Authors Articles byRaquel Hendrickson

Raquel Hendrickson

Raquel Hendrickson
1390 Articles 4 COMMENTS
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.

 

In a special meeting scheduled for Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., Maricopa City Council may vote on the distribution of AZCares funds to a list of businesses and nonprofits.

The agenda has two resolutions. In one resolution, 29 small businesses and three nonprofits would receive a combined $460,150.

In the other resolution, two businesses would receive a combined $14,400. Councilmembers are involved in both businesses – Vincent Manfredi at InMaricopa and Rich Vitiello at Kooline Plumbing – necessitating their separation from the others. They are expected to declare a conflict of interest and not vote on the second resolution.

The City of Maricopa received just under $6 million in AZCares funding through the federal CARES Act to help offset the costs of COVID-19.

The balance of the money went to public safety to relieve the cost accrued from COVID-19, including personal protective equipment.

The City created the Business Reemergence Program to help small businesses and the Food & Aid Distribution Non-Profit Assistance to help nonprofits. Small businesses can only use the funds for rent and reimbursement for the purchase of PPE. Only nonprofits that “have supported the citizens and promoted community health and safety” qualify for the funds.

The resolutions emphasize the funds are not a gift. Entities that misuse the funds have 30 days to repay the City the amount misused. Entities also had to be within the city boundaries of Maricopa. Businesses and organizations outside the city were asked to apply to Pinal County for AZCares funds.

Immediately before the meeting, the council will meet in closed session to discuss the potential legal issues with the proposed distribution.

 

Business Name                                            Suggested Award
Yogurt Jungle                                                     $11,850
Country Stylin’ Salon &Spa                             $8,550
TTS Catering                                                       $2,460
Sports & Cuts Barber Shop LLC                     $15,000
Kitchen Queens Catering                                 $1,400
Monarch Zen Healing Arts                              $1,850
CrossFit Maricopa LLC                                    $9,150
BlackStones Entertainment LLC                   $1,640
Honeycutt Coffee                                              $10,200
Longevity Athletics                                           $11,600
Brooklyn Boys Pizzeria and Restaurant       $24,100
The New HQ LLC                                              $12,150
Maricopa Heritage Pointe                               $4,500
AC Infantry LLC                                                $1,000
Nails 4 U LLC                                                    $10,250
Suzy Rawlins, Independent Mary Kay         $1,300
Helen’s Kitchen and Catering                        $13,000
Desert Sun Performing Arts                           $12,400
Blue Cactus Preschool                                     $17,800
Wells Counseling Service, LLC                      $1,400
Native Grill & Wings                                        $4,000
Maricopa Wellness Center                             $10,000
A-l Health and Wellness                                 $11,050
Just Weeds LLC                                                $800
Solutions Therapy, PLLC                                $750
Outside the Box Marketing, Inc.*                   $500
Rusinski Law Firm LLC                                  $2,250
Tacos N More Mexican Grill                          $25,000
Sunrise Taekwondo                                         $19,200
Total:                                                             $245,150

Non-Profit Name                                      Suggested Award
F.O.R. Maricopa                                              $100,000
Graysmark Schools                                         $15,000
Boys and Girls Club                                        $100,000
Total:                                                            $215,000

Business Name                                         Suggested Award
Kooline Plumbing LLC                                  $5,500
85239.com, LLC dba InMaricopa               $8,900
Total:                                                            $14,400



*Scott Bartle, primary owner of InMaricopa, also owns Outside the Box Marketing.

 

Some voters in the city limits of Maricopa may have received the wrong early-voting ballots for the primary election.

Vice Mayor Nancy Smith cautioned her Facebook followers to check their ballots.

“I originally heard from a voter in Rancho Mirage, and we thought the problem was only there. However, by posting the notice a voter from Rancho El Dorado also has the same problem,” she stated.

The County Recorder’s Office believes the problem is limited. Recorder Virginia Ross has been in discussions with the Secretary of State’s office and the City of Maricopa to pinpoint the problem and come up with a solution for those who have received incorrect ballots.

The tell-tale sign of a wrong ballot for a resident of the city is no inclusion of the candidates for city council and mayor.

The county expects to release more information Wednesday.

Veronica Masterson and Corey Masterson in 2018. (PCSO)

 

A Maricopa couple charged with three counts of child abuse entered plea agreements in June.

Corey and Veronica Masterson, arrested in December 2018, both pled guilty to a Class 1 misdemeanor, “permitting life, health or morals of minor to be imperiled by neglect, abuse or immoral associations.” Judge Lawrence Wharton sentenced them to two years of supervised probation and parenting classes.

By signing the deal, the couple avoided prosecution on two more counts. The county had charged them with 10 counts of neglect and abuse, accusations the Mastersons denied. The Department of Child Safety took custody of their three children before the Mastersons were arrested.

According to Maricopa Police Department, the children complained of being deprived of food and water, being spanked with paddles and belts and having their mouths taped shut.

The Mastersons can only have contact with the children “pursuant to DCS and Family Court orders and guidelines.”

Corey Masterson had no prior felonies, and Veronica had two. They spent nearly a month in jail before using their home as bail.

The Mastersons were first prosecuted by Pinal County Attorney’s Office, and they asked for a bench trial, as Corey Masterson called the law-and-order agencies involved “corrupt.” Ultimately, the case was turned over to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office for prosecution with hearings in Pinal County Superior Court.

The conviction is the latest in the family epic that is dotted with tragedies. Corey Masterson said his parents died in a murder-suicide when he was 17. Veronica had four children from a previous marriage who died in a house fire while staying with their father in Illinois in 2017. One of the children the Mastersons had together died from sudden infant death syndrome when he was 4 months old in 2013.

Al Brandenburg
Al Brandenburg

By Al Brandenburg

Americans are living longer, and most would prefer to age in their own home and community, rather than going to a hospital or other facility.

But there are challenges and costs associated with maintaining that independence. Health care technology is helping. Nearly 11,000 people turn 65 each day in the United States. The Census Bureau projects the annual number to nearly double from 52 million in 2018 to 95 million by 2060.

Not surprisingly, 9 out of 10 senior citizens would prefer to avoid a nursing home or assisted living facility, according to an AARP study. A 2015 report by the National Council on Aging found the leading reasons include liking where they live, having friends and family nearby, and not wanting to deal with the inconvenience and expense of moving.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines aging in place as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.” The emotional effects of leaving a home or community can have serious health implications. A study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that both social isolation and loneliness are associated with a higher risk of mortality in adults ages 52 and older.

Aging in place is a lot safer now than even a decade ago due in large part to a wide range of technologies. A few examples follow:

HomeFit AR is an app that uses a smartphone to scan a room and recommend modifications to ensure safety, mobility and accessibility. www.aarpinnovationlabs.org/homefit-ar/

Pillo Health offers a device that uses voice recognition, real-time alerts and video-calling capabilities to remind users when to take medication at the correct time and dose. The device stores and dispenses up to four weeks of pills and alerts when it’s time for refills. pillohealth.com

BellPal offers a watch that functions as a medical alert device. In the event of an emergency, it can notify loved ones via smartphone or 24/7 monitoring center that contacts EMS, police or fire department. The watch uses motion detection sensors to determine if the wearer has fallen. www.bellpal.com/us/

CarePredict @Home is a smart wearable that uses AI to detect changes in daily patterns that may signal a health problem. It can alert others if the user has been skipping meals, has trouble sleeping, hasn’t gotten out of bed, or displays atypical behavior. www.carepredict.com

Aging in place requires planning ahead. Talk to your doctor about any health problems or concerns you have and what assistive devices and home modifications could help.

Al Brandenburg is director of Maricopa Senior Coalition (MCS).

Sources: AARP, seniorlifetips.com, greatseniorliving.com, everydayhealth.com


This column appears in the July issue of InMaricopa.

 

Bidding is open for the installation of traffic lights on State Route 347 at Old Maricopa Road.

The intersection currently has a left-turn lane from the northbound lanes onto Maricopa Road and a southbound right-turn lane. Traffic is not allowed to turn north off Maricopa Road.

The work adds acceleration lanes as it installs traffic lights at the intersection.

The intersection is in Maricopa County on Gila River Indian Community land. Maricopa Road provides access to several Gila River properties such as Wild Horse Pass Casino, the Huhugam Heritage Center and the motorsports park.

Last year, there were 21 accidents in the vicinity of the intersection, according to data from Arizona Department of Transportation.

ADOT has programmed $1.278 million for the project. As previously reported, it will add traffic signals and auxiliary lanes.

As currently planned, one acceleration lane would be in the center median of SR 347 to merge left-turning traffic from Maricopa Road into the northbound SR 347 travel lanes. The second acceleration lane would take traffic from Maricopa Road to the southbound lanes of SR 347.

The winning contractor will have more than a year to complete the work. Bids will be open Aug. 21.

The project originally was planned to start May 20, but the process was delayed. The geotechnical engineering report was completed in June.

Edkey and Sequoia Pathway officials turn soil in a groundbreaking ceremony. Photos by Raquel Hendrickson

 

Sequoia Pathway Academy broke ground on a 7,000-square-foot classroom addition Friday with hopes of having it open by the beginning of second semester.

The new space will include three science labs, a computer lab, art room and a music room as well as traditional classrooms for the secondary school. The academy has had classes in mobiles for several years.

“We are excited about having this here,” EdKey CFO Patric Greer said. “This is going to be a great, great building, a great opportunity. This is going to be here a long, long time.”

Principal Markchele Kamson said the new building combined with the unique entry into the school year due to COVID-19 is an opportunity for change. This year’s theme, she said, is “Pathway is a place of HOPE,” which stands for honor, opportunity, perseverance and excellence.

Kamson took over as principal of the secondary school in the middle of the 2019-20 school year, as did Elementary Principal Taylor Stanton. They and their administrative staff took part in the groundbreaking.

School at Pathway starts Aug. 4 online only through the Google Classroom platform as all Arizona schools await a definite in-person opening from the state. Gov. Doug Ducey has set an “aspirational” date of Aug. 17 to get back into classes.

Kamson said whatever the real date may be, Pathway has its rollout plan in place and ready to go.

“Virtual learning, we still have supports for all student groups, special education, ELL, all of them. And basically, we are doing professional development training for teachers when they come back,” Kamson said. “We’re actually targeting so we can deal with this gap that we have, but we’re very intentional with our approach.”

The new classroom building will be west of the gymnasium and comes with an additional parking lot.

Two families in Tortosa have faced the wrath of Maricopa social media over a Facebook post.

 

Shelby Allen Hill had a rotten morning.

She said it should be a lesson for everyone on the danger of words and how easy it is to damage an innocent person.

