Authors Articles byRaquel Hendrickson

Raquel Hendrickson

Raquel Hendrickson
1192 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.


Thirteen of 14 food establishments in the Maricopa area inspected by Pinal County health personnel from Aug. 16 to Sept. 15 received top marks.

The exception was a slight markdown for Rob’s Convenience, a store on Papago Road that did not have adequate hot water pressure in the hand-washing sink or its three-compartment sink.

EXCELLENT [No violations found]
Central Arizona College – Café
Central Arizona College – Culinary
Dollar General
F.O.R. Maricopa
Gyro Grill
Legacy Traditional School
Maricopa Elementary
Sequoia Pathway Academy – K-6
Sequoia Pathway Academy – Secondary
Shell – Dairy Queen
Shell – Food Mart
Sonic Drive-In

SATISFACTORY [Violations corrected during inspection]
Rob’s Convenience

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT [Critical items noted during inspection cannot be corrected immediately requiring follow-up inspection]

UNACCEPTABLE [Gross, unsanitary conditions necessitating the discontinuation of service]

Once upon a time, the items at the top of the wish list for Maricopans were a “sit-down restaurant” and a solution for State Route 347.

Today, restaurant needs have taken a back seat as a hospital facility now rivals 347 for residents’ demands, according to recent polling. For some residents, the two are tightly connected.

“With all the accidents on 347, a trauma center staffed with the best physicians would save lives,” Carol Kaye Robinson responded in an InMaricopa Facebook post. “A top surgical center would go hand-in-hand with the trauma center.”

“I had to take my child to the ER twice this past year. One for an eye infection, one for asthma,” Jessica Truckner added. “When you have a sick child, a 20-minute drive on the nightmare road that is the 347 can feel like an eternity. Not to mention all the women that drive out of town to deliver babies.”

While Maricopa has doctor’s offices, clinics and urgent care, residents want something more. What that would look like and what needs it would fulfill vary. So does the identity of the entity that would be most likely to build a facility.

“We have had a recent and productive meeting with Dignity Health regarding their future plans for Maricopa,” City Manager Ricky Horst said. “This effort continues to be a work in progress. Dignity has reaffirmed their commitment to the city.”

Dignity and Banner Health have both invested in the city. Dignity Community Care continues to own about 18 undeveloped acres behind Maricopa Station and CVS and runs the urgent care at 20750 N. John Wayne Parkway, which operates from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. It is connected to Mercy Gilbert Medical Center.

Meanwhile, Banner Health Center at 17900 N. Porter Road has primary care physicians, X-rays and labs. It is affiliated with Banner hospitals in Casa Grande and the Valley.

An online question at found 85 percent wanted an emergency room or trauma center, preferably operating 24 hours a day.

“We need a small hospital with an emergency room, much like what Banner Health is building at Alma School and the 202,” Brent Egnal said in InMaricopa’s social media conversation. “It’s not a massive hospital, but it will have everything you need or want at a hospital.”

A hospital facility would serve the unincorporated area around Maricopa, one resident pointed out.

“While I appreciate all the people who live in Maricopa proper are concerned with the drive time, putting a full-service hospital in Maricopa will help Stanfield, Mobile, Hidden Valley, etc.” Michele Mayhugh commented to InMaricopa’s online query. “We have 45 minutes to an hour drive to a hospital.”

Not everyone agrees a hospital is necessary in Maricopa.

“I do not think we need a hospital,” Dawn Brunn said. “Maybe have the urgent care 24 hours to start. We are less than 30 minutes from two hospitals. This isn’t the first time I lived in a town without a hospital. I knew we didn’t have one when I moved here in 2008. I do not mind driving if I need to go to the hospital.”

Luchia Young was even more emphatic. “A hospital in Maricopa is a big no. I want a private helicopter company w/pad available to fly me to a major hospital with trauma care. If I need a trauma one with a neuro surgeon, I don’t want to be held up in some small-town hospital where I will end up a vegetable. We do maybe need a 24-hour urgent care.”

For the many residents who have been vocal about the need for a hospital, the push is driven by personal experience.

