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City Hall

Mayor Christian Price was decked out for baseball during the State of the City address. Photo by Kyle Norby

Mayor Christian Price’s State of the City address Tuesday covered many activities of the past year – from the completion of the State Route 347 overpass to the groundbreaking for a hotel – and explained plans for upcoming endeavors.

Video by Kyle Norby

Those include
scoping SR 347 for improvement
commercial development of Copper Sky
a new courthouse facility with groundbreaking in November
a light at Honeycutt Road and White and Parker Road
a new library
development of Estrella Gin Business Park
a monument sign at the north entry to the city

Price also gave an update on the quest for a hospital in Maricopa, an effort he said has been going on for seven years. Hospital providers, he said, no longer have the incentives to build in rural areas they once had.

“We are making really strong progress” with one provider, Price said, not naming names. The City has been having conversations with that corporation at the state and national levels.

The mayor also said calls come daily from people in the medical profession inquiring about the possibility of a hospital coming to town.

The theme this year for the State of the City address was “City of Dreams,” based on the film Field of Dreams. A mini baseball diamond bordered by rows of corn cropped up in council chambers and many of the attendees were seated on bleachers. The Rev. Arnold Jackson stole the show with a James Earl Jones-esque speech at the end expressing confidence people would come to Maricopa.

For the mayor, a big applause point centered on the post office. Price has been using some personal connections to make the post office experience more convenient for residents. The current post office building was constructed in 1990.

Price said a high school friend works in the office of the district manager. He indicated that has gotten him the ear of the manager and of the postmaster general to discus the issues of the Maricopa facility.

“The need for our little post office to change is upon us,” he said.

Today’s post office building in Maricopa. Photo by Mason Callejas

The expectation is a series of events:

  1. Placement of 2-3 blue mailboxes around town so people don’t have to brave the crowded post office parking lot and lines at the counter to mail their items.
  2. The construction of a satellite office to handle some of the mail duties.
  3. The eventual construction of a new post office that reflects the size of the community.

Price also said the City is trying to lay the groundwork for a 500-acre business and industrial park, exhibiting a concept by Union Pacific. The location would include a commercial rail spur that would make Maricopa “stand apart in the business world and the Greater Phoenix metro region.”

Price said it had potential to be “transformational.”

Artists and residents check out the art on the walls of City Hall. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

By Joycelyn Cabrera

The City of Maricopa Arts Committee has adopted a new name and was presented with a new initiative that could take effect as early as 2020.

The committee will join another existing committee to become the Cultural Affairs and Arts Advisory Committee. The changes come at the same time as a new initiative planned by City Manager Rick Horst.

The city manager’s Art Initiative is a seven-point list of goals set for the committee to further integrate themselves with community and city management. The initiative as a whole emphasizes public arts as a focal point for the Maricopa community.

“I feel the arts are critical to the city from a wholistic point of view, and to some degree for selfish reasons,” Horst said. “I think the arts are necessary for the quality of life, and it’s necessary as an economic engine for the city and to set us apart as a community.”

Local artists may get the chance to have their art exhibited in city hall and purchased by the city under the initiative’s quarterly art gallery selection. The initiative calls for a $500 budget, authorized by the city manager, so the committee may select pieces for purchase and permanent display around the city.

The initiative also calls for a “social hall” within the current library, where space would be designed and set aside for art-related community events. The space, according to the initiative, would be used for performances, classes or presentations.

Under this initiative, the committee will also determine whether or not public art meets community guidelines and will determine what these guidelines will be in the future.

Quilting by Crystal Dennis

The City Icon Project sets a goal of the committee identifying an “icon” of the community that represents the city as well as leaves lasting impressions on residents and visitors.

The “icon” would be featured as much as possible throughout the community, be it in parks, outside of plazas, or at the entranceways of subdivisions (not unlike the sculpture of wild horses by the Villages at Rancho El Dorado).

Councilmember Nancy Smith served as a bridge between the Arts Committee and the City Council.

“If we found out what our iconic sculpture is, I would say the city manager would be ready to consider something in the year 2020 and start making it happen. I would say the policies that he wants probably will take a year to incorporate as well. I think a lot of it can be done in the year 2020,” Smith said.

Integrating public art into developmental and municipal projects includes public art planning within developmental planning alongside typical architecture and landscape planning. The initiative has the goal of receiving City Council approval for 1 percent of project costs for any future facility development to go toward funding public art for that development.

“I can probably dig up 17 studies that will tell you that a thriving community has to include its arts. Arts are vital just like the schools are vital,” said Carrie Vargas, chair of the Arts Committee.

The goal of defining public art, expectations of city-supported and endorsed art, and policies surrounding public art integration are discussed in the initiative’s “Public Art Master Plan,” which would be developed by the committee to benefit and support local artists.

The Arts committee will be known under a new name and making efforts for a new initiative. Nathan Ullyot, Community Service director, introduced the committee to new responsibilities that come with the restructure of the city branch.

“Arts is ingrained in culture,” Ullyot said. “When we’re talking about art, we’re talking about music, we’re talking about food and dance and culture and theater and all of the things that go into art, how does that look from culture to culture? Those will be the kinds of things that overlap.”

The initiative has yet to reach City Council. However, the name-change and combined responsibilities will take effect immediately. The new initiative and reconstruction of the committee will not change the committee’s overall goals to support local artists in the community.

Joycelyn Cabrera is a graduate of Maricopa High School and a student at the ASU Cronkite School of Journalism.

An agreement would have Duncan Family Farms leasing land near City Hall.


The City of Maricopa plans to lease some of its property, and area food banks may benefit from the deal.

If You Go
What: Maricopa City Council Meeting
When: Aug. 6, 7 p.m.
Where: 39700 W. Civic Center Plaza

Tuesday’s meeting agenda of the Maricopa City Council includes an agreement with Duncan Family Farms, based in Goodyear. CEO Arnott Duncan has already signed the agreement.

As part of the five-year arrangement, Duncan Family Farms will supply 20,000 pounds of fresh produce annually to food banks located within the City of Maricopa. The company will also pay for maintenance and upkeep of the property. All of that is in lieu of rent.

City Manager Rick Horst said the city was approached about the acres it owns around City Hall. The deal applies to about 100 acres in a horseshoe shape. He said farmland leasing is inexpensive (“$100 an acre”) so they negotiated a deal that included the cost of maintenance.

“If it benefits the food banks, that’s a good thing,” Horst said.

The agreement is on the council’s consent agenda, meaning it will likely be voted on with a group of other items at the same time.

Those include the ratification of the sale of about two acres of Estrella Gin Business Park to Mel’s Auto (NAPA) for $1.75 per square foot, or approximately $152,460. Mel’s Auto is currently in a building owned by Arizona Department of Transportation, which has marked it for removal as part of the overpass project.

The property is near the corner of Edison Road and Roosevelt Avenue.

Also on the consent agenda is the ratification of the city’s $2.7 million purchase of the southeast corner lot at State Route 347 and Bowlin Road. Horst said that is intended for economic development such as a second hotel (after La Quinta is established) or a family restaurant and shops. The nine acres are being purchased from a real estate family in Michigan.

Council is also set to approve an agreement with the Pinal County Flood Control District for construction of flood-control structures in the Sorrento subdivision. The structures will be owned and maintained by Sorrento Community Master Association.

On the regular agenda is the renaming of West Lucera Lane in Glennwilde. Proposed by Heritage Academy, it would be West Heroes Way.

Council will also discuss an amendment to the zoning map affecting 28. 65 acres at the corner of Bowlin and Hartman roads and amending zoning requirements at the Stonegate Planned Area Development south of Alan Stephens Parkway.

The regular meeting begins at 7 p.m.

The City of Maricopa is helping property owners in the Heritage District clean up their lots. Submitted photo

The City of Maricopa has launched a new department with a new mission – making Maricopa look good.

Flor Brandow joined the city staff in January as its Neighborhood Program specialist. Her main job is to clean up Maricopa, and it’s already working.

“The City of Maricopa is working in the Heritage District. Our primary focus is to see what we can do for revitalization. There is a lot of this area that’s been here for 40, 50, 60 years. That’s the oldest part of Maricopa,” she said.

The property from the top photo after being cleaned off. Submitted photo

With the construction of the State Route 347 overpass, Brandow said, city leaders want to first concentrate on cleaning up the neighborhood next door, identified as Phase One of three in the Heritage District.

Brandow said in the first neighborhood cleanup about a month ago, volunteers filled three, 40-foot long, roll-off, trash containers with refuse. In all, 11 tons of trash were removed in just six days.

“We were trying to do it over a two-week period, but they got so filled up,” she said. “My job is to also go out there and canvas the neighborhood and establish a relationship with this community. It’s going great right now. There are some strong leaders in this neighborhood and they want to be heard.”

In the second city clean-up rally in the same area, an additional 16 tons of refuse was removed from just two properties.

While the clean-up is good for residents, it’s also good for the city.

“The clean-up event is actually most important to the residents. Some of the homeowners do not have the financial means or physical abilities to clean up or maintain their property,” said Wes Moss, Maricopa’s Code Compliance officer.


“The ultimate goal of Code Enforcement is to help maintain a clean and safe community while working with the citizens, business owners and property owners. One of the best ways to do this is with voluntary compliance of violations and guidance rather than citations or other remedies through the court system. As a clean-up event is not necessarily easier, it can help build good relationships with the citizens, while addressing City Code violations prior to citations.”

Brandow said one of the leaders in the Phase One area is putting together a neighborhood meeting to get the clean-up going in the Heritage District.

“They have a contact person now,” Brandow said. “I’m kind of their voice to be heard. I relay that back to the city. This is a brand-new position and a brand-new department that the city manager and council created for these residents.”

She worked in a similar role for the City of Chandler for 15 years.

She said the city needs volunteers and groups to help pull off the clean-up projects. The properties being cleaned are not abandoned but rather homes of older citizens who need help removing unwanted items.

Also, seven older buildings have been identified in the Phase One area to be removed. Brandow said the city is working on a Community Development Block Grant to help fund the program, as the neighborhood is a low- to moderate-income area.

“These owners take pride in their home,” Brandow said. “Sometimes they just need a little help. Not just the Heritage District will benefit from this; the whole city of Maricopa [will] because we all come together and help one another and that’s what it’s all about. These residents are what started Maricopa.”

This story appears in the May issue of InMaricopa.

The proposed new library would be triple the size of the current library. Photo by Jim Headley

Tuesday evening, citizens of Maricopa were allowed a first look at the city’s new library plan.

“Our existing residents won’t pay a dime; they have paid enough.” – Ricky Horst, city manager

Architects, city officials and staff gathered in the city council chambers to unveil conceptual drawings of the new library that is three-and-a-half times as large as the present library.

The crowd attending the informal affair was large and very interested in the project.

