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  • Marana Holiday Festival provides plenty for the whole family

    Southern Arizona’s largest Christmas tree lighting show is in Marana and the town is again expanding the event.Marana Holiday Festival and Christmas Tree Lighting, which is one of the town’s four signature events, is Saturday, Dec. 3, 3 to 8 p.m. at the roundabout to the north of the Marana Municipal Complex. It is the second year the event taken place in the new location and the move allowed the town to expand the event to include more activities.Not only did they get a bigger tree, but this year the entire area will have more lights and more decorations.“We think the ambiance will be even more festive this year,” said Marana Special Events Corridinator Monique Meza.The centerpiece is, of course, the 40-foot Christmas tree.“This is the first year we are going to actually incorporate the building into the light show,” Meza said. “It should be a pretty spectacular show.”

  • SaddleBrooke Troop Support announces death of President George Bidwell

    George Dawson Bidwell passed away Oct. 30 after year-long complications from a severe lung infection. He was born Oct.1, 1932 in Pittston, Pennsylvania to Ralph and Louisa Bidwell and grew up in West Pittston, just across the Susquehanna River. He served in the United States Army from 1950-1953 achieving the rank of Sergeant. George moved to Tucson in 1957 and, in 1962, started his career at Hughes Aircraft Company, taking early retirement in 1989. However, retirement was not really in George’s vocabulary. He started a one-person machine shop that quickly grew into G & L Enterprises and was known for its precision machining for both aerospace and commercial industries. He and his wife, Louise sold the business in 2008, and she finally convinced him to really retire at the age of 76. They chose Saddlebrooke for their next phase of life, moving here in 2009. George was active in two men’s nine-hole golf leagues while continuing to be an avid organic gardener in their back yard. He was most proud of his work with SaddleBrooke Troop Support (STS) and spent the last two years of his life as its President. He was predeceased by his parents and former wife, Marion, the mother of his children. He is survived by his wife of 34 years Louise; brother, Ralph Bidwell as well as three children, Cathy Bailey, George L. Bidwell and Eugene Bidwell (Heather) as well as two grandchildren, Catina Jordan and Katelynn Bidwell, and two great-grandchildren. A Celebration of Life was held Sunday, Nov. 20 at the Mesquite Grill and was standing room only with family and friends. If you would like to make a donation in George’s memory to Saddlebrooke Troop Support, do so via its website:  www.saddlebrooke-troop-support.com or send a check to Bob Sogn, STS Treasurer, 38873 S. Rock Wood Dr., Tucson, AZ 85739.

  • Marana students showcase their coding skills

    Two Marana Unified School District elementary schools are among the first to become Computer Science Immersion Schools in the state of Arizona.Students had the opportunity last week to share what they have learned with their parents, other students and district administrators.Gladden Farms and Quail Run Elementary schools students hosted their first computer science Epic Build Showcases, which allowed them to demonstrate their computer coding skills and show off the projects they have been working on since the beginning of the school year.Older students made keynote presentations where they not only explained how they have implemented coding into their schools, but the importance of computer science in today’s workforce. During the presentation, it was noted that by 2020 there will be 1.4 million new jobs in computer science but that currently only about 400,000 students are studying computer science.“Our vision is to prepare students to change the world through technology,” said Andrew Svehaug, CEO of Code To The Future, the company partnering with MUSD to provide the program.Parents were then able to go to their children’s classrooms to learn more about the projects they have been working on since the beginning of the year. In addition, they were able to observe older students present to younger students, shining a light on what future projects they will be working on as they get older.