“I had to drive my husband with a ruptured appendix to Chandler Regional Hospital for care, then watch him writhe in agony every time a he had to wait for a gunshot victim to be treated first,” Anna Jones shared.

“I just spent over a week at Chandler Hospital, and to get there took the most terrible ambulance ride, and [I] prayed the whole trip,” Thomas DeGraphenreed II wrote.

“Well, if we had a hospital, I wouldn’t have almost had my baby in the bathtub,” Erin Tucker added.

This story appears in the 2019 Heath Guide. Click photo to see more.

Though holding their own in the first quarter and starting with a 2-0 lead, the Maricopa High School football Rams had a mountain to climb when hosting Gilbert’s Campo Verde. One of the top-ranked teams in the state, the Coyotes won Friday night, 43-9.

Campo Verde is undefeated and leads the 5A San Tan region. Maricopa’s record fell to 3-4 (0-2). The Rams are ranked 20th in 5A. Maricopa, on fall break, next plays Oct. 18, hosting Williams Field, 5-2 (2-0). As the final home game, it will be senior night.

Three people were treated for non-life-threatening injuries. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

A collision at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Maricopa Road next to Copper Sky Regional Park resulted in non-life-threatening injuries Friday evening.

It is suspected a southbound vehicle turned left in front of northbound traffic and collided with the second vehicle, according to Maricopa Police Department. Three people were transported to a hospital as a precaution.

MPD, City of Maricopa Fire/Medical Department, AMR and Ak-Chin Police responded to the scene. Police directed northbound traffic around the incident, but MLK Boulevard was blocked off as first responders worked.


An AAMCO is planned among other businesses as part of the redevelopment of a parcel south of Aaron's on John Wayne Parkway.

Business briefs in Maricopa from Aug. 16 to Sept. 15:

AAMCO is building a 4,411-square-foot shop at 20215 N. John Wayne Parkway north of Maricopa Self Storage. It received a commercial permit for the project valued at $595,441 to be built by Henes Construction. It also received permits for turn lane and driveway off John Wayne Parkway and other improvements.

Ground was broken for a La Quinta Inn at Copper Sky Sept. 20. The hotel is planned for 89 rooms in four stories at 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

The former Pet Club is now Exceptional Pets at 21145 N. John Wayne Parkway. Managed by Bridgette Graeb, the location carries pet supplies and offers salon and spa services, including horse feed and tack.

Seeking to turn an old building in the Heritage District into office space, Gen Systems Inc. received a commercial tenant improvement permit for work at 45115 W. Garvey Ave., a property owned by Maricopa Heritage Pointe.

Heritage Pointe is reworking property in the Heritage District.

Aztec Ventures plans to open a comic book store, gaining a commercial tenant improvement permit for 20800 N. John Wayne Parkway, Suite 108.

The City of Maricopa filed notice of its plan to adopt new development fees. A public hearing on the matter is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 15 for adoption in November. The proposed maximum development fee on a single-family home is $5,473.

Sacate Pellet Mill put in a fire sprinkler for its northside hay office, a 4,230-square-foot structure at 38743 W. Cowtown Road. It is owned by Red River Cattle Company.

Wendy’s completed its fire hood suppression system and had its permit for a 348-square-foot patio addition before opening Aug. 29 in the former Carl’s Jr. at 21000 N. John Wayne Parkway.

The City granted a permit for Maricopa Police Department to install four shade canopies in its parking lot at 39675 W. Civic Center Plaza. The listed value was $120,000.

This item appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.

MHG Commercial Real Estate rendering of possible building at Estrella Gin.

Estrella Gin Business Park effectively was sold by the City to two companies for development.

Tuesday, Maricopa City Council approved the purchase agreement of 12.32 acres to J.E.T. Real Estate Holdings and 16.96 acres to Elpida LLC. The total purchase price between the two is $1.9 million.

Estrella Gin, which is located along Edison Road from Roosevelt Avenue to State Route 238, has been a focus of the City’s economic development department for years. In August, the City sold two acres to Mel’s Auto (NAPA Auto) for around $152,000.

The only structure on the acreage is the City of Maricopa Fire/Medical Department administrative office trailer, which is temporary as an admin building is being built across the street.

