Maricopa’s own police department to become a reality in 2007

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Maricopa’s City Council at their Tuesday meeting gave staff a directive to implement a strategic plan for municipal police services, beginning with the nationwide search for a Chief of Police.

The move followed an extensive report presented by Carroll Buracker, president of a consulting firm hired by the city to do a law enforcement services study. Buracker’s firm has 20 years of experience in 220 municipalities, including Queen Creek, Apache Junction and El Mirage. The firm’s philosophy, according to Buracker, embraces “a commitment to excellence in public safety.”

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Carroll Buracker presents the law enforcement services study report while Finance Director Roger Kolman (foreground) listens intently.

Currently, the City of Maricopa contracts with the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement services. That agreement was signed on July 1, 2004, and extends through June 30, 2007. A Maricopa Police Department would need to be in place by July 1 of 2007.

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A copy of the very extensive law enforcement services study.

Buracker’s report, which is available on the City of Maricopa web site, concludes that Maricopa residents strongly support a municipal police force “to protect and serve,” despite concerns relating to facilities and fleet maintenance. The study also details the advantages and disadvantages of both a municipal police force and one based on contracted services.

City of Maricopa Police Department — Advantages:
1. municipal control over law enforcement services
2. ability to appoint a police chief
3. ability to select the personnel providing police services
4. ability to create a team approach among public service providers, i.e., police, fire, emergency services
5. accountability to residents
6. a policing style based on city philosophy

Disadvantages:
1. increased liability exposure
2. potential attrition of personnel
3. need for some Pinal County support services

Contracted Services — Advantages:
1. reduced liability exposure
2. fewer initial infrastructure costs

Disadvantages:
1. inability to replace chief law enforcement officer assigned to Maricopa
2. residents’ perception that they have no control over police services or its funding
3. attrition through transfers or promotions
4. possible change in the sheriff, an elected position, so that future leader may not share the same philosophies as city leadership

Planning & Zoning Commissioners
Dale Jones and Marquisha Griffin were reappointed to the Planning & Zoning Commission.

Site Approvals
Don Brubaker
, representing Gilleland Brubaker Architects, presented the plan for the proposed Alterra North Elementary School, a 76,500 single story structure, located on Bowlin Road and Alterra Parkway. The school will house 850 students.

Thanking city staff for their cooperation, Brubaker explained, “The state now believes us that things are happening very quickly and that the school district really needs this school now.”

Two areas of concern arose regarding the school. The first was parking space. Although 140 spaces are provided in the plan, the site is still 30 short. “We need to find more spaces,” noted Planning Director Amy Arco. “We can’t have parking on the Alterra Loop. The stipulation is that they continue to work with us; that’s all we’re asking.”

The second concern was the lack of hypoallergenic grass on the playing fields at the new school. Councilman Joe Estes noted that kids with allergy problems are out of school, which then costs the district money. City Manager Rick Buss mentioned that this might be a use for impact fees since there would be a direct benefit to the community. Marty McDonald, PRL Director, offered to help find the funds. “We have a serious hay fever issue in Maricopa,” he said. His department will, undoubtedly, need to utilize those fields for sports activities.

Pulte Homes was present to seek approval, which was granted, for their Senita Unit 3 subdivision to be located at Honeycutt Road and the Santa Rosa Wash, adjacent to the Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway. That highway location was a source of concern since, if it is ever widened to more than six lanes, right of way might become a problem.

New Sheriff’s Deputies
Pinal County Sheriff Chris Vasquez introduced three new deputies, Juan Sanchez, Nick Dial and Ryan Swearingen, to the council and the audience. “They don’t come with bad habits,” explained Vasquez. “That’s the advantage to newbies. They are class leaders and award winners. They will be good, energetic deputies who’ll want to go out and hook’em and book’em.”

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Sheriff Chris Vasquez (right) introduces the newest Maricopa deputies: (left to right) Juan Sanchez, Nick Dial and Ryan Swearingen.

United Way Campaign
Council members approved a proclamation in support of United Way’s first annual Million Penny Campaign. Monies raised in Pinal County will go toward the support of county programs like Early Childhood Success by 6, Adult Literacy, Self-Sufficiency, Services to Seniors and domestic violence. Collection containers will be available at various locations in Maricopa.

Grade Separation Project Assessment
Public Works Director Bob Jackson and Transportation Manager Brent Billingsley have negotiated an intergovernmental agreement with ADOT to complete an engineering project assessment in regard to a grade separation on SR 347 and the Union Pacific tracks.

Billingsley explained that this would usually be a project lasting eight to 15 years. It now has been reduced to between five and eight years. “This is very expensive,” he noted “We need to know who the partners are and acquire funding.” Union Pacific must contribute 6.5% of the sum needed for construction of the grade separation. It is still unknown as to whether drivers will have to cross the tracks utilizing an underpass or an overpass.

District 3 Supervisor David Snider addressed the council and attendees at the end of the meeting. “We need to plan 10 years ahead for transportation. If we identify and acquire rights of way, we’ll be ahead of the curve,” he stated.