Construction on the new Marana Police Department police station is due to begin in 2017 and within two years the new building will be opened. The process of getting the new facility funded and approved has been lengthy, but more details on the project are now available.The town revealed these details in a press release last week and they include all aspects of law enforcement from the police officers themselves to the support staff and even the families of those employees who strive to keep Marana safe.“The new police facility represents another step in our continuing efforts to provide unparalleled police services to our community,” said Police Chief Terry Rozema in the release. “Appropriate detention areas will keep our community, officers, and detainees safer. Training facilities will increase our level of proficiency and effectiveness, and appropriate workspaces will greatly enhance efficiencies. This building is not simply a nice benefit for the police, it’s a tremendous asset for the entire community.”The new facility will be on the campus of the Marana Municipal Complex, adjacent to the administration building.MPD had input, along with the engineering departments in selecting those that would work on the project. They worked hand in hand to select the project management firm, architect, and construction contractor through a competitive bid process earlier this spring. Abacus, Architecton, and CORE Construction were subsequently hired, and the planning and design process began. “It was important to have everyone on the team from the very beginning,” said Deputy Engineering Director Jennifer Christelman. “We are able to make sure our needs and the budget are consistently aligned throughout the whole process.”
There were three propositions brought before Marana voters this election, and although results will not be finalized until Saturday, a clear winner emerged in two races. Proposition 440, also known as the Home Rule Option, appears to be well on its way to passing. The measure allows the town to utilize all of its revenues when it comes to budget spending. Had the measure failed, the town would be forced to use a state generated formula that would have seen the budget decrease by nearly $62 million.“The Marana voters have an expectation that public safety, roads, parks, and other services are important and that all available financial resources should be used to make Marana a great community to live,” said Marana Town Manager Gilbert Davidson. “Home Rule allows the local government to fully utilize all revenue to support the quality of life expected by our residents. The Town of Marana takes very seriously the responsibility to serve its residents in the most responsible, transparent, and supportive way.”As of Wednesday morning the measure was passing by a near 2-to-1 margin. The town’s estimated budget for fiscal year 2017-2018 is approximately $118.1 million. If the Home Rule Option measure had failed, the town would have trimmed its spending to $53.7 million. The outcome of the vote neither raised nor lowered taxes.This marks the ninth time Marana voters have passed the Home Rule Option.
The Town of Marana will honor the young people of the town with their newly created Youth Legacy Award. The award compliments the Branding Iron and Ora Mae Harn Crystal Legacy Awards currently given out by the town. The Marana Town Council approved the award by a unanimous vote. Inspiration behind the award was the town’s recent participation in the All America City competition in Denver. The town partnered with the Marana Unified School District to take a group of students to Colorado in June for and came away very impressed with the young people, who presented many of the elements that were judged for the competition. “Their enthusiasm, talent, perspective, commitment, other scholastic and community-based programs they are involved with is exciting and impressive,” said Marana Communications Manager Vickie Hathaway. “Especially their presentation at this national competition on how to showcase programs that promote heart, body and mind.”Working with the students the town staff realized that it was important to find more ways to not only engage younger residents, but to award and recognize them for their accomplishments. Marana’s other awards have traditionally gone to adults.For the Marana Youth Legacy Award the town is looking at nominees whose work and ethics benefit the community. To be considered for the award, the nominee must be 18 years or younger at the time of nomination and have made an impact in one of three categories. The first category is heart, which is “the participation in programs that promote a safe environment.” The second is body, which are any programs that address the central needs such as food, clothing or shelter. The final category is mind, which are educational opportunities.
The fall equinox is now in the rearview and the Tucson area can finally say goodbye to summer and welcome fall – the name adopted locally for the brief window of temperate climate before dipping into the morning frost of desert winter.For some, the call of autumn means the beginning of football, upcoming championship series and the return of the NBA.For Jo Falls, director of education and visitor services at Tohono Chul Park, the break from triple digit heat means it’s time to take to the garden.“In general terms fall is the best time of year to plant,” she said. “The reason being that whatever you are putting into the ground has the opportunity to establish itself and get some root growth. We always encourage people to look at fall as a time for planting. … Somewhere it is ingrained in people that you have to wait until the last frost and wait until spring and that’s the time that everybody comes out and does their plant shopping. For us, fall is a really good time to do it.”Though there is no set-in-stone deadline to put seeds or roots down, Falls said that anecdotally the deadline to keep in mind is somewhere around Thanksgiving. So get those seeds or transplant plants selected and get the ground prepared, even if it’s as simple as raking up an open area.For larger plants like trees, agave, yucca and cacti, Falls suggested that planting as soon as possible is of great benefit because of the extra time required to settle before any weather-related hazards set back in.