City Manager Ricky Horst said he “couldn’t be more delighted” to present to projects to the council for their vote. He said the projects create 275,000 square feet of mix of office, flex space, light industrial and warehouse.

“We’re talking about the full and complete development of the Estrella Gin Commerce Park,” Horst said.

The city is working with two different parties, but Woodglen Opportunities is the master developer working with Construction Solutions Company as the builder and contractor, Horst said.

The Elpida LLC portion of the development is controlled by developer Joe L. Cook. Realtor Shane Cook of MHG Commercial expects to lease office space of 1,000 square feet and up and offer build-to-suit construction of 10,000 square feet and larger.

Groundbreaking could be as early as the last quarter of this year. The companies are aiming for a diverse array of businesses to fill the space.

'Honestly, it was in worse shape than I could have ever imagined.'

Chief Brady Leffer in his office. Photo by Kyle Norby

: Yuma
Residence: Mesa (soon to be Gilbert)
Family: Fiancée and three grown children
Education: Bachelor’s degree in business management University of Phoenix; master’s degree in education Northern Arizona University
Previous experience: Chandler Fire Department volunteer, Mesa Fire and Medical Department captain, battalion chief, deputy chief and assistant chief, Upper Pine River Fire Protection District deputy chief

Brady Leffler has been chief of the City of Maricopa Fire/Medical Department since 2013 and is manning the organization through a city growth spurt. Currently under construction and scheduled to be finished next spring is an administration building that will replace a series of trailers that has housed the MFMD offices for years.

Remind us of your background.
I was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Moved to Arizona when I was very young, about a year old, and then grew up in Yuma, in hot Yuma. Loved it as a kid, didn’t want to stay there. My family moved up to Scottsdale. I went to high school in Scottsdale. I took a little bit of an interest in fire service, just from afar. Worked at Motorola for six years, but then volunteered for the fire department until such time as they had an opening for a volunteer. I had to test just like a regular employee. Volunteered for a couple of years for Chandler Fire, then volunteered for another year and a half with Mesa Fire, then started my career in 1986 with the City of Mesa. Spent just short of 25 years in the City of Mesa, retired as an assistant chief and moved up to Colorado. In Colorado I was a deputy chief for about a year. Didn’t really enjoy it. It was very different from what I was used to. Quite a few years behind the times. Then I got a call from a lot of friends that I had here in the Valley, said the City of Maricopa was looking for an interim fire chief. Would I be interested? And I said, ‘Not only yes, but heck yes.’ The interim city manager [Trisha Sorenson] was somebody I had worked with before in the City of Mesa. And I called her, and she said, ‘Send me your resume.’ And I sent her my resume, and she offered me a job the next day. About two months later, they offered me the full-time position.

You came into a department that was in a state, to put it mildly. How did you bring it around?
Honestly, it was in worse shape than I could have ever imagined. The morale was horrible. They were not meeting industry standards in any way, shape or form. The big positive side was the people were fantastic. The firefighters were really committed to doing the job. In my opinion, they just didn’t have a plan to do it right. So, I came in and I basically warned them that there’s going to be a lot of changes, and it’s been changing ever since. I brought a lot of the concepts from Mesa that were tried and true from a larger department that I think they needed. It was a long road, but I believe now we are positioned to be, and I believe we actually are, one of the better departments in the Valley. We go to regional training, and I know a lot of people in the Valley, and I get a lot of comments about the quality of our service. We’ve reduced our response times. We have developed long-range planning in terms of a five-year plan and a 10-year plan for where we want this department to go. We currently have four people in the Mesa Academy, and upon their graduation we will, in my opinion, reach full staffing. It will be the first time in six years.

How many people do you have in personnel?
There are 72 in the department. Frontline, 58 that are response personnel.

How would you describe your personnel right now?
Outstanding. I think everybody would say that, but this is true. We’ve got some real talent. My plan is to stay another three or so years. My focus now is setting this department up for the future with succession planning. The current city manager [Ricky Horst] was kind enough to let me make some reorganizational moves to bring some people in that I believe are very, very talented and capable of running this department. They just need some time. So, my focus has shifted from building the department to basically getting it ready to move in the next five, 10, 15, 20 years.