The Tortosa resident took his wife to the hospital early Tuesday for an appendectomy. When he returned home and was talking to a neighbor in front of his house, a woman drove by and took his photo.

“I’m looking at this person like, ‘Why are you taking pictures of ME?’” Hill said.

That seemed to be a random moment of weirdness until the social media posts accusing him of being a rapist and molester.

“It’s not just disrespectful; it’s very hurtful and harmful, especially in the times that’s going on,” Hill said. “I’m not even that type of person… It doesn’t even seem real. It makes me want to cry.”

It turned out to be a case of mistaken identity.

Hill, 28, was fortunate enough to have an alibi for the time of the accusation being made against him, but the damage was done as the posts were shared around town on various platforms.

Specifically, another Tortosa resident named Heidi Navarro announced on the Facebook group “Maricopa Crime, Traffic and Safety Alerts” that her teenage daughter had been approached by a stranger at a park at 5:55 a.m. He tried to “lure her” and “kept trying to approach,” saying his friends were stranded at the casino and he wanted her help. Navarro said the man kept pressuring the 16 year old and “was clearly not going to stop” until two residents came into sight. The girl phoned her mother and told her she was calling 911.

Navarro, who said she drove the neighborhood for 20 minutes looking for the man, posted a description for the Facebook group: a 5-foot-5 to 5-foot-6 African American male, late 20s to early 30s, skinny to medium built with a slight beer belly, shoulder length dreadlocks and a Nigerian accent. She also claimed a police officer told a neighbor the description matched a sex offender who had been in jail for raping a 13-year-old girl and had gotten out on a technicality.

And then she included a photo – the snapshot of Hill in front of his house.

Navarro said someone else took the photo of Hill because he fit the description and was even wearing the same style of shorts. Navarro showed the photo to those who could recognize the suspect from the park, and each said it was the guy.

“I was confident it was him or I wouldn’t have posted it,” Navarro said.

Then it began to be shared on other Facebook groups and pages, as well as NextDoor.

“I woke up to a million notifications from Facebook where people saw my husband’s picture posted,” said Hill’s wife, Nesha Callahan.

Most concerning were the threatening replies to the posts: “Where does he live? I’ll go over with a machete.”

Callahan said she responded to Navarro and told her Shelby was not the man and they had just returned from the hospital. Hill even gave her his vitals and told her to check out his background, which, while a bit checkered, does not include sex offenses.

“I don’t look anything like that. It’s crazy,” he said. “You say, ‘slight beer belly’? I clearly have an eight-pack; I’m sorry. And I definitely do not talk with a Nigerian accent. I was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. I sound like a New Englander.”

Navarro posted again, apologizing to the Hill family but saying Shelby could have been the culprit’s twin and the rest of the information was accurate. Then she posted his photo again, saying she wanted to let people know who the suspect wasn’t.

“I deeply and sincerely apologize for causing grief to your family and hope you will forgive me,” she wrote to the Hills in one post.

But Callahan said she felt she was still inferring her husband looked like a rapist and the posts and shares were still out there and the Hill family was still being virtually attacked.

Navarro, hurt that her lengthy apology was dismissed as insincere, said too many play the victim on social media when the real community concern should be the possibility of a child molester living nearby and endangering their kids.

The Hills have many friends who came to Shelby’s defense. The blowback on Navarro was swift and became as dark, threatening and nasty as the attacks on Hill.

“To try to completely destroy a family that did nothing but try to protect the kids in the neighborhood is outrageous to me,” Navarro said. “They accused me of lying, of making things up, of being racist and saying all Black people look the same. I saw several indirect threats toward me.”

She denied emphatically that she is a racist, saying she has family and friends who are Black and beloved by her.

“I’m really truly not what is being portrayed,” Navarro said. “Everybody is so out of control, and it has turned this into something else and made it out like I’m lying about everything. I don’t have time to sit around doing things like that.”

She rejects claims that she said all Black people look alike. She said Hill had striking similarities to the suspect, from the dreadlocks to the shorts. That suspect had a larger forehead, darker skin and the foreign accent. Navarro said those were the only things that distinguished the two.

“I would NEVER cause destruction of any kind toward someone or their family purposefully and I’m truly sorry I cause[d] such a mess,” Navarro wrote in her apology. “To be clear, this is not racial or me profiling in any way and if you knew me personally, that would be quite clear. People are people and made by God in his image. We are fearfully, wonderfully and beautifully made. This includes your family and mine. I see no difference.”

Hill said it definitely came across as racial profiling and cyberbullying. He said it’s been years since he was falsely accused of anything: “As a child, yeah, like taking cookies.”

Callahan said her husband is the “friendliest guy I know,” and their friends quickly tried to find all posts and get them taken down. With Callahan recovering from her medical procedure and Hill in shock, neighbors came by with flowers, cards and commiseration.

Family friend Jill Davis was among those working to get the erroneous posts taken down and “repair his reputation.” She said it should be a lesson for everyone on the danger of words and how easy it is to damage an innocent person.

Alzira Lopes, who is acquainted with the Hills through a local cheer gym, said the situation was very personal for her.

“It’s something serious to put that on Facebook without having facts,” she said. “Basically, she just took a picture and put it up and said this happened, with no proof, no anything. That can happen to anyone, that’s the scary part. I find it very appalling. To think that someone can, with one keystroke, ruin your life. I’m afraid that this young man now has a bull’s eye on his back.”

Navarro said the way her apology was “thrown back in my face” and she was disparaged made her family a target, too. She said she was disappointed in Maricopa.

“This community makes such a big freaking deal about, ‘Oh, we’re so helpful to each other. Oh, this is a great community. We’re so supportive. Oh, we’re not racist.’ Everybody that posted that crap was racist,” Navarro said. “That’s what they’re doing. They’re praising themselves, thinking they’re such great people. And look at what they did to the victim.”

Around the corner, some friends told Callahan she should stay quiet and let the misidentification of her husband blow over, but she instinctively felt “molesters don’t blow over, especially a guy with dreadlocks and tattoos.”

Hill said he’s worried their daughters will catch the backlash for Navarro’s mistake.

Navarro said her daughter is afraid and has been victimized twice, by the suspect in the park and by the social media community in town.

“She’s a wreck,” Navarro said of her daughter. “She said, ‘This happened to me, not to them. I can’t believe these adults are making it about them.’ I cried the entire day yesterday.”

But Hill remains frustrated.

“Why would you even post a photo of a random person? That’s not fair,” he said. “I’m really mind-boggled that somebody would want to do this to anybody. I’m in fear for my life. I can’t even leave the house to go to the store.”

Meanwhile, the man who allegedly harassed the teenager that morning in the park remains unknown.

High water rolls through a wash after a storm filled Maricopa's natural drainage channels. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

 

During the past decade, the City of Maricopa has leaned on three far-reaching, collaborative, highly expensive projects with hopes of transformation.

One, the grade-separation of State Route 347 at the Union Pacific tracks, was completed last year. Another, the improvement of SR 347 from Maricopa to Interstate 10, is more reliant on other entities like Arizona Department of Transportation, Gila River Indian Community, Maricopa Association of Governments and Arizona Supreme Court.

The last, though less talked about, may have a broader impact on economic development. That is the North Santa Cruz Wash Regional Flood Control Project.

Typically the Santa Cruz Wash sees nary a drop of water, but the monsoon season can change that quickly.

“This has been an on-again, off-again project for over a decade,” City Manager Rick Horst said. “When I got here, it kind of stalled out. So, I kind of re-energized the process. It’s really convoluted to explain.”

The plan is now at an important stage as the City awaits cooperation from Gila Riva Indian Community before it takes the concept to the federal level.

The City has big plans for commercial development around City Hall. That land is currently leased as agricultural acreage until it can be moved out of the floodplain designation. A primary portion of federally established flood zones lies between White and Parker Road on the west, Fuqua Road on the east, Farrell Road to the south and Smith-Enke Road to the north.

If all goes as planned, the project would draw flow from existing channels and accommodate so-called 100-year floodwaters in a new collective system. That would allow 11.2 square miles of property to be removed from the flood zone designation. Those acres could then be developed as the City thought it would be at the turn of the century.

City Manager Rick Horst

Back then, developers had plans to channelize the Santa Cruz to solve the problems of being in the floodplain. But in 2014, the Federal Emergency Management Agency analyzed the Santa Cruz watershed. Its report changed everything.

“So, the City’s regional project had to take a step back after that data came out and reanalyze,” said Brad Hinton, a member of the Maricopa Flood Control District Board who has also worked for the City and for El Dorado Holdings.

He said the new study showed a different flood pattern that took in much more land than originally thought. The FEMA conclusion drew acres poised for development into the Special Flood Hazard Area map.

That had financial consequences for landowners, like mandatory flood insurance if they wanted to build on or improve their site or if they wanted to get a loan on property in the zone.

“Now it breaks to the west through existing development,” Hinton said. “The City has more skin in the game. Now, rather than just channelize the Northern Santa Cruz alignment, it involves improving the Santa Rosa channel as well.”

MARICOPA FLOODS

With the Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and Vekol washes at hand, Maricopa is familiar with high water. The monsoon season in particular often sees roadways deep in runoff. It doesn’t even have to rain in Maricopa to bring stormwaters through the washes.

The Santa Cruz River has a northbound flow. It collects stormwaters from the southern mountains and sends them up through the washes in Maricopa and Hidden Valley and on to Gila River Indian Community.

Major floods over the decades have damaged property and stifled movement, even covered railroad tracks, playing a factor in the removal of the train route between Maricopa and Phoenix.

Maricopa historian Patricia Brock noted impactful floods in 1890, 1891 and 1905. Sweeping floods in 1946 and 1949 “caused great destruction and left them stranded for long periods of time.”

In 1983, a dam broke on the Santa Cruz River, sending a wall of water into Maricopa, again closing roads and inundating homes and businesses. Brock reported the height of the railroad tracks kept most of the water on the south side.

In 1990, it was a breach in the Smith Wash south of town that brought floodwaters into Maricopa again. Arizona felt the heavy rains that soaked the nation in 1993, resulting in more high water for Maricopa.

Maricopa Flood Control District board members (from left) Scott Kelly, Brad Hinton and Dan Frank. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

MITIGATION EFFORTS

The Maricopa Flood Control District and Pinal County Flood Control District maintain miles of channels. The Maricopa FCD is a special taxing district that has an elected board and is responsible for repairing damage and clearing vegetation that could prevent the flow of floodwaters.

It reviews plans by homeowners’ associations that may impact the Santa Cruz or Santa Rosa washes.