The proposed library will be 27,000 square feet in size but could also be expanded in the future. The goal is the new library could be 40,000 to 45,000 square feet after the second phase of construction is completed.

Tuesday evening the drawings presented to the public were simply a representation of what a new library could look like. Final design work is still being completed.

City manager Rick Horst said the goal is to start construction of the new library by January 2020 and complete the building by the end of the year. The plan is to convert the present library into a senior center as well as a veterans center and public meeting space.

The present veterans center would then be converted into a museum for the Maricopa Historical Society.

Horst was on hand Tuesday night showing citizens what will become of the current library.

“We are loosely trying to show how we are going to have some dedicated space for our seniors,” Horst said, “dedicated space for our veterans and, in this space in the middle, they will be able to free-flow into the area when they need it. It is extra room for events or dinners. Otherwise, this will be a community space where we can have an art show, an art gallery and music. This center section will seat about 350 people.”

Photo by Jim Headley

Horst said redesigning the present library into a community facility will also free up the veterans center for the historical society.

“We are checking a lot of boxes with what we’re doing tonight,” he said, adding he’s told the seniors that the city would find a smart solution for a senior center, and this is it.

“It is very impressive. It will be great for the community.” — Miki Juarez, new resident

Horst said the construction of the proposed library at the city center complex will be an opportunity to create another iconic building for the city, one as important as city hall.

“It re-establishes what the new library is all about,” Horst said. “It’s not just about stacks of books. It’s about people, innovation, opportunity and creativity… We will be able to meet our needs for years to come.”

The proposed library is expected to cost about $8.5 million but no taxes will be increased to pay for it.

“The good news is, we’re not going to have to borrow money, and there will be no debt,” Horst said, adding the city has the money in the bank. “We are just being prudent about how we’re spending money. Our developers will pay some of it through impact fees coming from new development. Our existing residents won’t pay a dime; they have paid enough.”

One person pushing for the new library has been Mayor Christian Price.

“I am very excited about the potential of a new library here in the City of Maricopa,” Price said. “I have lived here for 16 years. I have small children and we go to the library all the time. The old library was too small the day it was opened. We’re trying not to make that same mistake, but, at the same time, we’re trying to stay within our budget. This is a huge win for the City of Maricopa.”

Price said in city government you must wait for projects to align. He said everything has come together for the construction of the new city library.

“We were able to redo funds internally,” Price said. “We were able to gather monies that were coming in for library-type purposes. Now the stars have aligned, and we can jump. We have to strike when the iron is hot. We weren’t there last year. We weren’t there five years ago. I don’t know that we would be there six years from now, but we are there now. It is time to take that step.”

Photo by Jim Headley

Vice Mayor Henry Wade was on hand talking to citizens about the proposed library.

“I am happy about it – very much so,” Wade said. “We will have a lot of room that we need, and we will have other uses for it. Rooms where we can support the youth, support seniors and other organizations. I think it’s great. This is another one of those times where we can say we are proud of Maricopa. This will take us to another level.”

Kazi Haque, Maricopa’s assistant director of development services, has had his eye on the proposed new library for quite some time as one of the city’s top planning officials.

“I think this is a great move for the City of Maricopa,” Haque said. “I feel like this is something that people have been waiting for a long time. This is our first step of achieving that goal that has been identified in the Vision 2040 plan, and also in our general plan.”

Haque said in just 15 years, Maricopa has really come a long way. Haque joined the city staff in 2005.

“I am very happy and proud. I think the architect did a good job and it reflects some of the ideas and thoughts people in Maricopa wanted,” Haque said. “It’s not only a library but it is a multipurpose area for people to come and do a lot of things.”

Joan Koczor is a leading senior advocate in Maricopa and she was in attendance Tuesday evening to look at the new plans for the library and repurposing the present library for seniors.

“It is very reminiscent of the facility that’s in Florence. I understand they were the same architect,” said Koczor. “It will be a very nice option for the seniors to have a place, a more permanent place.”

Koczor said the new library location was originally supposed to be the Maricopa Cultural Center.

The proposed library was a hit for both new and longer-term Maricopa residents.

“I think it’s great,” said Joan Garrett, a member of Friends of the Library and Historical Society. “The fact that there is room to expand, which we have never been able to do before. We are growing.”

Even someone new to the community liked what they saw Tuesday night.

“It is very impressive. It will be great for the community,” said Miki Juarez, a new resident. “We just moved here from California. We just retired. We love this city and we’re very excited to see the new library.”

Photo by Jim Headley 

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City Manager Rick Horst leads a discussion of Maricopa's goals. Photo by Jim Headley

Wildly Important Goals (WIGs)
1. Expedite removal of Maricopa from the FEMA 100-year flood plain.
2. Public/private utilities infrastructure of the city ensures that economic development remains robust and citizens are served in the best and most reliable way.
3. Encourage development of industrial and business parks to enhance employment opportunities and bolster the local economy.
4. Creative placemaking and event tourism – creating a destination city.
5. Evaluate annexation of land to accommodate the city’s projected growth and economic prosperity.

At a city council retreat on Wednesday, Maricopa City Manager Rick Horst recommend the city and Maricopa Economic Development Alliance (MEDA) combine offices because they essentially have the same mission – promoting Maricopa.

“Their website and our website are two different websites with the same information,” Horst said. “We are paying for and managing two separate websites. I’m not sure that make sense. We are all invested in the same plan. They could act as a business facilitator for us.”

He said MEDA often has different conversations with individual builders, developers and investors that the city doesn’t, because MEDA can keep information more confidential, while the city may not be able to.

“Why don’t they (MEDA) have a larger presence,” he said. “They should be front and center as a partner organization with the city of Maricopa. We are a partner of MEDA and we’re tied at the hip. Their strategies and solutions really shouldn’t be different than ours. There is value from them that we can receive that we are not yet receiving.”

The city has been discussing the 500-acre Estrella Gin Industrial Park. Horst suggested the construction of a 10,000 to 12,000 square foot spec building and including MEDA in that new building.

“I think MEDA needs a home,” he said. “It needs a place where citizens can come in. It says Maricopa EDA, not MEDA. With a presence, so people can come in and know where they can go.”

He said staffing would be a problem if MEDA were to open an official office. His solution is to combine the city economic development office and MEDA into the same location, so they could help each other. The combined office would only be a small part of the larger spec building.

“I think we would save money,” he said, “because of the redundancy. We don’t need separate marketing programs. We don’t need two separate websites. Look at theirs, look at ours, I dare you to find anything different in them. They should help us achieve our objectives and our projects. I think they could help us with the flood plain issue. At the end of the day, we are going to have to pay for it. Who better than they can help us get the financial support. Those are my thoughts on MEDA. To take a great organization and raise it to a new level by combining forces.”

Horst’s seven-hour workshop on Wednesday focused on the city’s 2040 Vision Plan, “which is the foundation of any long-range plan, is aspirational in nature and articulates the desired future state of the community,” according to the presentation.

The 2040 plan is intended to inspire the stakeholders in the community to have a common goal in the success of Maricopa.

Horst explained the city strategic plan, a two-year program “designed to provide a higher strategic direction that will give the community a better sense of where the city is heading.”

He spoke about how to execute the plan, sustain the city’s mission, government efficiency and the identification of the city’s Wildly Important Goals (WIGS).

His lists of WIGS were:

Expedite removal of Maricopa from the FEMA 100-year flood plain.
Public/private utilities infrastructure of the city ensures that economic development remains robust and citizens are served in the best and most reliable way.
Encourage development of industrial and business parks to enhance employment opportunities and bolster the local economy.
Creative placemaking and event tourism – creating a destination city.
Evaluate annexation of land to accommodate the city’s projected growth and economic prosperity.

Horst also spoke about changes and eliminations of city boards which are no longer needed. He recommended eliminating the Non Profit Funding Evaluation Committee, the Veteran Affairs Committee and the Youth Internship Program Advisory Committee. All three committees have not met for quite a while and the Veteran’s committee doesn’t have the expertise necessary to assist Veterans while other community services are available to better assist them, according to Horst.

He proposed re-purposing the Parks, Recreation and Library Advisory Committee into the Community Services Advisory Board. He also recommended combining Cultural Affairs, Event Tourism, Age-Friendly Maricopa and Arts commissions into the newly established Community Services Advisory Board.

He recommended making the Community Services Advisory Board a nine-person board appointed by city council. He also recommended sub-committees under the board.

Shoppers can find Maricopa's registered businesses online.


The rules governing how you open a business in Maricopa are about to change. 

City leaders have eliminated the requirement for obtaining  business licenses per Chapter 8 of the city code before opening their doors. This applies to most, but not all, new business openings. 

“The changes to Chapter 8 are two-fold,” said Denyse Airheart, Maricopa’s director of Economic Development. “Ultimately, what we wanted to do is modify the business license program, so that it was as easy as possible for our businesses.” 

Airheart said members of her department interview business owners in the community on a regular basis. 

“We understood that a business license, and the business license process, was a bit cumbersome,” she said. “Our goal is to eliminate any challenges that happen that keep people from obtaining a business license.”

The other side of changes in the city’s Chapter 8 rules helps existing business grow. 

“We have learned that businesses need help with marketing. We eliminated business licenses for all non-adult orientated businesses and regulated businesses. That includes auctioneers, pawn brokers, scrap dealers, second-hand dealers, tobacco retail establishments, massage establishments, tattoo or body piercing as well as after-hour establishments,” she said. 

The businesses, which are still regulated, also include adult entertainment, marijuana dispensaries and escort services.  

“We want to be aware of who is running those businesses,” she said. “Those businesses still must obtain a business license. For everyone else what we have rolled out is a business registry program. It is extremely simple. This information helps the city and the Economic Development Department to understand what the business climate looks like.” 

Airheart added the business registry is also a tool for the public as people are hunting for products and services in Maricopa.  

The new business registry will allow people to look for products and services locally and promote businesses through social media.  

She added that the current $50 fee for a business license is unlikely to keep businesses from coming to Maricopa. 

“I think streamlining the process is very attractive for a small business,” she said.  

Check out the growing list of businesses on the registry.


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Maricopa City Hall will be closed from noon on Monday through New Year’s Day, reopening at 7 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 2. Emergency services will continue to be provided at full staffing levels.

“With many of the City’s customers and business partners away from the office between Christmas and the New Year, there is little to no demand for non-emergency City services,” City Manager Rick Horst said. “This closure will allow the City to reduce inflated costs typically seen during the holiday season, and allow our employees the opportunity to spend time with their families.”

Employees will utilize holiday time already accrued throughout the year to accommodate for the closure, meaning there is no additional cost to the City.

“This furlough allows the City to ensure our employees are available to work when more residents are utilizing services,” Horst said. “It also eliminates the administrative time tracking floating holidays under our current system.”

The following City offices and building will be affected by the closure:
• City Hall – 39700 W Civic Cent Plaza
• Fire Administration – 45654 W. Edison Road

Maricopa Police and Fire Department stations will remain open as usual.