  • Walk This Way: Distracted pedestrians and drivers a deadly mix

    It’s common to see a person using a cell phone while walking.Sometimes the phones are used to have a conversation – their original purpose – but nowadays it’s more common to see people shuffling along with their eyes glued to the phone as they text or surf the Internet.While YouTube has its share of clips that show people walking into trees and falling down from using their phones, it’s not always funny. More and more “petextrians,” as some traffic safety experts call them, are getting hurt or killed from the distracting habit.Teens and young adults are more likely to be injured, according to Safe Kids Worldwide. The organization found that 1 in 5 high-schoolers was found crossing the street distracted either by texting, video games or listening to music.“If you’re staring at your phone rather than looking out for walls, other pedestrians and cars, it’s only a matter of time before you experience a close call or get seriously hurt,” said Lisa Fell, director of communications and public affairs for AAA Arizona. “As a safety advocate, AAA urges pedestrians to be aware in their surroundings. No text is worth your safety.”Hospitals have noticed a marked increase in the number of injuries from petextrians getting hit by vehicles because they aren’t looking while they walk. The Consumer Product Safety Commission found that ER visits involving pedestrians using cell phones were up 124 percent in 2014 from 2010.

  • MUSD looking for donor to help families

    The Marana Unified School District’s Holiday Share program supports district families in need for both Thanksgiving and Christmas by finding donors who are willing to adopt families for one or both holidays. If you are interested in learning how you may either adopt a family or make a donation, please contact Christina Noriega, Family Resource Center Coordinator, 520-579-4920. Appropriate donations of any kind are greatly appreciated.

  • Arizona Repertory Singers announce chorale holiday show

    Choral ensemble Arizona Repertory Singers announced its annual winter concerts with music director Elliot Jones.“Radiant Dawn,” a 90-minute program, will be performed Dec. 9, 11 and 16 at two venues in the Tucson area. The concert series ushers in a season of spiritual awakening as well as ARS’s fresh focus on new music. In “Radiant Dawn,” Jones balances the classics of repertory with brand new music never before heard in Tucson.Jones said  that in a typical choral concert the older work is placed at the beginning and the new work at the end, but in “Radiant Dawn” he breaks with tradition, juxtaposing the classic, “O nata lux” by Thomas Tallis with “O radiant dawn” by James MacMillan, two works separated by a span of 500 years.Jones, who was named music director in April, auditioned 16 people and accepted eight new members into what he calls, their “community of singers.”“The singers are really incredible,” Jones said. “About half of them have music degrees, which is not common.”“Radiant Dawn” is divided into four sets, starting with “Dawn” and “Mary,” which include spiritual works. After the intermission are “Yule” and “Christmas”—enjoyable, rhythmic, Christmas classics with dazzling arrangements.

  • Marana Honored as Top Digital City

    The town of Marana was named one of the top cities in the country for its use of online services for its citizens for the second year in a row.The Center for Digital Government releases an annual list recognizing cities that use technology to improve citizen services, enhance transparency, and encourage citizen engagement.“This year’s top digital cities are using technology to ensure citizens can meaningfully interact with city government more easily than in any other time in history,” said Todd Sander, executive director of the Center for Digital Government. “From open data portals to enhanced connectivity and mobile platforms, this year’s top-ranked cities are actively promoting transparency, encouraging citizen participation, and making it easier for people to do business with government.”Marana’s digital efforts are wide-ranging, and include an active web presence, numerous social media outlets and a variety of tools that allow the town to provide residents with accurate, up-to-the-minute information. For example, in the past year, Marana debuted the Financial Transparency Dashboard, a portal that allows users to track how the town is allocating taxpayer dollars. Though this information is already made public through the town budget, by presenting it through this lens, Marana is working to make it more readily understandable to a general audience.“Our Technology Services and Communications staff work closely to implement creative ideas that connect residents with the information they need,” said Technology Services Director Carl Drescher. “Whether they’re looking to pay a water bill or find out about our upcoming events, we want to make sure their online interaction with us is as straightforward as possible.”Over the next several months Marana will continue to increase its digital presence. The town recently unveiled the Marana Events app, available in the App Store and on Google Play, which allows residents to learn all about upcoming signature events, such as the Holiday Festival and Christmas Tree Lighting on Saturday, Dec. 3. The Tech Services team will soon release another app, aimed at supporting the businesses along the Ina Corridor as the Arizona Department of Transportation constructs the new overpass. This new app will connect consumers with the many shopping opportunities that will remain open during construction.

