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COMMUNITY ARCHIVE

A page for various announcements and news about the community


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Casa Grande Alliance poster for May














The Dairy Queen corporation wants to replace the iconic sign in downtown Casa Grande, left, with its modern version, right.

Dairy Queen sign designated historic landmark

(Posted April 24, 2016)


History of the Dairy Queen property, with photographs


HPC meeting minutes




The Dairy Queen sign at Marshall Street and Florence Boulevard has been designated a local historic landmark in an attempt to head off a move by the corporation to replace it with a modern version.

A resolution for the designation was unanimously approved by the City Council during its April 18 meeting.

“Because the Historic Preservation Commission is concerned about losing some of Casa Grande’s history, and staff’s concern as well, the HPC is requesting that the sign be designated as a local historic landmark,” City Planner Laura Blakeman told the council.

Blakeman, the city’s historic preservation liaison, added that, “According to our historic preservation code, our code states and declares that as a matter of public policy that the protection, enhancement and perpetuation of landmarks in historic districts is necessary to promote the economic, cultural, educational and general welfare of the public.”

Designating the sign as a historic landmark is a great thing, Councilman Dick Powell said, but added that he has questions about enforcement if Dairy Queen corporate is adamant about replacing the sign.

“How enforceful and how can we protect the sign if the company says it has to be changed?” he asked. “Is there anything that we’re doing tonight that would keep them from being able to do that?

“From what I was reading the (franchise) owner would like to keep it and I know the community would like to keep it. 

“Once we get this done, is it a PR thing that puts pressure on the company to not change it, or is there any kind of official action that can be taken if he’s ordered to take it down and it’s a landmark sign?”

Basically, it boils down to just a pressure move, Blakeman responded.

“What we’re trying to do is get that sign preserved as a local historic landmark and hopefully through our efforts with that that we have some kind of pressure to put on them to keep that sign,” she said. 

“I know that they’re also looking at one in Holbrook, as well, that we’ve heard they’re keeping because they’ve designated it a local historic landmark.”

Councilwoman Mary Kortsen said that the iconic sign has the ice cream cone on top and the brazier sign below. She asked if both parts of the sign will be designated as historic.

“Yes,” Blakeman answered. “We’re considering the sign entirety.”

Marge Jantz, chairman of the HPC, said she and Jeff Trendler, the franchise holder, have been working for the past year to save the sign. 

“This is critical, obviously,” she continued. “Once we get the local landmark there’s no guarantee that Dairy Queen will still let us have it, but we do have a couple other things in our back pockets and we hope we hope we don’t have to go there.”

Jantz did not say what the “couple other things” are.

“But we really need it as a local landmark,” she said.

Jantz said “Jeff has told corporate that we’re going through this process. I think he’s really hopeful. That’s what he’s expressed to us, he’s really hopeful that this is going to work.

“It’s just our best shot.”


McNatt Park pool renovation nears completion

(Posted April 7, 2016)


Renovation of the pool at Carr McNatt Park will be completed in time for the beginning of summer swim season, the parks and Recreation Advisory Board was told during its Wednesday night meeting.

“Right now, we have got California Pools and Landscape on site,” Recreation Superintendent Matt Jankowski said. “This is the second week they’ve been working on the facility.

“If you’re not aware, we are removing all of the old plaster from the pool and we’re going to be installing brand new plaster.

The pool decking was redone last year, Jankowski said, “but there were just a few more things that needed to be done out there to try to prolong the life and make the facility look better.

“We’ve got the pool plaster under way right now. They are supposed to finish removing all of the plaster on Friday.

“Next week they’ve got some tests that they do, some pressure tests. It’s with regards to plumbing, the way that it circulates water, it gets clean water back in the pool after it filters it and runs it through the chemicals and everything. They have to do some tests, making sure that the inlets are set up properly, the right amount of water is coming through.

“After that, then they are supposed to be putting the plaster itself back in the pool. They are going to do that in about a day and a half.

“It take them two weeks to take it out, they say they’re going to get it all back in in less than two days. I’m interested to see that, because that’s good sized pool and if you guys haven’t been by, stop by and take a look. It looks like a war zone in that pool right now.”

The city set aside $170,000 for the project, Jankowski said, but was able to get a price of about $104,000.

“So we still have some more money to utilize,” he said. “I believe we’re going to be redoing in our chlorination system, as well.

“When it’s all said and done, that facility should look and operate pretty well for at least the next five to seven years or so.”

Jankowski said he has been given a completion date of “the 22nd, which is good because our lifeguarding class starts the following weekend and we’ll be using that pool.”

The pool will be open for Memorial Day weekend and open just about every day after that until Labor Day, he said.


City will work with ADOT on Cacheris signal, funds

(Posted April 5, 2016)


Scroll down this page for background stories


The funding letter is HERE



The City Council has unanimously approved working with the Arizona Department of Transportation to get federal funding for a hybrid beacon signal near Cacheris Court on Florence Boulevard.

But, there were questions about whether people would actually use the signal and whether it could cause traffic tie-ups because of signals already at Henness Road and Camino Mercado, where there are existing crosswalks.

The signal would be just east of Cacheris, in front of two motels on the south side of Florence.

That area has seen four pedestrian fatalities from people trying to dart across the road in the dark, including a mother killed while trying to cross with her 5-year-old son. Another fatality was a man under the influence of alcohol crossing to a convenience store on the north side of Florence to buy more alcohol.

The beacon would be similar to the one on Pinal Avenue north of Casa Grande Middle School, activated by pedestrians. It would not be a regular traffic light.

Under the resolution approved during Monday night’s council meeting, ADOT will apply for $386,417 in federal funding. There would be no city matching funds unless there are cost overruns. If that happens, the city would be responsible for the overage costs.

According to the staff report accompanying the agenda item, “The purpose of this agreement between the state and the city is to allow the state to acquire federal funds for the design and construction of a pedestrian hybrid beacon, crosswalk striping, signage, and lighting to help reduce the number of pedestrian-motor vehicle crashes and to enhance the ability of pedestrians to safely and comfortably cross Florence Boulevard.”


Timeline

It will be awhile before the signal could be built.

Councilman Matt Herman asked when those federal funds would be available.

“The design will hopefully start as soon as we get the approval to accept those federal funds,” Public Works Director Kevin Louis replied. “ADOT will administer the project, we’ll be working with them under their timeline. Once we get that first date, then we can kind of outline how things will look in the future. We’re trying to push this forward as quickly as we can through what I will consider a not real quick project through the federal process, but we’ll do the best we can.”

During the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting in March, city Traffic Engineer Duane Eitel said ADOT would start designing the project after approval from the council.

“It takes about a year to do the design,” he said. “The project is currently scheduled for construction to be completed by 2019, but we’re working on moving it up” to perhaps the fall of 2017.

Eitel said it would take about the same amount of time if the city were to do the entire project itself.

“If we looked at using our procurement standards, what we have to do to go through procurement,” he said, “if we started very soon, we’d still have to hire a consultant to do the design. When the design is done, we then put out a bid package, find the low bid, then we have to go to City Council and get it approved.

“All those things have certain timeframes.

“The rule of thumb that I use from starting a project to starting construction, not construction finish but just starting, is about a year. It could be 10 months, it could be 14.

“So, our design and ADOT’s would be done at about the same time.

“If we’re successful moving it up to the fall of 2017, maybe two months difference than if we did it ourselves.”


Congestion question

On the traffic congestion question, Louis said, “What we did when we did the preliminary layout of this to get the approval to move forward through this process, we identified a location for that crossing that would have the most impact or benefit to the hotels in the area and be far enough away from both of those signals so that this signal will not have a negative impact on that sequence.”

That location would not stack traffic he said.

Councilman Karl Montoya said, “On the location, you’ve already committed to where the location doesn’t affect the two lights, but realistically it sounds like it could be questioned. But is it where the people cross?”

It is about where some of the pedestrian fatalities have occurred, Louis replied.

Montoya responded, “OK, there’s no reason to build one if that’s not where they’re crossing. You’re going to be in compliance with your two lights and I don’t know if putting the two lights together or what the distance is, I didn’t measure that off. But I don’t know if there’s any synchronizing the two lights together so you don’t see people going faster through the yellow light to come up to the beacon that’s blinking already and they’re already going faster than the 45 (mph), which they’re probably doing 55 by now just because they’re beating the light and setting up your crosswalk for disaster. Hopefully you guys have thought about that a little bit.”

Louis replied, “We’ll take into consideration all those things during the design process, yes.”

Councilwoman Mary Kortsen said she agreed with Herman that there also has to be a matter of personal responsibility regarding crossing streets.


Effectiveness

Kortsen had questions, though, about whether the signal beacon would be effective.

“I’ve watched, and I was the person, one of the people, that really pushed for the one that’s over there by the Historical Society (Florence and Center).

“I work in that area and I watch, nobody uses it during the day. You will see people that are down for the Old Town events and things (at night), those people use it. 

“I have yet during the day, seriously, to see mothers with their strollers and that. Again you can kick a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. 

“I do have some concerns that we’re now doing this (Cacheris) and will they be using this one, because they definitely are not using the one on a regular basis during the day over here by the Historical Society.

“And, again, I was one of the ones that just kept pushing you guys to do it.”

That’s actually not the case, Councilman Dick Powell said.

“I drive to work through there every day and there’s people that do use it.”

Kortsen injected, “Oh, that’s great.”

Powell continued, “There’s a number of people that use it. It’s not a overly populated area, there’s not heavy usage, but I see people crossing at it, from older people to handicapped to kids, and that type of thing.

“The most dangerous thing is kids on bicycles coming across when you almost can’t see them in the evening.”

That aside, Powell said, something has to be done about the Cacheris Court area, given the fatalities there.

Consideration also has to be given to the Cracker Barrel situation to the east, he said.

“One of the things I’ve heard a lot of people complain about is the exit out of there if you’re coming from Cracker Barrel or whatever and you come out it’s really had to get back on the highway,” he continued.

“I know one of the things, they said why don’t they have a strip where you come out where the stoplight was done there (Camino Mercado). You would enter at Cracker Barrel but exit down at the other stoplight, which would certainly some congestion and some traffic.

“I think it’s something we need to do, but I would also suggest that we look further at maybe trying to do something to get a cross where people can leave that going to the west, and it’s not very far, and then hit the lane down to the light that’s there when they exit, which would really be a lot safer.”

It had been pointed out a few years ago that putting a traffic light at the entrance to Cracker Barrel was not practical because of the closeness of a series of signals on the Interstate 10 overpass just to the east. That would cause tremendous synchronization problems.

Regarding the Cacheris situation, Herman said perhaps thought could be given to finding out how much it would cost to build a pedestrian fence in the area, funneling people to the proposed crossing signal.

“It’s sad that people get hurt, killed there,” he said.

“We have to do some public safety responsibility, but maybe with something like that.

“I hate to be a nanny to everybody, but, you know, if we’re going to put the money into it let’s make sure that it’s going to work.”


Casa Grande Alliance poster for April

OK given to apply for tribal casino funds grants
          The applicants and requests            The staff report

Recycle days for electronics, tires, shredding

(Posted March 20, 2016)


 

Casa Grande will host three recycling events during April as part of Earth Month, including electronic recycling, waste tire collection and Youth Commission paper shredding day.

• The E-Cycle event is Saturday, April 2, from 7:30 a.m.-noon behind  the Parks and Recreation building at 404 E. Florence Blvd., the area just south of the Boys & Girls Clubs. 

Electronic devices accepted include flat screen TVs, computer monitors, printers, scanners, copiers, phones, cameras. Devices that will not be accepted include appliances with freon, pressurized containers and alkaline or lithium batteries.

• The waste tire collection will be co-hosted by Pinal County on Saturday, April 9, from 8 a.m.-noon at the Ed Hooper Rodeo Grounds, at the northwest corner of Pinal Avenue and Rodeo Road. 

All Pinal County residents may drop-off up to 10 used/waste tires. Both passenger and commercial vehicle tires, with or without rims, will be accepted. However, no tires from business or commercial facilities will be allowed. Proof of identification with address must be presented at the time of drop-off. 

State law prohibits the disposal of waste tires into landfills. The county regularly accepts waste tires Tuesday-Thursday from 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m. at its waste tire recovery center at 12725 Adamsville Road in Florence. Tires collected at the recovery center are processed into crumb rubber for use in roadways and other useable materials. For additional information on that center, contact (520) 866-6685 or www.pinalcountyaz.gov.  

• The Casa Grande Youth Commission will host its biannual paper shredding day on Saturday, April 23. 

More details regarding time and location will be announced as they become available, the city said.

However, First American Credit Union has already announced that the event, with 100 percent of donations going to the Youth Commission, will be at its building at 1001 N. Pinal Ave. from 9 a.m.-noon that day. First five boxes are free, the announcement said. After that, a donation will be asked.


Explaining the Cacheris traffic signal discussion

(Posted March 10, 2016)


Scroll down page to original story, which has links to reports and the resolution in its entirety.



The Planning and Zoning Commission discussion during last week’s meeting centered on two proposed resolutions about pedestrian fatalities on Florence Boulevard, roughly between Cacheris Court and Camino Mercado.

There are now traffic signals at Henness Road and at Camino Mercado, a distance of three quarters of a mile.

City Planner Jim Gagliardi told the commission that, “Typically, ideal crosswalk spacings are a quarter mile from one another.”

Four people have been killed by vehicles while trying to cross Florence Boulevard.

It is a fairly dark area and drivers tend to speed up through that section.

Complicating the situation is that motels are on the south side of Florence at Cacheris Court, but most conveniences are on the north side.

The latest fatal was last December when a woman and her 5-year-old son tried to go across Florence in the dark of night. She died but the boy was OK.

At least one of the other three fatalities involved a man under the influence of alcohol. Reports said he was trying to cross Florence from a motel to go to a convenience store for more alcohol.

One resolution urged the city to do all in its power to install a pedestrian signal. The other urged that development in that area be discouraged until the problem is solved.

Until recently, that area of Florence Boulevard was controlled by the Arizona Department of Transportation, which classified it as a rural highway, limiting the placement of signals.


The signal resolution reads:

• “The Planning and Zoning Commission of the City of Casa Grande respectfully urges the Mayor and City Council of the City of Casa Grande Arizona, and the Director of Public Works of the City of Casa Grande Arizona, to do everything possible to rearrange priorities, and build and install at least one safe pedestrian crossing in the immediate area of the intersection of Florence Blvd. and Cacheris Court as soon as possible.”

As it turns out, that is already in progress.

City Traffic Engineer Duane Eitel, accompanied by Irene Higgs of the Sun Corridor Metropolitan Planning Organization, told the commission that the city has looked at all crash and accident incidents in Casa Grande, trying to figure out how to fix some of the problems.

“Some crashes are just going to be mistakes (by motorists) and there’s no engineering solution,” he said. “But in a lot of them there are some things we can do, engineering wise, like a lighted crosswalk, traffic signals.”

Noting that there have been fatalities near the history museum on West Florence Boulevard, Eitel said, “we came up with a completely different solution than what we’re looking for on this (Cacheris) section of Florence Boulevard.”

With lower speeds and a more urbanized area, he said, a flashing beacon would work near the museum, but wouldn’t on the Cacheris stretch because of more traffic and higher speeds.

Turning to the Cacheris area, Eitel said that some time ago, he and Higgs put together a application for federal safety money for a signal such as is on Pinal Avenue near the schools north of McMurray Boulevard. 

Another grant was received for a study about the best place for a Cacheris area signal.

Because it is federal highway money, the Arizona Department of Transportation has to be involved, actually handling the entire project. 

The cost breakdown, Eitel said, is estimated at:

• $75,000 for design. 

“That’s a little more than we would normally see for designing something like this,” Eitel said, “but using federal money there’s some other things such as environmental studies that has to be done.”

• Construction at $285,000, based the present costs of such signals in other areas of the state.

• $30,000 for ADOT’s participation “that we wouldn’t normally see in our projects. 

• $75,000 for ADOT to do the design.

• A total of $385,500.

“With this project, ADOT runs the whole thing,” Eitel said. “They hire the consultant, they do the design, they do the bids, all the bidding for the project, construction inspection. While we’re involved all the way through, we’re not quite as day to day involved as with our projects.”

Eitel added that, “With that amount of money, it would make sense to use federal funds to do that.”

Eitel said he has an intergovernmental agreement with ADOT that he will present to the City Council, probably at the April 4 meeting.

“They would start designing shortly after that, Eitel continued. “It takes about a year to do the design.

“The project is currently scheduled for construction to be completed by 2019, but we’re working on moving it up.”

Higgs said she is working with ADOT for an earlier date.

“From my discussions with ADOT,” she said, “it looks favorable but there’s no guarantee so that I can have it in writing that they would advance it. And we’re looking at probably the fall of 2017, would be the earliest that we would probably be able to actually construct the project.”

Eitel added, “There’s no doubt that ADOT and the Federal Highway Administration understand the fact that we need it as soon as we can.”

P&Z Chairman Mike Henderson, who sponsored the resolution and provided background reports, said, “It seems like we’re packing quite a lot of time and money into making this a federal and state project. 

“If we just built it, if we did like Camino Mercado which didn’t cost as much, I don’t think, how fast could that be done?”

About the same amount of time, Eitel responded.

“If we looked at using our procurement standards, what we have to do to go through procurement,” he said, “if we started very soon, we’d still have to hire a consultant to do the design. When the design is done, we then put out a bid package, find the low bid, then we have to go to City Council and get it approved.

“All those things have certain timeframes.

“The rule of thumb that I use from starting a project to starting construction, not construction finish but just starting, is about a year. It could be 10 months, it could be 14.

“So, our design and ADOT’s would be done at about the same time.

“If we’re successful moving it up to the fall of 2017, maybe two months difference than if we did it ourselves.”


The second resolution, which brought opposition from some commission members, reads:

• “The Planning and Zoning Commission of the City of Casa Grande respectfully advises the Casa Grande Director of Planning and Development that the Planning and Zoning Commission strongly discourages submission or approval of developments in the stated area of Florence Blvd. that are likely to contribute to the hazardous character of that part of the thoroughfare, or to encourage pedestrians to risk crossing the road at undesignated places, until a safe crossing system and appropriate pedestrian barriers can be installed.”

After discussion about whether the commission should go on record as opposing more development until there is a signal, Planning and Development Director Paul Tice told members that they already basically have that authority.

“I might make the Planning Commission aware of one thing regarding this provision in your resolution about not approving future developments over concerns about pedestrian safety,” he said.

“Currently, in the zoning code every time you consider a site plan, major site plan, you have at least three criteria regarding pedestrian safety and pedestrian access that you are required to consider, anyway.

“You should be considering pedestrian access and pedestrian safety with every decision, whether you approve this resolution or not.

“Under our major site plan review criteria you have a criteria that asks what’s the impact of the plan on existing and anticipated traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian. 

“You have a specific one that says that to consider pedestrian and vehicular ingress and egress, you have to consider pedestrian.

“And you have a criteria that says the commission shall determine that the proposed site plan will not be detrimental to the health, safety or welfare of the community, nor will cause traffic congestion.

“So, you have criteria already that asks you to consider whether or not the plans before you have any adverse impact on pedestrian safety. You have a lot of latitude in that. I know you’ve discussed it from time to time.

“Whether it’s in this resolution or not, you’re going to have an opportunity to think about that with any site plan in this corridor.”

The first motion from the commission was to pass the two-part resolution in its entirety.

Voting against were members Mikel McBride, Fred Tucker and Ruth Lynch. Brett Benedict and Henderson voted in favor.

The second motion was the delete the section urging discouraging development.

Tucker, Lynch, Benedict and Henderson vote in favor. McBride voted no.

During the meeting, McBride, a former police officer, had said he doesn’t believe a signal will deter people from walking through traffic wherever they want.

“I went out and walked it today,” he said. “I wanted to see how far those people would have to walk to go over and get a soft drink or something like that or a snack for a reasonable price.

“It’s not that far.

“If they choose not to, it’s on them. I hate to change everybody, because we don’t know if it’s 20 people or 30 in two hours or 20 people in a day we’re going to inconvenience with this.

“They’re adults, they need to make the right decisions, they need to abide by the laws.

“It’s up to them if they want to take that chance, and we’re not going to change that. And we’re not going to make it where they wait for the stoplight to change if they don’t want to wait for that.

“So I don’t think anything that we do tonight, if we approve this, is going to change anything in the future.

“I’m all for not having people die. I don’t want to come across as person who says let them run across traffic, but I just don’t think there’s anything you can do about those type things.”


Part of Florence Boulevard fatals resolution passed

(Posted March 3, 2016)

Part of a resolution concerning traffic fatalities on Florence Boulevard in the Siegel Suites area and east was approved 4-1 Thursday night by the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Member Mikel McBride voted against the revised version.
The original resolution was in two parts: 
1. The Planning and Zoning Commission of the City of Casa Grande respectfully advises the Casa Grande Director of Planning and Development that the Planning and Zoning Commission strongly discourages submission or approval of developments in the stated area of Florence Blvd. that are likely to contribute to the hazardous character of that part of the thoroughfare, or to encourage pedestrians to risk crossing the road at undesignated places, until a safe crossing system and appropriate pedestrian barriers can be installed.
2. The Planning and Zoning Commission of the City of Casa Grande respectfully urges the Mayor and City Council of the City of Casa Grande Arizona, and the Director of Public Works of the City of Casa Grande Arizona, to do everything possible to rearrange priorities, and build and install at least one safe pedestrian crossing in the immediate area of the intersection of Florence Blvd. and Cacheris Court as soon as possible.
The commission vote removed the first paragraph.
It was also pointed out during the meeting that the city is actively working toward a pedestrian signal at or near Cacheris Court. The signal would be like the one on Pinal Avenue near the elementary schools north of McMurray Boulevard. The estimated $385,500 project involves federal funds.
Because of the time it takes for planning, working through the government regulations and then construction, a time of 2018 was given for completion, although it was hoped that date could be pushed forward to late 2017.

FATALS ON FLORENCE BLVD.
P&Z Commission to consider resolution for Cacheris Court signal

(Posted Feb. 27, 2016)


The case analysis is HERE


The situation report is HERE


The proposed resolution is HERE


The staff report is HERE


The meeting, open to the public, begins at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, 510 E. Florence Blvd.



There is only one action item on the Planning and Zoning Commission agenda for Thursday — but it’s an important one.

It is consideration of the traffic situation between Henness Road and Camino Mercado that has led to four fatalities when people have been hit by vehicles while trying to cross Florence Boulevard.

It is a fairly dark area and drivers tend to speed up through that section.

Complicating the situation is that motels are on the south side of Florence at Cacheris Court, but most conveniences are on the north side.

The latest fatal was last December when a woman and her 5-year-old son tried to go across Florence in the dark of night. She died but the boy was OK.

At least one of the other three fatalities involved a man under the influence of alcohol. Reports said he was trying to cross Florence from a motel to go to a convenience store for more alcohol.

The city has recently installed a traffic signal at Camino Mercado, but few people will walk that far from Cacheris to use it. Social media reports continue about people trying to dart across Florence from the motels on the south side of the street.

Part of an analysis by commission Chairman Mike Henderson says:

“There are no designated opportunities for pedestrians to cross Florence for approximately three quarters of a mile between Camino Mercado and Henness Road. There are no crosswalks. There are no barriers between the sidewalk and the traffic lanes. There are no center medians. Nighttime lighting is minimal. Crossing the highway on foot, especially at night, is a hazardous venture. It is a wide road and traffic moves at close to highway speeds. Yet, a walk from the Siegel Suites Hotel (formerly Legacy) to Little Caesars Pizza, via the nearest traffic signal, and return is approximately a mile. It seems unlikely that most people will consider taking that long a walk when the alternative is to cross the street where there are no barriers.”

A commission resolution to be considered Thursday night is in two parts:

• “The Planning and Zoning Commission of the City of Casa Grande respectfully advises the Casa Grande Director of Planning and Development that the Planning and Zoning Commission strongly discourages submission or approval of developments in the stated area of Florence Blvd. that are likely to contribute to the hazardous character of that part of the thoroughfare, or to encourage pedestrians to risk crossing the road at undesignated places, until a safe crossing system and appropriate pedestrian barriers can be installed;

• The Planning and Zoning Commission of the City of Casa Grande respectfully urges the Mayor and City Council of the City of Casa Grande Arizona, and the Director of Public Works of the City of Casa Grande Arizona, to do everything possible to rearrange priorities, and build and install at least one safe pedestrian crossing in the immediate area of the intersection of Florence Blvd. and Cacheris Court as soon as possible.”

The staff report accompanying the agenda item says that “The city traffic engineer (Duane Eitel) has indicated that a federal grant is being pursued to install a mid-intersection pedestrian crosswalk.”

Eitel is expected to make a presentation Thursday night.



Warnings about Copper Mountain water system

                     Nitrates levels           Coliform levels
    (Note: This IS NOT Arizona Water Co., which serves most of Casa Grande)

Another major renovation of the city's pool

(Posted Feb. 3, 2016)


The city swimming pool in McNatt Park will be drained and completely replastered, another major upgrade following the previous renovation of the pool decking.

The work will be completed before the summer swim opening.

The $104,612 contract with California Pools & Landscaping from Chandler was given initial approval during Monday night's City Council meeting. Final approval is expected during the next meeting.

"The last time anything was replaced with regards to the pool plaster was in 2004," Recreation Coordinator Matthew Jankowski told the council. "The lifespan typically of pool plaster is about five to seven years, so we've gotten quite a bit of use out of what is there, existing.

"The existing pool plaster right now is stained, there are some areas where it's chipping. The plaster has signs of significant wear, including stains, chips and cracks.

"We're also having some areas with our inlets and outlets being clogged, they're not working quite properly, something we battled a little bit last year. We were able to work through, but it's just gotten to be time now where we need to replace those things."

Jankowski said California Pools replaced tile on the north side of the facility in 2013 and there have been no problems with their work.

"The scope of this project specifically will demolish and remove all of the existing plaster from the facility," he continued, "replacing any missing tile and checking all plumbing features to assure that they're in good, proper working order.

"They are not going to be doing any of the in-tile work at the pool. After having it evaluated, that's not anything that needs to be replaced at this time, so that's a cost-saving measure. We'll be able to keep all the racing lines. pretty much anything in the water and outside of the water that's tile will stay intact."

Jankowski said the work, carrying a two-year guarantee, will also be an opportunity for inspecting the pool's drain system "and make replacements that we need, upgrades, anything like that. All of the interior plumbing will be inspected, including our inlets, our outlets, making sure our filtration system's working properly."

Improved lighting will also be installed.

"We've got a number of lights that have been fixed as they've been needed over the course of the years," Jankowski said, "so about half of our pool lights are LED, the other half are the old halogens that don't look quite as nice. Everything will be much more consistent once this work is done."

Mayor Bob Jackson asked if the work will be completed before this summer's swim season.

Yes, Jankowski responded.

"We've been told that'll it take them about five weeks to do this project, which isn't too terribly long," he said. "We had the decking redone last year, so now we're working at the inside of the pool, but it would be ready to go for this upcoming season. I believe the way the contract is written they have got to finish by April 20, so we'll have plenty of time."

Councilman Matt Herman noted that the pool was plumbed for a heating system, although a heater was never installed. "Is it still working for that?"

Jankowski said nothing about the plumbing system has been altered, "so what would need to be purchased essentially is the heating system," which is not included in the contract.

The budget had set aside up to $170,000 for the work, meaning a saving of $65,388 with the California Pool's bid.

"We got two bids, one came in much higher than this one, Jankowski said. That was from Shasta Commercial & Olympic from Scottsdale at $149,500.

With that saving, Jankowski said, "actually we're hopeful that we might be able to take care of a couple of things that are on the list when it comes to capital improvements this year, looking at our chlorine system, possibly, as well."

And perhaps getting the heating system, Kortsen said.

The saving of $65,388 is not enough money for such a system, Jackson responded.









Casa 
Grande
Alliance
poster
for February


Children's splash pad now seen for Peart Park

The splash pad would be located in the lower triangle area.



(Posted Jan. 9, 2016)


The idea of a downtown children's splash pad, rejected by a majority of business owners in the Florence Street area, is now being considered for the southeast corner of Peart Park.

As outlined to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board during this week's meeting, the project is still in the initial planning stage, with community meetings for suggestions still to come.

"The concept has been in the master plan and the city's budget for several years," Community Services Director Bill Schwind told the board. 

"We've been trying to look at a downtown location for a splash pad element in our parks system for awhile," he continued. "City management had us looking downtown when we were doing all the renovations on Florence Street, on a little city owned lot between a couple of businesses there, Third Street. We were trying to do a little easement exchange with some property owners there. 

"We kind of were negotiating with property owners, got the Main Street group involved, they did a bunch of public outreach out there and basically due to a lot of their concerns relative to the use of the property and the local businesses and operation down there, they basically shied away from any kind of land exchange with us and basically asked us to go find another location downtown to operate.

"With limited choices and whatnot, the easiest and most operable facility that we have for us is Peart Park."

