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A sign at the McDonald’s drive-thru on John Wayne Parkway is proof the Great National Coin Shortage has reached Maricopa.

The sign asks customers paying cash to use exact change. Alternately, they are encouraged to use a card to pay for their Big Mac.

The coronavirus pandemic has meant lots of change, just not an abundance of coins. As businesses and banks nationwide closed their doors in recent months to help prevent the spread of the virus, the flow of quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies has mostly ceased, according to media reports.

As a result, many businesses are faced with the prospect of not being able to make change for patrons.

A young worker at the Culver’s drive-thru on Monday night expressed relief when a customer used exact change to pay for a Vanilla Oreo Concrete Mixer.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell signaled the shortage on June 17, during a virtual hearing with the House Financial Services Committee, saying the supply chain followed by coins was being interrupted by the pandemic.

“The places where you go to give your coins and get credit at the store and get cash — you know, folding money — those have not been working. Stores have been closed,” he said during the hearing. “So, the whole system has, kind of, had come to a stop.”

It was thought that as the American economy restarted, coins would start moving again through the supply line, but shortages are still being seen.

Harrah’s Ak-Chin Hotel and Casino is telling guests to bring their accumulated change to the cashier’s cage for cash. The exchange is complimentary – many places take a small percentage or amount to count all those nickels and dimes and dispense cash – through Aug. 31. There is a daily exchange limit of $500 per guest.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey
Gov. Doug Ducey speaks at Thursday afternoon's news conference on the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic. Source: YouTube

Stay home to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Gov. Doug Ducey implored residents on Thursday, stopping short of re-instituting an order to enforce that message.

“I want to emphasize that you are safer at home in Arizona,” Ducey said, imploring residents to wear face masks and practice physical distancing and regular washing of hands. “There is nothing more you can do to help than to stay home.”

But he added that wearing a mask is also vitally important to slowing the spread of the virus.

“I want to ask everybody to wear a mask,” he said.

The plea to Arizonans came as the number of cases rose to more than 112,000 statewide. Nearly 2,040 deaths have been reported.

Ducey also said restaurants will have to limit indoor dining to less than 50% occupancy in an effort to slow the spread of the virus, Ducey said in his first news conference in a week-and-a-half. It is unclear how many restaurants statewide were not already limited occupancy to 50% or less, and one reporter noted that the restriction was not a new action, and was in fact prescribed by the state Department of Health Services on June 19.

His action on June 29 to again close bars and nightclubs, gyms and waterparks “is encouraging” and already having an effect to help flatten the curve, he said.

“We are seeing some better results,” he said. “The actions we took 10 days ago are making a difference. We need to see more of a difference.”

Ducey said the state will continue strengthening its guidance on COVID-19.

“Everything we do going forward” will be done to protect lives, the governor said.

“In an effort to protect lives and protect livelihoods…” he said. “We will be more prescriptive in our guidance going forward.”

Ducey said the end of his stay at home order on May 15 led two weeks later to “a rapid rise of cases” that was eventually seen by many states nationwide. He noted the pandemic is reaching into each and every part of Arizona.

“No county, no matter how rural, is spared from the virus, “ he said.

In Pinal County, more than 1,550 cases and 82 deaths have been reported. In Maricopa, there have been 430 cases in the 85138 zip code and 164 cases in 85139.

The governor also said he will launch “Project Catapult” to “dramatically expand testing in Arizona.”

“Today demand is through the roof,” he said. “Everyone wants to get a test.”

Doug Ducey Risk Behaviors
Gov. Doug Ducey used this chart to assess the relative risks of certain behaviors to spreading the virus. Source: Office of Arizona Governor Doug Ducey

The state health department and a number of private partners are working toward a goal of 35,000 daily tests by the end of July to 60,000 daily tests by the end of August.

Ducey was asked about President Donald Trump’s threat to withhold federal education funding to those states who don’t open up their schools on time.

In response, he said he reiterated that his decision-making is not based on politics, saying everybody wants to see children back in school, but that it would not happen in Arizona until it was safe. Ducey has already delayed the opening of schools a month until the end of August

“We are going to be living with this virus for the foreseeable future,” said Ducey, noting that the fall arrival of the flu season will bring yet more challenges.

“We can’t let up.”

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This story appears in the July issue of InMaricopa.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Chevron station near the new overpass has seen business fall off 50% to 60% since State Route 347 was realigned as part of the project, according to its owner.
Vimal Patel

The overpass is generally considered a huge success for the city, but there was collateral damage for some businesses working in the shadows of structure.

Vimal Patel, the owner of the Chevron gas station and shop, was blunt about the effect of the project on his business:

“Very bad. We end up doing 50% to 60% (less) business now. They just put us on the side. The city doesn’t even care.”

At the Country Stylin’ Salon in the Maricopa Manor Business Center, owner Janine Spencer said her business has suffered tremendously since the bridge opened in July 2019:

Janine Spencer

“I lost half my stylists and half my business, and we still haven’t recovered …. I hope to stay in business. The bridge kind of kicked our butt.”

A year later, overpass ‘opens up the city’

$55 million project spurs commercial, residential development

Rudy Duran


At the Smokers Edge Smoke and Vape shop in the same shopping center, employee Rudy Duran said a falloff during the months the overpass took shape has mostly dissipated.

“During construction we took a little hit there. Now that it’s all done, we’re doing pretty good.”

This story appears in the July issue of InMaricopa.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brian Petersheim

By Brian Petersheim

So you think you’re ready to take the plunge and put in an offer on the home you’ve always wanted, whether it’s your first home, a bigger home for your growing household, or an investment property? Seems pretty easy right? Just go online and get some tips, read Facebook, or watch a YouTube video on how to make an offer and get the right home for you.

While that is one way you can do it, it will most likely end up causing you to pay more money that you should and many months trying. Midway through 2020, things in the Maricopa housing market have changed a little bit. If you haven’t heard, there is currently a shortage of homes for sale, which makes it a very strong seller’s market.

Currently in Maricopa, there are only 90 homes available for sale. Subtract the 24 homes that are in Province, the active adult community, and the 15 homes that are brand-new builds and will take between four and six months and you are left with a whopping 51 homes to choose from.

Those, by the way, are the same 51 homes that everyone else and their brothers are looking at, too.

These problems are not just local to the Maricopa market. Just for comparison, on any other given year there were about 35,000 homes for sale in the Phoenix Metro area. Currently, as of the end of June, there are only 9,390 homes for sale in the metro area, or about 25% of the typical average.

So, it’s not just a Maricopa problem, it’s a trend seen all over the state and in several other states, too.

If the last time you purchased a home was either during the foreclosure market, or even up to a few years ago, the market was much different and it was actually slanted toward the buyer.

So, here are some great tips to help you navigate this new seller’s market.