  • Police Beat - Nov. 30, 2016

    Bathroom argument leads to disputeOfficer with the Oro Valley Police Department arrested one local man for two separate counts of domestic violence after engaging in a verbal argument with his wife.Just before 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 19, OVPD officers responded to a northside apartment complex in regards to a call of a man punching a hole in his bathroom wall. Upon arriving on scene, one officer spoke with the woman, who said that she and her husband were going through a divorce which was not proceeding well, and that while she was putting on makeup on the bathroom her husband yelled at their children for being “rambunctious.”The woman told the officer that she voiced her displeasure to her husband in regards to his discipline, which she said upset the man. After trying to disengage from the argument, the woman reportedly said that her husband punched a hole through a dividing wall in the bathroom.In the police report, the officer indicated the presence of a “large hole” in a wall in the apartment’s bathroom, as well as several chunks of drywall and dust on the ground. The officer indicated in his report that the woman had no impact or injury marks on her hands.Meeting with another officer who was interviewing the husband, it was later discovered that the man indeed admitted to losing control—but because he thought his wife was off to meet another man. After admitting to the damage the man was arrested for domestic violence, criminal damage and disorderly conduct.

  • Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona joins national campaign to end senior hunger

    When it comes to eating a healthy diet, millions of Americans 65 and over face a double whammy: a fixed income, and rising food costs.Nationally, adults aged 65 and over have an average annual income of $46,627, and they spend more than $5,500— or nearly 12 percent—on food. Additionally, this year those who rely on Social Security received just a 0.3% increase in their Cost of Living Adjustment. Their friends just 10 years younger have a greater income (averaging $75,262 annually), and they spend less (9.3 percent) on groceries.The Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona has been awarded a grant to support a National Council on Aging (NCOA) effort to help older adults struggling to buy groceries apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to supplement their food budget.The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that just 2 out of every 5 seniors who are eligible for SNAP benefits are enrolled in the program. This means that millions of low-income older adults are missing out on this vital program, which provides an average monthly benefit of $110 to help participants buy healthy food. The Community Food Bank is one of more than 30 community organizations across the country that is stepping up its efforts to assist seniors in applying for SNAP. The organizations will use NCOA’s free online BenefitsCheckUp® tool (www.BenefitsCheckUp.org) to screen older adults with limited income for SNAP eligibility. Since 2014, the initiative has screened almost 400,000 people for SNAP eligibility and has helped nearly 70,000 seniors apply for SNAP.“We’re excited to be part of this proven effort that has the potential to help low-income older adults in Southern Arizona improve their health and financial security,” said Marco Liu, the Community Food Bank’s Director of Family Advocacy. “The Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona has a strong history of helping seniors in need. We’re confident that increasing SNAP enrollment with BenefitsCheckUp® and other outreach methods will have a profound effect on lives of our seniors.”To find out more about SNAP eligibility, contact Marco Liu, Director of Family Advocacy at 882-3299. For more information on NCOA’s senior hunger initiative, visit ncoa.org/SeniorHunger.

  • County supervisors unanimously approve 2017 legislative priorities agenda

    The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Nov. 22 to approve the county’s legislative priorities agenda for the state legislature’s upcoming 2017 session.“It’s very heartwarming to go forward with a unified vision for the county where all five supervisors have unanimously supported the legislative agenda,” Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said.The state greatly influences the county policies and its budget and the board adopts a legislative priorities agenda each year to ensure county officials and administrators have a list of priorities for discussions with legislators and the governor’s office.Increasing state support for transportation funding is the county’s top priority for 2017. The board is asking the legislature to grant authority to the Regional Transportation Authority to seek voter approval for a half-cent sales tax for 10 years to pay for pavement preservation. The county also would like legislators to raise more transportation funding through an increase in the state gas tax, which hasn’t been raised in a quarter century; to create a more equitable distribution of the state’s gas tax and to halt state diversion of gas tax revenue for other state purposes.The county’s second priority is a change in state law requiring a unanimous board vote to impose a county sales tax to a simple majority vote. Every other county in the state has a sales tax of one kind or another, which helps reduce their property tax rates. Previous attempts to pass a sales tax in Pima County were thwarted by a single supervisor.“Our high primary property tax rate results from not having the diverse revenue sources of Arizona’s other 14 counties,” Huckelberry wrote the Board in a memo proposing the legislative lobbying priorities. “It is likely Pima County will continue to be targeted by the Legislature with punitive legislation until we reduce our primary property tax rate and levy.”