Copper Sky Holiday Closures:
Dec. 24 – closes at noon
Dec. 25 – closed
Dec. 31 – closes at noon
Jan. 1 – closed

Maricopa Public Library Holiday Closures:
Dec. 24 – closed
Dec. 25 – closed
Dec. 31 – closed
Jan. 1 – closed


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City Hall will be closed beginning at noon on Monday, Dec. 24 through Tuesday, Jan. 1, reopening at 7 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 2. Emergency services will continue to be provided at full staffing levels.

“With many of the City’s customers and business partners away from the office between Christmas and the New Year, there is little to no demand for non-emergency City services,” City Manager Rick Horst said. “This closure will allow the City to reduce inflated costs typically seen during the holiday season, and allow our employees the opportunity to spend time with their families.”

Employees will utilize holiday time already accrued throughout the year to accommodate for the closure, meaning there is no additional cost to the City.

“This furlough allows the City to ensure our employees are available to work when more residents are utilizing services,” Horst said. “It also eliminates the administrative time tracking floating holidays under our current system.”

The following City offices and building will be affected by the closure:
* City Hall – 39700 W Civic Cent Plaza
* Fire Administration – 45654 W. Edison Road

Maricopa Police and Fire Department stations will remain open as usual.

Copper Sky Holiday Closures:
Dec. 24 – closes at noon
Dec. 25 – closed
Dec. 31 – closes at noon
Jan. 1 – closed

Maricopa Public Library Holiday Closures:
Dec. 24 – closes at 5 p.m.
Dec. 25 – closed
Dec. 31 – closes 5 p.m.
Jan. 1 – closed

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Tuesday evening Rich Vitiello will be sworn in as the newest Maricopa City Councilmember at the city council’s regular meeting, which starts at 7 p.m.

Joining Vitiello in the swearing in ceremony will be re-elected council members Vincent Manfredi and Henry Wade. The council will honor Vice Mayor Peg Chapados as she leaves the council.

Adam Wolfe, the city public information officer, said there will be a small reception for the council members after they are sworn in. The reception will be in the lobby of City Hall before the meeting is reconvened.

“It’s a pretty light agenda this week,” Wolfe said.

Besides the onset agenda and some presentations, the council’s agenda is comprised of the rezoning of three tracts of land in the Copper Sky development. While zoning changes might be important, these three changes have little impact on the land, according to Maricopa Senior Planner Rodolfo Lopez.

“It’s currently zoned transitional zoning, which is under the old City of Maricopa Zoning Code. We are converting it to our new nomenclature from 2014. In a way it’s apples to apples – so it will be TR zoning to mixed use general zoning. It is just making is right with the current zoning code. There is no proposed development plans at this time. It is a way of prepping the land for potential development. It will make is somewhat shovel-ready,” Lopez said.

Lopez said his office has not received any opposition nor support for the proposal.

Vincent Manfredi is a minority owner of InMaricopa.

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Mayor Christian Price, dressed as Marty McFly, delivers his State of the City address Oct. 24. Photo by Kyle Norby

In his annual State of the City presentation, Mayor Christian Price offered a bold but attainable vision of the future grounded in the past. He touched on subjects important to Maricopa residents, such as transportation, growing the economy and continuing to improve the efficiency of local government.


“I believe the very best way to predict the future is simply to create it,” Price said, establishing early one of his central themes for the evening: the importance of a bold vision for Maricopa’s future.

Before the event, anticipation ran high, with a number of attendees curious about what fun plans Price had up his sleeve. His State of the City presentations have become known for his innovative and fun introductions. Last year the mayor zip-lined in, while the year before he made a video of himself in an indoor skydiving facility to make it appear as if he parachuted in.

The State of the City is funded by sponsorships.

“I have no idea what Christian is going to do, because he is a wild card, he could do anything,” said Maricopa resident Linda Huggins. “I’d just like to see where he feels the future of Maricopa is going to be.”

Hollace Lyon, Democratic candidate for the state senate seat for District One, had a suspicion that the mayor’s entrance might involve a DeLorean.

“I’m excited to see if he can fit in one, because he’s a pretty tall guy,” said Lyon, who hoped to find out more information about the progress of the overpass project in particular and economic development more broadly.

On the entertainment and transportation fronts, Price did not disappoint, indeed arriving in a DeLorean (owned by Mark Burchard) and dressed as Marty McFly with City Manager Rick Horst dressed as Doc Brown, characters from the film franchise, “Back to The Future.”

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Price discussed not only the overpass project and plans for State Route 347, but also the road’s history. He took the crowd back to 1989, when the future city of Maricopa wasn’t much more than, “a few lonesome plots of farm land.”

“Developers could foresee that the future success of Maricopa was intrinsically tied to the ability to make 347 work properly,” Price said.

Price described how a coalition of local residents, land developers, tribal and state officials came together to support the construction of SR 347. He noted the project was funded by residents of the then-unincorporated area through what was called a “special transportation district.” It passed in a high-turnout election by just 21 votes.

Price related this to Propositions 416 and 417, which put a regional transportation plan and half-cent sales tax to finance it before voters last year. Prop 417 also passed by a narrow margin, 51 percent to 49, though its implementation has been held up by a lawsuit. He said the roughly $100 million the plan is projected to raise was necessary for increasing entry and exit routes into Maricopa, in addition to other measures to decrease traffic and accidents.

“Twenty-eight years after the first major road improvement, the people of Pinal County and the City of Maricopa courageously and emphatically stated, through their slim but majority vote, that, yes, we want and we downright need a solution to this dangerous road and the gridlock it often extends to our families,” Price said.

Price discussed how partnerships were not only vital to Maricopa’s past, but also its future.

Current projections for completion of the overpass project, as presented in the State of the City.

On the business side, Price stressed the importance of cultivating relationships with a range of private and public entities. He described how these relationships helped Maricopa secure grant funding and gain support for important projects from county, state and federal government bodies.

He laid out proposed plans for the Copper Sky site, including Maricopa’s first hotel since incorporation and a number of mixed-use spaces with commercial units on the ground floors and residential ones on the second.

Price also announced the city was changing from a business licensing process to a business registry, and that form is now only a page long and can be completed online. The fee was reduced from $50 to $10, with veteran-owned businesses and nonprofits paying nothing to register.

Reactions to the speech seemed positive, with the mayor having touched on the topics the crowd had indicated they were interested in. He also highlighted some of the exciting tech companies working throughout the region, such as the electric car company Lucid Motors and Nikola Motor Co., which makes electric-hydrogen-fueled trucks.

“The mayor never ceases to amaze me,” said Rosie Kuzmic, a Maricopa resident. “He is such a cheerleader for Maricopa. He fills us in on what’s going on, where we’ve been and what we can look forward to. He doesn’t pull any punches and he’s always fun.”

Grants received special mention a number of times, with Price highlighting the benefits received in terms of school safety, first-responders and other essential city functions. He also lauded the job done by Horst, who he likened to the city’s Doc Brown and who was appointed as city manager in June. In fact, Price quoted Doc Brown in his closing remarks.

“To Doctor Brown’s credit, he really did say it best when he said, ‘our future hasn’t been written yet'” Price said. “Your future is what you make of it, so let’s make it a good one.”

To watch the full speech, visit the city’s YouTube page at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGB4xhFiHqg&feature=youtu.be

City Manager Rick Horst dressed as Doc Brown. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson


“We are going to run into some problems in the future.”

Maricopa Development Services Director Martin Scribner was talking to the Planning & Zoning Commission last month after a presentation on development patterns. The report by planner Ryan Wozniak, “Maricopa: The Living Experiment,” red-flagged problems in land-use productivity and heavy reliance on vehicles.

“Residents spend 61 percent on housing and transportation,” Wozniak said. “That’s higher than the rest of the county.”

He said explosive growth comes with explosive cost. “There is nothing magical about infrastructure.”

With streets currently “too wide” to create pedestrian-friendly business areas and ongoing development sprawl across several acres, Maricopa may need course correction, Wozniak said. “The more you accommodate vehicles, the more you spread out,” Wozniak said. “The less you accommodate, the more people are accepting.”

Without a lot of Arizona examples to help guide Maricopa’s development plan, “We’re trying to identify the crack when it’s been broken,” he said.

In a later interview, City Manager Rick Horst gave an example. “A developer comes in, he builds a new subdivision, he turns over roads to us. In governmental accounting, we call that an asset. Anywhere else it would be called a liability because it just has future dollars tied to it. But we have to have roads. The question is, ‘How do we best utilize our assets, our infrastructure, to capitalize and serve the people the best?’”

Commissioner Michael Sharpe said that was one of the frustrations of Maricopa’s current development model. “We’re just a bedroom community designed around the automobile. It’s going to be tough to course-correct aggressively.”

Horst had encouraged Wozniak’s initiative in gathering the information and asked him to present the information to city departments.

The report showed potential property tax per acre on the same size property developed differently.

1-story residential $4,007
2-story mixed use $32,542
3-story mixed use $44,775

“For instance,” Horst said, “you can have a mile of road that services 100,000 square feet of retail, which brings in a lot of revenue to the city to support Public Safety, Parks & Rec and all those things. Or it can support 100 acres of forest that’s in a nonprofit reserve, for which you get nothing. Is a road too wide when it should be more narrow? Is it a road to nowhere? We have to begin to think about that.”

The research also highlighted long-term development successes in other cities in other areas, from Louisiana to Italy. Wozniak said their experience showed “small interventions add up to different results.”

Horst said current housing stock does not meet the circle-of-life needs of everyone in the city. “We kind of have one level of housing stock. What about the seniors when the kids leave home and they’re empty nesters? What about when one spouse passes? We don’t have apartments; we don’t have more affordable work-force housing, which is our school teachers, the police officers, the firefighters. Those are all the things we need to think about to be a well-rounded, purposeful city.”

The decision to change course or not could have “political ramifications long-term for some,” Scribner said, indicating a future impact on the city council and P&Z.

“It will take an attitude shift across the board.”

This story appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.

Rick Horst began his new job as Maricopa city manager over the summer. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

During his first 100 days as Maricopa’s city manager, Rick Horst has worked to make City Hall more results-oriented and streamlined. There have already been changes, including a new department. Horst sat down with InMaricopa to talk about the first three months of his three-year contract.

InMaricopa: So, you’re still in the honeymoon phase.

Horst: I tell people it’s three months going on three years. As the old saying goes, drinking out of a firehose. But that’s what I enjoy. It’s been fun. It’s been educational. We’ve been able to set some things in motion. We have a lot of things on our list yet to set into motion. It’s why I’m here; it’s why I wanted to be here.

InMaricopa: As a leader, what kind of imprinting did you want to have on your employees?