  1. Have your agent reach out to the seller’s agent. Find out if there’s any other offers and find out what the seller’s reason is for selling and their timeframe. If the seller currently lives at the house and they don’t have to start a job in another state for three months, that is great information to have. If they have a brand-new home that has just been built and are getting ready to move in quickly, that is great information to have and can be used to make your offer stronger.
  2. Write the cleanest offer possible. There are certain items that need to be attached to every offer. One is a prequalification letter. The second, at least in the city of Maricopa, is an HOA addendum. Submitting an offer missing either one of those documents makes it an incomplete offer that may not be given serious consideration by the seller.
  3. Avoid asking for personal property. This is something to avoid in a seller’s market. If your offer is the one that asked for a bunch of extra furnishings, the seller may focus on other offers.
  4. Write a personal letter to the seller. Compliment them on their choice of decorating and furnishings. Let them know they have taken great care of the home and you would love to see you and your loved ones in that home making memories. This personalized, handwritten letter can be submitted with the offer and it will get the attention of the seller. If another offer is very similar, the letter may make all the difference!
  5. Have your lender, the one who wrote the pre-qualification letter, reach out to the seller’s agent first thing the next morning. That agent receiving a call from the lender will let that agent know that the loan officer is indeed responsible and easy to communicate with. While the lender is on the phone with the agent, he/she can also let the realtor know that the prospective buyers are very strong financially and the loan process should be flawless.
  6. Add an escalation clause. An escalation clause is something that many newer agents are not familiar with because they’re generally only used in a strong seller’s market. Basically the clause reads that your client agrees to increase their offer $500 higher than any competing offer up to a specified amount. The other agent will need to prove the amount of the other offer(s).
  7. Consider giving the seller occupancy after closing for X number of days. Many sellers are hesitant to sell because they don’t 100% have another home lined up. Doing this may calm their fears and get them to pick your offer over one a little bit higher just because there is less stress involved.
  8. Close on the home faster. This goes back to tip number one. If the home is empty, the sooner it sells, the less the seller pays in property taxes, utilities and possibly mortgage. You closing on the home early may save the seller $1000 over another offer.

These are a few tips, but here’s the bottom line: trying to buy a home in a seller’s market is a different beast than buying in a market that is buyer-friendly. Communication is so important, and finding out as much information as you can may really help your offer be successful without costing you any more money.

A final, but extremely important tip, is make sure you have a local Maricopa real estate agent who knows the market inside and out. Homes are like fingerprints, each one is unique and an experienced real estate agent can help you find your match.

Brian Petersheim
HomeSmart Realty


347Grill Coronavirus
The 347 Grill at UltraStar, when it was closed in early May. Photo by Bob McGovern

The UltraStar Multi-tainment Center is temporarily closing its 347 Grill restaurant and 10 Pins take-out program after a person who was at the facility tested positive for coronavirus.

A message displayed prominently on its website began: “Ownership and management learned that an individual who was at UltraStar has tested positive for COVID-19. We understand that this news may cause you concern.”

A number of attractions – the bowling alley, laser tag, arcade and indoor concessions stand – remain open, the message said. Movies Under the Stars will continue nightly at 7 p.m.

Arizona is one of several western and southern states reporting record numbers of new coronavirus infections. There were 3,858 new cases reported Sunday and nine more deaths. Rates of positive cases and hospitalizations have spiked as well.

The message said that from the start of its May 15, 2020 reopening, UltraStar has adopted and implemented “thorough measures to protect you and our team from exposure to COVID-19….”

Among the mandatory measures implemented, UltraStar noted, were requiring staff to stay home if sick, taking temperatures of employees as they arrived for work, requiring staff to wear face masks, promoting social distancing by limiting the number of occupants with fewer seats and tables, ensuring that anybody with an elevated temperature not enter the building and increasing cleaning and sanitation procedures throughout the facility.

“We look forward to reopening on July 6th ensuring that it is safe for our staff and customers to return,” the message said. “During our temporary closure, we will be doing a thorough deep cleaning and sanitizing all areas …. The safety of our team and our guests is of the utmost importance and we appreciate your support as we navigate these challenging times.”

Last week, the Dutch Bros coffee shop in Maricopa closed for several days to conduct a deep cleaning after a worker tested positive for coronavirus. It has reopened.

There has been no official announcement, but Aaron’s rent-to-own apparently will close its Maricopa location on July 21.

The news came as a surprise to many longtime customers of the lease-to-own retailer who received brief phone calls to inform them of the closing date and recommend they shop at Aaron’s locations in Casa Grande or Chandler.

“I only found out when I went in the other day to look at a washer. The Maricopa branch manager said he himself found out from corporate the day before what was going on,” Maricopa local LaBelle Herrera said. “I asked, ‘Is it due to the virus?’ They said it’s part of the reason.”

In a Second Quarter business update to investors on the impact of COVID-19, the company predicted a 15% loss in second quarter earnings compared to last year, primarily due to the pandemic.

“As Progressive’s retail partners begin to reopen their stores, the Company is experiencing a recovery in invoice volume from a low point in April 2020 and expects this improving trend to continue,” the business brief states.

Aaron’s rent-to-own opened its Maricopa location in 2012 in the Edison Place shopping center off John Wayne Parkway. LaBelle said she had been there on a few occasions to shop for appliances and was surprised to see it almost empty when she was shopping Wednesday.

“The store was still clean and all but very few items, I was looking for a washer and they only had one on the floor,” she said.

With much of the store’s inventory being transferred to the Casa Grande location, staff is expected to relocate there as well.

InMaricopa reached out to Aaron’s Maricopa manager as well the corporate PR department, but have yet to receive any comment on the closure.

How have you been shopping since COVID-19?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Face masks became mandatory at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Hotel and Casino at noon Wednesday, according to an email sent to Caesar’s Rewards members.

The universal mask policy took effect for all people indoors – guests, employees and passersby, included – at the Harrah’s property in Maricopa and all other hotels and casinos across the Caesar’s network, Caesars Entertainment announced.

Masks are required at all times, unless eating or drinking. If guests do not have a mask, the hotel/casino will provide one.

The company said it will take steps to ensure that everyone wears a mask. Anyone who refuses to wear a mask, after being asked, will be directed to leave the property, Caesars said.

Next door, the UltraStar Multi-tainment Center at Ak-Chin will require face masks for everyone over the age of 5 and not seated in a dining area, effective 11 a.m. Friday. Employees have been wearing masks for weeks.

The Caesars policy extends a requirement for face masks already in place for guests and employees participating in table games.

“We promised that Caesars would continue to evaluate the latest recommendations, directives and medical science regarding the COVID-19 public health emergency and modify our enhanced health and safety protocols accordingly,” said Tony Rodio, Caesars CEO. “As a result, we are immediately requiring everyone in our properties to wear masks, because the scientific evidence strongly suggests that wearing masks and practicing social distancing may be the most important deterrents to spreading COVID-19 from person to person.”

The hotel/casino operator had previously instituted enhanced health and safety protocols, including more frequent cleaning and sanitization. It also implemented a health screening program for all employees.

Harrah’s Ak-Chin has announced that bingo will resume on Tuesday, June 30, as a smoke-free zone.

Dutch Bros COVID-19
The Dutch Bros coffee shop in Maricopa. By Kyle Norby

A worker at the Dutch Bros coffee shop in Maricopa has tested positive for coronavirus.

In letter to the community, posted on the Facebook page of the local store, the company confirmed an employee at its 20232 N. John Wayne Parkway location is in self-isolation for two weeks after getting a positive test result Thursday. The worker had the COVID-19 test on Monday.

Before the test results came back, the employee worked morning and afternoon shifts on Thursday, June 11, and Saturday, June 13, and morning shifts on Friday, June 12, and Sunday, June 14, the company said.