  • County approves plan to improve Raytheon expansion

    The Pima County Board of Supervisors approved County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry’s plan to continue to pursue actions that will encourage Raytheon to expand its operations in Tucson.Last week’s announcement by the defense contractor that it will expand its operations in Tucson and add up to 2,000 jobs to the local economy was made possible in great part by a county-led regional effort to clear obstacles that had prevented Raytheon from expanding here in the past.The county and regional jurisdictions have spent more than $30 million since 2012 to acquire buffer lands to eliminate urban encroachment; to provide safety arc buffers for Raytheon’s facilities; to relocate a nearby road as a safety buffer and to move a power line. These actions gave Raytheon the ability to expand its Tucson plant.Tuesday, the board voted 4-0, with Supervisor Ally Miller recusing herself due to a conflict of interest, to approve several measures that will continue to remove barriers to Raytheon’s growth, including:• Voluntary restrictions on County property for sale or lease adjacent to Raytheon• Support for an application for a federal Foreign Trade Zone designation that will allow the company to realize a reduction in its property taxes

  • Oro Valley officially adopts new general plan

    The Oro Valley Town Council voted last week to approve the results of the Oro Valley’s Nov. 8 election.On the ballot was the town’s Your Voice, Our Future General Plan, which appeared as Proposition 439. According to the official canvass prepared by the Pima County Elections Department, Your Voice, Our Future received more than 70 percent of the vote.“Seventy percent is significant,” said Oro Valley Town Clerk Mike Standish. “This is certainly confirmation of our voters’ overwhelming support of this community-developed general plan.”Arizona state law requires all cities and towns in Arizona to have an updated General Plan every 10 years that is approved by voters. A plan must include topics such as water, land use, growth and circulation.The Your Voice, Our Future General Plan will help determine decisions made for Oro Valley over the next 10 years on range of important topics such as public safety, natural beauty, parks and recreation.

  • Kneaders hosting an evening with Santa Dec. 8

    Santa will have lots of help from his merry elves and a little magic this December as he makes an early appearance for a special celebration at all Kneaders locations across the state in honor of patients at local children’s hospitals.Next Thursday, Dec. 8, Kneaders will host its annual “Evening With Santa” from 5 until 7 p.m., the only night of the year when diners can enjoy Kneaders famous Chunky Cinnamon French Toast for dinner. One hundred percent of French toast sales from all Tucson-area locations this special evening will benefit Tucson Medical Center for Children.A fan favorite, Kneaders delicious Chunky Cinnamon French Toast is made fresh daily using Kneaders Chunky Cinnamon bread, and served with fresh strawberries, fresh whipped cream and heavenly homemade caramel syrup.“With two new locations in Tucson and Oro Valley, we are giddy with excitement to bring this tradition to families in our Kneaders communities,” said Kneaders CEO James Worthington. “We love to give back to the communities that we serve, and children are a special focus for us. Tucson Medical Center for Children is an incredible partner to the community and we are proud to donate our French toast sales for the evening from all Tucson-area locations to this amazing organization.”Santa will be on hand for pictures and guests are invited to bring their own cameras for snapshots with jolly old St. Nick. Kneader’s is located on the north side at 9660 N. Oracle Road.