Bruce Spiegel from the design team at The Phoenix-New York Co. of Scottsdale told the board that as envisioned the splash pad, with 24 spray heads, would be adjacent to the park's playground.

Being near the restrooms building, he said, "should alleviate some of the issues that other groups (from the Florence Street meetings) had about damp children ruining their businesses." 

Spiegel said the basic concept for the splash pad area would have shaded seating and picnic tables and benches.

The pad itself, he continued, would have a textured concrete surface, allowing it to be used during colder weather as the center of other events, such as music or art expositions.

An enhanced idea, known as Plan Yellow, would build a sundial into the pad's surface, with the arm acting as a giant shower head raining down on the children.

That plan also envisions additional fencing between the splash pad and the existing lawn area, Spiegel said, "to keep kids from just sort of dashing back and forth into the grass while they were wet and then coming back in and kind of mucking up the plumbing of the splash pad system."

Another concept, known as Plan Red, would break the shade structure into three pavilions, Spiegel continued, "which would allow if you were having a birthday party or some kind of event, you're not quite so close to the party next to you.

"In both situations we would light the shade structures for use into the evening or to provide some additional security lighting around the splash pad area."

A major question is use of water for the splash pad and where it would eventually go.

Parks Superintendent Rod Wood told the board that the basic splash pad plan would have the water from the low volume spray heads going to waste. Another option, he said, would be to have the water going into a smaller irrigation system that could reuse it in the area, a major expense

Schwind told the board that there are three routes that can be taken for water utilization and conservation.

"One is basically using just low volume heads, the water hits the concrete and some evaporates, there's drains in there and the rest basically just goes to the sewer and gone.

"Secondly, you can put an underground system where you're capturing the water and then doing some kind of pumping system out of there to help irrigate plants, shrubs, garden areas or whatnot in and around the park that we can design and use.

"Thirdly, you can recirculate the water and continue to use that over and over again from a water conservation perspective. That is going to be the most costly to operate and very difficult to achieve and maintain health standards when it comes to utilization of that water. I think if you talk to water specialists, that would be their least recommended operation."

Spiegel said such a system could later be put beneath the lawn area, adding that, "You've got to then take that cistern of 10,000 or 20,000 gallons or whatever it is and somehow plug that into an existing irrigation system, which may be costly."

Schwind told the board that, "I know one of the things that's going to become an issue is water conservation and what are we doing with water, how much water were we using. With the 24 heads, I don't think we have numbers to throw at you today, but that's going to be all put into our assessment as we move forward and get this thing a little farther down the design road and kind of see. That's going to be a big determinant, I think, as to whether or not this thing gets not only funded but approved for moving on to the next level."

Vandalism and safety will also be issues, Schwind said, adding that that Spiegel and Tim Quinn, a landscape architect with Phoenix-New York, toured the park earlier that day.

"We watched some police action in work, so they got a little taste of some of the behavior that goes on down here," he said. "We met with our library staff (from the adjacent building), they talked about lighting, they talked about safety, they talked about some of the things they experience down here on a regular basis.

"From a recreational programming side, I think the delivery that we're going to be responsible for is to do some pretty active programming down here. And I think when you introduce a little more of a finer recreational element to the park, some of the vandals and/or the vagrants tend to find other places to reside. And that's really kind of our goal down here, is to bring some life back into the park."

The Community Services Department has money in this year's budget to begin moving the project, Schwind said, "but as we pick up a few more kind of wishes and desires from various community groups that we talk to, i.e. fencing, a little more lighting and landscaping, that all has to play into our available funds.

"This meeting tonight kind of kicks off a little bit of community outreach. We'd like to get this in front of our advisory board. We met with library staff and will be doing some things online to a lot of our customers and try to rally and have another couple of meetings, anyway, to get a little bit more feedback so we can make a presentation to City Council at an upcoming council workshop, moving forward into our budget season."








Casa Grande Alliance poster 
for January

You can use smartphone app to report problem

(Posted Dec. 9, 2015)


The download links are found HERE



It's not too well known yet, but Casa Grande has a smartphone app that allows instant reporting of problems.

The city says it is "one of a handful of communities around the country to leverage smartphone technology to encourage citizens to report service needs or issues of concern. 

"The mobile app allows residents to report graffiti, code violations, illegal dumping, street repairs/maintenance, sewer issues and parks maintenance. Residents can simply click a picture of an issue and send it to the city.

"The technology uses the GPS in smartphones to identify the specific location of the problem, allowing the city to more efficiently dispatch work crews, codes enforcement officers, or other personnel to the scene. 

"The city believes that the information provided by citizens through the new mobile app will help to improve the efficiency of its operations and reduce costs."

The app, called mycasagrande, is available to use on Android and Apple devices. 


Casa Grande develops Adopt-A-Trail Program

(Posted Dec. 9, 2015)


The information packet and application form are found HERE 


Casa Grande's Community Services Department has developed an Adopt-A-Trail Program so volunteers can adopt trail sections to assist with maintaining, enhancing and monitoring the trails and trailhead at Casa Grande Mountain.

The city announcement says, "Anyone with an interest in trails and the outdoors is welcome to participate. Individuals, families, businesses, community and service organizations, churches, schools and scout troops are all examples of volunteers. Adopting a trail section provides an opportunity for you to be actively involved in conservation and preservation. 

"The effort brings trail and nature enthusiasts closer to the environment and their community. Volunteers will enjoy the time they spend outdoors and the personal satisfaction gained through volunteerism."

For further information, you can call 421-8600, ext. 4690.


Carr McNatt Park lighting, demolition work due

(Posted Dec. 7, 2015)


The Carr McNatt Park master plan is HERE


The master plan timeline is HERE



The complete renovation of Carr McNatt Park will cost a bit over $6 million, an amount Casa Grande does not have at the moment.

A gradual approach will be taken, beginning with enhanced lighting and some demolition work, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board was told during the Dec. 2 meeting.

"But over time, with the development plan that we're trying to implement we can certainly make a lot of headway and make some improvements in the areas that we feel are most beneficial to the community at large," Community Services Director Bill Schwind said.

"What we're proposing to move forward with is an emphasis on enhancing the lighting and the amount of operational field space that we have over there for youth soccer and youth football and youth baseball to use."

The park's lights are aging, Schwind said, adding that "foot candles typically need to be, from a safety perspective, at 30- to 50-foot-candle level; we're in the teens.

"A lot of our facilities that are sports related, be it the Paul Mason facility, the Little League facility and Carr McNatt, which are our most heavily used sports complexes that we have, are all facing the same kind of dilemma. To really bring those things forward we have to really work on the lighting situations there."

Last year, Schwind continued, the city spent about $350,000 at the Little League complex, taking care of turf conditions, the irrigation system and new fencing, "but we did not touch the lights, so we would like to go back in the future and try to get that enhanced to make it a little bit more of a quality playing facility."

The same outlook holds for Carr McNatt, Schwind continued.

"Our number one priority that we're going to be looking forward to and moving forward with is a bid package relative to enhancing the central portion of that park with lighting and then we're going to be looking at some demolition of some older facilities there that are just no longer being used, really have no function. A lot of demolition needs to take place as far as that goes.

"We can, I think, very easily afford the lighting project to get that enhanced, a little bit of demolition getting some of the rundown fencing removed, some of the old bleachers removed that really no one uses any more, not up to ADA code, and we really don't have a need for bleachers at that facility. So, a little bit of demo, cleanup and then the restoration of that track.

"That's going to be, we think, leading up to the summer. This spring probably will see some enhancements going on."

The remnants of Cougar Stadium will also be taken into consideration.

"Cougar Stadium rings a bell to a lot of people that have been in Casa Grande for awhile, used to be the old high school football field," Schwind said.

"The historical committee has made contact with us wanting to know what we were going to do with the scoreboard, if there's any use for that scoreboard, so we're working with them to see if they have a new home for it."

Schwind said officials at Casa Grande Union High School indicated no interest in taking the scoreboard.

"We're to try to work with an artist that maybe wants to come in and enhance the back panel of the thing," he continued. "It has been vandalized several times, so there's a lot of brown, tannish paint on it. If we can get that restored — and we're kind of looking at doing that — we thought perhaps that the high school might want it for the inside of their gymnasium, maybe mount it on a wall, this was the old Union board. But the athletic director and folks there, they really didn't express any interest in it at all. With the age of the thing, to try to find any kind of electronic equipment to make that thing work is not feasible."

A suggestion was made that the local history museum might be interested.

"I think that could be a landing spot for it," Schwind replied, "but as it sits right now we're not going to do any demolition to it. We'll look at maybe getting it repainted and restored and then as the time comes maybe we'll take that back panel off and have it mounted somewhere and preserve it. The historic committee does do some restoration, collects old vintage Casa Grande signs."

Schwind said that during the next board meeting he will have a slide show of current park conditions.







Efforts are being made to save the old Cougar Stadium scoreboard.













The running/walking track at McNatt park is in what Community Services Director Bill Schwind calls "disrepair, severe disrepair."

"We're also looking at, in time, the race track, or the running track, that goes around Old Cougar Stadium," he said. It is in disrepair, severe disrepair, at this point in time, but is still very heavily used."

The master plan calls for realignment of playing fields and a new running/walking track.

"But, again, that's a function of money and time," Schwind said, "so we're looking at the potential to do a little restoration on that track just so over the years that can remain a useable recreation option.

"I'm not sure we're going to put a rubberized surface back on it. We just may go with stabilized granite, but it still would provide that walking opportunity that people seem to really take advantage of and use that park."

Overall, Schwind continued, "We're going to move forward, I think, with the first phase with the money that we have currently associated with that. We can, I think, very easily afford the lighting project to get that enhanced, a little bit of demolition getting some of the rundown fencing removed, some of the old bleachers removed that really no one uses any more, not up to ADA code, and we really don't have a need for bleachers at that facility.

"This spring you'll probably see some enhancements going on."

Schwind said his department hopes to be before the City Council on Jan. 18 for the acquisition of the new lights.

"We can do that via state contract, then we'll go out to bid on the actual work," he continued.

"The lights are more of a speciality function, no one locally really sells those. Using the state contract we can get a pretty good price on those and then we can go out to bid and then have local contractors bid on the actual installation.

"We're have a new series of lights that will get away from the gas and the halogen type lights, we're going to go LED. From a cost management perspective they do give us the foot-candle lighting that we do need and for a longer period of time, they're more cost effective."


New food service seen for main city library

(Posted Dec. 6, 2015)


A new food and beverage service may be coming next month to the main Casa Grande library.

In June 2014, an agreement was announced that would have the Cook E Jar Bakery and Cafe operating a small outlet at the library, but that didn't last because of not enough customers to make it profitable.

"They tried it for about six months and the sales just weren't there for them, doing what they were doing, so they did opt out of their contract," Community Services Director Bill Schwind told the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board during the Dec. 2 meeting.

"But the legal team currently is working on a revised contract," Schwind continued. "We kind of opened it up for nonprofit groups to do.

"And the one that kind of came forward first that we're kind of playing with currently are actually the Friends of the Library. 

"That group is looking to expand, not so much into the food and beverage thing. They'll do coffee and they'll do drinks and package food, not so much making fresh sandwiches, per se.

"They're also going to incorporate various types of book sales and other things into that as somewhat of a fundraiser for them, but also providing that lunch service or that snack service, as well."

An opening in early to mid January is being looked at, Schwind said.

"They plan on doing that with all volunteer labor and folks working there," he continued. " They've got a fairly active group that are working well together, so we'll see how that goes, but we hope that works out."










Casa Grande
Alliance
poster for
December










TURNING 100
Roger Ellis career spans biwing planes to space rockets

(Posted Nov. 16, 2015)


More photos are in GALLERY


A Casa Grande Dispatch story from 2012 recounting part of his life is HERE


Additional information about Roger Ellis is found at

www.1445.eaachapter.org



Roger Ellis turned 100 years old on Sunday, marking a life taking in parts of two centuries and a career in aviation ranging from single engine biplanes to rockets carrying men into space.

He was feted during a birthday party at Foxtrot Cafe in the terminal building at the city airport, with speakers recounting high points of his life.

Ellis, a Casa Grande resident since 2006, now walks with the help of a cane, but his eyesight is still good without glasses and his hearing still sharp, as evidenced by his adding comments to the life story. As photos were flashed on a screen about 25 feet away, he'd say he was in the "front row, extreme right" or recalling World War II training flights on the B-24 bomber, "We started in Denver, on to Colorado Springs, over to Kansas City, Lincoln, Neb., back to Cheyenne, Wyo., and back to Denver. We made that same flight about, I'd say 10 times."

Narrator Bill Still said, "It's been said that Roger spent better than 94 years gazing into the sky. No, he's not a prolific daydreamer, not an astronomer. He's just been fascinated by all things that fly. He continues to be fascinated with that today.

"Roger said he saw his first airplane when he was 6. He was sitting on the front porch with his family at their farm in Wisconsin and asked what is that in the sky? His grandmother said that's an airplane. A Fleet biplane, flying the railroad tracks from Green Bay to Milwaukee."

At 19, Ellis went to Dallas, Texas, to Dallas Aviation School and received 25 hours of flight training and license 35514, which he still has. 

In 1937 at age 22, he moved to California, at that time a major aviation center. 

"His father gave him a hundred dollars and ticket to California because of his interest in aviation," Still said. "He went to work for Lockheed Aircraft, worked for them for a short time, then went to California Flyers, a flight school where LA International Airport now sits.

December 1941 brought a major change and a stepping stone to bigger aviation adventures.

That Dec. 5, he was drafted into the Army infantry at Fort MacArthur, Calif., quickly going into the Army Air Corps.

"How did he get to the Air Corps?" Still asked. "Well, he was in the infantry for one day and he 

and some of his other buddies heard that they were taking people in the aviation group. So he hiked over there and applied there and got in."

The military progression (be patient, it's a long list):

• Sent to Jefferson Barracks, Mo., for basic training. 

• Then to Chanute Airfield in Illinois for mechanics training, becoming an instructor in engine operation and troubleshooting.

•  While at Chanute he was sent to the Allison Engine Co. factory in Indianapolis for disassembly and reassembly of the Allison engines.

• In the spring of 1943 he was chosen for officer training as a maintenance engineering officer and sent to Boca Raton, Fla., for basic officers training.

• Then Yale University in New Haven, Conn. for technical training.

• Then to Williams Airfield, Ariz., as one of the officers in charge of line maintenance of P-38 fighters.

• Sent to North American Aviation plant in Inglewood, Calif., for training in the maintenance of the B-25 Mitchell bomber.

• Assigned to Ajo, Ariz., at a gunnery training base for Williams, maintaining a fleet of 106 AT-6 Texans, single-engined advanced trainer aircraft.

•  Amarillo, Texas, for B-29 Superfortress flight engineering training.

• Lowry Field in Denver, Colo. for the first phase of flight training in a B-24 bomber, being a flight engineer with a 10-man crew.

"He said he made 10 long distance flights," Still recounted.

Ellis broke in with, "We started in Denver, on to Colorado Springs, over to Kansas City, Lincoln, Neb., back to Cheyenne, Wyo., and back to Denver. We made that same flight about, I'd say 10 times."

While at Lowry, Ellis met his future wife, Annretta, an Army nurse. In 1947 after his military discharge at Lowry, Ellis moved to California, where he and Annretta were married.

Ellis returned to work with Lockheed, Still said, helping develop the F-104 Starfighter, a single-engine, supersonic interceptor aircraft.

"While Roger was there," Ellis continued, "he heard about testing that was going on at Simi Valley in rocket engines. Somebody in church told him about that."

He was hired by Rocketdyne, a division of North American Aviation.

"After going to night school and earning an electrical engineering degree he transferred to the engineering department designing circuity and hardware for fuel rocket engines," Still said. "Roger worked on liquid fuel rocket engines that helped put the first American in space and put vehicles on the moon.

"So, he's seen it from the biwing to the rockets."

Think about it

Those attending the reception were asked to consider what else was happening when Ellis was born in 1915.

• We were not yet in World War I although the Germans had torpedoed the Lusitania and first used chlorine gas in the trenches.

• Woodrow Wilson was president.

• The favorite car was the Tin Lizzie, the Ford Model T.

• Honus Wagner was at the top of his game in baseball with the Pittsburg Pirates.

• Airships ruled the skies using hot air and gas.

Something else to consider:

• In 1915, Arizona has been a state for only three years.

• Casa Grande had just become an incorporated city.

Ellis also took an interest in cars, sometimes road racing.

After 18 years there, the test area was moved to Houston, Texas. Ellis declined to relocate to Houston.

"He moved to Phoenix, went to work for Bechtel Corp. in its power plant division at electric generating stations," Still said. "He lived in Snowflake while working at the Cholla Generation Station at Joseph City," about 80 miles east of Flagstaff.

During that time, Still continued, "he was reading an aviation magazine and Annretta suggested he start flying again. And he didn't object.  He found a local instructor at Show Low and the instructor had a Cessna 172, it was a newer Cessna. And Roger bought it, he bought it with 142 hours on it and he put 600 hours himself on that 

plane and sold it in 1983."

Ellis broke in, "It was 2,200 hours on it when I sold it."

In 1985, Ellis retired after 17 years with Bechtel.

Today he has three children, four grandchildren and seven great grandchildren. Annretta died in 2003.

He moved to Casa Grande in 2006. 

"Roger was the founding president of Experimental Aviation Association Chapter 1445 here in Casa Grande, he's a lifetime member," Still said. "He renewed his flight privileges in 2007 at age 91 in a Light-sport aircraft, he had 10 hours in that Light-sport."

The biggest present Ellis received during the reception?

A ride in an airplane.

But not an ordinary ride.

With safety pilot Joe Williams at his side, Ellis flew a Cessna Cardinal.





Roger Ellis before taking off in a Cessna Cardinal and piloting it as a 100th birthday present.

(Photo from www.1445.eaachapter.org)









Casa Grande

Alliance's

November 

poster

honoring veterans

and military











False alarms reduction program now in effect

(Posted Oct. 29, 2015)


Scroll down to next story for a report, including documents, from a June City Council meeting during which the proposal was discussed in detail


The city posted this announcement:


The city of Casa Grande is implementing an improved program to help reduce the number of false alarms and recover the costs of law enforcement responding to them. 

In addition to alarm registration and assessment, this program will offer enhanced call verification to ensure alarm activations receive the appropriate police response.

The new alarm program officially went live on Oct. 26. There is a small transition period while customers get acclimated to the new system.

Under the improved False Alarm Reduction Program, Casa Grande residents and businesses will continue to be required to register their alarm systems annually, with the cost remaining at $10. All alarm owners will be contacted to register for this program, either directly or through their alarm provider. All alarm owners must register their alarms, even if they have previously registered directly with the City of Casa Grande.

A link to the registration can be found online at www.crywolfservices.com/casagrandeaz.  

This website will also contain additional information about the alarm ordinance, frequently asked questions, and reduction tips to help registrants prevent the future occurrence of false alarms.   

Administered through a contract with Public Safety Corporation, the program will track and assess the incidence of false alarms from any one property. In cases where police respond to three or more false alarms per year, the user will face a series of graduated fines, ranging from $50 to $150 for each violation. Excessive repeated false alarms (five or more in a year) may result in revocation of an alarm permit, which means that law enforcement will no longer respond to alarm calls at that location. Proof will then have to be provided to the police that corrective measures have been taken to prevent false alarm re-occurrence. 

During the years of 2013 and 2014, the Casa Grande Police Department responded to 1,653 false alarms, resulting in an estimated cost of $66,370 in recovery fees that could have otherwise been directed toward genuine law enforcement needs. Once utilized, the False Alarm Reduction Program will insure that law enforcement will not be unnecessarily diverted from responding to actual criminal activity as a result of false alarms. Other jurisdictions with a false alarm program contracted through Public Safety Corp. have seen false alarms drop by 40 to 80 percent. 

For more information about the program or to register your alarm, visit www.crywolfservices.com/casagrandeaz, or call 1-855-905-0605 between 9 a.m.-5 p.m. 

For more information about the law enforcement response to alarm calls, contact the Police Department at 421-8711, ext. 6350.

City tightening alarms oversight

(Posted June 23, 2015)


Casa Grande is tightening its oversight of alarm systems throughout the city, hiring a company that specializes in tracking who pays and who doesn't, who is registered and who isn't, false alarms reporting and other day to day details.

The move is partly to have a smoother operation and partly because the present system of tracking by the Police Department and billing by the Finance Department has not worked well, on at least one occasion failing entirely.

The three-year contract, approved during the last City Council meeting is with Public Service Corp., through its program called CryWolf.


Watch the video of the discussion at

http://casagrandeaz.swagit.com/play/06152015-1535

Click on Item I


The city ordinances covering alarms are found HERE.

Type alarm in the search box


The alarm permit form is HERE


The presentation from the company is HERE


The staff report on the agenda item is HERE


A previous notice from the Police Department about problems is HERE


Under the agreement, PSC would retain 55 percent of revenue, with the city taking 45 percent, or about $25,000 a year.

According to Interim Police Services Manager (acting police chief) Chris Vasquez the move is "to basically take over almost the entire false alarms program duties from both Finance and from the Police Department. They will become consolidated into the CryWolf program where from an internet-based program a subscriber can be educated, they'll be able to pay their annual fee on line and also if they have any fees related to a false alarm that would be paid on-line as well.

"Part of the program is to in lieu of paying the false alarm fee, an alarm user may take a class. So 

instead of us holding classes at the PD they can now be done on-line at the convenience of the alarm user, so they don't have to leave their home, they can get it done much quicker, much safer and cheaper, actually.

"And part of our hopes is to improve services to the citizen, to the alarm user, in that we would have a quicker or a faster turnaround from time of the alarm, should it be their third time or a false alarm that requires they be charged a fee where they are notified of that fee, versus how it has been done in the past where we dropped the ball, where it's been weeks, months or sometimes a year later they finally get a bill for a false alarm. With this it will make it more efficient where we reduce that time hopefully within less than a week to get that notification out."


                  Questions


False alarms

The system of determining false alarms needs to be refined, Councilman Dick Powell — who voted against the contract —  said.

"Most of the time if my (business) alarm goes off somebody was kicking the door or rattling trying to get in. But how do I prove that? Somebody does that two or three times and then I'm jeopardized (for false alarm fees) to whether I can even have an alarm anymore."

Vasquez responded that, "One thing we want to do is as part of these officers' working and training is set up a policy with the officers that if they respond and the alarm user also responds at the same time, when that officer walks away that alarm user will know if it's going to be a false alarm or not — at that time, that night when it happens. 

"If for some reason an alarm user does not respond, then we're going to come up with a system where a notice is left on the door to where when you come to work the next day it's going to tell you if it's a false alarm or not a false alarm. So you'll know then, at that time. 

"We're also going to try to educate the officers and work with them to really take into account Mother Nature, different reasons why these alarms are being set off, to take into account Mother Nature, animals, looking at it and seeing if there's boot print on the door, a print on the window, stuff like that."

Powell also pointed out that, "We've run into a deal which you're fully aware where some of the claims are two years old and the people they were against didn't even know they had them for false alarms. So obviously that wasn't timely.

"The only thing that really works is if you can notify somebody with an alarm within 24 hours. Because if there's a boot print on that door, if there's something that you can call a policeman back and say look you were here, obviously somebody kicked this door, somebody did this or that in the night. Come look and say, you know, it was a false alarm. Sometimes we don't know what they're going to say until they get back there and if we don't know that until it goes to them or gets sent to them and they're trying to hit us with collection, they're pretty heavy handed with the way they deal with the people in the community."

Lt. Frank Alanis, commander of the Police Department's Special Operations Division, responded that, "It's just efficiency. Right now, whenever an alarm does happen, the officers go out there to respond, they make decision as far as whether it's false alarm or it's legit, then call the owner up.

"But the thing is, once the call's into the system, into our computer-aided dispatch system, you have to do a hand search the next day and actually see what happened that day and figure out if that was a false alarm or not. So it's very time consuming, along with the efficiency of the billings.

"PSC/CryWolf, they take care of all that. They'll have a direct link into our computer system so that they can identify these calls and get us a printout in the morning. We should be able to address these issues you're talking about."

Alanis said he couldn't at this time promise a response within 24 hours, but the time would be much shorter than it is now.


Linkage

Powell pointed out that the CryWolf presentation says four companies would be linked to each system.

"I've got a company I've been working with for 25 years," he said. "There are going to be three other companies I'm going to be working with on that same system, is that what that's saying?"

Alanis replied that, "Basically, what this company does is they have contracts with other alarm companies, like say, your major commercial types. They work with them, so when they're talking about consolidating those four tracks it's basically saying we work in partnerships with these companies. If there's one out there they're not familiar with they can go out there and contact them and get something going with them."

Users are still free to select their own alarm company, Alanis added.


Revocation

Powell also questioned a section of the CryWolf presentation regarding renewal and revocation of alarms dealers' and technicians' permits.

"That's a lot of oversight," he said.

That's true, Alanis said, but that is a state requirement.

"Whenever we have issues with people coming in, that's actually to protect the citizens from national companies who are not licensed," he continued. "We've had issues in the past with people who come in who are vendors but they're not licensed, we don't know if they're crooks, just trying to get in your home and see what's going on, so that's where that comes in. What we do is if we complaints like that we follow up with the state board."


Annual fees

Fees remain the same, Alanis said.

Appeals

Powell questioned a section of the CryWolf presentation regarding hearings and appeals.

"It says they're fully integrated, having an appeals system and they want Casa Grande to apply a fair but firm approach resulting in alarm fines being generally upheld on appeal," he said. "That doesn't sound like fairness, that sounds like a collection company."

Vasquez responded that the Police Department will retain the appeals process.

"Any time there's an appeal, should you be charged and you want to appeal that charge, that will stay with us," he said. "We're not going to turn that appeal process over to Public Service Corp., we're going to retain that in-house."

Mayor Bob Jackson said his reading of it is that CryWolf will provide the administrative oversight but the actual physical oversight remains in the Police Department.

"That is correct," Alanis answered.


Revenue

Answering a question from Powell, Finance Director Doug Sandstrom said income from alarms last year was between $26,000 to $30,000.

Powell pointed out that PSC/CryWolf claims it can boost that revenue to about $53,000 a year.

Couldn't the city do that itself through some better oversight, he asked.

That probably wouldn't be true, Alanis responded.

"It's just more efficient," he said. "We've had in the past problems where one individual keeps track of everything, working between the Police Department and Finance. We've had issues to where it just hasn't been managed properly. They (PSC/CryWolf) just have an efficient system to keep track of billings and who's supposed to pay and who's not supposed to pay, where are the payments supposed to come in."

Councilman Ralph Varela also had a question about revenue.

"The full total collections last year was about $26,000," he said. "If this company is indicating that it is going to increase that to be something that's profitable for what they're investing in infrastructure, is that increase based on what was left on the table in terms of not collecting for the previous year or are they anticipating that there's going to be more violations? How they get their investment back?"

Sandstrom responded that, "As Lt. Alanis stated, it's compliance, with their partnerships with the alarm companies, making sure that everybody that has an alarm actually gets registered. So it's the compliance piece. And then the very quick and accurate sending out of the bills, not just when the person gets around to it or when we get time for it. It's their priority to do it, so there's going to be a bidirectional feed right from our CAD system, our police officers put it in, it's going to go right to CryWolf and that's their number one priority. So it's their administrative efficiencies and the prioritization. And as you stated, it is money that we would have left right on the table, correct."

Councilman Karl Montoya agreed that efficiencies will increase revenue.

"I kind of brought the alarm system and the alarm ordinance to Casa Grande and I've dealt with the alarm association," he said. "How they're going to increase revenue is through their efficiencies. 

"This is old data, so don't hold me on it, but realistically one in six houses has an alarm, not everybody's paying. If you get into a system like CryWolf, which is with the ADTs and the other security companies, they're able to find out who has alarms, so then they'll be able to cross check with us and say maybe you don't have one, I pay, you aren't, so they're going to send you a letter and say you need to update your alarm. 

"That's how they'll be able to increase the revenue, just off subscriptions alone, because they'll be able to track a lot of that data through the other companies who report to them and say, look, these people, through ZIP codes and phone numbers, we'll be able to find out who has them, who's on line, who's not. This will go through the CryWolf data base and that alone will help increase by just subscriptions alone."


Customer service

"In talking to other police departments that do use CryWolf, they're very happy with it, even with the level of customer service that CryWolf provides to the citizens when they interact with the citizens," Vasquez said. "We would look at it very hard and if we got complaints that they were kind of stepping over the line, kind of like a collection agency, then we would step in and we would take corrective action, and put corrective measures. But every agency that we've talked to that uses it says that the customer service provided by CryWolf is very good and the citizens are real happy with it.


Transfer

With the PSC/CryWolf contract, Vasquez said, the alarm coordinator in the Police Department is being transferred to Animal Control.

"We had a need, a bad need, in Animal Control," he said. "There's just so much going on with animals and everything, with the licensing in our Animal Control, we've shifted that over. We've shifted that position and reclassified it as animal control officer. So it's filling a huge need we have over on that side."


