want to teach people how to play this wonderful game,” he said.

Superintendent Tracey Lopeman cuts the ribbon on office space at Maricopa High School, where Central Arizona College will set up CAC Connect: (from left) MHS senior Freya Abraham, Bernadette Russoniello, City Councilmember Rich Vitiello, MUSD board member Patti Coutre, City Councilmember Marvin Brown, Lopeman, MUSD board member Torri Anderson, CAC President Jackie Elliott, Principal Brian Winter, CAC board member Dan Miller, CAC outreach coordinator Monica Vogan and CAC Director of Student Affairs Megan Purvis. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Central Arizona College launched its new partnership with Maricopa High School in a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday.

CAC Connect gives the college office space in the high school’s Career and College Center so CAC advisors and recruiters can meet with students on their own campus.

Speaking directly to the high school students attending the opening event, CAC President Jackie Elliott said the college “is happy to enhance your learning experience and assist you in pursuing your academic goals through higher education. CAC Connect will provide you a true learning community, and we look forward to seeing this program grow throughout Pinal County.”

Monica Vogan, outreach coordinator for CAC, said the program will allow CAC to help students explore educational options, apply online and register for classes.

“It’s incredible what we can accomplish when we actually come together,” said Bernadette Russoniello, MHS College and Career coordinator. “This started as a sit-down, brief meeting where we said, ‘How can we do it better?’

Principal Brian Winter pointed out MHS is the first high school in the county to have that kind of connecting program.

“We are proud to pioneer such a unique program, one that will bridge high school resources with college resources in one easy to access package for our Maricopa students,” he said.

CAC student Rebekka Harris said CAC Connect will be a great way for the college to have impact and recognition within the school. “When I was actually a student at MHS, I didn’t know about CAC until the semester before graduation and I was panicking.”

CAC students Rebekka Harris, Elizabeth “Mimi” Prentice and Timonyeh Shines

She first attended CAC to become a teacher but realized about halfway through her studies that was not the path she really wanted. Changing majors, she said, felt like less of a blow at CAC than it would at a huge university.

Timonyeh Shines, a CAC graduate now starting at ASU, said CAC Connect would have been a better influence on her younger siblings as they went through high school but are currently not in college.

“CAC has been a wonderful, wonderful school to attend,” said Shines, who did not attend high school but earned her GED to qualify for college. “I feel like if they had had this opportunity, they would have been along the path that I am on now. I’m really happy this is part of this high school so it can influence other people to actually attend.”

Maricopa Unified School District Superintendent Tracey Lopeman said the program helps the district achieve its first board-adopted goal: “Every student graduates prepared to create, innovate, lead and succeed.”

MHS students were part of the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
CAC President Jackie Elliott
MUSD Superintendent Tracey Lopeman
MHS Principal Brian Winter in front of the CAC Connect cubicle.

Photo by Victor Moreno

There is no off-season for MHS football; just out-of-season. That’s where head coach Brandon Harris has tracked improvement in the players coming back from a team that was 5-6 and qualified for state play from arguably the toughest region in 5A.

The 2019 season starts Friday at McClintock.

“Summer was good for us,” Harris said. “We participated in a lot of 7-on-7 tournaments. It was nice. We came home and won the whole tournament here at Copper Sky.”

That involved the Arizona Football Coaches Association, and Harris said “everybody in the state that is somebody was there,” including Hamilton, Mountain Pointe and Higley. Maricopa players placed second in a Tucson tournament. Out-of-season he had them working on speed and agility, skills and drills. Some players migrated to track and field to stay in shape.

“Seven-on-7 isn’t football, I say that all the time,” Harris said, “but it gives you an indication of how you match up skill-wise with other teams in the state. I think we match up really well this year, more so than we did last year.  We’ve got weapons everywhere.”

MHS Athletic Director Jake Neill likes the direction the program is headed.

“We’re just getting compliments on how hard we play, in talking with football coaches who maybe didn’t expect the game they got from us,” Neill said. “That’s a credit to the kids and coach Harris and his coaching staff. The consensus is that if a team is going to get a win [against MHS], it’s going to be a tough one.”

The 7-on-7 participation told the most about the growth of senior quarterback Daxton Redfern.

“We realized how good he was when we went down to U of A in Tucson,” Harris said. “He’s grown exponentially. He knows our offense really well.”