Horst: I’ve never been one for silos. I think we’re all one team. I kind of use the football analogy that, yes, a football team has offense and defense and special teams, but they all wear the same uniform, and at the end of the day they have the same goal. That’s to win. I find sometimes that we need to make sure that our main objective is to meet the goals that we’ve made. I’ve always felt that government is really good at process, but we should be good at results. I really want our employees to feel empowered to make decisions at the lowest level possible. I want us to streamline. I want us to make things more simple. I want us to spend time in achieving goals, not figuring out the process of how to get there.

InMaricopa: How did you go about learning the institutional culture?

Horst: Well, you learn pretty quickly, right? I’ve invested myself in a lot of the meetings. I don’t believe in micromanaging, but at the same time, what I knew I had to invest myself in the system to learn what is going on and what they’re trying to do, what processes they have. I think sometimes we work so hard to create the momentum, the process, the program, and we work so hard we don’t want to let it go. We do things right, but we don’t always do the right thing.

InMaricopa: What are some key areas you’re focusing on?

Horst: We’re hoping to deregulate, not only internally but externally, to make it easier for those whom we’re here to serve. We’re hoping to streamline our processes. I use the term, sometimes we spend a dollar to save a nickel, and I want to be careful that we don’t do that. There’s two structures within government – there’s the structure that supports the services we provide, IT, Finance, HR. The other is there to serve the customer, which is the people who provide the operations and services of the City, which is Public Safety, Parks and Recreation, Streets, etc. Our job is to make sure we can internally support those purposes by streamlining how quick they can get personnel hired, how quick they can get resources, materials, the things they need to do their job, and to make sure we don’t get bogged down in process so we can kick out the product at the end of the day.

InMaricopa: So, the process is something governments get bogged down in?

Horst: I think we do… The real mission, from my perspective, of the city besides public safety, which is foremost, is to create an environment where the community can be successful. Whether that is a single parent raising their children, whether that’s a nonprofit, or whether that’s a small business or a big business or a school, or whatever those things are, to allow them to be successful. We don’t have to control everything. We just have to control those things that are the core mission of the City. A lot of cities like to get into ventures that the private sector can supply. We want the community to not be without, so we want to create the opportunity to get the private sector to fill in some of those gaps rather than try to fill them ourselves.

InMaricopa: What are some of the clear-cut strategies you’ve given your team?

Horst: Well, I’m trying to empower them. For instance, we’ve merged all our support services together to a new department called Administrative Services. So, our IT, Finance, HR and those type of things are now under one leader, which is Jennifer Brown as our department head. Therefore, she can cross-utilize those resources. As an example, HR today has to know it’s very involved with financial numbers, and vice versa. Current costs, future costs, benefit costs, all those type of things, so everything can’t be done in a vacuum. It has to be done more holistically as we approach these issues. I sometimes find a department can create a great idea and implement it but didn’t realize it created some unforeseen consequences for another department or action. So, we want to come together and resolve those issues and be collective in our focus. We really have a great team, and they’re accepting these changes and welcoming these changes. To some degree, they’ve taken the handcuffs off so they can be more effective in what they’re doing. Every one of our employees has something significant to offer. We just need to be patient enough to hear them out… So, I’m encouraging people to talk back to the boss, so to speak. Just be polite about it. (Laughs)

InMaricopa: What did you consider City Hall’s strengths when you took the job?

Horst: We have great people. We have talented people. Most of them are not here for a paycheck; they really want to make a difference. And they really work hard to make a difference. They go the extra mile. And I consider them public servants, not employees. Most people won’t ever understand all the things they do to benefit the community. A lot of them do things in their spare time after hours. They participate in other community events, charities, programs, all because they care about this community. They are well invested both personally and professionally.

InMaricopa: Where did you find City Hall lacking?

Horst: If we do something in 15 steps, we could probably do it in 10. Or if it’s in 10, we can do it in five. We’re looking at our processes and we’re saying, “Did it outlive its usefulness? Is there a way to do it better? Are we still doing it because we worked so hard to put it in place?” Sometimes you’ve got to give it up and move onto something new. The city’s changing every day.

InMaricopa: In your short time here, are there areas you’ve already shifted the City?

Horst: We had a centralized purchasing program, and we’re going to decentralize that, and we’re going to be presenting that to the City Council. What that will do is eliminate the bureaucratic process. As an example, if the Street Department needs to order a particular asphalt material to pave roads, that goes up to a Purchasing Department that then prepares the specs and bids. They’re not the experts on that, and it adds another layer. So, if we could have the ability to have these department reach out and do this on their own because it’s their area of expertise – and by the way, department heads are charged with the protection of their budgets – it’s putting the authority and ability to do it back into the departments rather than at centralized purchasing. That will save both time and money. That’s not to say it was broken; it’s a good, better, best thing. We can do better.

This story appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.

Seven people are competing for three seats on the Maricopa City Council. Vice Mayor Peg Chapados opted not to run this year, but Henry Wade and Vincent Manfredi are seeking re-election. They face five candidates, none of whom has held elected office but all of whom have provided varying degrees of community service to Maricopa. The Primary Election is Aug. 28. City council candidates will appear in a Town Hall debate Aug. 4 at Maricopa High School Performing Arts Center.

Here are the candidates in alphabetical order.

Linette Y. Caroselli

Linette Caroselli (submitted photo)

Age: 45
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
Years in Maricopa: 4
Occupation: Teacher
Family: Widowed with three children (16, 19, 22)
Political background: First time entering politics, worked with Irvington Municipal Councilmember A. McElroy on Irvington Scholar Program and Community Development Zone
Previous community service: Take It to the Block: Voter Registration Drive, CNN screening- Black in American: Almighty Debt, Breast Cancer Walk, health fairs, chaired debutante balls, March of Dimes, Operation Big Book (donated school supplies to Maricopa Elementary and Desert Wind Middle School for four years), Swim 1922 (initiated program in Maricopa to teach children water safety with the AZ Seals), and more; I have over 20 years of community service experience.

What is the one thing you would like to change about Maricopa as a councilmember and why? My campaign slogan is Your City, Your Voice! The one thing I would love to change is development of community programs that involve the true voice of the city. I believe we can implement a full community collaboration that will provide quality services that are relevant, convenient and beneficial to the public involving all stakeholders. We can offer programs that benefit the community at large: human trafficking education, outreach programs for our veterans, health fairs inclusive of mental health, teen suicide prevention, campaign for a 24-hour emergency center, and exclusive activities and enrichment resources for our senior population.

Qualifications? A fresh perspective for Maricopa that involves thinking outside the box is what I offer. My ability to identify, analyze and implement efficient and wise targeted expenditures while providing greater service, greater progress to the public makes me qualified to serve my constituents.

Proudest achievement? My proudest achievement is being blessed to be a blessing. When I serve my community, it makes me proud and happy to pay it forward, exemplifying servant leadership. You do not have to be rich to serve your fellow man, but I have learned it requires collaboration, implementation and vision.

On what aspect of city government are you least knowledgeable? I just completed the Maricopa Citizen Leadership Academy, which was a great experience. I would love to learn more about transportation to better serve my constituents. With the current issues of Route 347, it is important to understand the dynamics and then present different avenues to resolve the problem.

Vincent Manfredi (incumbent)

Vincent Manfredi

Age: 47
Hometown: West New York, New Jersey (Exit 16E)
Years in Maricopa: 8
Occupation: Maricopa City Councilmember, director of advertising and small-business owner
Family: I am married with 3 beautiful daughters.
Political background: Current Maricopa City Councilmember and district chairman for the Pinal County Republican Committee. Campaigned for many candidates throughout the state.
Previous community service: Numerous nonprofits, including the City of Maricopa itself. Volunteered with Babe Ruth League, Little League, Maricopa Pantry, Maricopa Food Bank, The Streets Don’t Love You Back, Maricopa High School Football Boosters, Maricopa High School Baseball and Softball Boosters, Relay for Life, Maricopa Board of Adjustment, Maricopa Zoning code re-write taskforce and more.

What is the one thing you would like to change about Maricopa as a councilmember and why? I have worked to make many changes, but perhaps the one that has evaded me is the ability to make Maricopa a city of YES. We have made strides to get there, but we have not quite achieved the goal of being a city that says YES when approached by developers. To clarify, I want us to never say “No, we can’t do that,” but instead say “Yes, we can, and this is how.” Together we can make Maricopa a destination for development of residential, retail and industrial.

Qualifications? Before I ran four years ago I served on two city boards and commissions, attended two years of council meetings and worked with our mayor and staff on various issues. Since being elected in 2014 I have nearly perfect attendance at meetings, and have networked with other elected officials throughout the state while serving on various boards.

Proudest achievement? As a councilmember I would say it is a toss-up between keeping our budgets balanced and working with the mayor, council and staff to facilitate the start of the SR 347 Overpass. On a personal level, my proudest achievement is working together with my wife to raise three daughters who make us proud every day.

On what aspect of city government are you least knowledgeable? This is a hard question to answer as an incumbent councilmember. We must be knowledgeable in all aspects of city government. One aspect where I could use improvement would be Human Resources, as council does not normally weigh in on HR issues.

Vincent Manfredi is a minority owner of InMaricopa.


Bob Marsh

Bob Marsh

Age: 74
Hometown: Poultney, Vermont
Years in Maricopa: 7.5
Occupation: IT industry consultant, former electrical engineer, software engineer, systems engineer, and project manager, former human resources manager, compensation manager, and community development manager
Family: My wife, Cynthia, 2 children and their spouses, wife’s 3 children and their spouses, children, and grandchildren
Political background: Ran for Maricopa Flood Control District Board (lost by 3 votes)
Previous community service: City of Maricopa Planning & Zoning Commission, Board of Adjustment, Zoning Code Rewrite Task Force, Subdivision Ordinance Rewrite Citizens Committee, Vision 2040 Citizens Committee, General Plan Update Committee, vice president of Arizona Industrial Compensation Association, board member of International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners – Arizona Chapter, treasurer of Maricopa Multi Cultural Consortium.

What is the one thing you would like to change about Maricopa as a councilmember and why? While transportation, flood prevention, employment, health services and housing are rightfully top of mind in Maricopa, I would like City Council also to prioritize the development and distribution of senior services in our city. We are about the only city in Arizona that doesn’t have a senior center, and we are currently missing out on many senior benefits because we have no place for those programs to land and no one to administer them. I think the city is missing out on a great opportunity to raise the quality of life for our seniors.

Qualifications? I’m an engineer with experience and proven skills in problem solving. With over 25 years in Arizona, I understand the state’s resources and issues. At Microsoft, I worked in Community Development, where I created programs that grew Microsoft’s worldwide services community from 30,000 to now more than 17 million people.

Proudest achievement? Personal: My two grown children. My daughter has a master’s degree in library science and works in a university library in Texas. My son is a software engineer at a major consulting company in Washington state. Professional: Having computer equipment I designed and built used by NASA on the lunar landings.

