Authors Articles byRaquel Hendrickson

Raquel Hendrickson

Raquel Hendrickson
1190 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.

Ron Bee with his 2004 CMA award.

A memorial Mass for Maricopa resident and Country Music Association award-winning radio personality Ronald “Big Daddy” Bee is May 2 in Liverpool, New York.

Bee passed away March 18 in Seattle, Washington, after battling acute myeloid leukemia. He was 67.

A Vietnam War veteran, he was on the air for 35 years in central New York radio markets, including WOLF, WSEN and, most enduringly WBBS (B104.7) in Syracuse, where he was co-host of the “Ron and Becky Show” with Becky Palmer.

In 2004, “The Ron & Becky Show” won the CMA award for Best Radio Personalities in Medium Market.”

A traffic accident in 2007 ended Bee’s radio career when subsequent surgery damaged his vocal cords. Forced into retirement, he moved with his family to Maricopa in 2011.

Besides his wife Martina Ancona-Bee and son Jonathan, his many survivors include Maricopa residents – his sister Dorothy (Richard) Wales, nieces Kelly Wales-Bradley and Scott Bradley, great-nieces Morgan and Ava Bradley and great-nephew Cashel Bradley.

Arrangements are being handled by Hollis Funeral Home in Syracuse.

Jump on an eastbound Amtrak train in Maricopa, transfer in San Antonio, disembark in McGregor, Texas, and you can walk two blocks to Kevin Evans’ office.

Evans was the Maricopa city manager for three years, from January 2008 through January 2011. A dry-talking Texan who really wanted to go back to his home state, he has been the city manager for McGregor for four years.

In a town of 5,000 that is home to the test sites for SpaceX, Evans’ focus has been economic development.

He is busy filling a 9,000-acre industrial park. It was an old naval weapons industrial reserve plant given to McGregor in 2003. McGregor is also the Amtrak stop for Waco.

Evans says he is surrounded by family in Texas and even had two sons move to nearby Waco, one from Arizona and one from Houston.

He says he enjoyed his time in Arizona and called Maricopa a great town with a great future. “It’s starting to settle in.”

But he does not miss it.

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It’s a Star Wars year. But at the UltraStar Multi-tainment Center that means more than waiting with bated breath for the winter release of the sequel to the iconic movies from the 1970s.

Saturday, UltraStar is hosting “A New Hope for Kids,” an event to benefit HopeKids. The charity creates activities for children with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. UltraStar hosts frequent events for the children.

To help raise money for the charity, “New Hope for Kids” is kicking in the Star Wars theme by incorporating the new – and already popular – arcade Star Wars Battle Pods. There will also be Stormtroopers and other costumed characters from the Star Wars franchise.

From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, game-lovers can purchase a wrist band for $10 and play one of the two battle pods, play a game of laser tag, bowl a game and get a one-hour game card. Half of the proceeds from the wrist bands will go to HopeKids.

Bridget Asheim, executive director of HopeKids Arizona, said her organization serves 1,000 families. Every month about between 300 and 400 children and their families go to UltraStar for a family-friendly movie and fun in the arcade and bowling alley, she said.

The Star Wars Battle Pods, which have curved screens and simulation technology, are among several new arcade games they have been enjoying at UltraStar. Others newcomers are Pac-Man Swirl, Mario Kart, Transformers: Human Alliance and Sink the Ship.

She said HopeKids hosts 200 to 300 events a year in Arizona, events that are free for the families.

“It’s just a chance for them to forget about what they’ve been through,” Asheim said.

While most of the children HopeKids serves have cancer, others are also dealing with genetic disorders and degenerative diseases.

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It’s a Star Wars year. But at the UltraStar Multi-tainment Center that means more than waiting with bated breath for the winter release of the sequel to the iconic movies from the 1970s.

Saturday, UltraStar is hosting “A New Hope for Kids,” an event to benefit HopeKids. The charity creates activities for children with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. UltraStar hosts frequent events for the children.

To help raise money for the charity, “New Hope for Kids” is kicking in the Star Wars theme by incorporating the new – and already popular – arcade Star Wars Battle Pods. There will also be Stormtroopers and other costumed characters from the Star Wars franchise.

From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, game-lovers can purchase a wrist band for $10 and play one of the two battle pods, play a game of laser tag, bowl a game and get a one-hour game card. Half of the proceeds from the wrist bands will go to HopeKids.

Bridget Asheim, executive director of HopeKids Arizona, said her organization serves 1,000 families. Every month about between 300 and 400 children and their families go to UltraStar for a family-friendly movie and fun in the arcade and bowling alley, she said.

The Star Wars Battle Pods, which have curved screens and simulation technology, are among several new arcade games they have been enjoying at UltraStar. Others newcomers are Pac-Man Swirl, Mario Kart, Transformers: Human Alliance and Sink the Ship.

She said HopeKids hosts 200 to 300 events a year in Arizona, events that are free for the families.

“It’s just a chance for them to forget about what they’ve been through,” Asheim said.

While most of the children HopeKids serves have cancer, others are also dealing with genetic disorders and degenerative diseases.

Amy Cole

A Celebration of Life for Amy Cole is scheduled at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church on Wednesday. Rosary/Scripture is from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., following which the family will host a potluck dinner, sharing of memories and lots of love.

A long-time Maricopa resident, Amy Cole died April 20. She led the Maricopa Salvation Army for more than 20 years and also served as a nurse at Maricopa High School before working in hospice care.

Though born in Hastings, Michigan, she spent most of her childhood in Maricopa, where her parents Fred and Naoma Cole moved in the 1950s. Amy graduated from Maricopa High School and earned her nursing degree from Central Arizona Community College. She returned to Maricopa after her son Troy was born and worked as a nurse and community volunteer.

“She was the sweetest, most helpful person,” said June Celaya, whose first year as principal at Maricopa High School was Amy’s last year as school nurse. Celaya said Amy “genuinely had the hearts of the kids and the community. She had a real affinity for the needs of the kids.”

From her obituary, written by her niece Coleen Niemann:

“Amy Cole had heart – a big one – and she shared it with everyone. She was a special person, selfless, loving, generous in spirit and deed. On April 20, God called back Amy, probably because her beautiful granddaughter Jerzee needed a most special guardian angel to watch over her.

“As a beloved mother, grandmother, sister, and aunt, Amy’s caring spirit and generosity sheltered the people who loved her most. She is survived by her son, Troy Cole (Jayme Kesler); granddaughter Jerzee; grandson Kholt; brother John (Marcia); and nieces Coleen Niemann, Jenna Cole and nephew John W. Cole. She is preceded in death by her parents, Fred and Naoma, and her brother Andrew.

“As a single mother, Amy was deeply involved in Troy’s activities. She was a nurse by day, a “baseball mom” by night, and still found time to tend to other families in need. She was the person who stayed all night with a dying neighbor; the one to bring meals to grieving families; the person who supported Troy’s friends during life’s many challenges. In fact, she was a second mom to many of Troy’s childhood best buddies, and was particularly close to Uli Rojas, Chacho Iglesias and Ray Nieves.

“Amy carried this love of community to strangers, too. She was in charge of Maricopa’s Salvation Army chapter, raising money and buying Christmas gifts for families without. Her volunteer work was an extension of her empathy for people in need, and deep-felt responsibility to help ease a burden, whenever she could.