User education

Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons said the PSC/CryWolf presentation "talks about the website, developing the website, but there wasn't a whole lot on here about educating the community. We know years before people never paid and they never got the bills, so they might think, oh, I'm getting these bills but they never paid attention before. I think it's really important of how we're going to educate the community and let them know that this is what's happening. I'm curious what you guys are doing with that?"

Alanis responded that an education effort has been discussed within the Police Department.

"We would like to go on City Scene and have Officer (Thomas) Anderson speak about this program, so we'll do that. We'll also use social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, so that's another source.

"This company will provide literature that we can mail out to the citizens here in Casa Grande so they can be aware of it. We can do that a couple of ways, just send that out to everybody or put it in the utility bill, something to that effect. That way we can make sure that everybody gets it."


Upgrading alarms

"If you haven't updated your alarm in the last 10 years — a lot of us haven't — the new equipment's a lot better, it's able to cut down on the false alarms," Montoya said.

"It's inexpensive, but just the new technology. Everybody knows where technology's gone, but just even that has helped so much in the alarm industry.

"Go in there and read that, and I think that's where one of their educational components will help us a lot, because it will kind of give you different ideas of what you can do and how can you update your house.

"It's just not the 'over TV,' install at $9.99, get a motion detector and two door alarms and a key pad. They'll be able to go through more and as technology goes, you know, you can get your video on your phone now, you can do a double-trip so if two alarms kick out it doesn't call the police but it can notify you through technology.

"If you haven't updated that may be one way, to go to your installers or your company and find out, hey, what can I update? It may help you." 


Donna McBride appointed to state commission

(Posted Oct. 17, 2015)


Pinal County issued this announcement:


Donna McBride has been appointed by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey to the Governor's Commission on Service and Volunteerism. 

The commission's mission is to provide Arizona communities opportunities to be strengthened through service and volunteerism. McBride signed her oath of office in late August and will be representing Pinal County.

McBride has worked for Pinal County Juvenile Court for nearly 11 years as the program administrator II and public information officer. Under her leadership she organizes the volunteer program, managing nearly 150 volunteers and supervises the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) unit.   

Donna is a board member and past chairperson of the Casa Grande Alliance, as well as present board member of the Casa Grande Parks and Recreation Board. She serves as the vice chair of the Pinal County Town Hall Board, volunteers for the City of Casa Grande Mayor's Reading Program and is a Block Watch captain for the Casa Grande Police Department. She is a board member for the BlackBox Foundation which provides community art and theater education.  

McBride retired in 2003 from Students Against Destructive Decisions (formerly known as Students Against Drunk Driving) after serving 20 years in positions ranging from Arizona SADD coordinator, president of the SADD National board of directors and national director of field services. 

She received the Lifetime Achievement Award from SADD, was honored as the 2010 Casa Grande Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Community Service Leader of the Year and a 2012 finalist for the Arizona Hon Kachina Award. Mayor Bob Jackson recognized Donna for her volunteer efforts with the Casa Grande Youth Commission by presenting her with a proclamation declaring June 8, 2013, as "Donna McBride Day" in Casa Grande.


Give the city your opinion on state of streets

(Posted Oct. 2, 2015)


The city issued this announcement today:


The city of Casa Grande is conducting a survey about road pavement conditions. 

This survey is being used to determine how different groups perceive road pavement conditions throughout the city. 

Survey results will be used for both academic and internal purposes.

The online survey is fairly short, and takes approximately five-10 minutes to complete. 

Papers surveys are available through the GIS Division located within the Finance Department at City Hall, 510 E. Florence Blvd. 

For more information or to request a survey, email GIS Technician Maree Archuleta.

The online survey is HERE.


Casa Grande wants to run its own ambulances 

Deteriorating service from Southwest leads to move.


(Southwest photo)

(Posted Sept. 22, 2015)


The ambulance staff report is HERE


The memorandum of understanding is HERE


The presentation to the council is HERE


Below this story is a report from a February City Council meeting where ambulance service was discussed.



Emergency service by Southwest Ambulance in Casa Grande has degenerated to the point where the city will apply to the state for a certificate of necessity to operate its own service through the Fire Department.

The situation and what it means was outlined to the City Council during a study session Monday night.

"About 10 months ago, we started noticing that we didn't have the coverage in the city that we needed for response to medical calls," Fire Chief Scott Miller told the council. 

"We started keeping track of times we were at Level One, which meant we only had one ambulance in the city, or Level Zero, where we had no ambulances; in other words, there was none that could response to an emergency call if it was to occur."

It is not uncommon to hear emergency dispatchers for the city advise that Southwest is at certain levels or that it is a Level Zero, bringing in an ambulance from Coolidge or Maricopa, or sometimes as far away as Maricopa County.

"Deputy City Manager Rains and myself have had meetings over the last eight to 10 months with Southwest Ambulance vice president and their operations person," Miller continued, "and we have been discussing and looking at this kind of agreement and we've finally gotten to this point where we're both good with moving forward on it.

"It was basically to look at the coverage within our community that just wasn't there."

The memorandum of understanding, Miller said, "commences a series of steps that will allow the city of Casa Grande Fire Department to have local control over continuity of care and provide a level of coverage to our customers in our community."

Under the proposed agreement, Southwest and the city would both provide basic and advanced life support ambulance service but Southwest would be basically limited to inter facility calls.

"Inter facility calls is running from hospital to hospital and maybe from a nursing home to the hospital or from a doctor's office," Miller said. "They will continue to do that."

Reaching a new emergency ambulance transport agreement with Southwest and getting a certificate from the state for the city's ambulance service will be a lengthy process, the council was told.

Answering a question from Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons, Miller said, the memorandum of understanding with Southwest (approved by the council during the regular meeting Tuesday night) will go to RuralMetro/Southwest Ambulance for its signature.

"After that," Miller continued, "then we would start working on our certificate of necessity application.

"The CON application is probably two inches thick, where it's a document that we have to put together and there's a chapter of items that we would have to submit.

"We're estimating that putting that application together will take four to six months in order to get that application.

"Included in that application would be the letter of support from Southwest Ambulance for us to receive a CON. 

"It goes to the state Department of Health Services. DHS currently has six to 12 months in order to hear it and have it out. Right now, the director has indicated that if nobody intervenes in it, we have the letter of support from Southwest, they can go ahead and waive any CON hearings and they will have that done within a six-month period.

"So you're looking first at four to six months and then six months at DHS, so you're talking almost 12 months out, right there.

"And then from there we have to make a determination on when are we going to launch and go operational."

As part of the memorandum of understanding, Southwest promises a letter of support for Casa Grande getting a certificate of necessity and promises that neither it nor any subsidiary will intervene against the CON request.

Other parts of the memorandum, to be refined during a final ambulance emergency transport agreement, include:

• The city may contract out claims processing and billing.

• The city will continue to be compensated for when a Fire Department person rides along to the hospital during a Southwest advanced life support call.

• The city will still provide dispatch services.

• Southwest will adhere to response times as set forth in its CON.

• The city will rent space at fire stations for Southwest ambulances, to be determined in the final agreement.

• The final agreement with Southwest will be for six years.


What the city now has

Answering a question from Councilman Dick Powell, Miller said the Fire Department now has one ambulance transport unit "and we have another one in our budget this year for purchasing. Conceptually, we're looking at three 24-hour cars that would be out there eventually for coverage dedicated in the city."

In addition, Miller said, "Part of the bigger picture of when we do apply for a CON is that we have had discussions with the Eloy Fire District and we're going to enter into an intergovernmental agreement that we will back each other up and help each other in ambulance transportation. So that's another piece."


Why would Southwest agree?

Councilwoman Mary Kortsen asked what benefit would Southwest get from agreeing to the changes. "Why would Southwest do this?" she asked.

Miller responded that, "Well, one of their business models that they're looking at, it allows it to show to their investors within their company that they have a six-year commitment, six-year guaranteed contract with agencies out there."

RuralMetro, the parent company of Southwest, has only recently emerged from bankruptcy.


Service area

Southwest's certificate of necessity covers Casa Grande, Florence, Coolidge and the city of Maricopa.

"What we're going after for our CON," Miller said, "is our jurisdictional boundaries of the city, and as the city grows that CON grows with the city."

OTHER ACTIONS:


(Posted Sept. 22, 2015)


You'll find the complete agendas and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/


Video of the regular meeting can be seen at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/citymanager/pio/channel11/


In addition to the study session on operating a city ambulance system and approval of a memorandum of understanding with Southwest Ambulance, the City Council took these actions Monday night:


• Gave initial approval for purchase of a water tender for the Fire Department at a cost of $448,862.

• Approved sale of multiple condominium lots within the Casa Grande Airpark Condominium development to CrossRoads Church, which has built a new center there. 

• Approved purchase for the Fire Department of a LifePak 15 Defibrillator/Monitor System for $35,294.23.

• Gave final approval to changes in the city's personnel policies.

An ambulance in Casa Grande if you need one?

(Originally posted Feb. 7, 2015)


Monday night's City Council discussion about ambulance service in Casa Grande was basically a followup to discussions dating back to 2003 and beyond.

The theme has been the same -- what to do for better ambulance service in the city.

In 2003, the subject was a Southwest Ambulance unit dedicated to Casa Grande, never leaving the city. That never happened.

In 2007, it was pretty much the same, including the option of taking over the service from Southwest. That never happened.

It was pointed out during the 2007 discussion that at one time Casa Grande owned the certificate of necessity to provide its own ambulance service but years ago gave it up in favor of a private company, something some fire officials now see as shortsighted.


A PDF of the 2003 story written by the CG News owner while he was a               Casa Grande Dispatch reporter is HERE

A PDF of the 2007 story is HERE, with a direct link to the story as published in     the Dispatch HERE.


Last Monday, Feb. 2, the discussion began with purchasing a new Fire Department pumper truck for $652,528, but branched into talking about whether there was enough money in the city treasury to buy the unit in the face of turmoil within Southwest Ambulance and its parent company, Rural/Metro, which recently emerged from bankruptcy protection.. 

Councilman Karl Montoya noted that given the strife within the ambulance company, Casa Grande might be faced with having to purchase its own ambulances

Ambulance employees have taken a strike vote, citing lack of progress in negotiations over a variety of things, including working conditions, back pay issues and the move by the company to bypass the union negotiating team by going directly to workers with offers.

No date has been set for a walkout.

The National Labor Relations Board has filed a complaint against Rural/Metro/Southwest, ordering a hearing for March 31. That complaint is HERE

There are also concerns in the city about the level of service at given times in Casa Grande, referring to reports that at times no ambulance is available but one is being brought in from another area city or Maricopa County. On at least one occasion, Southwest had asked the city to use its own Fire Department ambulance.

The company has said in statements that it has met all requirements. The response time requirements are listed at the bottom of the state-issued certificate of necessity to operate in this area. The CON is HERE; a map of the service area is HERE.

The company has also said it has fallback plans to provide service in the event of a strike.

"What happens if Rural Metro fails?" Montoya asked. "Are we going to have money to buy two rescue units or three rescue units to serve the citizens of the city? I think that's an honest question, because if we're forced into that situation, if nobody knows if we're ever going to be there, will we have the money then the way we have money now (for the new fire truck)?"

Fire Chief Scott Miller replied that purchase of the new pumper is from the vehicle replacement fund, not the fund for new purchases. "If we improve and add to our service level with purchasing of rescue units, that should be able to come out of our impact fees, money we have in the budget for vehicles," said.

But is there enough money in impact fees (charged to developers to keep city services equal to growth) to cover that, Montoya asked.

City Manager Jim Thompson said that under state impact fees regulations the city would have to be providing ambulance service to use that money for purchases.

On the other hand, Thompson said, there are funds that could be used from other areas.

If it comes to having to buy ambulances, he continued, "what we would probably have to do is a lease-finance on those additional vehicles.

"Is it something that we would be taking from Peter to pay Paul? In simple terms, yes, we would, whether out of our vehicle or we take it from our fund balance. And it would be that rainy day scenario that we would have to take it from. But then we'd turn around and hopefully finance that and then use the revenue streams associated with transports and others to pay that back down."

At the moment, though, all of the discussions are conjecture.

Because the Arizona Department of Health Services issues ambulance certificates of necessity, the decision would be up to that agency, including whether another ambulance company could provide service on a temporary basis.

"They'll allow us a temporary but it's going to be very temporary," Thompson said. 

"We might have to jump in the business on a temporary basis, depending on what fallback position they (Rural/Metro) have and how successful they'll be with that. There's lots of options with the state and DHS is looking at, as well.

"So we don't know truly what that is."

Should the city have to lease-purchase ambulances, Thompson said, the income from transporting patients should cover the city's lease payments.

"Based on our preliminary numbers," he said, "if we'd be doing advanced life support or we do basis life support we feel that would pay for itself, inclusive of the equipment. So if we did a lease purchase we would have the revenue stream coming in adequate to pay back to that lease-purchase of those additional vehicles.

"We'd have additional staffing needs, we'd have all kinds of things when we look at the whole."

The state-set fees for ambulance service in Casa Grande (#85) are HERE.

The city is working on a contingency plan that could be activated if the Rural/Metro/Southwest situation comes to a point where ambulance service in the city ceases, Thompson said.

"We're hoping that based on meetings that the chief's going to have with others that we'll have some guidance as to what that all means," he said. "I know that they do have in their mind as a company their alternatives in place, what they're looking to do.

"If those would be successful or not, we have great concerns over that. So obviously we're developing our own contingency plan to make sure that we're not without in Casa Grande."


Marijuana: Let's Be Blunt event at City Hall, Oct. 6
          Flyer        

21st Annual Electric Light Parade, Dec. 5
flyer             more details






Casa
Grande
Alliance
poster
for
September


Help needed for this year's Mayor's Reading Club

(Posted Aug. 27, 2015)


The city issued this announcement:


Wanted -- Readers.

The Mayor's Reading Club is looking for volunteers to read to Casa Grande elementary school children grades K-5 for the school year. 

Reading begins Sept. 16. 

Volunteer one hour of your time a month and instill the joy of reading into a young child's heart.

Please fill out an application on the city's web page at casagrandeaz.us/rec/library/mayors-reading-club

or contact the Mayor's Reading Club coordinator, Laura Higgs, at [email protected]





(Posted Aug. 12, 2015)


Ken Ferguson and Stacey Seaman cut the ribbon Wednesday afternoon to open the new home of BlackBox Studio for the Arts at 413 N. Florence St.



The fall schedule is HERE


BlackBox WEBSITE

Major fish stocking at Dave White Park lake

(Posted Aug. 5, 2015)


You can find out more about the Arizona Game and Fish community program at

https://azgfdportal.az.gov/Fishing/Community


The staff report is HERE


More details are in the agreement with Game and Fish HERE



This is a fish story that's true.

During Monday night's meeting, the City Council approved a four-year agreement between Casa Grande and the Arizona Department of Game and Fish for major stocking of fish in the lake at Dave White Regional Park.

Casa Grande will join 16 cities around the state, including the city of Maricopa,which has the program in operation for Copper Sky Lake and Pacana Pond.

The Dave White lake is now stocked only once a year, just before the annual Catfish Rodeo.

Under the agreement, the Game and Fish regular stocking program will include:

• Catchable rainbow trout in December and February.

• Channel catfish in October, April and June.

• Sunfish (usually bluegill or redear) at least once annually.

• Other approved fish species, the agreement says, "may be stocked as necessary to: 1) establish a resident fish population, 2) augment existing fish populations, 3) maintain a balanced fishery, 4) improve angler success rates, or 5) provide feature species for anglers."

In addition to the stocking, Game and Fish will provide periodic lake assessment reports, fishing information signs, periodic angler surveys and various support and technical assistance.

The agreement with Casa Grande does not say what catch limits will be in effect, but Game and Fish postings for the other cities show, depending upon what is stocked in the lake, daily catch and possession limits of four catfish, four trout, two 13-inch minimum bass, 10 sunfish and one 30-inch minimum white amur. State limits  would apply for other species.

The program cost is based upon acre size of the lake or pond, with the one at Dave White being nine-tenths of an acre, or for calculation purposes one acre. That would be a yearly cost to the city of $416 for this 2016 fiscal year and next, rising to $425 in fiscal years '18 and '19.

The city has been paying $1,400 for the spring stocking.

"As you know, we host an annual Catfish Rodeo," Community Services Department Director Bill Schwind told the council, "and in communication recently with Arizona Game and Fish we had an opportunity to join their community fishing program that will allow us now to stock the lake on a quarterly basis. We will provide more fishing opportunities for the anglers out at Dave White."

Mayor Bob Jackson said, "I was surprised to see the type of fish. I know I always thought it was catch 'em and throw 'em back, but apparently they're trying to get out of the mode now."

The agreement was under the consent agenda, which is items to be passed on one vote without discussion, but Councilman Karl Montoya asked that it be pulled.

"I brought this up just so we could get the word out of what we're trying to do," Montoya said. "I think this program has had great success all across Arizona in different communities in not only bringing a fishing opportunity, but what we kind of preach up here (on the council) is bringing family values back closer to people, who can go out there with their kids and share some time fishing. It's a great opportunity to get families together and share those bonds. I think it's a great opportunity."

Montoya, noting the lower cost, asked if the city had ever considered expanding the lake. "A one-acre pond is kind of small but it would be great to see that expand in the future," he said.

City Manager Jim Thompson responded that, "In our plans for the reclamation facility associated with the wastewater treatment plant it is to expand that lake operation, probably about three times its current size, expand it out potentially even larger depending on what our final footprint will look like for our various interactive parks that we plan on putting out next to that location. It would allow us that opportunity to expand that operation."

Council approval was unanimous.


Evergreen Historic District regulations








Casa Grande 

Alliance 

prevention 

poster for August



The Kannapolis, N.C., Police Department has designated a special area in its parking lot for an internet commerce safe zone.

Internet Purchase Safe Zone will be set up
in main parking lot of Police Department

(Posted July 19, 2015)


Buying and selling over the internet can be fast, convenient — and sometimes deadly.

As Police Advisory Board Chairman Mikel McBride pointed out during the July 16 meeting, "Since 2009, of people who purchased things off Craig's List there have been 45 of them killed. And this is when, say, I'm going to buy a car from you, meet over here, I've got this cherry 1965 Mustang I'm selling for $7,000, meet me at the parking lot. People show up with $7,000 and they end up dead over it, and the guy drives away.

"People have been killed over iPhones, they've been killed over all kinds of things. This is throughout the whole U.S."

To combat this, McBride proposed that the Casa Grande Police Department set up an Internet Purchase Safe Zone in its main parking lot, an area covered by video surveillance 24 hours a day.

Interim Police Services Manager (acting chief) Chris Vasquez was receptive to the idea, pointing out that the parking lot and lobby are already used for such things as divorced parents exchanging children after visits.

"When you first hear it, Internet Purchase Safe Zone, it sounds like it's just a bunch of words together," McBride said, "but when you think about it, it's very, very good for the community and good for everybody out there.

"You tell the person, you want to sell me your car, I'll meet you right in front of the Police Department. Most bad guys don't really want to stand in front of the Police Department and transact business."

Although a police officer would not come out to the parking lot and monitor the transaction, McBride said, "one of the things we have going for us out there (at PD) is Monday through Friday in the daytime, if something goes wrong the person just walks in the door, we normally have someone to greet them there. And if it's after hours, you walk in the door and there's a telephone there that they can call the dispatcher."

Aside from posting signs in the parking lot, McBride said, "It's free. It doesn't cost anything other than us to put on the (city) webpage, which doesn't cost us anything."

McBride said his research found police departments in the East, southern Colorado and California using such a program, but "from all I can read, no one in Arizona does it yet."

Vasquez responded, "I think it's an excellent idea.

"Besides Craig's List, locally on Facebook you've got Casa Grande Buy, Sell, Trade, and there's others around, a lot of bartering like some of the Craig's List goes back and forth.

"There has been even in Casa Grande, not violent crimes but there have been issues where things have happened where someone would show up and things get stolen or a crime has been committed because of it. Fortunately, we haven't had a rape or a homicide."

Vasquez said the department could post items on the city website and on Facebook and Twitter explaining the program. McBride pointed out that Craig's List has an area on pages listing locations of safe zones.

Vasquez added, "I'll get with Thomas Anderson (the department's public information officer) and we'll see if we can get something, start advertising this.

"As far as getting the word out and all that, we are having a lot of success on getting the word out through our Facebook page and Twitter. If you look at our Facebook page, we quite frequently will put pictures of suspects, whether it be shoplifting or whatever on there and we get a lot of tips, we really do, and we have literally solved some crimes by just putting the information out on the Facebook page. And we know people are looking and are responding to it.

"I know we can get the word out on this program, that we're going to have this type of service. I think we'll be successful in getting the word out."

McBride said he did not know if the legalities of such a program needed to be studied by the city attorney, adding that, "I can't see any, it's in the parking lot that has public access."

Vasquez responded that, "We do stuff like that now in our parking lot. It is used, even our lobby when we're open, when people make exchanges with their children. Rather than doing it like in a Fry's parking lot or Circle K parking lot, they'll come to our parking lot quite regularly. And they don't even involve us, they just do it. They just show up and exchange their children and go on their way. They're either out in the parking lot or they'll come in the lobby and make the exchange. It's the same principle."


A mystery

If you have any information on the background of this Arizona Pickery tag, call Regis Sommers at Old Town Custom Framing, 836-0237. It's a continued mystery to her.


Casa Grande Alliance poster for June


Casa Grande has a fireworks use ordinance

(Posted June 2, 2015)


A chart of legal fireworks is HERE


The city's fireworks ordinance is HERE


The Fire Department's fireworks safety page is HERE



The Fourth of July is still a month away but already fireworks are being sold in some Casa Grande stores, soon to be joined by the large tent sales along major streets.

And already some residents are complaining about the noise from fireworks.

Under city law, fireworks are legal to use only on three days of the year.

The Fire Department has this notice posted on its city website page:

"All aerial fireworks are strictly prohibited in the city of Casa Grande.  

"In Casa Grande, small non-aerial fireworks, such as cone fountains, battle tanks, spinners, and pinwheels are allowed to be used each year only on the 4th of July, Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.  

"Use of any of these fireworks on days other than 7/4, 12/31 and/or 1/1 can result in civil penalties of up to $1,000 per offense.  

"Please be advised that it is always permissible to use wire sparklers, smoke balls, snakes and party poppers in Casa Grande, as these are considered ‘novelty items’ and not fireworks."

A new face for McNatt Park

Left: McNatt Park as it is today


(Posted May 24, 2015)


A major renovation of Carr McNatt Park, including demolitions and changing the running/walking track, are part of the preferred master plan, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board was told during this month's meeting.

But don't trot out and buy new sports clothing just yet.

"This is a long-range plan," Community Services Director Bill Schwind told the board. "It's something that we're not going to be able to complete in a year or two."

The skate park will remain for now, he continued, and there will be no real changes to the Kiwanis ball field.

The biggest changes will be reconfiguring the walking/running track, demolishing the parks maintenance complex just north of the present parking at Brown Avenue and 10th Street and relocating it near 10th and Cameron Avenue and a new parking area south of McMurray Boulevard.

"Some of the things that were talked about by a lot of the user groups, from the football groups to the soccer groups and I think to a lot of your concerns, too, was some enhanced parking, getting people off the streets into some parking areas, so that was addressed, both on Casa Grande Avenue as well as a new parking lot being proposed off of McMurray Boulevard," Schwind said. "The parking lot on Brown basically exists as is."

"There's a small item, number 26 on the map, as a park maintenance yard. It's much smaller than the existing facility, but is there by design and to handle a lot of the maintenance and turf needs that I think exist there."

The walking/running track, now an oval, will be replaced by a 10-foot-wide rectangle bordering new playing fields.

"What we see out there, there's really not a need for eight-lane facility, so a nice 10-foot structure around there serves well as a marketable destination," Schwind told the board. "If you want to count your laps type thing, there'll be signage out there that'll tell you how long you've walked, as opposed to a quarter mile around an oval track, or something like that. 

"It also connects to additional sidewalks being planned throughout the park that make it a little more pedestrian friendly, utilizing the entire facility as an exercise center with some walking options."

In addition to the new parking area south of McMurray bordering the school district complex, "we want to try to utilize the clubhouse for a little more than an eight-week (swimming) season, as far as potentially a public restroom facility to help offset a lot of the use that goes on there throughout the season," Schwind said.

A large multi use area would be in the center of the park abutting the present parking area, with the soccer area along 10th Street.

"In talking with a lot of the user groups that are out there, from youth football to youth soccer, they don't really need an entire field to practice on, they need six," Schwind said. "It's a little more well defined as to where they're at, but then you have still have the ability if you want to play a full game, a full sized football and three full sized soccer fields.

"A lot of the user group folks, they're more concerned about utilizing this as practice space and when it comes to actual games, when they play their games on Saturdays, typically, right now they're using the high school facility because of the access that they have to their concession stand to help them raise a little bit of funds for their programs, and they said they've got bleachers.

"We're also working on utilizing the fields out at the Grande Sports World for games only, as opposed to practicing.

"They typically say they have a hard time getting out there (next to Francisco Grande Hotel) on a daily basis to practice but Carr McNatt works well for that as an in-town practice site. But as far as using quality game fields for their games they're really welcoming the use of the Grande Sports World as well as the high school field."

There will be new lighting for the turf fields, Schwind said.

Noting that item 5 on the renovations map says "existing skate park to remain (future picnic area)," board member Garrett Powell asked what that really means.

Schwind replied, "As the skate park ages — it has a life span — once this thing gets to a point where it is kind of like the swimming pool, once it has it's foreseeable life, I think we're proposing that this become a playground area and that we look for another home to relocate that skate park. Try for something that we can incorporate the BMX bicycle, as well."

Parks Superintendent Rod Wood said, "The spec that it was built to was for eight to 12 years. The last time we did a repair on that, very minimal, so we have to go by that. At this moment, it's holding up. Will it last another five years or 10 years? That depends on how much use it gets. If we have a lot of grinding and heavy points of impact, that's what starts to break down."

The map shows extended parking on the present site of the United Way building, leased from the city.

The building will remain for a few years, Schwind said.

"Please don't run out of the room saying, Where's the United Way? They paved it," he continued.

"They still have a home and they will have a home, they're contracted with the city for at least another year and they have two additional add-ons to that, so they're basically under contract through 2018. Where in the future they may land, don't know."

It all comes down to money.

"Where we sit currently," Schwind said, "the City Council has not finalized the fiscal year 2016 budget, but we have been approved this current year for about $325,000 in expenses to renovate Carr McNatt Park, with another $400,000 being proposed next fiscal year.

"So a little over $700,000 worth of improvements that we'd like to put into this park and I think when we come back and meet again next month you'll have the breakdown on some of these itemized things on the left hand side of the map as far as having projected costs associated with that.

"Then we can work on prioritizing those items to see what we can actually get for our $700,000 worth of improvements.

"We'll weigh out the construction costs that our consultants provide us and then we'll take a look at our budgeted funds and then we'll see based on that what we feel, collectively, is the best route to go to get the biggest bang for our buck.

"The lighting, obviously, is a very big concern, so we'll wait and see what that cost is. I know we've got some demolition to deal with.

"What we're going to do with the money that we've been provided is to try to make as much impact as we can as far as the user groups and a lot of the uses that's out there. Try to enhance what we can."

Casa Grande Alliance poster for safe graduation

(Posted May 7, 2015)


Our poster this month calls to attention how youth could be celebrating graduation and other "rites of passage."  We have used this poster before because we believe its message and warning to be essential, especially around graduation time. 

It’s important to monitor your youths' activities, including asking them:

WHERE they are going;

WHAT they’re doing;

WHO they’re with;

WHEN they will be home. 

This includes contacting the party host’s parents to make sure that they will be supervised by a responsible adult and will not have access to alcohol or drugs. Don’t be afraid to check up on them to make sure they are where they said they’d be. 

Besides alcohol being dangerous to the growing brain and other health and safety issues, there are legal consequences to actively or passively permitting underage drinking. 

Below is an excerpt from the city of Casa Grande Social Hosting Ordinance No. 1397.09.05:

9.16.050 – Permitting or Encouraging Underage Drinking

(a) No person eighteen years or older who owns or occupies any premises shall knowingly permit or fail to take reasonable action to prevent illegal consumption of spirituous liquor or drugs by any person.

(b) A person who violates this section is guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor.

The entire Social Hosting Ordinance ordinance can be seen on the Casa Grande Police Department website at: http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/police/


Don't let your child drown
CG Fire Department has page of pool safety tips

(Posted April 27, 2015)


http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/fire/pool-safety-tips/


A safety video is on the above page.



The full heat of summer isn't here yet but already Phoenix television stations are reporting drownings of children in backyard pools, either because there was no safety fence or simply because adults were not attentive.

The Casa Grande Fire Department has a page (link above) outlining several pool safety tips.

They are:


Block

• Make sure your pool or spa has an effective barrier, such as a fence to help guard against unauthorized access.

• Your pool or spa should have a barrier regardless of whether covered.

• Door and windows leading to the pool areas should be locked.

