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City of Maricopa

“This helps Maricopa become a more viable option for new industry and businesses looking to expand.” — Denyse Airheart

The City of Maricopa has ballooned from a tiny town into a the 18th largest city in Arizona in less than 20 years.

In 2018, estimates approved by the U.S. Census Bureau and Arizona State Demographer’s Office put Maricopa’s population at 51,977, pushing the city over the 50,000-mark for the first time.

“What this means for Maricopa is that we have shown consistent, sustained growth in the city and will no longer be seen as a rural community,” said Denyse Airheart, Maricopa Economic Development director. “This helps Maricopa become a more viable option for new industry and businesses looking to expand.”

In 2016, the City paid more than $700,000 for a special census in hopes of proving its population had reached the 50,000 mark, but that census officially found only 46,903.

Still, that was a 2,873 percent increase over the 2000 Census, according to a city website. Maricopa was incorporated as the 88th city in Arizona on Oct. 15, 2003.

Official census records indicate just 1,040 residents lived in the area in 2000.

“There was a time when our city’s growth was a reflection of less expensive housing opportunities, but now it’s due to the increased quality of life,” City Manager Rick Horst said. “With expanded access to higher education, healthy living and entertainment opportunities, our planning teams and building partners have cultivated a thriving city that a growing number of people want to be a part of.”

The City of Maricopa is approximately 43 square miles with a planning area of 233 square miles.

The average household income in Maricopa is $75,000, among the highest in the state of Arizona.

Approximately 88 percent of adult residents have some post-high school education and 47 percent hold a bachelor’s degree or graduate degree.

Maricopa is the second most populous incorporated city in Pinal County, behind Casa Grande estimated to be 55,477, and Maricopa is the 18th most populous city in Arizona.

“It’s a great accomplishment for the city to reach this 50,000-resident milestone,” Maricopa Mayor Christian Price said Monday. “We look forward to the new opportunities that will come from this growth and we are excited for the continued economic development of our community.”

 

At the State of the City event in October, Mayor Christian Price announced changes in the business license process for the City of Maricopa.

That amounts to eliminating business licensing and creating instead a business registry.

Nov. 6, staff detailed how a registry would work. The process is set to go into effect Jan. 1.

“We believe that good, business-friendly regulations, while ensuring public safety and strong customer protections, just make good business sense,” Price said.

Economic Development Director Denyse Airheart said the state’s transaction privilege tax process now makes city licensing redundant. The registry, she said will allow City Hall to track the types of businesses in town.

“This is a voluntary program,” she said.

The Business Registry Program will be an online process. Instead of $50 for a business license, companies can register for $10 annually. The BRP will not eliminate the necessity of permits and zoning.

Information asked on the one-page, online Business Registry Program:

New or existing business
VA or Nonprofit
Full name of business owner/representative
Primary phone
Primary email address
Business name/DBA
Physical address of business
Business sector
Description of business
Transaction Privilege Tax identification number
Acknowledge legal disclaimer

“The goal is to make conducting business in the City of Maricopa as easy and simple as possible,” Airheart said. “So the businesses and entrepreneurs of the community drive innovation, and we want to make sure their experience here is a positive experience.”

The current system captures “a ton of data,” she said. “It’s very deceiving but it’s multiple pages with multiple attachments, and it could be a little bit frustrating for individuals.”

The hope is that the new BRP will make the process as simple as possible for the business owner while still capturing key information for City Hall.

Price called it, “User-friendly, less expensive and much faster.”

Nonprofits and veteran-owned business are exempted from the $10 annual fee.

When questioned about the verification process for businesses claiming to be veteran-owned or nonprofit, City Manager Rick Horst said, “We’ll take them at their word… Frankly, if they’re not honest, it’s going to catch up with them sooner or later.”

In December, the City will notify active and inactive business license holders about the change. It will also be notifying chambers of commerce and business-resource groups.

“One of the biggest things we’ve heard from the local businesses is ‘Marketing, marketing, marketing. How can people find out about me?’” Airheart said. “This is going to be a great way. If we know about you, we can be a great tool to get your information out to the public because this is going to be accessible to everyone.”

While business licensing is no longer deemed necessary, it did provide information the city still needs, such as “accurate revenue projections for budget preparation,” Price said. The registry is expected to provide that kind of information.

He said the City should expect speed bumps with any new process and has asked staff to report back a year after launch to discuss what does and does not work.



This story appears in the December issue of InMaricopa.

Photo by Dean Crandall

 

As Copper Sky looks for more revenue streams, a proposal to change rates and fees is before the public. Maricopa City Council approved the policy in November and is scheduled to vote on the fee changes Jan. 15.

Community Services Director Nathan Ullyot called them “significant changes.”

The shifts in the proposal are meant to herd members toward an annual membership, which will be less expensive, especially for couples. The proposal does not include monthly rates but increases the six-month membership fees for couples and families and increases for daily punch passes.

“We’re really looking to add value to your Copper Sky membership,” Ullyot said.

Copper Sky Resident Memberships

Monthly                              1 Adult                 2 Adults               Family
Current                                      $35                        $55                        $65
Proposed                                   N/A                       N/A                       N/A

Six months                        1 Adult                 2 Adults               Family
Current                                   $180                       $280                       $420
Proposed                                $210                       $336                        $420
($35/mo)              ($56/mo)               ($70/mo)

Yearly                                 1 Adult                 2 Adults               Family
Current                                  $338                       $540                       $676
Proposed                               $336                       $504                       $672
($28/mo)              ($42/mo)               ($56/mo)

A point of contention has been the change for senior citizens. Under the current rates, single seniors and senior couples pay 40 percent less than the adult fees. But senior rates are excluded in the proposal. The new fee schedule puts them level with military veterans, which is a 10-percent discount.

City Councilmember Nancy Smith, expressing concern for retirees on limited incomes during the November meeting, encouraged seniors to offer feedback about the proposal. Joan Koczor of the Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Committee also reached out to constituents on her senior-activity newsletter urging seniors to get involved.

Proposed Discounts
Veterans/Seniors            10%
Youth/Students               50%
Group                                 1-10%
Corporate                          1-50%

However, unlike the current schedule, a department proposal would allow scholarships for membership fees. The scholarship is based on federal income guidelines. Those who provide proof of income at 100 percent the poverty level (one person $12,140) could get another 30-percent discount along with the standard senior discount of 10 percent. Those at 200 percent the poverty level can receive 15 percent off.

According to city numbers, more than 1,400 of the 1,800 senior memberships are paid for through programs like Silver Sneakers, Optum and Silver and Fit. Some insurance companies are changing their funding of those programs or even switching programs.

Ullyot will discuss some of the proposed solutions for senior memberships with the Age-Friendly Committee at its Dec. 17 meeting.

The proposed fee schedule was post Oct. 31, and residents are asked to respond within 60 days of that date.

Punch Passes and Daily Rates

20 punches                        Adult     Youth   Senior
Current                                   $50        $38        $40
Proposed                                $150      $75        $120

Day Pass                              Adult     Youth   Senior
Current                                    $5           $3           $4
Proposed                                 $10         $5           $8



This story appears in the December issue of InMaricopa.