“Amy’s love of her neighbors extended even into her professional life. She was a devoted nurse in various roles in our community. Amy worked at one of Maricopa’s first healthcare clinics, caring for children and families who often lacked access to medical care. She also was Maricopa High School’s school nurse.

“Amy’s true passion was to provide care – medical and emotional – for people facing their final days. She spent many years as a hospice nurse in this area, allowing people to die with dignity and peace. Just as important to her, she cared for patients’ families, nurturing their souls to ease grief.

“In her final days, countless friends and neighbors shared personal stories of her compassion during their most difficult times. They described how she was always there – just when they needed a supportive shoulder and a tender hand to hold. Amy’s selfless spirit and wide open heart is a legacy that touched so many, and her hope was that others would carry forward her mission of love. Our lives are brighter for sharing her light.”

In lieu of flowers or gifts, the family is in need of monetary contributions for funeral arrangements. An account at Great Western Bank has been established in the name of “Amy S. Cole.”

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Winning competitions is not the goal of Desert Sun Performing Arts.

But it happens.

“We don’t ever anticipate the winning. That’s not the point of doing competition,” said DSPA owner and artistic director Ceylan Gentilella. “The point of competition is to have exposure and also to teach our children there is a performance element.”

The critiques they receive from the judges are more valuable than trophies, she said.

They compete only a few times a year and perform at special events. They danced at Disneyland, California Adventure, Ostrich Festival and Maricopa’s Salsa Festival.

“I’m not a competition school,” Gentilella said. “I’m a school that focuses on the artistry and the exposure. We’re not one of those schools that goes eight or nine times a year for competition.”

They will perform a special number at the Maricopa Relay for Life, which begins at 6 p.m. on April 25 at Copper Sky Regional Park. “We’re doing a really beautiful piece called ‘Beam Me Up,” Gentilella said. “It has a lot of meaning and we’re hoping it gets a good response.”

May 30 is their ninth annual dance recital, titled “Iconic,” set for 2 p.m. at the Maricopa High School Performing Arts Center, 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave.

Also in May, DSPA will perform at Starbound, one of the few competitions in which it participates during the year.

Another is the Dance Masters of America. DSPA took several solos and groups to the most recent regional competition of the Arizona chapter of DMA in Phoenix.

“We did very well at the competition,” Gentilella said. “We were surprised, actually.”

While all of DSPA’s dancers performed well, the studio’s team Ruby placed first and second overall out of 26 entries. The groups are judged in various age groups and genres.

They took first with a number called “Hip Hop Crew,” choreographed by Nick Harron. The group is comprised of Natasha Nechvatal, 15, Erin Hildick, 12, Riley Bell, 12, Tonya Thacker, 15, Kivarah Deluca, 12, and Athena Van Auken, 10.

The group’s “Long Story Short” took second place in the 12-and-under category.

“We have a great dynamic of teachers that teach the technique and also choreographers who come in and kick it up and add a different flavor,” said Gentilella, who is a dance master herself.

Harron said an important factor for a successful dance studio is having instructors who still dance and, like him, are continuing their dance education. He is a student at the renowned Arthur Murray school and is beginning to learn ballroom, worlds apart from his specialty hip hop and crew numbers.

Hip hop dance has exploded in popularity recently, Harron said. He went from teaching a handful to full classrooms. Some of that is exposure to the potential of the style on televised competitions like “So You Think You Can Dance,” and some is due to an interest in something different.

Arizonans are finding jobs this spring, and an even higher percentage of Pinal County residents are getting hired.

While the state’s unemployment rate dropped three-tenths of a percent from February to March, the county’s rate dropped from 6.6 to 5.8 percent in that month’s time, according to numbers released today by the Arizona Department of Administration. Pinal started the year with a jobless rate of 7.0 percent.

County officials credited actions in economic development for the shift.

"In the past year the amount of capital investment in Pinal County was $101 million,” County Manager Greg Stanley said. “We are expecting it to go up significantly in the next few years."

Pinal County’s unemployment rate has dropped below the state’s rate of 6.2 percent.

Statewide, the biggest job growth was in leisure and hospitality, which added 5,400 jobs in March. Of that, 3,600 were in arts, entertainment and recreation. According to Aruna Murthy of the Arizona Department of Administration, that is the largest gain on record (since 1990) for any month in that sector.

Education and health services picked up 1,000 jobs in Arizona, while trade, transportation and utilities gained 900 jobs. The 700 jobs added in construction was primarily due to “specialty trades,” which offset losses in heavy construction and building construction.

Government lost 500 jobs, all at the local level. Local government education lost 1,200.

The biggest employment losses in the state were in professional and business services, shedding 2,600 jobs after the holidays and the Super Bowl.

In the past year, Arizona has gained 66,700 jobs. According to Murthy, the first quarter of this year was the highest average over-the-year gain in nonfarm employment since 2007.

Pinal County’s labor force grew by 149 people from February to March after a slight decline from January to February. The number of employed people grew by 1,298.

"Those numbers show that we are gaining members of the civilian labor force as residents and they are able to find work when they come here," Economic Development Director Tim Kanavel said. "That in itself is amazing. But those numbers reflect the total complete county team effort to help me sell Pinal County to these companies looking to locate here. It shows that everyone from our supervisors to our county employees are committed to making Pinal County a destination for everyone."

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Two years ago, Thunderbird Farms residents occasionally saw a small dog running through the fields, but no one was able to catch him.

In essence, the dog turned himself in, finding refuge in the shade of a van at a residence. The family brought him to Hope Pedigo. “They know I’ll take in anybody,” she says.

Despite being in obvious trouble, the dog was sweet and loving. And he needed help.

“He was completely matted. He had ticks on him, he had fleas on him, he had sticks grown into his fur,” Pedigo says. “You could not tell what kind of dog he was.”

While trying to find the dog’s owner, she and her family started calling him Benjie. They took him to Maricopa Animal Hospital to get him cleaned and checked out. The veterinarian discovered layers of ticks – the ticks on his outer fur were dead.

“The vet told me it was because of all of the chemicals on the fields that he was running through,” Pedigo says.

The veterinarian estimated his age at about 1 year old and estimated he had been in the wild for weeks. Unable to find an owner, they had Benjie vaccinated and fixed.

“He has a very different life now,” Pedigo says. “Basically his life is going outside and going to the bathroom and then he comes inside and lies down next to me all day. Now he has a little puffy bed and all his toys.”

Once he was given a thorough clipping, he did not look like the same dog. Before long, he did not act like the same dog.

When he first arrived, Benjie was scared and shaking. After two weeks, it was his yard.

“I could see he got the attitude of ‘It’s never going to happen again,’” Pedigo says.

He has also revealed himself as an alpha male. Though he literally bows down to the Pedigos (“he puts his head down and his butt in the air”), he pulls rank on any other animal that comes into the house.

“He’s the boss. He will pee on them. He will take their toys,” Pedigo says. “We had a big mastiff at the house, and he took all of his toys into his bed and then laid on them. He would pick up the mastiff’s bone and then chew it and look at him. And the mastiff would just lie down in front of him and whine. And I was like, ‘Wow, you’ve got it going on.’”

Benjie is loving and sweet with adults and older children. One of his quirks, however, is that young children stress him out. Pedigo says it specifically seems to be children age 5 and under.