Photo by Kyle Norby

What do you think has been the greatest achievement of this department since you’ve been here?
Probably just the attitude. Honestly, the attitude was not good when I got here. There was no trust. The previous fire chief in particular, the one they had a vote of no-confidence on, they did not trust him. They did not trust anything that was put forth in terms of a plan. They didn’t feel like they had a voice. I’ve given them that voice. I’ve worked real hard with the labor group to build that relationship. I think that overall they believe in the administration now. They see a plan. They understand that we have a definite plan moving forward.

What are your greatest challenges right now?
The growth of the city is a challenge. There’s a lot of new businesses coming in. Our prevention bureau is at max right now. We’re using people from the field to come in and augment the amount of plans review and inspections and things like that. So we’re working on that real hard. Changing technologies. Electric vehicles. The dangers out there to the firefighters are substantial. They are much worse than when I was out in the field based on the new stuff that’s out there like battery storage stations and things like that. Just keeping up with the changing times in a very traditional service is a challenge.

You are getting a new administration building. How will that improve the operations of the department?
It kind of goes in line with the reorganization that we’ve just done. It basically puts people in the right places with the right tools to take this administration to a new level, to organize more accurately, to integrate with our surrounding partners, both mutual-aid and automatic-aid partners. We’re trying to do some of our own teaching. We are upgrading our technology in terms of getting the word out because sometimes it’s difficult with their schedules, so teleconferencing, things like that. I think it’s going to bring us to another professional level. When people come here to visit in this trailer, which is much better than what we used to have, it’s still difficult here sometimes when we have sensitive conversations we go to our cars because the walls are thin here. Sometimes it’s personnel-sensitive material we don’t want overheard. That will go away with the new building.

Perlman Architects designed the planned administration building for the Maricopa Fire/Medical Department.

What’s your favorite aspect of the new building?
Everything. The previous place to this one was old and run-down, and it had multiple, multiple problems. I won’t go into the details. This place, thanks in large part to ADOT because ADOT has helped us with this move, this is much better. But again, it’s still a trailer, and it’s still a mobile and it still has paper-thin walls, and we still have issues with rodents and the like. But, again, there’s a beautiful new building on the horizon, which is very welcome.

Do you use the snakes and bees for training?
In the City of Maricopa we get a lot of snake calls in the summertime, and so they get a lot of experience doing that. We’ve had bee problems here. We’ve had them roost on the corner of the building, so we had to have our guys come out and kind of shoo them away. They actually relocated on their own, but we were going into the back entrance for a while. Across the way there, we’ve had rattlesnakes inside. We’ve had rattlesnakes here but not inside. Yeah, that’ll get your attention in a hurry.

Half the city budget goes to fire and police. What cost-saving procedures to you have in place?
We look at, as far as the fleet is concerned, fuel efficiency. In terms of our large ladder truck, we use a ladder-tender concept. We put them in a smaller engine. About 80 to 85 percent of our calls are medical in nature. So, we ought not to take the big, large, ladder truck, but yet we equip the smaller, more nimble, more fuel-efficient truck with the necessary equipment in the event that they did get a call for a fire when they’re out. I know the City is looking at centralizing all the printers. There’s a lot going on now to reduce costs. We built the new building with efficiency in mind. We put in foam walls with concrete between. I believe it gives us an almost R50 rating on the walls, which is very energy-efficient. The cooling system was designed so its efficient. Just about everything we do, we try to scale back, do everything we can to reduce costs.

Is there any important equipment of programs that you don’t have because of cost constraints?
Not really. In six years, we’ve come a long, long way, and we’re basically to the point where I think we should be. Going forward, as this city continues to grow at the pace that it’s growing, there will be additional costs that will be necessary. A new station within the next seven to 10 years is going to be necessary, probably south of the tracks. I think a lot of the economic development is moving that direction. We’re pretty well built on the northern side of town. That will require more personnel. We eventually would like to explore running our own ambulance service. That’s somewhere down the road. We essentially are just preparing for growth. If it takes off like it did before, it’s going to be a challenge. Our mindset is to look forward and prepare for that.

