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Bebee asks CGUHSD board to allow him to resign
  • Updated

CASA GRANDE — Superintendent Steve Bebee will ask the Casa Grande Union High School District Governing Board to approve his resignation effective June 30.

The board will meet Tuesday evening to discuss the superintendent’s contract as well as returning to in-person learning full time.

“I respectfully ask that the CGUHS Governing Board accept my resignation and allow me out of my current contract on that date,” Bebee said in a letter to the board. “I will be forever grateful to the Governing Board members that I have had the opportunity to work with over the past three school years that allowed me to work in this amazing school district.”

In March, it was revealed that Bebee had entered contract negotiations with the Buckeye Union High School District.

“It has been my pleasure to serve the staff, students and families of this district as well as the Greater Casa Grande Community in my times as your superintendent,” Bebee said in the letter. “I am very proud of all the positive changes that have taken place in the district over the past three years, and I wish nothing but the very best for the Casa Grande Union High School District moving forward.”

According to the agenda, if the board approves the return, students who are signed up for modified in-person modality may be returning full time as early as April 12. Students started back on a schedule of A/B rotating days on March 8.

During the meeting, the board is also expected to approve proposals from Sunland Asphalt for district-wide asphalt replacement, repair and maintenance.

There will also be a career and technical education presentation by CTE Director Steven Sipes during the meeting.

A special meeting where board members will discuss the superintendent’s contract will begin at 6 p.m., while the regular meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. and will be streamed online. The link can be found on the agenda or on the district’s YouTube channel.

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Historic CG house that burned was designed by well-known stone mason
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CASA GRANDE — A historic stone house heavily damaged by fire Saturday is one of five known buildings designed in Casa Grande by a well-known area stonemason. And it is one of only four left standing.

Known for decades as the “Vasquez House,” the stone home at 114 E. Florence Blvd. was built in 1927 as a private residence for area businessman Richard Vasquez, said Michael Sirota, director of The Museum of Casa Grande.

The building was designed by Michael Sullivan, who also designed at least four other iconic Casa Grande buildings, including:

  • Casa Grande Woman’s Club Building on Sacaton Street, which now serves as a theater for the BlackBox Foundation
  • The former First Presbyterian Church on Florence Boulevard, now known as Heritage Hall and part of The Museum of Casa Grande
  • Stone warehouse at 119 N. Florence St., which now houses the offices of Against Abuse Inc.
  • Fisher Memorial Home, near Olive and Eighth streets, a former mortuary that was destroyed by fire in 2017

“We think there might be a few more designed by him, including a home on Third Street, but we haven’t confirmed those are Michael Sullivan buildings yet,” said Marge Jantz, a former member of the Casa Grande Historic Preservation Commission.

Florence Blvd Fire 4/3/21

Sullivan was born in Canada in 1854 and arrived in Casa Grande around 1916 or 1917 after living in Colorado.

“While in Colorado, Sullivan built several structures, but it is not known where he actually learned his trade,” Sirota said. “Sullivan remained in Casa Grande until his death in February 1928.”

Sullivan also designed the Pvt. Matthew B. Juan monument in Veterans Memorial Park in Sacaton. Juan was the first Arizonan to die in World War I.

The 1,500-square-foot Vasquez House, built in 1927, was one of Sullivan’s last construction projects.

It was listed on the state registry of historic places in 1992 and on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.

The building “contributes to Casa Grande’s architectural history by its association with local contractor Michael Sullivan and its Pueblo influenced design,” the description of the building on the National Register of Historic Places reads.

On the registry, it is described as a “single-story structure constructed of random field stone.”

Register description

Jantz said there are stories of members of the Woman’s Club gathering and delivering the field rocks to Casa Grande so that they could be used in construction projects.

“The river rock is all local,” Jantz said.

The description of the home on the national registry describes the home as “U-shaped in plan with the irregular side comprising the front facade. The principal and east wings have a flat roof and parapet with Pueblo-style influenced design. The clay-tiled wing roof intersects below the parapet. A flat-roofed stuccoed addition extends from the east rear facade.”

The main entrance to the home was “sheltered by a slight shed roof on the west side of the protruding east wing.” A “tapered low wall of field stone extends from the south side of the front entry door,” the registry description of the building says.

Although the home was designed with strategically placed windows to allow in light, in recent years, the windows were covered with boards to deter vandals.

Vasquez was the owner of multiple stores in downtown Casa Grande. Two of his grandsons, Chris and Garye Vasquez, currently are Eloy police chief and a judge on the Arizona Court of Appeals, respectively. Although the stone house had remained in the Vasquez family for decades, it had recently sold. The owner is now listed as a resident of Oregon.

The building has long been vacant.

Casa Grande firefighters responded to the fire at about 10:30 p.m. Saturday. No injuries were reported and the cause of the fire is under investigation.