That becomes an issue because Pedigo runs a home daycare. She keeps him separate from the children to keep his stress level down, but it is a reminder for her she is essentially fostering Benjie until they can find a permanent home for him.

His life on the lam created other quirks as well. Because he was on his own for so long, he became accustomed to eating garbage. “He’d see a napkin, he’d eat a napkin because there was a shred of food on it,” Pedigo says.

She eventually broke him of that habit by hiding all of the trash cans in the house. “But even to this day when he sees a napkin, he gets excited. It’s so sad,” she says.

Like an only child, he learned how to amuse himself in the wild. Now he will get up in the middle of the night and play with a tennis ball by himself.

He likes the quiet life, a soft life far away from the fields. “He’s such a lover,” she says. “He’s such a sweetie.”

To learn about Benjie, contact Hope at

April 23 is Lost Dog Awareness Day. Learn more at

Age: 3
Breed: Poodle mix
Color: White
Weight: Under 20 pounds
Best Trick: Requesting more tummy rubs
Favorite Toy: Anything that squeaks
Favorite Snack: Beef jerky
Fun Fact: His name comes not from the famous movie canine but is a reference to a character played by Matthew McConaughey in “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days”

Two men arrested after a crash in Maricopa March 31 will be arraigned Friday.

Carlton Justin, 26, of Queen Creek and Rygel “Little Rainbow” Johns, 21, of Bapchule, are set to appear before Pinal County Superior Court Judge Dwight Callahan.

Both were initially charged with theft of means of transportation. Justin, who had a warrant for parole violation at the time of the incident, was also charged with aggravated assault, unlawful flight from a pursuing peace officer and drug possession, according to MPD spokesman Ricardo Alvarado. A grand jury indictment from April 8 charges him with theft of means of transportation, unlawful flight and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Johns was originally charged with robbery, assault, possession of dangerous drugs and paraphernalia, and leaving the scene of an accident involving an injury. The grand jury indictment charges him with robbery, possession/use of a dangerous drug and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Justin was injured in the collision on John Wayne Parkway at Smith-Enke Road and was hospitalized. He had a preliminary hearing in the Maricopa/Stanfield Justice Court April 3. He has a bond of $200,000. Johns was arrested at the site of the crash and taken to the Pinal County Jail. He has a bond of $5,000.

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It’s a revue like Maricopa has not seen before. Dozens of local performers will help Maricopa Community Theatre celebrate its fifth anniversary in the Musical Extravaganza this week.

The shows are Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 5 p.m. Performances are in the Maricopa High School Lecture Hall, 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave.

MCT has performed musicals, dramas and comedies in its young existence. The two-act extravaganza will display some of what they have done and a lot of what they can do. Artistic Director Carrie Vargas said 31 people will be participating.

That includes music from Broadway shows like Les Miserables, The Music Man, Chicago, Little Shop of Horrors, Camp Rock, Into the Woods, Cinderella, Pippin, The Lion King, South Pacific, Beautiful, Wicked, If/Then, Once and Cabaret.

Vargas said some performers auditioned with two or three songs, and she had to edit that down for the sake of time. Most will be performing songs with which they auditioned. The exception is the re-creation numbers from previous shows.

“We pulled songs from our previous musicals, and I asked, if they were at all possibly available, for the original artist to come back and perform,” Vargas said.

Tickets for the Musical Extravaganza are $10 in advance and $15 at the door.

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Stand-up comedy is a career for road warriors going city to city to work what gigs are available. So when Maricopa comedian David “DT” Trujillo saw an opportunity to bring it home, he jumped at the chance.

That came with the opening of UltraStar Multi-tainment Center.

“The bar manager at the time was saying he was looking for new and different things to bring to the venue,” Trujillo said. “I suggested comedy, and he kind of went with it.”

DT brought in a DVD of his club work, fliers went up and the idea of a comedy show took off.

That was nearly two years ago. The DT Comedy Show, which goes on stage about every quarter, has become a staple. Saturday marks the eighth show DT has emceed at UltraStar.

“The show has established itself as one of our most well received and fun programs of the Center,” UltraStar General Manager Adam Saks said. “The DT Comedy Show makes for a great evening out, bringing Pinal County's premier comedians to the Ak-Chin Indian Community.”

DT has worked several times with Roberto Rodriguez, who was key to putting together Saturday’s show.

“He said, ‘I got a couple of guys who are getting ready to go off on a tour, and if you want to grab them before they take off we can.’ And so I jumped on that opportunity and I got them.”

Those guys include Clayton Perkins, who has toured with Kat Williams, opened for Tony Rock, Eddie Griffin, Bruce Bruce and Damon Wayans; Eric Barnett and JayMac (James McCowan), a former college football player and youth corrections officer from Southern California.

Rodriguez has a gift for storytelling, including the episode when he bit an extension cord that left a significant scar. Turning dark moments like that into comedy is a trademark for the lighthearted comedian, who is a regular at Tempe Improv and Tempe Comedy spot.

DT, from Casa Grande, got his start at Laffs Comedy Caffe in Tucson in 2009 after writing a two-minute joke for open mic night. It was his first time on stage. It went so well Gary Hood, who books shows for the club, gave DT his card and said with a little work his act could be “all right.”

DT ended up taking Hood’s comedy writing class and then started booking clubs. Hosting his own showcase has been a dream come true, especially at a local venue.

“It’s a great place with the size of the theater and the height of the stage. There’s not a bad seat in the place because it’s theater-style,” he said. “People can get everything at the venue, so they can go there and eat dinner first, do something else and then come to the show.”

In a perfect world, the Maricopa Public Library would be around 46,000 square feet. The industry standard is one square foot of library space per resident.

The library is 8,000 square feet.

It averages more than 6,000 visitors per week. It has a membership of nearly 40,000 registered users. It has a collection of more than 42,000 items.

The staff of eight (and a half) workers handles more traffic per week than the Copper Sky Multigenerational Complex.

Dorrine Tevault, who chairs the city’s Parks, Recreation and Libraries Commission, says the library “is an outstanding, overworked, hard-working, very successful” element of Maricopa.

“Expanding it is not an option. Building another one might be an option, but what they’re doing with the limited resources that they have and the limited space that they have is top-notch,” she says.

Expansion is out, Library Manager Erik Surber says, because the city does not own the property surrounding the building.

And the building is only 5 years old. Its construction was a major milestone for the city, so conversations about building a new library are limited.

“Building a new library has been talked about several times,” Tevault says, “but it comes down to the finances of getting it done. That’s something we find everywhere, not only in Maricopa.”

For 33 years, the library did not even have its own building. It was run by volunteers from a variety of locations, like a school, the post office and even the jail.

Its first home on Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway came from the 1988 purchase of a Williams Air Force Base barracks building. The library continued to be operated by volunteers of the Maricopa Cultural Activity, which became the Friends of the Maricopa Public Library. After Maricopa incorporated in 2003, the library came under the auspices of city hall in 2004 and staff was hired.

When the building on Smith-Enke was built, the former library became the Maricopa Veterans Center. But the Friends continue their work.

“We rely on our volunteers a lot,” Surber says.

While the new building may be deemed small for the number of its patrons, Surber says the library should have even more traffic in a city the size of Maricopa.