A longtime pilot with ties to Marana died in an airplane crash during an air show in Central Oregon.Marcus Bruce Paine, 61, perished when his Boeing Stearman biplane crashed while attempting a low-altitude loop as part of the Airshow of the Cascades on Aug. 27. The air-show veteran had successfully attempted the same maneuver the day before.Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department officials said Paine died in the crash and no one on the ground was hurt. An FAA official was on hand and the department is investigating the incident.“It is with heavy hearts that the Airshow of the Cascades announces the loss of the talented aerobatic performer, Marcus Paine, during his Saturday afternoon performance in Madras, Oregon,” a statement from the air show organizers read. “The Paine Family and the air show community appreciate your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”Paine, a native of Alaska, owned Unusual Attitudes, LL, a business based out of Marana Regional Airport. He operated the business only part of the year, when he was not participating in air shows or other ventures. Paine taught trained pilots how to fly air-show aerobatic maneuvers, with an emphasis on flying in abnormal conditions. The flight school also taught Unusual Attitude Recovery, Stall/Spin Awareness and aerobatic flight. He taught from October to May, which is the offseason for the air show circuit.
The community of Picture Rocks came out in force to celebrate the reunification of the area’s elementary school. Over 500 people came out for the ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of Picture Rocks Elementary School. “Tonight we take on the name of one community with the word elementary in it, not intermediate or primary,” said Principal Tawnya Caldwell. “Tonight we become Picture Rocks Elementary.”Previously students attended two adjacent schools in the area, with younger students attending Desert Winds Elementary and then transitioning to Picture Rocks Intermediate. The transition from third grade to fourth grade was hard for most students. Students at Desert Winds had to change schools after third grade and transition to Picture. Although the campuses were adjoining, the transition was stressful and teachers and administrators noted that students were apprehensive about changing schools. In fact some students are brought to tears. “We discovered the transitions were difficult,” said Marana Unified School District Superintendant Dr. Doug Wilson. “When kids went from third grade, it was not necessarily a smooth transition. No other students in our district had to go through that kind of transition.”Caldwell and Wilson both believe that combining the schools will improve the quality of education. “We want to make sure what we are doing is providing an environment for each of you, as students and staff, to have the best learning experience you possibly can,” said Wilson at last spring’s ground breaking ceremony.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Regional Transit Authority (RTA). The organization has been responsible for a number of transportation projects around Pima County, with many directly or indirectly benefitting the Northwest part of town. Although the Northwest has benefitted, so has most of the area, which was the design of the project. “Providing something for everyone was essential to the success of this plan,” said Marana Mayor and RTA Board Chair Ed Honea in a promotional video. “The RTA promised to deliver and to this date we have completed over 750 projects with many more to come.”No community has benefitted more than Marana. The RTA was vital in getting the Twin Peaks Interchange built, it was their first major project, and it has sparked a lot of development in the area. Without the interchange there is no way that the Tucson Premium Outlets would have chosen Marana and the likelihood is that a competing mall project would have been built outside of town limits in Pima County. The mall has been a boon to Marnaa, not only bring jobs and better shopping options but a sales tax spike occurred after opening and that trend continues. Additionally, the mall will spark development in the area. There are already plans for a hotel, additional stores and housing. Long term plans include at least one car dealership, a second hotel and a box store, most likely a hardware store like a Home Depot or Lowes. None of that would have been possible without the Twin Peaks Interchange.
