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Auto mall developer may come to Casa Grande
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CASA GRANDE — A company that owns and develops auto malls is looking at the vacant Sam’s Club in Casa Grande.

Mullin360 will participate in a public hearing for the Mission Royale Planned Area Development during the January Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.

According to the public notice for the Jan. 7 meeting, a request would allow auto sales and services, rental centers, liquor and convenience store uses that are currently prohibited in 17.5 acres of the commercial portion of the PAD.

According to the company’s website, it has auto mall locations in Scottsdale, Surprise and the East Valley.

Mullin360 is a family-owned firm started by a father and son team, Art and Jim Mullin.

“We are dedicated to designing and developing our properties to make a positive, long-term contribution through our commitment to service and quality,” says a statement on Mullin360’s website.

“We have not received any additional details on a project itself. There is a formal zoning process that the applicant must go through in order for this proposed use to be allowed,” said City Manager Larry Rains. “The city is currently processing this application.”

According to Rains, the city has received an application to amend the planned area development as zoning to allow for auto sales as a permitted use at the location of the old Sam’s Club.

“As a modest, local company, we take the impact that we have on our clients, communities and stakeholders seriously,” the company says on its website.

The Planning and Zoning Commission meeting will take place at 6 p.m. on Jan. 7.

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Lighthouse MInistries wants to add showers to its Gila Bend Highway facility
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CASA GRANDE — With two new mobile shower and bathroom units, Lighthouse Ministries hopes to start the new year by addressing what it sees as a “desperate need” within the community.

The organization will appear before the Casa Grande Planning and Zoning Commission on Jan. 7 to petition for a special use permit that will allow the installation and use of two self-contained mobile bathroom-shower units inside the backroom of its facility at 465 W. Gila Bend Highway.

The showers, which will be offered as a place for the homeless and less fortunate to bathe and change clothes, would be hooked to the city sewer system, requiring the installation of new pipes.

“The goal of Lighthouse Ministries is to fill in the gaps to help the homeless and less fortunate and get them to self-sufficiency,” said Richard Cunningham, senior pastor at Catalyst Church and spokesman for Lighthouse Ministries. “We try not to duplicate services or do what other organizations do.”

While there are some other temporary or mobile shower services in Casa Grande for the homeless to use, Cunningham said hours are limited and the units are not fully equipped bathroom facilities.

When people use the showers at the Lighthouse facility, they will be offered clean clothing, hygiene products and a towel.

Lighthouse Ministries will offer use of its showers Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“We don’t anticipate it only being homeless people who use these showers,” Cunningham said. “There are many families living without water or living five families to a house who could also benefit from this. Not everyone can afford water. If somebody needs a shower, we won’t turn them away.”

Cunningham is a member of the Mayor’s Coalition on Homelessness and said the ministry is addressing a need in the community.

He believes there are at least 100 homeless in Casa Grande and the surrounding communities as well as others who would use the facility on a regular basis.

“The next survey of the homeless will be done in January, but when last year’s survey was done, it counted 93 homeless in the area,” Cunningham said. “And the homeless have said that access to showers is a big need for them.”

Several churches are involved in the effort. One church donated towels. Two other churches are offering to provide a steady stream of volunteers to man the showers and clean and sanitize them between use.

A washer and dryer has been donated to launder towels and two salon chairs have been given to the organization.

Cunningham said he envisions the Lighthouse facility as eventually becoming a place where people may visit, receive clean clothes and hygiene products, shower, shave and have a haircut while also having access to various other services.

If the showers are busy, Cunningham said people may wait in the facility’s picnic area or browse the boutique, which often receives donations of new clothing and other items from area stores and businesses.

Each of the two mobile units is a self-contained bathroom with a shower, toilet and sink. One is fully handicap-accessible.

The units will be installed inside and updates will be made to the facility to accommodate the service.

As well as installing new sewer pipes, a drop ceiling will also be added to the back room and a heating system included. A tankless “hot water on demand” system will be installed, Cunningham said.

Work to install the units and add new pipes will begin once the organization receives approval from the city.