The local firefighters’ union has an agreement with the City that includes a pension plan that doesn’t seem to impact their Social Security benefits. How does that work?
They’d probably answer that question better than I can. Essentially, they are part of the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System (PSPRS). The majority of the firefighters in the Valley that are part of that system do not pay Social Security, but way back when the City began, there were some issues with how that was orchestrated. So, they were charged with Social Security. The City made an agreement with them to help them with that because it was just a mistake at that time. I’m not sure if that answers your question, but there have been ongoing discussions about how to deal with that.

Is that important for getting quality hires for the department?
No. This is a very coveted position.

Why did you want to be a firefighter in the first place?
It’s funny, when I first started, I didn’t. I wanted to be a police officer. My oldest brother was a police officer. My dad, way way back, had a stint as a public safety person. I went to school to become a police officer. I had a really good instructor who was a judge and a former police officer in south Phoenix. Back in my day I had a temper, and some of the things he talked about and my brother talked about, I thought, ‘You know what, I’d rather be on the fire side.’ And I don’t regret it one bit. I have great respect for police officers. As a matter of fact, I think it’s one of the toughest times to be a police officer. My future wife is a retired Scottsdale Police officer, and I’ve got to tell you, I have the utmost respect for them. I wouldn’t change what I do for anything.

Do you commute?
I do. I just sold my home in Mesa, and I’m having a home built in Gilbert. Started to move here, but my fiancée’s business is within a 10-mile radius of her house, so that wouldn’t work.

What are you looking forward to most as far as where you want this department to go?
I think it’s kind of where I want it to be now in terms of structure, in terms of organization. I want to see increased training, I want to see more certified safety officers, and I want to see this department completely prepared for what I feel is going to be explosive growth in this city. Not to be behind that curve, if we can do some things now, get some things in place in terms of hiring, get some things in place as far as funding for stations and firetrucks and things like that and get that ready for the next five or 10 years, which I think is going to be amazing.

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

Vanessa Behrens (left) and Tammy Abernethy discuss the work being done at site of a future Hope Women's Center on McDavid Road. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Habitat for Humanity has been at work in a rare location for the organization – Maricopa.

Specifically, Habitat is helping to convert an old home into a center for a Christian nonprofit, Hope Women’s Center, which offers free services to teen girls and women facing any crisis. Habitat for Humanity is acting as general contractor for the renovation of a former rental property on McDavid Road north of Maricopa Meadows.

“Hope Women’s Center is a resource and referral center for women and teen girls facing any difficult life situation,” said Tammy Abernethy, CEO of Hope Women’s Center. “So, ages 13 and up and come. We do free life-skills classes, free mentoring, support groups, pregnancy testing. We have a free children’s center while moms are onsite taking classes.”

Habitat for Humanity is volunteer-based and known for building homes alongside the future homeowner, who otherwise might not be able to afford housing. The organization does not often receive calls from Maricopa, and its closest corporate office is in Peoria.

“We renovate and build new homes all the time,” said Todd Buckner, assistant construction director from Habitat’s Peoria office. “Habitat is partnering with Hope right now to oversee the site for them, their volunteers and their subs.”

He estimated the project would take nine to 10 weeks. Abernethy said, ideally, the renovation would be done by the end of the year.

“A lot of that’s going to depend on volunteers and on the availability of the contractors and the helpers to come up,” she said.

Early work at 45978 W. McDavid Road was cleaning out the building and hauling away decades of refuse. HWC has already seen helping hands, including RTM doing the thankless task of hauling an old trailer off the property.

Vanessa Behrens, a Maricopan who will manage the location, said there will eventually be a parking area and landscaping. From the inside, dumpsters were filled and walls were stripped out to get down to the basics.

“It’s got good bones, nice block,” Buckner said. “There’s no foundation issues, so it’s perfect to renovate.”

HWC received zoning for the project last spring. It will be the organization’s fifth location.

It is a half-mile from Maricopa High School and about a mile from the Family Advocacy Center. Abernethy said she hopes to work with both entities as well as Against Abuse “and other great organizations that are already here. We want to come along side and support what they’re doing. Our heart is partnership.”