On what aspect of city government are you least knowledgeable? I don’t have experience in playing politics. I’ve always worked on boards, teams, commissions and committees to build consensus and to get things done by working as a team player in group efforts. I feel that’s the way an effective city council should work.

Cynthia Morgan

Cynthia Morgan

Age: 60+
Hometown: Indianapolis, Indiana
Years in Maricopa: 11
Occupation: “MURDER IN…” Mystery Dinner Theatre and events.
Family: Husband Lindy Tidwell, 2 daughters, 3 stepdaughters, 9 grandchildren: 2 attended Maricopa H.S. and 1 Butterfield Elementary.
Political background/previous campaigns: In California 1973-74: worked at Democratic Campaign Headquarters on Jerry Brown Campaign for governor and Robert Mendelson for Controller. Switched parties and worked on Pete Wilson campaign for governor. In Arizona, worked with Sen. Barbara Leff and the Arizona Film Commission on authoring the tax bill to attract more film business to Arizona. Helped with numerous local and state campaigns, from Anthony Smith to Doug Ducey.
Previous community service: I’ve been committed to service to my community since a teen when I spent almost every weekend and my entire summer breaks as a “Candy Striper” at Indiana State Hospital (we were called Pinafore Girls), Lions Club, Rotary Club, Soroptimist Club, Copa Film Fest, Seeds of Change, F.O.R. Maricopa food bank, numerous chambers of commerce, including volunteer positions with Maricopa Chamber. Started the first Miss Maricopa Pageant here in 2011. Founded the “Stop Global Water Coalition” and helped organize the first time we got GW in front of the Corporation Commission.

What is the one thing you would like to change about Maricopa as a councilmember and why? Council’s refusal to work with its own Chamber of Commerce is NOT in the best interest of the community.

Qualifications? Passion. Love for community. Lifetime of hard work and long hours. I’ve always worked well with others. I am in touch with and communicate very well with the people, my fellow taxpayers and citizens. I listen to ALL opinions and points of view to make an informed decision.

Proudest achievement? A tie: 1) The P.A.T.H. program: “Training and placement of Actors with Disabilities, Women and Minorities to create Diversity and Equality on Stage & Film” because it changed the industry. 2) The 3 biological grandchildren of my late husband. We raised them, as his daughter was a drug addict criminal who abandoned them, & instead of excuses and playing victims to justify bad behavior, they took the alternate path. No drugs or bad behavior, instead were honor students. Of the 2 oldest who attended Maricopa H.S., one graduated NAU with Honors and is a counselor at Southwest Mental Health; the second just graduated ASU Magna Cum Laude and has already taken a job at EXXON Corporate, in Houston, and the youngest is a straight A High School Junior, and plays Varsity Football. I like to think that is because of the values we instilled in them against the bad hand they were dealt.

On what aspect of city government are you least knowledgeable? Crunching numbers! UGH!!!

This is a corrected version of an item previously appearing in print.


Paige Richie

Paige Richie (submitted photo)

Age: 20
Hometown: Mesa, Arizona
Years in Maricopa: 8
Occupation: Student
Family: I am the youngest girl of 6 children to Janine and Thomas Richie, both active members of the community who value growth and development of our youth. My mother is a teacher who has spent much of her career in Maricopa and my father is an active member of Maricopa who has coached school teams and taught as a substitute.
Political background: This is my first campaign, but I am registered as an independent.
Previous community service: Assisted in planning and promotion of multiple fundraiser events for local schools. Participated as a mentor for youth for several years and directed a number of community events for students and local youth. Assisted teachers in building lesson plans, student projects and developing classroom environments. Organized and promoted a number of fundraising events for the community and local families. Devote time to reach youth and encourage civic engagement in our community.

What is the one thing you would like to change about Maricopa as a councilmember and why? I’d like to work on Maricopa’s environmental impact and sustainability. With the effort our city has made to prevent light pollution, I feel as though we have expressed a value in our role in the environment, and I would like to further pursue that value and help our city to lessen our environmental impact. Furthermore, by looking into environmentally friendly options, this may open new pathways for economic stimulation in the form of jobs and growth for Maricopa.

Qualifications? I have extensive knowledge and experience of working with the Arizona community and their state programs through working with the Department of Economic Security. This experience is furthered by my political science major at ASU, giving me the tools and knowledge to apply justice and sustainability to my community.

Proudest achievement? I am most proud of my education. Coming from a family where a college education hasn’t always been an option, I am proud that I am actively a senior at Arizona State University.

On what aspect of city government are you least knowledgeable? Zoning regulations and how they are applied in order to make our city as efficient as possible.

Rich Vitiello

Rich Vitiello (submitted photo)

Age: 53
Hometown: New York City, New York
Years in Maricopa: 13
Occupation: Sales
Family: Wife Joann, 4 daughters, 8 grandkids
Political background: Previously campaigned for Maricopa City Council and Pinal County Board of Supervisors
Previous community service: Volunteer with Maricopa Police Dept.; Food Bank; 2040 Vision Committee; City Board of Adjustments; MUSD J.V. softball coach; fundraisers for Maricopa residents in hardship; donations of bicycles to fire and police depts.; umpire at the American Legion Annual Softball Game; graduated from Maricopa Leadership Academy.

What is the one thing you would like to change about Maricopa as a councilmember and why? Maricopa needs more local, high-paying jobs. I look forward to using my 27 years of business experience to work with the economic development dept. And attending educational and trade meetings and conferences to bring more business opportunities to our city to improve the quality of life.

Qualifications? Transparency, honesty and accountability are what made me successful. I have been actively engaged in city government issues and have participated first-hand in initiatives that have a direct impact on Maricopa’s development, growth and quality of life. I was endorsed by Fraternal Order of Police and Arizona Association of Firefighters.

Proudest achievement? Being a husband, father and grandfather. Family is the most important thing to me. My family is part of this community, and my dedication to my family and this community is steadfast.

On what aspect of city government are you least knowledgeable? One-third of Maricopa is in a flood zone, affecting city housing, transportation, growth and business development. I am learning more about how this issue may be resolved by sitting in on meetings with Flood District President Dan Frank and Mayor Christian Price. I look forward to learning more.


Henry Wade (incumbent)

Henry Wade (submitted photo)

Age: 63
Hometown: Los Angeles, California
Years in Maricopa: 10
Occupation: Director of Housing Counseling Services, Chicanos Por La Causa, Inc., City Councilmember, City of Maricopa
Family: Gayle Randolph, Jeremiha Ballard and Jovan Wade
Political background: Member of Maricopa City Council since 2014, campaigned for County Supervisor 2012
Previous community service: Planning & Zoning Commission (2 years as Vice-Chair), Chair – Pinal County Democratic Party, Affirmative Action Moderator Arizona Democratic Party, Vice Chair African-American Caucus Arizona Democratic Party. Numerous community task force and committees. Scout leader and 20 years active duty military (Air Force retired)

What is the one thing you would like to change about Maricopa as a councilmember and why?  I would love to change the access to our community. I think the most significant concern of most residents, including myself, is the extreme limitation of State Route 347. Not just because it is restricted to four lanes but that the entry and exit to feeder roads are dangerous and deadly. I am prayerful that through the efforts of the recently formed Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), we are steps closer to fixing a problem that has harmed many of our citizens and plagued us all enough.

Qualifications? I have hands-on job experience. My qualifications and experience comes from successfully serving the community on council diligently and faithfully for last 3+ years. Additionally, I serve as liaison or vice on Maricopa Unified School District #20, Planning and Zoning Commission, Cultural Awareness Advisory Committee and Youth Council.

Proudest achievement? Connecting the underserved community to city government, encouraging citizens to serve on Boards, Commissions and task forces along with participating in the Maricopa Leadership Academy (MCLA).  I am especially thrilled at the recent successful, youth conducted, Mock City Council meeting, as part of my Councilmember on the Corner outreach program.

On what aspect of city government are you least knowledgeable? If I have a limitation, it is in the Human Resources department. As a director of staff, I recognize that HR is a special department with many moving parts and aspects. I applaud the civil servants’ that manage those duties. It is an ever-changing landscape.

This article appears in the July issue of InMaricopa.

Trisha Sorensen is the interim city manager. Rick Horst starts June 25.

The city council will vote Tuesday whether to approve new powers and duties for its city manager.

On the agenda June 5 is an ordinance that would amend city code to allow the city manager the ability to “create, consolidate or eliminate” employees, offices, divisions and departments.

The city manager would also have the authority to reclassify full-time employees to other departments, amend their salaries and re-structure the city’s organizational chart. In the current code, the city manager must bring such recommendations to the city council for approval.

The amendment would provide the city manager flexibility to run city operations efficiently, according to Interim City Manager Trisha Sorensen, whose idea it was to amend the code.

“As the city manager, you need to be able to be responsive to changing needs and you never know when that’s going to happen — and to wait two weeks to go to council to get approval for something, sometimes you need that flexibility to do it right away and we don’t have that,” Sorensen said.

Sorensen said she has no plans to consolidate or eliminate any city departments.

If approved, any such actions taken by a city manager would be under two stipulations:

  • The action must be within the annual council-approved budget; and,
  • It must not increase the total full-time city employees approved by council.

Sorensen said the code change request is similar to that of other cities.

The idea to amend the code was a product of this year’s budget discussions when Sorensen said she needed to move existing positions to other departments but couldn’t do it without council approval.

If approved Tuesday night, the city manager’s new powers go into effect immediately under an “emergency measure” – meaning the city would not have to wait the typical 30 days for implementation.

Sorensen said the code change will not give the city manager too much authority, but she said there are checks and balances to a city manager who acts in bad faith.

“If you’ve got a city manager coming in and they’re abusing that authority, then the city council will handle that on an individual basis with the city manager,” Sorensen said.

Ricky Horst, Maricopa’s new city manager will begin work June 25, according to Sorensen.


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Nathan Ullyot, speaking at an applicant meet-and-greet, was hired as Maricopa's director of Community Services, which is the parks, recreation and libraries department. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Following a nationwide search and recruitment effort, Interim City Manager Trisha Sorensen selected Nathan Ullyot as the Community Services director for the City of Maricopa. Starting on May 21, Ullyot will oversee the activities and operations of the Community Services Department, including recreation, sports, event programming, parks maintenance, multi-generational/aquatic facilities management, and the City Library.

“I am pleased to announce Nathan Ullyot as the newest member of our executive team,” said Interim City Manager, Trisha Sorensen. “Mr. Ullyot has 18 years of experience as a recreation administrator and recently served as the director of the Salvation Army Kroc Center in Phoenix.  In his role there Nathan eliminated a $600,000 deficit, secured grant funding to add and expand programming and fostered critical partnership relationships.”

Prior to Ullyot’s time at the Kroc Center he served as a recreation administrator for the City of Atlanta overseeing 10 community centers, a city camp facility and a wide array of programming. Before his time in Atlanta Ullyot served as a recreation coordinator for the cities of Surprise and Phoenix.