With summer monsoon rains comes the greening up of buffelgrass, a non-native invasive bunchgrass that chokes out native plants and creates a serious fire hazard. And with buffelgrass growth comes aerial spraying of controversial pesticides that have sickened local residents.Buffelgrass is tenacious, with deep roots. Removal by hand is labor-intensive, and only glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, seems to kill it. The pesticide must, however, be applied during the wet greening-up period. In addition to backpack sprayers and trucks, cropduster airplanes and helicopters are being used to spread the poison locally. Buffelgrass was widely planted as cattle forage and erosion control before being banned as a “noxious pest” in Arizona. New and hardier varieties are still being developed and marketed in Texas and Sonora, and climate change is increasing its range.The World Health Organization labeled glyphosate a “probable” cause of cancer last year. There is a non-Hodgkins lymphoma blood cancer cluster among regular users of glyphosate in the agricultural industry. The European Union has been unable to agree on relicensing glyphosate and the product could end up off the shelves this summer if a compromise is not reached by the end of June. It has already been banned or restricted in a number of countries and U.S. localities.The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is reviewing its approval of glyphosate amid reports, after Freedom of Information Act disclosures to The Intercept, that 27 of the 32 studies relied on to declare glyphosate safe were funded by the pesticide industry, including manufacturers Monsanto and Sygenta. Three of the five independent studies found adverse effects on reproductive systems. A growing number of independent studies not looked at by the EPA are confirming the dangers of glyphosate exposure. Recent research also shows that “inert ingredients” used with glyphosate, like POEA, damage the human endocrine system. A May, 2016, report from Peru found 92 children and three teachers sickened with extreme vomiting in a school near a field being sprayed with glyphosate.
The Marana Chamber of Commerce celebrated another successful year with their annual membership appreciation luncheon. The luncheon, held at Heritage Highlands on Dove Mountain, cast a spotlight on the successful events of the past year and also gave a preview of what’s to come. The event used to be a business awards luncheon, but the chamber has transitioned it into the event it is today. Marana Chamber President/CEO Ed Stolmaker felt the event was better served by celebrating all the members as opposed to having winners and losers. “Today is about celebration for the Marana Chamber and the things we have accomplished over the last year,” Stolmaker said. After a catered lunch, Stolmaker took the stage to review a year that included a number of events, including the Big Green Event, the golf tournament, quarterly luncheons, monthly regional breakfast updates and plenty of grand openings and ribbon cuttings. They also previewed this year’s golf tournament and the Big Green Event in November. Attention was then turned to the past and the 123 members who have been a part of the chamber for over a decade, including eight that have been with the chamber since their first year.
Pima County Assessor Bill Staples is so confident about his work in office for the past 12 years that he says he isn’t asking for monetary contributions or currently seeking endorsements for his re-election campaign as he faces a challenger in the August Democratic primary.Seats like the county assessor’s—whose role is to assign values to properties as the basis for the property taxes levied by the county, school districts and other local entities so that property taxes are distributed fairly—are tough to win for rookie challengers with low name ID.Nonetheless, Staples is facing a challenge from a former employee in the assessor’s office. Brian Johnson has heard his share of doubts regarding his candidacy; the 61-year-old Johnson has never sought public office. Staples is seeking his fourth term as assessor and has enjoyed the support of local Democrats, including Congressman Raúl Grijalva. Johnson, who after eight years working with Staples is now the program manager for property assessment litigation under the county’s Department of Finance and Risk Management, is aware of the challenge but is still running his grassroots campaign with plenty of criticism for the way things have been functioning under Staples.Johnson says the assessor’s office has spent hundreds of thousands of budget dollars in “unnecessary” litigations, such as a dispute with Tucson’s largest private employer Raytheon; denies property-tax exemptions to nonprofit organizations like the Primavera Foundation (which led to Primavera suing the county); and that taxes for large commercial properties are too high. Johnson also says Staples is an uncooperative person running an office with transparency problems. “Bill doesn’t like things to get out,” Johnson says. “He sort of considers it his own little dominion and he doesn’t work cooperatively with the other parts of the county and this is a substantial problem.”