She said typical clients are in poverty or a domestic violence situation or some kind of crisis. “It’s a safe place. It’s free. Our whole goal is, how do we help them restore, heal and move forward in their lives.”

Behrens formerly managed a pregnancy center in Maricopa. She said she realized the girls and women they were helping had more needs and issues to resolve than unplanned pregnancies.

“I was so excited to find Hope Women’s Center and then to have them come to Maricopa,” she said.

Maricopa’s A Heart for You Pregnancy Center merged with Hope Women’s Center in 2017.

Abernethy said along with free classes and referrals, HWC is organized to encourage clients to return. “Every time a woman comes, she’s earning points, and with her points she’s able to get material resources. We want to help women move from trauma to transformation.”

This story appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.

Junior Steven Forester scrambles against Higley Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Everything that worked for the Maricopa High School football team in its 49-12 win over winless Central a week ago did not work at all its in first region competition Friday at Higley High.

The 59-0 loss to the Knights evened the Rams’ overall record at 3-3.

“Our kids have to understand and learn that when you’re in big games and you come out and self-destruct, you can’t make mistakes,” head coach Brandon Harris said. “You’ve got to do the things that you’ve been coached to do. When you don’t, you lose games, you lose these games to good teams.”

The teams came into the game with identical records and looked evenly matched on paper. However, the Rams struggled to gain first downs from scrimmage (they did so just four times), let alone get near the end zone. The defense, meanwhile, left gaping holes for Higley running backs. By the middle of the third quarter, the referees were letting the clock run.

“The kids didn’t execute,” Harris said. “We’ve got to put them, I guess, in better positions to succeed.”

This week, the Rams come home to face undefeated Campo Verde, which sits atop 5A San Tan.

“We’ve got a lot of work, obviously. We’ve got to get their heads up,” Harris said, “make them understand there’s more games to be played, there’s more season left. Our goals are still intact.”

Harris said the region is not as strong as it was last year. With the young Maricopa team now having six games under their belts, he added, they can no longer use inexperience as an excuse.”

“They’ve got to be able to play a lot better than they did right now,” he said.

Against lesser teams, like Central, the Rams have been able to withstand their own mistakes, but against equal or better teams, those mistakes have turned into opposing touchdowns quickly. Maricopa has been outscored this season 181-123 while still hanging onto a .500 winning percentage.

Vehicles line up in front of Maricopa High School as classes are dismissed. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

After hearing data from its Transportation Department earlier this month, Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board gave approval for the purchase of seven vehicles for a total of just under $1 million Wednesday.

The purchase is comprised of three new 84-passenger school buses, two new 42-passenger special-needs school buses and two 14-passenger shuttles. The lease purchase agreement shows $199,962.68 annually through Jan. 1, 2024.

Preparing for the lease-purchase, Director of Transportation Sergio Pulido had already outlined for the board the current fleet situation amid a growing student population.

“In transportation, you always want to be an organizational culture that prioritizes people over programs and invests in the support of students and staff,” Pulido said. “Transportation will continue to transport students in a safe, friendly and efficient manner anywhere at any time – let it be transporting students to different school sites, on field trips, routes or even functions for the City of Maricopa.”

Annual numbers
48 buses (including vans and shuttles)
800,000 miles
160 square miles

Pulido said the district’s many unpaved roads are responsible for much of the wear and tear on buses.

Daily numbers
124 general-education routes
72 special-needs routes
315 special-needs students door-to-door

40 bus drivers
4 substitute bus drivers
9 substitute bus aides
10 non-CDL drivers (also bus aides)
3 mechanics
5 office personnel

Pulido: “Retention is at its all-time high right now, and I’m very proud to say that.”

Aging buses
73% are 12 years or older
17% are 3-11 years old
10% are the newest purchases
Average mileage on current buses 180,000-280,000 miles (expected ideal lifespan 350,000)

Pulido: “Newer vehicles are important, knowing they have reliable vehicles that are not going to break down or overheat during their routes or field trips.”