“This is a city of 40,000-some people,” Surber says. “[The library] really isn’t that busy when you compare it the number of people we have in the city. Our visitorship per capita isn’t spectacular. It’s rather ordinary.”

For a facility its size, however, it is extremely busy. Having a visitorship more reflective of the Maricopa population would force the issue of lack of space at the library, not to mention staffing. As it is, an average of 1,000 visitors a day for such a small staff keeps it livelier than many of its contemporaries.

“That means our staff is the hardest-working staff in the country,” Surber says. “I’m very proud of the hard-working staff. The fact that everybody here works very hard as a team and still has time to come up with new program ideas and implement them.”

“What they do and what they have been doing with the volunteers they have and the workers – everybody from Erik all the way down – they have provided such an outstanding place for kids and adults to continue with their reading and classes,” Tevault says.

In fact, Maricopa Public Library is in the top 20 libraries in the nation in all categories indicating a busy library.

It ranks 20th in attendance at its programs per full-time worker, fifth in circulation per full-time worker, fifth in visitorship per full-time worker and first in hours open.

“We employ a different philosophy of what a library is and should be here,” Surber says. “The library isn’t a place just to get books, although you can get books there. A library isn’t just a place to read or to get onto the Internet. A library is a reflection of the community. It’s where they come together.

“More than anything the library is a physical space. In this day and age when so many people are disconnected from one another, because of the digital advances that we have experienced in the last 20 years or so, the library is more and more important. Our visitorship has gone up. Libraries in general have had visitorship go up because people see it as more of a space.”

He says many, but not all, people have resources available at home, but they turn to the library as a place to bring all that information together.

Programs at the library often emerge from the talent and interests of the staff. If an idea catches on with the public, the library will build on that.

A home-school LEGO program has proven so popular the library is changing it from once a month to twice a month. A scrapbooking class, on the hand, was not well attended, but Surber will give it another chance.

In a building the size of the Maricopa library, programs can conflict. With a Pew poll indicating the two top reasons people frequent a library are for the children’s storytime and for a quiet place to read, the overlap is a “troublesome mix.”

Tevault says she would like the city to expand the space to expand its services. What that would look like is still up in the air.

Surber says he’s heard discussions about opening a branch, which he opposes primarily because of the cost and duplication of services.

The library has 963 programs annually, placing it in the top dozen in the state.

The library’s “juvenile” clientele (age 11 and under) is among the most active. It is continuing to grow its young adult programs. That includes a book discussion group, which turned into a teen advisory council, a gamers guild and a tech week.

“I’m so happy with our young adult programs,” Surber says. “The fact that it’s up and running and expanding is a dream of mine.”

And the 20-somethings, he says, are the group that reads the most.

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Within a year of opening in Maricopa in 2007, owner Ken Barro says it was obvious his pizzeria needed more space.

“It was one of our smallest bars,” he says.

It was also hit early on, with a lunch rush and crowded weekends. That was a problem, but a good problem to have.

Barro knew they had to expand to make seating more accommodating and accessible. Ideas for a patio space did not pan out and other negotiations and discussions stayed at the conversation level. So, at 2,400 square feet, Barro’s Pizza continued to bide its time until opportunity knocked on the glass pane of the front door.

That happened when the restaurant’s next-door neighbor, RadioShack, moved. The Barro family opened discussions with the landlord about the space.

In mid-January, Barro’s officially expanded to 4,100 square feet. Barro says it is still a work in progress as they have plans for signage and expanding the counter.

Barro, who owns the company of 35 Arizona restaurants with brothers Mike and Bruce, says he wasn’t sure how the Maricopa location would do back in 2007 because Barro’s Pizza is not a large corporate entity with franchises.

“We had been successful with locations in the Valley, but I was a little concerned with name recognition,” he says.

But Maricopa was booming at the time. Barro, who lives in Chandler, had friends move to Maricopa, which piqued his interest in the community. It seemed like it would be a good fit for a company that tries to be involved with community, connecting with Little League and schools.

“I thought it would be a matter of time and serving a good product,” Barro says.

Barro calls the restaurants’ menu of pizza, sandwiches and wings “comfort food.” It is a family tradition that started with his grandmother Angelina and continued through the next generations.

The Barro family opened a restaurant in Chicago in 1961. Angelina and her sons moved to Southern California and opened another restaurant. That is where Ken Barro grew up, working for his father.

“I realized this was something I wanted to do,” he says.

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Vegetable gardening in the desert takes knowledge of soil and plants.

Getting vegetables to grow is a science. Knowing what to do with them can be an art.

This year, the Master Gardeners at the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension have walked newcomers through the basics of getting their soil in shape for sowing and then plant selection, fertilization, irrigation and cultivation.

Then what?

Dave Brady is always offering gardening tips – it’s why he’s a Master Gardener. But this spring he is gathering others to share ideas and tips for harvesting and properly preparing food from the garden.

Anyone wanting to learn can stop in at the Maricopa Agricultural Center (MAC) on April 18 from 9 a.m. to noon. Technically part of a series on desert gardening, the class does not require registration and is free.

1. Harvesting

Two local farmers, Judy Walp and Wayne Naegle, will explain best harvesting practices. They will talk about correct techniques for different plants.

“They’ll talk about how to do it property,” Brady says. “Like how do you harvest spinach. Do you cut it off at the ground or pull it out of the ground? That kind of stuff.”

Judy and her husband Jerry have a garden named for them at the MAC.

2. Food Safety

Stewart Jacobson, the Food Safety Projects coordinator for the Arizona Department of Agriculture, normally teaches and certifies farmers and food handlers in Good Handling Practices and Good Agricultural Practices (GHP/GAP). For the MAC event, he will fit the GHP/GAP to fit the backyard gardener.

Because no one wants to poison themselves accidentally.

“He’ll talk about ‘How do I take that, process stuff from my garden so I don’t end up making my family sick,’” Brady says.

3. Food Preservation

Cathy Martinez, PhD, is associate agent in family, consumer and health sciences at the Cooperative Extension. One of her specialties is preserving food.

“A lot of people will plant their tomatoes and they come in all at once and they can’t eat them,” Brady says. “Zucchini is another classic case.”

Martinez says she will briefly talk about pressure canning and water-bath canning and will mostly talk about freezing and drying produce.

Though there is no time to demonstrate the skill, she will bring samples of dried veggies for participants to taste.

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Michelle Slayton started working at McDonald’s when she was 16.

The job got her through high school and college. Then it became her career.

After working her way up through management, she opened franchises in small towns in Washington. Her first supervisor became her business partner. After 39 years – and more than 25 franchises – they are still best friends and cohorts in the business.

“He opened a lot of doors for me,” she says.

In 2008, she moved to Maricopa and opened the city’s first McDonald’s, still thriving on John Wayne Parkway. That first foray into the Arizona desert “far exceeded our dreams,” she says.

Now Slayton is set to open her third Maricopa McDonald’s franchise at 41710 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway. The grand opening is April 10-11, and there will be festivities all month.

“Maricopa is a great family community with very nice amenities and services and has done a great job of building a city from a very small town,” Slayton says. “We are opening three locations because we want to serve our customers better and give them convenient choices.”