  • Free classical concerts series starts Dec. 3

    Join classic music lovers for a free concert that combines familiar music with great works you may not have heard before. You’ll likely know Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, and you will recognize the Romeo and Juliet Overture and Polovtsian Dances, even if you couldn’t place their names. Prokofiev’s Overture on Hebrew Themes is filled with fun, rhythmic melodies featuring the clarinet, giving it an almost Klezmer feel. The beautiful cello solos are not to be missed. The series starts Saturday, Dec. 3, 7 p.m. at the Tucson Jewish Community Center, 3900 E. River Road, and Sunday, Dec. 4, 3 p.m. at the Vistoso Community Church, 1200 E. Rancho Vistoso Blvd. in Oro Valley.

  • Board of Supervisors approves county economic development

    The Pima County Board of Supervisors recently voted to approve an update to the Pima County Economic Development Plan.The update is a reflection of county efforts to promote economic development, job growth, higher wages and increased wealth within the region. The approval provides a midterm update of the previous economic development plan the Board of Supervisors approved in August 2015.The plan intends to continue fostering the collaborative environment that has allowed the private sector, local governments, educational institutions and nonprofit organizations to work together to stabilize and expand the local economy. Key areas where such collaboration can reap significant rewards for the community include education/workforce development and combating poverty.The Pima County Economic Development Plan Update through 2018 is intended as a guide for future budget allocations and BOS policy decisions to foster economic development opportunities in Pima County.Some areas of success and progress Pima County has already made:Aerospace Parkway completion and pending expansion: Pima County completed the relocation of Hughes Access Road in December 2015, which provided the needed buffer for Raytheon to expand its regional operations and created the Aerospace Parkway. The new roadway provides access to the County’s Aerospace, Defense and Technology Business and Research Park, an area that has already attracted new employers, including World View Enterprises Inc. and Vector Space.

  • Water Festival gives students hands-on experience learning about water use and area resources

    Despite gusty winds and a serious downpour at the end of the event, more than 750 Marana Unified School District fourth graders took part in the first-ever Marana Water Festival to learn more about Arizona’s water resources and water in the earth system.The festival, held at the Crossroads at Silverbell District Park, is part of a larger Arizona Water Festival, which has been put on by Arizona Project WET for 16 years and has engaged over 100,000 Arizona fourth graders in the program’s history. The goal of the Arizona Water Festivals is to instill a deeper understanding of water in the earth system and Arizona’s water resources through a hands-on community festival. It also featured a professional development workshop for teachers and extensive volunteer and community involvement.The festival itself is part of a larger curriculum unit focused on water stewardship and STEM education. Teachers implement a water STEM unit and go through additional education to help better teach the unit, which is then built upon at the festival. Educators receive seven hours of additional instruction where they learn to do pre- and post-instruction for the festival day.“The Arizona Water Festival program combines effective teacher professional development, direct student outreach that extends classroom learning and community engagement,” said program Director Kerry Schwartz. “Bringing these components together is the art work that APW does to achieve STEM literacy and water stewardship education in Arizona’s communities.”The festivals include instruction from local water professionals.“Arizona Water Festivals are designed to be delivered by people from the communities in which they are held,” Schwartz said. “Arizona Project WET takes the time to train professionals to engage students in learning by allowing them to explore and giving them time to think.  The professionals teach the lessons that we provide so that a strong foundation for learning can be established for each student. The professionals only need to be willing to learn the art of instruction, they enjoy watching the light bulbs go on when students get the big ideas.”

  • Oro Valley reports on the first fiscal quarter

    The Town of Oro Valley closed the books on the first quarter of the fiscal year, and finance director Stacey Lemos took a few minutes during the Nov. 16 council session to recap the town’s economic picture, saying that Oro Valley had experienced a “very strong financial performance.”Lemos said several factors played into the assessment: sales tax collections, individual department performances and construction and permitting rebounding from slumps in the previous year.Through September, the town’s general fund brought in $3.3 million in local sales tax collections – just over 21 percent of the $15.6 million budgeted amount for the year – as well as an additional $474,000 in licensing and permits. According to the town’s separate economic development update, 78 residential and a single commercial permit have been issued.Though Lemos presented a summary of each of the town’s different operations, the fund granted the most attention for well over a year has been that of the community and recreation center. “We saw a much improved performance this fiscal year over last fiscal year’s performance through the first quarter,” Lemos said.Looking at the bottom line, the fund through three months has experienced just over $760,000 net deficit, which is $5,000 better than expected through three months. Last year over the same period the fund operated at just greater than a $1.1 million loss – compared to a projected $819,000 loss. Aside from the fund’s own revenue sources, the council also dedicated a half-cent