Upon learning of the positive result, closing procedures were initiated at the store, the company said.

“As an extra precaution, the shop will undergo a third-party deep clean before reopening,” the letter said. “We are also coordinating with public health officials to confirm our protocols not only meet, but exceed, expectations.”

The company noted it had already implemented a number of steps – increased handwashing and sanitizing, and face mask policies in line with recommendations by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example – to prevent the spread of the virus.

The letter did not specify when the shop would reopen.

Anyone with questions or concerns is encouraged to reach out to communitywellness@dutchbros.com.

This morning, the City of Maricopa opened its application process for small business and nonprofits affected by COVID-19 to receive AZCares funds.
The new webpage has details on The Maricopa Business Reemergence Program and the Maricopa Food & Aid Distribution Non-Profit Assistance Program. Applicants have until 6 p.m. on Monday, July 6, to submit their complete application.
The AZCares Fund is Arizona’s portion of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Maricopa City Council assigned $1.35 million to the Reemergence Program and $350,000 to the Nonprofit Assistance Program.
Many nonessential businesses in Maricopa were closed for 10 weeks and have struggled to regain their clientele. The Reemergence program can go toward rent or mortgage payments from March, April and May, purchase of personal protection equipment and related items. It is not for payroll or utilities, but the City is touting other business resources that may help mitigate other expenses.
Applications will be reviewed and allocations announced in mid-July.


Maricopa small businesses and others may start applying for AZCares money from City Hall starting Thursday.

The city council worked out the timing and some procedures at its Tuesday meeting. The application process was to last two weeks, which would have ended July 2. But with that being the City’s holiday for Independence Day, the process was extended through July 6 at 6 p.m.

“We want to make sure that all the businesses have the time to not only hear about it but get their application together,” Mayor Christian Price said.

The City received nearly $6 million of the state’s portion of CARES Act funds to help the community recover from the effect of COVID-19 closures.

Two of the application categories are Maricopa Resurgence (for small businesses) and Food and Aid Distribution Assistance (for nonprofits that benefited the community during the closure of nonessential businesses).

The small-business portion was funded $1.35 million. The nonprofit portion was funded $350,000, with the provision that any leftover funds be transferred over to the small-business side. City Manager Rick Horst said the City anticipates the greater need being among the small businesses.

Price, Vice Mayor Nancy Smith and Councilmember Vincent Manfredi all spoke of encounters with business owners who were uncertain if they would last the summer.

After the application process, City staff will look over the applications, and city council will decide allocations by mid-July. Councilmember Rich Vitiello wanted staff to start reviewing applications as soon as possible to hasten the process.

Price said there are lagging indicators that Maricopa was going to be hit hard in the coming months as some businesses do go under, causing a loss of employment, revenue and even residents in a “systematic domino effect.”

Councilmember Marvin Brown wanted it clarified that home-based businesses may apply as well.

The application form will be on the City website, and the City will announce when it becomes available.

Brian Petersheim

By Brian Petersheim

A local builder is now offering homes with two of the most sought-after amenities in the Maricopa market: waterfront property and RV garages in the Lakes at Rancho El Dorado.

A little history on the Lakes at Rancho El Dorado. The development is actually part of the main Rancho El Dorado subdivision, even though it has a different homeowner’s association. The legal name of the Lakes is “Rancho El Dorado Phase 3.” (Phase 1 and 2 are the golf course community). The Lakes have a total of 1,643 lots for homes, while currently there are 660 homes built.

The first builder to construct homes in the Lakes was named Hacienda, back in 2006. Hacienda went under during the real estate bubble and the bank sold some of the remaining homes. Meritage Homes also owned many other Lakes lots and has sold homes there sporadically between 2007 and 2016.

Currently in the Lakes, Richmond American Homes are starting construction of model homes to begin selling waterfront and interior lots. A builder new in Maricopa, Gehan Homes, will also begin developing waterfront and interior lots.

As a real estate agent in the Valley for 14 years, my experience is that one of buyers’ most popular requests is a home with a view (specifically on the water). Coming in second place: RV garages, somewhere home buyers can legally park their recreation vehicle, work trailer or boat without getting in trouble with the HOA.

Richmond American is making it possible to get both at the Lakes.

There are six new floorplans available in the Lakes at Rancho El Dorado, including four with an attached RV garage.  They also have waterfront lots available for new homes.

Non-RV homes will start at $289,990 while homes with RV garages will start at $302,990

Having a buyer’s agent on a new build is very important in order to get the best deal possible on both new builds and completed homes. There is never a cost to have a buyer’s agent to protect your best interest. Keep in mind, the salesperson that works at the model homes works for the builder. Your buyer’s agent works for you (builder pays agent, not you).

Please consult a local real estate professional for help buying or selling a home.

Brian Petersheim
HomeSmart Realty

Brian Petersheim

By Brian Petersheim

The Maricopa real estate market continues to strengthen despite the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic.

The tightening of the housing market is great for sellers but poses many challenges for buyers and investors. The number of available homes for sale is down more than 60% from a year ago.

In recent months, on any given day, there were 300 homes for sale – on average – in the city of Maricopa. Currently, there are only 130 homes for sale.

That number is mind-blowing because once you add any required parameters to a real estate search there are only a handful of homes to choose from, and other buyers using the same requirements will be looking at the same homes.

Of the 130 homes currently available:

• 27 of them are for sale in Province (active adult community)
• 52 of them are new build/spec homes
• That leaves 51 homes that are existing resale homes

When using numbers of bedrooms as the parameter, of the 130 available homes, the numbers breakdown like this:

• 2 bedrooms – 23
• 3 bedrooms – 46
• 4 bedrooms – 41
• 5 bedrooms – 18
• 6 bedrooms – 2
• 7+ bedrooms – 0

Searching by garage capacity?

• 2-car – 90
• 3 car – 39
• 4 car – 1

Using price as a parameter?

• $150,001-175,000 – 0
• $175,001-200,000 – 2
• $200,001-225,000 – 10
• $225,001-250,000 – 27
• $251,001-275,000 – 27
• $275,001-300,000 – 23
• $300,001-350,000 – 23
• $350,001-400,000 – 13
• $400,001-450,000 – 5
• $450,001+ – 0

What about a pool?

Pool – 14
No pool – 116

So, what does this all mean?

For buyers: Put your best foot forward. Before shopping for a home, get prequalified. If you do find the perfect home, a pre-qualification letter must be attached to the offer. Without the letter, it is an incomplete offer. Be prepared.

For sellers: A well-priced home listing will get quick attention in this market. Your first week after being listed may be busy and chaotic. Make your home available for showings, you may get more than one offer.

Bottom line: The market is strong, and homes that are priced competitively are selling. Get out there and meet your new neighbor.

Here’s current inventory in Maricopa for the week of June 1. These numbers only focus on the homes in HOA subdivisions, since the non-HOA areas are so diverse.

• 130 homes currently available for sale, not under contract, looking for offers
• 247 homes currently under contract (should close escrow within 45 days pending inspection, appraisal, etc.)