MUSD Transportation Director Sergio Pulido

DPS inspections
“Last year, yes, we had a few failures. These items were addressed and repaired right away. Buses were back on line the very next day. To prevent future failures, what we have done in Transportation is added a mock DPS inspection to every vehicle that comes into the shop for [preventive maintenance] services. This is important because it would keep the vehicle in compliance according to minimum standards and to the Department of Public Safety. We will continue this practice on any future vehicles that we purchase.”

Air conditioning
“On newer vehicles, we’ve already experienced on the four big buses that we’ve bought in the past, they’re better quality AC units; they’re efficient and they work very, very well. Most of those vehicles are on field trips. Less breakdowns and more efficient units. What we’ve done is taken measures and better steps to improve our AC units, the older ones that we have, so they’re working. We’re replacing the parts, which are filters, condensers, compressors, expansion valves, things like that. We spent quite a bit of money last year on repairing these AC parts on these vehicles.”

“Student overload, we definitely want to prevent that. We’re not going through that right now, and I’m very proud to say that, but we’re very close to that. Avoiding double runs is another important factor. Last year, we all know that we experienced quite a few double runs at the high school and middle schools. Adding more buses will prevent that from happening.”

Years of Joan Koczor's documentation of recent Maricopa history was turned over to the Maricopa Historical Society Monday.

Now with the confidence of having future storage and display space for their many items of historical significance to the community, Maricopa Historical Society was happy to accept a collection from Joan Koczor.

The historical compilation of articles, clippings, photographs and programs tells the story of recent Maricopa since the 1980s through incorporation.

Koczor was an early member of the Society, working alongside historian Patricia Brock and Mary Lou Smith. The organization had been busy collecting stories and items from long-time residents but realized the community was growing and changing fast.

“Mary Lou said, ‘We need someone to take the more current history,’” Koczor said. “Then I said, ‘I like history.’ All of a sudden, I started getting these things. Mary Lou game me some stuff she had in her basement. Shirley Ann Hartman had some stuff in there, too. I went into the archives of InMaricopa. It was one thing after another.”

The evolution of the post office, the library, the fire department and Copper Sky all became catalogued by Koczor, who writes a senior-advocacy column for InMaricopa magazine.

The opening of the current library, for instance, brought a who’s who of important guests, and Koczor made a point of talking with them and taking photos. She carefully compiled the information in massive binders.

Board member Dorothy Charles said everything Koczor turned over to the Society would be digitally copied, so the information can be generally available, and the originals will be safely stored.

Koczor said compiling the donated items took “hours of research, attendance at events and presentations,” with husband Ray showing nothing but support and patience while “schlepping” her around.

The events they attended would become Maricopa history through photographs and newspaper articles.

“A lot of this will help us with our event coming up,” said Society President Paul Shirk, referring to the new Tales & Treasures supper coming up Oct. 26. “We want to encourage people, if they got stuff, bring it in.”

The Arizona Department of Transportation is advising nearby residents, businesses and the traveling public to plan for an extended full intersection closure at Honeycutt Avenue and Maricopa Road as work progresses on the State Route 347 overpass project.

The intersection will be closed from Sept. 30 through Oct. 11. The intersection will reopen on Oct. 12. The extensive work at the intersection is being scheduled to coincide with the fall breaks at nearby Maricopa High School and Maricopa Wells Middle School.

• During the intersection closure, drivers will have to use Bowlin Road to access residences and businesses located on or west of Maricopa Road and south of the railroad tracks. Drivers can access businesses on Maricopa Road, located north of Honeycutt Avenue, by using McDavid Road/Edwards Avenue.
• Drivers in the area also will need to use Bowlin Road to access north- and southbound SR 347.

To learn more about the ADOT project, visit the project web page.

A taste of the reality of poverty was on the menu at the inaugural Hunger Banquet at Central Arizona College on Friday.

Those who attended were placed randomly into income levels for the evening – low income, middle income and high income.

The meal they received corresponded with their level of income, Student Services Director Megan Purvis said. Those in low income received rice and water and ate in their chairs rather than at a table. Those in the middle income had rice and beans and ate cafeteria-style at long tables. Those in high income were at fine dining table with centerpieces and table cloths and a full meal of pasta, meatballs, bread and more.