In an effort to honor those who provide for the local community on a daily basis, The Explorer has put together a collection of stories and photographs chronicling the efforts of the first responders community. Whether in uniform or out, police, fire or medical, those who take the calls and arrive on scene deserve nothing less than being honored as heroes of the local community. While the extraordinary events and occurrences are often the subject of news headlines and TV spots, the everyday actions of those same brave men and women are often just as impactful to the community and its residents – without any of the fanfare. While the jobs may be different, one common theme is almost always found – modesty. Those who serve the community don’t see themselves as the heroes we all know them to be, instead often placing that mantle on the shoulders of their spouses, family members or those who serve our nation’s military. While the term hero may not be the most easily definable, there are inherently heroic qualities to be found in anyone who sacrifices their time, wellbeing or safety for the preservation and betterment of the world around them. So thank you to all those who service, protect, provide and ensure that the world around them is a better place, through actions both large and small, recognized or never mentioned.See more stories about our heroes in general, Mountain Vista Fire District and Melissa Larkin, the SRO of the year.
Marana High School is pretty quiet these days as the majority of students are gone for summer vacation. But if you head to the north side of the school, you’re likely to hear the sounds of welding torches and angle grinders. Follow those sounds and you will see sparks flying in the school’s welding shop.For the second straight year, the school is hosting a Welding Certification Boot Camp designed to allow students who are planning welding career to not only get a lot of additional welding experience, but also earn valuable American Welding Society (AWS) certification. Last year, Marana teamed with Tucson and Cholla high schools to conduct the camp, but this year, interest was so high that each school was able to offer their own camps. The class is made up of both recent graduates and seniors-to-be, but all of the students are serious about welding careers. “They had to express that this is what they want to do for a career,” said Marana Welding and Fabrication Instructor Kenton Webb. “They are here to weld, not hang out with me or their friends.”First-time students in the camp can earn three types of certifications, including Shielded Metal Arc Welding process, which is also known as stick welding. SMAW is the most common welding process. In addition, they can earn certificates in FCAW or MIG, as well as dual shield wire. Although they are entry-level certifications, they can really help when the students enter the job market.“If they go and apply with a fab company or welding company, it at least gets their foot in the door because they have shown that they have already passed the certifications,” Webb said.Students in their second year of the program can pursue a Cade Industries certification, which is a little bit different and a little bit harder cert. This particular certification is an ASNE Certification or pipe certification.
On a day which the temperature rose well over the triple-digit threshold, the Mountain Vista Fire District brought out an engine to cool off a group of excited children at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church with what may be called the communities “most powerful sprinkler.” More than an opportunity to hose off the kids, the firefighters shared with the children some important tips on poolside safety tips.“Today we are teaching the kids the ABC and D’s of pool safety,” said MVFD Cpt. Steve White. “It breaks down into always having an adult, having at least a 60-inch barrier around the pool, knowing CPR is also crucial and distractions; avoiding things like being on your phone, or any other type of distraction around the pool.”While the kids at St. Mark’s were provided the information, drowning prevention is not to be taken lightly in any community, and poolside safety should be shared with the members of every family. According to MVFD, drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death among children ages one-to-four, and everyone should know the ABC and D’s of water safety.Adult supervision (A) means always designating an adult to watch over any kids playing in the pool, hot tub or any other similar body of water and to make sure the adult always knows where the children are in and around the house.Even with adult supervision, it is important to have a proper barrier (B) around the pool that is at least 60-inches-tall with a self-closing gate. If feasible, automatic closing pool covers are also a great safety option, as are alarms on back doors and windows to know if anyone is heading in or out.Poolside safety goes beyond supervision and physical barriers. Taking CPR classes (C) and other rescue technique courses may one day be a vital, lifesaving bit of knowledge if the unthinkable does occur. While no one is “drown-proof,” having children take swimming classes is also advisable and will help them become more comfortable in the water.
For the second straight year, a member of the Marana Police Department has been named the state’s School Resource Officer of the Year for their work in the Marana Unified School District.Melissa Larkin received the award during last week’s Arizona School Resource Officer Association Conference, being honored for her service and dedication to the students and community of Marana Middle School.Larkin completed her second year working with seventh and eighth graders at the school and has forged strong relationships with the students, parents, teachers and staff. “I teach an internet safety class which every seventh grader will take at some point,” Larkin said. “There are over 500 seventh graders at Marana Middle and every one of them will spend time in my classroom.”Larkin logged in some serious hours teaching the course. The federal grant which funds her position requires that she teach 180 hours each school year, but last year she clocked a total of 240 hours. “Officer Larkin has a classroom that supports safety and collaboration,” said Marana Middle School Principal Heather Pletnick. “She works closely with teachers to establish a curriculum that is timely, educating our students on the dangers of the internet and cyber bullying.”
Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller walked out of a heated board meeting last Tuesday, June 21, as her delays in responding to public-records requests were being discussed.“I have an urgent appointment I need to get to,” Miller said. “I thought we’d be done by now.”After Miller’s sudden departure, the board voted for a new records policy that would require members to turn over public records related to county business created on personal computers and devices such as smart phones, as well as public records created on private email accounts. Before she left the meeting, Miller pledged to turn over any public records created on personal devices and via private email addresses.While Miller has told the County Clerk’s Office that she and her staff have not done county business on private email accounts or on private devices, recently uncovered records suggest that District 1 staffers, including Miller, may have conducted county business using their private email accounts. At least one email recently released by Miller’s office shows that Miller and her staff discussed a recent ordinance regarding panhandling in medians via private Gmail addresses.
While the summer blockbuster movies may paint a somewhat different picture, being a hero often has nothing to do with thwarting international plots to end the world, stopping an alien invasion or single-handedly fighting crime syndicates. Being a hero is more of a mindset, an attitude focused on making the community a better place, whether through actions large or small.From community leaders to the armed forces to volunteers at nonprofits, heroes span a wide range of characteristics, personalities and world views, though the willingness to make a difference is often the common thread.“In my opinion a hero is someone who does what they know is right, always,” said Shawn Benjamin, community relations manager for the Mountain Vista Fire District. “Not because it is going to get them recognized but in spite of it. They do in even when they are scared out of their minds because someone needs them. They build people around them up and help them achieve their goals. A hero is a true soul. Someone who is not perfect, makes mistakes, accepts and learns from them so they can turn around and guide others.”Though a current member of the firefighting community, Benjamin spent years as a member of the Oro Valley Police Department, and has had to step up when she saw a women collapse in a local restaurant last Thanksgiving. Benjamin immediately began administering CPR as another bystander called for an ambulance, which came from Golder Ranch Fire District. Golder Ranch responders were able to take the woman to the hospital, where she successfully begun her recovery with no brain damage.While the actions of Benjamin and eight members of GRFD are nothing short of heroic, Benjamin doesn’t use the term “hero” to describe herself or anyone else who took action that day. Having worked for years within both the police and firefighter communities, she said that helping is the right thing to do, and that anyone put into a similar situation would do the same thing. She said many of the men and women in public safety go into the field wanting to make a difference, not to find some moment of limelight.Oro Valley Police Department Lt. John Teachout, who along with fellow OVPD Lt. Chris Olsen saved a women and her children last year when her vehicle began to catch fire near Flagstaff, said that acts of bravery occur within the first response community on a daily basis, often without recognition—but that doesn’t matter at all.
It’s a hot summer day. The morning doves are cooing and the sun beats down on a slight breeze. Water sits still at the bottom of trays under ceramic pots filled with flowers and plants. Pinch, swat, slap. A small itchy red bump outlined with flushed skin is what the mosquito leaves after its bite.The Aedes aegypti mosquito lives and harasses Tusconans during the warm, wet summer months. This mosquito is responsible for carrying and spreading four diseases including the Zika virus, which was reported as a public health emergency by the World Health Organization in February 2016.Although the Aedes mosquito is found in Arizona, there have been no cases of Zika, as of late March 2016. The Maricopa County Department of Public Health and the Arizona Department of Health Services reported a woman from Maricopa County had acquired the Zika virus from international travel.Do Tucsonans Need to Fear the Zika?