Though the new store is just yards away from her second Maricopa McDonald’s franchise – inside Walmart – Slayton says they will draw a different clientele. Some customers simply want to grab a bite while they are shopping; others want a quiet place to have a cup of coffee.

The new store is a small facility, she says, and will not have a PlayLand. It will have a two-lane drive-thru.

The exterior is described as a modern “arcade design” with glass and metal. Inside are natural finishes, zoned seating areas, lower lighting levels, flat-screen TVs and free Wi-Fi.

The opening comes the year of the 60th anniversary of Ray Kroc’s first McDonald’s restaurant and the 40th anniversary of the company’s first drive-thru, which was in Sierra Vista.

Slayton says they wanted to come to Maricopa for some time after seeing the growth. She says they came a little later than they probably should have. She also says the third restaurant may be opening a little earlier than necessary, but they see construction and development perking up again on that side of Maricopa.

In deciding when and where to build a new restaurant, McDonald’s looks at current homes and future population projections, businesses, employers and amenities in the community and traffic. Slayton has stayed in contact with the Maricopa Economic Development Department to be up on projects and growth in the city.

The restaurant chain is a first job for a lot of young people, and every opening reminds Slayton of how she got started. She says McDonald’s teaches them about having a job and having responsibilities.

The new restaurant opens opportunities for employees at her other franchises as well. Slayton says some get to move into management and others can move into other positions.

During the first weekend of the grand opening, McDonald’s will sell its Egg McMuffin and Big Mac (Slayton’s personal favorite) for $1. There will be family entertainment and drawings for prizes from 4 to 6 p.m. on April 10, and Ronald McDonald (“the best Ronald ever,” Slayton says) will entertain at 5 p.m.

April 11 features LEGO fun from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., with Bonanza Education helping create towers, car races and art projects.

Footz the Clown will perform April 18 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 25, it’s Mad Science with “fun and wacky experiments” and green slime from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Events are free.

Slayton says she is passionate about being involved in the community. The new restaurant will have events similar to those at the first restaurant like Teacher’s Night. In a PTA effort, teachers take over the restaurant to take orders and clear tables. The organization gets 20 percent of the evening’s proceeds, with a minimum of $350.

Maricopa is slowly divesting itself from the fallout of Scott Sulley after more than a year of rearranging local court management.

Another step in stabilizing what has been a transient situation could be taken tonight.

Since incorporation, Sulley was presiding judge for the city of Maricopa at the same time he was justice of the peace for the Maricopa/Stanfield Justice Court. After a December 2013 audit found disarray in record-keeping and management in the JP court, he was removed from that court and resigned from the municipal court.

Both courts had temporary judges assigned while staff sorted out the situation. In October, one of those judges, Tresa Georgini, was given a six-month contract to be interim presiding judge in the municipal court. That contract runs out this month.

Tonight, the Maricopa City Council will decide whether to offer Georgini a six-month, $24,000 contract as presiding judge, with no “interim” wording attached. The discussion is on the action agenda with the possibility of an executive session as well.

(In the JP court, Lyle Riggs was elected in November, and Sulley was eventually disbarred.)

The council meeting begins at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

The regular agenda also includes an application for a state Community Development Block Grant. Previous discussions for the allocation of such a grant have included domestic water improvements (Fire Hydrants Phase II), lighting in the Heritage District and acquisition and demolition in the Heritage District.

Five months after Maricopa City Council voted to demolish it, the former La Roca nightclub bit the dust.

The building, which was on the southeast corner of John Wayne Parkway and Honeycutt Road, was condemned and acquired by the city for $240,000 last year.

The building went through asbestos remediation the first week of March after the city received National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants approval from the Environmental Protection Agency. All utilities with meters were removed from the site except Southwest Gas.

Public Works Director Bill Fay said there was unexpected bureaucracy involved in getting the gas meter removed, but it was deactivated.

The lot is to be covered in decomposed granite, the fencing pulled down, “and they’ll water the trees once in a while,” Fay said.

The palm trees were originally to be taken down as well, but Fay said leaving them for the time being creates the aesthetics of a park on the now-empty lot. When it is time to remove the trees, they will try to relocate them.

“The parks department is looking in on them and the streets department is watering them,” he said.

La Roca nightclub closed in 2012.

Maricopa acquired the building for the purpose of tearing it down. Though the American Legion requested a chance to see if the empty building would suit its meeting needs, the council voted in October to demolish it.

Considered to have too many problems to rehabilitate in a cost-effective manner, La Roca also sat in the potential path of a proposed overpass intended to carry traffic over the railroad tracks.

For now, Fay said, the intent is to do nothing with the lot until there is further progress on the grade separation.

“We thought the grade separation would happen, figuratively, a lot farther down the road, maybe 10 years,” Fay said.

So the city planned an interim traffic solution at Honeycutt Road and State Route 347 to relieve some traffic at that intersection. That involved acquiring La Roca and some strips of frontage property along Honeycutt. That solution was at 60 percent design when the grade separation for the overpass was approved.

“Mayor [Christian] Price working with the State Transportation Board was able to get that moving a lot sooner than was expected,” Fay said.

That canceled the temporary fix, but the acquired properties were still needed because they were in the area assumed to be impacted by the grade separation.

When the grade-separation design reaches 30 percent, the alignment of the overpass will be locked in.

That is when the city will start “talking turkey” with businesses that will definitely be impacted by the change, Fay said.

Harrah’s Ak-Chin will be looking decidedly green in April. It won’t be just Earth Day. April is Earth Month as the casino ignites its yearly effort to “go green.”

For all of April, the building will be illuminated with green lighting.

In fact, the casino got started a little early on it earthy events with a shredding event March 21 and then Earth Hour on March 28, turning off nonessential exterior lights for an hour that night.

It is highlighting Code Green efforts, a Caesar’s Entertainment policy of de-littering and recycling. In 2014, Harrah’s Ak-Chin’s Code Green recycled 274 tons of waste. The waste included 80,000 pounds of construction and demolition debris, 58,398 pounds of metal, 235,829 pounds of corrugated and 95,221 pounds of fats, oils and greases, which is turned into bio-fuel.

“We recycle everything you could possibly recycle,” said April Stovall, surveillance and facilities manager and property Code Green leader.

Last year in a Code Green Challenge among 40 Caesar’s properties, Harrah’s Ak-Chin came out tops in the company with its series of initiatives. It’s something the casino would like to repeat in 2015, Stovall said.

Code Green items are on sale in the gift shop during the month – items like water bottles, lanyards and tree-free green cards. At the end of April, a friendship bracelet made of seed paper will be available.

At the end of March, the hotel launched its streamlined recycle program. Each room has a Code Green sign bearing the Code Green logo with a list of items that can be recycled.

“There will be a recycling bag on the table, so for guests that would like to recycle, they have the option to do so,” Stovall said.

Participating in the Clean the World project, the hotel at Harrah’s Ak-Chin recycles soap bars to be used in Third World countries.

“We want to reduce our carbon footprint, and it’s part of our code of commitment,” Stovall said.

Every day in April, employees are encouraged to bring in recyclables and be entered into a drawing for fun prizes.

Nationally, Earth Day is April 22. The casino will host a celebration for its employees. That will also be jeans day, as will April 9, as they encourage donations with proceeds going to the Recycling Association of Maricopa.