• $180,999 – Least expensive home available. (40165 W. Hayden Dr. in Homestead: 3 bed/2 bath, 1,262 square feet)
• $450,000 – Most expensive home available. (42533 W. Sandpiper Dr. in Province: 2 bed/2.5 bath, 2,296 square foot, waterfront featured in Phoenix Home and Garden magazine with gourmet kitchen and loaded w/upgrades)

• 128 regular/non-distressed listings
• 1 Short sale/pre-foreclosure
• 1 Foreclosed/bank owned

Please consult a local real estate professional for help buying or selling a home.

Brian Petersheim
HomeSmart Realty


Pinal County health inspectors gave out top marks to the dozen Maricopa eateries they visited April 16-May 15. However, in giving an “excellent” rating to Sunrise Café, the inspector noted the establishment was actually closed and would be revisited July 1.

Excellent [No violations found]
Barro’s Pizza
Burger King
Circle K – north
The Duke at Rancho El Dorado
Good Donuts
The New HQ
Raceway Bar & Grill
Starbuck’s – Maricopa Station
Sunrise Café
Sunrise Preschool
Taco’s ‘n’ More

Satisfactory [Violations corrected during inspection]

Needs Improvement [Critical items noted during inspection cannot be corrected immediately, requiring follow-up inspection]

Unacceptable [Gross, unsanitary conditions necessitating the discontinuation of operation]

This item appears in the June issue of InMaricopa.

Brooke Young-Amaro, part of the crew at Native Grill & Wings, serves the Rivera family, (from left) Raelynn, Alan, Reanna and Brody. Photo by Victor Moren


As some Maricopa businesses made a cautious comeback in May, so did Maricopa shoppers.

“We were going crazy at the house,” said Kandy Christopherson of Rancho El Dorado.

Since Gov. Doug Ducey issued the “Stay at Home” executive order in March, Christopherson’s main excursions were to the grocery store and Costco. So, when retailers like Ross started to roll out the re-openings in mid-May, she was there.

In fact, she and her family were there for two and a half hours before the doors opened. When deals are on the line, they know how to queue.

The Christophersons were near the front of the line when Ross reopened. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

For daughter Abbie Christopherson, the patient wait was for “retail therapy” at a favorite store. Being stuck at home, she said, made her feel angry, and some serious deals seemed like the release point she needed.

Luring customers with deep discounts did create lines, but Maricopans were still cautious about being in crowds, especially among those not wearing facemasks.

“I don’t wanna be the government lab rat to see if it’s safe yet,” Adrian Basil said.

Others agreed, including Esther Gerard, who was still playing it safe. “This is not over and will come back in the fall,” she said.

Most restaurants stayed open for curbside or delivery service during the “Stay at Home” order, but re-opening dining rooms was a process of earning trust.

Native Grill & Wings owner Pat Kieny (left) and his staff opened the Maricopa restaurant May 13. Photo by Victor Moreno

Native Grill & Wings re-opened for dine-in May 13 with a full set of safeguards in place for customers and employees, according to owner Pat Kieny. They included mandatory facemasks and temperature checks for workers, capacity reduced by about 50%, enhanced sanitation protocols and disposable menus.

“It is going to be interesting to find out when we get to capacity how long the wait is going to be … the governor basically said go to your favorite restaurant, eat your dinner, go home, [don’t] stay too long,” Kieny said. “Well, we don’t have sports now so there isn’t really much hanging out, and hopefully most of the patrons will come in, get their meal, have good service and then go home to let the next people come through. We’ll just have to see how it goes.”

Dental offices, too, had to show they were meeting the protocols necessary to bring back patients when allowed to re-open May 1.

Dr. Tin Nguyen of Smiley Dental and his assistant wear full personal protective equipment as they work on a patient during a May office visit. Photo by Victor Moreno

The Arizona State Board of Dental Examiners waived many of its fees for members during the time offices were closed. It later stated, “Dental workers (including dentists, hygienists, dental assistants, and other office staff) are at risk of infectious disease through patient contact and contact with the patient care environment. Employers are required to train workers about the necessity of PPE, including how to use it, put it on, remove it and safely dispose of it.”

Earning trust was also part of the re-opening process for one of the area’s biggest employers, Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino.

“Over the past several weeks the Tribal Council, along with Caesars management, have been monitoring the situation here in Arizona and across the country, making sure we had the best and most accurate information needed to re-open the casino,” General Manager Robert Livingston said.

The May 15 re-opening was only partial. There were fewer slot machines with more distancing and limited seating at the blackjack table. Poker, keno and BINGO rooms were unavailable as were the spa and gym. Some of the eateries were open.

People wait outside the doors of the casino floor for the partial re-opening of Harrah’s Ak-Chin. Photo by Kyle Norby

Like Harrah’s Ak-Chin, UltraStar Multi-tainment Center had a partial opening, using only a third of the facility, and that was at half capacity.

“We were thrilled that we got a very controlled, measured opening response,” General Manager Adam Saks said. “We were able to handle a very manageable flow, experience our new procedures, let our team settle into the things that they need to do in a very organized fashion. It was really nice.”

UltraStar opened the bowling alley, arcade and 347 Grill as phase one. The next two phases are not on a strict calendar. Saks said the customer response to precautionary measures taken by staff “has been nothing but positive.”

Peggy Whitaker talks to a staff member at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center as it re-opened the bowling center, arcade and 347 Grill. Photo by Kyle Norby

For now, opening the theaters has little purpose, because major production companies are not releasing new films until July 1.

“Our overall job that we wanted to accomplish was that our guests as well as our employees felt safe in this environment that we have,” said Laurie McCartney, assistant general manager.

Gaining the trust of guests and employees required spending the last two months preparing, Saks said. That allowed management to give employees a “cohesive, clear plan that consisted of education, of PPE, changing procedures.” That includes guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and National Restaurant Association and new protocols added by Chef Frank Abeta.

The company provided all employees whimsical facemasks, and much of the staff is gloved. Bowling balls and shoes are disinfected between every user. The entry into the restaurant is limited, half the tables were removed, and several booths darkened. Customers pay at a cashier station with a barrier in place. Menus are disposable, utensils are wrapped and no condiments are on the tables.

As UltraStar will be using a fraction of its employees for an unknown amount of time, Saks said they had to make the difficult decision to furlough members of the team. Returning staff had to sign several documents saying they will adhere to the new protocols.

“It’s just not like the old days,” Saks said. “The rule of thumb in a restaurant has always been wash your hands and don’t touch your face. When you saw a server scratch their face, you went by him in a side station and said, ‘Hey, Jim, you can’t do that. That looked rough on the floor.’ Now, [if] you’re seen scratching your face, you could lose your job.”

The challenge, for UltraStar and other Maricopa businesses is anticipating every touch point and making sure that point either has a strict cleaning schedule or is shut down. Two of the businesses most in demand by residents, restaurants and salons, have to go through a similar cleaning protocol and limited access.

Hair and nail salons, where staff worked in gloves and facemasks, were the first choice for many Maricopans wanting to take advantage of new openings while others wanted to make the most of getting out of the house.

Autumn Simpson’s first trip out in nearly 10 weeks was to the grocery store, but she’s ready to be more adventuresome. “Within the next couple weeks, I’ll try going to some museums/science centers in the summer, going to a restaurant, going to a hotel pool and maybe joining a gym. I’m being cautious but have to get used to going in public again at some point.”

Based on customer response, some businesses may adopt temporary measures as long term, like takeout menus and curbside service at restaurants. Whatever the full rollout looks like in coming weeks, Maricopans are ready for the service.