The Pinal County FCD has dozens of projects and studies ongoing, two of which directly impact Maricopa. A feasibility study with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has analyzed 80 stream miles of the Lower Santa Cruz River in search of a regional solution to flooding.

Though actually in District 3, the Russell Road Industrial Area project is attached to Maricopa. The project is studying drainage problems at Ak-Chin Regional Airport and the Saddleback Farms Subdivision.

The Pinal County and Maricopa entities disagree about the status and condition of the Santa Rosa levee, which is just south of the Union Pacific Railroad tracks. The City of Maricopa’s plan might make the “discrepancy of opinion” on the levee go away.

“The county doesn’t have proper records of the inspections when it was built,” Hinton said. “And then there have been some utility crossings that they think have cut into the integrity of the liner. They have maybe some valid reasons to raise some concerns, but I think we’ve mitigated it by doing our additional testing.”

Dan Frank, president of the Maricopa FCD board, said the City’s design potentially could remove the levee designation.

“That gets the county and FEMA, and its requirements to report to them and do certain maintenance things, kind of off our back,” Frank said.

Preliminary Design Concept

NORTH SANTA CRUZ WASH REGIONAL FLOOD CONTROL PROJECT

“There is a large percentage of property within the current city limits that is within the floodplain,” Horst said. “We are working to try to mitigate that, in other words, to bring that property to where it can actually be developed.”

The recommended system for channelizing the Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa washes includes “interceptor/collection system, conveyance, detention and outlet systems.”

The Santa Cruz system would begin at Peters and Nall Road/Murphy Road and flow northwest to Steen Road, collecting from a South Side channel and traveling west along Steen before turning north at Fuqua Road. Flows would also be collected from Farrell Road to Fuqua and taken north toward the Gila River Indian Community boundary.

The recommended system for the Santa Rosa Wash “includes a proposed interceptor channel that will collect flow at the Peters and Nall Road alignment west of the UPRR,” according to the executive summary. An interceptor channel will tie into the existing Santa Rosa channel just west of Fuqua Road.

“I think what’s ingenious about this is we’re not having to build a lot of infrastructure,” Horst said. “We’re able to use the Santa Cruz Wash to carry a lot of this load. It’s already a natural channel and will save us a lot of money even though it seems like an expensive project.”

The rough estimate is $60 million.

“In essence, this will take approximately 11.2 square miles of property out of the floodplain. So, that’s a lot of acres,” he said. “And that acreage, once we bring it out of the floodplain, we will be able to ultimately develop it. If we develop it according to the current city pattern we’re following, that would be about $1.4 billion of new development opportunity.

“Of course, that won’t happen overnight, but it won’t happen at all if we don’t get it out of the floodplain.”

And even if the plan does not change the designation of the Santa Rosa levee, Hinton said the project “is going to help address and maybe do improvements to the levee to get the county and FEMA comfortable with it.”

On the other end, the City still must get GRIC on board, because all that re-directed flow won’t necessarily end up where they would like it. It is yet another project that must please local, county, state, federal and tribal entities to move forward.

The project 10 years in the making is only at the design level.

“Right now, the design concept report has been reviewed, and it has gone back into the county and the city for a second review and approval,” Hinton said. “After that, we’ll move forward with the 30% design, which is the CLOMR package.”

A Conditional Letter of Map Revision (CLOMR) is FEMA’s input on a project that will cause hydrologic or hydraulic changes. Maricopa is close to starting that process, but FEMA takes its time with these proposals.

“Projections are that we have a year-and-a-half process before we’re close to having FEMA’s approval,” Hinton said. “It’s a year-and-a-half to two-year construction process, too, though. It’s a big job.”

Optimistically, if FEMA and GRIC cooperate, it would be 18 months before any construction begins. GRIC is not an outlier. A GRIC engineer is part of the stakeholder meetings, and the sovereign nation knows it is an important player in a plan that could change Maricopa. Like FEMA, it has a long process in place and authorities to go through.

WHERE’S THE MONEY?

The elephant in the room is the funding.

In this case, having so many entities involved could become an advantage. All have different resources and connections. The city and the county are looking at various funding possibilities, and the flood control district sees options, too.

“That’s where the district could be involved,” Frank said. “We could look at the district’s ability to levy a tax or increase its levy.”

Is that likely?

“It’s hard to say,” Frank said.

That’s not a matter of the district doing a favor; it is affected by the City’s decisions. Maricopa FCD has easements through most of the channel. Maintenance agreements must be worked out, and that is a district specialty.

The City’s Capital Improvement Budget comes from taxes, fees and grants. With a COVID-caused slowdown expected, priorities could shift during the long process for approval. But Horst doesn’t mind spending $60 million to net $1 billion or more.

Hinton credits Horst with movement on the plan, calling him a “breath of fresh air in dealing with the City.”

“I think the project has moved in a positive direction,” he said.


This story appears in the July issue of InMaricopa.

 

Getting children back on school campuses is less fun than it sounds.

Self-regulation and stress-management are going to be really, really important this year.

The opening of the 2020-21 year looms for Maricopa Unified School District and charter schools, with most starting entirely online. With an unknown date for returning to in-person education, school leaders looked for a balance between best health practices and the wishes of families before presenting a plan to roll out the return. Another component is preparing students psychologically for a new experience.

As the Arizona Department of Education presented a “Roadmap for Reopening Schools,” it told schools that implementing direction from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “should be guided by what is feasible, practical, acceptable and tailored to the needs of each community.”

Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive order keeps kids off campus until at least Aug. 17, and Arizona School Board members are pushing for a delay in the return to physical classrooms until October. MUSD board member Torri Anderson said she would like to keep children learning remotely until fall break, which is Oct. 5.

Heritage Academy has a July 22 all-online start date. MUSD starts July 30 online. A+ Charter Schools, which is debuting this year, starts Aug. 3 online. Sequoia Pathway will start Aug. 4. Legacy Traditional School starts Aug. 5 and is hosting a July 15 virtual town hall to explain the plan. Leading Edge plans to start school Aug. 17 in person but with an online option for families that prefer to stay at a distance.

MUSD surveyed parents to learn if and how families wanted children to return to campus. Some shared their ideas and concerns about reopening with InMaricopa, as well.

“Open the schools as normal, but with extra sanitation precautions,” Jesselee Evans Green said. “At my work, we stop every two hours to clean every surface that’s been touched. It only takes a couple of minutes. Kids can help with that by wiping their desks down at the end of the class. Extra hand washing stations around the schools as well …. My kids need to go back to a learning environment that they enjoy.”

HEALTH

District Nurse Lizabeth Stephens, R.N., created an infection-control plan for MUSD that is ready to go when the day comes. She and the Health Services Department will put together health tubs for each teacher.

“It contains some backup hand sanitizer and also some Lysol spray, the larger alcohol wipes that are also with virucide. I read the label; it works perfectly. And with gloves and masks,” Stephens said.

School nurses will also create a video for teachers about the items in their infection-control tub, explaining how and when to use them. Stephens said she does not want teachers to use certain items incorrectly.

They will explain the difference between disinfecting and cleaning, for example.

“I’m also going to put together a video for the kids on the first day about the importance of social distancing, keeping as far apart as possible under the circumstances,” she said. “Coughing and how important it is to keep their hands clean.”

To convey the basics to students of all ages, they will explain the concept of sterile technique, “Clean to clean; dirty to dirty.” That means if something is dirty and you touch it with your hand, your hand is now dirty and needs to be cleaned.

At Leading Edge, all students and staff will be temperature checked upon entry to school each day. Masks may be worn but are not mandatory. All classrooms will have hand sanitizer. Cleaning and disinfecting procedures will be intensified, and there will be training in health and safety protocols.

MUSD schools will establish entry points where health workers will take the temperature of each student that comes in. It’s not a diagnosis but it is a screening. Students who have a temperature of 100 or more are sent to the health office. Students with a temperature of 100.4 are sent home.

Students are expected to go to their classrooms immediately rather than milling in the hall and mixing with large groups before the first bell.

“We’re trying to cohort the classrooms as the group, however many kids there may be,” Stephens said.

For the elementary grades, that means, where feasible, schools will try to have art in their classroom and music in the classroom. They may even have breakfast and lunch in the classroom.

Principals and teachers will plan the recess times, which may not allow use of playground equipment. A cohort may be assigned a specific section of the play area for physical activity. And hand sanitizer will always be nearby.

But they are still dealing with very young children.

“All we can do is the best we can,” Stephens said. “We try to teach them to be safe. As long as they’re not hugging each other and slobbering all over each other, I don’t care if they hold hands.”

Health Services has had video meetings with custodial staff to go through the cleaning and disinfecting process. If more than one cohort uses a classroom, the room will be disinfected between each cohort. If only one cohort uses the room, it will be disinfected once or twice a week.

For all ages, the nurses are encouraging masks on the bus or from their drop-off point onto school grounds. If parents want their children to wear a mask in more settings, that can be accomplished up to a point.

“Children should not sit in a mask all day long in a room,” Stephens said. “It’s the rebreathing of the carbon monoxide. It’s not safe for anyone to wear a mask all day long.”

She said teachers would not wear masks while teaching unless they approach students to help with something. Afterward, both teacher and student are asked to clean their hands.

Middle school and high school, however, leaves Stephens at a loss, even with her many years of infection control. She has students wearing masks when they change classes. The schools may mark hallways to divide traffic moving in separate directions so students are not face to face.

To prevent congestion in the hallway, there may be monitors to move students along instead of stopping to chat. As they enter the classroom, they will be asked to clean their hands with school-provided hand sanitizer.

Meetings between Health Services and the principals were organized to get everyone’s ideas about how to put best health advice into practice. The Arizona Interscholastic Association’s COVID-19 guidelines are also a point of conversation.

There are procedures in place if a child who has been to school tests positive for COVID-19, especially determining who else has been exposed.

MENTAL HEALTH

“Overwhelmingly, what I’m hearing is students just want to go back to school,” said Amber Liermann, Exceptional Student Services behavioral counselor and licensed professional counselor and clinical supervisor.

Many parents, too, want their kids in the classroom.

The counseling department at MUSD has had weekly meetings during the fourth quarter of last school year and all through the summer to prepare for a start to a new school year unlike any other.

“We want to make sure that we’re staying on top of the developments of what’s going on and making sure that we are prepared to support our students and our families for whatever happens and whatever options are offered,” Liermann said.

They have discussed validating each family’s and each student’s personal experience with COVID-19. Some families might have lost a loved one. Some might have financial impact while others were not as affected.

They will be coming back with different levels of socialization as well. When students do come back, reestablishing attachments, from elementary to high school students, has vital importance.