The Peed property was once envisioned as a site for City Hall. Now it sits without infrastructure and is used to store asphalt. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

 

From State Route 238 to Stanfield, the City of Maricopa owns a wide array of land parcels. Since 2004, the City has acquired about $143 million in property.

While there are parks, public buildings, streets, rights of way and other uses on much of the property, City Hall has some parcels listed simply as “miscellaneous,” and there are still undeveloped acres. The City has plans for some parcels, but others will sit empty for the foreseeable future.

“We are doing the city an injustice by not developing these properties,” Councilwoman Julia Gusse said. “Our predecessors did a great job of securing these properties for future development and growth; it’s time we put them to good use.”

One of the longest-held properties has been the most divisive and the least likely to be developed any time soon.

PEED PROPERTY

Called the Peed property and noted as miscellaneous, the 11-acre parcel on SR 238 cost the city $1.2 million in 2006.

“It has no water; it has no utilities,” Councilmember Marvin Brown said. “The city bought it because a former council member pushed the former council to do so.”

The property initially was brought to the council as 150 acres for a possible location of a city hall. At the time, the council was set to spend $14.6 million for it. Steve Baker, then-councilmember, was a real estate agent representing property owner Dennis Peed. While Baker recused himself from votes on the matter, it was a relationship that vexed residents and other Realtors.

After months of debate in 2006, the City ended up buying only the southern portion of the property abutting SR 238. Its continued lack of infrastructure keeps it on a backburner, but some current councilmembers have ideas.

Councilmember Nancy Smith said her vision of the SR 238 corridor is “something similar to the Price Road Corridor in Chandler. Basically, it would include light industrial businesses with high paying jobs.”

Vice Mayor Peg Chapados, who is leaving city council in December, said she, too, sees a major transportation corridor, “a development with elements that complement surrounding growth and that offers the benefits and accessibility of being on SR 238.”

Though there has been little recent city discussion about the Peed property, Councilmember Vincent Manfredi sees it being part of a thriving business park, though it is used as asphalt storage now. There are caveats.

“The city only owns a tiny portion of the surrounding area,” Manfredi said. “Much of the development of the Peed properly rests on the shoulders of surrounding development. Before anything can really be accomplished with the Peed property, there are some flood-zone limitations that must be corrected.

 

City Center as space for commercial and residential. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

CITY CENTER

In 2008, Maricopa acquired 129 acres off White and Parker Road for City Hall and a city center at a cost of $3 million. Five years later, the City Hall building ($14.5 million) and police station ($3.9 million) were completed, but there remain wide open spaces for development. What kind of development has been an ongoing discussion this year. Its full cash value now is $12.6 million.

Smith said her vision for city center correlates with an open house held earlier this year for public feedback. “It would include civic buildings, small businesses, diverse housing and restaurants,” she said. “It would be walkable, have open space and be a place to meet up with family and friends.”

Chapados said it should be an area “where people come to live, work, play, learn, socialize and recreate.” Manfredi said it could be something “similar to the Desert Ridge Marketplace in Phoenix.”

Copper Sky is more than just a park but is intended for commercial development, including a hotel. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

COPPER SKY

In 2010, the City acquired part of Bowlin Plaza property that was to become Copper Sky and the police substation at Copper Sky. The cost of the five acres for the substation and 118.5 acres for the park was $6.8 million. Another $15.9 million was invested in the recreation center and aquatic center in 2014.

From the beginning, Copper Sky was seen as more than a park. A recent contract with Commercial Properties Inc. aims at commercial development on city land between the park and John Wayne Parkway, to be anchored by a hotel.

Chapados wants the area to create the “sense of place” developers have long talked about for Maricopa. “A robust combination of retail, a hotel or two, and possibly residential units that complement Copper Sky as an active, vibrant recreation and aquatic destination to be enjoyed year-round.”

Cecil Yates, property management director for CPI, told the Maricopa City Council he already had three hotel users interested. “They want to stick shovels in the ground as soon as possible,” Yates said.

“I think you’ll find that at the end of the day the City will sell that land, but it will be to restaurateurs, hoteliers, residential units, shops, all those type of things,” City Manager Rick Horst said. “The public benefit will come in a lot of forms, to include the revenues needed to support Parks and Rec and Public Safety, but also lifestyle.”

Estrella Gin Business Park. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

ESTRELLA GIN BUSINESS PARK

Maricopa purchased the Estrella Gin property for $3.1 million in 2011. It has been intended for a light industrial business park. Manfredi also imagines a container park.

“This property has a lot of potential, if we can find the right developer to work with us as a city,” he said.

But it has been a struggle to bring in companies. The City ended its agreement with The Boyer Company, which produced no tenants or buildings in four years, and Economic Development Director Denyse Airheart said the city may have a new developer on board soon.

“My experience tells me the market gets it right about 85 percent of the time, and government gets it right about 30 percent of the time, so we have to create partnerships,” Horst said. “There’ll come a time when we don’t have to do that anymore because the market will take over.”

Chapados said she would like the business park to complement “Maricopa’s Heritage District and rich history through design function, and tenancy.” She added it “is poised to be Maricopa’s first job-center/business-park destination that also offers a place to house historically significant components, like a museum. It’s easily accessible with room to grow and lots to offer.”

Maricopa is also heavily invested in the under-construction overpass that will re-create midtown. Smith sees an interesting future coming to the Heritage District that involves Estrella Gin property.

“It would be great to have a nice, historical-looking building that serves as a train depot, café and historical museum by the railroad tracks,” she said. “Close to this building is the pedestrian overpass that allows both communities north and south of the tracks to safely cross the railroad tracks, especially for the high school students who currently cross there.”

MISCELLANEOUS

  • The area now called Pacana Park was acquired in 2006 for $1.8 million. It was 18 acres. In 2008, the City acquired 10 acres for $700,000 to expand Pacana Park to the south.
  • In 2007, the City – with its municipal fire department taking over for the Maricopa Volunteer Fire Department – purchased scattered pieces of property of 1-3 acres each for future fire stations. The stations have been built on Porter Road, Edison Road, Bowlin Road and Alterra Parkway. There remains one parcel lying well outside the city boundaries but in the middle of Maricopa’s future planning area. What is listed as the Stanfield Site is a one-acre, vacant lot on Pepper Place in Hidden Valley Estates. It was acquired for $10,000 on a quitclaim deed, costing the city nothing, and the council has started discussions of disposing of it.
  • The city acquired the building for the current Maricopa Public Library in 2009 with a sale price of $1.9 million, according to county records.
  • In 2010, Maricopa paid $3 million for a strip of land along the Santa Rosa Wash east of White and Parker Road and south of Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway.

Vincent Manfredi is a minority owner in InMaricopa.


This story appears in the November issue 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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=001pVRQ_1vw

“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

Mayor Christian Price (center) along with city and college personnel cut a ribbon at the COMET bus shelter at CAC. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

With five bus shelters in place, another being finished and six more planned, the City of Maricopa Express Transit (COMET) system is in a new phase.