“Now, I’m just waiting on the buffets to open back up,” said Robert Shimkus. “I’m tired of my cooking.”

Bob McGovern contributed to this story.

This story appears in the June issue of InMaricopa.

F.O.R. Maricopa food bank
People line up to receive food at F.O.R. Maricopa during a recent distribution. Photo by Kyle Norby

With nearly $6 million incoming from the AZ Cares Fund, Maricopa City Council wants to hear from residents about how to spend it.

On Tuesday, the council wants input from the community on how to allocate funding to support local businesses impacted economically by the coronavirus public health crisis as well as non-profits providing food and aid to those who need it.

Arizona received $1.86 billion in federal CARES Act monies to help in the recovery from the pandemic. On Wednesday, the governor announced the state will distribute $441 million to counties, cities and towns. Maricopa’s share is $5.98 million.

Ducey’s announcement may have been prompted, in part, by a lawsuit that was ready to be filed by Pinal County supervisors to force the state to distribute the funding.

Maricopa can spend the monies on regular payroll costs of public safety personnel, “freeing up existing local budget capacity to be deployed elsewhere covering revenue shortfalls and increased spending due to the pandemic,” the city said in a news release. Council will be taking a look at using some of the allocation to support local businesses and nonprofits.

Council would like residents to share their thoughts on the biggest needs for impacted  businesses and nonprofits providing food and aid, and their recommendation for addressing those needs.

The community input session, the last item on the agenda for the council’s regular Tuesday meeting, is expected to begin about 7:30 p.m. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m.

With social distancing guidelines in place, the meeting will only be open to the public on a limited basis. Those wishing to provide input are encouraged to submit their comments to Vanessa.Bueras@maricopa-az.gov by 6 p.m. Tuesday to be read into the record. Residents can also comment via the city’s YouTube Channel live during the meeting available here.

You can watch the meeting live online or on the City’s YouTube Channel.

For residents unable to access the internet, speakers will be allowed into Council Chambers one at a time to share input at the meeting.

From left, Amanda, Sydnie Lovlin, Jessica Matelski, Franci Rohde, Sarah Woods Cuneo, Kelly Larson, Sylvia Shidemantle, Mandi Larca, Merle Gaskins, Ashlynn Tonkin, and Angela. Photos by Kyle Norby

Staff, family, and friends of the Maricopa Animal Hospital gathered Thursday for the official groundbreaking ceremony of a new facility next to Maricopa Self Storage on John Wayne Parkway.

The veterinary clinic has been serving the Maricopa community since Dr. Kelly Larson first opened its doors in 2007. Located off of North John Wayne Parkway and West Hathaway Avenue, the current clinic is 1,200 square feet with a cramped waiting room occupied by the service desk.

The new, 4,000 square-foot building will expand the waiting room as well as provide bigger exam rooms for veterinary technicians and more parking. The move, expected in the fall, is expected to be quick with the new building located across the street.

The new, 4,000 square-foot building will expand the waiting room as well as exam rooms.

“We started out very small, just a couple days a week and gradually we’ve grown in the community,” Larson said. “This is more for our clients than for us to be able to provide a nice, new building with some space. We are very excited.”

Once the building permit is acquired, construction will be done by local subcontractors with a finish date expected within six to seven months, according to Keith Nelson, president of TerWisscha Construction Inc. of Willmar, Minn.

“We’re one of the only companies that do design and construction (of veterinary hospitals) in the United States,” Nelson said. “One of the biggest things most doctors do in their life is getting to do a project such as this, so we’ve got to celebrate it!”

Longtime Animal Hospital clients Dennis and Linda Shurtz expressed their good wishes during the ceremony and shared stories from over the years with Larson and Sylvia Shidemantle, practice manager. The Shurtzes, who have brought their pets to the clinic for 10 years, said they have appreciated the great care and customer service.

“They need the room, so this has just been so exciting. People are talking about it,” Dennis said.

Shidemantle said none of this growth would be possible without the loyal clients that have come to the clinic over the years. She said she appreciated their patience with the limited space at the current location, which will converted into a pet boarding facility.

“It’s time for space!” she said. “Maricopa is just growing so much and we are so busy in the current building. It’s time to expand so we can offer more to our clients.”

Staff, family, and friends of the Maricopa Animal Hospital


Amtrak station in Maricopa, AZ
For about the past two years, travelers have arrived and departed from Amtrak's station in Maricopa without the assistance of a customer service agent. Photo by Bob McGovern

When Amtrak trains stop in Maricopa on their way to Los Angeles or New Orleans, riders will soon be greeted by a uniformed agent … again.

The rail station, west of West Mercado Street at the overpass, lost its customer service representative in June 2018 due to budget cuts.

According to Trains magazine, agents will return at 15 stations in 12 states following a congressional mandate last year to restore staffing.

“These uniformed workers will be trained to assist our customers with booking and boarding trains, including helping with unaccompanied minors, carry-on baggage and providing information on the status of arriving and departing services,” Amtrak said in a statement. “These employees will be scheduled to meet customers for all trains.”

Amtrak is trying to fill the customer service positions internally, and then will make them available to the public, according to news reports.

Amtrak did not respond to a request for more information about the carrier’s plans.

The Sunset Limited, Amtrak’s southernmost route, travels from Los Angeles to New Orleans three days a week. Westbound trains stop in Maricopa at 9:02 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Eastbound trains make the local stop at 5:40 a.m. on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

An air-conditioned waiting room is available for about an hour before arrivals and about two hours after departure at the station in Maricopa, which is one of about 525 U.S. cities with an Amtrak stop.

Ridership on all Amtrak trains in April was 120,000, compared to 2.7 million in April 2019, a decline of 95 percent, as travel has been impacted by stay at home orders and social distancing recommendations to prevent the spread of coronavirus. As a result, service was cut on numerous routes. Service on the Sunset Limited has remained intact, however.

Christian Price Maricopa Mayor
Mayor Christian Price speaks from the dais during city council's May 19 meeting. (Source: City of Maricopa via You Tube)

At its May 19 meeting, the Maricopa City Council thumbed its nose at common sense, accountability and its own written policy in one fell swoop. Six council members either don’t know the difference between right and wrong, or just don’t have the backbone to condemn one of their own. Either way, it renders the Code of Ethics meaningless.

The complaint I filed against Councilmember Julia Gusse for violating the City’s Code of Ethics was on the agenda. With Councilmember Vincent Manfredi recusing himself from the discussion and vote, the council unanimously passed a motion to toss out the complaint and “move forward.”

Despite merely being the Complainant who brought an issue to the council to help it police itself (or not, as it turned out), the discussion followed Gusse’s strategy of seemingly putting me on trial. When not defending myself for letting the council know it had a rogue member harassing a local business, I found myself defending the city attorney and the council’s very own code and process.

Bartle: City council cops out, condones Gusse’s attacks on local business

Lobbying to remove the code’s ambiguity that allows “third parties” (i.e. non-council members) to file complaints, Mayor Christian Price said there is “no way for us to sit as judges” – even though that’s what the City of Phoenix’s City Council does, for 20 times the number of residents.

I left the meeting thinking I’d file a new complaint – I recently received another egregious email penned by Gusse – in part to prove to five council members their mistake of voting on the premise of what they want the code to say, versus what it actually says.