An estimated $20,000 is needed to upgrade the sewer pipes, Cunningham said.

“We are trying to reach out to people to raise the money,” he said. “Once we have approval for the permit, we hope to have the showers up and running by late winter or early spring.”

The Lighthouse facility is housed in the former S.S. Blinky Jr. Building on the edge of downtown. Neighbors include the Holiday Inn across the street and a few shops behind it on Wilson Street. Eva’s Fine Mexican Food restaurant is also nearby.

The Lighthouse partners with many local churches, volunteers and other agencies to meet the needs of the community.

“The Lighthouse feels working together as a community with like-minded churches, organizations and resource groups is the key to helping our communities and helping the people we serve to better help themselves toward self-sufficiency,” Cunningham said.

Other services provided by Lighthouse include a regular food distribution program, emergency food ministry, clothing and furniture boutique, a second-hand store, weekly Bible study and referral services.

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Dog is reunited with owner after hit-and-run, emergency surgery
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COOLIDGE — This year has been a difficult one for many but on Dec. 23, Bella the dachshund had a particularly rough morning in Coolidge.

Residents found the dog in the middle of Arizona Boulevard near the intersection with Spruell Avenue, with a dislocated jaw, crushed tail and head trauma at around 7:30 in the morning.

Coolidge local Ronald Gremard, who formerly ran a dog shelter in California, rushed to the scene when his wife told him she’d noticed an injured dog while on the way to work. According to Gremard, when he found Bella, a girl was trying to shoo her onto the sidewalk, but she couldn’t move.

“She was in bad shape, bleeding, plus she was freezing,” Gremard said. “So I rolled up, snatched her up and took her to the Coolidge veterinary.”

Aaron Dorman / Submitted photo 

Coolidge resident Ron Gremard found Bella, an older dachshund, injured on Arizona Boulevard. 

The dog had no chip or identification. There are numerous strays in the area, but Gremard said that the older dog looked too well groomed, including clipped nails, to not have an owner.

It took trips to two different vets and an extended stay at the home of the Gremards, but Bella was reunited with her owner later that evening for what looks to be a promising but long recovery process.

Bella was first taken to Coolidge Veterinary Hospital, but because of the holiday there was no doctor on duty, so nurses did a triage and then Gremard took her to Casa Grande Animal Hospital, where she had surgery to help stitch up her face, including a gash around her eye, and give her pain medication for nasal fractures.

“It’s going to take some time and work to get her back to normal,” Gremard said. Several Coolidge residents contributed to paying for Bella’s hospital bill.

Gremard assumed that Bella was the casualty of a hit and run. Unfortunately, Gremard notes that a lot of dog owners in Coolidge let their pets out onto an unfenced yard, where they can wander out onto a busy road. In addition, this is a time of year when many people abandon their pets.

“Cash is tight and people don’t know what else to do,” Gremard said. “Some people won’t take them to the pound or kill shelters so they just dump them on the streets and hope the dog can make it.”

Luckily, Gremard’s wife, Carrie, was able to locate the owner, retiree Louis Espinoza, for a tearful reunion. Ms. Gremard said he was emotional when seeing Bella had been injured but grateful to have her home.

State GOP head files lawsuit to get Pence to decide election
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Kelli Ward

PHOENIX — The head of the Arizona Republican Party is suing Vice President Mike Pence in a bid to give the election to Donald Trump.

Legal papers filed Sunday and Monday in federal court in Texas ask a judge there to void laws which give the ultimate authority to Congress to decide which Electoral College delegates should be counted.

But it’s not that Kelli Ward wants Arizona’s 11 electoral votes to go for Joe Biden, as reflected in the official and certified results. Instead, she wants the court to order that Pence has and must exercise unilateral power to decide which slate of electors from Arizona and other disputed states should be counted — or if none of the electoral votes for Biden from Arizona should be counted at all. And even in that case, Ward’s lawsuit proposes an option that could still throw the election to Trump.

The lawsuit is a last-ditch effort to put Arizona’s 11 electoral votes into Trump’s column despite the popular vote giving Biden 10,457 more votes than the incumbent.