Mayor Christian Price cut the ribbon on a bus stop at the Central Arizona College campus Wednesday morning.

“It’s really a great opportunity to find new ways to move people around the city,” Price said, “especially as we move into our retail areas.” He touted the wide array of residents who use the transit system, from students to seniors.

Bus shelters are also at Legacy Traditional School, which is across Regent Drive from the college, Fry’s Marketplace, Pacana Park and Copper Sky. The shelters serve the “route deviation” service of COMET, which is a specific route around the city. COMET also runs a demand response, dial-a-ride service, which picks up riders wherever they are located and takes them to wherever they need to go. There are also shuttles that take riders to Chandler and Casa Grande.

Rebekka Harris, a CAC student living in The Villages at Rancho El Dorado, said she has used COMET at times when her sister needed her car. It was not only convenient, she said, but also a chance to have a captive audience and chat someone’s ear off, “because that’s my brand.”

Though the COMET has served the CAC campus for a while, the bus stop was just a post. Now it is at the main entry with seating and shelter.

“I like the fact that there’s a bus stop here, because before I was like, ‘Where do I stand? Do I stand in the cactus; do I stand up there?'” Harris said. “So I like having this here.”

The City operates COMET under the auspices of TotalRide, so drivers like Helena Dobers are employed by both. She drove a school bus, including the summer Copper Sky route, for three years before coming on board COMET full time this year. “And it’s been beautiful,” she said.

City Transit Planner David Maestas (center) and TotalRide General Manager Chris Hager talk with COMET driver Helena Dobers.

The proposed Vista Village property (star) is almost six acres.

A developer wants to build a 100-unit apartment complex in Maricopa, and a vote by Maricopa City Council on Tuesday may spur the project.

As proposed by Englewood Group, Vista Village will be constructed on a triangular, six-acre lot north of Walmart and south of Banner Health on Porter Road. The multi-building development would include two-story and three-story buildings with a pool, laundry, fitness center and playground.

The city council approved the re-zoning of the property from light industry to general mixed use. It was not an approval of the project but allowed Englewood Group to start the development process. It would be the first apartment complex in the city.

No member of the public or city council spoke against the re-zoning at the Tuesday hearing. Planner Rodolfo Lopez said the Development Services department did not receive any public comment, either.

The rezoning was previously recommended by city staff and by the Planning & Zoning Commission.

Development Services commissioned a study last year on housing needs in Maricopa. The idea of an apartment complex has been controversial in the past, with opponents saying rentals bring crime, but it has gained interest in the past year.

The Housing Needs Assessment Report from July 2017 noted that 97 percent of Maricopa’s housing is single-family homes, far above the Arizona average of 64 percent. It found a lack of “work force” housing for teachers, police, etc.

“For single people who wish to live alone, there are no housing options other than living alone in a large home,” the report stated.

The result is two or more families renting one “single-family” home.

Englewood, which has 74 properties in Arizona, Indiana and Illinois, has been eyeing Maricopa for more than a year.

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.

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The City of Maricopa marked Hispanic Heritage Month with a ceremony and proclamation, joined by mariachi from Eloy High School and Cuacualti Dance Group at City Hall Tuesday night. The event, presented by the Cultural Affairs Advisory Committee, kicked off a month of activities that include Grammy-winner Ramon Ayala in concert at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center on Saturday, a special Story Time at the library Sept. 27, Mexican Bingo (and chips and salsa) during Game Night at Copper Sky Sept. 28, “My Vida Robot” for Movies Under the Stars at UltraStar, a special event on the works of Frida Kahlo at the library Oct. 11, and Kids Bilingual Story Time and the library every Monday and Tuesday in October. See details on these events at InMaricopa.com/Calendar.

 

Among its incubation tasks, the now defunct Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship (MCE) distributed business loans funded by the City of Maricopa with a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Business Development grant.

The loans totaled $116,000 at a 5 percent interest rate. Years later, more than $98,000 remains to be paid on the loans.


Nine fledgling businesses benefited from loan programs since 2015. Loans ranged from $4,500 to $25,000. The last loan was dispensed Dec. 16, 2016, to River Jumpers LLC.

The MCE was launched in 2013 as an incubator for start-up businesses and a resource for existing companies. It was seeded by a USDA grant of $50,000. Another $120,000 of city-maintained funds was spent that year on a management agreement with Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology (NACET).

“It may have been a little bit before it’s time,” Mayor Christian Price said.

City Council fenced with three consecutive executive directors over how MCE reported its progress, its transparency and its accountability, including for business loans.

One qualifier for USDA loan candidates was that they had been turned down by a bank or other lending source. Low-interest business loans were an important part of MCE’s offerings since 2014.

Two businesses paid off their loans. Some businesses that obtained loans no longer exist and the loans remain outstanding. Others say they are pushing forward and working at paying back the loans.

Price said those results are the nature of incubating businesses just trying to get off the ground.

“As for repayment, that’s something we’re handling internally now,” said Cassandra Brown, the city’s grants coordinator.

The federally funded loans are in the City’s name, meant for MCE programs. Now the City and not MCE has the full task of tracking the loans. “We’re supporting these new businesses, and we’re actively working with these partners,” Brown said.

WYS Education and True Reflections Boutique had loans of $5,000 and $6,000 respectively, and both wiped them out in less than two years.

Several of the loan recipients no longer have functioning webpages and have not posted in social media in more than a year. In default or merely delinquent, four owe more than their original loan due to interest and fees.

HobbyScopes LLC was the first business to land an MCE loan, which was from a revolving loan fund (RLF) in 2015. As an RLF loan was paid off, the money went back into the program to fund more small-business loans. HobbyScopes’ loan was for $6,000, but the company struggled and still has a balance to be paid.

The next two recipients, Precious Hands Healthcare ($25,000) and ProX Detailing ($7,500), have had varying success paying down their loans.

In 2016, though still questioning MCE’s accountability for the loans, City Council unanimously approved up to $200,000 for MCE expenditures. Shortly after, NACET fired the executive director, Dan Beach. Last fall, the city council effectively fired NACET, and MCE closed in spring.

Price said that allowed the city to take a step back and find a different use for money it had dedicated to MCE.

“We’ve taken those funds and beefed up our Economic Development Department and reallocated it to other departments,” the mayor said.

Price said an incubator is still a good idea for Maricopa but will probably change the approach for “growing an economic garden.”

“We’ll probably focus more on partnerships and stair-step it up,” he said. “I envision we’ll have one in the future. I just don’t know when that future will be.”

Multiple attempts to reach loan recipients for comment were unsuccessful.

 

HobbyScopes LLC
Research-quality microscopes for hobbyists and children

Ketalog, Inc.
Advertising, apps and analytics

K&Q Clothing
Men’s and women’s clothing and accessories

Precious Hands Healthcare LLC
Home healthcare services

PropRX LLC
Property cleanup, preservation and house watch

ProX Detailing & Auto Glass
Auto detailing, washing, tinting, windshield repairs and replacement

River Jumpers LLC
Inflatable bouncers, waterslides, rock walls and other party accessories

True Reflections Boutique
Shop-from-home women’s clothing and accessories

WYS Education LLC
Write Your Story, for self-realization, insight and inspiration


This story appears in the August issue of InMaricopa.