“It’s important to create routines as normal as possible so the students regain security,” Liermann said. “We would replace old rituals with new rituals. At the elementary schools, in particular, students want that hug from teachers. So, instead of a hug or a high five, they’ll have a tingle and a dance.”

The campuses have Positive Behavior Interventions & Support (PBIS) teams to help students make good decisions if they are feeling stressed. All schools also have Comfort Corners but will change how they are used to avoid sharing tools.

The teletherapy and video chats available last quarter will continue when appropriate.

“Self-regulation and stress-management are going to be really, really important this year,” Liermann said. “There are going to be fears and anxiety coming from students going to school. We will be teaching stress-management tools, help teachers know when to give breaks.”

Health Services asked to participate in administration training to talk about trauma informed care, crisis prevention and de-escalation strategies for a most unusual beginning of a new school year.


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

Due to Governor Ducey’s Executive Order to keep in-person learning closed until Aug. 17, A+ Charter Schools has opted to move the school start date to Aug. 3 and begin the school year as a fully virtual learning environment, thus allowing additional time to pass out Chromebooks to all enrolled students and provide additional training for teachers on virtual learning.

“Opening for the 2020-2021 school year has been in the works for almost two years. We have had the great opportunity to learn from other schools who made the abrupt switch to virtual learning in the spring and prepare for this learning environment,” Principal Rachele Reese said. “Our team has spent time participating in professional development and training to learn the best practices to support students and teachers in a virtual environment and will provide specific training and support for our teachers.”

To meet the needs of a virtual learning environment, the school is focused on three principles: Engage, Connect, Support. Virtual instruction will be designed to engage students in meaningful learning experiences, connect students and teachers daily through live instruction, and support the social-emotional needs of students through daily Advisory classes with a teacher-mentor.

“When the time is right, we will safely welcome students into our school building following our COVID-19 protocols and continue the student learning that began virtually,” Reese said. “Our max enrollment for the school year will be no more than 250 students, however our building capacity far exceeds that number thus allowing for more space for students and staff to safely use physical distancing protocols.”

Virtual Open Houses are scheduled for Tuesday, July 14, at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. via Zoom. Visit the school’s Facebook page for the direct link to the event.

The school is enrolling grades 7-10 in the first year and will add grades 11-12 in subsequent years. Careful considerations for the health and safety of students and staff has been included in the design of the building, as well as cleaning protocols due to COVID-19, such as touchless bathroom fixtures, hand-sanitizing stations throughout the school, 1:1 technology to minimize the sharing of Chromebooks, and carpet less floors throughout the school that are easy to disinfect and clean.

www.aplusaz.org
520-265-5589

AnnaMarie Knorr

 

Maricopa resident AnnaMarie Knorr feels exonerated after the Arizona House of Representatives Ethics Committee dropped its investigation into her friend Rep. David Cook.

Though the investigation, which begin in February, was into Cook’s behavior as a House member, Knorr was equally under the microscope in a very public way. The investigation cost her job and caused more private stress.

“I feel like it was a total dumpster fire,” said Knorr, who was dragged through the gauntlet of accusations against Cook. “They had an agenda and they had no interest in the actual evidence and the actual truth.”

The accusations against Cook included having an extramarital affair with Knorr, a former lobbyist, which a complainant alleged compromised his actions as an elected official, and misusing his office to exert pressure on the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office to benefit the Knorr family.

Knorr was mentioned frequently in the original complaints and the detailed investigators’ report. She was interviewed by investigators but not brought in to testify before the committee. When the case was dropped by Chairman John Allen, she was not officially told and had to learn of it from the news media.

“I felt like the entire process was created to do damage to my reputation and to Rep. Cook’s reputation,” Knorr said. “Even until the very end, they refused to allow him to present witnesses or cross-examine their witnesses. A total lack of due process… There was nothing in this process that was fair and unbiased.”

Knorr said she was completely unheard by the committee. When it became apparent she would not get the chance to speak for herself, she sent a “declaration” to all representatives explaining her side of the story. In doing so, she had to reveal very private personal and family information. In it, she called the allegations of an affair “a disgusting lie” perpetrated by her father and her estranged husband.

During the months of investigation by the Ethics Committee, Knorr was deep into heavy educational issues as president of the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board. The district was working through all the complexities of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as normal, critical board decisions.

“It’s unfortunate that this was such a public political process and that my service to the board was associated with it,” Knorr said. “It had nothing to do with my role as president of MUSD. I haven’t and I won’t let any of this make me shy away from my commitments or make me do any less of a job for the students and the staff and the parents. I’m 100% committed to my role there.”

Monday, she filed her paperwork to seek re-election to the board. Two days later, Allen announced he was dropping the case against Cook, but not because he felt Cook was innocent.

“Although I am deeply troubled by the investigators’ findings and Representative Cook’s subsequent behavior, I do not believe that Representative Cook’s conduct unequivocally constitutes the sort of ‘disorderly behavior’ punishable under the House’s Rules and article 4, part 2, section 11 of the Arizona Constitution,” Allen wrote in a nine-page letter to the Ethics Committee.

That letter, like the original complaints and the investigators’ report, reiterated the accusations against Cook and, by implication, Knorr, again making the details part of public record. He even called their denial of an affair “incredible,” continuing to cast a shadow.

“I would hope that the public can see through that and [see] the fact that the complaints were dismissed exonerates me and Rep. Cook and all the others who were dragged into this,” Knorr said.

As chairman, Allen took particular offense at Cook’s behavior during the investigation, accusing him of several lies in his response to the committee. Cook also refused to respond to a subpoena, and Allen pointed to “threatening behavior” on his part. But he still called all evidence of unruly behavior “equivocal.”

Not being a member of the House, Knorr became a side note to the representatives.

“My reputation has been compromised,” she said. “Being vindicated at the end of the process is great, but the damage is done.”

Knorr is now considering options for her future, focusing on her children and rebuilding her life.

“I’m blessed with some amazing friends. And I love the state I live in; I love the City of Maricopa,” she said. “I don’t think that God saw me through all of this for it not to work out well in the end. So, I don’t know what’s next but I’m excited to find out.”

The Brownsville, Texas, Exceptional Emergency Center is the closest model of what the company wants to build in Maricopa. (EER24.com)

Exceptional Emergency Center would like to be able to break ground on an emergency room in 60 to 90 days.

Those are the plans explained by company Chief Financial Officer Saeed Mahboubi. Maricopa would be the first location for the Texas-based company, followed by Yuma, he said.

Exceptional ER shares a parent company with Exceptional Pets, which is also building a veterinary hospital in Maricopa.

Mahboubi, who is also an architect, said city officials spoke to him about ongoing efforts to have a human hospital as he was introducing plans for the animal hospital.

“So, we started looking into it,” he said.

Exceptional ER has 13 emergency centers in Texas. Mahboubi said the design for Maricopa will be most similar to the Brownsville location.

“It will be 20,000 square feet on two-and-a-half acres,” he said. “We will have 24-hour service.”

Mahboubi said the plan is to have a staff of 60, included 40 full-time employees.

He clarified the center would be only an emergency center, not a surgery center. Only “minor surgery,” such as lacerations and broken bones, will be done on site. The location plans to have a helipad to transfer patients to hospitals for major surgery.

Exceptional ER expects to have contracts with surrounding hospitals for easy transfers.

The company still must start the permitting process at City Hall, including development review. It posted signs at its location just south of the overpass bridge before obtaining a sign permit. Mahboubi said once ground is broken, construction will take eight to nine months.

(ADOT)

 

There were 308 traffic crashes on State Route 347 in 2019, according to data from the Arizona Department of Transportation.

Those resulted in 143 injuries and four deaths. The incidents occurred the length of the highway, from Interstate 10 to SR 84, including through the City of Maricopa.

The most common type of collision involved vehicles rear-ending slower or stopped vehicles. That happened 196 times last year. Another 40 were vehicles sideswiping others.

Of the collisions, 26 were determined to be hit-and-run incidents. Thirteen involved alcohol, and three involved drug use.

According to the ADOT data, 27 incidents were single-vehicle crashes. In 22 cases, a collision occurred as one vehicle was trying to turn left against traffic. Only one crash was listed as a head-on.

CAUSES

Officers determined there was no driver-distraction involved in 70% of the crashes. Of the other 90 crashes, it was unknown if the driver was distracted in 41 cases. Drivers were distracted by operating electronic devices or mobile phones in 16 incidents. Another 11 were distracting by eating or drinking in the vehicle.

In two of the four fatal crashes, driver distraction was not considered a contributing factor. In the other two, that element was unknown.

The data show only 16 crashes involved speed. In two cases, the vehicle was traveling 25 miles over the posted limit. One driver was traveling 15 mph too fast. In five cases, the vehicle was estimated to be traveling 10 mph over the limit, and in eight cases, the involved vehicle was just 5 mph over the limit.

A dozen of the crashes were rollovers, including one of the fatal wrecks. Five people ran off the road and into a fence, two ran into a guardrail, and two others ran into parked vehicles.

LOCATIONS

Of the 308 crashes on SR 347 last year, 57 occurred in the vicinity of milepost 185, which is near the Riggs Road intersection. Twenty-five of the crashes occurred around milepost 178, near Casa Blanca Road. There were also 22 crashes at milepost 182, south of Gravel Pit Road, where a crossing carries traffic over the Gila River.

In the city limits on SR 347, the intersection of John Wayne Parkway and Cobblestone Farms Drive had the most reported crashes with 12. There were 11 crashes at the Edison Road intersection, according to ADOT.

One of the Cobblestone Farms crashes involved both alcohol and drugs.

TIMING

January was the worst month for accidents on SR 347, totaling 34 crashes, or 11%. There were 32 wrecks in August and 31 in December. By contrast, July had only 11.

Nearly 21% of all accidents occurred on a Tuesday. Thursdays were nearly as bad with 19% of crashes.

As has been common the past several years, most collisions occurred during “rush hour.” Nearly 23% occurred between 5 and 8 a.m. and 24% between 3 and 6 p.m.

Students in K-5 and 6-12 will start "virtual" classes at the end of the month that will include synchronous teaching.

 

Maricopa Unified School District will begin school July 30.

The school year will begin online with two different virtual academies. A 6-12 Virtual Academy, which had been planned before COVID-19, had already been approved. A version for K-5 is new.

The governing board voted unanimously on the first-day-of school decision Wednesday.

All students will start with distance learning. Superintendent Tracey Lopeman, Ed.D., said that will include “daily synchronous instruction” with teachers teaching live and students participating through their district-owned devices. The plan also includes honors, AP, foreign language and electives classes.