“Certainly we want people taking general precautions from receiving mosquito bites,” said Kacey Ernst, a University of Arizona epidemiologist who studies mosquito-borne diseases. However, she explained that if there were no mosquito bites by a Zika infected mosquito, then there would be no risk of Zika being in the area.The United States has reported 312 travel-associated Zika virus disease cases and zero locally acquired cases. Of the 312 cases, 27 were pregnant women. Out of the 50 states, 41 states have reported an outbreak of the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Planners for the controversial Interstate 11 highway proposed for Southern Arizona are moving to formally identify possible routes through the federal NEPA process. A three-year Tier One Environmental Impact Study, authorized by the State Transportation Board in December, 2014 at a cost of $15 million, will try to identify a “preferred alternative” route. However, Arizona Dept. of Transportation (ADOT) Project Manager Jay Van Echo, meeting with activists from Picture Rocks and Avra Valley on May 18, acknowledged that there were really only two serious possibilities: through the Avra Valley or along the existing I-10. There will also be a rarely-selected “No Build” alternative.Only two actual proposals are currently on the table: the Avra Valley route proposed by Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, and a less-expensive double-decking of six miles of Interstate 10 from Ruthrauff to I-19, raised but then dismissed by ADOT staff. The proposed “Sonoran Corridor” west of I-19 is also part of the plan and was originally labeled “I-11” on County maps. The Sonoran Corridor was turned down by voters last November as part of a bond package even though it was tied to popular road repairs.The project starts with publication of intent in the Federal Register May 20, followed by a series of public meetings in Wickenburg, Buckeye, Casa Grande, Tucson, and in the Nogales area. Two Tucson meetings are tentatively scheduled but not yet confirmed: June 22 at the Riverpark Inn in Tucson, and June 23 at Marana Middle School. Both will run from 4 – 7 p.m. to allow for participation when people leave their jobs.The informal meeting with Robin Clark from the Avra Valley Coalition, Paul Flemm from Citizens for Picture Rocks, and this reporter, was at the offices of the Gordley Group, a public relations and marketing firm contracted by the Arizona Dept. of Transportation. In addition to civil engineer Van Echo, also attending were company president Jan Gordley and Public Involvement Director Alice Templeton. Templeton said they were “advocates for process without concern over the outcome” and wanted to gather as much public input as possible. This meeting was, according to Van Echo, one of many with various officials and stakeholders, including environmental groups. When asked if the Center for Biological Diversity had been among them, the response was negative. It was pointed out that Executive Director Kierán Suckling lives in the path of the “Huckelberry Highway” and just might be an interested party.
What is America to meA name, a map, or a flag I seeA certain word, democracyWhat is America to me….* Arizona was part of New Spain, and then Mexico, for hundreds of years. The Mexican-American War and Gadsden Purchase changed that, but many Mexicans elected to stay in their ancestral homes. While much of American Arizona set a determined course to be white, Tucson remained “a bit of Old Mexico” throughout the 19th Century.
Loitering on traffic medians in unincorporated Pima County is now prohibited after the Pima County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 in favor of new regulations last Tuesday, May 19. “The proposed ordinance was brought before the board of supervisors at the request of Pima County Sheriff Chris Nanos.”The issue was previously discussed during an open house last month, at which time District 1 Supervisor Ally Miller stated she would bring a proposed ordinance before the board. However, it was brought before the board by Nanos.While many throughout Tucson, particularly those living on the Northwest side, see the ordinance as a means of combating panhandling (and by extension homelessness), Nanos said it’s all about safety.“Is it safe to be on a median?” Nanos asked the board during the meeting. “Would you have your 8-year-old son, your 15-year-old daughter or your mom standing on that median as cars zoom by at 50 miles per hour all day, is that safe? I can’t say it’s safe.”
Infant child care in Arizona costs an average of $9,437 a year, rivaling in-state college tuition and putting care out of reach for many families, according to a recent Economic Policy Institute report.And Arizona’s costs were on the low end when compared to the rest of the nation, with infant care costs in Washington, D.C., reaching $22,631 annually.The numbers were unsurprising to early child care advocates.“It is hard everywhere, because we don’t make the commitment to child care that we really need to,” said Helen Blank, director of Child Care and Early Learning at the National Women’s Law Center.Arizona is in the minority of states where infant care costs slightly less than in-state tuition, with average child care costs about 4.7 percent less than college costs, said Josh Bivens, director of research and policy at EPI.Even though Arizona is relatively cheap, child care costs are still a “big chunk” of a family’s budget. The Department of Health and Human Services says child care should only take up 10 percent of a family’s income, but the EPI report says it takes up 17.6 percent of a typical family income in Arizona.