“I’ve seen in my career how events, sports, arts, and open spaces connect people,” said Ullyot.  “When our children play together, families connect and community is strengthened.  As Maricopa continues to grow we have to be intentional in providing those opportunities to come together and do it in an excellent way.”

The Community Services director reports directly to the city manager and makes recommendations to the council and city manager; develops and implements policy initiatives, sets the tone, climate, and vision for the department, and ensures compliance with statutory responsibilities and directives.

Two finalists for the job of city manager are being brought before the public Tuesday.

The City of Maricopa announced its two finalists for the job of city manager. The city will host a meet-and-greet with the candidates Tuesday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at City Hall.

What: Meet and Greet
Who: City manager candidate
When: Tuesday, April 17, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Where: City Hall, 39700 W. Civic Center Plaza

Rick Horst is in the middle of his second five-year contract as city manager of Rocklin, California. A former Maricopa city employee, Nicole Lance is the assistant city manager in Surprise. One of them is in line to replace Gregory Rose, who served for almost four years before leaving in December to accept a job in Missouri.

The finalists were selected after being examined by a group of unidentified stakeholders. “We are not releasing the names of the community panelists,” Jennifer Brown, assistant to the city manager, told InMaricopa.

Originally from Florida, Horst has been in city management for 30 years. He has a master’s degree in recreation management and community resource development, according to biographical information on the Rocklin city website.

Lance had been the assistant to the city manager in Maricopa, who was then Kevin Evans, before moving on to Gilbert and then Surprise, where she was named assistant city manager a year ago. She has a a Master of Public Administration degree, concentration in urban management.

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Woo Kim of WRT Designs talks to Maricopans about the future of the city center around City Hall. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa’s general plan describes a development pattern of mixed-use core areas called Village Centers.

They were an important component in the creation of the city’s 2040 Vision. As delineated by the general plan, “Village Centers are higher intensity locations within a distinct geographic area along transit corridors and are a cluster of community-oriented neighborhood character areas with local commercial, office and mixed-use spaces. These centers should contain public gathering spaces with civic uses, such as schools, libraries and parks and have a distinct identity and village theme.”

Now, the City of Maricopa has put itself first on the list of planning such a village center. Despite the major obstacle of being in a flood plain, the 140 acres of city-owned property around the City Hall complex are targeted as a new city center.

City planner Ryan Wozniak said Maricopa does not have a destination location, a place that lets a visitor know, “I’ve arrived.” The village center concept is meant to create that sense of place.

In March, the city reached out to stakeholders to solicit feedback on ideas that might suit a Maricopa city center. The ideas were drawn from other communities in Arizona and around the country. Zoning Administrator Kazi Haque said the city would like to create a centralized corridor down Bowlin Road from City Hall to Central Arizona College and Banner and Walmart.

“I like the walkable space next to the college, and placing the retail next to the college is very good as well,” said Eli Pollard, a college student who plans to move to Maricopa. “I personally like to walk to areas that have parks and stuff, so I’d be inclined to go to the retail area, get a cup of coffee and then go and sit in the city center for a while. And I think the other college students would also be inclined to do that.”

Melissa Bailey, a resident, agreed. “I really like the idea of the mixed use, walkable, bikeable, arts and culture accessible, an amphitheater… just younger by like 30 years.”

Residents rate ideas for a city center. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Woo Kim, senior associate with WRT Design, walked residents through some of the case studies and incorporated their ideas as well. That included a library, senior center and community center around the City Hall plaza.

“There are some parking implications, but it’s manageable,” Kim said.

Communities used as case studies were Abacoa, Florida, Verrado in Buckeye, Stapleton in Denver, Colorado, Chandler Park in Chandler, The Glen in Glenview, Illinois, and High Street in Phoenix. Stapleton, the redevelopment of the former Denver airport, was an example of varied housing.

“One thing Stapleton does really well is mix the traditional and the modern, contemporary architecture,” Kim said.

A diverse group, from college students to millennials to seniors, the stakeholders agreed on several concepts for a city center. Primary among those ideas were the mix of retail and civic uses and multifamily housing like townhomes.

“I don’t want this to be a retirement community. It’s so much bigger than that,” said Joshua Logan, who moved to Maricopa in 2007. “It can incorporate all those great assets, but it needs to have [high income and low income] to grow, to be exactly what it was meant to be. I have a long time before retirement. I want to see my values go up.”

Participants tagged their favorite design elements in green areas, mixed-use retail areas and buildings. College student Taylor Buchanan said she wanted to be part of the process, “to be a part of the community and to help decide what we can do to make it better to bring other people into the community.”

Eli Pollard and Taylor Buchanan look at design concepts. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

In his last meeting as a Planning & Zoning commissioner, Bryon Joyce reminded city staff the ultimate discussion in bringing people to certain areas of the city is business. Joyce is reluctantly leaving Maricopa as his job moves farther north.

“As of right now, I’m not seeing a centerpiece to draw people there,” he said of the village center concept. “There’s no major, well-paying employer. There have to be companies that are going to locate here.”

Another area of Maricopa already identified for Village Center planning is the Heritage District and the Redevelopment Area within it. 

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

This story appears in the April issue of InMaricopa.

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In the first week the paperwork was available, two incumbents and seven challengers have pulled election packets to run for three seats on Maricopa City Council.

They become candidates only after they turn in the completed packets and petitions between April 30 and May 30.

Henry Wade and Vincent Manfredi are sitting councilmembers wishing to return. Peg Chapados’s seat on the dais is also available.

Contending for those seats are Viola Najar, Robert Marsh, Cynthia Morgan, Leon Potter, Sarah Ball, Linette Caroselli and Rich Vitiello.

Najar, a member of the Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Council, Marsh and Potter, both members of the Planning & Zoning Commission, must resign to run. Potter is a former councilmember.

Vitiello was a candidate for council in 2014, facing off with Nancy Smith, and ran for county supervisor against Anthony Smith in the Republican primary in 2016.

Morgan, who chairs a networking committee for the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce, Caroselli, a teacher and activist, and Ball are venturing into city politics for the first time.

Others interested in running for council have until April 30 to pick up an election packet at City Hall.

MOBILE USERS GET NEWS FIRST. Download InMaricopa for Apple and Android devices.

Photo by Mason Callejas

Maricopa City Hall was full of music and blithe spirits Tuesday for the annual tree-lighting ceremony. Santa Claus and Mayor Christian Price counted down the lighting, and visitors enjoyed refreshments, live music and new art before the city council convened its regular meeting.

City Manager Gregory Rose at a crowded city council meeting this year. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

By Raquel Hendrickson & Mason Callejas

Maricopa is hunting for a new city manager.

After almost four years, Gregory Rose announced to staff Tuesday morning his intention to leave for a similar position in University City, Missouri. He starts his new job Dec. 28. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, his salary will be $170,000. His Maricopa salary is $173,000.

“I think we’re all sad to see him go,” Mayor Christian Price said. “I know he has family back in the Dallas area, and University City makes it a little bit better to get to. And [University City is] going through some challenges that fall within his wheelhouse.”

University City has had financial and development problems as well as political issues. Rose said he felt that was a main reason he was selected.

University City has been under interim management since the previous city manager was fired in March amid controversy. The suburb of St. Louis has a population of around 35,000.

Rose started city administration in University City in 1997 as a deputy manager. He left in 2001.

“It’s always been a city I enjoyed when I was there, and I knew if ever there was an opportunity to return I would seriously consider it,” said Rose, who said he had not been searching for another job when the University City position opened.

“It was the only city I would have considered,” he said.

Rose has been a city administrator in Hyattsville, Maryland, a city manager in North Las Vegas, Nevada, and principle of the consulting firm Rose & Associate until he was named city manager of Maricopa in February 2014.

Rose replaced Brenda Fischer, who went on to serve as city manager of Glendale for less than 18 months before moving to Las Vegas.

The development of Maricopa’s 2040 Vision, the completion of Copper Sky and the pending overpass on John Wayne Parkway across the Union Pacific Railroad tracks are three of the accomplishments he’s most pleased to have been a part of in Maricopa. He said he hopes Maricopans “appreciate what we accomplished together.”

He said the 2040 Vision, a long-range planning document the community created, is “an extremely clear vision that will transcend many administrations.”

Though Rose and city council have not yet worked out his departure date, Rose said he definitely would be present for the groundbreaking ceremony for the overpass Nov. 20.

“You couldn’t drag me away,” he said.

For the moment, Rose wants to work with council and staff to help the interim transition go smoothly.

Price said the hiring process for a new city manager could take 3-5 months. If city council follows the same procedure it used in hiring Rose, an interim manager will be put into place as the search process begins. He said the interim could come from within city hall or be someone outside.

Then council would compile a stakeholders group comprised of commission members and prominent members of the community. They will look at applicants and pass along their recommendations to a directors group, which would winnow the applicants to six or seven. Then the council would narrow those to the top three.

But that procedure could change.

“The council has to decide which way it wants to go,” Price said.

Still-dirty corners of city facilities have council looking at its cleaning-services contract anew. Submitted photo

The Maricopa City Council batted down the extension of a janitorial contract Tuesday due to what some members said was sub-par service.

The one-year contract, valued at nearly $340,000, was to be granted to Carnation Building Services Inc., the city’s previous janitorial service provider. However, Mayor Christian Price and others on council expressed dissatisfaction with both the quality of service and what they felt was an inadequate bidding process.

“I don’t want to say we haven’t been happy, but I can’t say that we’ve been thrilled with this particular service here,” Price said.

Both Price and Councilmember Vincent Manfredi referenced instances in which both constituents and themselves personally have been to Copper Sky Recreation Complex when the facilities were unusually dirty.

In photos submitted to InMaricopa, areas around Copper Sky can be seen to be only partially clean, with certain surfaces and areas behind furniture left dusty.

Price said one possible solution would be to divide the contract into multiple, smaller contracts. By doing this, he said, it would not only allow for a more fair and competitive bidding process but also may allow for more specialized janitorial services.

The contract currently includes the cleaning of City Hall, Copper Sky, the Fire Administration and Public Works offices and special events.  The broad scope of the contract, Price said, is where the city is going wrong.

“It makes me wonder if we haven’t hindered ourselves by putting together this entire quote, because they’re different things,” Price said.

Price compared it to going to Costco and needing mayonnaise but being forced to buy a tub of mayonnaise because it is all they offer.

“You might save some money in some respects, but you might waste a lot, too,” Price said.

Price suggested separating the contract into basic janitorial services and additional special events and/or Copper Sky services.

Public Works Director Bill Fay said the average number of received bids for any government contract is around 4.2 bids per contract. However, this contract received considerably less than that.

“My understanding is that there were two bids,” Fay said. “One was declared non-responsive, so that left one.”