• Fence gates should have self-closing, self-latching mechanisms. Latches need to be out of reach of young children.


Watch

• Never leave your child unattended in or near a swimming pool, hot tub, spa, not even for a second.

• Keep toys, tricycles, and other children’s play things away from the pool or spa.

• Don’t consider your children to be “drownproof” because they have taken swimming lessons.

• Don’t allow barriers such as fences or walls give you a false sense of security regarding your child’s safety.


Learn

• Learn how to administer CPR, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and other lifesaving techniques. To administer CPR correctly you must be properly trained.


The link to the schedule of CPR classes in Casa Grande is

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/fire/cpr-classes/


• Know how to contact your local emergency medical services. Install a phone or keep a cordless phone in the pool or spa area. Post the emergency number in an easy to see place.

• Learn to swim and teach age appropriate children to swim.

• Adult supervision is the best approach in the prevention of drowning.


If you live in Casa Grande and would like a pool safety inspection performed on your property, contact the Development Center at 421-8630 ext 3111.


Other pool safety links:


Safe Kids USA

http://www.safekids.org/watersafety


National Drowning Prevention Alliance

http://ndpa.org/home/



SAFER MEDIANS
Proposed city law would prohibit standing on most of them

UPDATE: The ordinance was approved by the City Council and went into effect May 18, 2015.  The ordinance is found HERE


(Posted April 24, 2015)


Safe medians FAQ is HERE


Casa Grande is in the process of bringing to the City Council an ordinance to make street medians safer.

The ordinance, still being formulated, would use safety as the underlying reasons to prohibit people from standing on most medians.

By terming it a safety ordinance, applying to everyone, the city hopes to get around problems other cities have had when they drew up ordinances so narrow in scope -- such as targeting panhandlers only -- that the courts have struck them down.

"We are addressing this issue at the concern by several residents to discuss the issue of people standing on the right of way," city Management Analyst Steve Turner told the City Council during an April 20 study session.

As envisioned, the prohibition would be for the narrow medians, such as at Florence Boulevard and Peart Road, that were designed as traffic barriers rather than gathering places. The ordinance, expected before the council during its May 4 meeting, would not apply to the wider medians on some streets.

"We want to remove people from those areas to protect drivers and protect the pedestrians and create a healthy environment for our traffic through town," Turner said.

"The ordinance that we're addressing targets not a class of people but any activities, much more narrowly tailored, that will allow us the ability to remove people from those areas."

City Attorney Brett Wallace explained the proposal in more depth.

"The intent of the median safety ordinance is just that," he said. "What we're really trying to do is take these areas that are not traditionally public fora, not traditional areas where you expect people to stand."

The ordinance will be content neutral, he said, applying to all rather than a select few.

Narrower ordinances in other city have led to court challenges claiming the right to stand on a median.

Those types of challenges, Wallace said, would be to ordinances that said "It's OK for me with a sign that saying End Child Hunger but not for someone to panhandle. If it's not content neutral you run into the highest scrutiny and it makes it more difficult."

Some medians in Casa Grande were designed for pedestrians to stop on, Wallace continued, and those will not be included in the list. Also exempted would be situations where a person was standing on a narrow median because he could not cross the wide street before the light changed.

"So what we're trying to do is really tailor it to say before it becomes anything, before it becomes public fora, before we start doing that in an unsafe area, we want to stop all of that activity," he said. "Not some of the activity, not certain activity, all of that activity."

Councilman Matt Herman said, "I'm glad this is finally coming up. One of the biggest calls I get is people worried about the safety when people are doing this in the medians."

He asked if the ordinance would cover placing signs in medians or standing in medians holding signs, something he said is also distracting.

Wallace replied that, "Generally placing signs in the right of way is prohibited anyway, so you'd have to take them out. If someone puts in a little 'I'm a Handyman' sign, you shouldn't be out there doing things like that.

"We want to stop that for whatever purpose, other than trying to get across the street. Exceptions for that would be if you are physically unable to get across the street. We don't want to create a hazard."

Councilman Ralph Varela asked if the ordinance would cover people who stand in a median and keep pushing the Walk button to stop traffic and give them more time for panhandling or whatever.

The aggressive panhandling law recently signed by the governor is a separate issue, Wallace replied, and would cover such situations

"It stops people from repeatedly pushing those buttons. If a panhandler comes to you and says you want to donate, you say no, they're not allowed to do it a second time. They're not allowed to hang out next to banks, ATMs, things of that nature. That's really what that is for.

"Some of that is sidewalk activity. We're not regulating sidewalk activity. That's a traditional public fora and the Supreme Court jurisprudence is pretty clear on what you can and can't do there. 

"Now, if someone is doing something that is otherwise violating other state statutes as far as impeding traffic, as far as doing things, that's there.

"It is separate from what we're doing here. What we're doing here is saying if you stay on the sidewalk you're protected as long as you're doing legal activity on the sidewalk. We're not trying to address that as part of the medians safety ordinance.

"The issue that we have, whether it's panhandlers, whether it's people holding signs, placing signs, it's people in really, really small areas where it's not designed to be that creates safety issues for them, for other pedestrians that are trying to cross the street and for drivers that get distracted looking at the pedestrian, worrying about what they're going to do, not paying attention to what's going on right in front of them. That's the focus of this ordinance."

Councilwoman Mary Kortsen said she had concerns about enforcement and how police officers would be trained.

"You're going to be dealing with a different sort of person," she said, "and I want to be sure that we're not creating a situation that we're not prepared for.

"I'm particularly thinking of over at Trekell and Cottonwood, because that person actually puts his shirt up on the sign, on the turn sign. I just want to be sure that all of our ducks are in a row. 

"I totally agree that we need to do this. I think if we're going to do it for one, it needs for all. 

"But on the other hand, I also want to be looking at who is enforcing what and how it's going to be handled. I don't want it to turn into some kind of nightmare that we're not prepared for."

Turner replied that enforcement would be part of the discussion as the ordinance moves forward.

Mayor Bob Jackson said that when the ordinance comes before the council on May 4 there should be an outline about enforcement.

"I want to make sure that we don't go out there and start citing and we're picking people up right away," he said. "There has to be some process of warning."

Wallace said the draft ordinance calls for written warnings.

One reason, he continued, is "for those people that may not have got notice, even though it will be public, even though it would be published, for those people that haven't had notice they get a least one shot, and say our officers will come out, give them a warning, let them know.

"We're going to try to do an education campaign as the ordinance becomes effective, just so people will know. Stories will be placed on our website, we'll try to educate the public to say here's what's going in. We have a man at the Police Department, they understand what the efforts are for.

"Again, by making it content neutral it's a relatively simple enforcement, as opposed to some of the other things, because we're not looking at what their intent is out there, we don't have to discern it, we simply have to say we saw you, if you say you weren't able to complete your travel but you've been out there for two or three lights, that's enough for us to say you're violating that ordinance, as opposed to saying you are doing X, you are doing Y. 

"It doesn't matter. On these medians that aren't designed for pedestrian use it will be an absolute prohibition to be in there other than to complete crossing the street."


State legislation fact sheet on impeding traffic is HERE


State legislation fact sheet on aggressive panhandling is HERE







Med center employee
wins national blood
drives effort recognition



Karen Pitman, left


Spice bust underplayed here, Police Board told

(Posted April 17, 2015)


The busting of a major Spice distribution ring with links to Casa Grande should have been a major story in the city but was badly underplayed in the local newspaper, the Police Advisory Board was told during the April 9 meeting.

Both Chairman Mikel McBride and board member Rodolfo Castillo had comments critical of the way the story was handled locally.

At issue were announcements by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and the Casa Grande Police Department outlining how the investigation started with the CGPD probing Spice sales activity at Convenience Depot of Cottonwood Lane, which then led to the major distributor in the Valley. 

"We as a community would like to thank the Police Department for taking those steps and getting that off (the streets)," McBride.

"It didn't get near the accolades it should have, in my opinion. It should have been out there more.

"I don't now if the community realizes how big of a thing that was. That was a huge, huge step in getting rid of the kind of 'okay' drugs, is what people think of them. But it's really nasty, it's up there with everything else. It's leading in to all the other harder drugs.

"I'd like to applaud you guys for doing that."

Both McBride and Calvillo were critical that the Dispatch story, rewritten from DEA and CGPD news releases and place on Page 2, left out information about the early efforts of Casa Grande Alliance in warning about drug problems. 

McBride said a Phoenix radio station "did a thing about it and they mentioned the Alliance and all the different agencies that were involved, which I thought was pretty good to get the Phoenix radio station talking about what happened. That stuck out there. The Phoenix market, it's not a huge thing for them but it is a huge thing for us down here."

Calvillo agreed.

"To me, it spoke volumes," he said. "We've seen the interdepartmental activities with one agency working with another agency and another agency, inclusive of DEA.

"I agree with Mike, that there was not nearly enough information, and it only came out in the paper today. And it wasn't that big of an article and certainly was not in depth enough to know what went into it and just how instrumental Casa Grande PD was involved in stuff. There wasn't enough credit given to Casa Grande Alliance. It was just a partial line."


CG NEWS note: Different news outlets have different methods of judging news, especially what they think is important locally.

The Dispatch chose to rewrite press releases, in the process cutting out the Casa Grande Alliance information included in the Police Department news release. The Dispatch did not post the press releases on its website.

CG News chose to post links to both the CGPD and DEA news releases, allowing the reader to see the full information. Those links were placed on the home page and also on the POLICE news page.


The DEA link is HERE. The PD link is HERE. The Dispatch story link is HERE.


Med center grant provides breast cancer screenings

(Posted April 14, 2015)


Banner Casa Grande Medical Center issued this announcement today:


Casa Grande Community Hospital Foundation received a grant from Susan. G. Komen Central and Northern Arizona, also known as Komen CAN AZ, that will fund breast cancer screenings and diagnosis at Banner Casa Grande Medical Center. 

The statewide grant of $681,401 will fund seven programs around Arizona, including a breast cancer program at Banner Casa Grande. 

The money helps provide medical services for low income, uninsured and underinsured individuals, as well as breast cancer education, screenings and lifesaving treatments. 

Komen CAN AZ said the funds for these programs comes from residents who participate in the Komen Phoenix Race for the Cure, along with private donors and third-party fundraising events. The organization adds that 75 percent of the funds raised locally stay local.


Water Outreach Program resumes April 13;
four honored by police for their initial efforts

(Posted April 6, 2015)


The Water Outreach Program, begun as a way for Casa Grande police officers to carry bottled water in their vehicles in case of emergencies or dehydration victims, begins again this year on April 13, the City Council was told Monday night.

During the meeting, the Police Department gave appreciation plaques to four local businesses involved in beginning the project: Sutton Law, Walgreens, Old Town Custom Framing & Gifts and CG News.

"Many of you have already heard about this program that we started last year," Police Department Public Information Officer Thomas Anderson told the council, "but we're always looking for new and creative, innovative ways to interact with our community as part of our community policing philosophy.

"Last summer, some key individuals and organizations in our community approach us and came up with this great idea called Water Outreach Program. We instituted it last year and it was very effective."

Anderson said the program is simple:

"These members provided us with ice chests and bottled water so that our day shift officers, primarily, can have these ice chests in the back of their car and when they're out in this weather, which is on us again, this heat, they're able to provide some quick refreshment to individuals that are involved in vehicle collisions or a citizen walking that look they may be in need of some hydration."

Although it's primarily day shift, officers on other shifts also carry the water bottles, Anderson said.

"We're about to have our kickoff," he continued. "It will actually begin Monday next week, on the 13th, but we wanted to get in front of you and recognize those key individuals that helped bring this program together.

"We're just the tool that they're using to get it out, but we're not the ones that came up with it, so we'd like to recognize them tonight.

"Sutton Law firm, they provided the water.

"A local Walgreens (Peart and Florence), they provided the ice chests. Originally, we started off with the Styrofoam ice chests. They lasted a couple of days in the back of a patrol car, so they gave us a little bit better product after that, some hard shell ice chests.

"Harold Kitching with CG News provided the labeling for the water bottles.

"And then, of course, our own Regis Sommers from Old Town Custom Framing & Gifts."

Sommers told the council that, "I want to thank the Police Department for embracing this program. It was an idea that I came up with last year because I saw a need for it just around in my 'hood by the store (at 719 N. Center Ave.).

"It was a grandfather walking with his granddaughter in a stroller and it was 110 out. I always keep bottled water in the store, I went in and got water for them."

Word spread, Sommers said, and others would stop for water.

"And then," she continued, "I thought, well, put it in a patrol car, because it is in the five-year police plan to have community outreach of some kind and so I thought it was a win-win.

"So, thank the department."

Mayor Bob Jackson added, "I was pleased and privileged last year to help kick that program off at Sutton Law office. Great, great program, Regis. I think it's one of those things that just shows that we're a community that really does care about what we do.

"While she's not asking for donations, I'm sure if people wanted to donate bottled water, they'd be more than happy to take it.

"So, thank you."


An ambulance in Casa Grande if you need one?

(Posted Feb. 7, 2015)


The ambulance company's website is

http://www.ruralmetro.com/


The ambulance employee union's website is

www.locali60.org


Negotiations update from union, Feb. 17



Monday night's City Council discussion about ambulance service in Casa Grande was basically a followup to discussions dating back to 2003 and beyond.

The theme has been the same -- what to do for better ambulance service in the city.

In 2003, the subject was a Southwest Ambulance unit dedicated to Casa Grande, never leaving the city. That never happened.

In 2007, it was pretty much the same, including the option of taking over the service from Southwest. That never happened.

It was pointed out during the 2007 discussion that at one time Casa Grande owned the certificate of necessity to provide its own ambulance service but years ago gave it up in favor of a private company, something some fire officials now see as shortsighted.


      A PDF of the 2003 story written by the CG News owner while he was a                 Casa Grande Dispatch reporter is HERE

      A PDF of the 2007 story is HERE, with a direct link to the story as published in       the Dispatch HERE.


Last Monday, Feb. 2, the discussion began with purchasing a new Fire Department pumper truck for $652,528, but branched into talking about whether there was enough money in the city treasury to buy the unit in the face of turmoil within Southwest Ambulance and its parent company, Rural/Metro, which recently emerged from bankruptcy protection.. 

Councilman Karl Montoya noted that given the strife within the ambulance company, Casa Grande might be faced with having to purchase its own ambulances

Ambulance employees have taken a strike vote, citing lack of progress in negotiations over a variety of things, including working conditions, back pay issues and the move by the company to bypass the union negotiating team by going directly to workers with offers.

No date has been set for a walkout.

The National Labor Relations Board has filed a complaint against Rural/Metro/Southwest, ordering a hearing for March 31. That complaint is HERE

There are also concerns in the city about the level of service at given times in Casa Grande, referring to reports that at times no ambulance is available but one is being brought in from another area city or Maricopa County. On at least one occasion, Southwest had asked the city to use its own Fire Department ambulance.

The company has said in statements that it has met all requirements. The response time requirements are listed at the bottom of the state-issued certificate of necessity to operate in this area. The CON is HERE; a map of the service area is HERE.

The company has also said it has fallback plans to provide service in the event of a strike.

"What happens if Rural Metro fails?" Montoya asked. "Are we going to have money to buy two rescue units or three rescue units to serve the citizens of the city? I think that's an honest question, because if we're forced into that situation, if nobody knows if we're ever going to be there, will we have the money then the way we have money now (for the new fire truck)?"

Fire Chief Scott Miller replied that purchase of the new pumper is from the vehicle replacement fund, not the fund for new purchases. "If we improve and add to our service level with purchasing of rescue units, that should be able to come out of our impact fees, money we have in the budget for vehicles," said.

But is there enough money in impact fees (charged to developers to keep city services equal to growth) to cover that, Montoya asked.

City Manager Jim Thompson said that under state impact fees regulations the city would have to be providing ambulance service to use that money for purchases.

On the other hand, Thompson said, there are funds that could be used from other areas.

If it comes to having to buy ambulances, he continued, "what we would probably have to do is a lease-finance on those additional vehicles.

"Is it something that we would be taking from Peter to pay Paul? In simple terms, yes, we would, whether out of our vehicle or we take it from our fund balance. And it would be that rainy day scenario that we would have to take it from. But then we'd turn around and hopefully finance that and then use the revenue streams associated with transports and others to pay that back down."

At the moment, though, all of the discussions are conjecture.

Because the Arizona Department of Health Services issues ambulance certificates of necessity, the decision would be up to that agency, including whether another ambulance company could provide service on a temporary basis.

"They'll allow us a temporary but it's going to be very temporary," Thompson said. 

"We might have to jump in the business on a temporary basis, depending on what fallback position they (Rural/Metro) have and how successful they'll be with that. There's lots of options with the state and DHS is looking at, as well.

"So we don't know truly what that is."

Should the city have to lease-purchase ambulances, Thompson said, the income from transporting patients should cover the city's lease payments.

"Based on our preliminary numbers," he said, "if we'd be doing advanced life support or we do basis life support we feel that would pay for itself, inclusive of the equipment. So if we did a lease purchase we would have the revenue stream coming in adequate to pay back to that lease-purchase of those additional vehicles.

"We'd have additional staffing needs, we'd have all kinds of things when we look at the whole."

   The state-set fees for ambulance service in Casa Grande (#85) are HERE.

The city is working on a contingency plan that could be activated if the Rural/Metro/Southwest situation comes to a point where ambulance service in the city ceases, Thompson said.

"We're hoping that based on meetings that the chief's going to have with others that we'll have some guidance as to what that all means," he said. "I know that they do have in their mind as a company their alternatives in place, what they're looking to do.

"If those would be successful or not, we have great concerns over that. So obviously we're developing our own contingency plan to make sure that we're not without in Casa Grande."


Casa Grande's annual municipal financial report
            Spending by department, areas; other city data

Seeds of Hope needs help from community

(Posted Feb. 4, 2015)


The Seeds of Hope website is

http://www.seedsofhopeaz.com/


Dinner announcement is HERE



Seeds of Hope, a longtime community help organization, is facing funding challenges and needs help, the City Council was told Monday night.

Councilman Dick Powell said Seeds Director Mark Vanderheyden has asked him to remind council members about the organization's Feb. 28 fundraising dinner at First Presbyterian Church and to pass along an invitation to the council to attend.

The event, Saddle Up! We're Blazing New Trails, begins at 5 p.m. in the community center at the church, Cottonwood Lane and Kadota Avenue.

"I think people are familiar with Seeds of Hope," Powell said. "It's a nondenominational organization and some of the things that they do is they serve nutritious lunches six days a week for those in need, they provide structured learning environment for at-risk youth and an after school program. They develop peer leaders, life skills for teen between 13 and 18, they promote self sufficiency for individuals and families and work with English as a Second Language for people that need help. 

"They offer free medical services monthly at the Stanfield Free Medical Clinic, they coordinate with other agencies to host community events at their Mondo Anaya Community Center, which is probably the most represented in our community. They volunteer tax assistance for the United Way of Pinal County, they have monthly wellness checks, the summer reading programs, foster care training and others.

"I can go on and on, but they are challenged in their funding this year, as are all, and they're hopeful of not having to curtail services or whatever.

"They really need our assistance and they asked me personally to invite everybody here, the mayor and council, to attend."


       Link takes you to open house explanation, maps, reports

Curb trash collection expansion: A blind alley?

(Posted Feb. 1, 2015)


Through the years, the City Council has had several discussions about going to curbside trash pickup in areas of Casa Grande that have alleys with 300-gallon containers.

The selling point has been that it would be cheaper and that it is unfair to residents of newer subdivisions without alleys to pay the same collection rates.

A sticking point from some alley area residents has been that such a move would eliminate collection of uncontained trash such a tree trimming and junk items from alleys, forcing a move to piling it in front yards for pick up.

Many of the discussions went nowhere, but in late 2006 it was decided that a test area for switching from alley to curbside collection in 90-gallon containers would be set up, bounded by Cottonwood Lane, Casa Grande Avenue, Trekell Road and McMurray Boulevard.

In the beginning, leaves, branches and other uncontained items would still be taken from the alley as before, although that was later changed to a system where residents had to place the debris in front of the house once a month and were required to call the city to say they had a pickup. 

It was the understanding of then council members that results of a survey of residents would be brought back before the council and that a council decision would be made on whether to make a permanent switch or go back to the old system.

The survey was presented, but an action item for a council vote went by the wayside.

Eight years later, the questions again arose during the Jan. 20 council meeting. The discussion that night was about buying replacement 300-gallon containers, but branched into why there was never a council vote on curbside collection and why did the area that was supposed to be a test turn into fact.

Councilman Karl Montoya, who lives in the test/suddenly fact area, asked whether the overall curbside collection program will be expanded or if it has stalled.

"Where are we at with replacing 300s with 90s for our trash collections?" he asked.

Public Works Director Kevin Louis said the initial test area results were brought before the council in November 2006.

"We have not moved forward with any additional conversions, with the exception of 19 alleys that we've converted to front load because of operational issues," he said. "Our trucks are getting wider and can't fit into some of those narrow alleys. We continue to evaluate those alleys on a case by case basis, but we've not targeted any sections of city to convert from alleys to front load."

Montoya pointed out that, "I was in the test area and we never came back and said, well, it was good or it was bad or indifferent. We kind of stopped. We were kind of sold on it was a better, quick, faster way to pick up cans.

"I was just curious if there was an expansion of some sort or if we were going to move forward with anything more, because like I said, we've had it since 2007, there was never any feedback, we were in a test area, what were the conclusions of the tests?"

Louis replied that, the basic conclusion was that "over 76 percent of the people that were in that test area when we did the final survey liked their 96-gallon containers, 71 percent said they wanted to keep those containers and not go back to alley, and 72 percent said they still wanted unconfined trash in the alley. That was something we did not do; we kept the unconfined trash on the street side."

During his November 2006 report to the council, Louis said the curbside pickup test was begun in January of that year, covering about 350 homes and some multifamily complexes. At the end of the period a survey was mailed to each residence, plus added to the city's website.

"We had 107 people mail their results back in and 31 took advantage of the on-line service," Louis told the council.

"The first question that was on the survey was do you like having your own 90-gallon trash container? That's the 90-gallon container that they take out to the front versus the share 300-gallon container in the alley.

"Ninety-five people said yes and 43 people said no."

The other question that Louis told the council was important was, would you like to continue curbside service? Eighty-seven people said yes, with 50 saying no.

"What it does, is it shows me that a majority of the people like the 90-gallon container curbside service," Louis said.

During that discussion, Councilman Powell pointed out that, "when we look at this survey, two of the biggest votes are, do you want bulk items placed in front of your house, 71-50 no; do you like using the alleys for uncontained rubbish (trees, appliances, etc.) 107 yes, only 28 no."

During the Jan. 20 meeting, Montoya said he still gets questions from residents in other areas of the city about whether they will eventually be converted to curbside collection.

"It seems like we never went anywhere else with that (curbside proposal)," he said. "I was just kind of curious if we were going to move forward, taking more."

No, Louis replied. "Right now, we have no plans on moving forward with an alley to curbside converting at this time," he said.

City Manager Jim Thompson the issue might be discussed again this month.

"If you recall, when we came back with the analysis of the study, the test area and so forth, way back when, it was the desire of council not to proceed further at that time," he said. "So we've kind of shut down at that point, but I think it's time to come back and revisit it."

Powell remembers it differently.

"I think that a lot of the tested areas, like Karl brought up, were never voted on or done. All of a sudden a trial area just became part of that new system."

Thompson said the savings between curbside and alley trash container pickup was not that much different. The savings, he said, lies in the collection of uncontained trash.

During his November 2006 report to the council, Louis said, "The cost of that monthly curbside bulk pickup is $208.23, whereas another area, similar size, approximately the same amount of homes it should cost us over five times as much to service those alleys, which is once a month (now every five weeks) we get out there and we clean those alleys up.

"The difference is, people are allowed to basically pile the entire month long in the alleys. There's no regards to what they put out there and they don't see it; out of sight, out of mind. People will do things in the alley that they won't do in the front of their homes. 

"And I think that's the point staff's trying to make, is we have a real challenge trying to keep these alleys clean and unsightly.

"And this program, as a pilot program, I think was very successful."

A cost breakdown chart provided at that time showed a cost of $1,401.15 per five-day week for the alleys, broken down as $241.15 for vehicle fuel, $600 for the equipment operator and $560 for the maintenance worker.

By contrast, the front yard special pickup cost was $280 for the one-day collection, broken down as $48.23 for vehicle fuel, $120 for an equipment operator and $112 for a maintenance worker.

Another question has been, why not put the 90-gallon containers in the alleys for pickup?

During the November 2006 discussion, it was pointed out that that would create problems because of power pole guy wires, gas and water meters and other obstructions. The arm structure of the collection vehicles might start pulling wires down, the council was told, adding that the 300-gallon containers are situated in an alley where the arm will not damage meters or hit powerlines.

There was no discussion about whether alley areas clear of those obstructions could be marked out for placing several of the 90-gallon containers.

The future?

Although Thompson said there could be a general discussion this month, Mayor Bob Jackson suggested that the issue first be discussed by council committees.

"We could do that as well," Thompson replied.


Dorothy Powell Senior Adult Center activities
                 Website link            Brochure




Retirement honors
for Mary Ann Gonzales

Mary Ann Gonzales speaks to the City Council after retirement honors Tuesday night marking more than 25 years with the city Finance Department.

(Posted Jan. 20, 2015)


Mary Ann Gonzales received honors Tuesday night marking her retirement from the city Finance Department after more than 25 years.

In a ceremony at the beginning of the City Council meeting, Mayor Bob Jackson said Gonzales, who retired Jan. 9, began with the Finance Department in September 1989. She was promoted to senior accounting clerk in January 1996, a position she held at retirement.

Jackson said that while he was city Public Works Director, "I remember working several years with Mary Ann. She had a smile on her face; if you needed help she was always there to help.

"And certainly, Mary Ann, I think that that more than anything else will be missed within the Finance Department."

During a conversation before the council meeting, Jackson said Gonzales told him that retirement "still feels a little bit like vacation. Only been off for a week and couple of days."

Jackson presented Gonzales with a plaque "for outstanding service to the city of Casa Grande, Sept. 25, 1989, to Jan. 9, 2015."

He said there was also a gift for Gonzales "but I'm guessing it's either too heavy to bring in here or it's not here yet. It looks like it's an exercise bike.

"Mary Ann, I wish you all the best."

Gonzales briefly spoke to the council.

"I want to say thank you very much for allowing me to have a job here," she said, recalling that she has seen many employees come and go.

"I really enjoyed working for you, especially the team of city managers that all of them have been very great to me and I thank them for that. And also our finance director. They've all been very good. I just want to thank everybody for giving me this opportunity to work here. Thank you."


City pool decking repair, expansion approved

(Posted Jan. 6, 2015)


Image of the decking work areas HERE


You'll find the complete agenda and staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/



The deteriorating pool decking at Palm Island Family Aquatic Center will be ripped out and replaced, a project that will add about 2,000 square feet.

Work at the center, commonly called the city swimming pool, will cost $87,207. Four bids were received, with the lowest bidder, Southwest Coating Solutions of Mesa at $50,061,  disqualified because of no experience with municipal pools and limited experience with decking, the city said. Monday night, the City Council approved the bid from FlexGround of Tempe, the second lowest bidder.

The staff report accompanying the council agenda item says the project will demolish and remove 16,000 square feet of existing decking, including repairing, washing and preparing the concrete with a sealant and removing old caulking along tile. After demolition, 18,000 square feet of new non-slip decking and in-ground drains will be installed, including resetting and replacing drains and applying new caulking along tile. 

The project is estimated to be completed in five to seven weeks and has a two-year guarantee against any defects in quality or workmanship.

"Pool deck resurfacing will maintain the safety of the aquatic center," the staff report says. "The deck has significant wearing throughout the facility, including stains, chips, cracks, missing sections and uneven drains. Deck replacement will also allow cracks in the original concrete shell to be patched and resealed to prevent leaks. 

"Increasing the pool deck space by 2,000 square feet will resolve safety and maintenance issues associated with turf maintenance. The exterior turf is difficult to grow and maintain due to a shaded landscape and the drop off from pool deck to grass creates a safety hazard. The new deck space will increase usability and safety at the aquatic center."

The report says the decking work was not included in the original budget but an amendment was approved for fencing repair and extension, which includes deck work.

Decking was included, the report says, "to address high priority safety concerns that require immediate attention. High priority safety concerns include zero entry pool tiles, installation of new concrete, replacement of rusted fence, fiberglass repairs to the entry bay to the slide and desk resurfacing. 

"All safety issues related to the fence will be addressed within the current project.

"The delayed elements of the original fence upgrade project will be incorporated within the improvements of the Carr McNatt Master Plan over the next few years."