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Fundraising begins for new Habitat for Humanity house in Arizona City
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ARIZONA CITY — When construction on a new Habitat for Humanity project begins, Andrea Northup likes to be on-hand, working alongside volunteers.

“I go from house to house volunteering,” said Northup, the sponsor relations manager for Habitat for Humanity of Central Arizona. “I love the energy among the volunteers. It’s magic.”


Andrea Northup

With its volunteer crew and a coalition of area churches providing labor, Habitat for Humanity of Central Arizona completes about one or two homes a year in Casa Grande or Arizona City.

In a few months, it hopes to start its latest project on a plot of donated land near Candalaria Drive in Arizona City.

But before building can begin, Northup needs to raise about $75,000 of the $100,000 needed to construct the home.

“We’re currently in the early stages of planning the project and are reaching out to businesses and others who want to donate,” Northup said.

Once the money is raised, construction is expected to begin in the spring or fall months.

The newest home will be built on one of four lots in Arizona City donated to Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona.

One of the four lots was donated by area resident Joyce Mortenson while the other three were donated by an anonymous Canadian real estate firm.

The organization’s most recently built homes are on nearby donated lots in Arizona City.

Many of the volunteers on each building site are provided by a coalition of area churches that includes Calvary Chapel, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, First Presbyterian Church of Casa Grande, Covenant Presbyterian Church and St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church.


Volunteers gathered recently at a Habitat for Humanity work site in Arizona City.

A family to receive the home has not yet been selected and the organization is accepting applications on its website. Once a new homeowner has been selected, he or she will work alongside volunteers to build the house.

Each Habitat for Humanity home is built in partnership between the homeowner and the community.

The homebuyer pays for the home with an affordable home loan and through a down payment of about 400 hours of “sweat equity” earned during the homebuilding process.

“These are homebuyers who might have trouble coming up with a down payment or might have things in their credit history that can be explained,” Northup said. “We look at these things and consider their ability to pay for a home loan and their willingness to put in 400 hours toward the completion of their home.”

Once qualified and accepted for a home, the buyer builds a relationship with the volunteer teams by working alongside them.

“They learn how to put up drywall and do landscaping,” Northup said. “They see the transformation of their home from empty lot to move-in-ready home and they learn how to take care of their home.”

The new homeowner is also required to take financial literacy and home ownership classes to prepare them for owning a home.

“They learn how to manage their finances, care for a house and sustain their mortgage,” Northup said.

While many Habitat for Humanity buyers arrive on their first day of “sweat equity” volunteerism without any construction experience, Northup said they quickly catch on.

“We get people who have never swung a hammer before,” she said. “I was talking with one homeowner recently and remembering that on her first day of volunteering, her nails weren’t being hammered in straight but about a month later, she had improved so much. All volunteers need is a willingness to learn.”

Homeowners are grateful for their home and the efforts of volunteers, according to Northup.

“A Habitat for Humanity project is a great way for people to come together to help a family,” she said. “It might seem like just a house, but raising walls together is a great thing when it helps families. I’ve had families moving into homes tell me that they can’t believe complete strangers would come out and help build a house for them.”

As well as volunteering on a home-building site, residents may also help by donating to the organization.

Because Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit organization, donors may use the Arizona charitable tax credit option to contribute to the cause, Northup said.

“The first thing I like for people to know is that dollar for dollar, they can receive a tax credit on their Arizona state taxes. For 2020, the deadline to make a donation is April 15. Donations made after April 15 will count toward the 2021 tax filing season,” she said. “Arizona allows you to say where your tax dollars go.”

Through the program, when Arizona single taxpayers give up to $400 or couples, $800, their tax liability is reduced by the donation amount.

To make a donation online, visit the Habitat for Humanity of Central Arizona website at Habitatcaz.org. Businesses that wish to partner with the organization may call Northup at 970-580-7860 or send an email to andrea@habitatcaz.org.

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Infrastructure plan could help state and county roads
  • Updated

CASA GRANDE — It’s unknown how much of President Joe Biden’s proposed $2 trillion infrastructure plan would be directed toward Arizona or Pinal County but both the state and the county certainly could use the funds to help repair local and state roadways.

Quote Wizard, a website that allows users to compare rates on home, auto, health and life insurance, recently ranked all U.S. states by overall road conditions based on the percentage of non-acceptable roads and percentage of total square miles of bridge decks being labeled as poor according to data from the Federal Highway Administration.

Rhode Island ranked the worst at No. 1 with 50% of its roads being non-acceptable and 23% of bridge decks being labeled as poor. Wyoming was ranked the best at No. 50 with 5% of its roads listed as non-acceptable and 7.4% of its bridge decks being rated as poor.

Arizona was ranked 15th, with 21% of roads being ranked as non-acceptable and 1.4% of bridge decks being rated as poor.