Lopeman said the schedule adheres to 180-day requirements. For contracts, there are 189 days for new teachers and 187 for returning teachers.

When virtual will become brick-and-mortar is still up in the air. Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive order will not allow that to happen before Aug. 17, a date he called “aspirational.” So that is a date MUSD is aiming for, too, until more information comes from the governor’s office and the state Department of Education.

The board will discuss a date to return to in-person classes at a special meeting July 22.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Board member Torri Anderson said she would prefer to keep students on the online platforms until fall break and then switch over to in-person for those families that wish to do so.

The schedule takes away one week of fall break.

Human Resources Director Tom Beckett said it has been a complicated process to get all the moving parts together.

“As we approve this school calendar, we also have 13 different employee work calendars that are all going to be impacted by the decision we make tonight on this,” he said.

Lopeman said the delay of five school days from the original July 23 start date was to better help staff and parents get prepared, allow for smooth tech checkout of devices and allow more time for training.

Teachers that wish to may conduct their virtual teaching from their own classrooms.

Damien Carter, owner of VET Logistics LLC, wants to deliver 2 million COVID-19 test kits.

 

A multi-million-dollar company started out of a house in Maricopa is working to give away COVID-19 test kits in Arizona and California.

Damien Carter, 38, is CEO of VET Logistics, a trucking company based in Phoenix. A resident of The Villages, Carter said his intent is to deliver 2 million PCR (polymerase chain reaction) and rapid test kits for free to communities that need them, preferably low-income areas.

Carter said the deal, involving qMetrix Group, RHEA Inc. and AnyPlaceMDBox, started as a $100 million contract. He asked suppliers to exchange half that amount for COVID test kits in what may be the largest personal donation of kits.

“Basically, VET Logistics purchased those kits to distribute,” Carter said.

Willie Sneller, CEO of qMetrix Group, said his logistics company is acquiring the test kits from China 500,000 at a time.

“We are providing one of the few CDC-, EUA-approved rapid test kits available today,” Sneller said from his office in Iowa.

He said his relationship with Carter came about because one of his representatives was acquainted with Damien’s father Ken (of “Coach Carter” fame) in California. Damien had co-founded VET Logistics with fellow Maricopan Ronald Mcanelly.

“He’s an amazing man,” Sneller said of Damien Carter. “He works very hard communicating. He is working on a very, very worthy effort.”

Carter’s first target for test-kit distribution was his hometown of Richmond, California. There and in Arizona, he was in contact with the governor’s office to explain his intentions and coordinate the effort.

“That trickled down to the county health department. Once it gets there, I drop them off,” Carter said. “I would hope and I’m trying to have faith people will do the right thing and help people in those low-income areas.”

Sneller said his company was honored to be a partner in Carter’s “benevolent effort to help communities that are in dire need of the rapid test kits for the COVID-19 antibody test.”


This story appears in the July issue of InMaricopa.

Riliberto's under construction on John Wayne Parkway. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson
John Wayne Parkway Self-Storage under construction.

Maricopa Animal Hospital, being constructed at 20035 N. John Wayne Parkway, received its commercial permit. The 3,998-square-foot structure, being constructed by TWC Design Build, is valued at $1.2 million. It also was permitted for onsite improvements.

PHT Property Holdings is putting in a 4,344-square-foot shell building at 41664 W. Smith-Enke Road. The project, under contractor Anson L. Call Builders, is valued at $586,397. It will include an audiologist’s office, which received a permit for commercial tenant improvement.

Subway, 21116 N. John Wayne Parkway, Suite B6, pulled a permit for major electrical work involving the removal of table lights and ceiling fans.

The construction site of the county complex, 19975 N. Wilson Ave., received a permit for temporary power for a state-approved modular.

Meritage Homes is putting in two commercial shade structures at 22870 N. Chase Drive in The Lakes at Rancho El Dorado.

In its continuing effort to transform an area of the Heritage District, the City of Maricopa pulled a demolition permit for a structure at 44491 W. Stagecoach Lane.

New and pending structures received permits for sprinkler systems, including Iconic Tire and Riliberto’s, neighboring businesses at 19945 N. John Wayne Parkway.

Iconic Tire under construction

Richmond American Homes received a temporary use permit for a model home complex on Daniel Drive in The Lakes.

Construction began on Bahama Buck’s on the east end of the Walmart parking lot. Construction continued for John Wayne Self-Storage next to the new AAMCO building on John Wayne Parkway.


This item appears in the July issue of InMaricopa.

Bahama Buck’s under construction on Porter Road.

 

Maricopa small businesses received more than $7 million in federal loans through the Paycheck Protection Program.

Farmers, lawyers, doctors and exterminators were on the list of 273 local businesses and organizations taking advantage of the PPP loans meant to help mitigate the financial impact of COVID-19.

For instance, eight Maricopa dentist offices received PPP relief, ranging from $33,000 to $142,000 and averaging $73,000. Of the 10 full-time restaurants that received loans, the largest was for $131,500 through Points West Community Bank.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury released information on individual business loans under $150,000 for the 56 states and territories. Arizona small businesses received more than $2 billion in individual loans of less than $150,000 and more than $4 billion all together.

Overall, the Small Business Administration approved $350 billion in business loans across the nation.

The SBA released information on the amount of individual loans, the lending agencies and the categories of the businesses approved for the PPP, but not the name and address of the businesses.

The PPP funds impacted 848 Maricopa workers. The program provides funds for up to eight weeks of payroll costs, including benefits. The PPP funds can also be used to pay interest on mortgages, rent and utilities, according to the SBA.

“The PPP is an indisputable success for small businesses, especially to the communities in which these employers serve as the main job creators,” SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza stated in a news release.

The largest Maricopa employer who benefited was a sports and recreation center with 28 employees. A local dairy kept on 26 employees with the PPP loan, and two restaurants with 24 employees each also received payroll funds.

PPP loans, funded by part of the federal CARES Act, are made by lending institutions and then guaranteed by SBA. Businesses applied to lenders and self-certified that they are eligible for PPP loans. That includes a “good faith certification” that the borrower has economic need requiring the loan and has applied the affiliation rules and is a small business.

The lender then reviews the borrower’s application, and if all the paperwork is in order, approves the loan and submits it to SBA.

“Today’s release of loan data strikes the appropriate balance of providing the American people with transparency, while protecting sensitive payroll and personal income information of small businesses, sole proprietors, and independent contractors,” Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said.

The largest local business category receiving loans was “miscellaneous retail store.” A dozen Maricopa retailers sought PPP money, the largest being $97,100. Nine of those 12 loans were approved by Readycap Lending LLC.

The largest loan granted was for the aforementioned dental office that received $142,000. It has 16 employees and was approved for the loan by First Citizens Bank & Trust Company. The smallest loan was $510 for a taxi service.

State Route 347, aka Maricopa Road, has been known as John Wayne Parkway since the early days of Rancho El Dorado. Photo by Bob McGovern
Bronze statue of John Wayne, “the Duke,” at John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, California, by Robert Summers.

After a group in Orange County, California, started a movement to remove John Wayne’s name from the airport in Santa Ana, the chatter began locally about whether the actor’s name should be on John Wayne Parkway in Maricopa.

It all goes back to quotes from a wide-ranging 1971 interview Wayne gave Playboy magazine that included philosophical comments about African Americans and Native Americans at a time of deep political unrest.

The parallels with modern conflicts have brought the interview back to the surface.

The Democratic Party of Orange County created a legislative resolution condemning the “racist and bigoted statements” and urging the county supervisors to rename the airport.

A Facebook group of about 10 people, calling itself “Rename John Wayne Parkway in Maricopa Arizona,” was launched June 27, requesting the removal of “The Duke’s” name, resulting in new addresses for many businesses. Group creator “Kiki LaPue” introduced the concept with the post: “Did you know that John Wayne hated Black people, Native Americans and gay people? No reason to give someone like that a name-sake. I say we demand that the city change it and let native and Black residents choose what to call it.”

But the man who originated the idea of dubbing the stretch of Maricopa Road through town as John Wayne Parkway does not agree.

“Isn’t that unreal?” said Mike Ingram, founder and chairman of El Dorado Holdings, which developed Rancho El Dorado, The Duke golf course, The Villages and The Lakes.

‘HE WASN’T RACIST. NEVER EVER’

Ingram said he introduced the idea, but insisted it was the residents of Maricopa and Ak-Chin who wanted to name the road John Wayne Parkway to honor the impact he had on the area for many years.

Ingram said rehashing one interview from 49 years ago was “Johnny come lately.”

“He wasn’t racist. Never ever,” Ingram said.

The interview’s content has been available since it was first published, and Wayne was always public about his right-wing politics. The exchange in the interview getting the most notice now came about after Wayne brought up controversial political activist Angela Davis.

“PLAYBOY: Angela Davis claims that those who would revoke her teaching credentials on ideological grounds are actually discriminating against her because she’s black. Do you think there’s any truth in that?
“WAYNE: With a lot of blacks, there’s quite a bit of resentment along with their dissent, and possibly rightfully so. But we can’t all of a sudden get down on our knees and turn everything over to the leadership of the blacks. I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.”

Long-time Maricopa resident Alice Johnson McKinney, who knew Wayne well as the wife of the actor’s business partner, Louis Johnson, said she never heard him express such sentiments.

“No, no. I had been with him on trips, giving out cards to his fans,” she said. “I didn’t see that. He had friends who were black in the movie business. We had Black people with him here at our home.”

‘THEY PAINED HIM AS WELL’

McKinney said she and her late husband, Louis, took Wayne with them to Las Vegas for a Charlie Pride concert, visited the singer and his wife Rozene in the country entertainer’s suite and had dinner with them. That evening resulted in a photograph of Pride and Wayne that Pride used in his autobiography.

She said she heard nothing bigoted from Wayne, though they all laughed at the seeming irony of Pride having a white maid.

John Wayne, 1971
John Wayne, in a photo from 1971, the year of his controversial interview with Playboy magazine. (Source: Wikipedia)

“I never knew him to be discriminatory toward anyone,” McKinney said, “unlike our president.”

She talked with Gretchen Wayne, the widow of Wayne’s oldest son Michael, and with Ethan Wayne, the actor’s youngest son, about the situation in Orange County. Gretchen told her the situation comes up every few years, but she doesn’t think the movement will succeed.

Ethan Wayne is part of a group that started a petition to keep the name of the airport and has gathered “many, many signatures.” He also told her he didn’t think the change will be made.

In a statement released through TMZ, Ethan Wayne said the family knows his father’s words 50 years ago were hurtful, adding “They pained him as well, as he realized his true feelings were wrongly conveyed.”