The most-watched city videos during 2014

(Posted Jan. 4, 2015)


The city issued this announcement:


Here is a list of some of the most watched Casa Grande videos in 2014, entirely produced by the city's Public Information Office:  


This is Casa Grande, Arizona

http://youtu.be/bb7sI7ZMQNo


Casa Grande's Sanitary Sewer System 

http://youtu.be/Zpi8jtChoh4 


Fire Station Tour 

http://youtu.be/KcmE9FThpGA 


Main Library Tour

http://youtu.be/UywIoerqIx0 


Eagle Scout Service Project at Casa Grande Mountain 

http://youtu.be/J0JLjdVjlqM  


-:-


You can watch more city-produced videos at www.youtube.com/cgazgov.


City tries again for Comm Center upgrades 

(Posted Jan. 1, 2015)


An abbreviated version of the request, giving basic details and local statistics, is HERE


The full request for proposals is HERE




Casa Grande is trying again for a major project to upgrade and modernize its emergency communications system.

A request for proposals issued in March of last year brought only one response, which the city determined was not acceptable because of various problems.

According to the new posting asking for qualified proposals, the work will be to provide and start up a computer-aided dispatch/records management system for the police and fire departments. Additionally, the system would include a law enforcement records management system, mobile data computing, automated field reporting, automatic vehicle location system and conversion of existing records. Training in the new operation would also be provided.

Computer-aided dispatch is the system that manages 911 and nonemergency calls for service and the sending of the calls to police officers or firefighters.

The records management system stores case records and creates statistical reports.

"The purpose of this project is to implement an updated CAD/RMS for use by public safety departments enabling all users to better analyze public safety trends, link crimes and events, identify suspects or patients, and improve the quality of field reporting and statistical reports," the request says.

"The CAD/RMS project is created to replace the existing CAD/RMS solutions, which the city has used for more than 15 years. The primary drivers of the project are the limited level of functionality offered by the existing system, aging hardware and software, technical support concerns, and to ensure the safety of department personnel. 

"The ultimate goal is to create a combined public safety Emergency Communications Center that encompasses joint communications functions for police, fire and emergency medical resources, and includes an Emergency Operations Center. 

"Casa Grande’s long-range vision includes becoming a regional ECC in support of the needs of neighboring jurisdictions."

The request says specific project objectives include:

• Re-engineer business processes to increase efficiency.

• Reduce handwritten forms and duplication of effort (e.g. entering same data into multiple systems).

• Eliminate nonenterprise level databases and spreadsheets used to track data.

• More accurately deploy resources. For example, dispatchers and supervisors in the field will be able to determine where units are located within the city, as these units respond to calls in real time. This will lower response times for all public safety units.

• Staff can compile and publish frequently used statistical reports without the assistance of technical staff and without the need to access multiple databases.

• Units can write and file incident reports in the field. 

• The CAD/RMS will be available to their users at least 99.99 percent of the time, on a

24/7/365 basis, within six months of implementation.

• Increased safety to units as more information will be available directly within the vehicles.

• Accurate data conversion of selected data ranges and fields.

• Use mapping capabilities within CAD system.

• Technical architecture will comply with current Casa Grande standards.

• Provide ability to analyze public safety incidents for commonalities, trends, and patterns.

After proposals have been received and evaluated, the best qualified one will go before the City Council in September.

"For planning purposes," the request says, "the city Of Casa Grande has identified a total installation timeframe spanning up to 24 months from the date of City Council authorization and execution of the contract for successful completion of the system implementation activities, no later than May 31, 2017."

The communications center, with expansion of work areas and modernization of the building  completed earlier this year, is located in the old Police Department building on Marshall Street south of Florence Boulevard.

The deadline for submitting proposals is Feb. 4.


Description

The Police Department's website and part of the request give this description of the Public Safety Communications Division:

The Public Safety Communications of the Police Department provides the personnel that link the public with the sworn officers in the field. The division has 15 public safety clerk positions whose functions include 911 operator, public safety dispatcher, records clerk, receptionists, secretary, and supervisor. Public Safety Communications is currently under the command of Mike Brashier.

Civilian personnel are most often the first line of communications with the general public, whether handling “walk in” citizens requests for service or answering 911 emergency calls for both the Police Department and Fire Department. 

Civilian employees classify and prioritize the calls for service, dispatch officers as needed, record dispositions of calls, then handle the follow up paper work. The followup work consists of data entry into the department’s computer system, filing of reports, and transferring reports to related agencies and entities such as prosecutors, courts, and insurance companies.

Public safety dispatchers (911 operators) attend to incoming calls on eight phone lines, 10 911 lines, four extensions and one Silent Witness line. 

They must also enter all calls for service into the police computer to dispatch the calls. Other duties include fulfilling records requests, processing and filing incoming paperwork, data entry of all citations and police reports into the computer system, criminal history inquiries in the state’s crime computer, submitting fingerprints through the state’s automated fingerprint identification system, and numerous other tasks to keep the internal operation of the department organized and efficient.

Supervisors in the division perform as “working supervisors,” doing one of the above jobs in addition to assisting with scheduling, completing employee evaluations, supervising civilian employees, and completing projects assigned by the commander.

When not assigned as a 911 operator or public safety dispatcher, the public safety clerks function as records clerks assisting in the records duties. 

These duties include forwarding reports to other criminal justice agencies, preparing statistical information, uniform crime reporting to the state and FBI, and other secretarial duties for the chief of police and his three division commanders.



Home decorating contest winners announced

(Posted Dec. 16, 2014)


The city issued this announcement today:


The winners of the 2nd Annual Holiday Home Decorating Contest have been announced.  They were presented with a certificate and yard sign during Monday night's City Council meeting. Congratulations to all and thanks for participating. 


Watch City Council awards online (Item F1).

http://casagrandeaz.swagit.com/play/12152014-1159


Video of lights on houses is HERE


The winners:


Most Twinkling Lights

Reginald Parulan

1028 N. Lehmberg Ave.


Most Creative

Traci Zimmerman

1523 E. Racine Drive


Mayor's Choice

Tom Clack

3542 N. Arthur Lane


Here's the Electric Light Parade winners list

Pictures with Santa Claus


(Posted Dec. 9, 2014)


The city posted this announcement today:


There were 91 floats in the Electric Light Parade this year, 34 of which participated for the first time. 

Below is a list of all the winners. 

Awards will be given out at the City Council meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 15, at City Hall.

Many thanks to all the entrants for their effort and involvement and for beginning our holiday season on such a bright note. You’re ALL winners.


PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD

Foothills West RV Resort (352 total votes)


MAYOR’S AWARD

Casa Grande Jewelry and Pawn


APS POWER TO MAKE IT HAPPEN AWARD (for best use of lights) Cross Roads Church


MOST ORIGINAL

1st Place – University of Arizona Cooperative Extension

2nd Place – E & JC Heating and Cooling LLC

3rd Place – Mission Royale Adult Community


MOST AMUSING

1st Place – Banner Casa Grande Medical Center

2nd Place – Culver’s of Casa Grande

3rd Place – Foothills West RV Resort


BEST CHRISTMAS SPIRIT

1st Place – REA Construction Co.

2nd Place – Casa Grande Head Start

3rd Place – Lowe’s


MOST CREATIVE CHRISTMAS COSTUME(S)

1st Place – Grace Lutheran Church

2nd Place – Fiesta Grande RV Resort

3rd Place – Casa Grande Middle School Marching Band


BEST PUBLIC SAFETY ENTRY

1st Place – Casa Grande Fire Department and Explorers

2nd Place – Eloy Fire District

3rd Place – Coolidge Fire Department


CASA GRANDE MAIN STREET SMALL BUSINESS AWARD 

Hoover Family Companies


The city of Casa Grande would like to also thank APS, Casa Grande Valley Newspapers Inc. and Casa Grande Main Street for their continued support of this event. A HUGE thank you to Lowe’s Home Improvement for allowing us to stage float in their parking lot and to Casa Grande Parks Department, Serve Pro, AmeriCorps NCCC Team and Pinal County Adult Probation for assisting with the clean up after the parade. Thank you to Henry Brown Chevrolet, Sonic and the Paramount Theatre for their support and sponsorship of the 2014 Winter Wonderland in downtown Casa Grande.


Did you miss the parade? 

You can watch it on Cox Channel 11 on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at noon and 7:30 p.m. First airtime is Saturday, Dec. 13.










Casa Grande Alliance 

poster for December

Life Saver, special Courage awards presented

(Posted Nov. 14, 2014)


Video is HERE



The city issued this announcement today: 


The Casa Grande Fire Department presented Life Saver Awards to several public safety individuals for their heroic efforts that saved the life of a victim in need of help. 

A special award was also given to an 11-year-old boy for his quick action during an emergency. 

The individuals were recognized during an awards ceremony on Wednesday, Nov. 12.

On Aug. 5, Casa Grande police Cpl. Francisco Lujan was dispatched to an emergency call near the Pinal Avenue Fry’s Marketplace where he found an unresponsive man who was not breathing and began to perform hands-only CPR. Firefighters quickly showed up and began to take immediate advanced life-saving action before transporting him to the hospital. 

The firefighters involved were Byron Mays, Pete Benzing, Jason Andersen, Ernie Delgado, and Kevin Madden.

Sept. 8, 11-year-old Alex Steen was assisting his sister and grandmother to a bus stop when his grandmother fell and suffered a laceration to her leg. Keeping calm and showing tremendous courage, the young boy called for help while taking care of his grandmother by applying direct pressure to the wound to control the bleeding until help arrived to transport her to the hospital. 

For his courageous efforts, Alex Steen was presented with a Courage in the Community Award.


Incorrect billings for alarms fines investigated

(Posted Oct. 31, 2014)

The Police Department issued this statement today:

The city of Casa Grande Alarm Ordinance encourages compliance with false alarm mitigation efforts through mandatory permitting of all alarm owners, educational awareness classes and fines for excessive false alarms.  
The city’s Finance and Police departments work together in these compliance efforts.  
However, for the recent September/October billing cycle for excessive false alarms some problems were discovered.  Many permit holders notified the city that there were inaccuracies in the billed invoices.
City staff began looking into the matter immediately. 
Regretfully, an audit of recent invoices revealed a technical malfunction of miscoded information which led to improper invoicing on the September and October billing for outstanding fines dating back through 2012. 
While every effort is made to ensure the accuracy and timeliness of billing, these errors were not discovered until mailing already occurred. While the Police Department alarm coordinator is working to address every complaint or concern received, steps are being taken to ensure this does not occur in the future. 
Apologies are extended to any Casa Grande citizen who received one of these errant invoices. We are resolved to correct this unfortunate matter quickly as we endeavor to upgrade billing systems and procedural policies that reduce the chance for error.   
Alarm owners are hereby notified:
The billing cycle which includes any invoice dated in September or October 2014 may be disregarded at this time. Staff members are working to verify information and correct any errors prior to any further billing being conducted. 
Any alarm permit holders who have already paid their invoices, specific to this billing period only, will receive a refund within 30 days of all alarm fees paid. This does not include the $10 fee paid for an annual permit renewal, which was not impacted by this issue. 
Moving forward, residents and business owners are encouraged to do their part in reducing false alarms, which costs the city greatly in unnecessary use of valuable resources and personnel. 
For those residents or business owners in need of a current permit ($10 fee) they can apply via the city website at: 
For those alarm owners who wish to earn a $50 false alarm waiver certificate (valid to current permit holders for one year and one household/business) they can call the alarm coordinator’s office to schedule attendance at a free one and a half hour alarm awareness class. 
For this and any other concerns or questions, please call us at 421-8711, ext.6570.

Recreational marijuana before City Council

OCT. 6 UPDATE: The resolution was passed unanimously by the City Council during tonight's meeting.

Watch the discussion HERE


(Posted Oct. 3, 2014)


You'll find the agenda item and associated staff reports at

http://casagrandeaz.gov/council/agenda/


The resolution is HERE


Supporting references are HERE


A resolution put forward by Casa Grande Alliance opposing the use of recreational marijuana in Arizona will be considered by the City Council during Monday's meeting.

Although the resolution and staff report refer to "non-medical marijuana," the effort targets recreational use such as legalized recently in Colorado. It would not apply to medically-approved use.

It is part of an effort against a movement in Arizona to have a recreational use ballot item during the next statewide election.

"The Casa Grande Alliance is a community coalition whose vision is for a safe and drug free community and whose mission is to create partnerships and work together to reduce substance abuse and violence among youth and adults," the staff report for the agenda item says. 

"Although the efforts were unsuccessful in 2014, the alliance believes that advocates for the legalization of non-medical marijuana are targeting Arizona for a ballot initiative in 2016.

"Because of the potential for enhanced risks to teens if marijuana were more readily available, the alliance is opposed to any efforts to legalize the non-medical use of marijuana in Arizona. 

"In order to help send this message to organizers that may be trying to place this issue on the 2016 ballot, the alliance, along with other organizations throughout the state, have been asking various organizations, communities, cities and towns to pass resolutions opposing the legalization of non- medical marijuana."

The council meeting, open to the public, begins at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, 510 E. Florence Blvd.


2 council members take Ice Bucket Challenge

OCT. 6 UPDATE:


Only two City Council members took the challenge on Oct. 6, Ralph Varela and Matt Herman. Both in turn challenged the city management staff.


(Posted Sept. 16, 2014)


Whether you call it the Ice Water Challenge or the Ice Bucket Challenge, the City Council has decided not to be frozen out of the craze sweeping the country involving dumping a bucket of ice water on someone's head to promote awareness of the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and encourage donations to research.

Councilman Ralph Varela announced during Monday night's City Council meeting that the council's version of the challenge will be Oct. 6 at 5 p.m. in front of City Hall.

"Everyone's invited to come see us take that challenge and then we can gleefully pass on the challenge to others," he said.

Further details have not yet been released.

The national ALS Associated announced today that so far, $113.6 million in Ice Bucket Challenge donations have been received.

 

          http://www.alsa.org/fight-als/ice-bucket-challenge.html.


Economic impact of arts, leisure in Casa Grande
    A look at programs, what they bring



Efforts begin for regional transportation plan

(Posted Sept. 1, 2014)


You'll find the complete request HERE


The MPO website, including many documents and reports, is HERE


You’ll find a detailed explanation of MPOs, with references citations, at

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metropolitan_planning_organization



A request for proposals has been issued for assistance in putting together a long-range transportation plan for the Sun Corridor Metropolitan Planning Organization. 

The Sun Corridor what?

It's an area planning organization set up after Casa Grande's population passed 50,000. Federal law requires that when that happens a metropolitan planning organization be formed to provide transportation planning services.

When the MPO was set up in March 2013, Coolidge and Eloy joined Casa Grande for a regional operation. Maricopa city chose to stick with Maricopa County planning, saying the city has more in common with Maricopa County than with Casa Grande. The MPO also covers small urban and rural parts of the county, covering 1,115 square miles and a population of 119,332.

The transportation plan will look ahead through 2040 and must be updated at least every four years.

According to the request, the responses from interested planning companies must include how they would cover several areas of a final plan, including:

• Project management and coordination.

• Public involvement.

• Current socioeconomic conditions and future projections.

• Existing transportation conditions.

• A multimodal transportation assessment.

• Congestion reduction and safety improvement strategies.

• System preservation.

• Freight assessment.

• Infrastructure technology assessment.

• Economic development.

• Air quality conformity.

• Access management.

• Future travel demand and transportation modeling.

• Airport assessment.

The final proposals must also include at least four transportation advisory committee meetings, a public involvement plan, at least four public open house meetings and a plan for publicizing events.


Entitlement city designation would bring more
money for housing, other community projects

(Posted Aug. 21, 2014)


The presentation is HERE



If Casa Grande is accepted as an entitlement city for federal community development block grant funding, it will bring in more money for housing and other projects for low to moderate income areas.

It would also cut out a situation where some federal money is passed to the Central Arizona Association of Governments, which covers Pinal and Gila counties. Proposed projects are then voted on by members cities on who gets how much. Under that system, Casa Grande is often outvoted by the smaller cities.

Casa Grande for years came under a different federal rural community grants program, but that went away when the city's population went past 50,000.

"Once our population had reached 50,000, under the federal Housing and Urban Development Department rules in the CDBG program we are eligible to become an entitlement city," Planning and Development Director Paul Tice said during a briefing for the City Council.

"If we became an entitlement city, what it means is that our funding for CDBG would come directly from HUD, it would not be attached through CAG or Arizona Department of Housing. It would be just a straight path through from HUD, an amount of money that was based on a formula."

Tice gave a brief comparison.

"Today, all our grant funding is competitive," he said. "We go out there and compete with other communities and sometimes we're successful and sometimes we're not.

"On average, we've been averaging $113,350 in residential assistance grants over a time frame. Some years we get nothing, some years we get $200,000, sometimes we get $300,000 and then nothing for two years. We have SSP (State Special Projects) grant that's kind of consistent for us and it's $100,000. 

"If we become an entitlement community, we believe that based on the formula we would receive $360,000 per year. This an automatic, this is not competitive if we become a CDBG entitlement community.

"On the surface of it, it looks like a fairly easy decision."

The council agreed, telling Tice to go ahead with the application process.

As part of that process, Tice said, by May of next year the city would send HUD a five-year consolidated plan and analysis of impediments to fair housing. That would include other things Casa Grande believes it would want to do under the CDBG program. 

"The consolidated plan does describe the housing and community needs of low-income and moderate income residents and strategies and resources used to address those needs over a five-year period," Tice said.

"Essentially what this is, is that under this program we would be branching out from just doing housing to being eligible to do other CDBG-eligible funding activities.

"It could be constructing sidewalks in lower income neighborhoods, it could be renovating parks, it could be economic development training opportunities. It could be a wide range of activities beyond housing. We'd still have housing but we could have some other elements in our program, as well.

"So, really, this is an opportunity to start sort of morphing our Housing Division into really a community development division."

Tice said the Planning and Development Department is studying whether it can handle putting together the five-year plan or if an outside consultant will be needed.

The process for the application, Tice said, includes research and community input. developing objectives and priorities, a public hearing, public review and comment, bringing it back to the City Council for approval and then sending it to HUD for review and approval.


Council questions

Councilman Ralph Varela asked if the public outreach would make use of social media to reach a wider audience.

"We certainly can," Tice replied. "We really haven't developed our public outreach program yet, but when we do so we will look at all the social media options and all the various options that we might have available to us to really solicit over a wide range."

When told that administration costs would come out of any grant, Councilman Matt Herman said, "Just might be careful that we don't have to use all of it for admin, so we can put it back into our programs."

There would be a 20 percent limit for administrative costs, Tice said, or $72,000 for a $360,000  entitlement grant. "If we don't use all of the $72,000, then that does come back, we use it for programs," he said.

Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons said, "It seems as though it makes sense to do this, but is there anything we need to look for or is it for five years?"

The five-year plan would be updated pretty much every year with an annual work program, Tice replied.

"The five-year plan just lays out, shows the low and moderate income needs in the community that we think we're going to try to address," he said, "and every year we would develop a very specific plan to address those."

Is the money guaranteed?

"The entitlement is guaranteed, it's an entitlement," Tice said. "Now, the federal government, of course, can cut HUD's funding and make drastic changes to this, but it's entitlement.

"HUD might not accept our plan and say, oh, no, this doesn't affect the low to moderate enough, go back and revise your plan to have more benefits to the low to moderate. But eventually we would have a plan that HUD would find acceptable and do any activities that we would be funding."

As Councilman Dick Powell sees it, "I just think we'd be very foolish not to jump on that, do our own planning, more money available, being able to devise some plans to fit our community."

Mayor Bob Jackson agreed. 

"Right now, some of our CDBG money through CAG," he said. "I like the fact that we're no longer relying on 14 cities to help us figure it out.

"I think, Paul, there's your direction."


More information


The CDBG program

http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/comm_planning/communitydevelopment/programs


Community development

http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/comm_planning/communitydevelopment/CDBG_Turns_40


Guide to entitlement communities

http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/comm_planning/communitydevelopment/library/deskguid


Entitlement community information

http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/comm_planning/communitydevelopment/programs/entitlement


Prescription medicine drop-off box back at old PD

(Posted Aug. 9, 2014)


The drop-off box for unused/expired prescription medicines (and other items such as old vitamin tablets) that was temporarily at the Fire Department in downtown Casa Grande is back in the lobby of the old Casa Grande Police Department building at 520 N. Marshall St.


To see the locations of all 20 Rx drop boxes in Pinal County, go to  http://www.casagrandealliance.org/rx-abuse/resources.html.


Laura Villegas is handed the symbolic key to her new home by Housing Program Rehab Specialist Larry Waite as Mayor Bob Jackson watches from the background, At left is Rose Roy, the city's housing program specialist.

She's blind, but knows that her
new city-built home is beautiful

(Posted July 18, 2014)


Laura Villegas is blind, but knows that her new city-built home is beautiful -- friends,  relatives and Mayor Bob Jackson have told her so.

Friday morning, city Housing Program Rehab Specialist Larry Waite handed her the symbolic key to the new home on Second Street just east of Trekell Road and Jackson presented her with a certificate of occupancy.

The home is part of housing assistance programs available through the city, using grant and other funding.

In this case, Villegas applied several years ago, Housing Program Specialist Rose Roy said, wanting to replace her decrepit trailer house.

Through the long process, Roy said, it was determined that the trailer was so far gone that it would cost more to fix all of the problems than it would to just replace it with a regular home.

"So here we are in her brand new home," Rose continued. "Funding that was used was from the Arizona Department of Housing. It was community block grants and state housing funds. 

She was able to obtain this and have the home that she has now."

Construction on the new home was begun in March and completed at the end of June, during which Villegas stayed at Legacy Suites. Previously, the city used grant funding to pay for an apartment for persons whose homes were being rehabbed or a new one constructed, but it was found that it cost less to have them stay at Legacy Suites.

"I would like to thank the staff and the manager from Legacy for making it comfortable for our families to stay there," Roy said. "We've had several families stay there."

The city program has been in effect since the late 1970s, Roy said, and the Villegas home is the 588th one that the city has handled from emergency repairs to full replacement.

"We're always happy and we'd like to thank the mayor and council for always doing the resolutions and accepting the request for us to apply for the funds," Roy said. "We thank you."

The Villegas home was built by REA Construction of Casa Grande.

Robert Achten, the owner, told those attending the ceremony that, "On these rehabs, the programs are pretty good programs for the people.

"We come in, we do the structure and we rip out all the concrete and everything else. We started from the bottom up, so everything here is new, this wasn't just a rehab. With some of the houses, we'll take off all the trusses and just leave the walls. This was completely built."

Mayor Jackson said, "I'm sure that many of you have heard this story before, but this is one of my favorite programs, because I think it really helps revitalize neighborhoods. Mrs. Villegas has a brand new home now. It's just a community effort.

"Congratulations to Rose and her staff for kind of keeping the program going. As she says, it's been going on now since the late '70s.

"And certainly with the federal cutbacks we've seen, every year is a new year for us. They've been very successful in chasing grant funding for us. It's a great program for the city."

Jackson handed Villegas the formal certificate of occupancy, saying, "Now you're official; you can go live in your house."

Waite handed Villegas the symbolic key to the home, saying, "Mrs. Villegas, this is a very long time getting here. As you know, we had a lot of problems. But we're here and I'd like to give you this key so you can have your new home now. It's all yours."

Villegas spoke briefly in Spanish.

Roy said the translation is, "She wants to thank us for the home that she's received and she's very happy."


Want to find more information about city house programs and assistance?

Go to

http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/planning/housing-division/

Getting health coverage when you turn 26

(Posted July 12, 2014)


Are you turning 26 this year? Turning 26 means you have new health coverage options. Even though open enrollment is over, you may still have options to get health coverage for 2014 through a special enrollment period. Certain life events, like aging off your parents health insurance plan, make you eligible to enroll in the Health Insurance Marketplace. 



Find out if you qualify:

https://www.healthcare.gov/screener/


Typical life changing events:

https://www.healthcare.gov/how-do-i-report-life-changes-to-the-marketplace/


Top and Bottom Street vote story in error

(Posted June 23, 2014)


A story in the Casa Grande Dispatch on Sunday saying that the Historic Preservation Commission would vote Monday night on recommending to the City Council that the name Washington Street be changed to its original Top and Bottom Street was in error.

That vote actually was taken a month ago during the May 27 commission meeting.

Washington Street was on this Monday's agenda, but only for additional comments, if any, and for the commission to be told that the May 27 recommendation for the name change has gone to the City Council and is tentatively scheduled to be heard during its Aug. 4 meeting.


Scroll down on this page for story about the Top and Bottom Street vote on May 27.


HPC won't immediately commit funds for pedestal,
plaque in railroad history plaza south of the tracks

(Posted June 23, 2014)



Scroll deep down on SPECIAL page for story package about the Life on Main and railroad history plaza proposals.



It started out at the May 27 meeting of the Historical Preservation Commission with an idea from Chairman Marge Jantz that a pedestal and historic plaque be placed in the proposed railroad history plaza, proposed on Washington Street south of Main Avenue as part of the project Life on Main redevelopment project.

Jantz said that $1,700 left over from the fundraising for a pedestal and plaque of the original townsite that was placed at Third and Florence streets. That could be used for the rail plaza, she said.

That brought questions from commission member Bill Bridwell, attending his first meeting since his appointment.

The thrust of his concerns, he said, is that Life on Main could be several years away and that the history plaza itself could also be a long time away, perhaps costing $2 million or more.

Given that, he said, along with designers of the plaza saying they would raise the money privately through donations, the commission should not commit funds now only to have them perhaps tied of for years waiting for a project that might not even happen.

The city has yet to commit any funds for actual construction.

"When there ain't no money, there ain't no money," Bridwell said. "And the idea that it's ever going to be funded privately is silly, that ain't never gonna happen. It would have to be part of a parks and rec bond to ever move this project forward. My opinion."

Bridwell said that at a community meeting during which designers were outlining their proposals, he proposed that since it would be a railroad themed park there should be a miniature railroad. 

He said the designers indicated that there might be a space problem if a private project were to be built to the east of the proposed plaza. He said they also told him that a miniature railroad "had been originally part of Life on Main and had been rejected by someone along the way, City Hall or someone."

Later, he said, "They told me they now are going to include that in their plan and then asked if I was willing to fund it. Their whole project is based on private funding at this time."

Jantz said she had told the designers that "we have funds and we could actually have the commission put a plaque and pedestal. I'm not telling them what to put on the plaque, but I've given them some information and kind of like to leave that open to their artistic minds as to what they might use. They were extremely interested in that."

The mold for the pedestal is still available, Jantz said, adding that the commission would probably be looking at no more than $1,200 for pouring a new pedestal and adding a plaque.

"It would be a nice partnership between the commission and the Arts and Humanities Commission," Jantz said. "We could lay that out there as a possibility. It may not happen for a very long time but sometimes when we get an idea out there then the money does come."

The question was asked, could the leftover money from the original project be diverted to some other use.

"Well, I guess I personally feel that we raised that money for a plaque and pedestal," Jantz responded. "I just feel that we shouldn't be using it for something else, but another plaque and pedestal in the history park that has something to do with railroads."

Bridwell asked if there are other locations in the old downtown area where another historical plaque and pedestal might be placed.

"Not that I'm aware of," Jantz said. "At the end, when we were doing this original one, I talked to Public Works Department and showed them an idea that we had to put another one downtown and they just didn't buy it. So, it sounds like it's going to maybe be in the new project."

Bridwell said that at his lowest personal estimate the railroad plaza idea would cost $ 2 million.

"The raising of $2 million from private contributions to put a park in south of the railroad tracks, I don't know where that money comes from or how you even approach getting that kind of money unless you get grants or historic preservation monies, something other than through part of a bond election that's comprehensive for parks. Which we're eight years since the last approval and we haven't even bladed the dirt yet (for a community/senior center).

"Rather than to tie those funds up indefinitely, I would prefer we spend it on something else. It seems like if we have the money don't commit it to some project that's going to be downstream and an indefinite period of time, we don't tie up good money today. How do you retrieve it seven years from now when it still hasn't been built?

"To tie up money indefinitely just doesn't make good fiscal sense. Find another place to put it. Honor what the money was raised for, but let's find another location where it makes immediate use."

Jantz said she would notify the artists that the commission is rescinding its suggestion that the commission fund the project.

"Until such time as there is a firmer timeline that we can consider," Bridwell interjected. "Don't say we're not going to do it, but say we need a timeline."

At Bridwell's suggestion, the matter was tabled until this Monday night's meeting.

Bridwell was absent, but the end decision that night from the commission was to tell the designers that they were welcome to use the mold for the pedestal and welcome to the funding, if the commission still has it at the time of their request.

"I did have a call late this afternoon from one of the designers that apologized," Jantz said Monday night. "They have turned in a draft to the Arts and Humanities Commission or to the city clerk with their proposal and he called and profusely apologized for not including the plaque and pedestal. So he's planning on putting that in there."

Jantz said she believes the timeline for the designers is to bring their proposals before the Arts and Humanities Commission in July and before the City Council in August.

"But then before they can really get started, they need to do fundraising. And that's where the concern was by the commissioner that's not here this evening.

"(They told me) they are planning on aggressively being involved in the fundraising effort. But no one knows when that's going to be."

The vote to offer the money if still available at the time was unanimous, with Bridwell and members Ken Hodson and Warren Goff absent.