In that 7-on-7 tournament, Redfern threw 42 touchdowns in 13 games against one interception. Coming up behind him is sophomore Merhauti Xepera, who is a tight end when not quarterbacking. “He’s a big kid, an athletic kid,” Harris said. “He’s going to be the future.”

When it comes to team leadership, no class has the upper hand.

“Whoever emerges as a leader is a leader,” Harris said. “I don’t care if that’s a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior, because I’ve been in programs where I wasn’t the head coach, I was offensive coordinator, it was like, seniors are in charge. If they weren’t leaders as sophomores or juniors, what makes them leaders just because the calendar changed? Teams end up rising and falling on that. I’m not a believer in a senior has to be the guy.”

The program is experimenting with a new leadership model. Noting the reluctance of a new crop of teenagers to emerge from a crowd, the team has created “position groups.”

We’re setting it up where we’ll have senators, if you will. So, in each position group, there are going to be several people responsible for the position group,” Harris said. “We hold those guys accountable for the performance on campus, off campus, being on time to class, things of that nature. So, three or four guys in each position group meet with me every week.”

Having graduated a batch a of elite players with big personalities, the 2019 edition of the Rams will look a little smaller, but they’ll be fast. They’ve also grown close as a team, helped along by the “transformative experience” of camp in Flagstaff.

“I like this team. I think we’re more of a team this year in a lot more ways, offensively and defensively,” Harris said.

Leading the running back corps is returning junior Mister Chavis along with junior Steven Forrester. Among the wide receivers, “We’ve got some guys that can go,” Harris said. Namely, senior Ilijah Johnson is “Pretty special from both sides of the ball” with a 46-inch vertical leap. Tylek Mooney is an “explosive player, who’s shifty and slippery.”

Bryan Pick will join Xepera at tight end. Junior Hunter Taylor is also a tight end and defensive end, “a bigger version of his brother Logan,” and Anthony Valenzuela is a “high-motor player” who can “just run all day.”

The Rams have players and coaches coming in from other corners of the country. With Corey Nelson leaving to help coach Sequoia Pathway, Harris shifted his assistants.

Stephan Nelson continues to coach linebackers and running backs. Bill Poyser is the defensive coordinator. Ed Jordan coaches the secondary, while the defensive line is in the hands of Dean Hanneman. Harris is letting Gerald Campbell coach the quarterbacks while he moves over to the wide receivers. Andres Zelaya coaches the inside wide receivers.

The team will run the same gauntlet through San Tan 5A, still one of the toughest in the state.

Harris’s recipe for a successful season?

  1. No catastrophic injuries
  2. Academic health during season and beyond
  3. Building on what we started

“We’ll be fast. We’re always going to be fast here, explosive, resilient, family, very close team this year,” Harris said. “We got into the playoffs. Now the next step is to win some games in the playoffs, which is what I’m used to doing. That’s the goal. We think we have a really good chance of doing that.”

Aug. 23                 7 p.m. at McClintock
Aug. 30                 7 p.m. vs. Millennium
Sept. 6                  7 p.m. vs. Apollo
Sept. 13                7 p.m. vs. South Mountain (Homecoming)
Sept. 20                7 p.m. at Central
Sept. 27                7 p.m. at Higley
Oct. 4                    7 p.m. vs. Campo Verde
Oct. 18                  7 p.m. vs. Williams Field (Senior Night)
Oct. 25                  7 p.m. at Casteel
Nov. 1                   7 p.m. at Gilbert

Guilty of murder in Careccia deaths

Jose Valenzuela is led away after sentencing Monday. Photo by Kyle Norby

 

Family and friends of Tina and Michael Careccia packed the pews of Judge Christopher O’Neil’s fourth-floor courtroom for the sentencing of Jose Valenzuela, who had pled guilty to double murder in their 2015 shooting deaths.

Many of them came forward to tell the judge how the murders had traumatized their lives and to ask him for the full penalty available.

In the end, O’Neil did so, calling the crime “an unspeakable evil.” He sentenced Valenzuela to the maximum allowed in the plea deal brokered by his attorneys and the special prosecutor – natural life for the first-degree murder of Tina Careccia and, consecutively, 25 years for the second-degree murder of Michael Careccia.

“That this defendant will not receive the sentence of death is a great and undeserved mercy,” O’Neil said.