Ethan Wayne’s statement also claims his father’s archival records show he did not support white supremacy. “Those who knew him knew he judged everyone as an individual and believed everyone deserved an equal opportunity. He called out bigotry when he saw it.”

‘THAT WAS THE ‘60s AND ‘70s’

Henry Wade, a member of Maricopa City Council, said he sees the “major trend in correcting things that were wrong” by taking down monuments celebrating the confederacy in the South. The situation with John Wayne’s name is difficult.

He said he wanted to see exactly what Wayne said before making a judgment, “to see if it was something he felt in his heart of hearts.”

Wade said no constituents have approached him about the matter. He also recognizes the discomfort such words bring into community conversations.

“Certainly, if it’s someone you have high regard for, you don’t want to believe that they would say such things or feel such a way,” Wade said, adding that in the era, “that was the ‘60s and ‘70s, I think there are a lot of people who said and did things they wouldn’t want to be held accountable for today and maybe not even feel the same way.”

The Playboy interview, besides including a couple of common-at-the time but derisive terms for gays, also hit a sore spot with Wayne’s take on Native American circumstances, including:

“PLAYBOY: For years American Indians have played an important—if subordinate—role in your Westerns. Do you feel any empathy with them?
“WAYNE: I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them, if that’s what you’re asking. Our so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.”

McKinney said she was called some years ago by the Wall Street Journal asking if John Wayne should not be honored “because he had killed so many Indians in his movies.”

“I said, ‘You know, it’s not real life. It’s just movies.’”

The question of removing John Wayne’s name from the Parkway has come up on several Maricopa social media platforms in the past week, but much of the response has been strong pushback.

“I think it’s really sad,” McKinney said.

From its beginning, Rancho El Dorado has identified itself tightly with the persona of John Wayne. Though a convenient selling point, Ingram said it wasn’t so much the celebrity factor as the history.

“They knew him. They respected him, Maricopa and Ak-Chin and Stanfield,” Ingram said. “He was so good to that whole community.”


What do you think? Should John Wayne’s name be removed from the parkway and the businesses receive new addresses?

 

After a uniquely challenging spring, summer came to Maricopa bearing even more questions about the future. But July in particular brings an opportunity for perspective, a look back on the effect of the $55 million overpass project during the first anniversary of its opening, in this month’s issue of InMaricopa magazine, in mailboxes now.

On our cover is one perspective of how the midtown landscape has been changed. The grade separation has also affected residents and businesses, for better or worse, and this issue evaluates some of that consequence.

July also means school is just around the corner. It is bound to be a beginning unlike any other. In the coming weeks, schools will be training up faculty and staff for the new processes and protocols. At the forefront are the Health Services staff, examining all health threats, and psychological counselors, preparing families and staff. They spoke to us about the challenges ahead.

Also ahead is Arizona’s monsoon season, with its inevitable dust storms and flash floods. On that note, we look at Maricopa’s struggle with the floodplain and flood zone designations. The City is back at it, trying to solve the problems the floodplain causes for development. They hope they are onto something at last with its plans for the Santa Cruz Wash, and we examine what it could all mean.

This issue also has unusual questions for city council candidates, gardening tips for hot July, a look at an HOA dispute, a guide for fixing up the bathroom for seniors and much more.

Happy 244th Independence Day, and happy reading.

 

Raquel Hendrickson
Editor

All masked up for a safe environment, Store Manager Baron Bedgood (left) and trainee David Henderson were on hand for the opening of the new Walgreens this week. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

After a 13-year wait, the new Walgreens opened its doors Monday.

The store at 41840 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Hwy. was built before the Great Recession as a future Walgreens, but the company never opened as it waited for the right time, financially.

Store Manager Baron Bedgood said it relieves the pressure on the Walgreens on John Wayne Parkway.

The store opened with little fanfare except the “Now Open” sign on the front of the building. It drew in about 100 customers its first day, Bedgood said.

“We just want to let everyone know we’re here and would love to have everyone drop in,” he said.

The store, which is about 9,000 square feet, has a pharmacy, photo department and a wine-and-beer section. It has an area for a beauty consultant once the safety protocols for COVID-19 allow.

Opening during a pandemic hasn’t been easy. Initially, it was meant to open in April, but coronavirus caused slowdowns and shortages. The pharmacy is about 95% operational as they await some stock.

The store has 11 employees. They work within the company’s safety guidelines to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Bedgood moved to the area from Tucson. He has been with Walgreens for 14 years. He said he worked a couple months at the John Wayne Parkway location when the manager was on leave and saw first-hand just how busy it was. The new store is meant to give Maricopa’s eastside residents easier access.

He said those who have prescriptions at the JWP Walgreens can have them transferred over to the new store in a matter of seconds.

Butterfield Elementary and other schools in Maricopa are waiting for official start dates for the new school year. Photo by Bob McGovern

 

Gov. Doug Ducey’s announcement Tuesday that the start of school will be delayed caused some chaos among education administrators at the local and state level.

Ducey said the goal is to start school Aug. 17 as the state battles increasing cases of COVID-19. Afterward in the actual executive order, it was clarified that online classes could start earlier. State Superintendent Kathy Hoffman, who did not participate in the governor’s briefing, scrambled to work through apparent discrepancies in today’s executive order and one released last week.

Those discrepancies have funding implications.

Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board had scheduled a special meeting today to set a new start date for classes. The official opening of school was set for July 23 before the pandemic struck. Ducey’s announcement came just three-and-a-half hours before the meeting.

The board had expected to talk about starting the first week of August. MUSD Superintendent Tracey Lopeman said she had put together a half-dozen options for a timeline, but the governor’s announcement blew that up.

Though having a lengthy discussion about the situation, the board ultimately voted to postpone a decision on the start date until its July 8 meeting. The hope is by then it will have clarity from the state.

Lopeman said the administration is “looking for very clear, black-and-white guidance,” which she said is currently like looking for “a needle in a haystack.”

She presented information on possibilities. One would have all students in online classes starting on July 27 and then resuming brick-and-mortar or hybrid classes on Aug. 17. The other had all options beginning on Aug. 17.

“My concern is, I don’t know that if teachers will be prepared to do virtual by July 27,” board member Torri Anderson said.

While working to ensure teachers are ready to teach excellently online, students are comfortable learning remotely and parents understand the expectations, the district also must make sure teacher contracts are fulfilled.

The remote learning for the new year is expected to be more stringent than programs in place across the state for the fourth quarter of last year. Students will be answerable for their grades and their attendance.

Board President AnnaMarie Knorr said teachers and parents need to understand the new virtual classroom will be different and there will be accountability. She also pressed the importance of getting children back in real classrooms.

“My daughter is starting kindergarten this fall,” Knorr said. “How is she going to virtual-school? It’s a joke.”

Curriculum Director Wade Watson said teachers are at varying levels of comfort with teaching online. Learning the basic platform takes four to five hours of training.

IT Director Christine Dickinson said she and her staff are working extensively on an induction plan as the online model has changed.

“We’re going to rise to the challenge whatever is put in front of us,” she said, adding an “amazing group” of technical integration specialists are coming on board.

Krista Roden, director of Teaching & Learning, said teachers “are ready to support whatever model we choose.”

Board member Patti Coutré said it was important not to rush the process.

 

Exceptional Healthcare Hospital
A sign promoting a new "community hospital" appeared Monday morning at SR 347 and Honeycutt Avenue. Photo by Bob McGovern

When a signboard went up Monday on John Wayne Parkway announcing a “community hospital” coming soon, eyebrows were raised at City Hall.

Exceptional Healthcare posted signs on the northwest corner of State Route 347 and Honeycutt Avenue. The signs quickly became noticed as a collision stopped traffic near the intersection at midday.

Mayor Christian Price said his understanding is the plans are for a surgery center and emergency room. Exceptional Healthcare is based in Texas.

The company did not have a city permit to erect the sign, however. Neither has it submitted paperwork for the pre-application process let alone a building permit.

“We haven’t had any applications,” Community Development Director Nathan Steele said.

He added the City has now had a conversation with the company about the importance of following the process.

Price said he doesn’t think that pending project will interfere with any future plans for a full-service hospital, which is still “in the works.”

For several years, Dignity Health has owned more than 18 acres on the northeast corner of SR 347 and Smith-Enke Road, behind CVS and Freddy’s, but has not announced any plans to develop it.

Gov. Doug Ducey talks to the press Monday.

Bars, gyms and movie theaters will be shutting down again, and school kids will have more weeks of vacation.

Gov. Doug Ducey announced today all Arizona on-campus schools will be out of session until at least Aug. 17, which he described as a target date.

Maricopa Unified School District will discuss what all that means in a special meeting tonight. The meeting was already planned specifically to talk about delaying the start of school after July 23.

Starting at 8 p.m. today, bars, gyms, theaters and water parks must close, according to the gubernatorial order. Ducey said they would be closed for a month, again aspirational timing.

As he did during last week’s briefing, Ducey emphasized the state is heading in the wrong direction in its COVID-19 case trends.

The number of confirmed local cases of the virus has climbed to more than 300. Maricopa ZIP code 85138 now has had 241 cases, and ZIP code 85139 has had 112.

Statewide, cases now total 74,533, with 3,382 deaths. Pinal County Health Services is reporting 3,417 cases and 63 related deaths.

“If you don’t need to go out, don’t go out,” Ducey said.

His order also prohibits any gatherings of 50 or more people. Public pools can have no more than 10 people in or near the pool.

On Monday night, the City of Maricopa announced the Copper Sky Multigenerational Complex will close for at least 30 days in response to the governor’s executive order. Members will not be billed for services for July. Additional information will be sent at a later date to members about the impact of the closure.

Open swim at the aquatic center will also be closed for at least 30 days in response to the specific stipulations included in Ducey’s executive order in regard to public pools.

“To adhere to the safety standards of operating open swim and the prohibitions in the Executive Order, unfortunately closing open swim at Copper Sky for the next 30 days is the best way to protect residents and staff both inside and outside of the pool,” said Community Services Director Nathan Ullyot in a news release.

The swimming pools at Copper Sky were among the City’s earliest casualties to COVID-19 mitigation measures. As of May 30, the competition and leisure pools, water slide and climbing wall had reopened.

As discussed last week, Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board plans to meet in special session Monday at 6:30 p.m. to discuss changing the date of the first day of school.

Opening day is scheduled for July 23. The district is currently using a modified schedule that includes two-week breaks for fall, winter and spring.

This week’s agenda states delaying the start of the school year is recommended “due to the unpredictability of the data associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Arizona has drawn national attention as a hot zone for the coronavirus.