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Maricopa Mayor Christian Price holds the gavel as league president.

Mayor Christian Price has been named president of the League of Arizona Cities and Towns.

The organization held its annual conference this week in Phoenix. The 25-member executive committee represents the interests of 91 municipalities.

“It is a tremendous honor and incredible responsibility to be elected president of the Arizona League of Cities and Towns,” Price said. “This position gives Maricopa unprecedented access to state lawmakers, helps to protect her interests and recognizes Maricopa as an influential participant in statewide policy-making.”

The league offers resources and technical assistance to municipalities and represents the league on issues before the Legislature that could impact local government.

Committee officers are elected to two-year terms. Price was the treasurer. He will replace Chandler Mayor Jay Tibshraeny as president.

Phase 1 of the Apex Motor Club project involves the part of the property south of the wash.

 

A lawsuit against the City of Maricopa and Private Motorsports Group is making its way to the Arizona Supreme Court.

Plaintiff Bonita Burks, represented by attorney Tim La Sota, filed a petition for review with the high court Aug. 14. Receipt was logged Aug. 21. The case status is still pending. It has not been assigned to the court schedule.

The case, Bonita Burks v. City of Maricopa, et al., alleges the city inappropriately granted a permit to Private Motorsports Group to build Apex Motor Club in an area that would cause her harm. Burks claimed in court filings the as-yet undeveloped Apex had potential noise and traffic issues not properly considered in city reports.

In July, the Court of Appeals in Tucson ruled Burks did not have standing because she could not prove her home in Rancho El Dorado would be especially impacted by the Apex development more than five miles away. The judges also declined to waive the standing requirement as La Sota requested.

The suit names the City of Maricopa, all councilmembers and the mayor individually, the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission and the zoning administrator, as well as Private Motorsports Group.

The case was initially filed July 19, 2017, when Burks was still represented by attorney Grant Woods. At the Superior Court level, Judge Robert Olson ruled against Burks, who then filed in the appeals court. During the appeals process, La Sota became Burks’ primary counsel.

La Sota had previously represented Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers, an out-of-town group that sued the City over the Apex approval. That case, too, reached the Arizona Supreme Court, where it was rejected for review.

The property in dispute is at the southeast corner of Highway 238 and Ralston Road.

La Sota did not respond to a request for comment. The City does not comment on ongoing litigation.

Taylor Earl talks to the Board of Adjustment about plans for an IHOP. Photo by Michelle Chance

The newest breakfast chain to express interest in serving up business in Maricopa appeared in front of a city board Wednesday afternoon at City Hall.

But, before planning department forwards the project for city council approval, representatives for the International House of Pancakes requested changes to a few of the city’s design requirements. The full-service, 4,764-square-foot restaurant is planned on the southwest corner of the Edison Pointe retail center.

A possible opening date was not discussed.

The Board of Adjustment heard arguments from IHOP representative Taylor Earl of Earl, Curley and Lagarde, a zoning and land use law firm in Phoenix. Earl requested the Board approve design changes that affect the restaurant’s proximity to nearby roadways, as well as the number, location and transparency of windows.

Earl said special circumstances warranted variances to certain commercial building zoning codes.

The layout of the 1.18-acre parcel of land where IHOP plans to open is “quirky,” according to Earl.

A large drainage channel, existing “monument” signage and public utility structures contribute to IHOP’s request to build the structure farther from Edison Road and John Wayne Parkway.

Rodolfo Lopez, senior planner with the City of Maricopa, said zoning code requires businesses to build close to main roadways.

Large, transparent windows aid in visual appeal, Lopez added. “Its purpose is to promote an environment through architectural and urban form design,” Lopez said.

The parcel, through the city’s zoning code specifications, would frame John Wayne Parkway and “celebrate” the building’s architecture.

Earl argued the parcel’s topography and shape make that difficult.

The westside features a sloping property line, and its northeast corner includes a “notch out,” or irregular shape, Earl said.

IHOP wants to limit the number of windows the city requires, mostly because of where the building would be situated on the parcel. Future patrons will enter the restaurant on its north end, nearest its parking lot.

Earl explained the kitchen will face south toward busy Edison Road.

The city prefers those windows exposed to roadways be transparent in an effort to embrace “people viewing” and window shopping, Lopez said.

However, Earl argued a clear view inside the kitchen and other back-of-house operations goes against the aesthetic intent incorporated in city zoning codes.

Earl also said current zoning would compromise the structure’s integrity and argued a need for fewer windows.

With those changes, the IHOP rep said the new eatery will still be easy on the eyes.

“I can tell you that this architecture is very well designed,” Earl said.

Board members passed IHOP’s requests in a 5-1 vote, with Vice Chair Thaddeus Holland opposing.

 

Submitted by Rep. Mark Finchem

Mark Finchem (submitted photo)

On Aug. 15, a news release was circulated by the City of Maricopa that claimed, “The Arizona Legislature Increased your Taxes,” going on to say, “the Arizona Legislature passed and the Governor signed Senate Bill 1529, which significantly changed school funding in selected districts across the state.” At least the press release got that part right, but a significant element of the truth was conspicuously missing.

For decades school districts have received “Desegregation supplemental funding” from both local property taxes (by way of the Primary Property Tax) and from the State General Fund. SB 1529, moved the desegregation supplemental funding from the Primary Property Tax load, to the Secondary Property Tax load, making those school districts who have been collecting Desegregation supplemental funding from the state, accountable for the use of the money to school district residents affected.

When the Legislature first began supplementing local school districts with gap-funding it was an arrangement to ease the strain on local budgets caused by the taxpayer approved 1 percent Property Tax Cap, and the arrangement was to be temporary. Over the years, the urgency to solve segregation was replaced with a sense of entitlement continuation, even though the money was intended to end segregation. In the case of MUSD, the only reason the State has funded desegregation is to address Maricopa’s property tax collection, that is over the 1 percent tax cap. Those school districts that are not over the 1 percent Property Tax Cap, and are under an OCR order to desegregate have never received money from the State, (Phoenix Union is an example). This a problem because the Pinal County and City of Maricopa governmental bodies have made it a problem with their spending habits.

During the 2016 Legislative Session, LD-11 Representatives Vince Leach and Mark Finchem asked about questions generated by the State Auditor General posed to then MUSD School Superintendent Steve Chestnut, “Where is $1,000,000 annually sent to MUSD going; what are you spending it on since after all of these years you have not achieved ‘unitary status’ (desegregation?” His response was short and illustrative of the condition of financial management in many school districts. He simply said, “I don’t know.” In fact, the Superintendent had to check with the Office of Civil Rights to find out how the money was supposed to be spent.