But the reality is, faced with the obligation – though many would say opportunity – of addressing Gusse spitefully telling local businesses owners to cancel their advertising agreements with InMaricopa, or her emailing the mayor, “My recommendation is to NOT advertise one dime of our City’s advertising budget in this publication” and that she “will fight for the discontinued financial support of his organization,” the council proved May 19 they would again look the other way.

What the council should do is end the charade and rescind the Code of Ethics. Council members do not care about holding themselves accountable, so stop wasting taxpayer resources pretending.

The mayor wants citizens to have only two recourses (see YouTube video) for holding our elected officials accountable for unethical behavior – recall them, which would take about 1,000 voter signatures and $30,000 of taxpayer money to stage a special election, or wait up to four years for the next election.

Through its own admission, Maricopa City Council’s Code of Ethics is not worth the paper it’s written on. And I received it electronically.

Scott Bartle City Council
InMaricopa owner Scott Bartle addresses City Council about his ethics complaint against Councilmember Julia Gusse at its May 19 meeting. (Source: City of Maricopa, via YouTube)

At its May 19 meeting, the Maricopa City Council addressed an ethics complaint I filed against Councilmember Julia Gusse. Here is the story from my perspective.

The history

In a nutshell, Article VIII of the City Code (Code of Ethics) states, “The Mayor and the City Council shall maintain the utmost standards of personal integrity, truthfulness, honesty and fairness in carrying out their public duties.” I believe a council member, Julia Gusse, violated the spirit and the letter of this Code, many times over.

If you disagree, and at least one Mesa lawyer did, that’s OK. Apparently, things like personal integrity, truthfulness, honesty and fairness are quite subjective.

You can form your own opinion, but here are a few of the reasons I thought violations occurred:

  • Gusse insisted on meddling in my business’ hiring practices “before our City moves forward with any advertising.”
  • Gusse demeaned and threatened a local job-creator, writing “I suppose that with this email you have mansplained my council job to me and have put me in my place? Am I to scurry away now with your permission? As you are well aware, the pen is mightier than the sword!”
  • Gusse doubled down, professing she (i.e. city government) is entitled to a say on who and how my business recruits and hires talent: “When you hire an individual that is to report on anything from kids sports to a local crime scene, who you hire is 100% my concern!”

For over a year, I hesitated to file a complaint in hopes I could avoid doing so altogether. Given Gusse’s decision to run for re-election, I felt compelled to give the council the opportunity to prove its mettle and the public an opportunity to see how one of their elected officials actually treats local businesses. (As it turns out, we got to know what six of the seven council members think is appropriate relative to how to treat local businesses and their rights to interfere with them.)

[Note: After submitting my complaint, a public records request revealed Gusse emailed the mayor, “My recommendation is to NOT advertise one dime of our City’s advertising budget in this publication” and that she “will fight for the discontinued financial support of his organization.” She backs that up in 2019, spitefully telling local businesses owners to cancel their advertising agreements with InMaricopa.]

The meeting

Gusse did a good job of moving the narrative away from her actions. The council fell in lockstep, receiving the gift of a flawed investigative conclusion to complement the strategy of claiming a non-conforming process.

I am bemused as to how the City’s outside investigator came to his conclusion. I can only surmise we have very different standards of right and wrong, or he understands where his bread is buttered. Maybe potential legal liability for the City was a consideration. Somehow, the investigating attorney did not even find Gusse’s behavior to be unprofessional.

But I don’t think the report mattered. Gusse had eight minutes of victory speeches already prepared – and it seems unlikely she could have written those on the one-floor elevator ride from the executive session meeting room to the regular meeting in the Council Chambers. Price, Smith and Vitiello all could have pointed to the report findings and had all the political cover they needed, then quietly amended the Code to prevent those pesky constituents from being able to accuse them of any wrongdoing in the future. But they couldn’t resist following through on the “process” strategy on which they committed to hanging their hat. Conspiracy theory? Yes, but a very plausible one.

Pre-planned or not, council focused on issues that had nothing to do with the ethics violations. In fact, not one question was asked about the appropriateness of her emails. Not one member expressed concern with her meddling in a private business, nor her disrespectful communication, nor her threat to a local employer to withhold city purchasing.

Her modus operandi of grandstanding, playing the victim and accusing people (possibly me) of being dim-witted, racist, misogynist and anti-veteran predictably held true. (see YouTube video, 14:02)

Like Gusse, Councilmember Vitiello accused me of taking advantage of the City code by having the nerve to even file a complaint. He addressed his fear someone would file a meritless complaint against him for political purposes, though that would be in conflict of current policy which states a complaint would only be placed on a council agenda for action “if there is reasonable cause to believe a violation occurred.”

Vitiello seemingly exonerated Gusse to protect himself from facing the same fate: “This could be a free-for-all, for anybody to come against anyone of us councilmembers for whatever reasoning they choose to during an election year. And that really worries me.”

Oblivious to the facts in the complaint, Vitello said, “Process is the most important thing here. … I struggle with even starting to read (the report) because, again, the process to me, I feel was not followed.”

Vitiello also questioned me on the timing of my filing, despite my previously having made a public statement explaining my reason. (Tell me again why I am on trial here?)

Mayor Christian Price and Vice Mayor Nancy Smith continued the effort to cast doubt on the process itself. Throughout, the mayor never asked the city attorney for clarification of whether the process was properly followed, as is his common practice.

Council should have taken its beef with how the process transpired to the mayor and city attorney. Turning the tables and blaming the Complainant is a page out of Gusse’s book.

Like Vitiello, Price and Smith failed to address, much less condemn, Gusse’s actions.

Councilmember Marvin Brown said nothing.

Councilmember Henry Wade focused on personalities instead of facts. Somewhat confused, he made the motion to exonerate Gusse to “move forward.”

And so it goes. The council had an opportunity to hold a colleague accountable – the intent of the Code of Ethics – and instead tried to shoot the messenger. I told them they had only two choices – condemn or condone her behavior. They chose to condone.

The future

Despite Gusse’s strategy of making the complaint about my business and me, it wasn’t. The council’s decision to let her off is of little consequence to me. If anything, the profoundly poor judgment by six council members makes me realize, in spite of COVID-19, InMaricopa should be paying closer attention to the decisions our elected officials make. And we will.

One unknown is the impact on economic development of the City’s acceptance of its officials trying to dictate policies and procedures of private businesses. Is government overreach a factor in companies’ decisions of where to plant their businesses? Maybe.

What is certain is Gusse will graduate from emboldened to bullet-proof, and her disdain for the Code of Ethics will turn into blatant disregard.

My goals Tuesday were to (a) give council an opportunity to set a high standard by condemning Gusse’s behavior and (b) prevent Gusse from using her position to attack other Maricopa businesses like she does mine. I accomplished one of the two and will, like Wade, move forward.

Ross Reopening May 2020
Shoppers wait in line on Wednesday afternoon to get inside the Ross Dress for Less store in Maricopa. The store was having a reopening sale. Photo by Bob McGovern

The sale was on Wednesday at Ross Dress for Less and shoppers waited in line for close to an hour to get inside for the bargains.

They would wait again for the chance to get back outside with their goods.