Cook E Jar will operate small cafe at library

(Posted June 16, 2014)


The owners of the Cook E Jar bakery and cafe at Second and Florence streets in old downtown will expand to the main library to operate a small cafe/concession area in the newly renovated structure, the City Council decided Monday night.

Community Services Director Bill Schwind said that several local businesses were notified about the cafe plan and in the end the Cook E Jar owners, Mary Ann and David Yandell, met all of the requirements that were established by the city.

"The Cook E Jar has agreed to operate the cafe during regular main library hours, although the contract does allow some flexibility as approved by the library manager," Schwind said.

The staff report says the hours of operation will be 1-5 p.m. on Sunday, 9a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Friday. The cafe will be closed on Saturday.

"The Cook E Jar will establish a menu that focuses on foods that require only warming, cooling or finishing on site, (i.e., salads, sandwiches, pastries, coffee and juices) as opposed to foods that need to be fully cooked or grilled," the staff report says. "The final menu will be approved prior to the opening of the café."

Schwind did not give a tentative opening date.

The coffee shop/café space is 140 square feet with additional storage space of 70 square feet. Seating will be available in the hallway adjacent to the café and on the 720 square foot outdoor patio.

According to the staff report, the Cook E Jar will pay the city 15 percent of net profit during the first year. The contract could be extended for another year, with the percentage payment to be negotiated at that time.

The Cook E Jar will be responsible for adequate staffing, the cleanup of the adjacent seating areas and the hallway, as well as the patio area.

"Attendance at the library draws about 15,000 people a month and so we think that there's a serious opportunity there for a great partnership opportunity with the cafe experience," Schwind said.


Med center leadership changes announced

(Posted June 9, 2014)


Banner Health issued this press release today:


Banner Health has named several new leaders at Banner Casa Grande Medical Center, which the organization officially acquired today (June 9). The acute-care hospital previously was named Casa Grande Regional Medical Center. 

“These changes will support a smooth integration for Banner Casa Grande into the larger Banner Health system,” said Becky Kuhn, Banner Health president Arizona East Region. “The changes, which are effective today, also highlight Banner’s commitment to identifying and leveraging strong leaders for key business needs throughout the organization.” 

“I welcome the three individuals who are joining our Senior Leadership team. They have a strong history of leadership within Banner Health and are well suited to assisting us as we fully integrate into the larger system in the coming months,” stated Rona Curphy, Banner Casa Grande CEO. 

Michael O’Connor, MD, has assumed the interim position as chief medical officer, or CMO, at Banner Casa Grande. Dr. O’Connor recently worked on special assignment to Casa Grande. He brings a wealth of experience to his new role, including his tenure as chief medical officer for both Banner Ironwood Medical Center and Banner Goldfield Medical Center. Dr. O’Connor has an extensive understanding of bylaws, medical staff structure and Banner processes, as well as an ability to create a culture that supports provider/staff collaboration and high clinical performance expectations. To provide necessary leadership, Darren West, MD, will serve as interim CMO at Banner Ironwood, and Devin Minior, MD, will serve as interim CMO at Banner Goldfield. 

Bob Bender has been named the chief financial officer, or CFO, at Banner Casa Grande. Over the past few years, Bender has held progressive leadership positions within the finance department. This includes growth opportunities such as interim CFO for Banner Pharmacy Services and, most recently, as interim CFO for Banner Boswell Medical Center. 

Karen Francis has been named CFO for Banner Boswell, replacing Bender. She previously served as CFO at Casa Grande Regional Medical Center. Francis is an experienced finance leader with a proven track record in financial planning and analysis, budgeting, revenue generation and expense management. Her leadership style and ability to effectively communicate between financial and clinical operations make her a great fit for Banner Boswell. 

Kelley Kieffer has assumed the chief nursing officer (CNO) role at Banner Casa Grande. She has a long and successful career history with Banner, having served in a variety of progressive leadership positions at both Banner Gateway Medical Center and Banner Desert Medical Center.  Most recently, she served as director of Perioperative Services at Banner Gateway. Jerri Foster, currently director of Clinical Care Operations and the Third Floor Observation Unit at Banner Gateway, will serve as the interim director of Perioperative Services for the campus during the search for Kieffer’s permanent replacement. 

The senior leadership team at Banner Casa Grande will also include current employees Rona Curphy as CEO, Tony Moncayo who has been named Associate Administrator and Carol D’souza who has been appointed Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO). 


50,111 people in CG, Census Bureau estimates

(Posted 30 May, 2014)


Census Bureau links:

American Factfinder

http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml

For population of a city, scroll down on page and click on Population Estimates Program. When that page appears, click on category you wish, then type in city in search block, such as Casa Grande.


Casa Grande's estimated population as of July 2, 2013, was 50,111, the U.S. Census Bureau says in a May 22 update.

Population reports on areas down to cities and unincorporated areas generally lag several months behind the Census Bureau's reports on state and national populations.

The chart shows these Casa Grande population estimates as of July 31 each year:

2010: 49,732.

2011: 49,521.

2012: 49,806.


Top and Bottom Street?
Change from Washington is now up to the City Council

(Posted May 28, 2014)


Some background, well written, by Casa Grande Dispatch reporter Christina Sampson on the name Top and Bottom, including various opinions on how it came to be called that, may be found HERE.


A larger version of the original 1890 townsite plat is HERE.


Scroll deep down in SPECIAL, above, for a series of articles about the Life on Main redevelopment proposals for south of the railroad tracks, including a railroad history plaza on Washington/Top and Bottom Street.



Washington Street?

Top and Bottom Street?

or

Topandbottom Street?

On a 4-2 vote with one abstention Tuesday night, the Historic Preservation Commission sent a recommendation to the City Council that Washington Street be changed to Top and Bottom Street, its historic name.

Actually, on the original 1890 townsite map it was TOPANDBOTTOM ST.

On the other hand, that map shows Sacaton Street as SACCATON (the N is also backward) and Picacho Street as PICACHIO. 

The man who put the map together apparently had either poor spelling skills or "a rather creative way of spelling," commission Chairman Marge Jantz said during the discussions. 

Adding into the mix is that what is now Marshall Street is QUAHJOATA ST. on the original map.

Those inconsistencies with present names and spellings led new commission member Bill Bridwell, attending his first meeting, to question why just Washington Street was chosen for change.

Bridwell said that as a new member who is not familiar with previous discussions he would abstain from voting, "but I will tell you that as a board member I would have preferred a more comprehensive approach if you're going to rename and realign streets to match the old original townsite, that we should have addressed it all. That would be my desire as opposed to selecting just the one street."

Bridwell said that, in his opinion, the envisioned railroad history plaza is years away, meaning there is time for a more complete renaming proposal.

"I like the idea of recreating the original names," he said, "but I would prefer that they all be adopted. I'm a business owner on Quahjoata Street. I would prefer that name to Marshall."

Jantz said there really hadn't been discussions about a more comprehensive proposal.

"A little over a year ago," she said, "there was a movement afoot to change Florence Street to something else and that kind of fell along the wayside and we were asked to wait one way or the other before we moved forward.

"There are an insane amount of businesses on Marshall Street, and so we really picked Top and Bottom because it's extremely low impact. It is part of our history, it's kind of catchy.

"The Life on Main is going to create the history plaza and it can either be the Casa Grande history plaza or possibly a Top and Bottom Plaza, because it is on the existing Washington Street and they are going to abandon Washington Street from Main Avenue to First Avenue for the project.

"On the original townsite map it is Top and Bottom and in 1915 the City Council, with a lot of ladies in attendance, decided to change the name from Top and Bottom to Washington Street."

As part of the proposal, the city sent letters to all property owners on Washington Street, drawing only one objection, City Planner Laura Blakeman told the commission.

Commission member Ken Hodson asked, "What side is the city talking on this? Are they just going to go along with how we vote?"

Blakeman responded that, "Basically, the city, we're staying neutral. If it happens (recommendation to change) tonight, then it will go before City Council."

Bridwell abstained from the final vote. Hodson and member Warren Goff voted against.

Goff did not give a reason for his nay vote.

Hodson said, "The Washington Street name has been there for 99 years and I don't think that that's up to me to make that change. And from what I'm hearing, there's many properties (along the street) that are owned by the city, why doesn't the city just go ahead and do that. The residents down there apparently aren't interested in it, by the sounds of it. I don't think this would be part of any tour that people go down and look and see the name of the street. I'm going to vote no."


FOOTNOTE:

Under city sign standards, Top and Bottom Street is too long to fit.

Topandbottom is questionable.

"I think it's one letter too many, one character too many, according to our policy," Blakeman said. "I think if you make your case about the history, that's one justifiable reason to have that extra character."


At age 94, a new home

           Before and after

Oliver Randall, with his 20-month-old great-great-granddaughter Brianna Mariland, watches the ceremony Thursday in which keys to a rehabbed home were presented to him.



(Posted May 15, 2014)


Ninety-four-year-old Oliver Randall was handed the keys a new house on Thursday, part of Casa Grande's owner-occupied housing rehabilitation project.

Rehab was certainly needed.

Housing Manager Leila Demaree pointed out during the ceremony attended by Randall, his daughters and other relatives and friends that the previous house at 312 N.

 Cameron Ave., built in1952, was a mess.

In particular:

• The walls were cracked, swelled and peeling off. 

• The roof was leaking badly when it rained.

• The ceiling was caving in. 

• One of the windows was broken.

•  None of the windows were energy-efficient. 

• The plumbing and electrical systems had issues. 

• The water heater needed repair. 

• The heating and cooling systems were not working properly. 

• The old sewer system needed to be replaced.

• The bathroom needed to be made ADA compliant for Randall, who is confined to a wheelchair.

"In order to bring this house up to code and be safe to live in, we determined that this was eligible for a replacement," Demaree said. We totally replaced the entire unit."

It was a long process from application for help to handing over the keys to Randall.

"The Housing Division has been working with the Randall family since March of 2010, over four years now," Demaree said.

"And just like every application, the housing staff makes sure that all the requirements of the program are met. Housing staff works with the family to make sure all the i's are dotted and all the t's are crossed before we go forward with the project. This program not only requires that the family is qualified, but it also requires that the property is eligible for the rehabilitation.

"I'd like to thank the Randall family for their patience and their determination in getting the project moving forward, meeting requirements, providing the proper documents that needed to be fulfilled."

Demaree pointed out that the city receives funding from community development grants, the Arizona Department of Housing and others such as the Community Action Human Resources Agency. In this case, she said, Mary Allen of CAHRA helped obtain the funds.

Work on the new home was done by Tactical Restoration.

"I just want to thank the city of Casa Grande for the opportunity to work on this project, Dallas Skinner of Tactical said.

"When we heard about it, we were very excited, we felt like it was a good opportunity for us. We have a small presence in Casa Grande and we want to continue to build upon that. The Building Department of Casa Grande has been a dream to work with. 

"Again, we're very grateful for this opportunity, but more importantly we're happy for the Randall family and this opportunity and we hope you're happy with the project."

Before giving Randall a framed certificate of occupancy, Mayor Bob Jackson said such events are one of the more enjoyable parts of his job.

"With the old house, I'd driven by it a thousand times and what a great improvement," he said.

"I hope, Mr. Randall, you're happy with the new home. You have your lovely daughters here to help celebrate today. You're lucky to have a nice family that's here to be supportive for you.

"I cannot say enough about the program. As Leila said, if you're interested in rehabbing your home, contact the city. We have limited resources, but again a great program and I can't say enough about the people that work here."

With that, Jackson handed Randall the certificate of occupancy, saying, "You're now official, and enjoy your house."

 Housing Manager Leila Demaree, above,  explains some of the city's housing  help programs. At right, the certificate of occupancy from Mayor Bob Jackson. 

For information about the city's housing assistance programs and requirements, call 421-8670, visit City Hall at 510 E. Florence Blvd., or go to http://casagrandeaz.gov/dept/planning/housing-division/



Railroad Art Plaza concept proposal approved







The staff report is HERE


The concept plan is HERE




It's Denim Day
A stand against rape and abuse

 A delegation from Zonta Club of Casa Grande Valley and Against Abuse gathered at City Hall  to receive a proclamation from Mayor Bob Jackson designating Wednesday, April 23, as  Denim Day in Casa Grande.

(Posted April 22, 2014)


Wednesday is Denim Day in Casa Grande, a way to take a stand against rape and sexual violence.

A delegation from the Zonta Club of Casa Grande Valley and Against Abuse gathered at City Hall on Tuesday to receive a proclamation from Mayor Bob Jackson.

Noting that April is both Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month, the proclamation says that Casa Grande steps forward to take a stand against rape and that "there are sexual assault prevention and education efforts underway throughout Casa Grande and the nation to challenge the societal myths and behaviors that perpetuate rape and to engage communities in a common goal of ending sexual assault."

In a letter to the Casa Grande Dispatch, Zonta member Sue Wortman said Denim Day came about because of an incident in the 1990s in Italy where an 18-year-old woman was raped and her rapist was arrested and found guilty in court. 

"However," Wortman wrote, "after the perpetrator appealed the conviction, the Italian supreme court threw out the conviction, saying that since the victim wore denim pants, she must have helped her attacker get her pants off. 

"The women in the Italian parliament protested that decision by wearing denim pants to work. That action spread to the U.S. and for the last 15 years, women in the U.S. have worn denim pants on one day in April to make a social statement. It’s a visible way to call attention to sexual assault."

The proclamation says, "Every year since, community members, elected officials, businesses and students have organized to make a social statement with their fashion statement and wear jeans as a visible means of protest against myths that surround sexual assault" and "there is no excuse and never an invitation to rape."

Wortman's letter also said:

• One in five women in the U.S., according to surveys, say they have been raped.

• Half of the victims were raped before the age of 18.

• Over a fourth of the male victims were raped before the age of 10.

• Only three out of every 100 rapists spend time in prison.

Casa Grande Alliance urges City Council to oppose
effort to legalize recreational marijuana in Arizona

(Posted April 7, 2014)


The proposed resolution is HERE


Although a resolution opposing the legalization of recreational marijuana is Arizona was not on the City Council's agenda Monday night, Casa Grande Alliance brought 34 people to the meeting in support of it.

"I'm here both as a citizen and as the executive director of the Casa Grande Alliance," Cindy Schaider told the council.

"I'm here with many members of the public (about half of them young people from high schools, filling the back rows of the chamber). "We know that the resolution to oppose the legalization of (recreational) marijuana is not on your agenda today, but will be coming to your agenda soon. We all wanted you to see that there's a lot of community support for not supporting the legalization of marijuana.

"It is not on the (state) ballot this year, but we know it's coming and feel that it's important for our city to take a stand against the legalization of this drug long before it hits the public ballot.

"This is a very controversial issue, there's been a lot in the paper about this recently. There's a lot of misinformation out there in the universe.

"We look forward to being a resource to you as you study this issue before the resolution comes before you for a vote."

Mayor Bob Jackson said that because it was not on the agenda, the council could not discuss Schaider's presentation.

"I do know that we're planning to try to do a study session with the council at one of the subsequent meetings," he said, "so we'll certainly let you know when that is."

Schaider responded, "Thank you, sir, and you can all look forward to a packet of information so you can study up."


(Earlier story, with background) is below:

Antimarijuana resolution not on council agenda,
CG Alliance urges members to attend in support

(Posted April 4, 2014)


The proposed resolution is HERE


Although a  resolution opposing making the recreational use of marijuana legal will not be on the City Council agenda for Monday, Casa Grande Alliance has urged members and other interested persons or groups to attend the session and speak against legalization.

Last month, CGA Executive Director Cindy Schaider had sent out an email saying the resolution would be on the agenda. On Thursday, she sent another one saying it would not.

"I have just been informed that the Resolution to Oppose the Legalization of Marijuana has been pulled from the Casa Grande City Council agenda for Monday, April 7," she wrote.  

"It was pulled by a council member – I don’t know who, or why."

Not exactly.

"It was not pulled by a council member," Deputy City Manager Larry Rains wrote in response to an email from CG News asking for clarification.

Rains said he asked City Clerk Remy Miller to pull the item "because staff needed to gather some additional information. I personally did not have all of the background and was unaware of who was asking for it to be considered by council."

The proposed resolution is a nonlocal, generic one urged by legalization opponents. It has a "fill in the blank" area to add the organization approving the resolution, in this case the City Council.

Even though the resolution has been delayed, Schaider said in her email, "it is still very important for all of us to attend the meeting at 7 p.m. 

"It is my intention to speak during the call to the public (approximately 15 minutes into the meeting), saying 'The group of people you see here came in support of the Resolution to Oppose the Legalization of Marijuana. We know that it was pulled from the agenda, and discussion and movement on the item has been postponed. We came tonight to show you how many community members support this resolution.'" 

Schaider added that, "If a few others want to also speak, and make a compelling argument, that would be fine. It would be especially moving if a youth spoke. The council will be unable to address us on the topic, since it is NOT on the agenda, but it is well worth it to show our support.  This will indeed spark dialogue among council members perhaps in a study session."

In last month's email saying the resolution would be on the agenda, Schaider said, "You do not have to speak; just show up. Your presence will make a clear statement to the council that our community does not support the legalization of marijuana. Your presence is important! You do not have to be a resident to come to this meeting."

She said that talking points could be:

• Legalization for adults will increase access to marijuana by children.

• Marijuana use is particularly harmful for teens and their growing brains.

• Marijuana is an addictive substance that has lasting and detrimental effects on the brain.

• Legalizing marijuana will eliminate an important barrier for kids deciding whether to try marijuana for the first time. Based on research, if legalized, an additional 32,000 kids will try marijuana.

• Councils taking a stand now will be better situated to rebuff future efforts to legalize the drug.

• This is NOT about medical marijuana.  It is about legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. 

Schaider said persons with question may call her at 836-5022.


Many people who need help the most are not aware 
that free pediatric and health clinics are offered in CG



10-Minute Play contest finalists announced
        -- list is HERE


Plein Air painting contest winners announced
           -- list is HERE

Med Center, Banner sign assets agreement
      -- Joint press release HERE

         -- Phoenix Business Journal story HERE


CG poet honored upon her passing

(Posted Jan. 29, 2014)


Julie Scott, a Casa Grande poet who died Jan. 23, has been honored by The Avocet, a journal of nature poetry. Scott wrote under the name of Scotty.

Local artist and poet Gloria Smith Zanone told CG News that, "Scotty used to sit with me at Art in the Alley and read her poetry.

"This comes from one of the publications she published in and was also forwarded to me by the state group out of Tempe, East Valley Poets. At one time I was president of that chapter as well as VP of the state board for State Poetry Society."


The Avocet has a print edition and an email update section. Below is from the latest update:


In honor of the passing of a fine poet of The Avocet community, Scotty (Julie Scott):


The Dance of Life

"For your 'challenge' poems about the wonders of the universe, which is a favorite topic with me," Scott wrote at the time, "I’d like to submit the following associations dancing around with the stars:"


There is a transient daily life

consisting of

myriads of droplets

of interplaying forms and spheres

rolling about

in seemingly erratic courses

like minute atoms

dancing hither and yon

in rehearsal for Something

waiting to be perfected

somehow

by a grand Master within each.

Whatever the purpose

a droplet pursues,

it becomes more enamored

and tickled to flow

in courses unknown

together, conjoined

as molecular clumps

sharing common lessons

of giving and sharing

without knowing why

or how to know—

just happy, contented

to be as it is

able to dance.


Scotty

Casa Grande, AZ


The magazine added: 

Scotty also graces page 8 of our Winter printed issue of The Avocet. Julie wrote under the name Scotty to honor her husband. It is a blessing to know that they are together again. In the short time I grew to know Julie, I knew of her great love of her husband."


The Avocet website is http://www.avocetreview.com/




Banner Health buying CG med center


The announcement press release is HERE


Scroll down on this page for earlier story about rejection of hospital fundraising plan (Headline: Rejection of funding plan by feds has med center exploring its future). It includes previous stories about hospital financial presentations to Casa Grande City Council.


Census Bureau updates CG quick facts, 
listing population, ethnicity, other data

(Posted Dec. 22, 2013)


To view Casa Grande quick facts, go to

http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/04/0410530.html


You can see additional Casa Grande statistics by clicking on 

Browse data sets for Casa Grande (city) at the top right of the chart


For Pinal County or other area cities quick facts go to

http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/04000.html



The federal Census Bureau has updated its quick facts about Casa Grande, along with other area cities, Pinal County and the state of Arizona.

You'll find that the 2012 Casa Grande population estimate is 49,974, up from 48,583 in the April 2010 estimate.

The new statistics, however, still show 2010 estimates having 7.9 percent of us at under five years old, 29.9 percent under 18 years and 15.8 at 65 or older.

Woman hold a slight statistical edge, showing 51.5 percent of the population. The Arizona statistic is 50.3.

The chart also shows 2010 estimates of racial characteristics.

Between 2008-12, 77.6 percent of us had lived in the same house, with 70.2 percent being homeowners. There were 22,400 housing units, 15.5 percent of which are multifamily structures such as apartments or condos. The statistics show 16,979 households, with an average of 2.79 people per home.

Statistics show 5,531 of us are veterans, 85.5 percent are at least high school graduates and 18.9 percent have at least a bachelor's degree.

Between 2008-12, 17.5 percent of us were below the poverty level, close to the 17.2 prevent for Arizona as a whole.


Med Center's statement about 
death of chief of surgery in fire

Radiation oncologist Dr. Ajay Bhatnagar, surgeon Ramon Mourelo and surgeon Joyce Bonenberger conducting the first intra-operative radiation therapy procedure in Arizona at Casa Grande Regional Medical Center on Sept. 30, 2011. Photo by Kaitee Doll.

(Posted Dec. 14, 2013)


Casa Grande Regional Medical Center issued this statement today about the death of Dr. Joyce Bonenberger, left, and family in a house fire early Friday:


Casa Grande Regional Medical Center chief of surgery Joyce Bonenberger, MD, is one of the three suspected victims of a house fire that occurred yesterday morning, Dec. 13, 2013, along with her husband Dennis and son Trevor.

Dr. Bonenberger has been a member of the CGRMC medical staff since July of 1999. She was board certified by the American Board of Surgery and by the American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery.  Her private practice was Casa Grande Surgical Associates. Dr. Bonenberger was the current chief of surgery at CGRMC and has been since 2004.

Rona Curphy, CEO and president of CGRMC, commented on Dr. Bonenberger’s role in the hospital and community. She states, “Dr. Bonenberger was a beloved member of the CGRMC medical staff. She was a surgeon who made a real difference in the lives of many patients and staff members in our community. She will be remembered for her sense of humor, willingness to train medical students, and her interest in improving the lives of her patients through surgical interventions. Her contributions to CGRMC are invaluable.”

In 2011, Dr. Bonenberger was one of the physicians who helped pioneer a breakthrough treatment for early stage breast cancer. 

This was done through the surgical removal of a breast tumor, immediately followed by a therapeutic dose of radiation by radiation oncologist Ajay Bhatnagar, MD, while the patient was still in the operating room. At the time, CGRMC in conjunction with Cancer Treatment Services of Arizona, was one of 10 centers piloting this treatment and the only location in Arizona to do so. 

Following this initial procedure called intra-operative radiation therapy (IORT) in 2011, Dr. Bonenberger stated, “Typically, for women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer, treatment can take as little as one week or as long as seven weeks to complete. This new treatment may especially benefit patients who do not live in close proximity to a cancer treatment facility since it is completed in one day.”

CGRMC Chief of Staff Rajeesh Punnakkattu, MD, (“Dr. Raj”), stated, “The medical staff at CGRMC will greatly miss working alongside Dr. Bonenberger as a colleague and friend.”

CGRMC extends its condolences to Dr. Bonenberger’s family, colleagues, patients and many friends. 



(Feb. 13 Arizona Republic update HERE)


(Feb. 12 Arizona Republic update HERE)


(Earlier Casa Grande Dispatch story is HERE)


(Earlier Arizona Republic newspaper story, video HERE)

MEMORIAL SCHEDULED

Cindy Schaider posted on Facebook on Dec. 18 that a memorial services for the Bonenberger-Brough family will be at 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 18, at First Presbyterian Church of Casa Grande, 702 E. Cottonwood Lane.        CHURCH ANNOUNCEMENT HERE

Casa Grande honored in five divisions
of campaign targeting childhood obesity

(Posted Nov. 24, 2013)


The city issued this announcement:



The city of Casa Grande has been recognized for the second year by the National League of Cities for the completion of key health and wellness goals for Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties.

It is a major component of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative, dedicated to solving the childhood obesity epidemic within a generation.

Five medals were awarded to Casa Grande this year for action taken to improve access to healthy, affordable food and increase opportunities for physical activity:

• Bronze and silver medals in Goal I: Start Early, Start Smart – for having an active inter-agency collaboration on early care and education programs.

• Bronze, silver and gold medals in Goal II: My Plate, Your Place – for posting the My Plate poster in all city facilities that serve food. Additionally, city staff hands out the My Plate resource coloring book at various outreach events and give it to participants in the city-sponsored after school and summer programs.

• Bronze medal in Goal III: Smart Servings for Students – for having at least 60 percent of public schools participate in the School Breakfast Program. The city’s Community Services Department is working with the Casa Grande Elementary School District to meet this goal.

• Bronze, silver and gold medals in Goal IV: Model Food Service – for having at least 80 percent of municipally owned or operated venues that serve food implement a policy for healthy and sustainable food service guidelines that aligned with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

• Bronze, silver and gold medals in Goal V: Active Kids at Play – for mapping all play spaces in Casa Grande, completing a needs assessment of the play spaces, developing an action plan, and launching at least three programs from the action plan that will increase access to physical activity.

Councilwoman Mary Kortsen received the medals on Nov.14 during the National League of Cities conference in Seattle, Wash.

Casa Grande Mayor Bob Jackson said, “It’s great to see the progress we’ve made to offer alternatives to reduce childhood obesity in our community. We’re honored to receive these medals, but most importantly, hope that the community will join us by implementing healthy lifestyle choices for their families.”

Since the introduction of the Let’s Move! program to Casa Grande last year, the city’s Community Services Department has completed more than 18 miles of hiking trails, received recognition as a Playful City USA for the fifth year, developed partnerships with Casa Grande Elementary School District and local early child care providers, and improved the walkability along some city streets.

The city was also invited to participate in a wellness coalition with local healthcare organizations and the Greater Casa Grande Chamber of Commerce to identify more ways to help reduce obesity in our community.

To learn more about Casa Grande’s accomplishments for the Let’s Move! initiative, visit the NLC website here


Rejection of funding plan by feds
has med center exploring its future

(Posted Oct. 10, 2013)


The press release is here


The original fact sheet is here


Scroll down past this story for earlier stories about the funding plan


The rejection by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services of Casa Grande Regional Medical Center’s plan to raise funds through an assessment on revenue, matched by the government, leaves the med center “reviewing its strategic options regarding its future organizational structure,” it was announced Thursday.

At issue is an assessment that hospitals in Arizona, crushed by uncompensated medical care, have asked for. Under the plan, that assessment money would be sent to the city of Casa Grande, which would then send it to the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, better known as AHCCCS (and pronounced as “access”). When the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services verified the amount, that agency would match it.

The assessment amount was initially announced as 6 percent, but in May the City Council was told that it would would be 4.18 percent of in-patient medical care charges, which in fiscal year 2012 was $217 million. That would bring in about $7 million after AHCCCS would take an 18 percent handling fee and the city would charge about $7,650 to cover administrative costs.

Even at $7 million coming back above what was paid in, it would be only a dent in the losses the medical center has sustained from uninsured medical costs, the hospital has said.

During a March study session the council was told that for the first seven months of the fiscal year ending June 30 the med center loss was estimated to reach $40 million. In May, when the council approved the plan, members were told that it could be as high as $60 million for the entire fiscal year.

The rejection of the assessment plan by the federal CMS throws the hospital into doubt about its financial future.

The CMS has not issued a statement on the situation.

CG News asked the hospital if it had clarification on the reasons for the federal denial.


------------

UPDATE ON OCT. 11

Karen Kerr-Osman, a medical center spokeswoman, said Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick’s office had attempted to assist CGRMC concerning the repeal “and their congressional liaison in Washington actually talked to CMS. It was our understanding that they would not fund any additional cities other than the city of Phoenix who was done almost one year ago. I know that the cities of Globe and Mesa received the same news we did.”

------------


In addition to pointing out that the hospital is reviewing options about its future organizational structure, the press release said, “The review is in keeping with the recent trend of freestanding hospitals across the nation considering alternative forms of organization given the trends sparked by the adoption and implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

“A factor that has had an impact on the CGRMC plan was the fact that CMS recently decided not to fund CGRMC under its ‘Provider Tax’ initiative. These funds, totaling approximately $7 million, were needed to offset the increased cost of uncompensated care that CGRMC provides to its community.

“This lost revenue also had an impact on CGRMC’s ability to qualify under the federal FHA program (HUD) that would have allowed it to complete a refinancing of its outstanding tax-exempt bond debt.”

The press release said the med center is now considering potential partners that could help maintain and expand its mission as a community medical center.