During the June 24 meeting, Bernadette Russoniello, a counselor at the high school who is also a mother of students and a spouse of a teacher, asked the board to consider delaying the school year or opening fully online. She said she is “terrified” of returning to campus under current conditions.

To accommodate all students and alleviate health fears, the district has put together a plan that would provide education models to be in place for the first semester. Those include the traditional on-campus, brick-and-mortar instruction model that would engage a litany of health protocols, a fully online, real-time instruction model and a hybrid model that would have students on campus part of the time and online part-time.

For the moment, only the fully on campus and the fully online models are completely developed. It is doubted the hybrid model would be set by July 23.

Sue Swano, president of the Maricopa Education Association, said the organization took issue with some of the stipulations entailed in the brick-and-mortar model. She wrote to the board, stating staff and students should be able to move around throughout the day rather than be confined to one classroom.

“MEA fully understands that it is easier to trace contact from person to person if someone tests positive for COVID-19 , but we also know for mental health reasons, it is not best practice to be contained in the classroom for seven to eight hours a day.”

While nursing professionals at the district have asked that students wear face masks on buses and when entering campus, wearing face masks all day is not feasible. As planned, elementary students and their teachers would stay within their cohorts in the classroom, where they would not have to wear a mask, and outside for recess. MEA, on the other hands, suggests wearing masks or face shields in class.

The discussion and decision about delaying the start of the school year is the only action item on Monday’s agenda.

Roadwork on Main Street (formerly Pershing Street in the Heritage District) will add sidewalks and landscaping. Photos by Raquel Hendrickson

The former Pershing Street, now Main Street, is undergoing a transformation, and it’s only a small part of overall changes planned for one of the oldest sections of town.

A Maricopa Station Overlay amendment was previewed Thursday. Rodolfo Lopez, deputy director of Community Development, said the change was “not to remove uses already prescribed” but to add opportunities.

Streets in the Maricopa Townsite area of the Heritage District were renamed in February.

The ultimate goal is to create a pedestrian-friendly commercial/residential area from Honeycutt Road to the railroad tracks and “foster that vibrant feel” of visual interest that pays homage to the old Stagecoach Days. The first step was changing the name of the streets.

The design standards will be similar to those in the 2015 Mixed Use Heritage Zoning Map. Lopez said those standards were responsible for the architectural interest of the Don Pearce Fire Station on Edison Road, the new fire administration building next to it and the new AAMCO building on John Wayne Parkway.

The area impacted by the overlay amendment is bounded by Honeycutt Road, the western border of Senita, Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway and Maricopa Road.

The future project could, but is not guaranteed to, include a new Amtrak station. The amendments will allow a wider variety of businesses. The overlay applies to new construction but also allows for the expansion and enhancement of existing housing.

As part of the project, Main Street is being upgraded. The work has pulled all but local traffic out of the area. The roadwork is expected to be completed in September. When finished, it will have room for parking, sidewalks and landscaping, including trees.

“In a few months, this street is going to be completely different,” said Judy Ramos, revitalization and transit coordinator.

A screening “wall” is being installed along Plainview Street and next to the Silver Horizon railcar from the California Zephyr on Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway, which is called Mercado (Market) Street in that section of town.

“It’s a very nice project and its coming along very quickly,” Ramos said.

An open house on the Maricopa Station Overlay is scheduled July 23. It goes before the Planning & Zoning Commission July 27 and the City Council in August.

Pillars are in place in the area along Plainview and MCGH for a screening fence.

 

A sample vision of a “Maricopa Station” from the strategic plan. Whether actually a station or not, it is planned as a commercial area and gathering place.

 

The current Amtrak station west of the overpass.

The Heritage District, also known as Old Maricopa, is the focus of ideas for a CDBG grant.

Pinal County wants to give away $130,000.

Specifically, it wants to fund Community Development Block Grants in Maricopa. The county was designated an “urban county” last year, meaning it can receive CDBG program funds directly from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development rather than through the state.

This fiscal year, that means $1 million for unincorporated areas and $130,000 each for Maricopa, Florence, Eloy and Mammoth.

The county’s grants administrator, Heather Patel, said a CDBG project can involve a block, a street or a neighborhood, as long as at least 51% of the population in the designated area is determined to be of low or moderate income. That does not apply to Maricopa as a whole but does describe some areas.

“Ultimately, your community will decide upon what project you’re going to do, and the Board of Supervisors will decide on the projects the unincorporated portions of the county will do,” Patel said at a meeting of the Heritage District Advisory Committee. “Then we submit that information to HUD.”

Projects must have an urgent need and must address “slum and blight.” She said that means the project should be in a redevelopment area.

The Heritage District is undergoing a revitalization effort in the wake of the completion of the overpass, which runs through the middle of it. CDBG projects can include streets, sidewalks, community facilities, parks roads, even sewers.

Deputy City Manager Kazi Haque said an effort to replace Rotary Park as a recreation area in the Heritage District could qualify. That park and its swimming pool were removed during work on the grade-separation project.

An Owner-Occupied Housing Rehabilitation program that died for lack of interest in the Heritage District may also qualify if the City decides to bring it back in future fiscal year. Judy Ramos, revitalization and transit coordinator, said only six residents had shown interest this year, and only two completed the application process.

Ramos said suspicions and reservations resulted from misinformation spread in the neighborhood and the City’s communication limitations during COVID-19 protocols. But the purposes of that program align with CDBG goals.

Residents of the City of Maricopa or unincorporated areas of Pinal County have about a month to turn in ideas.

“By July 24, the City needs to have an identified project and submit it to the county,” Patel said.

The timeline has projects starting in March.

Haque said as ideas take form, they will be run by the Heritage District Committee for their input, and it will be discussed again at their July meeting.

Learn more about Pinal County CDBG at https://pinal.gov/Grants/Pages/CDBG.aspx.

Past county projects included housing rehabilitation and waterline improvements.

How have you been shopping since COVID-19?

Transaction privilege tax, often simplified as TPT or sales tax, is an indicator of consumer activity in any given area. Along with other economic meters, it gauges how people are spending their money.

These data have drawn particular interest during COVID-19 and locally have drawn surprise. A rise in unemployment, for instance, did not appear to slow consumerism in Maricopa. While the pandemic forced the closure of non-essential businesses, shoppers found their items at essential businesses. Instead of buying a shirt at a local boutique, shoppers bought clothes at big-box stores.

That shifted who pocketed the money. So, there has not yet been a dramatic fall in overall business this spring. Maricopa’s sales tax collection stayed on the same trend as previous years while maintaining a growth gap over last year.

Maricopa sales tax collections have been on trend despite the pandemic. Data: ADOR

Because of the shift in shopping patterns, however, individual businesses are suffering and in danger of going under.

According to the Arizona Department of Revenue, many businesses are struggling to meet their TPT payment deadlines. Officials are working with them on a case-by-case basis, including applications for a late-payment/late-filing penalty abatement program.

“The Arizona Department of Revenue prioritizes working with customers rather than taking enforcement actions when reasonable as this approach is more beneficial to the taxpayer and efficiently serves state and municipal interests,” the department stated in a news release.

For Pinal County and Maricopa, a continuously strong classification has been contracted construction. It has remained the biggest source of monthly TPT funds.

The fallout of businesses in arrears in rent or who lost clients or loaded up their credit with loans to get by may yet be felt across the community as harshly as it has been felt by individuals.

Sales tax collections usually slide a bit during summer as many families go on vacation and the heat keeps visitors at bay and limits community events. Vacations and travel are not anticipated to be as popular this year. The dramatic increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases in June is also expected to impact business and consumerism.

Casting doubt that the district will be prepared to start school July 23 as tentatively scheduled, the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board will look at changing the timeline.

Board members are looking at postponing the first day up to two weeks and will meet in special session to make that decision.

Wednesday, the board looked at the options for launching the 2020-21 year.

Superintendent Tracey Lopeman, Ed.D., said the administration and board had been considering delaying the start of the new school year since May. Several aspects to coming back are changing daily based on state and national responses to COVID-19.

“I’m going to buy a T-shirt with an asterisk – ‘Subject to change,’” Lopeman said.

Board member Patti Coutre suggested the district wait until Aug. 5. Board member Torri Anderson suggested Aug. 7.

“I don’t think everyone is emotionally ready to come back right now,” Coutre said.

Anderson agreed.

“Until we have people in our audience, I don’t know why we could have students in our classroom,” she said.

The administration has limited the number of people allowed in the board room during meetings.

Lopeman said a delay would probably mean taking a week out of the fall and spring breaks, and reworking contracts. A delay may also lengthen the amount of time families have to decide their preferred option for coming back to class.

Today, Gov. Doug Ducey announced $270 million more from AZCares for reopening schools. That will help MUSD fully develop its hybrid model. At the moment, models for brick-and-mortar classes and online-only classes mostly have developed framework.

Curriculum Director Wade Watson said the online model would have Advanced Placement and Honors courses available, though possibly not to the same scale.

MUSD had accredited its Virtual Academy for grades six through 12 this year. Wade said the governor’s action allows them to make Virtual Academy Jr., for kindergarten through fifth grade, available as it applies for accreditation.

Technology Integration Specialist Christine Dickinson said the district will be technologically prepared for fully online or hybrid infrastructure.

During the last quarter of the year, only seniors were guaranteed personal devices. This year, the district will exceed 1-to-1 in devices for all students.
Board member Jim Jordan expressed concern for the credit-deficient students who attend Ram Academy. “I know they’re there for a reason. They need a high touch,” he said.

Watson said those students can have a combination of online learning and live teaching.

“Should there be students in Ram Academy who choose to stay home or look at hybrid-type model, we can accommodate that,” Watson said. “It’s just critical, if they are not physically present, that we reach out to them on a daily basis and provide synchronous, video-type instruction so they don’t get lost in the shuffle.”

The district is still deciding if face masks will be mandatory in classrooms. The district is supplying face masks to teachers and may provide face shields.

“Maybe wearing face masks is what allows us to come back at all,” Lopeman said.

Tonight, Maricopa Unified School District will present the first draft of its “Welcome Back” plan as it prepares to start classes July 23 in the wake of COVID-19. Tomorrow, everyone can begin choosing their preferred option as the district touts its flexibility.

MUSD received survey responses from 3,073 parents and 636 staff regarding their preferences and concerns.

That survey showed 45% of parents wanted a brick-and-mortar setting for classes, while 44% of teachers preferred a hybrid of onsite and online learning. The opinions of parents and teachers were mostly in line on questions of face mask use and daily temperature checks.