That number could have much greater, Price said, if the contract were separated so businesses that specialize in offices could bid on a contract that doesn’t include special events or fitness centers.

Furthermore, Price said, by continuing the contract, the city is doing a disservice to paying members of Copper Sky who may notice the unclean areas and decide to discontinue their memberships.

Council ultimately voted to reject the current contract and directed city staff to reconfigure the contract.

Carnation Building Services will likely continue on a month-to-month contract until the matter is resolved.

Apex Motor Club, owned by Private Motorsports Group, wants to open a private track in Maricopa.

Lawyers representing the private racetrack Apex have filed a complaint against a political action committee that took Apex to court.

The complaint, filed with the City of Maricopa by the lawfirm of Coppersmith-Brockleman, targets the group that took both the city and Apex to court in recent months regarding the company’s planned racetrack in Maricopa.

In the complaint, attorneys representing Apex argue the group known as Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers, acting as a political action committee, broke Arizona state election law when officers failed to file campaign finance reports.

By not filing a campaign finance report in both July and October of 2017, the complaint says, MCPT violated A.R.S. 16-927 and 16-927 in not disclosing who paid for the “disbursement” of funds used to pay for “petition circulation and litigation that should have been captured on such reports.”

Second, the complaint says, the committee further violated state law A.R.S. 16-906(B)(1)(b) when it failed to identify in its name its “sponsor’s name or commonly known nickname.”

“As a consequence, the Committee never registered and properly formed as a committee, and has been improperly operating in the city,” the complaint says.

According to the complaint, “the Committee is clearly the brain child and outsourced operation of Mr. Erickson.”

During a hearing regarding another lawsuit filed against the city and Apex by Maricopa resident Bonita Burks, lawyers for Burks denied allegations claiming that Dan Erickson and his company – Danrick Builders – are behind the Burks lawsuit.

However, in a Sept. 26 letter to the Maricopa city attorney, Burks’ lead counsel, former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods said both Burks and Erickson wish to settle the matter.

“This letter is to confirm that the parties currently opposing the Apex development are, and have been, willing to discuss settling this matter in an amicable way,” Woods wrote. “I have spoken to Ms. Burks and with Daniel Erickson to get his feedback on an approach to put this controversy to rest.”

Erickson also mentioned Burks in an Oct. 10 letter to Pinal Central, claiming it was never Burks’ intention to “prevent Apex from opening; they merely wanted more due diligence done and proper procedures followed in processing the conditional use permit.”

Because of this connection, Apex attorneys believe they have evidence of collusion between Erickson and the two opposition parties that filed separate suits against the city and Apex.

“Indeed, it is now clear that the Committee’s activities were but one piece of a comprehensive strategy employed by Danrick and its principal, Mr. Erickson,” the complaint states.

Pinal County Superior Court Judge Robert Olson originally issued a judgment in favor of MCPT Aug. 9. However, both the Arizona Court of Appeals and the state Supreme Court later sided with the city and Apex, tossing out the lower court’s ruling.

In Burks’ case, a Sept. 13 judgment by Olson ruled her suit lacked “standing.”

Burks filed an appeal Nov. 1 and is awaiting judgement.

“As with its failure to file timely campaign finance reports,” the Apex complaint says, “the effect of the Committee’s noncompliance with governing campaign finance laws serves only to conceal from the people of the City the identity of those who have meddled in its administrative affairs at great expense.”

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Photo by Mason Callejas

City Council heard a presentation Tuesday from a private company that claims to be able to help lower utility and maintenance costs by leasing machinery and heavy equipment to the city.

Rick Gibson with Sustainability Partners spoke to council and those in attendance during the work session, calling his organization “the cloud utility.”

“Without using debt, we’re a way for you to pay for what you use more,” Gibson said.

Sustainability Partners offers lease-like service agreements for heavy equipment such as LED lighting, HVAC and irrigation.

The best part, Gibson said, “you only use what you pay for.”

They calculate kilowatt-hour usage and other operating costs to determine the extent of usage and based on that then determine a monthly cost for the equipment.

The agreements are month-to-month with an option to buy out or cancel whenever their customers wish.

To buy out the equipment, Gibson said, a price is calculated that shrinks each year based on usage. After 10 years, customers are given the option to buy out for $1, he added.

Customers are also not bound to the agreement. All have a chance to cancel with a 30-day notice.

Mayor Christian Price suggested to “turn them [Sustainability Partners] loose” on city-owned property to determine if there is something the company can do. Price said he knows there are certain elements within the city’s infrastructure that will soon need to be replaced and this might be a viable option.

Councilmember Henry Wade didn’t disagree with Price, but he reminded council that the city would have to go through the bidding process before any decision could be made.”

“We would have to make sure the playing field is level,” Wade said.

To that, Price said, “We don’t know what we don’t know,” and that by advising the City Manager to look at creating a Request for Proposal so that “it moves the process forward in discovery.”

Council advised city staff to move forward with an RFP and additionally provide council with more information that would help them understand some of the more intricate details of a service like Sustainability Partners.

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City Council is trying to determine if having City Hall open earlier and later than normal operating hours and closed on Fridays has been a benefit to employees and residents.

The Maricopa City Council weighed in on the city’s condensed hours of operation Tuesday, declaring an intragovernmental survey conducted on the matter was inadequate.

The two-question survey did show that roughly 87 percent of non-elected city employees who participated preferred to work four 10-hour days – Monday-Thursday. However, the survey asked only two questions and had only 33 respondents. This lack of a sample size was deemed by several councilmembers as insufficient to close the books on the issue.

Councilmember Nancy Smith, who said she first supported the two-question format, now feels the questions were inadequate and in need of constituent and customer input.

“I receive, on a regular basis, input from developer groups or businesses,” Smith said. “If they want to ask questions, and if they wait until Thursday afternoon, they’re not going to get an answer for three days later.”

Smith also noted the employee comments made in the survey, suggesting changing the four-day workweek could result in the loss of several employees.

To combat any such flight, she suggested the survey consider an off-set or “hybrid” work schedule in which one group of people work Monday-Thursday and another group works Tuesday-Friday. She also suggested considering nine-hour workdays Monday-Thursday and four-hour Fridays.

The city is historically slow on Fridays, from a business standpoint, given as the reason it moved to the four-10 workweek nearly five years ago. However, Smith said she wants to make sure the residents and businesses were getting reasonable access to their city government.

Councilmember Peggy Chapados said she wanted to see other data concerning reductions in sick-time and improvements to employee morale. She indicated that morale should almost certainly be better considering the likelihood of Mondays being holidays, which essentially means a “mini vacation” for city employees.

Even if the survey is expanded to residents, she said, she already knows what it will prove.

“I think we know what they want to see,” Chapados said. “They want to see comprehensive services.”

To provide that, she suggested a gradual change such as possibly making City Hall open one Friday a month.

City Manager Gregory Rose agreed with Smith and Chapados. However, he said, changing the work schedule doesn’t mean more employees, so it’s important to understand the impact of diluting services.

Councilmember Vincent Manfredi, though reluctant to spend any money on a third-party survey, said he also felt the survey was not broad enough and should include the residents.

“Regardless of what we want, it’s what the people want,” Manfredi said.

Judge Lyle Riggs also weighed in, saying he wanted to consider a move in the opposite direction. The Maricopa Municipal Court is currently open on Fridays, which he said, much like the city, is its slowest day.

Moving to a four-10 workweek for the court would not have much of an effect on the judicial process he said. In the case of search warrants or other emergency actions, he said he is still on-call 24-7.

In light of the conversation, Council directed Rose to conduct more research, including a broader survey which will also lend consideration to the Municipal Court.

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Members of the Arts Task Force discuss ideas for a city Arts Committee. Photo by Mason Callejas

The city of Maricopa’s Arts Task Force met Wednesday to discuss plans for the formation of an official committee for preserving and promoting the arts in Maricopa.

Seven members of the task force met in the Cotton Room at City Hall to approve a final draft of their official Art Display application and to discuss the needs and goals of an Arts Committee, should one be formed.

Basic ideas were tossed around about an official mission statement, marketing plans and the hosting of public events. However, a more intrinsic and long-term concept was shared by several of the members – the integration of art into the city’s planning and development process.

Maricopa City Council’s liaison to the Arts Task Force, Peggy Chapados, suggested not only should art be deliberately integrated into construction, but that room should be made at most city properties to allow for art installations themselves.

“There should be art incorporated into [properties], and on and around them as well,” Chapados said as she added the idea to a large enumerated list of ideas posted on the wall.

City Hall is one such structure which already embraces this concept. The building itself is designed to reflect the city’s heritage and values, Chapados added. And gallery space has been reserved for area artists who can not only display their work, but sell it as well.

The city’s image was another topic of discussion.

“What do you think of when you imagine Maricopa,” Chapados asked of the group.

Icons like the Zephyr railcar and the horse statues on the southeast corner of Smith-Enke and John Wayne Parkway were mentioned. However, the overwhelming response was somewhat limited, leading some to suggest the creation of new icons such as marquees or unique identifying markers at each of the city’s four main inroads.

Paul Shirk, president of the Maricopa Historical Society and member of the Arts Task Force, said he hopes wherever the Zephyr is moved it will be largely visible to visitors.

The Zephyr’s current location near the Maricopa Amtrak station is great, Shirk said, but unfortunately the State Route 347 overpass will soon obstruct its view to travelers entering the city from the east, not to mention that the land it currently sits on is owned by the county.

By the end of the meeting, the task force members were well on their way to outlining goals and establishing the foundation of a future “Arts Committee,” though much is still left to discuss.

The group agreed to meet again, Aug 9, at 6 p.m. in the same location, to continue outlining their plans.

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Maricopa's floodplain designations have been an obstacle to development of the Heritage District.

The city council voted Tuesday to apply for grant money to conduct a floodplain analysis instead of assisting a local food bank with relocation costs.

The decision to fund a floodplain analysis of the Heritage District, instead of assisting the relocation of F.O.R. Maricopa food bank, came after a contentious debate over where the funds would best serve the city.

The money in question, an approximate $265,000 Community Development Block Grant, is a biannual federal grant awarded to the city through the state and is meant to aid community development needs, in particular the needs of low- and moderate-income persons.

Both the floodplain analysis and the food bank relocation meet the CDBG requirements, a fact which became the main source of contention.

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Terri Crain spoke on behalf of F.O.R. as the organization’s volunteer director, Wendy Webb, was unable to attend the council meeting. Crain pled for the funds she said would go to assist in the purchasing of property and the construction of a new building.

“If the food bank closes its doors, there will be a serious and immediate threat to the welfare of this community,” Crain said. “For those of you who know what we do, and how it helps our community, you realize that they [F.O.R.] are an essential service in town.”

The council, despite Crain’s urgings, opted to fund the floodplain analysis for multiple reasons. The city’s ability to bring a considerable portion of the Heritage District out of the floodplain is likely the weightiest.