“The board of CGRMC and the management team are excited about the potential strength a new partner can bring to enhance the medical services provided to the Casa Grande community,” the release said.

“CGRMC is considering all options at the present time, and it is the objective of the board of CGRMC and the management team to preserve the hospital and its mission moving forward.

“Once further information about future plans becomes available, CGRMC will release an update to this announcement.”


MAY 6 STORY AFTER CITY COUNCIL APPROVAL:


The so-called “hospital tax” on Casa Grande Regional Medical Center received initial approval Monday night (May 6) from the Casa Grande City Council. Final approval is expected during the next council meeting and the tax will be in effect 30 days after that.

First, though, it’s not a tax in the traditional sense of a tax. The city does not keep the money, hospital patients don’t pay it, the cost of care cannot be increased to cover it and residents of Casa Grande won’t have to pay it.

It’s an assessment that hospitals in Arizona, crushed by uncompensated medical care, have asked for. That assessment money would be sent to the city, which would then send it to the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, better known as AHCCCS (and pronounced as “access”). When the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services verifies the amount, that agency would match it.

The council was told Monday night that the assessment would be 4.18 percent of in-patient medical care charges, which in fiscal year 2012 was $217 million. That would bring in about $9 million.

The money received back from the federal government wouldn’t be quite double to $18 million, though, given that AHCCCS would have an 18 percent handling fee and the city would charge about $7,650 to cover administrative costs.

Even at $9 million coming back above what was paid in, it would be only a dent in the losses the medical center has sustained from uninsured medical costs. During a March study session the council was told that for the first seven months of the fiscal year ending June 30 the med center loss was estimated to reach $40 million. Monday night, the council was told that it could be as high as $60 million for the entire fiscal year.

After unanimous approval, Councilman Dick Powell said, “I think it’s sad that we’re in this situation where we have to do this, but I think it’s a real opportunity. And it’s so important that our hospital continues to operate and grow in Casa Grande. I think it’s really fulfilling to be able to help the hospital in this way.”

Councilman Ralph Varela added that, “I think it really does improve the quality of life for individuals who are not insured and it doesn’t put the burden on the hospital, which does a great job.”

Councilman Matt Herman said he wanted to make it clear to residents that the assessment won’t be paid by patients, the city or Casa Grande residents. “It’s just an assessment to get our dollars back from the federal government,” he said.

Noting the gap between $9 million coming back against a possible loss of up to $60 million, Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons said, “This is just this little piece of what the hospital actually pays. They serve every patient that comes in, no matter if they have insurance or don’t have insurance.

“I commend you for treating every one of our citizens, not only in Casa Grande but all over the county and this is just a piece to give back. I know this is just a small portion, but we thank you for everything you do.”

Rona Curphy, the med center’s president and chief executive officer, told the council, “I do want to thank the mayor and City Council and everyone who was involved with this. It will make a significant impact for our organization.”


MARCH 3 STORY AFTER INITIAL PRESENTATION TO CITY COUNCIL:

First, some rumors need to be swatted down.

Yes, there is a move afoot for a formal tax on patient-services income at Casa Grande Regional Medical Center.

No, it is not a move instigated by the city to bleed money from the hospital.

Essentially, it is an assessment that hospitals in Arizona have asked for because whatever is collected can be matched by a federal health care grant program.

No, it will not increase city spending (in fact, the city gets paid a certain amount to cover the administrative costs).

No, it will not raise patient-service fees at the hospital. The ordinance being drafted will prohibit that.

No, it will not directly tax city residents.

The medical center is fully willing to pay the assessment, Rona Curphy, its president and chief executive officer, told the City Council.

The medical center is being hit hard by uninsured patients using the emergency room as a doctor’s office, an outgrowth of the state cutting many people out of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, better known as AHCCCS (and pronounced as “access.”

As Ben Bitter, the city’s senior management analyst, point out to the council, two years ago the medical center had about $15 million in unreimbursed medical care fees. Last fiscal year that jumped to $27.455 million, or an increase of 183 percent.

“Over the seven months of this fiscal year so far, it’s estimated to be about $40 million,” Bitter said.

As Curphy told the council, “I guess the first thing to look at is the financials. Forty million dollars is a pretty big burden for our community hospital.”

Over the last three years, she said, the hospital has made major improvements, including following federal standards, and has patient satisfaction levels above 90 percent each month.

But improvements, especially equipment, takes money.

“I don’t know if you remember,” Curphy told the council, “but when I took over in 2009 we had had to make some significant cuts. We lost $11 million over three years and so we really had to look at what we did.

“We have not had to do any more cuts. But this AHCCCS issue that happened and also to take off the Prop. 2004 people (which that proposition had mandate have medical care), then it’s actually just a significant financial hurt.”

Unlike some hospitals, Curphy said, the medical center provides care regardless of a person’s financial or insurance situation.

“We are one of the hospitals that feel morally obligated to treat them if somebody comes into our emergency room, even if that condition is determined not to be an emergency,” she said.

Federal law says hospital may turn away non emergency cases, she added, but, “we are morally obligated in our facility, for our community, to continue that care.”

And, those patients just keep coming through the doors, Curphy said, “because if you don’t have money, there’s no (private) doctor that’s ever going to see you.

“So right now,” she continued, “all of these people that have no insurance, can’t get AHCCCS, they’re not getting any other care but in our hospital.

“We have one member of our community that has been in our hospital this last year 52 times in our emergency room. We’re their primary health care provider.”

At one point, Curphy said, the Arizona Legislature was considering a state law allowing the requests for the hospital assessments to get matching federal money, but later took the position that it was just another new tax, thus did nothing.

“What happened,” she said, “is those hospitals (even though hospitals association members) that do not see a lot of AHCCCS patients, basically they were fighting against the hospital association in the Legislature. So really what the legislators said is, you guys can’t even decide amongst yourselves what you’re doing, so why should we do it?”

After that, Curphy said, three major health systems in Phoenix – Banner, Vanguard and Dignity – pulled out of the association, then approached Phoenix city officials about passing at Phoenix ordinance to allow the assessments.

Phoenix did so and Casa Grande’s eventual ordinance will be largely based on the Phoenix model, Bitter said.

In brief, Bitter said, the process will be that the Casa Grande medical center agrees to a 6 percent assessment on patient care income (which it has said it will do), the city will charge a fee of up to $7,650 per quarter to cover administrative costs.

For fiscal year 2012, according to the hospital, that 6 percent assessment would be about $3.6 million.

That money would go to the city, which would then send it to AHCCCS. When the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services verifies the amount, that agency would match it.

That $7.2 million, minus an 18 percent AHCCCS fee and the city’s administrative costs, would then go back to the Casa Grande medical center.

The legislation enabling the whole process expires on Sept. 30 of this year, although it could be extended until Dec. 31.

“As of right now,” Bitter said, “there are no bills that are in the process to extend that date. Theoretically, we could still do that working with city of Phoenix. The city of Mesa is also moving down the road to pass a similar ordinance, so we could also work with Mesa to extend the sunset date.”

After the cutoff date, Bitter said, the city would not be able to collect the money. By having a city ordinance in place before then, he said, the full amount from the hospital could still be brought in.

“We’re actually asking for a retro date from Oct. 1, 2012; we’ll pay our assessment appropriately,” Curphy said.

The reason for the cutoff dates this year, the council was told, is that on Jan. 1, 2014, the first stages of the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, goes into effect.

“What will happen,” Curphy said, “is in January 2014 those people (the state cut off) will be able to get AHCCCS, plus another 150,000 people will be able to get on those rolls if the Medicaid expansion goes through.”

That’s why the Legislature took the wait-and-see position.

“If the Medicaid expansion doesn’t go through,” Curphy said, “hopefully this provider assessment can continue for the city of Casa Grande and the city of Phoenix.”

The Casa Grande medical center cannot continue to sustain such heavy losses from uninsured patients, Curphy said.

“Our hospital has a lot of debt,” she continued. “We’re pretty heavily debt leveraged. And we are working with (the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development) currently to refinance some of that debt. We’re at 7 percent now, we’re trying to bring that under 4 percent, hopefully around 3.”

The hospital has gained approval from HUD to apply for the matching funds if the Casa Grande ordinance is approved, Curphy said.

“This ordinance is so key for us,” she continued, “because they’re got to know there’s something that can take us to the end of the year until the Affordable Care Act goes into place.”

What happens now, Bitter said, is that the city will formalize the ordinance, post the notice of intent to create the tax, or assessment, on the city website and after a 60-day waiting period bring it before the City Council in May.

If the council approves the ordinance, the city would have to get approval from the Model Tax Code Commission.



Police Department enforcing 
railroad grade crossing laws

(Posted Oct. 8, 2013)


The Police Department issued this news release today:


The Casa Grande Police Department is partnering with Union Pacific as part of their UP CARES program to enforce grade crossing violations throughout the city.

UP CARES, which stands for Union Pacific Crossing Accident Reduction Education and Safety, is a program the CGPD has been a part of for the past five years. Local police officers, along with special agents and police officers of Union Pacific, are working together to educate the public and enforce the newest laws in regard to grade crossing safety.

Last month, Gov. Brewer signed a bill which allows law enforcement to cite drivers and pedestrians who proceed through, around, over or under a crossing gate or barrier at a railroad crossing while the gate or barrier is closed or being opened or closed. Train crews frequently report near misses of trains and vehicles or pedestrians.

Although there has not been a grade crossing collision in Casa Grande since 2010, police caution drivers and pedestrians against making hasty decisions to try to “beat” the train.

Traffic enforcement is routine, but Union Pacific police and Casa Grande police work together twice a year in an effort to educate the public and enforce these laws. CGPD maintains a great working relationship with Union Pacific and is proud to participate in this program.

This year, the goal of the program is to reduce grade crossing collisions by 3 percent.

Police offer the following tips to drivers and pedestrians:

• Follow all traffic laws

• Be patient.

• Observe all warning signs at grade crossings, including signs, flashing lights and gates.

• Don’t try to “beat” the train. A train takes a long time to slow down or stop and weighs much more than you or your vehicle. The consequences can be fatal.


New shade structure at Albert Cruz Park

(Posted Oct. 4, 2013)


The city issued this press release today:


Children who visit Albert Cruz Park on the west side of the city can now play under a shade structure, all thanks to Seeds of Hope and Cenpatico of Arizona.  The non-profit organizations donated $10,519 to build a shade structure over the existing playground equipment for children to recreate under. A dedication ceremony will be held at 9 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 11, at the park, which is located at 1491 N. Crane St.

The Seeds of Hope Mondo Anaya Community Center is located at Cruz Park and provides a number of resources to the community, including English as a Second Language classes for adults, an after-school program for children, and a support group for parents raising their grandchildren. Seeds of Hope Executive Director Mark Vanderheyden said the Mondo Anaya Community Center serves an average of 200 people in the community. He said more than 20 children visit the playground next to the facility daily.

“We had conversations with our neighbors surrounding the park and they expressed the need for a shade structure over the existing play structures for their children to utilize throughout the year,” Vanderheyden said.  “As a display of appreciation to the city of Casa Grande for the lease we negotiated to be here and for the well-being of the children in the surrounding area, we applied and received a grant from Cenpatico for the shade structure.”

Cenpatico of Arizona is a social services organization that supports communities throughout Arizona. To learn more, visit www.cenpaticoaz.com.


Med center among Most Admired Companies


Valle del Sol Award for Varela

(Posted Sept. 9, 2013)


The city issued this news release today:


Grande City Council Member Ralph Varela has been given a Special Recognition Award by the Valle del Sol organization.

The Phoenix-based organization presented Varela with the award on Sept. 6 during its Profiles of Success Hispanic Leadership Awards Celebration. The awards program recognizes and honors individuals who have demonstrated outstanding leadership service to the community and achievements to the state.

Varela is chief executive officer of the Pinal Hispanic Council, a nonprofit behavioral health organization. He was selected for the award because of his support for the community and his efforts chairing the annual dinner for the Cesar E. Chavez Memorial Committee of Pinal County.

The annual Cesar Chavez dinner commemorates the legacy and values of the civil rights leader and labor activist. A portion of the proceeds raised at the annual dinner fund the Hispanic Leadership Institute-Pinal scholarship program.

“I am very thankful for being recognized, and I realize it is a reflection of all the good work that is being done in Pinal County by so many people that I call family, friends and peers,” Varela said.

Varela is currently serving his fourth term on the Casa Grande City Council. He previously served on the City Council from 2003 to 2010 and then again in 2012. He was elected to his current term in June 2013.

“Ralph Varela is passionate about helping others and this award certainly reflects his commitment to the community,” said Casa Grande Mayor Bob Jackson. “We are proud of him and congratulate him for his award.”

Varela holds a BA in sociology from the University of Texas at El Paso and a master’s degree in social work from Arizona State University. He was appointed by then Gov. Jane Hull to serve on the Arizona State Liquor Board from 1998 to 2003, served on the Casa Grande Police Advisory Board from February 2001 to May 2003 and has served on the Casa Grande Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and Pinal County Juvenile Court Community Advisory Board.

Varela has lived in Casa Grande since 1982. He is married and has two daughters.


Rod Wood is parks professional of the year

(Posted Aug. 30, 2013)


(Casa Grande issued this press release on Aug. 30):


Rod Wood has been named the 2013 Parks Professional of the Year by the Arizona Parks and Recreation Association. He was presented with the award during APRA’s annual conference in Scottsdale on Aug. 29. This is the first year APRA has given the award to an individual.

Wood is parks superintendent for the city of Casa Grande, a position he’s held since 1986. He is responsible for the overall maintenance and improvement of all city parks, facilities and equipment.

He was nominated for the award for his involvement in planning and leading the trails project at Casa Grande Mountain Park. Under his leadership, volunteers have constructed more than 20 miles of natural surface trails for hiking, biking and equestrian use. The trails project was previously awarded the 2012 Natural Resources Award by APRA.

Community Services Director William Schwind said, “Not only did Rod plan and supervise the trails project, he also physically marked and constructed the project. Under his direction, the trail system has evolved into one of the finer park assets within the city.”

Wood is professionally certified as a playground safety inspector by the National Recreation and Park Association. A native of Michigan, he joined the city in 1979 as a pool caretaker and has worked his way up through the ranks.

Some of his achievements include:

• Construction of the city’s first pickleball courts, disc golf course, and dog park – “A Leash on Life.”

• Construction and landscape of Vista Grande Library branch

• Landscaping and beautification of various city facilities, such as the downtown library, fire stations, Public Safety Facility, City Hall campus, Dorothy Powell Senior Adult Center, Len Colla Recreation Center and downtown streetscape.

• Contributed to a variety of master planning projects, including the city’s General Plan, Regional Trails Master Plan, Parks Development and Maintenance Standards and Community Services Department Master Plan.

• Rod has incorporated GIS technology, asset tracking, an electronic work order system and parks database into his division, recognizing the importance of digitizing parks historical data. He uses this data to limit vandalism incidents and better place park amenities.

• He was instrumental in planning, designing and constructing the city’s park system, which currently has 19 parks.

• He is now assisting in designing the city’s first community recreation center.


Boys & Girls Clubs awards presented

(Posted Aug. 22, 2013)


PHOTOS ARE HERE

double-click on photos to enlarge


The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Casa Grande Valley issued this press release on Aug. 22:


The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Casa Grande Valley hosted its 17th Annual Awards Dinner on Saturday, Aug. 17, at The Property Conference Center,

More than 225 people attended this event and they enjoyed “Island Cuisine” from around the world. Master Illusionist Rick Gerber put on an amazing show.

The club also presented its 2013 Benefactor of the Year awards to three longtime supporters – Pinal County Attorney’s Office, Pinal County Sheriff’s Office and the Rotary Club of Casa Grande.

Boys & Girls Clubs awards also went to:

• Board member of the year – Michael Jackson and Craig McFarland (tie).

• New board member of the year – Jeremiah Stanley.

• Administrative staff member of the year – Steve Brehmer.

• Arizona City branch staff member of the year – Marci Cabanillas.

• Ironwood Branch staff member of the year – Regina Ruiz.

• Main Branch staff member of the year – Vicky Castillo.

• Five-Year National Service to Youth Awards (for five or more years of service to the organization) – board member Scott Waddle and staff members Steven Aguirre, Steve Brehmer and Jennie Smith.

• Ten-Year National Service to Youth Awards – board members Dave Ellis, Rueben Garcia, Matt Herman, Michael Jackson and Bea Lueck and staff members Matthew Lemberg and Fernando Yubeta.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Casa Grande Valley would like to thank everyone who attended and/or supported this event. This event raised over $15,000 for our organization.


-:-


CG NEWS also received this message from Jenni Gonzales, a new board member:


On Aug. 17, I attended the Boys and Girls Club of Casa Grande Valley’s Magic Island Annual Awards dinner. Over 225 community members gathered to support the clubs and recognize the honorees both for their generous contributions, but also for the hard work of both the staff and board members in serving the members of the clubs in the Casa Grande area.

As a relatively new member of the board I was very impressed with the event overall, but wanted to specially recognize Nancy and Michael Jackson as well as the super staff at The Property for the amazing offering of food as well as the beautiful presentation. This coupled with great entertainment provided by Master Illusionist Rick Gerber made for an enjoyable night raising over $15,000 for our local clubs. Thank you to our community for making this such a successful event.


CG firefighters get closed-space training
          
                 -- Story and video here


Image from http://www.rfid-library.com/

Main library getting electronic ident system

(Posted Aug. 11, 2013)


The staff report is here


The Casa Grande City Council has given final approval to an electronic library items system that both simplifies check-in and check-out and brings the downtown library the same technology as the newer Vista Grande Library, opened in 2009.

The full name is Radio Frequency Detection, or RFID.

The $68,729 purchase includes an items detection system, permanent and mobile staff work stations, a self-check station for library patrons, a conversion station and the electronic tags necessary for labeling the library collection.

According to the staff report, “Currently the library branches each use a different circulation control systems for their materials. The Main Library uses electromagnetic strips, which require a two-step check-in/check-out process. Because the different systems are not compatible, items at each library are processed differently.

“The RFID system will increase overall operational efficiencies. When a book from one branch is returned to the other, it must be checked in and then set aside to be sent to its home branch. Every day we transfer hundreds of books and movies between the two branches. Each of those items must be checked in again once they reach their home library before they can be shelved. The whole process is time consuming and inefficient.

“Having both branches on the same system, we would be able to float the collection between the two branches. When a patron checks out a book at one library and returns it to another, it will stay there. We will no longer have to transport the items or check them in twice. Patrons will, of course, still have the option to request materials from either branch and choose their pickup location. Requested items are the only items that will be regularly transferred between the two branches.

“The greatest benefits from adopting RFID technology at the library is the faster, easier check-out and check-in process as well as inventory control and accounting. A stack of RFID-equipped books can be read and checked out simultaneously, by library staff or a customer. Because the technology is so easy to use, and so fast, customers are more inclined to serve themselves.”

Community Services Director Bill Schwind said the city hopes to have the new system installed as part of the remodeling of the main library.

“It’s a whole lot better than the system that’s currently in place,” Library Manager Amber Kent told the council.

Mayor Bob Jackson asked how the library staff manages to keep all of the books from ending up at one location.

“Right now, everything that belongs to Main that’s checked in at Vista is sent via courier every day and vice-versa,” Kent replied.

Jackson then asked, “What will happen? With the new system, you check them out or check them back in at either place, but you’re still going to have a problem, I would imagine, at some point where one branch or the other ends up with all of the materials.”

That can be managed manually, Kent responded.

“Both libraries serve about the same number of folks every year,” she said. “Obviously, one library does do more, like, children’s materials than the other library. But there’s nothing wrong with having more adult materials at the library where they circulate from.”

Jackson said, “It just strikes me that at some point you ought to make sure you don’t have all the books at one library.”

The staff will make sure of that, Kent said.



CG youth substance abuse down 47 percent

(Posted Aug. 8, 2013)


Youth substance abuse in Casa Grande has gone down 47 percent over the past 10 years, Casa Grande Alliance announced today.

The alliance said the statistic is the aggregate average of past 30-day drug and alcohol use, tracking 16 substances, based on Arizona Youth Survey data.

“Two of the 16 drugs we track have reduced 86 percent in that time,” the announcement said. “Prevention works, and coalitions rock!”


City issues economic development update
          -- Click here

Building Division staff 100% certified



Casa Grande Building Division employees, from left, are Martin P. Encinas, John Minard, Jeff Douglas, Josea Cobb, Blaine Thomas and Dwight Williams.


(City of Casa Grande photo)

(Posted Aug. 8, 2013)


Each member of the Casa Grande Building Division staff has earned professional certifications from the International Code Council, the city announced.

“Through rigorous testing,” the city said, “ICC certifications ensure that staff have demonstrated competency in the requirements of the International Codes, a complete set of comprehensive, coordinated codes used in most U.S. communities and many global markets for the design, build and compliance process to construct safe, sustainable, affordable and resilient structures.

“Only six other municipalities in Arizona have staff that is 100 percent certified by ICC.”


The full city announcement is here



The backpacks and supplies were presented Tuesday morning, Aug. 6, and donors were recognized. List of contributors is at end of earlier story, below.

Photo from Greater Casa Grande Chamber of Commerce



Back to School donations ceremony
set Tuesday morning at CG City Hall

(Posted Aug. 2, 2013)


More than 500 backpacks and other school supplies for Casa Grande children were collected during the Back to School Drive hosted by the city.

The city said the donations will be presented to both the Casa Grande Elementary School District and Child Protective Services during a ceremony in front of City Hall, 510 E. Florence Blvd., beginning at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 6.

“Representatives from Sam's Club and Aaron's, Inc. will also present checks in the amount of $1,000 each to the school district and CPS,” the announcement said. “Other company officials who participated in the Back to School Drive will also be on hand.”

The Back to School Drive was organized by the city's Employee Excellence Committee.

"We asked members of our community to step up and help us collect enough items to supply 500 children for this upcoming school year,” committee chair Jamie White said. “I'm thrilled to report that we not only met that goal, but exceeded it thanks to the generous contributions of our employees, residents and community partners."


CLICK HERE FOR FULL LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS


The road to becoming an A+ school

(Posted July 6, 2013)


The road to becoming an A+ School of Excellence is sort of like putting a puzzle together and having all the pieces fit perfectly at the end, the City Council was told during its July 1 meeting.

Jeff Lavender, principal of Village Middle School, and Joanne Kramer, principal of McCartney Ranch Elementary School, outlined what both schools had done to receive the award, given in April. Only 28 schools in the state were honored, Kramer said.

The award is presented by the Arizona Education Foundation, Lavender said, a nonprofit organization supporting education in Arizona.

“They do the Spelling Bee, they also do the Teacher of the Year,” he continued. “And since 1990, they have done the A+ Schools of Excellence program. They also do the A+ Programs award, looking at one specific program. For example, a couple of years ago, the three middle schools received the A+ Program award.”

The Schools of Excellence looks at the entire programs of a school, Lavender said, noting that Cactus had previously been a winner.

Lavender also thanked the city for its participation with schools.

“We would not have been able to do this without the city’s support,” he said. “We have a wonderful partnership with our Parks and Recreation Department. We have outstanding SROs (Police Department school resource officers) that support our campuses. And we were able to put all of that into our application.

“Being an A+ school, it’s like putting a puzzle together and all the pieces fit together perfectly at the end. And our city partnership that we have with all of you has been very instrumental. A lot of you participated in our meetings when you met with A+ judges and talked about those partners.”

Kramer outlined what her school did in preparation.

“There’s basically a 36-page application, 25 pages of which is a narrative,” she said, “and there are many different categories that you have to write on. Our superintendent was wonderful. He allowed between 12 and 15 of my teachers, I had community members, I had classified staff.

We took three entire days to write this application. And then I sat down and put it together.”

Kramer continued that, “We talked about, obviously, the mission and the vision of the school. There’s a summary of the school: strong instructional leadership, school organization and culture, guaranteed and visible curriculum, active teaching and learning, student focus and support, parent and community involvement, indicators of the staff. And they also wanted to hear about the challenges that we had at the school.

“If you were lucky enough to get a site visit, three judges came to your school and they wanted to see that everything that you had written in the application was actually what was happening and taking place at the school.

They interviewed teachers, they interviewed community members and parents. And they were going through the classrooms – they went into every single classroom – and they were looking for the different things that we said were happening, made sure the objectives were up on the board and that the teachers were using the kind of engagement that we talked about.

And for some of my parents, it was a very emotional thing, talking about how much they love the school.”

Kramer said the judges left notes on the desks of 12 students, asking to interview them later.

“I couldn’t get the kids to tell me exactly what questions they asked,” she said, “but I know that they probably wanted to know what they liked about that school, what their favorite things were.”

Kramer said both she and Lavender highlighted things about their schools that stood out, that perhaps other schools in the district did not do.

“So the judges came and they saw these things, they went back and had their meeting and then we were informed in April and we had big celebrations. You probably read about those in the newspaper. We’re just very, very honored to be selected for this wonderful award.”

The award is for three years, Kramer said, “and then that third year we get to work on the next three years, so the application, I don’t think, will be as long as the 36-page original one. I know that both Jeff and I are going to try to compete and keep the traditions that we have in our schools.”

Councilman Ralph Varela congratulated Kramer and Lavender.

“I know you both have worked really hard at combining not only the schools but the community,” he said, “and I think the schools and community are much richer for that.

“And I think the other piece that stands out is your passion and your commitment to the young people and making sure that you move them forward in a very responsible way. So thank you very much.”

Councilman Matt Herman said quality education is important for Casa Grande in many ways, including “every time we get an economic development application request and someone is looking at the city to move their business here, the first question is how are the schools. And now we say, A+, come check us out.

“So we do really appreciate it as a community and the hard work that you guys do and all of your staff and the students have. You guys show great leadership in both of your schools.”

Councilman Karl Montoya, who participated and has a daughter at Villago, said she was nervous, asking, “Dad, what are you going to go in and say?

“Just listening to the parents and asking the community, what a powerful message it said about you guys and the job you were doing,” he said. “Pats on your back. We have all bought into that and you guys have done a tremendous job. It’s great to see that you didn’t have to step forward, you chose to step forward, and you’re driving the community forward.”

Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons said both Lavender and Kramer are active in the community.

“You really serve as role models to other younger principals,” she said. “And, Jeff, this is your second school that you have brought to A+ standards. I know other communities look up to you. My sister’s kids go to school in Chandler and she remembers you being there and giving them some feedback. Keep it up, we appreciate it.

“There’s so much negative comments about our school system and people don’t realize how good we are. And so it’s important for us to publicize it, promote it and for you to work with the other schools so maybe we can bring a couple more in the next year or two.”

Nothing speaks more about the quality of the future of a community than the strength of its educational system, Councilman Dick Powell said.

“I think that this makes us very proud and makes us very happy and hopeful about the future here,” he said. “I just hope this inspires growth and we have three or four more next year.”

Mayor Bob Jackson said he participated with Councilman Montoya in the process, “and I think that one of the things that really impressed me in listening to the parents was just how passionate they all were.

I read at Villago all the time (Mayor’s Reading Program), but didn’t have the opportunity to go sit in on the community piece of that, but I’m sure the comments were very much the same, they were very happy that their kids were going to Villago, the teachers there are very committed to what they’re trying to do.”

Jackson said he is Casa Grande’s representative on the Greater Phoenix Economic Council “and

had the occasion to sit across the table from a site selector out of South Carolina and Chicago, some place, and he told me that the one thing that they look at when they start doing site evaluations for new industry is the quality of education.

“And, Matt, you’re exactly right. I mean, you tell them, hey, we have A+ schools now. And that is huge.

“And it’s really a tribute not only to Jeff and Joanne, but the entire district, because they all do just an incredible job, from the superintendent on down. So congratulations and good luck in three years to do it again.”


Hospital named top place to work

(Casa Grande Regional Medical Center issued this press release on June 25)


CareerBuilder, Republic Media (The Arizona Republic, azcentral.com, La Voz) and BestCompaniesAZ announced today that Casa Grande Regional Medical Center earns a spot on the inaugural list of Careerbuilders Top Companies to Work for in Arizona.

Companies were evaluated and selected based on a combination of overall satisfaction scores from an employee engagement survey and evaluation from an employer questionnaire covering topics related to human resources programs, benefits and workplace culture.

“We are proud to be recognized as one of the ‘Top Companies to Work for in Arizona’ this inaugural year,” said Rona Curphy, medical center CEO. “This award is a testament to our strong culture of excellence and a reflection of the commitment that our employees bring to work every day.

“Casa Grande Regional Medical Center has worked tirelessly to create an environment in which our employees feel appreciated and empowered which in turn results in excellent care for our patients and community.”

Winners were announced at a “Top Companies” breakfast reception June 20 and the full list and related stories appeared in a special supplement inserted in the June 23 edition of The Arizona Republic, and online at www.TopCompaniesAZ.azcentral.com.


Some explanations behind statistics 
on substance abuse by young people

(Posted June 16, 2013)


Oftentimes, looking at charts and other statistics leaves you wondering what it really means, what it’s all about.