Special Prosecutor Gary Husk said the plea agreement sufficiently punished Valenzuela and protected the community, “and I was fortunate to have the support of the family in making that decision.”

“Death penalty cases these days, unfortunately, can result in extensive delays. Even if you do get a conviction and a penalty of a death sentence imposed by the court, it can take decades, literally, before that is imposed,” Husk said. “I think the families in this particular case were committed to trying to bring some resolution to this.

“It has already been over four years to bring this case to this stage. We felt that it was appropriate to resolve it in this fashion and not run the risk of going to trial, and maybe not getting it and if you do get it run the risk of it being overturned 20 years later when you don’t have evidence and you don’t have witnesses any longer.”

Husk was appointed to prosecute the case by Navajo County after Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer recused his office from involvement. As a private attorney before being elected in 2016, Volkmer represented the legal rights of Valenzuela’s young son in the early days of the case.

Before the court proceedings Monday afternoon in Pinal County Superior Court, the judge had read every letter, PowerPoint and memorandum given to him from both sides of the case. Several of those speaking to the court said there was no leniency and no forgiveness for Valenzuela’s actions.

Valenzuela, too, read a brief statement, saying he was sorry for all the families, “including my own.”

Despite that, O’Neil said the court “does not find any believable remorse.”

Speaking earnestly and emotionally, O’Neil said while punishment should fit the crime, there is no punishment that could equal the loss of two lives.

“Human life is a sacred and priceless gift. It possesses a value that is beyond measure. It cannot be measured, not in dollars, not in years, not even in the stories and the tears of those left behind. To define and destroy something so precious and so irreplaceable as a human life and all that it entails, all of its value that transcends calculation without just cause, to rob the world of the inestimable value of a mother, father, sibling, child, aunt, uncle, friend is an unspeakable evil.” – Judge Christopher O’Neil

“She was my best friend,” Tina’s daughter Blake Perry told the court. “They never got to meet their first grandchild.”

“My life will truly never be the same,” said Luke Careccia, Michael’s son, who said his father “made me the man I am today.”

The court heard from siblings and other relatives. A social worker read a letter from Michael’s mother. Those who gave victim statements described the brutal ordeal of the past four years, the ongoing panic attacks and even post-traumatic stress symptoms.

Much of the family left the courtroom when defense attorney Bobbi Falduto made a case for mitigating factors. Falduto said Valenzuela asked her not to have his family members speak in court.

“He really was a good person,” Falduto said. “It wasn’t just their family. Mike, Tina and Jose, they were all good parents. This has impacted his family as well.”

The judge was not moved.

“The aggravating circumstances in this case so desperately outweigh any and all mitigation,” O’Neil said.

The Careccias died the night of Father’s Day 2015 or in the early morning after. Valenzuela had been at a party at the Careccia home that evening before returning to his parents’ home where he lived a couple blocks away on Papago Road. The Careccias later apparently drove to his residence.

Valenzuela claimed they all did drugs together, including methamphetamine. He and Michael Careccia got into an argument, and Valenzuela shot him. He then reportedly held down Tina Careccia and shot her as she pled for her life. Afterward, he borrowed a backhoe and buried the bodies in his backyard just steps from his door.

The Careccias were missing for 11 days as the residents of Hidden Valley and Maricopa searched the area. Pinal County Sheriff’s Office had Valenzuela as a person of interest and used his statements to eventually uncover the bodies early the morning of July 2.

“His actions were calculated, callous, deliberate and depraved; that he committed these murders in the presence of a child, and not only a child but his own son,” Judge O’Neil said. “That he lied, misled law enforcement officers, concealed and destroyed evidence, including the fact that this concealment further desecrated the very bodies of the lives he destroyed of two persons he claims to have called friends.”

Stay with InMaricopa for more coverage.

 

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Safford city councilmember and firefighter Chris Taylor is joining the race for Congress in AZD1. Submitted photo

Republican Chris Taylor formally announced his campaign for U.S. Congress in Arizona’s District 1. He is an Army veteran, a city councilmember and a firefighter in Safford.

“Over the last 90 days I have traveled our entire district, meeting with thousands of regular hard-working Americans,” Taylor said. “My objective was to listen to the people’s concerns and ideas while gauging support and viability for my run for Congress. The response has been overwhelmingly positive; over and over again I’ve heard that my message, my personal story of service and redemption, and my unique qualifications resonate with a wide swath of voters.”