“My mom said they had opened and there was a big sale today,” said Jenny Gomez, 39, of Maricopa, standing with her mother, Julie Gomez, on the sidewalk outside the retail store. “So we decided to come check it out.”

About 1:45 p.m., the Gomezes were last in a line of about 40 shoppers waiting to get through the front doors. They were nonplussed about the 45-minute wait ahead, about half of which would be spent under the midday sun.

The crowd at the reopening sale was no mystery to them.

“People have been cooped up,” said Jenny, who admitted they shopped often at Ross before the pandemic.

With dozens of cars in the parking lot, store security was letting shoppers inside only as others came out. About half of those in line outside wore coverings over their faces. Some practiced social distancing, while others didn’t seem to care.

Dresses that typically cost $30 were selling for $3 to $6. Chaise lounges were discounted by about 66%.

Inside, shoppers queued up with their purchases – some with multiple carts – funneled into one of eight-or-so cash registers. It was about another 40 minutes from getting in line to paying for merchandise.

Brian Davis, 39, of Maricopa, was standing in line outside to kill time while he waited for his wife’s car to be tinted. But he did have a goal: new shoes.

“There is nowhere to buy them,” he said.

He had already waited about 20 minutes, and had at least that long to reach the doors, but the New Jersey transplant exuded a coolness and patience that befitted his military training as a member of the National Guard.

“I’m used to waiting,” he said. “I stand in a line until it goes away.”

Kylia Simmons, 17, was waiting in line for two.

Eleven weeks pregnant, she passed the time outside so she could buy clothes – roomier clothes – inside.

“My stomach is starting to grow,” she said with a smile.

A big Ross fan who has missed shopping there the past two months, Simmons said she wasn’t that worried about staying safe out in public.

Like many other retail stores deemed non-essential, Ross shuttered its doors in March when Gov. Doug Ducey declared a stay at home order to stem the spread of coronavirus. Wednesday was its official reopening.

The store, which opened in July 2018 at 20595 N. John Wayne Parkway in the Edison Pointe shopping center, is open all week from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Cat Klinzing and her son, Jacob, play games on Friday morning during the reopening of the UltraStar Multi-tainment Complex. Photos by Kyle Norby

As the first customer through the doors Friday morning at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center, four-year-old Jacob Klinzing was headed to play games in the arcade.

With a card loaded up by his mother, Cat, he was ready to play the Walking Dead video game and skeeball.

The Klinzings, who live in Acacia Crossing, were one of several families who visited UltraStar as the entertainment complex reopened after being closed for two months to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The complex welcomed a handful of bowlers, diners and others with procedures in place to safeguard the health of patrons and employees, including physical distancing, sanitizer stations and matching face masks for workers.

“When I said we were going out, he was so excited, grabbing his shoes,” said Klinzing, who said her family had been “really good” following Gov. Doug Ducey’s stay-at-home order, which expires today. She said she had been particularly careful about her son’s health, staying at home and out of the grocery store, for example.

“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t feel safe,” she said.

At the Ten Pins Down bowling center, the first two bowlers to check in at the counter – under an electronic sign that said “We’ve Missed You!” – immediately reached for the hand sanitizer.

Peggy Whitaker, 66, and her husband, Jeff, 64, wore masks on their faces as they prepared to bowl after a long hiatus. They had their lane for an hour.

The Whitakers, who live in Cobblestone Farms, said they typically bowl 3-4 times weekly and play in leagues at UltraStar.

Peggy Whitaker bowling
Peggy Whitaker of Maricopa chats with an employee on Friday morning at the bowling alley at UltraStar.

“This is wonderful,” Peggy said. “It opened just in time. It’s a great time to come.”

Still, they were taking necessary precautions. “We are taking care of ourselves,” she said.

But she added that others remained concerned about being out and about during the pandemic.

“All the women I know are scared to death, because they are in my age bracket,” she said.

Peggy was especially looking forward to rolling the ball again – with her left arm.

A natural lefty kegler, she had replacement surgery on that shoulder 18 months ago, and spent much of her rehabilitation bowling instead with her right arm. On Friday, she was ready to try out the new shoulder.

“It’s going to be fun,” she said.

Alyssa and Mili Kajtaz saw the reopening as an opportunity to get their two young sons out of their Maricopa Meadows home.

Bentley Kajtaz, 8, bowls at UltraStar on Friday.

“We thought we would let the kids have some fun,” said Mili, father of Bentley, 8, and Liam, 6, as they prepared to bowl. “I love the bowling alley,” the younger boy said.

The family stayed home during the governor’s order and the boys had “no interaction with anybody,” Mili said.

In the 347 Grill, which was greeting diners after being closed since mid-March, the Charli and Nick Kaltved were celebrating their son, Kekoa, 11, for Student of the Month honors at Pima Butte Elementary School. Two of their six grandchildren, Matt and Jake, were helping them celebrate.

As the Maricopa family – with face masks in their pockets – waited for lunch to arrive at their table, Nick said he and his wife have been working essential jobs through the stay-at-home order. They prioritize their family’s safety, he said.

Earlier this morning, gamblers lined up for the reopening at the adjacent Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino.

As a television chopper overhead broadcast live images, a couple hundred people waited in the sun for the doors to open at 9 a.m.

Asked what brought her to Harrah’s to wait in line, Liz Taylor of the Phoenix area responded quickly: “Gambling.”

“We haven’t been able to gamble since March 17,” her friend, JoEllen Geary, added.

When the doors finally opened, the crowd cheered.

Harrah's Ak-Chin reopening
A line of gamblers waits for the doors to open on Friday morning at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino, which was closed two months ago to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Gamblers at Harrah’s will play slots and blackjack on a casino floor reconfigured to promote  social distancing. Banks of slot machines have been arranged to keep players at least six feet from one another, the casino had said earlier. There will be limited seating at blackjack tables.

Other protocol includes hand-sanitizing stations available throughout the casino floor, masks for all employees and increased cleaning service.

The vast majority of gamblers waiting to enter the casino did not wear face masks.

The resort and hotel tower guest rooms will open Friday evening.

Not all amenities will be open, including The Poker Room, Keno and Bingo. Some venues remain closed as well, including the Events Center, Valet and the Spa and Fitness Center.

Some casino eateries will be open with social-distancing protocols in place, including Chop Block & Brew, Agaves, Copper Cactus and Dunkin Donuts.

The Kaltved Family celebrates Friday with lunch at the 347 Grill. The restaurant and some other attractions at UltraStar were open for business.

Orbitel Maricopa
Orbitel is extending its Keep American Connected pledge through June 30.

Orbitel Communications has extended its FCC Keep Americans Connected pledge through June 30.

The pledge was made by more than 700 media companies who committed to support their residential and small business customers during the pandemic by waiving late fees and not terminating service because of an inability to pay. The original pledge expired April 30.

As an early adopter, Orbitel decided to extend it commitment to customers and small businesses to June 30. The extension includes:

  • Temporary suspension of service disconnections due to failure to pay
  • Waiver of late fees for customers
  • Office lobby hours by appointment only
  • Suspension of in-person payments
  • Expansion of phone technical support to resolve as many issues as possible before dispatching a technician

“While we continue to see the impact of the pandemic in Arizona, we are optimistic that things are heading in the right direction,” said John Schurz, Orbitel’s president and general manager. “Having said that, we believe some of our customers are still in need of this kind of support.”