April 24, the Ak-Chin Indian Community celebrates Earth Day at its recreation center. Code Green will host a breakfast for the community and then will pick up trash at various locations on the reservation. Harrah’s Ak-Chin will be among the booths set up for the day’s events from noon to 2 p.m. There, Code Green will distribute data and information about its work and give away free items.

In April, Harrah’s Ak-Chin will install free electric car charging stations near the Bingo building. The date will be announced on the casino’s Facebook page.

“We won’t be charging for that. It will be an amenity for guests who choose to go green,” Stovall said.

Then on April 25 at 7 p.m., the casino will have a drawing for an electric car.

April 27 is Harrah’s Ak-Chin’s quarterly Adopt-a-Highway cleanup along its designated two-mile stretch of State Route 347 fronting the casino. April 30, the Harrah’s Ak-Chin Executive Team will host a barbecue for the Ak-Chin elders and distribute recycled items like Code Green keychains and T-shirts.

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The shops within the new Maricopa Station will begin opening this month.

Starbucks plans to open at the site the week of April 27, according to a company spokesperson. The new building is at 21423 N. John Wayne Parkway next to CVS.

Starbucks is always looking for great locations to better meet the needs of our customers,” Haley Nieman said. “Choosing a site for a new Starbucks location is a key element in providing customers with the Starbucks experience, and we carefully consider many factors when opening a new store.”

On the north end of Maricopa Station, Starbucks has a 2,000-square-foot café and a drive-thru. The store will employ 30 people.

Meanwhile, the licensed Starbucks location inside Bashas’ across the street re-opened March 28 after being closed for renovation in the supermarket, she said.

Next door to Starbucks in Maricopa Station is Zoyo Neighborhood Yogurt. The company has not provided an opening date but expects it to be this spring. The location already has its own web page with updates.

Behind the banners of “Burritofication in Progress,” a Chipotle Mexican Grill is being prepared for opening in the summer, according to a company spokesman. It is on the south end of the building.

After changing her life to help her mother successfully battle cancer, Rita Jean Caban had her own scare this year.

Carol Machovec survived cancer three times and watched a dear friend die of the disease.

Nancy Smith’s mother and brother died of cancer.

Becky Check lost her grandfather to cancer.

Tobi Smith lost both of her grandfathers to cancer.

Henry Wade is an 11-year survivor of prostate cancer.

Bret Roberts is a survivor.

Each of these Maricopans has shown a lot of fight against a disease that remains one of the most daunting and deadly. They are expanding the battle by being among scores of participants in the annual Maricopa Relay For Life.

This year’s Relay For Life, one of more than 5,200 in 20 countries, starts April 25 at 6 p.m. and ends April 26 at 6 a.m. The event is at Copper Sky Regional Park, 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

The relay is a fund-raiser for the American Cancer Society and a way for everyone affected by cancer to help fund the hunt for a cure.

The Maricopa relay has more than 40 teams participating. Team members trade off walking through the night. Some teams will walk around the 5-acre lake while others will confine their walk to the area around the amphitheater.

The teams have a very active if friendly rivalry in gathering donations to the cause. Teams sport names like the Caped Cure-saders, the Tumornators and Bring It On. Some teams have many members, others only a couple. Some team captains are involved for the first time this year. Some have participated since the first Maricopa Relay For Life in 2011.

Machovec had her bouts of cancer, but her friend Betty’s experience had a different kind of power. Betty seemed to have conquered breast cancer, but it came back strong. Machovec went from visiting every day to becoming a caretaker while Betty went under hospice care and eventually passed away.

“I knew I needed to do this for her,” says Machovec, a member of the Copa Skywalkers team.

Caban quit her job and moved west to take care of her mother when she received a cancer diagnosis. That was in 2004. Her mother now lives in Jericho ministering to Muslim women in the refugee camp.

“She’s doing just great,” Caban said.

Caban came to the Maricopa Relay For Life two years ago. This year, as she prepared her team for the next event, she had to have a biopsy to determine if her own health issues were cancer. To the relief of many, the diagnosis was not cancer.

Wade, who had his cancer diagnosis at age 49, also has a clean bill of health. He got involved with the relay the first year. This year, he is the lead of the Survivor’s Dinner. Free to cancer survivors and their caregivers, the dinner is 6 p.m. on April 10 at Harrah’s Ak-Chin.

A report of an erratic driver turned into a crash on State Route 347 and two arrests Tuesday.

According to Maricopa Police Department spokesman Ricardo Alvarado, a 911 call came into dispatch at 10:22 p.m. describing a vehicle driving dangerously by Desert Cedars.

Officers located the vehicle on SR 347 but could not get close enough to get a plate number before he fled. “Not being able to catch up to the vehicle, they stopped at the old Circle K while the suspect continued northbound,” Alvarado said.

Entering the Smith-Enke Road intersection, the vehicle collided with a truck turning east. The two people in the suspect vehicle tried to flee on foot. Officers arrived and immediately apprehended one man near CVS. He was transported to Chandler Regional Medical Center for injuries. His name has not been released.

After reconsideration, the Arizona House of Representatives again voted down Senate Bill 1071 Wednesday, 28-31, with one no vote.

Previously, the Senate had approved the bill with a large majority, but the House had rejected it, 28-30.

The bill was generated by a situation in Pinal County in which Sonoran Land Fund LLC bought almost 3,000 parcels in a subdivision through a tax lien and requested one deed with the processing fee paid as one parcel. By state law, county treasurers in Arizona charge $50 per parcel.

The bill would have put a $500 cap on those fees in the aggregate if the title purchase involved 10 or more parcels.

Primary sponsors of SB 1071 were Republicans Sen. Steve Smith and Rep. David Smith and Democrat Sen. Barbara McGuire. Co-sponsors were Republicans Sen. David Farnsworth, Sen. Gail Griffin, Sen. Steve Pierce, Rep. Justin Olson, Rep. Frank Pratt and Rep. T.J. Shope.

House Minority Whip Rebecca Rios (D-District 27), formerly of Pinal County, said she felt the county was “really being taken by this piece of legislation.” She said the bill would have sent the message “that you too can come down here to change the laws to benefit you.”

She said it was special legislation that was retroactive to benefit one man.

Rios voted against the bill, as did Bruce Wheeler (D-District 10). He pointed out Pinal County Treasurer Dolores “Dodie” Doolittle had offered investor Wayne Howard of Sonoran Land Fund a settlement of $25,000 when his company would have owed more than $145,000 in fees for the certificates of purchase. That was rejected.

“The people that will get stuck with the financial bill if this legislative bill passes are the taxpayers of Pinal County,” Wheeler said.

Supporters of the bill dismissed claims by Doolittle that there was work attached to each parcel and, in this case, it would take 43 days for one person to process all 2,922 parcels.

“County workers will actually have something to do,” Rep. Sonny Borrelli (R-District 5) said. “That’s called work.”

Rep. Warren Peterson (R-District 12) said he could draft the deed for Pinal County, “and I guarantee it wouldn’t take 1,000 hours to do that.”

Doolittle was unavailable for comment.

While some opponents brought up Howard’s access to funds, Rep. Jeff Weninger (R-District 17) said the investor’s wealth was not germane to the argument. He said if Doolittle’s claims about the demands on time were true, it was proof of “serious inefficiencies” in the county government.