Mayor Christian Price said the choice was not an easy one to make. The decision, he said, came down to the long-term benefits of development for the city.

“That’s kind of an issue for everybody in this area based on a 2007 post-Katrina world, it’s stuck,” Price said. “They can’t adjust their home, they can’t fix it, they can’t tear it down, its grandfathered in, but if you’re a business and you want to come in and create something there, what are you going to do for the floodplain?”

If the analysis deems any part of the Heritage District to be within one foot of the required elevation to be considered safe from flooding, it is possible numerous homes could be removed from the floodplain designation. That elevation could help property owners in the Heritage District, a large number of which are low to moderate-income, sell their homes and increase the value of their properties.

CDBG funds have, in the past, been used to help similar organizations like F.O.R.

Against Abuse found a home in Maricopa because of its access to CDBG funds.

Councilmember Vince Manfredi attempted to highlight the importance of the floodplain analysis by saying he would have voted for it instead of helping Against Abuse had the analysis been an option two years ago.

“If [Against Abuse] was up against the Heritage District Floodplain Analysis that would pull all these people out of the floodplain,” Manfredi said, “I would have voted for the Heritage District Analysis that would have pulled all the people out of the flood plain.”

Councilmember Nancy Smith was the lone advocate for using CDBG funds to help the food bank relocate. Others voiced support for the food bank, but instead voted for the analysis, saying it was the more “common sense” thing to do.

Smith wanted to find a way to do both by using some of the city’s $1 million in Contingency Funds to pay for the analysis. That option would, however, be difficult given that the city is about to transition into the next fiscal year.

The council, in the end, unanimously approved the use CDBG funds for the floodplain analysis.

The food bank has temporarily moved its offices to 19756 N. John Wayne Parkway, Suite 108, leaving the former county jail building that will be removed to make way for the overpass.

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Photo by Dean Crandall

The City of Maricopa’s operating budget for fiscal year 2017-18 was officially adopted by City Council, Tuesday, after a short debate over improvements at Copper Sky Recreation Center and funding several council members were hoping to see provided for boards and committees.

The passing of the almost $39 million budget was slowed by the two sticking points, which when combined amount to around $68,000.

The gym upgrades at Copper Sky are proposed to only cost $23,000, but have been allocated an additional $20,000 in contingency funds if costs exceed the initial proposal.

Funding for the Boards, Commissions and Committees (BCCs) was the lesser of the two proposed costs at $25,000, but it drew the most contention across council.

The funds were initially suggested to help seed two of the city’s newest committees – the Veterans Affairs Committee and the Cultural Affairs Advisory Committee. However, it quickly became evident other BCCs might also want to tap into the funding.

A vetting process was universally agreed upon by council at prior meetings as a solution to the issue, but a consensus was not easily reached among the council during Tuesday’s meeting regarding the amount of funding.

“I would not recommend 25 [thousand dollars], I’m thinking somewhere in the 16 to 20 range,” Councilmember Peg Chapados said. “I would also like to send this back to the BFO [Budget, Finance and Operations subcommittee], if we approve this, to put some guidelines as to how that money is requested and what it can be used for.”

Councilmember Henry Wade said funding may be necessary for some groups who find it hard to gain financial support from the community.

“It is more difficult, at times, for one group or organization to go and get funding from the community,” Wade said.

He suggested the ability for veteran’s organizations to get community funding is much better than the Cultural Affairs Advisory Committee, which may not drum up the same level of support, thus making the “seed” money necessary.

“I think that in this particular case, at this particular time, it gives us the ability to create quality organizations,” Wade said. “It gives these BCCs an opportunity at a step up.”

Wade said he is willing to negotiate the amount of funding, if it helps the council reach a consensus.

The budget was eventually passed with the approval of the funding for gym upgrades at Copper Sky, and the recommendation that a decision regarding funding for BCCs be put on hold until the BFO can come up with a solution.

Mayor Christian Price and Councilmember Vincent Manfredi look over the options for a possible pedestrian crossing to coincide with the overpass. Photo by Mason Callejas

A possible pedestrian bridge spanning the Union Pacific Railroad was discussed on Tuesday during an open house at Maricopa City Hall.

Members of the city’s planning department and contracted architects met members of the public and local officials in the lobby at City Hall to present three ideas for a pedestrian bridge, which the city hopes will help with foot and bicycle traffic trying to traverse the tracks when trains are present.

J2 Engineering and Environmental Design firm has been contracted by the city to help with the project, and was on hand to answer questions about the designs.

“[The proposed designs] each possess their own unique qualities,” J2 senior landscape architect Dean Chambers said. “They do come with a price tag, though.”

The first design, the “Maricopa Circle,” is the most visually stimulating design, including a snake-like suspension bridge that would hang over the current John Wayne Parkway and UPRR intersection with greenspace/plaza areas at either end.

See Maricopa Circle design

“The broad turns on either side were designed with cyclists in mind,” Chambers said.

The turns, he added, are still not entirely accommodating to cyclists in some areas, however. A longer ramp to fully accommodate bike riders would be cost prohibitive.

“If you’re a skilled rider, then maybe you could make it,” Chambers said. “But most [cyclists] would have to walk their bikes.”

Estimated costs for the Maricopa Circle design are already around $20.9 million.

The second design, the “Maricopa Station,” is another separate structure with a more simply designed “trellis-type” bridge. Its proposed location would be several hundred yards to the west of the overpass, connecting the northwestern portion of the Heritage District with the area around Maricopa High School.

See Maricopa Station design

The design is simple and would fully accommodate cyclists, Chambers said. However, it would require the purchase of land on either side of the tracks, bringing the price tag up to around $17.1 million.

The last and cheapest design pitched was dubbed the “Overpass Link.” Its proposed design includes utilizing the sidewalk on the overpass itself and building two small plazas on the western side of the overpass at either end, where there will be ramps and small parks.

See Overpass Link design

The drawback to the Overpass Link, Chambers said, is that cyclists are not allowed to ride in the roadway on the overpass; the agreement with the Arizona Department of Transportation prohibits it.  Cyclists will have to walk their bikes on the side walk to cross the overpass.

These designs are tentative, according to city officials, and will be discussed in detail at future city council and planning-and-zoning meetings.

Councilmembers and department heads mulled some of the challenges of creating economic development at a retreat May 9. Photo by Mason Callejas

As the city approaches its 14th birthday, officials are reaching for the stars, hoping Maricopa’s growth will not only accelerate but also happen in a sustainable fashion.

To achieve this, the city has engaged with a third-party consultant, IO.INC, to assess the city’s economic fortitude to ensure future development parallels the city’s 2040 Strategic Plan.

At a City Council retreat, representatives from IO.INC joined department heads, the mayor and city council to discuss their assessment and offer suggested plans of action to boost economic growth.

IO.INC’s president and chief strategist Ioanna Morfessis laid out the Economic Development Strategy for Maricopa she said was based largely on an analysis of “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats,” or SWOT.

IO.INC offered remedies, which echo the Strategic Plan, emphasizing three key objectives: improving city customer service to better support businesses, maintaining the assisted growth and sustainability and providing educational opportunities.

Customer Service

The city made it a point in the Strategic Plan to assist businesses of all sizes looking to open in Maricopa. Unfortunately, Morfessis’ assessment found some businesses license applicants were dissatisfied.

City Councilmember Vincent Manfredi said things are inherently easier for bigger businesses. Those with legal help know how to navigate the licensing and permitting process, he said, whereas smaller businesses that lack legal assistance have little idea of the process.

“Economic Development should hold their hands,” Manfredi said.

After a couple of anecdotes of bad customer service experiences, Development Services Director Martin Scribner said he was not aware of any such incidents, or he would have corrected them.

As much as he would like to help everyone, he said, some people just don’t get it. For some of these businesses, he said, “it’s not just holding their hand; it’s breast feeding.”

Continuing the metaphor, Scribner said “sometimes they just don’t take.”


Trying to avoid any potential boom-and-bust scenarios, the city has made multiple efforts to invest in long-term developments for both small business and the larger light-industrial sectors.

These efforts are apparent chiefly in the project at Estrella Gin Business Park and in the city’s support of the Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship, neither of which has seen success.

Several aspiring renters at the Estrella Gin Site have been reluctant, citing high prices. The cost was lowered to around $9 per square foot annually, but comparative light-industrial space in Chandler can be found for as little as $6 per square foot.

Would-be tenants have also cited higher-than-average utility costs in Maricopa as a reason they would not want to develop in the city.

Questions were raised during the retreat about the return the city has seen on its investment in MCE.

At the April 18 City Council meeting, MCE Director Quintin Baker provided an update of his efforts, which seemed to be more nuanced than precisely measurable. Since joining the organization in November, Baker believes he has made improvements in the review process and in tracking growth of client businesses.

Baker has not, however, been able to provide specific client growth data, nor has he been able to provide details regarding MCE distribution of small business loans funded by the federal M-Loan program issued via the city.

To the former, Baker said they are helping businesses develop systems to track their growth. Baker said the M-Loans are simply “being reviewed.”

Aside from a lack of concrete assessment, Councilmember Peg Chapados indicated further concern she had with MCE considering neither Baker nor any representative from the organization was present at the City Council retreat.

Baker said he wasn’t made aware of the meeting.


The demographic study conducted by IO.INC indicated around 37 percent of Maricopa residents possessed a higher education of two years or more. This fact, Morfessis said, is a good sign for businesses looking at Maricopa.

“If we can get them here, we have a qualified workforce,” Morfessis said.

Knowing considerable growth occurs around industries not dependent on college degrees, Mayor Christian Price suggested an emphasis on vocational and entrepreneurial training is equally important.

Utilizing a collaboration between local businesses, high schools and community colleges, he said, is just as important as having a high average of bachelor’s degrees.

Also, Morfessis said the city is seen by some as having a “love affair with charter schools.”

She claims this can be seen as a positive attribute when drawing in businesses with employees concerned about school choice, or a negative attribute as some view that support comes at the expense of the local public schools, a factor that could drive potential industries away.

Flood Plain

A fourth obstacle mentioned at the meeting – which, aside from string-pulling, the city has little recourse to correct – was the flood plain.

Much of Maricopa’s undeveloped land lies in that flood plain. For the past several months the city has been awaiting a final adjusted analysis of Maricopa’s flood risk under the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s risk assessment.

If the Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA deliver new higher flow rates, which the city believes they will, Maricopa will have to reassess their flood mitigation plan. That included channelizing the flood plain for a heavier flow. These efforts could double or triple the cost of the mitigation plan.

Morfessis and most city officials present concurred this reassessment is one of Maricopa’s greatest issues at hand.

“We have to solve this flood-plain problem,” Morfessis said.

Crossing his fingers, Price said the city might have people close to President Trump who may be able to help.

Morfessis said, “That’s great; maybe we can Trumpify it.”

This story appears in the June issue of InMaricopa.