If desegregation has not ended, one is left to ask the tough question, why not? Is it a lack of political will? Or is it that desegregation has been achieved, but the school districts want to keep the tap open and taxpayer money flowing without accountability?

The News Release [also] claims, “The State Legislature passed a law that instituted a secondary property tax without putting it to a vote of those affected, which we believe is illegal and unconstitutional.” This is not a new tax, it is a tax moved from on funding source to another, putting the responsibility for funding on the community that uses the school system, and not other communities that do not have a segregation compliance problem with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of Civil Rights (OCR).

The truth is that with SB 1529, Arizona’s poorer, rural counties are no longer be asked to pay for the inability of allegedly segregated school districts to achieve desegregation, called “unitary status’ by the DOJ, OCR. It is important to emphasize, the money has been set aside for the highly specific purpose of desegregation. And while the News Release claims, “The responsibility for this new tax lies with the State Legislature and the Governor,” the real responsibility lies with the body that spends the money, not with the one that provides the funding.

The salient question for the residents of the City of Maricopa to ask is, “Why has MUSD desegregation not been achieved, is it because of a lack of political will to make the changes needed to desegregate?” Could it be that desegregation has already been achieved and the money is now redirected to another use? Or is it just shear incompetence on behalf of those who are supposed to be stewards of the public funds?

SB 1529 has corrected an inequity, namely taxation without representation. Arizona City residents don’t want to pay MUSD taxes for desegregation when they have precious few dollars for their own children education. It is indeed curious that the Board of Supervisors should have been told by their staff that not all the Desegregation Districts have a 1-percent cap tax problem, and that no state money flows to them thru the supplement, but only to those districts that are evading the vote of the voters that came from SB 1080, a vote to limit taxation on property to 1 percent.

Might it have something to do with the county rate of 3.75 percent (among the highest in the state) and the City of Maricopa at 5 percent (very high if not the highest city rate), leaving only 1.25 percent for CAC and MUSD to fight over?  We, of course, know they don’t–so all collectively go over the 1 percent cap-leaving the shortage for the rest of the state taxpayers to make up.  And the State gets the blame because local taxing jurisdictions can’t or won’t curtail spending?

The time has come for residents of the district to hold their locally elected school board officials, City and even County elected officials accountable for what they are doing with the tax dollars that they have been entrusted with.

Additional information can be found at http://www.arizonatax.org/sites/default/files/publications/position_papers/deseg_handout_1.pdf


Mark Finchem, a Republican, represents LD 11 in the Arizona House of Representatives.

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The City of Maricopa issued a statement that lashed out against state lawmakers this week, blaming the Legislature and Gov. Doug Ducey for tax increases expected to show up on the next property tax bill for Maricopa homeowners.

The raise in secondary property taxes in Maricopa will cost approximately $45 per $100,000 of assessed home value, according to a City Hall press release published Aug. 15.

The release was published on behalf of the City of Maricopa, Pinal County and Maricopa Unified School District, said City Manager Rick Horst.

What does the tax do?

The local tax pays for desegregation funding utilized by MUSD to hire qualified teachers, implement extra support for English Language Learners and other programming.

Nearly 20 Arizona school districts receive this money to aid in compliance with an order from the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights to remediate alleged or proven racial discrimination, according to statute.

MUSD has received desegregation funding since approximately the late 1990s, according to one school official.

The new law shifts the cost burden, previously assigned to taxpayers statewide, to homeowners who live in school districts that receive desegregation dollars.

It’s an issue complicated by Arizona’s complex tax system that mandates a 1 percent property tax cap. The state used to backfill those funds cut off by the cap. Now it’s up to resident homeowners.

Local pushback against the tax

The city says the shift in responsibility is unlawful because voters didn’t get a say.

Nancy Smith (City of Maricopa photo)

“The state Legislature passed a law that instituted a secondary property tax without putting it to a vote of those affected, which we believe is illegal and unconstitutional,” the press release stated.

Mayor Christian Price deferred comment on the subject to Councilmember Nancy Smith.

Smith said Pinal County, the City of Maricopa and Arizona school districts, including MUSD, will analyze the possibilities of legal options to appeal the tax.

Other alternative solutions include restructuring school funding and more dialogue with state legislators.

“We simply ask our state Legislature to come to the table with us to increase communication and allow us to help solve complex issues,” Smith said.

Smith has been a vocal critic of the Legislature, which, she said, often balances its budget “on the backs of towns, cities, counties,” and now school districts.

Smith said those decisions by the state force local governments to determine how to adapt increased costs passed down to them, often taking the form of tax increases.

“We believe it is disingenuous when we hear statements that indicate that our state budget has been passed without raising taxes, when in truth a portion of their budget has been passed to local governments,” Smith said.

The Pinal County Board of Supervisors approved the tax unanimously during a special meeting Wednesday – with some reluctance. 

 “I join with my fellow electeds in the City of Maricopa and Maricopa Unified School District as far as protesting this particular new tax,” said Supervisor Anthony Smith, husband of Nancy Smith. 

State lawmakers double down on tax legality

Senate Bill 1529, signed by Ducey and passed by the Legislature in May, alleges secondary property taxes “levied pursuant to this subsection do not require voter approval.”

State Rep. Mark Finchem (LD 11) maintained the tax’s legality in an opinion piece sent to InMaricopa Thursday.

Mark Finchem (submitted photo)

“This is not a new tax, it is a tax moved from one funding source to another, putting the responsibility for funding on the community that uses the school system, and not other communities that do not have a segregation compliance problem with the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Civil Rights,” Finchem wrote.

Desegregation funding has long been a thorn in many state lawmakers’ sides, with previous, unsuccessful efforts to alleviate the state’s funding portion in the past.

“This issue was on the table long before the now very successful 20×2020 was finalized,” said Rep. Vince Leach (LD 11) regarding Ducey’s teacher salary-raise plan included in this year’s state budget.

Leach suggested lowering local government spending and tax rates to fix the problem.

Sen. Steve Smith

State Sen. Steve Smith (LD 11) questioned how districts spend the money and whether those funds are necessary.

Smith said a solution to the tax debacle is simple: Strike out desegregation funding.

“It’s a bad tax that the local level should eliminate and get rid of it altogether,” Smith said.

MUSD: Desegregation funds crucial to success for every student

Superintendent Tracey Lopeman

District officials said the funding keeps classroom sizes manageable, provides

programming that aids in closing student achievement gaps and is necessary for teaching positions that primarily serve English Language Learners.

The district receives approximately $1.29 million annually in desegregation monies that fund the salaries of about 25 teachers throughout nine schools, according to Superintendent Tracey Lopeman.

“It would be devastating if we lost that funding,” Lopeman said.

In a resident’s lawsuit against the City of Maricopa and a sports-car club, both sides presented their cases to the Arizona Court of Appeals on Wednesday.

Bonita Burks sued the City and Private Motorsports Group after a permit was approved for Apex Motor Club. Apex is intended to be a private club for sports car enthusiasts, with a clubhouse, private racetrack and garages.