Taylor’s campaign has taken in almost $16,700. He joins Republican Tiffany Shedd of Casa Grande in a primary battle to face Democrat Tom O’Halleran in 2020. Shedd also ran in 2018. She has raised $66,000.

Eva Putsova, a Democrat from Flagstaff, is O’Halleran’s only primary opponent so far. She has raised $52,000 compared to O’Halleran’s $562,000.

Taylor’s family has lived in Safford for six generations. He served in combat with special operations forces in Afghanistan as psychological warfare team leader.

After returning home and suffering from PTSD, he was forced to wait months to see a VA doctor, and relapsed to a dependency on prescribed opioids. He sought out a program that worked and battled his way to recovery. Taylor launched a non-profit dedicated to helping veterans cope with life after combat.

He and his wife Sarah have two young children. He said he wants to heal the divide in the country and do things differently while being a voice for the average citizens.

“The American dream is still alive and well,” Taylor said. “No matter where you come from or what you have been through, no matter what mistakes you have made and trials you have endured. If you are dedicated, passionate, hard-working and you refuse to give up, you can accomplish anything that your heart desires.”

Proposed colors and materials for the Anderson Farms subdivision.

How do new commercial and residential areas affect traffic?

In reviewing two developments in Maricopa, the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission may have caused staff to draw a new focus on traffic impact in future. Monday, members were specifically looking at the details of the planned Anderson Farms subdivision and the Sonoran Creek marketplace.

Commissioner Joshua Babb asked whether staff knew how much traffic would increase in the area of Anderson Farms, which would include around 200 homes in phases 1A and 1B. The property is near the southeast corner of Bowlin Road and Hartman Road.

The question came up again as the commission previewed Sonoran Creek, Thompson Thrift’s planned five-pad shopping center on the southwest corner of Edison Road and John Wayne Parkway. City planner Ben Cereceres said traffic flow in the area will be taken into account.

Commissioner Jim Irving echoed Babb’s concern about the increased number of vehicles development would bring.

“We need to put an emphasis on that because a lot of people walk in that area,” he said.

When told the staff report showed planned roads and expected traffic fell within limits, Irving shook his head.

“I don’t think ‘within limits’ is acceptable,” he said.

Babb requested staff create a traffic-flow study for future presentations. Chairperson Linda Huggins said she would like traffic studies to be more transparent within the reports.

Planning & Zoning manager Rudy Lopez said the conversation had inspired city staff to look for appropriate approaches to the question of traffic flow and traffic impact of developments.

The commission voted to recommend approval of the Anderson Farms preliminary plat for Phase 1B. It also gave the nod to a land-use designation change from commercial/employment to mixed use for 30 acres at Copper Sky, rezoning of 20 acres at Copper Sky and rezoning of 4.75 acres near Civic Center Plaza for the new library. All those projects will go before the city council.

The Sonoran Creek project will come back to the Planning & Zoning Commission for the development plan review.

Photos by Kyle Norby

Residents of Maricopa paid tribute to 281 people who have been killed in mass shootings so far this year in the United States, including 27 dead in the span of 15 hours in Ohio and Texas. Organized by Vice Mayor Henry Wade at Copper Sky, the event Thursday was planned as “an effort to show solidarity, love, and unity for shooting victims, families, first responders and communities at large” in the 252 incidents.

Elevation drawing by SPS Architects

The long-awaited development of the Sonoran Creek area is becoming a reality.

Plans for a retail center went before the Heritage District Citizen Advisory Committee Thursday, and a preview will be presented to the Planning & Zoning Committee on Monday. The property on almost eight acres is planned for more than 61,000 square feet of commercial space, according to Andrew Call, director of development management for Thompson Thrift.

The property is on the southwest corner of John Wayne Parkway and Edison Road. Businesses already operating in the vicinity include Culver’s and Dutch Bros.

The paperwork presented included 30,000 square feet for an unnamed specialty grocery.

Planner Ben Cereceres said the City is “not yet aware of who tenants will be.” Call said Thompson Thrift is not ready to announce the names. Call also said the number of tenant units has not yet been determined.

The Heritage Committee looked at elevations and color schemes for the buildings, giving the plan unanimous approval.