Orbitel has helped residents in other ways during the pandemic, including partnering with the City of Maricopa Parks and Recreations to support the Copper Sky Recreation Complex and make online eSport activities free to residents during the months of May and June. The cable TV and internet provider also supports F.O.R. Maricopa, the local food bank, as well as the Chamber of Commerce.

Nathan Guilford Auctioneer
Nathan Guilford of Liquidate Az in Maricopa has joined the National Auctioneers Association.

A Maricopa businessman has joined the world’s largest professional organization for auctioneers.

Nathan Guilford of Liquidate Az, a family business specializing in wholesale, liquidation, auctions and estates, has been welcomed as a member of the National Auctioneers Association.

Membership in the NAA, which represents thousands of auctioneers nationwide, provides Guilford access to national networking, education, promotion and advocacy efforts all focused on growing his auction services for clients. The organization strives to help members become the preferred auction professionals in their marketplace.

Guilford lives in Maricopa with his wife, Shelly, two children and two dogs.

Liquidate Az, which conducts online and live auctions, is at 12501 N. Murphy Road, Suite E,  just off Maricopa Casa Grande Highway, about five miles southeast of Walmart. It is consistently ranked one of the Top 10 estate and auction companies in the state.

The business can be reached at 480-415-9869 or LiquidateAz.com.

New housing is going up all over Maricopa. Photos by Raquel Hendrickson

A lot of dirt is moving, and it’s to Maricopa’s credit.

The city is set up for 60,000 homes, with 22,000 currently built. Building permits and home construction are obvious in many subdivisions.

With residential combined with ongoing and upcoming commercial construction, Maricopa has remained lively during a difficult economic moment. A presentation aimed for three credit-rating agencies was part of City Manager Rick Horst’s report to council this week and highlighted the amount of development going on in the city.

In October, Moody’s Investors Services upgraded the City of Maricopa from an A1 rating to an AA3 rating. That applied to $27.5 million of its outstanding $37.5 million in general obligation bonds. The credit ratings are an important part of the City’s work to re-fund the bond at a lower tax rate.

The City has an AA- rating from Standard & Poor’s, which called the City’s credit outlook “stable” in its June review. Horst said he is confident the City can earn the highest AAA rating from Fitch Ratings.

Moody’s rating reflected “material improvement in the City’s tax base,” according to its report, “fostered by rapid development and population growth. It further reflects growth in the city’s financial operation while maintaining unusually strong reserves and liquidity.”

The City’s debt level as it continues to pay off the addition of Copper Sky is considered “average and declining.” In fact, while calling Maricopa’s debt level about average nationally, Moody’s pointed out it was low compared to other Arizona municipalities.

All credit-rating agencies look at the same data in assigning ratings.

The residential and commercial activity is showcased to show a rising tide in Maricopa.

“We are reaping the benefits of years of work,” Councilmember Henry Wade said. “It’s been a hard slog. Everyone has to stay the course and don’t sit on the sidelines.”

Santa Rosa Springs


Several partially built subdivisions are coming back to life.

Among the biggest, Rancho Mirage Estates, which has 568 homes built, is moving forward on 1,568 additional lots, according to the manager’s report.

Nearby, Tortosa, which has built 1,175 homes, will total 2,462 when built out.

The Lakes at Rancho El Dorado, which has fewer than half its plots built, is looking to fill in its housing sites. It has 950 lots to build before hitting capacity of 1,608 and is finishing the circle of Powers Parkway, which had been dead-ended for years.

Santa Rosa Crossings has come back on the map east of Desert Cedars. Horst reminded council it had been “sitting dormant for over a decade.” A developer is now replacing infrastructure in preparation for 720 homes where there are currently none.

The report also showed Homestead working on building 324 more homes and Santa Rosa Springs with 168 more. Not mentioned in the report was the ongoing construction in Glennwilde, Palo Brea, Sorrento and Alterra. The City, Horst said, has been averaging almost 1,000 single-family home construction permits per year.

Additional housing is coming in the form of apartments and senior living complexes. Oasis at the Wells is expected to be completed this year, and the Bungalows on Bowlin are planned to open in 2021.

Copper Sky Commercial is to include 256 apartments and assisted living units, and Copper Sky Commercial South has plans for 256 apartments. Both have completion goals of 2022. The senior housing at Seasons Living at Copper Sky is to include 146 units and expects to be complete in 2021.

A+ Charter Schools


Several businesses are expected to open this year. That includes the second Walgreens, which is at The Wells and set to open almost any day. Next to it is a new retail building that has a dental office as one of its tenants and is expected to open soon.

Maricopa Town Plaza boasts Iconic Tires and a two-tenant shell building that will include a Riliberto’s Mexican Restaurant. Both are expected to open this year. Another building on the lot is to be Maricopa Animal Hospital, set to open in 2021.

AAMCO is nearing its opening date in a complex expected to be complete next year. It also includes John Wayne Self-Storage.

A+ Charter Schools, a new high school, is going up quickly on Alan Stephens Parkway. It is 25,000 square feet on seven acres and pushing to open in time for the new school year in July.

Back at The Wells next to Walmart, Bahama Buck’s has a likely opening date in early 2021. “They’re getting ready to start their construction,” Horst said.

Also estimated completion dates in 2021 are Omni Self Storage, MC Estates, Sonoran Creek Marketplace and the second location of Fast & Friendly Car Wash. There is also a new office complex going up next to the current library.

“It’s a very attractive building that will house an audiology office in it, among other things that we are not aware of at the moment,” Horst said.

A Walgreens near Big 5 is being prepped for opening this year.


347Grill Coronavirus
The 347 Grill at UltraStar, when it was closed in early May. Photo by Bob McGovern

Dine-in restaurants in Mariocopa and elsewhere in Arizona will be able to reopen beginning next week.

In his weekly news conference Monday on the state’s response to coronavirus, Gov. Doug Ducey put restaurants on notice that they will be able to welcome back dine-in patrons next Monday, May 11. The governor’s stay-at-home order is currently set to expire May 15, but could be extended.

Parties will be limited to 10 diners and restaurants will operate at reduced occupancy and capacity, Ducey said. Restaurant employees will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms before the start of every shift.

Ducey said he is working with the industry to provide proper guidance on implementing public health protections and guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Protection, including physical distancing and limiting areas where employees and customers may congregate.

In addition, restaurants would need to implement comprehensive sanitation protocols.

Restaurants are encouraged to continue delivery and curbside service.

Barber shops and salons may reopen beginning Friday, using the same guidance on public health protection and CDC guidelines, and comprehensive sanitation protocols.

In addition, shops and salons will be required to provide cloth face coverings to employees and customers. Waiting and service areas should promote appropriate physical distancing.

The state also recommends operating by appointment only to manage occupancy levels.

“Get your haircut, get something to eat, and head home,” Ducey told residents on Monday. “That’s where it’s safest.”

A new executive order by Ducey requires long-term care facilities to notify next-of-kin for any resident who tests positive for the virus, or has been exposed to somebody who is positive. It also requires facilities to disclose any previous or active COVID-19 cases to any approved applicant from a prospective resident.

According to media reports, relatives of some nursing home residents had complained that the facilities refused to disclose information about incidences of coronavirus among residents and employees.