During oral arguments, the judges were trying to determine if Burks had legal standing to sue and, if not, whether the requirement should be waived. To show “standing,” Burks would have to prove she would be more impacted than the “community at large” by the potential noise, odor and traffic she complained of.

If the appeals court sides with Burks regarding her “standing,” it would open the legal case to the meat of the matter. That is, whether the City acted illegally in allowing Private Motorsports Group to obtain its permit under the old zoning code.

Pinal County Superior Court Judge Robert Olson has already written his opinion the City did not act correctly in that matter. That opinion, however, was not binding because it was an aside to his ruling Burks had no standing to sue.

The Apex site is at the northwest corner of State Route 238 and Ralston Road. Burks’ home is in Rancho El Dorado, 5.2 miles from the site.

For that reason, the City and Private Motorsports Group have argued Burks does not have standing to file suit. It was a point argued previously before Olson.

“Our argument is, she did not allege or establish at the hearing any facts of personalized injury,” said Roopali Desai of Coppersmith, Schermer & Brockelman, the law firm representing Private Motorsports Group.

Burks’ attorney, while arguing she could have standing because Rancho El Dorado is closer to the Apex site than several other subdivisions, sought to have the whole “standing” requirement waived.

“The zoning matter is a big deal in Maricopa,” said attorney Timothy La Sota, who took over Burks’ case late in the appeals process. He added the statewide concern with zoning issues qualified the case to have the “standing” requirement waived.

La Sota represented Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers in a previous suit against the City that also went before Judge Olson. That was a disagreement over whether the City had taken legislative action or administrative action in granting the permit. MCPT claimed it was legislative action that could be subject to referendum and thus placed on a ballot. The City claimed it was administrative action and not subject to referendum.

Olson ruled in favor of MCPT, but that ruling was overturned by the Court of Appeals in September. However, La Sota brought up that sore spot again during Wednesday’s arguments.

The City, he said, changed its actions to administrative “to get around the referendum” and was trying to do something similar by denying Burks’ standing in the case.

Desai argued the state sets an “incredibly high standard” for establishing standing, and for a reason. She rebuffed attempts by the judges to set up hypothetical situations, saying Burks might have standing if she had to drive SR 238 to work every day but that is not a fact in the case.

“She does not use 238 to access her subdivision,” Desai said.

She also noted facts not in the record from the lower-court case, that three master-planned communities, 1,000 homes, railroad tracks and some business properties lie between the Apex site and Burks’ home. She said a noise study and traffic study refuted attempts to claim personal injury.

La Sota said taking the appellee’s “linear” approach to judging impact of the space between was separating the case from the “true standard” of determining personal injury.

The judges pushed La Sota on the definition of “community at large,” saying the attorney had not supplied evidence Burks is being personally impacted more than the rest of Maricopa “other than saying she is more affected because I say she is.”

The Court of Appeals, Division II, in Tucson has taken the arguments under advisement. Both sides now await its decision. If the court waives the “standing” requirement, the City and Private Motorsports Group would have to again defend the City’s action on permits and zoning.

Though City Attorney Denis Fitzgibbons was present at Wednesday’s hearing, he did not make a presentation to the judges.

The American Legion hosted its annual softball game against city staff, elected officials and community members the morning of the Fourth of July at Copper Sky. Just for fun, the game included Legion baseball players, police and fire officials and current and former mayors while giving the Be Awesome Coalition a spotlight.

Still in early stages, a proposal for a Dutch Bros. Coffee store, with drive thru, came before the Heritage District Committee on Thursday.

Dutch Bros. Coffee is proposing a store in Maricopa, and the Heritage District Citizen Advisory Committee received an early look at plans Thursday.

That’s because the committee gets an opinion on any development in the Heritage District. Dutch Bros. Coffee’s proposal is on the north side of Fast & Friendly Car Wash.

City planner Rudy Lopez said the project still has to go through site plan review and meet criteria currently under discussion. Developers are also seeking a variance.

The project uses an existing access from John Wayne Parkway, but Lopez said there is an easement on the frontage.

“It’s like a no-build zone,” Lopez said, “so they’re going for a variance.”

Project Manager Michael Oakleaf of Archicon Architecture & Interiors said the current plans make sacrifices to fit into the area. That included abandoning some elements and using a color scheme that would “blend in” with the neighboring car wash.

Oakleaf said those concessions are unusual.

“We’re giving up a lot,” he said.

In what Chairman Brian Foose called “a formality,” the committee unanimously voted its support for the project.

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The City of Maricopa is proposing an increase in property taxes. A public hearing is set June 19 at 7 p.m. during city council’s regular session.

Finance Director Brenda Hasler said the primary tax rate will not increase but the tax levy will. The tax rate will stay at $4.7845 per $100 of net assessed value.

“Due to increased property values, the overall amount the City is proposing to collect will increase,” Hasler said.

That required the “Truth in Taxation” notice and the public hearing.

With the increase in the net assessed value in the city, the primary tax levy will increase by $492,761 (4.2 percent) from the 2017-18 fiscal year. The City’s primary property taxes on a $100,000 home would be $478.45, an increase of $19.33.

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.

 

Businesses within the area affected by grade-separation construction apply for temporary sign permits. (City of Maricopa)

 

Maricopa City Council approved a temporary sign permit on May 10 for businesses impacted by the construction of the overpass in midtown Maricopa.

The permit applies to businesses and nonprofits within 300 feet of the affected roads – John Wayne Parkway between Hathaway Avenue and Desert Cedars, Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway between John Wayne Parkway and the Maricopa Unified School District office, and Honeycutt Road between John Wayne Parkway and the MUSD Transportation office.

The temporary signs include a 32-square-foot banner and a 32-square-foot ground sign. They cannot be placed within 40 feet of another sign and cannot interfere with pedestrian or vehicle traffic.

Applications are available at City Hall. The application packet includes examples of specifications. The application process takes up to five days.

Interim City Manager Trisha Sorensen said the program is similar to the temporary holiday sign program the city offers.


This item appears in the June issue of InMaricopa.

Residents confused by a mailing from a water line warranty company bearing the City of Maricopa logo might be throwing them away, but City Hall is encouraging them to participate.

City council unanimously agreed to a partnership with Service Line Warranties of America in a Sept. 5 meeting. The soliciting letters that went out last week from SLWA came unannounced.

“It looks like a scam,” said Jay Robertson, a Rancho El Dorado resident since 2002. “Why is the City involved in this? This is between us and the water company.”

A news release by the City of Maricopa late Tuesday explained an announcement to residents had been planned before the letters went out. “Unfortunately, the email alerting the City to the date of the mailing did not make it through the City’s firewall, so the mailing was sent without prior notification of residents.”

SLWA is asking residents to enroll in its repair coverage program to fix damaged water lines on private property. The program is $5.33 monthly or $63.96 annually. Enrollment is voluntary. The letter, which is nearly identical to a sample letter presented to city council in September, reminds residents that homeowners are responsible for repairs to water lines between their homes and the water utility connection.