Quote Wizard estimated that poor roads and bridges cost drivers across the U.S. an average of $556 in repairs each year. It estimated that poor roads and bridges in Arizona cost Arizona motorists an average of $576 in repairs each year.

In Arizona, who is responsible for repairing a road depends on if the road is a state highway or a city or county street.

The Arizona Department of Transportation is responsible for building and maintaining the 6,700 miles of state highways, Doug Nintzel, a spokesman for ADOT, stated in an email to PinalCentral.

In Pinal County, the county Public Works Department maintains about 1,430 miles of asphalt and “asphalt rock dust palliative” roads and another 539 miles of dirt roads, Gina Salinas, a spokeswoman for Pinal County, stated in an email. This does not include all of the miles of roads within the various cities or towns in the county.

In Pinal County roadway conditions are rated on a scale of 0 to 100, with a road rated 0 to 25 as very poor with a life expectancy of 0 to 5 years and a road rated 75 to 100 as excellent with a 15- to 25-year life expectancy, Salinas said. The overall rating for Pinal County was 69 or good with a 10- to 15-year life expectancy.

“While the score for the overall network was good, there is a certain percentage of roads in the network with a low score,” she said. “Through our Pavement Preservation Program, we target the most used roadways with the lowest score. It’s a constant year-round process to maintain our network.”

“A new, well-constructed asphalt road can last 15 to 20 years but will start deteriorating immediately,” Salinas said. As the road ages, its pavement condition index rating drops.

Weather, temperature extremes, and wear and tear from traffic and the size of vehicles that use the road all contribute to the deterioration of the pavement.

The county can extend the life of a road through regular surface treatments and the occasional overlay of new asphalt every seven to 10 years, she said.

It would cost about $188 million over the next three years to bring the county road network up to an average pavement condition rating of 80, Salinas said. The bill to provide a steady state of maintenance to the county’s roads would be about $13 million annually.

According to the county’s draft 2021 five-year transportation improvement and maintenance program, Pinal has allocated $4.2 million for maintenance projects in the 2020-21 fiscal year, she said. The amount allocated each year depends on the amount collected by the Pinal County 20 Year Transportation Excise Tax, a half-cent sales tax which was approved by voters in 1985 and extended by voters for another 20 years in 2005.

“This is the only reliable source of transportation revenue that the county receives,” Salinas said.

The county does receive about $215,000 from Arizona’s Highway User Revenue Fund for the maintenance and analysis of bridges in the county and seeks grants for the largest roadway projects in the county, she said.

The county’s portion of the transportation tax has been increasing over the past four years, Salinas said. In the 2016-17 fiscal year the county’s portion was $7,820,368. The current and projected portion for the 2020-21 fiscal year is $11,596,433 and the county projects $11,944,326 for the 2021-22 fiscal year.

In its response to PinalCentral, ADOT did not give an overall condition rating for state highways, but Nintzel said because of limited funding the state, like the county, has focused mainly on preserving the existing highway system over new highway projects.

“In recent years ADOT has been able to program between $200 million and $280 million per year for road and bridge improvement projects along state highways,” Nintzel said. “That funding is generally made up of federal funds; basically 95% federal funds and 5% state funds. Federal appropriations have stayed consistent over the past several years, while state funding has increased slightly over the past five years.”

Nintzel did not give exact figures on how much state funds have increased over the past five years.

Most of the state’s funds for roadway construction projects come from the Highway User Revenue Fund, which is funded through a portion of state gas taxes, vehicle licensing taxes, motor carrier fees and vehicle registration fees, he said.

Nintzel pointed out that the 36-cent gas tax per gallon, 18 cents from the state and 18 cents from the federal government, has not been changed since the early 1990s.

Funding to patch potholes and other roadway maintenance comes from ADOT’s operating fund, which is set through the state budget process in the Legislature, he said. That fund is also used to operate the Motor Vehicle Division and maintain the department’s buildings.

Phoenix and Tucson also have their own sales taxes, approved by voters in Maricopa and Pima counties, that help fund their road repair projects, such as the Phoenix-area freeway projects, Nintzel said.

However, Gov. Doug Ducey announced a $230 million plan for new transportation infrastructure in February. The plan is funded with $150.3 million of COVID-19 relief money the state got from the federal government and $80 million in state transportation funds. The amount of revenue collected by the state transportation fund has exceeded the state’s projections for the fiscal year.

Approximately $117 million in the plan will go toward improving more than 600 highway lane-miles across the state, with about 400 of those miles in rural counties, Nintzel said.

The governor’s plan also includes $33 million to rebuild the Gila River Bridge on Interstate 10.

“The bridge is the first step in completing the widening of a key commerce corridor between Phoenix and Tucson,” Nintzel said. That project, which will widen the bridge to three lanes in either direction, is expected to start construction in 2022, he said.