The Ak-Chin Indian Community cried trespassing on Thursday, halting Maricopa’s construction crew just as they were about to forge the link between John Wayne Parkway and Interstate 10. In response, Maricopa Mayor Nancy Smith isn’t backing down — she’s daring the tribe to play by the rules.
Smith’s ultimatum: Either give a green light to the permits granted by Pinal County and the Arizona Department of Transportation for the critical John Wayne Parkway and Sonoran Desert Parkway intersection work, or get axed from the project.
Meanwhile, the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Sacaton has thrown its weight behind Ak-Chin’s claims, issuing cease-and-desist orders. The federal agency accused the city of flouting a Sept. 1 plea to halt construction until it granted the legal right-of-way necessary to conduct work near Ak-Chin’s casino and entertainment complex.
But in a letter from Smith to Ak-Chin leaders last night, the mayor said the tribe’s noncompliance “poses a serious safety concern” as the purpose-made parkway project — now more than a decade in the works — nears completion.
“If the city is unable to install traffic signals, we will still open the Sonoran Desert Parkway for vehicular traffic, even though this would require an alternative permanent traffic condition at the intersection to ensure the safety of the public,” Smith warned.
Smith said the city will commence reworked plans at that intersection Monday, swapping the long-planned traffic signal for stop signs and blocking access to reservation land from the new freeway.
Any future plans to connect traffic signals there and allow access to the entertainment complex “would be at the sole expense of the Ak-Chin Indian Community,” Smith said.
Maricopa spokesperson Quinn Konold told InMaricopa yesterday “the city is confident in its stance on the issue” as it vies for “timely completion of the Sonoran Desert Parkway.”
Ak-Chin is on the clock with just two days to decide whether to follow through with original plans or risk hitting the eject button. Tribal leaders are mum since receipt of Smith’s letter.
“For decades, the Ak-Chin Indian Community has been a good neighbor to the city of Maricopa, so it is deeply disappointing city officials have chosen a path of confrontation instead of cooperation when it comes to roadwork on Desert Sonoran Parkway” Ak-Chin Chairman Robert Miguel said yesterday. “On behalf of the Ak-Chin people, we will pursue all remedies at our disposal to defend our sovereignty and ensure the law is properly followed.”