The framework for returning will be published on the district website Thursday. It includes a caveat: “Plans for a hybrid model that integrates in-person and remote learning are in development and highly dependent on several external factors.  Therefore, we cannot commit to launching this model on the first day of school.”

Families will have the option of choosing to go to school in person on campus or attending class via the newly established Virtual Academy. All students will receive a personal, dedicated device.

Health Services has had video meetings with custodial staff to go through the cleaning and disinfecting process. Because social distancing is not considered feasible on a school bus, school nurses are encouraging masks on the bus or from their drop-off point onto school grounds. If parents want their children to wear a mask in more settings, that can be accomplished up to a point.

“Children should not sit in a mask all day long in a room,” District Nurse Lizabeth Stephens, R.N., said.

Meetings between Health Services and the principals were organized to get everyone’s ideas about how to put best health advice into practice. The Arizona Interscholastic Association’s COVID-19 guidelines are also a point of conversation.

Though meals, art and music may be in the classroom for elementary students, the daily schedule will be regular. The district is also expecting afterschool programs like 21st Century and the new Boys & Girls Club to operate in their designated locations.

“We are preparing to be there when school starts,” said Matthew Lemberg, executive director of Boys & Girls Clubs of the Casa Grande Valley, which is launching its Maricopa club this year.

The middle schools and high school will have “virtual clubs” available.

The online learning platforms will have “daily synchronous instruction” such as ZOOM or Google Meets. It is expected to be more direct learning experience than the distance learning of last quarter.

Starting tomorrow, families can choose their option at www.musd20.org/musdsafe.

Learn more about the district’s physical and mental health preparation in the July issue of InMaricopa magazine.

On a morning when three governors required anyone traveling to their state from Arizona to be self-quarantined for 14 days, Pinal County Board of Supervisors rejected a request to mandate residents wear face coverings in public.

The vote on a resolution encouraging rather than requiring use of face coverings was unanimous, though the debate was animated and emotional. One supervisor tried to insert an amendment that would require a mandate to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The County Attorney’s Office also had its suggestion for mandated face masks in certain circumstances be overruled.

Supervisors also dismissed the opinion of the county health services director by saying available medical opinion was contradictory.

According to board clerk Natasha Kennedy, a total of 424 county residents wrote the board in favor of mandated face coverings while 115 wrote in opposition.

Republican Supervisors Todd House and Mike Goodman said the situation was “all about politics and nothing but politics.”

“We can’t take away personal responsibility,” Goodman said, later adding, “When we mandate and take away individual rights, we are passing a threshold that is very dangerous.”

After hearing from members of the public in person and in writing, the supervisors met in closed session for more than an hour before returning to discuss the issue in public.

Those who wrote in favor of a mandate said residents in the county were ignoring social distancing and did not care about the wellbeing of others. One said the supervisors were refusing to hear the majority. Several compared mandating face coverings to mandating the use of seatbelts.

One spoke of being told to stay home if she was afraid of going out without a mask mandate and said her family had already been at home for months.

“Those who won’t wear masks should stay home,” she wrote. “It’s their turn.”

Those opposed to the mandate argued that masks were dangerous, and a mandate infringed on their rights. They said they would vote against anyone who supported a mandate.

Dr. Shauna McIsaac, who heads the county health services department, said she supported a provision that was ultimately removed from the resolution.

“I strongly believe masks should be mandated,” McIsaac said.

She said the scientific evidence shows wearing a face mask helps limit the spread of COVID-19. Without a vaccine, face masks were the only way for residents to protect themselves in public, she said.

Democrat Supervisor Pete Rios said he voted for the resolution because it was “better than nothing” but wanted a mandate. Rios was the only supervisor to wear a mask in the meeting room. When supervisors removed proposed language that would have created a mandate, he proposed an amendment to add the mandate back in, to no avail.

The supervisors bandied the words of Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, questioning the use and effectiveness of wearing a mask. Fauci had stated March 8 in a “60 Minutes” interview on CBS, “Right now in the United States, people should not be walking around with masks,” and added they could be contributing to a mask shortage for healthcare workers.

Afterward, as COVID-19 spread and protective equipment more available, Fauci told the investment site TheStreet, “Masks are not 100 percent protective. However, they certainly are better than not wearing a mask.”

Tuesday, Fauci gave the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce his advice: “Plan A, don’t go in a crowd. Plan B, if you do, make sure you wear a mask,” Fauci said.

At Wednesday’s supervisors’ meeting, Chairman Anthony Smith of Maricopa, a Republican, said he wished the medical information was more clear. He also said the sheriff’s office would be overwhelmed with enforcement issues if mask-wearing became a mandate.

The resolution encouraging the use of face coverings in public is applicable to the unincorporated areas of Pinal County.

Text that was added after Friday’s meeting by County Attorney Kent Volkmer but then removed by supervisors today included:
    Face Coverings shall be mandated in the following circumstances:
a. When an individual has tested positive for COVID-19 or has been informed by Pinal County Public Health that they have been in close contact         with someone who as tested positive they are required to wear a Face Covering in public until they no longer test positive or 14 days has lapsed,         which ever shall be applicable;
b. Whenever the public are inside or outside engaging or seeking Pinal County services unless it poses a greater physical or mental health risk           or one’s disability or religious beliefs prevent wearing a Face Covering.

The final text of the county resolution:

RESOLUTION NO.
062420 LSE 02
RESOLUTION OF THE PINAL COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS ENCOURAGING MITIGATION EFFORTS IN THE FORM OF FACE COVERINGS

WHEREAS, due to existing cases of COVID-19 within the State of Arizona and community spread of the illness within the State, on March 11, 2020, Governor Douglas A. Ducey declared a state of emergency for Arizona for COVID-19; and,

WHEREAS, multiple cases of COVID-19 have been identified within Pinal County and the situation is rapidly evolving with person-to-person transmission and continued community transmission; and

WHEREAS, the conditions and risk of increased exposures to residents of Pinal County have caused the Pinal County Board of Supervisors to declare a public health emergency; and issue a Declaration of Local State of Emergency on March 20, 2020; and

WHEREAS, A.R.S. § 26-311 authorizes the Chairman of the County Board of Supervisors, during such emergency, to govern by proclamation and have the authority to impose all necessary regulations to preserve the peace and order of the county; and

WHEREAS, ON June 17, 2020, Arizona Governor Douglas A. Ducey issued Executive Order 2020-40, Containing the Spread of COVID-19 Continuing Arizona Mitigation Efforts, that allows a county, based on conditions in its jurisdiction, to adopt policies regarding the wearing of Face Coverings in public for the purpose of mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and that any enforcement of such policy shall focus first on educating and working to promote best practices to accomplish the goal of mitigation and that individuals be given an opportunity to comply prior to any enforcement action being taken; and

WHEREAS, the CDC and the ADHS continue to update their guidance for prevention and mitigation of COVID-19 with additional information to help individuals make better decisions about going out while preventing and mitigating the spread of the virus; and

WHEREAS, published June 11, 2020, the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America concluded “wearing of face masks in public corresponds to the most effective means to prevent interhuman transmission, and this inexpensive practice, in conjunction with simultaneous social distancing, quarantine, and contact tracing, represents the most likely fighting opportunity to stop the COVID-19 pandemic,”; and

WHEREAS, the Pinal County Board of Supervisors recognize that it is critical to also maintain six-feet physical distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19, the use of Face Coverings, as recommended by the CDC and the ADHS, can further aid in slowing the spread of the virus permitting offices, businesses, venues and activities in Pinal County to remain open; and

WHEREAS, the Pinal County Board of Supervisors adopts the Requirements for Businesses issued in conjunction with Executive Order 2020-40, issued June 17, 2020 (attached hereto as Exhibit A).

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that a public health emergency continues to exist necessitating the Pinal County Board of Supervisors to adopt the following policy and order applicable in unincorporated Pinal County, encouraging Face Coverings to be worn if six-feet of physical distance can not be maintained in public effective June 25, 2020.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED:

  1. “Face Covering” means a covering made of cloth, fabric or other soft or permeable material, without holes, that covers the nose and mouth and surrounding areas of the lower face, or a full plastic face shield. A covering that hides or obscures the wearer’s eyes or forehead is not a Face Covering.

  2. All members of the public are highly encouraged to, wear a Face Covering in the following situations:
    a. When they are boarding or riding on public transportation or paratransit or are in a taxi, private car service, or ride-sharing vehicle. (This Resolution does not require any person to wear a Face Covering while driving alone, or exclusively with other members of the same family or household, in a motor vehicle).

  3. All Pinal County Departments and Elected Officials, contractors and volunteers are encouraged to:
    a.
    Require their employees, contractors, owners, and volunteers to wear a Face Covering at the workplace or when performing work off-site any time the employee, contractor, owner or volunteer is:
    i.
    interacting in person with any member of the public;
       ii. working in any space visited by members of the public,
    iii. working in any space where food is prepared or packaged for sale or distribution to others;
    b.
    Take reasonable measures, such as posting signs, to remind their customers and the public that they wear a Face Covering while inside of or waiting in line to enter the facility, or location.
    c.
    Public Safety Employees and Detention Officers are not required to wear a Face Covering while on duty, unless required by the Sheriff.

  4. It is recommended that children under two years or younger not wear a Face Covering.

  5. Persons who are engaged in outdoor work or recreation such as walking, hiking, bicycling, or running, are encouraged to wear a face covering when they are unable to maintain six-feet distance from others. (This Resolution does not recommend any person to wear a Face Covering while swimming).

  6. Persons working alone in separate office spaces or in non-public workplaces where there is not more than adequate physical distancing area, based on the size and number of people in the space (indoors and out of doors) are encouraged to wear a Face Covering.

  7. When wearing a Face Covering or mask poses a greater mental or physical health, safety, or security risk, such as anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the cover without assistance, the wearing of Face Covering will not be required. A person who declines to wear a Face Covering because of a medical condition or whose religious beliefs prevent the wearing of a Face Covering shall not be required to produce documentation verifying the condition, or belief. Persons who are hearing impaired or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired, when the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication shall not be required to wear a Face Covering.

  8. When eating or drinking in public at a restaurant, bar, or other food or beverage establishment a Face Covering is encouraged where individuals are unable to maintain a distance of six-feet away from persons who are not members of the same household or residence. A mask or Face Covering is encouraged to be worn when entering or exiting any such establishment.
  9. Any enforcement of this Resolution shall focus first on educating and working to promote best practices to accomplish the goal of mitigation. Before any enforcement action is taken, a person shall be notified and given an opportunity to comply.

  10. This Resolution shall remain in effect for the duration of the COVID-19 Pinal County Local State of Emergency or until lawfully amended or terminated.