Ward is the plaintiff in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court where she wants the justices to grant her more time to review what she claims are questionable ballots in Maricopa County. That effort was rebuffed by lower courts who not only said there was no evidence that further review would change the outcome but that they had to decide the issue by Dec. 14, the date that Arizona’s 11 officially chosen electors cast their votes for Biden.

Ward contends that deadline is unconstitutional. But the high court is not expected to even look at her complaint until Jan. 14, eight full days after Congress makes the final count of the electoral votes.

That leaves this new claim which, if it gains traction, could make all of the litigation claiming election improprieties moot by simply declaring that Pence — and only Pence — gets to decide which electoral votes count.

The reason the lawsuit was filed in federal court in Texas is because one of the plaintiffs is Congressman Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican. He intends to make a motion when Congress convenes on Jan. 6 to count the electoral votes to not accept the official results from Arizona, setting the stage for the legal showdown Ward seeks to provoke.

And the lead attorney is Texas attorney William Sessions who served as director of the FBI from 1983 to 1993 when he was dismissed by President Clinton amid allegations of ethical improprieties.

Central to the litigation is the Twelfth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The first step is electors in each state cast their votes for president. That is what occurred here and in all other states on Dec. 14, giving Biden 306 electoral votes against 232 for Trump.

Then Congress meets in joint session on Jan. 6 to certify the count. All that is normally routine with Pence, as presiding officer of the Senate, running the show.

When Gohmert objects to counting the Arizona slate of electors for Biden and to Biden slates from other contested states, that triggers Ward’s legal theory based on the second part of the Twelfth Amendment. It says “the president of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted.’’

“Pence alone has the exclusive authority and sole discretion to open and permit the counting of the electoral votes for a given state,’’ the lawsuit says, regardless of what are the official certified results — and regardless of whether members of Congress disagree and believe Biden won. It also says Pence can decide if a competing slate should instead be counted.

That, in turn, plugs into a maneuver engineered by Ward: Even as the official Biden-pledged Electoral College delegates were casting their votes for him in Phoenix on Dec. 14, she had a separate slate of Republicans, including herself, casting their own votes for Trump in what can only be described as an unofficial and unsanctioned event. That means there are Trump-pledged delegates ready to be recognized and have their votes counted should Pence choose.

The lawsuit is even more complex than that.

It says another option would be for Pence to decide that neither slate gets to vote because of questions about the election. That, in turn, could leave both candidates with fewer than the 270 electoral votes needed for election.

In that scenario, federal law sets up a procedure for both the U.S. House and Senate to review the vote. But if they can’t agree, then the default is to count the votes as each state certified, meaning Biden gets Arizona’s 11 electoral votes.

Ward’s lawyers, however, contend the Twelfth Amendment then gives the decision solely to the U.S. House.

But a House vote is not individual by lawmakers in the Democrat-controlled chamber. It’s by state.

There are more states with Republican-controlled congressional delegations than those where Democrats make up the majority. And that means if each state delegation casts one vote, and that vote reflects the political makeup of that delegation, Trump would get another four years in office.

All that comes down to why Pence is named as a defendant: The lawsuit seeks to bar him from exercising his authority on Jan. 6 in any way but the manner that Ward’s lawsuit demands.

This lawsuit and others by Ward and Trump supporters are not the only way they have been seeking to overturn the official results of the Arizona election.

One is supporting a bid by Sen. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, to subpoena election materials from Maricopa County to determine if there is any evidence of fraud.

But even if the Senate Judiciary Committee gets the materials it wants — Farnsworth lost the first round in that lawsuit — and even if there is a conclusion something was done wrong, there may be no legal procedure to use that information to change the official results.

That’s because Gov. Doug Ducey, who certified the results, has refused to call such a special legislative session which could give the Republican-controlled legislature a chance to appoint its own slate of electoral college delegates. And both Senate President Karen Fann and House Speaker Rusty Bowers have said there is no legal way for lawmakers to convene to even consider the issue before the regular session starts on Jan. 11, five days after the final congressional count.