This was reiterated in a quote attributed to Mayor Christian Price in Friday’s news release: “Many homeowners do not know that damage to the service lines on their property is their responsibility to repair. In the event of a service line emergency, the homeowner is responsible for scheduling the repair and covering the associated cost. As the City of Maricopa homes age along with the infrastructure serving them, SLWA repair plans provide homeowners with an optional peace of mind solution so they can be better prepared in the event of these unexpected repairs.”

The agreement with the city allows SLWA to conduct up to three campaigns per year comprised of up to six mailings to make homeowners aware of the service. The company also has the right to use the city logo on letterhead, bills and marketing materials.

The city receives 50 cents “per product” as a license fee.

The program is endorsed by the Arizona League of Cities and Towns and used by the City of Phoenix.

Robertson still wasn’t sold on the idea of paying a third party for repairs for which he normally pays a plumber. “It’s like pouring sand down a gopher hole,” he said.

The program is meant to cover residences served by a utility and those on wells and septic tanks.

Not all who receive the notifications from SLWA are homeowners. The company uses a mailing list drawn from zip codes with the four-digit extension and they also purchase a list based on deeds, Ashley Shiwarski of Utility Service Partners, which runs the marketing, told the council in earlier discussions.

The news release also included comments from John Kitzie, CEO of SLWA parent HomeServe USA: “Our service plans not only cover the cost of the repair; they also provide homeowners with reputable, local contractors who will do the best possible job.”

The company has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. Though 17 of the 21 reviews there were negative, BBB takes into consideration a company’s longevity, response to complaints relative to the size of the business and transparency, among other factors, when deciding a rating.

According to the city, a second letter from SWLA is scheduled to be mailed on June 4.

MCE Executive Director Quintin Baker.

Last fall the City of Maricopa decided to not renew the annual contract with the Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship (NACET). The contract between the City of Maricopa and NACET has expired. The Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship (MCE) will close over the next few days.

Current clients working with MCE will be able to receive services from the Small Business Development Center located at Central Arizona College’s Maricopa Campus. The SBDC has business analysts dedicated to assisting local businesses in the City of Maricopa.

The City has funded MCE for the past four years. Over 100 clients have received services through the center’s programming assisting entrepreneurs in everything from transitioning from an employee to employer and mapping out weekly actions to developing a sales acumen and being mentored by local business leaders.

In advance of the expiration of the contract with NACET the City issued a request for qualifications to find an organization to offer support to local entrepreneurs.

“Building an ecosystem for entrepreneurs is not done in a vacuum; often times it includes partners like educational institutions, corporate partners, municipal governments, financial capital partners,” said Mayor Christian Price. “We are excited to continue to be a part of building this ecosystem as we evaluate creative solutions targeted for our City to produce excellent results while partnering with other public and private organizations.”

“The Maricopa Center for Entrepreneurship has grown from a virtual location to a brick and mortar site which offered services to many growing entrepreneurs and served as a centralized location for the community to gather. I am excited to see what becomes of the entrepreneurial hub in the future,” said Quintin Baker, Executive Director for MCE.

“The Central Arizona College SBDC is pleased to provide ongoing support to Maricopa’s business community. The center provides confidential, no-cost counseling to businesses that are dedicated to creating jobs and economic impact to the local communities they serve,” said Kevin Fort, director of the CAC SBDC.

“The City of Maricopa has more than 600 businesses including more than 300 home-based businesses who we work with on a daily basis,” explains Economic Development Director Denyse Airheart. “We are committed to creating an environment for these businesses to grow and succeed. We are looking forward to evaluating our options to ensure we provide the services that will most benefit our community.”

Registration with the SBDC and an appointment are required to meet with their business analyst. To register for an appointment, go to https://centralaz.edu/community/business-outreach/small-business-development-center/ or call 520-494-6610. To contact the City’s Economic Development Department call 520-316-6990 or email economicdevelopment@maricopa-az.gov.

Rick Horst. Submitted photo

A finalist for the Maricopa city manager was awarded a three-year employment agreement Tuesday after city council voted to offer him the shorter-than-usual contract.

“[Maricopa] has a leakage of about $367 million where citizens are spending money in other communities, and my expertise is in how to reverse that.” — incoming City Manager Ricky Horst

Ricky Horst, the current city manager for Rocklin, California, will begin his contract in Maricopa on June 25 and receive $180,000 for the first year of the contract, paid in equal, bi-weekly installments. Each of the following two years he will have an opportunity to make even more, according to the stipulations of his contract.

“After the first year of this Agreement, the Employer may increase [Horst’s] salary as part of the City’s annual budget process [sic],” the contract states.

The three-year contract is shorter than usual for a reason, Mayor Christian Price said. It gives the city the option to revisit the contract in a few years to determine if things are working out, something which is harder to do with a five- or 10-year contract.

“I think everybody wants someone that is going to have buy-in,” Price said. “[But] there’s a flip side to that. What if you don’t like the individual? What if they’re not working out? What if things aren’t going so well?”

By keeping the contract shorter, Price said, it gives the city the ability to come back in a few years and assess the city manager’s performance.

In a phone interview Wednesday Horst said, he and his wife were elated to be coming to Maricopa, a city which dually shares his vision and could use his experience.

“[Maricopa] has a leakage of about $367 million where citizens are spending money in other communities, and my expertise is in how to reverse that,” Horst said. “So, then we can continue to provide for public safety, better infrastructure and quality of life amenities that will continue to make Maricopa the special place that it is.”

Horst went on to say Maricopa is offering him more than just a role in developing such a young city, and the city also fits the mold for a place he would like to call home.

“I’ve been at this for a while, and frankly I’ve had a lot of invites to go to a lot of cities to look at what they’re doing, but I have the right to be picky now,” Horst said Wednesday. “And I picked Maricopa both for career reasons and professional reasons, but also for personal reasons and quality-of-life reasons.”

A city Stakeholder Panel was convened to help in the city manager selection process. The nine-member group of residents, businesses owners and local organization leaders aided in the culling the original candidate selection down to two finalists – Horst and a former assistant to the Maricopa city manager, Nicole Lance.

The Stakeholder Panel consisted of Ioanna Morfessis, president and chief strategist of Io.Inc; AnnaMarie Knorr, Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board president; Dan Frank, president of Maricopa Flood Control District; Joe Hoover, owner of Legacy Montessori; John Stapleton, owner of CopaTV; Paul Shirk, president of Maricopa Historical Society; Linda Cheney, vice president of El Dorado Holdings; Glenda Kelly, board member of Maricopa Chamber of Commerce; and Mario Ortega, retired Maricopa Police officer.

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.

IF YOU GO
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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The HVS study found Hilton’s Homewood A photo from the study shows Suites in Chandler to be a primary competitor for hotel traffic in Maricopa.

When the City of Maricopa last completed a hotel feasibility study, it was 2014 and Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino had not announced its hotel expansion.

Maricopa Economic Development Director Denyse Airheart said while that expansion has no effect on whether Maricopa can sustain a hotel, “as we began to talk to hoteliers and developers, they wanted to know how it would affect the feasibility of the project.”

