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NAPA

The auto-repair portion of NAPA is scheduled to close Feb. 1.

Tom and Tena Dugan, owners of NAPA in Maricopa, announced the auto-repair half of the business, Mel’s Auto, will close Feb. 1. The auto-parts store will remain open “as we prepare for the construction of a new building,” they announced in a statement.

The repair equipment will be moved to their Stanfield location. A concierge service is to planned to open by April, at which point they will operate on an appointment-only basis. The Dugans have owned the business since 2002. They said they will continue to be involved in the community as they have since the 1990s.

“We thank all our customers who have remained loyal since we took ownership in 2002. Those of you who went above and beyond to utilize our service during the construction deserve a medal for braving the closures and police intervention to have your vehicles worked on. Please remember to utilize the “mom & pop” businesses here in town. They are the ones that support our community and have the loyalty you have found with us. Thank you for 18 years of support of our auto repair,” they stated.

The State of Arizona, through the Department of Transportation, bought the NAPA building as part of the overpass construction with the intention of demolishing it. Earlier, the property belonged to Don Pearce, who bought it as Valley Auto Parts in 1959.

In August, the Maricopa City Council approved a contract to sell two acres of Estrella Gin Business Park on Edison Road to Mels’ Auto/NAPA for around $150,000.

NAPA Auto Parts may have found a new home.

In an executive session planned for Tuesday at 6 p.m. before their regularly scheduled meeting, Maricopa City Council will consider the sale of property to Mel’s Auto, LLC, an Arizona limited liability company doing business as NAPA Auto.

The land under consideration is at the city’s Estrella Gin Business Park on Edison Road.

The council may only go into executive session for discussion or consultation with the city attorney and designated representatives of the city in order to consider its position on and instruct its representatives regarding possibly entering into an agreement. They cannot act on the proposal in executive session.

Also, on the agenda of the same 6 p.m. special meeting is discussion of also selling Estrella Gin land to Electrical District No. 3.

 

Store owner remains unsure about future

Built in the 1950s, the NAPA Auto Parts store has a new neighbor on its east side as ADOT completes the SR 347 overpass. Photo by Jim Headley

The Arizona Department of Transportation has begun condemnation proceedings to take possession of the Maricopa NAPA site.

“We are now in condemnation proceedings to take the entire property.” — Tom Herrmann, ADOT

Tena Dugan, owner of NAPA Auto Parts and Mel’s Auto Repair, located on the corner of State Route 347 and the Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway, said she remains unsure where she might move her business. She does not own the building.

Due to the construction of the State Route 347 overpass looming on the store’s east side, ADOT officially acknowledged Friday they are attempting to condemn the property.

The owner of the property in county paperwork is Marathon Enterprises LLC of Casa Grande. Craig Scott is the owner of Marathon, Dugan said.

According to court records, ADOT paid $404,000 in earnest money to the Pinal County Clerk of the Court in 2017 for the property. In February this year, Superior Court Judge Steven J. Fuller issued an amended order for immediate possession dependent on another cash bond of $485,850. It is part of a suit ADOT filed two years ago naming Mel’s Auto LLC, Marathon Enterprises and the Pinal County treasurer as defendants.

Tom Herrmann, ADOT public information officer, acknowledged plans to condemn the property.

“We have converted from what was a partial taking of the NAPA site,” Herrmann said. “Originally, the plan was (to take) a small area on the east side of the NAPA site. We are now in condemnation proceedings to take the entire property.”

He said it remains unknown what ADOT might do with the site.

“We are about to start settlement negotiations. We are not near a final agreement or a price on the property, but that process has started. How long it will take is really up in the air,” Herrmann said.

Dugan said as far as she knows, ADOT is her current landlord and they must give her 60 days’ notice before eviction.

“Every day I have 60 more days,” Dugan said. “I’ve worked with a relocation specialist and I’m just going with the flow. I’m trying to finalize everything, so we can move some place. I don’t have an answer of what we’re going to do.”

Dugan has another NAPA store in Stanfield. Dugan said she could move her Maricopa services there until she lands at a new location.

 

ADOT workers prepare to construct an overpass on Bell Road at Grand Avenue (U.S. 60) in Surprise, a project that has some similarities to plans for an overpass in Maricopa. ADOT photo

In March, when officials with the Arizona Department of Transportation started calling Maricopans who own land that is possibly in the path of the upcoming overpass, the message was different than it had been in previous contacts.

“They told me I had 12 months to be out of here,” said Tena Dugan, owner of NAPA Auto Parts on the corner of John Wayne Parkway and Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway.

But a new approach by engineers may change that, too.

Dugan said the earlier understanding was that she would have 18-months’ warning. However, a sense of expediency became part of the project when it landed a federal TIGER grant of $15 million.

“The TIGER grant is the only funding with a deadline attached,” Public Works Director Bill Fay said. He clarified the deadline attached to the grant pertains to signing a construction contract, not completion of the project.

Fay said while ADOT is basing its ongoing design work off Alternative H, there are engineering modifications being considered that could lower the cost, which is estimated at almost $50 million.

On top of that, designers are also trying to avoid as many homes and businesses as possible – even NAPA, which has always been the one business discussed as irretrievably in the way of the overpass.

“They are working to try to get people back out of that situation,” Fay said.

But Dugan’s message from ADOT was to find a new location for the business by April 1, 2017.  With luck, she could get a 30-day extension.

“I told them 12 months is not doable in this town,” Dugan said. Because Maricopa is so young, “there is not another building to go into.”

ADOT photo
ADOT photo

ADOT is only at 15 percent design but is working on a concept that would also avoid the First Baptist Church, which Alternative H would destroy, though the new plan would impact its access. And the Amtrak station, which caused much of the overpass discussion in the first place, may not have to be moved at all.

“They are making a major effort not to relocate Amtrak,” Fay said. “It’s theoretically possible not to have to move it. For the sake of this project, I don’t think there’s a reason to move it.”

ADOT plans public meetings about the overpass in August and April to gather feedback on the most current concept for the overpass, according to ADOT spokesman Steve Elliott.

“Local input can help shape the project’s final design,” he said.

After the final design is developed, ADOT will determine any right-of-way needs. That process is expected to be complete by June 30, 2017.

“The project is currently scheduled to be advertised for bid in fall 2017,” Elliott said. “Right now, construction is scheduled to begin by late 2017 and end by late 2019.”

However, Fay’s estimate for completion is 2021 or 2022.

Maricopans wanting to see how a similar project is handled can look to an overpass ADOT is currently constructing on Bell Road over Grand Avenue and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks in Surprise. That project includes a full closure of the road for six to eight months. Road closure is not part of the plan in Maricopa. Elliott said the project team must still finalize a plan for accommodating traffic.

“As we have for Bell/Grand and other projects, ADOT will work with business owners to maintain access,” he said.

The Bell/Grand project has had its share of discontent among affected businesses, and there was even a late effort from some community members to stop it altogether.

That is not on Dugan’s mind, but she said she has hired an attorney. “I’m not trying to stop it or make a bunch of money off of it,” she said. “We’ve known since the beginning we were in the middle of it.”

She said she wants to be sure of her rights as an owner. “It would be good to have some peace of mind,” Dugan said.


This story appeared in the May issue of InMaricopa.