Rep. Bob Thorpe (R-District 6) said Howard was doing Pinal County a “great service” by paying the back taxes on nearly 3,000 parcels. “The county would have taken years and years and years to recoup those back taxes,” he said.

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Opening a second store with a second child on the way in the middle of a heat wave hasn’t been easy for the husband-and-wife team of Manith “Math” Lor and Lily Taing.

But they are enthusiastic about the grand opening of Good Donuts, a weeklong event that starts Friday morning.

Their signature glazed doughnuts are unexpectedly light and fluffy from “special ingredients” and an expert baker. The store carries a variety of cake doughnuts, filled, glazed, sprinkled or plain, as well as old-fashioned doughnuts. Taing said they are also known for their apple fritters.

Good Donuts serves coffee and fruit smoothies. Their breakfast sandwiches are bacon, ham or sausage with egg and cheese on a bagel or croissant. There is also cheesy jalapeno.

While it may appear to be a spinoff of their successful bakery in Gilbert, Taing said Maricopa was actually her first choice of location. She said she always saw the city’s potential when visiting from California. Negotiations failed on their first attempt at a storefront a few years ago.

Instead, they opened the first Good Donuts in Gilbert a year and a half ago to strong reviews.

But Taing’s eyes were still on Maricopa.

“I just like it a lot,” she said. “We thought it would be the best place for a donut shop. There are a lot of people around. And I talked to the other businesses, and it looked like the economy was picking up and the rental spaces were filling in.”

Taing came to the United States from Cambodia 10 years ago and learned the doughnut business from her uncle in Bellflower, California.

“I helped him sell doughnuts for five or six years,” she said. Working at Fresh Donuts taught her the importance of providing a high-quality product.

During the grand opening from March 27 to April 5, each customer can get a free doughnut or a free cup of coffee. The store is at 20924 N. John Wayne Parkway, Suite D3, next to Anytime Fitness.

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The Him-Dak EcoMuseum will celebrate art in a big way Saturday.

Art activities, basket-weaving, music, dancing, a toka demonstration and the traditional fun run are all part of the Ak-Chin Indian Community’s 24th annual Him-Dak Celebration. It is the grand opening of the 7,000-square-foot art classroom building next to the museum.

All Maricopans are invited.

“We are really looking forward to not only the Ak-Chin community but Maricopa and our neighboring area as well coming out,” museum technician Wendy Aviles said.

This year, a 5K race has been added as a “color run” similar to the previous “Copa Color 5K” in Maricopa. Registration starts at 7:30 a.m. The Ak-Chin Health Department is helping with the event.

Museum technician Melanie Antone said the incorporation of the color – whether in powder or liquid form – is a tie-in to the art theme. Sign-up is free, and the first 200 to register receive a T-shirt.

A ribbon-cutting for the new art building and the renovated museum is set for 9 a.m.

The theme of this year’s celebration is “Expanding Our Him-Dak through Excellence in the Arts.”

There will be demonstrations of basket weaving, oil painting and pottery. Youth members will demonstrate the game toka, which is similar to field hockey and played only by women. Entertainment will include Ak-Chin performers as well as the Duncan family performing as the Yellow Bird Dance Group, flute-player Randy Kemp and San Juan dancers. By tradition, the Old Tyme Fiddlers will close the event.

Antone said each group will perform up to an hour.

The day includes arts and crafts vendors, information booths and food vendors.

The Him-Dak EcoMuseum opened in 1991. In celebration of the expansion, the original consultants of the museum project are coming in from Quebec, Canada, Washington, D.C. (including the Smithsonian), Nevada and Arizona, according to Aviles. The original architect and the original staff will also be on hand.

“We’ve finally come full circle,” she said.

Aviles, who is one of those original staff members, said the expansion had been in the planning process since the late 1980s when Ak-Chin was developing the idea for the museum.

She said the community wanted to have a facility for preserving history. “Our mission for the museum and for the archives is to promote sharing our past, present and future,” she said.

Antone said the museum is “our little treasure chest.” Members are always welcome to bring in their historic pieces just for safe storage. The museum will also copy photo graphs. Antone said all of the photos in the archives are from the community rather than outside sources.

“One of the best things about my position is going and interviewing the elders and interacting with them and getting their stories from them,” she said. “One of the times I did go out and interview an elder she shared some pictures with me. I was able to give those photos back to her in protective sleeves.”

The main museum is 8,000 square feet. It is distinguished from a traditional museum in that residents take a role as both curator and viewing public. Ak-Chin community members are encouraged to help with curating, maintaining and enjoying the exhibits.

There is one permanent exhibit, while others change every year. The annual celebration also marks the unveiling of the newest exhibit.

Facilities associated with the museum are the historic BIA Agent House and the St. Frances Catholic mission school.

Renovations to the original museum include an elevator to the observatory.

“The museum addition of the art classroom is a dream we’ve had since 1991 when we first opened the doors,” Aviles said. “The addition, with the elevator, and the classroom, it was all part of the original plan back when we were deciding on a building.”

Back when the EcoMuseum opened, staff worked with pieces it had on hand and has been growing the collection ever since.

Antone said the art building is another resource to allow artists to keep their work in the community.

“We have many great artists doing basketry, oil painting, pottery. The pottery is the most popular one that everyone’s excited about,” she said. “Our ancestors were pottery-makers, and a lot of the members are excited to get back to that.”

The art building is not just focused on traditional arts and crafts. “There is graphic art, a classroom for ceramics,” Aviles said. “We have a lot of community members that are really into doing ceramics.”

Teaching positions are still posted for the art classes.

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Salsa Fest would not be half as festive without entertainment.

Though there are changes this year in how performances will run, the day will include familiar faces and distinctive music.

According to Niesha Whitman, special events manager for the City of Maricopa, there will be one stage instead of two. The main headliners will be interspersed with local performers.

Whitman said the stages were combined because it was hard for the local groups to compete with the main stage performers.

The city keeps a list of performers who have performed in the past. Staff contacts them first for their availability.

This year’s entertainers include the Barrio Latino Band, a genre-free blend of Spanish and English-language cultures through rock, salsa, funk, blues and everything in between.

Havana Soul returns to put a Cuban twist on the salsa party. And the Fiesta Mexicana Dance Company brings the cultures of Central and South America to spectacular performances.

Ballet Folklorico Fuego de Phoenix is back for its colorful traditional performances at 5:15 p.m. and 6:25 p.m.

Maricopa groups showing off their talents will be Desert Sun Performing Arts, an award-winning dance troupe, as well as Arizona All-Star Fyrestorm Cheer, coming off a championship in Las Vegas, and ATA Martial Arts and Karate for Kids of Arizona.

“It gives them a sense of pride in their school and for all of the hard work they’ve done,” said ATA master instructor Lee Feiles. “It also gives them a chance to be leaders as ambassadors for their sport.”

He typically brings 10 “demo” kids. “It’s kind of a special group,” Feiles said. “They have to dedicate quite a bit of time for practice and learning new things for choreography. So it’s a relatively exclusive group.”

Whitman said local entertainment is chosen when they submit applications to perform at a festival. A committee looks through the applications and decides if the acts are appropriate.

“For Salsa (Fest), there weren’t many, so we allowed everyone who applied to participate in the event,” she said.

There are always rules to abide by, including no inappropriate, language, costumes, gestures, etc.