Those requests turned into a new feasibility study, released in March, by HVS Consulting & Valuation.

The study specifically looked at the viability of a hotel proposed somewhere along State Route 347. Possible sites include acreage at the Copper Sky complex, property that is owned by the city and intended for hotel and retail establishments.

Harrah’s Ak-Chin is adding more than 200 rooms during its casino remodeling. Within Maricopa, there are no other lodging accommodations. Aside from the casino, a new hotel’s main competitors would be in Chandler.

“The new report by HVS states the community can sustain a 100-room, extended-stay, upper midscale hotel,” Airheart said.

According to the report, “heavy consideration” was given to Home2 Suites by Hilton, Staybridge Suites and TownePlace Suites by Marriott brands, though “a specific franchise affiliation and/or brand has yet to be finalized.”

The study also had the caveat that if a hotel were built outside the SR 347 corridor, it could alter the feasibility of the project.

HVS used the model of a 70 percent occupancy level and a base-year rate of $103 in making comparisons with current hotels in the surrounding area.

“The conclusion of this analysis indicates that an equity investor contributing $3,471,000 (roughly 30 percent of the $11,600,000 development cost) could expect to receive a 20.3 percent internal rate of return over a 10-year holding period,” the report stated. That is considered an above-average return.

Major demand generators for a hotel are listed as the Volkswagen proving grounds, Nissan testing center, Apex Motor Club, U.S. Arid Land Agricultural Research Center and Amtrak. Last year, VW alone needed an estimated 12,000 room nights, according to the report, accommodations that had to be made outside Maricopa.


This story appears in the April issue of InMaricopa.

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.

 

For those concerned with the status of development around Maricopa, the city’s Economic Development department is taking efforts to the next level.

The Maricopa City Council approved a $150,000 expenditure Tuesday to hire a customer analytical firm to help design and execute a plan to draw businesses to the city.

Council approved the $50,000 a year, three-year contract with the Buxton Company to provide “retail attraction data and psychographic profiles and resources” to assist in strengthening and executing a development strategy.

According to Buxton’s director of sales, Parker Key, the company specializes in a tedious analytical assessment to help private and public entities understand consumer trends and, more importantly, which businesses should be targeted.

“We go through this process of matching your community to a database of over 5,000 companies that we’re constantly studying,” Key said.

Simply put, Buxton acts as a type of filter, which, according to Economic Development Director Denyse Airheart, is a beneficial tool to increase the efficiency of economic development efforts.

“We’re not necessarily being strategic,” Airheart said. “We’re going after what is hip, hot, what we’d like to see, what we hear from our residents, what [council] tells us.”

That approach, she said, means the city could be “pursuing retailers that are perhaps not growing in the market, so it could be wasted efforts.”

Vice Mayor Peg Chapados expressed a supportive but critical sentiment toward the expense – “A partnership that we need to take a close look at but will be worth it in the long run.”

Councilmember Marvin Brown, who ultimately voted to approve the expense, echoed the Vice Mayor’s concerns, citing a contract the city had with Buxton 10 years ago.

“I can recall vividly in 2008 when a similar presentation was given to us… and I expressed to [council] at that point that I don’t think Maricopa had evolved enough and was mature enough to award an $80,000-dollar contract to Buxton,” Brown said. “And as a result, I was right, we got zilch out of that study.”

All on council voted to approve the contract, except councilmember Vince Manfredi, who felt the “considerable” growth Maricopa had experienced in recent years was done without Buxton, and the tool was ultimately just being hopeful.

“I’m not much of a hoper,” he said. “I hear flowery stories all the time and how well things can work for us. Then a year later, or two years later, I’m wondering why we spent $200,000 on something.”


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Homestead construction

 

As construction on residential housing ramps up in Maricopa, the city is considering ways to make the process easier for developers.

Last year the city received 500 residential building permits, and recent projections predict major growth ahead.

During a city council work session March 20, the Development Services Department presented the city’s current procedure: An eight-application process that usually entails two years of meetings and sub-steps before a builder receives a building permit.

A team of planners began brainstorming how to consolidate timewasting steps and documents about a year ago.

The result was a color-coded flow chart that details the city’s process used since pre-recession Maricopa as well as updated steps the department has identified and streamlined.

Development Services Director Martin Scribner said even with improvements, development processes are inherently complex across the nation.

“As a rule, the process is complicated,” Scribner said.

The process is detailed in a digital timeline that essentially serves as a snapshot of what developers could expect during the pre-development stages.

Some of the department’s major consolidation in the process affected the construction and inspection portion of the process.

SMARTGov, the city’s digital terminal for permit viewing and submittal, is a big part of that, according to Senior Planner Rodolfo Lopez.

“(Developers) don’t have to resubmit some of those documents unless something is changed or modified,” Lopez said. “This process streamlines it a lot quicker.”

The city has been teasing a redesign of its website and Mayor Christian Price indicated he’d like to see the process timeline posted on the city’s digital front page once the online update is completed.

Development Services is expected to compose a similar timeline for commercial development, which entails an even more complicated process.

Vice Mayor Peggy Chapados said the digital flow chart could decrease the number of complaints the city receives from commercial builders regarding perceived delays in the process.

The commercial development presentation is expected sometime in the future.

“The more information we get out there, the better,” Price said.

 

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A COMET bus awaits riders in Maricopa. Photo by Michelle Chance

 

The Maricopa City Council approved an application for federal transit funds Feb. 6. But those funds are just part of the budget puzzle for city transportation.

COMET Ridership (trips per year)
Year ending
June 2013: 2,695
June 2014: 2,714
June 2015: 3,142
June 2016: 4,814
January-December 2017: 6,739

Development Services Director Martin Scribner said the Section 5311 grant from the Federal Transit Administration is something the city applies for every two years. By continuing to do so, the FTA remains informed about the goals of the city, making it more likely to continue to receive the funds, which make up more than half of the transportation department’s budget.

For the next two fiscal years combined (2018-20), the proposed budget for the City of Maricopa Express Transit (COMET) is just under $924,000. Of that, $579,000 is from federal funds, leaving $344,366 to be paid locally.

That is where the recently passed Pinal Regional Transportation Authority could come into play. The plan provides $1 million annually to transit systems in the county. Though it has not been determined how much would come to Maricopa, it could be applied to offset COMET’s hit to the city budget.

The RTA may go into effect in April, but there is an active lawsuit by the Goldwater Institute attempting to stop it. However, there is not an injunction in place.

If the half-cent sales tax goes into effect and pays out money to transportation and transit projects for a year, and then the court rules against the RTA, Councilmember Marvin Brown questioned whether the used funds would be expected to be returned.

Mayor Christian Price said the tax collection will proceed if there is no injunction. He said there are a number of theories and “potential variances” at hand if a court rules in favor of the Goldwater Institute after money has been collected.

As for COMET, the city is hoping to use a combination of federal funds and funds from the RTA tax to purchase six more bus stop shelters to cover all 11 current stops on the scheduled route and have one as a reserve.

 

Rendering of proposed bus shelter courtesy City of Maricopa