Rudy Lopez, Planning & Zoning manager, said the property would be on Maricopa Domestic Water Improvement District for water and Global Water for sewer.

According to the landscape plan, the existing landscaping of the basin that runs along Edison Road will remain.

While no timeline has been set for the project, Thompson Thrift is pushing to get started by the end of the year.

Say good-bye to the Maricopa Mud Run, at least for now.

The past two years, as it became clear the City of Maricopa was making efforts to develop acres marked for commercial use at Copper Sky, the future of the popular October event became more tenuous. The location of the Mud Run in the southwest vacant lots now interferes with pending construction.

Original organizers had earlier expressed hope a new location could be found once development began. That did not happen.

“With the development at Copper Sky Commercial we don’t currently have a location to build the mud run,” Community Services Director Nathan Ullyot said. “We have re-directed those funds towards other events and programs.  At this time there are no plans to continue the Mud Run as a City-run event.”

The Mud Run, an obstacle course through mud and muddy waters, started in 2014 and evolved over the years. It became so popular, the race had to be run in several heats to accommodate participants. It also included a mini-run for kids. It did have low points, as a serious injury in 2017 resulted in a still-unresolved lawsuit, and last year’s rain-created dangerously slick conditions that caused half of the competition to be postponed.

There is an option for a private takeover of a similar event at a different location.

The commercial property at Copper Sky is scheduled to have a La Quinta Hotel, with groundbreaking this fall, as well as shops, apartments and senior housing. The City of Maricopa recently purchased the corner lot at State Route 347 and Bowlin Drive to develop a possible second hotel and other businesses such as a restaurant, according to City Manager Rick Horst.

Copper Sky Commercial is 18.3 acres, stretching from Bowlin Road to the dog park. Maricopa is working with Tempe-based Commercial Properties, Inc., and Shea Connelly Development. Shea had been involved with earlier Maricopa development but pulled out during the recession.

“We got Shea to come back,” Mayor Christian Price told a Republicans of Maricopa monthly meeting Thursday at Copper Sky.

He described Shea’s reluctance to return to Maricopa, but said City officials urged the company to give it another look after its recent growth residentially and commercially.

“They were wowed,” he said. “They could not believe it. In fact, they had investors from New York who flew out and were supposed to go back that same day and stayed that extra night because they were so impressed with the area. That’s how you’re getting a $147 million investment.”

 

An empty corner of what was supposed to be Stonegate Center has collected trash a debris over the years but now may become a self-storage facility. Photo by Kyle Norby

A development that has been in the doldrums since 2008 may get new life while a long-time farm is turning more of its acres into a residential area.

Maricopa City Council approved an amendment to the original Planned Area Development for Stonegate Center, which remains vacant between Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway and Alan Stephens Parkway. Council also approved the rezoning of a portion of Anderson Farms on the east side of Maricopa.

The Stonegate Center, 42200 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Hwy., was about 50 acres on the west side of Stonegate Road and was meant to be a retail area similar to The Wells or Edison Point.

The new proposal is a self-storage facility on about four acres in the northeast corner. A change to the PAD is necessary to allow personal storage, outdoor vehicle storage and living quarters for an onsite manager. The proposed Omni Storage would have five buildings up to two stories high as well as outdoor storage for vehicles and RVs.

It is the first phase of the reimagined commercial development. Other elements of the master plan are in early the planning stages. Senior Planner Rudy Lopez said the next steps are a development review permit and then a construction permit.

City of Maricopa

Anderson-Palmisano Farms is planning another 111 residential lots in Anderson Farms Phase 1B of its ongoing project. The 29 acres had general rural zoning. The council’s vote Tuesday approved it for RS-5 zoning, which is a residential designation of a master planned community of medium density for single-family homes.

Being developed by Marbella Homes, the area sits north of Anderson Farms Phase 1A, which recently received RS-5 zoning, and comprises 80 lots. The overall plan has 10 phases that would gradually include all of the acreage in a rectangle bordered by Hartman, Bowlin, Murphy and Farrell roads.

Anderson-Palmisano Farms was established in 1949 and continues to operate agriculturally.

Maricopa Planning & Zoning Committee will discuss a preliminary plat request on Anderson Farms Phase 1 at its next meeting, Monday at 6 p.m.