Purvis said it was an opportunity to experience the hunger that is every-day life for a high percentage of Pinal County children. At the end of the evening, everyone received a complete dinner.

The evening was free but benefited F.O.R. Maricopa food bank as guests brought donations of food and money and bought raffle tickets. Donated food also went to the CAC-Maricopa Food Pantry.

Keynote speaker Mayor Christian Price shared the story of a Maricopan and his surprising journey from successful business owner to out-of-work family man benefiting from F.O.R. Maricopa while struggling to pay medical bills.

“’It’s my belief that our family has only stayed together because of the love and support of our community and by the efforts made by F.O.R. Maricopa,’” the mayor quoted from the man’s autobiographical testimony while keeping him anonymous.

Families grappling with economic hardship are seldom obvious in Maricopa like the stereotype of homeless people, he said. There are families living with other families or living in their vehicles. F.O.R. Maricopa, on the other hand, knows them. Not just with meals but with goods and supplies, the food bank serves 300-400 families a year.

“Kindness and generally being kind for the right reasons is critical to the mindful and fulfilling understanding in our role as human beings,” Price said.

Price told the guests that often people are of the mindset that life isn’t fair and people going through a tough time just need to deal with it. But that attitude, he said, often comes from the comfort of a home where basic needs are being met.

“I would submit to you that true understanding, true mindfulness, the proverbial walking a mile in someone else’s shoes all starts with a little perspective and sometimes stepping back so we can grasp the bigger picture.”

The evening’s special guests also included a physician and a dentist to emphasize the impact poverty can have on health and general wellbeing.

The evening was organized by the campus Student Government Association.

Photo by Victor Moreno

The franchise owner of a planned La Quinta Inn, accompanied by family, partners and city officials, broke ground at Copper Sky Regional Park on Friday morning. Andy Bhakta also turned earth for a hotel in Holbrook this year.

“Last year, we came to the city, it was the weekend. We met Rick [Horst], the city manager. He asked us, first question, how long it takes to build a hotel,” investor Ravikumar Balenalli said during the groundbreaking. “We said, if everything works out, one year. That was last September.”

“We have this beautiful park, and it’s one of the nicest in the state, and yet we don’t have the ability for folks to come and have tournaments here and stay here,” Mayor Christian Price said. “When you start to look at the employers and you start to look at the domino effect that happens, it’s a really big deal.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DSPA Gems perform at the MHS Performing Arts Center.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This story appears in the September issue of InMarciopa.

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

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

: Maricopa Historical Society Speaker Series
When: First Mondays, October-April, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Maricopa Public Library
How much: Free

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This story appears in the September issue of InMaricopa.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Current floor plan of the proposed library

The Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Funds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Then Some

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: City of Maricopa

This story appears in the September issue of InMaricopa.

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Superintendent takes blame for implementation errors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This story appears in the September issue of InMaricopa.

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

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

MPD spokesman Ricardo Alvarado said there were charges pending.

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

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

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

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

Photo by Kyle Norby

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Victor Moreno



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

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

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

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

Neill likes the direction the program is headed.

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

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

Daxton Redfern
Photo by Victor Moreno

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

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

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

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

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

Jacob McIntyre
Photo by Victor Moreno

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

Coach Donnie Margerum
Photo by Victor Moreno

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shakira Gillespie
Photo by Victor Moreno


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lynniece Andrews
Photo by Victor Moreno

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

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

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

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

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

Kian Carroll and Eva Zavala
Photo by Victor Moreno


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

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

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

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

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

The team includes 16 sophomores and 14 freshmen.

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

The Rams compete in AIA Division II.

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

Quinton Stapleton and Zanaa Ramirez
Photo by Victor Moreno


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tyler Kientzler
Photo by Victor Moreno


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

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

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

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

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

Karson Collazo
Photo by Victor Moreno

BOYS’ GOLF – Division I Yuma

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


GIRLS’ GOLF – Developmental

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

This story appears in the September issue of InMaricopa.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Early ballots are mailed Oct. 9.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

This story appears in the September issue of InMaricopa.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pinal County General Fund distribution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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