When Cindy Schaider, the executive director of Casa Grande Alliance, made a presentation to the City Council on substance abuse and prevention she explained several of those charts.


An updated, expanded document is here


Schaider's basic explanations are below:

The Casa Grande 2012 Youth Survey, Schaider said, was conducted in February of that year, compiled and released near year’s end. It shows what the youths surveyed said they had done within the past 30 days.

“You’ll see the second line from the bottom is synthetic drugs, bath salts, spice, etc.,” Schaider said. “This is the first year that those chemicals were included in the questionnaire, and you can see what percentage of our eighth, 10th and 12th graders were willing to admit that they were using those drugs.”

“But, we don’t know that those numbers are alarming until we look at them as compared to others.”


And that leads to comparing Casa Grande and the state …

In the chart above, Schaider pointed out, Arizona is in blue, Casa Grande is in white in the boxes across the top.

“The green stripes are the ones where our rates are better, meaning lower, than we’re seeing across the state,” Schaider said.

“But, just at first blush the chart tells you that our eighth grader rates for everything that’s up there is higher than the state rate.

“Our 10th grade rate, which used to be pretty much off the chart, is better.”

Much of the still high 10th grade scores has somewhat of an explanation, Schaider said.

“I don’t know if any of you have had a sophomore,” she told the council, “but they’re sometimes a little bit whacked out. A lot of the drug use behavior and poor decision making happens in that ninth and 10th grade. So we’re really thrilled that we’ve got some green stripes in that 10th grade column.

“And our 12th grade column is even doing better than our 10th grade column.”

Alcohol use

The chart clearly shows an area that Casa Grande Alliance is very concerned about, Schaider said.

“We still have one in five of our eighth grades admitting to using alcohol,” she continued, “and we have 13 percent of our eighth graders admitting to heavy drinking.”

Schaider described “heavy drinking” as more than five drinks on one occasion.

“When people our age drink,” she told the council, “we’ll maybe have pizza and have a beer with that, but you’re not necessarily going to have five.”

Young people drink inappropriately for two reasons, the council was told.

“One is that the portion of their brain that tells them that’s not the right thing to do is not fully developed yet, and so they make bad decisions,” Schaider said.

“The second is, they drink for the purposes of getting drunk. They don’t drink a fine merlot wine to see how it tastes with the chicken, they drink whatever they can get their hands on just so they can get drunk.

“So, when the kids start drinking in eight grade, which is about 12 or 13 years old, they’re drinking rather heavily.

“One in four of our 10th graders are drinking in the last 30 days and two out of five of our 12th graders.”

Marijuana use

“Marijuana use, it’s one in five or six,” Schaider said. “Marijuana use is starting at a young age. That is concerning.

“Youth have a perception that marijuana use is neither harmful or addictive and it is not aberrant. They think marijuana use is normal, that it comes from a plant that God made, so it can’t hurt you.

“And the chart shows there is a low perception of the risk of drug use, overall, so we still have our work cut out for us.”


But, how do kids get marijuana? …

“If you look at that first line,” Schaider said, “12.5 percent of our 10th graders say they got it from someone with a medical marijuana card.

“The average of that, which is the second column from the right, is 10.3 percent. So one out of 10 kids admit that where they get their weed is from someone with a card.

“Now, I doubt that they’re trolling the streets asking who has a card. What more likely happens is someone who was dealing drugs before it got, I’ll say legalized although it’s not, now has a card.

“So they may fall into two categories: They’re a drug dealer and they have a card.

“I want to implore you that as you make decisions about the implementation of the medical marijuana law opportunities in our community, the more accessible it is, the more it’s going to be used by children.”

Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons said she was surprised by the number of students obtaining marijuana at their school.

“I mean, 26.8 percent of your seniors getting it at school,” she said. “Are we working with the discipline policy at the schools to tie in to law enforcement? What if they’re high on drugs at school? That would be different than if they get caught with it. Are police officers involved in that when they are caught at the school?”

That’s sort of up to the school, Schaider replied, adding that, “It’s my understand that if someone is caught in the possession of an illegal drug that law enforcement action is taken.”

Mayor Bob Jackson said what he found interesting on the chart was the comparison of Casa Grande schools to the rest of the state.”

Those statistics also have to be looked at carefully, Schaider replied.

“Be sure to remember that they can pick more than one answer,” she said, “so if you buy from a guy at school and you also buy it from dealer, they could’ve marked any of those.”

The figures still are high, Jackson said.

Schaider’s view is that, “In a relatively small community like this where there are not a lot of social places where kids can come in contact, school does become a major social contact.”

In answer to a question of whether drug testing is still done at the schools, Schaider said that at one time there was a grant to test high school students, but she believes that is no longer available.

“I’m not sure that testing is the answer.,” she said, “although it does give a child an opportunity to say no (to drugs), because if I get drug tested I get kicked off the team or my mom will kill me.

“There are also a lot of chemical opportunities to adulterate that and they come back false positives. We’ve been learning a lot about that with one of our chemical companies.”

Schaider said Casa Grande Alliance has been working with a high school coach to make presentations on marijuana and synthetic drugs, pointing out dangers and how they impair athletic performance.

“And we’re also hoping to have a program where athletes and families and coaches can kind of all come together and get the same message,” she said.

The alliance has also been running a program on campus aimed at both students and parents, using different versions of the message for both, Schaider said.

“If I tell you 17 percent of our kids are smoking weed, that is alarming to you,” she said. “And we say that because we want parents to be concerned. But when we talk to kids, what we tell them is 83 percent of teenagers don’t smoke this weed.

“You ask them how many kids smoke weed and they say, oh, everybody smokes weed, 80 percent or 90 percent. So when they find out that isn’t true and that we have research to back that up, it really tilts their little brain a little bit and helps them realize that if they want to be part of the crowd, the crowd doesn’t get high.

“We don’t want to say that 83 percent figure to parents too loudly, because parents will say, oh, then I don’t have to worry about it.

“It’s sort of a doubled-edged sword, but we’re careful the way we get the message out.”


That leads to a chart on eight years of prevention efforts …

“I like to keep things simple,” Schaider said. “So if it’s green it good, if it’s red it’s bad.

“This shows you the drug use trends from 2004 based on 30-day use. Part of that survey says how many times have you used alcohol and other drugs in the last 30 days, and which of the drugs have you used. And they asked it in a way that’s all research based and all of those things.”

The top half of the chart shows where progress has been made, Schaider said.

“Inhalant is the only one that’s red,” she told the council. “It kind of goes up and down. We’re better than we were in 2008, but 5 percent is probably about as good as we’re going to get on inhalants. We could probably knock it down a little bit if we did some targeted work around Native Americans and the eighth graders.

“The rest of those have made some pretty significant gains, if I do say so myself.

“We are really proud of the fact that meth is down 85 percent and stimulants are down 85.7 percent. To have alcohol go down almost 37 percent is pretty significant, as well.”

The second section on the chart deals with risk and protection.

“We know that there are things within a community, within a family, within a person that puts them either at higher risk of using or builds within them to resilience to not use,” Schaider said. “And those are some of those measures.”

The next two sections deal with perception of risk and reaction from parents.

“You can see that under smoke marijuana regularly, 71 percent of our kids think that there’s not much risk associated with that,” Schaider said. “And that’s down from 77 percent in 2004.”

Mayor Jackson asked what the statistics in the fourth line under percentage of students reporting NO risk meant.

“That went from 47 percent to 52 percent, but isn’t that positive change as well as a negative change?” he asked.

No, it is not, Schaider replied.

“This is the measure that messes up everybody. I talk to the state every year about it. There is a perception that there is no risk to drug use. The word NO is an important part of that phrase.

“In the report it in the books the state gives to us, the word NO is not in that line. And I always have to add it.

“So we’ve gone from less than 50 percent of our kids of our kids believing that there is no risk, to more than 50 percent of our kids.

“And in my book, I think part of it is because of this national dialogue we have about marijuana, that most kids really believe the hype and they believe that marijuana is not going to hurt you.”

Councilman Dick Powell said the survey results in the second to last category showing youths admitting to one to two drinks nearly every day was surprising to him.

Schaider responded that, “What that says is do you believe that people are at moderate or great risk of harming yourselves if you drink one or two drinks nearly every day. Almost 66 percent of our kids say, yes, you are at risk if you do that. And that’s gone up from almost 59 percent in 2004.

“So if you look at just those three little measures—the drinking, the cigarettes and the marijuana – you can see if you look at that 2012 column that almost 85 percent of our kids believe that you are putting your health at risk if you smoke cigarettes, you are somewhat putting yourself at risk if you smoke weed, and then the 65.8 percent is related to alcohol.

“Some of that, I think, also is determined what they see their families do. If you live with someone that drinks every day, you don’t want to think that your mom is putting herself at risk if she’s drinking.”

The last section of the chart shows that while the average age of starting to use cigarettes has risen slightly, using marijuana and alcohol is beginning at a slightly earlier age.

That led Councilman Powell to say he has been told that the younger a person starts to drink in volume, the harder it will be not to become an alcoholic.

“Absolutely,” Schaider responded.

“If a young person begins drinking before the age of 15, they’re five times more likely to become alcoholic. And the most recent research comes out that having even one sip of alcohol before the age of 10 increases the child’s risk of abusing alcohol.”

Schaider likened the situation to a lock and a key to open it.

“When we introduce alcohol into a growing brain, we change the shape of the lock in their brain and make it more susceptible to liking to hold on to the key,” she said. “If we can wait until that brain is fully developed, then the lock is not as friendly toward the key of alcohol when it comes past it.”

Powell asked at what age can a young person begin to understand the dangers.

“The thing that’s really driving our prevention work in the last 10 years has been new research on brain development,” Schaider replied.

“We found out that the brain develops from the inside out and the back to the front. The front part of the brain, the part that’s under your forehead, is what’s called the prefrontal cortex, and that’s the part that tells you how to plan, how to make good decisions, how to see the choices you’re make what the impact will be.

That’s the part of the brain that tells the 15-year-old to not jump off the house and try and land in the pool.

“So, it’s the CEO of your brain. And that part of your brain is not fully developed until you’re 25 years old.”

Age 25 might seem surprising to those who go to high school graduation ceremonies and believe the seniors are very mature, Schaider said.

“But if you’ve ever rented a car, you can’t rent a car until you’re 25 years old, right?” she continued. “And if you’ve ever had to insure a boy that’s driving, when do the rates go down? When they hit 25. Those insurance people looking at their actuaries have seen that’s when the brain is fully developed and the risky measures really go down.

“When you introduce alcohol into that growing brain before it’s fully developed, you kind of stall that maturation process, not only emotionally but physically. So when we have some people in our community that are drinking heavily between 15 and 25, then their risk-taking behavior is going to be prolonged past 25.”


And that leads to a partial victory in the battle against synthetic drugs …

What the new law does:

• Makes the “backbone” chemicals of the synthetics illegal.

• Eliminates chances of small chemical changes creating a new, legal substance.

• Removes substances from shelves.

• Reduces access.


The point of the state legislation, Schaider said, is that it covers any synthetic drug that approximates the chemicals in those more well known street drugs.

Schaider again likened it to a lock in the brain with a key to open it.

“What these synthetics do is they create a key that will fit into that lock,” she said. “It doesn’t fit exactly but it’s pretty darned close.”

The battle has been that every time law enforcement pressure was applied, the synthetic drug manufacturers would change an ingredient just slightly, keeping it legal for sale, skirting the law.

“So what this new law does is it makes the backbone chemical that fits into the lock illegal,” Schaider said. “So even if they add some extra this and that, a little extra carbon, a little extra oxygen, it’s still illegal because of the backbone. It does eliminate the chances of small chemical changes, therefore creating a new legal substance. And it removes substances from the shelf.”

As soon as the law went into effect, Schaider told the council, Cmdr. Mike Keck, who heads the Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division, sent her an email advising that he had officers out in the community removing substances from shelves.

What is called spice has been a favored synthetic.

“There wasn’t a lot of bath salts has out there in the last six months, because the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and Arizona Department of Public Safety have done a real good job of getting the labs up in Phoenix wiped out,” Schaider said, so it’s been a little harder to get.

“The new law does reduce access to spice and bath salts and other chemicals that are listed within those backbone chemicals in the law.”


What the new law doesn’t do:

• Doesn’t eliminate dependence upon laboratory confirmation of the substance in question.

• Doesn’t function as an “analog” law, making imitator drugs automatically illegal.


“If a police officer seizes the product in a traffic stop or in a store they still have to send that to a lab to prove that it is one of the prohibited chemicals,” Schaider said. “There is no street level test.

“It does not function as what they call an analog statute. I was having a conversation with Richard Wintory, who is the new chief criminal deputy attorney at the Pinal County Attorney’s Office, and he would like to see a statute similar to the ones that have been put in place in other states, where if a chemist creates a drug that is supposed to approximate the intoxication of anything that’s illegal then that would automatically also be illegal.

“This new statute does not do that, but it does take a pretty big step towards that, and maybe in the future our Legislature will take that bigger step and create analog statutes.”

The dirt secret with manufacturing

Councilman Powell asked if the synthetic drugs are made in manufacturing plants or if they could be put together in homes or small labs.

“It’s my understanding that it’s made mostly in China,” Schaider responded. “A couple of my staff members attended a workshop in January and the DEA showed pictures of basically the Chinese people gathering up leaf litter, putting it in a horse trailer, spraying it with chemicals and tossing it with a pitchfork and then putting it on trays to dry with different flavors, like peach and grape. It has a nasty smell, so they spray it with something that covers up the chemical smell, and it’s something very sweet. And then they package it and send it, I believe, up through Mexico and then into our fair city.”

In additional no unsanitary conditions, there is also no quality control by the pirate manufacturers, Schaider said.

“Our message was, you’ve got no idea what’s in it and the guy that’s selling it to you has no idea what’s in it,” she said. “All they know is they get it in a package that says not intended for human consumption and guarantee it’s going to get you high. But it also is going to ruin half of your brain.”

Although the new law tightens down, it won’t stop the illicit trade.

“If it’s still out there, we’re going to know,” Schaider said, “because you can’t use this drug very many times and for very long without it causing aberrant behavior. And it’s going to start showing up at the hospitals and law enforcement will get called.”

There’s a wide age ranges of users, Schaider told the council.

“We’ve had them bring it to school as young as fourth grade,” she said. “And the hospital is telling me that they’ve seen a lot of users in their 40s and 50s. School teachers and guys that work in plants, you know, regular people.”

How long does it take to become addicted to synthetic drugs?

“It could be their first time, it could the hundred and first time,” Schaider said. “It’s actually the key and lock thing.

“Let’s say in my brain, my lock looks like this and so when I use it, it hooks up really well and the chemical that makes you actually crazy is very active in the drug that I use.

“But then the next time I buy it, because, again, it’s made by Dumb and Dumber in a horse trailer, not Dumb and Dumber in a lab, it’s maybe going to have other chemicals that make me crazy and I don’t know. There’s nothing on the bottle that says it will make you go crazy. So that one, then, kicks into my crazy part of my brain and makes me act whacky. You just don’t know what you’re going to get, because there’s no control.

“On the other hand, I may use it and not have any affect and someone else may use it and it makes her go out of her mind, from the same bottle and the same drug, just because our brains are also different. That’s one of the challenges when we talk with people about even something like medical marijuana.”


A summary of the new law is here


The entire new law is here


CG Alliance wins national honor

(Posted June 12, 2013)


Casa Grande Alliance, a local group fighting substance abuse and other problems, has been honored by the National Forum on Criminal Justice.

The alliance was chosen for its Arizona Prescription Drug Misuse and Abuse Reduction Initiative.

“Your program … has been selected as a recipient of the 2013 National Criminal Justice Association Outstanding Criminal Justice Program Awards for the West Region,” an email to the alliance said.

“Each year at the National Forum on Criminal Justice, NCJA honors five outstanding criminal justice programs that merit recognition for providing effective services to address crime-related issues in their communities. We are particularly interested in programs that are innovative and can document concrete results.”

Items considered in the selection are:

• Does the program address an important criminal justice issue?

• Has the program demonstrated effectiveness based on program goals?

• Is the program a good example of leveraging federal, state, local or other non-governmental funds and resources?

• Can the program be easily replicated in other jurisdictions?

Awards will be presented at a luncheon Aug. 6 during the 2013 NCJA National Forum on Criminal Justice in Chicago.

Complete information about the National Forum including the agenda and workshop descriptions can be found on the National Forum website.

http://www.national-forum.net/NationalForum2013/Home/

Curphy honored by health society

(Posted June 4, 2013)


Rona Curphy, president and CEO of Casa Grande Regional Medical Center, has been named a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives, a professional society for healthcare leaders.

“Because healthcare management ultimately affects the people in our communities, it is critically important to have a standard of excellence promoted by a professional organization,” the announcement quoted Thomas C. Dolan, president and chief executive officer of ACHE. “By becoming an ACHE fellow and simultaneously earning board certification from ACHE, healthcare leaders can show that they are committed to providing high-quality service to their patients and community.”

According to the announcement, fellow status is held by only 7,500 healthcare executives and “represents achievement of the highest standard of professional development.”

To obtain fellow status, candidates must fulfill multiple requirements, including passing a comprehensive examination, meeting academic and experiential criteria, earning continuing education credits and demonstrating professional/community involvement. Fellows are also committed to ongoing professional development and undergo recertification every three years.

The American College of Healthcare Executives is an international professional society of more than 30,000 healthcare executives leading the nation’s hospitals, healthcare systems and other healthcare organizations, the announcement said.


New senior center exercise equipment

(The city issued this press release on Monday, June 3, 2013)



Senior citizens in Casa Grande looking for a cool place to work out this summer should visit the Dorothy Powell Senior Adult Center. The facility recently was retrofitted with new exercise equipment, including two new treadmills, two recumbent bikes, one strength trainer and two racks with dumbbells ranging from 2 1/2 to 50 pounds.

All the new equipment is senior-friendly. The bikes are easy entry, the treadmills low-step and most machines consist of touch-button operation for easy use. The equipment can be adjusted to each user’s fitness level. Training on how to use the equipment is available upon request.

The fitness area is open Monday- Friday from 10 a.m.-noon and is free to all Casa Grande residents 50 and older.

According to health officials, older adults should be doing aerobic activity to help maintain body weight, strengthening exercises to develop and maintain muscle mass and some type of flexibility training.

"We're committed to providing senior citizens the opportunity to experience recreational, cultural and educational programming in a friendly atmosphere," says Erica Perez, who manages the senior center. "We invite and encourage all seniors to take advantage of the new gym to get healthy and stay healthy."

The center is located at 405 E. Sixth St. It is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. For more information, call 421-8760.


Med Center among great work places

Casa Grande Regional Medical Center issued this press release on Tuesday, May 21, 2013:


Casa Grande Regional Medical Center has been named one of the "100 Great Places to Work in Healthcare" by Becker's Hospital Review and Becker's ASC Review.

The hospitals, health systems, ambulatory surgery centers and physician groups included in this annual list offer robust benefit packages, positive work environments, excellent employee recognition programs and opportunities for professional development and continuing education.

Rona Curphy, CGRMC president and CEO, commented, “I am proud that Casa Grande Regional made Becker’s national 100 list this year. In fact, we are the only Arizona hospital to have made the 2013 list. This is a testament to the hard work we have done to provide an outstanding and responsive work environment that makes our employees look forward to coming to work each day. We have an amazing staff that helps us to serve our community and it is such an honor to have our facility recognized nationally alongside many larger, well known facilities. ”

The Becker's Hospital Review and Becker's ASC Review editorial teams accepted nominations for the 2013 list and selected recipients based on nominations and thorough editorial research. The full list can be read at: http://www.beckershospitalreview.com/lists/100-great-places-to-work-in-healthcare-2013.html.


About Casa Grande Regional Medical Center


Casa Grande Regional Medical Center is a 177-bed, not-for-profit community hospital providing comprehensive care to Casa Grande and the communities of western Pinal County. CGRMC also provides a full range of outpatient services, including Urgent Care coverage seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and a 24-hour Emergency Department. CGRMC is a partner in healthcare, providing education and resources to

the community. For more information, visit www.casagrandehospital.com or call 520-381- 6300.


About Becker’s Hospital Review


Becker's Hospital Review is a monthly publication offering up-to-date business and legal news and analysis relating to hospitals and health systems. Our content is geared toward high level hospital leaders, and we work to provide valuable content, including hospital and health system news, best practices and legal guidance specifically for these decision makers. Each issue of Becker's Hospital Review reaches more than 18,000 people, primarily acute-care hospital CEOs and CFOs.


About Becker's ASC Review


Becker's ASC Review features general business, legal and clinical guidance on topics including joint-ventures, development and expansion, and regulatory and compliance issues. Each of the nine annual issues of the publication reaches a qualified audience of more than 25,000 key business decision-holders, including surgeons, medical directors, directors of surgery, ASC (ambulatory surgery center) administrators and others involved in the rapidly growing field of outpatient surgery. Further, every ASC in the nation receives Becker's ASC Review.



Health care scholarships awarded

From left are Sabrina D’souza, Gabriel Navoa, Rafael Lopez and Angelica Vinluan. Not present was Edward Cassidy.




Five $1,000 scholarships to students studying in the health care field have been awarded by the Casa Grande Regional Medical Center Auxiliary.

Selected this year are Edward Cassidy, who graduates this month from Casa Grande Union High School this month and plans to focus on dentistry; Sabrina D’souza, attending the University of Arizona as a premed major; Rafael Lopez who graduates this month from Vista Grande High School and plans to focus on physical therapy; Gabriel Navoa, currently attending the University of Arizona and applying to pharmacy programs; and Angelica Vinluan, who is attending Central Arizona College and pursuing nursing.

This year, 27 applications were submitted from individuals 17-31 years of age representing nine healthcare careers.

“The CGRMC Auxiliary promotes and advances the hospital through volunteerism and fundraising,” the announcement said. “In addition to the scholarship program, each year the Auxiliary donates over $70,000 of equipment to the hospital to benefit patient care initiatives. The funds for these donations come from the auxiliary’s annual golf tournament on the last Friday of October, as well as from vendor sales.

“For more information on the auxiliary or CGRMC’s volunteer program, call (520) 381-6541 or go to the hospital’s website at www.casagrandehospital.com/volunteer.”


Drinking at a graduation party?
Best check the city ordinances

Links to city ordinances:


Underage drinking


Unruly gathering/social hosting


-:-


With high school graduations on the horizon, Casa Grande Alliance has begun distributing a poster warning parents about teenage drinking, which often occurs at celebratory parties.

An alliance survey finds that half of parents are against serving alcohol and half see nothing wrong with it.

In an email to local organizations, the alliance’s

Stephanie Collier offered tips to parents and pointed out that Casa Grande has a city ordinance prohibiting underage drinking.

During the April 25 Casa Grande Police Advisory Board meeting it was also pointed out that there is a companion city ordinance against unruly gatherings, which can also involve underage drinking, and targeting the host or hosts of the event. It involves fines of from $100 to $1,500.

“When I delivered these posters around town,” Collier said in the email, “many of our partners related their personal stories of an underage family member who was served alcohol by an adult at a celebration in someone else’s home. Sadly, most of these stories had tragic endings.

“It’s important to monitor your youth’s activities, including asking them:

• “Where they are going.

• “What they’re doing.

• “Who they’re with.

• “When they will be home.

“This includes contacting the party host’s parents to make sure that they will be supervised by a responsible adult and will not have access to alcohol or drugs. Don’t be afraid to check up on them to make sure they are where they said they’d be.”

Casa Grande Alliance, formed to combat substance abuse, may be contacted at 836.5022. The website is http://www.casagrandealliance.org/.


During the Police Board meeting, member Rodolfo Calvillo, who was one of the forces behind the unruly gathering (also known as social hosting) and teen drinking ordinances, in effect since 2009, asked that the board be provided at the next meeting with an formal update report on how successful enforcement has been.

Sgt. Dave Engstrom of the Police Department was able to give the board his personal views.

“When we first started having a lot of issues we utilized search warrants to take care of most of those problems, because it did create an issue,” he said. “Almost every neighborhood in the city had issues with it.

“Most of them were abandoned houses and we noticed that people, where you spoke about gang members, so of them we noticed were from Nevada or from Phoenix. They charged people $5, $6, $7 at the door.”

A lot of the problem started in Rancho Grande, Engstrom said.

“The first search warrant we did, which actually was very effective, it was 70 to 80 people there. I think every room had a hidden gun in it, one was a semiautomatic high-capacity weapon. Drugs were almost in every location. It was an actual residence.”

The old method was labor intensive, involving many officers, Engstrom said, but the unruly gathering ordinance has simplified that.

“Since that ordinance started,,” he said, “it’s been very beneficial, I think, as word started to get to the community. Most of these parties start through Facebook, tweets. You’ll see one group of cars start from one neighborhood to the next.

“The reduction is tremendous. I think we had one or two last month. But they didn’t meet the unruly gathering hosting, because we can’t specifically go in and enforce it until the public calls us.”

The ordinance is a beneficial tool, Engstrom said, “because now, based on how that statute reads, once the door is open, we see the violation, we can go in.

“I would believe that it’s a significant impact. It was once every 90 days, but now it’s been a significant time since we’ve done one.”

When a house or apartment or other building has been the scene of an unruly gathering, a large red sticker is placed on the front, announcing the fact.

“I keep the stickers in my bag, I can’t wait to put them on people’s doors,” Engstrom said. “I haven’t done any this year. Last year, maybe three. Years 2011 and 2010 was really big. And this is the time of year for them, end of the school season summer.

“The neighbors love that. The next day, the neighbors love seeing that sticker and they like the fact that their driveways aren’t blocked and vehicles aren’t left there. We’ve actually recovered stolen cars from house parties the next morning.

“We’ve seen a reduction and I love having that tool. It’s a great thing.”

Cmdr. Kent Horn, who heads the Police Department’s Patrol Division, told the board that Engstrom’s descriptions of using the ordinances “speaks to the fact that they work, which is what we want.”


                                              -:-


Links to the full texts of the unruly gathering/social hosting and teen drinking ordinances are at the beginning of this story.


Below is a summary published by the Police Department:


Social Hosting Ordinance

Beginning July 1, 2009, Casa Grande has a new ordinance impacting parties and large gatherings, especially if underage drinking occurs.

1. If there is a party in your home and underage drinking or drug use occurs, the adult(s) present can be cited under the social host law. This applies whether the adults knowingly supplied the alcohol or not. This also applies to older peers, friends, siblings etc. who host parties in their parent's absence, or in their own apartment/home.

2. When a party of five or more people occurs, and police respond to a complaint for disturbing the peace, they can choose to 'tag' your house as having an 'unruly gathering', and the party host can be cited ($100). The owner of the property will also be notified by mail. If another unruly party occurs within six months, the party host can get a larger fine ($500), and the property owner can also be fined. Future offenses escalate the fines (up to $1,500). Some landlords may choose to evict their tenants after the first unruly gathering posting.


Below are excerpts from the ordinances:


City of Casa Grande Ordinance

No. 1397.09.05

9.16.050 - Permitting or Encouraging Underage Drinking

(a) No person eighteen years or older who owns or occupies any premises shall knowingly permit or fail to take reasonable action to prevent illegal consumption of spirituous liquor or drugs by any person.

(b) A person who violates this section is guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor.


9.08.010 - Unruly Gatherings

Synopsis

A peace officer may abate an unruly gathering by reasonable means, but not limited to, citation or arrest of violators and dispersal of the persons attending the gathering.

An unruly gathering is a gathering of five or more persons on any private property in a manner which abuses a disturbance of the quiet enjoyment of private or public property by any person or persons. Such disturbances include, but are not limited to, excessive noise or traffic, obstruction of public streets by crowds or vehicles, drinking in public, the service of alcohol to minors or consumption of alcohol by minors, fighting, disturbing the peace, and littering.

The premises shall be posted and any subsequent unruly gathering within 180 days shall result in liability for persons in attendance causing the unruliness or any owner, occupant or tenant, or sponsor of the event. The property owner of record will be notified by mail of the posting. Removal of the posting without court approval can result in a $100 fine.


Is that strange vehicle perhaps stolen?

Has a strange vehicle suddenly appeared on a street in your neighborhood, one that you’ve never seen there before, no one ever around it?

It could be a stolen vehicle that was dumped there.

You can check by going to the website https://theftaz.azag.gov/ and entering the license plate numbers and letters.

“Please report any stolen vehicles to Silent Witness at (520) 836-2100,” the Casa Grande Police Department said. The Silent Witness email is [email protected].


Funds available to help with home repairs


Do you have problems with your heating and cooling system, electrical system or even a leaky roof that needs to be repaired?

The city of Casa Grande has limited funds available in the form of low interest loans, interest-free deferred payment loans and/or grants to rehabilitate owner-occupied homes in the city.

Income restrictions apply by household size: one person, $37,200; two persons, $42,500; three persons, $47,800; four persons, $53,100.

You may apply online at www.casagrandeaz.gov/web/guest/housingrehabilitation or at the city Housing Division at 510 E. Florence Blvd. The phone number is 421-8670.