  • Oro Valley rezones nearly 18 acres in Rancho Vistoso

    With a unanimous vote by the Oro Valley town council, one of the last remaining commercially zoned open spaces within the Rancho Vistoso community has been rezoned to allow for medium density residential housing.Located on the northwest corner of West Vistoso Highlands Drive and East Rancho Vistoso Boulevard, the nearly 18-acre property the subject of the local planned area development amendment has come before council before, though it was denied in 2013 on the basis that there was still potential for enough homes to built in the area to support commercial development.Three years later, and that no longer seems to be the case, said town senior planner Roosevelt Arellano, who spoke before the council on Nov. 16. Arellano said that when the Rancho Vistoso PAD was adopted, approximately 14,000 homes were planned for the area. When the request for a rezoning was previously brought before council, the town expected two-thirds of those homes to be built, the takeaway being that commercial development would still be viable. In 2016, that outlook has changed. Arellano said that the PAD planned approximately 2,600 homes, though the expectation is now roughly one-third of those homes to be built.To help explain to decrease in expected residences in the region, Oro Valley planning manager Bayer Vella, AICP, LEED AP, took over for Arellano.“The market is sending a very strong signal that at least in these times, lots around 8,000 to 10,000 square-feet are what’s selling – that’swhat’s driving the lot sizes, the market. What it says about commercial is that some of these commercial sites, there’s not many left, they are in areas that are not at very high traffic intersections, are at risk in terms of being viable.

  • MHC opens on Dove Mountain

    The new Dove Mountain Health Center and MHC Urgent Care facility celebrated their grand opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday, Nov. 17. MHC officials and employees were joined by local business partners, state and town officials and other representatives for the ceremony.The new facility has been open for several weeks and has already become an important part of the Dove Mountain community. “We’ve been open three weeks and it is already incredibly busy,” said MHC CEO Clint Kuntz. “I can’t believe how fast it has grown. There is a huge demand in this community.”The new 15,915 square-foot health center and urgent care facility is located at 5224 W. Dove Centre Road and employs 33 medical professionals, including four physicians and two nurse practitioners. The goal is for it to be a one-stop neighborhood health center, providing full primary care and behavioral health services, medical care management, care coordination, outreach insurance services, general radiology, ultrasound, and a draw laboratory. The MHC Urgent Care facility is the first of its kind for MHC.MHC’s resale shop Cotton Blossom will be relocating to the new Dove Mountain facility from their current location on Marana Boulevard.

  • MPD announces features for new police facility

    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.”

  • Post chosen as vice mayor again

    The Marana Town Council named Jon Post as Vice Mayor at their meeting last Tuesday. The council approved Post unanimously 7-0. Post is currently serving as Vice Mayor and will continue with the role for his third term. He was first elected Vice Mayor in June 2013.“I’d like to comment on what a pleasure it is to serve with everybody,” Post said after his reappointment. “I appreciate the vote of confidence.” The vice mayor serves a two-year term and terms can be extended after each election. The vice mayor serves in the absence or disability of the mayor and is chose from among the council members by majority vote. Post is a Marana native and owns Post Farms. In addition to serving on the Marana Town Council Post has served on the board of directors for Trico Electric Co-Op, the Cortaro Water Users Association and Cortaro Marana Irrigation District. He also served as chairman of the Town’s Planning and Zoning Commission and was president of the Marana Junior Rodeo Association.

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