For major acts, the city works with Entertainment Solutions, Inc., in Scottsdale, supplying them with information on the kind of acts being sought and the budget. Entertainment Solutions then matches them up with available performers.

It’s not over ‘til it’s over for Senate Bill 1071. Though defeated last week in the Arizona House of Representatives, it could be reintroduced Wednesday.

The bill would change state law to limit the charges on certificates of purchase for multiple tax liens. Currently, county treasurers charge $50 per parcel. In the case of tax liens bought together, SB 1071 would limit that entire charge to $500 for 10 or more parcels.

At the center of the change, which has bipartisan support, are investor Wayne Howard and his Sonoran Land Fund LLC.

If SB 1071 succeeds, “it means this gentleman gets a huge discount,” Pinal County Treasurer Dolores “Dodie” Doolittle said.

After purchasing 2,922 liens on foreclosed properties in Pinal County last year, Sonoran Land Fund applied for new deeds. At $50 per parcel, it would have cost more than $145,000.

Doolittle said attorney Mark Manoil requested one deed for all of the Howard parcels. Doolittle said that was not a problem, but the county would still have to charge for each parcel, “because that’s in statute.”

Doolittle said she did not hear anything more on the matter for a while until she received a phone call from Joe Robison, once the chairman of the Pinal County Democrats, with an invitation to lunch about “a tax question.”

The luncheon was with Howard. Robison, now retired, said he was not interested in the topic but was willing to set up the meeting because Howard was a friend. The meeting ultimately resulted in SB 1071, and Robison said he knew little about that, either.

At the lunch meeting, Howard said he did not want to pay the thousands for the judgment deed. Doolittle said she told him she was charged with carrying out the statute. She also said she had already consulted with attorney Kevin Costello, “and he agrees with my position.”

Doolittle said Howard told her he would take up the matter with the Legislature.

The bill’s three primary sponsors were Sen. Steve Smith (R-District 11), Sen. Barbara McGuire (D-District 8) and Rep. David Stevens (R-District 14).

The bill passed in the Senate, 25-4, in February before failing in the House, 28-30, on March 18. Rep. Mark Finchem (R-District 11) requested and was granted reconsideration of the measure, and the date was set for Wednesday.

Smith did not return calls, and Finchem was unavailable for comment. On the Senate floor in February, Smith said accusations the bill came about only because of one person not wanting to pay fees was “not correct.” He did not elaborate.

In January, in a Senate Government Committee meeting, Smith said the issue had come to him from a constituent in Pinal County who paid millions of dollars for back taxes on property he acquired.

He said the Howard property historically had been treated as one parcel and “clearly there was some kind of an oversight somewhere.”

He said charging anyone $150,000 was “ridiculous.” He said the best way to fix it was legislatively.

“I think it’s very onerous to put this heavy of a fee on any one person,” Smith told the committee, adding there should be a reasonable cap.

“I don’t know this person. I don’t know who this person is,” he said. “I don’t know what kind of business they’re doing or what they want to do. I have no idea. All I know is that it’s quite a bit unfair.”

Lobbyist Stan Barnes, representing Sonoran Land Fund, said they approached Smith because the issue came out of Pinal County, which Smith represents.

“The county is always interested in collecting the fees it believes it is deserved,” Barnes told the committee. “It is our contention, and Sen. Smith agrees, that no matter how you cut it up, a $150,000 administrative fee … no matter how we got there, is not a good thing.”

Doolittle said she brought up the situation with the state’s 14 other county treasurers in a December meeting. When she learned about the bill creating aggregate fees, she began contacting legislators. She spoke at the same Senate Government Committee meetings on the bill to explain how treasurers process deeds.

“There is work on our side because the deed is the result of a tax lien process,” she said.

For each of the nearly 3,000 parcels purchased by Howard, for instance, the treasurer’s office must go back through the system to change each parcel’s record and do research to make sure each form and legal description is correct.

“For the legislation to suggest that our time is only worth $500 for this volume is unfortunate,” Doolittle said. “It basically comes down to the taxpayer making up the difference for what this gentleman is getting to transfer the deed.”

“This is not nor should it be a cash cow or a money maker for a county to simply execute a deed and to write up some parcels,” Smith said in committee.

“The significant cost is there because it’s a significant amount of parcels we’re talking about,” said Trey Williams of the Arizona Association of Counties, which opposes the bill.

Doolittle sees the bill aimed only at accommodating Howard.

Medical marijuana is coming back before the Pinal County Board of Supervisors.

In a work session with the Planning & Zoning Commission set for Tuesday at 9:30 a.m., the supervisors will discuss future land use and public policy on prescriptive marijuana.

The topic most recently came up in an involved debate that led to the approval of a change in the wording of a zoning ordinance that could bring about an outdoor marijuana grow at a Casa Grande dairy. The P&Z Commission had recommended denial of the change.

Arizona voters approved marijuana for medical purposes through Proposition 203 in 2010, though some provisions are still being worked out. Pinal County is working out how it implements state law while being aware of federal bans. Supervisor Anthony Smith has called it “a grand experiment.”

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After going through a “refreshing” period, Bashas’ will have a grand re-opening April 8. The ribbon-cutting ceremony is at 11 a.m.

Store Director Ro Lopez said though the grocery store has remained open, it started refurbishments in February.

“We’ve been redoing the floors, and we ended up moving around the store’s flow and changing the design,” he said. “We flip-flopped some areas just to make more sense. It’s just a fresher look.”

The work has changed the look of the store to create “more of an inviting environment,” he said.

After a well-attended groundbreaking, Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church has another bit of business with the city of Maricopa – a name change.

The church is applying to change the name of its access road from Cowpath to Santi.

“Cowpath is extremely western but not exactly liturgical,” said Ken Lepper, chairman of the Construction and Development Oversight Committee.

On a brief agenda Tuesday, the Maricopa City Council hosts a public hearing on the proposed name change. The applicant – Our Lady of Grace – must present reasons for the name change and compelling evidence of why the new name is appropriate.

Lepper said Santi fits in three ways. Wayne Santi, the late church administrator, was instrumental in the development of Our Lady of Grace. Secondly, he was also involved in several community causes.

Santi also translates as “saints,” making it a fitting entry to The Crossing, Lepper said. The Crossing is a planned mix-use development that will be anchored by the new Catholic church.

The section of Cowpath Road off White and Parker Road is considered a collector street for the Seven Ranches area. There is an unrelated Cowpath Drive in the city.

After the public hearing, a resolution to change the name of the road is part of the council’s five-item consent agenda.

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Colors were flying and puffing and running Saturday morning at Copper Sky.

Maricopa’s first Copa Color 5K Run drew 250 registrants and others who signed up minutes before the race. See our gallery.

The turnout was strong enough to warrant another go at it next year if the city is so inclined, according to Special Events Manager Niesha Whitman. The event was a fund-raiser to fight domestic violence but was also meant to be a good, healthy time.

Before and during the 5K and 1.5-mile events, participants – from toddlers to grandparents – were coated in bright-colored powder. It would eventually wash off of clothes, skin and hair, but the good time lingered even longer.

Competitively, long-striding 12-year-old Maricopan Dominic Arellano won the 5K in 20 minutes. He’s already a seasoned runner but also enjoyed the playfulness of the event.