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Stakeholders hold ‘brainstorming’ session on county water usage
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COOLIDGE — Roughly halfway through their planned study of the Pinal Active Management Area, the Eloy and Maricopa-Stanfield Basin study group is opening up the floor.

The group is hosting a consultation workshop that began Monday and will continue Tuesday afternoon, from 1 to 4 p.m., during which stakeholders — city officials, utility managers, members of the public — will be brainstorming and discussing solutions to projected water shortages in the area.

“The main goal of the basin study is to help water managers plan for the future,” said Jake Lenderking, senior vice president for water resources and legislative affairs with Global Water Resources. “There’s a lot of uncertainty in the future. The sessions are geared toward, if we see these types of problems coming, what are potential solutions?”

The basin study, hosted by a group of agencies including the Arizona Department of Water Resources and the Pinal Partnership Water Resources Committee, was started in late 2018 and was designed to model current and future water demands and the impact that would have on the local supply. The study’s simulation period encompasses a 43-year span from 2018 to 2060 and is meant as a planning tool as opposed to evaluation of policy.

Recent announcements regarding shortages along the Colorado River, as well as the San Carlos Reservoir, directly threaten agriculture and agribusinesses in Pinal County. According to the EMS basin study, the latter contributes $1.1 billion to the local economy.

Within the Pinal AMA, the ADWR estimated in 2019 that climate conditions could lead to an 8.1-million-acre-foot deficit in groundwater supplies to support existing uses. While aquifer drawdown is expected to occur even in scenarios that prioritize efficiency, resulting land subsidence and the impact to local ecosystems could still be problematic.

The first day of the workshop involved generating ideas for tackling the issue, and grouping them into categories such as municipal incentives or bringing in new water supplies. The second day of the workshop will focus on specific adaptation and mitigation proposals and how to implement them in a reasonable time-frame as well as a preview of what the basin study’s next steps will be.

For more information on how to participate, contact Valerie Swick at vswick@usbr.gov.

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CG woman vies for title in Greatest Baker competition
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CASA GRANDE — Tammy Castellanos has been baking since she was 8 years old. And as a competitor in a nationwide competition, she hopes to bake her way to a $20,000 prize.

Castellanos is the owner of local baking company Johnny Cakes, in which she makes homemade cookies, cakes and other treats for local residents.

She entered the online Greatest Baker competition in April with a customer favorite — triple chocolate pound cake.

“I was surprised when I got the message that I was accepted,” Castellanos.

In the online competition hosted by Alice Fevronia and Sophie Faldo, bakers from across the world compete for the title of “Greatest Baker” by garnering votes. The winner with the most votes wins the competition.

By taking part in the competition, bakers raise awareness and money for the nonprofit organization No Hungry Kid, which aims to provide healthy food for children in need.

The winner receives a $20,000 prize and will be featured in “Bake from Scratch” magazine.

Castellanos said she entered the competition at the suggestion of a friend.

“This is the first baking competition I’ve ever entered,” she said.

Castellanos spent her childhood in Florence, the daughter of an area pastor. She was one of 11 children and the first girl born into the family.

“I had four older brothers so I learned to cook at a young age,” she said. “My mother made everything from scratch.”

When she watched her mother cook, Castellanos said it was like watching magic.

“As a child I loved watching her mix flour, sugar and eggs,” she said. “Whether it was sweet or savory, I always wanted to help.”

She discovered a passion for baking at age 8. The first item she made was a Boston cream pie cake recipe she had seen in a magazine.

“I mixed up the sugar and the salt, but my dad still ate a piece,” Castellanos said.

She went on to develop her culinary skills by baking for friends and family, usually using recipes handed down from generation to generation within her family.

Her father, who is now deceased, was always a big fan of her baking. Several years ago, when she founded Johnny Cakes, she named the business after him.

“Eating was always my dad’s favorite pastime,” she said. “He loved everything I made. I have pictures of him in the kitchen and I feel that I’m honoring him through my baking. When I get up in the morning and begin to bake, I hope my baking would make him proud.”

After decades of making cakes for friends and family for birthdays and special occasions, she decided three years ago to start Johnny Cakes with a simple goal in mind: share delicious treats with as many people as possible.

“Everyone should have the opportunity to experience a delicious treat,” she said.

The Johnny Cakes Baked Desserts Facebook page has nearly 600 followers. Castellanos often posts videos, photos and updates on what she’s baking.

Although some of the cakes and desserts she sells are family recipes, others, such as the triple chocolate pound cake, she developed herself. It’s one of the most-ordered items on Johnny Cakes.

Castellanos is currently ranked in second place in her division in the Greatest Baker competition. Voting is open until May 20 at 6 p.m. Votes may be made for Castellanos online at greatestbaker.com/2021/tammy-castellanos.

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Man indicted for first-degree murder following chase that killed Chandler officer
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PHOENIX — The man accused of hitting and killing a Chandler Police officer and critically injuring a Gilbert Police officer during a high-speed chase that began in Eloy last month has been indicted.

Jonathon J. Altland Jr., 25, is charged with first-degree murder, unlawful flight from law enforcement, burglary, endangerment, 20 counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon as a Class 2 felony, two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon as a Class 3 felony, two counts of theft of means of transportation and four misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct-fighting, according to a press release from the Gilbert Police Department.

The Gilbert Police Department is handling the investigation of the incident and released more information about the chase on Friday.

The incident started around 10:10 p.m. on April 29 when a Pinal County Sheriff’s deputy attempted to pull Altland over for allegedly speeding on westbound Interstate 10 near mile marker 212.

Altland allegedly exited I-10 at State Route 87, fleeing down the highway at speeds of 100 to 120 mph while swerving into other lanes and into oncoming traffic. Near Arica Road, the deputy’s passenger side window was shattered when Altland allegedly fired a gun at him.

Multiple agencies became involved in the chase including Coolidge Police, Gila River Police, Gilbert Police, Chandler Police and the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

At one point, Altland allegedly tried to hit several Coolidge Police vehicles, causing officers to drive up onto curbs in order to avoid him, said Coolidge Police Cmdr. Mark Tercero.

Once he reached the Chandler area, Altland allegedly drove through a gate at Chandler Municipal Airport, fled the airport and then drove the wrong way onto the Loop 202 San Tan Freeway. He then allegedly crashed the stolen truck he was driving into a fence near a car dealership and fled on foot into the dealership.

Altland allegedly threatened the dealership’s staff and stole a vehicle as officers were trying to establish a perimeter around the dealership. Altland allegedly attempted to flee in the stolen vehicle, accelerating and swerving toward officers. Multiple officers fired their weapons at the vehicle but Altland allegedly continued to drive through the parking lot, hitting a dealership employee, a DPS officer, Gilbert Police Officer Rico Aranda and Chandler Police Officer Christopher Farrar. Aranda was severely injured and Farrar was killed. Altland was transported to a hospital for injuries he received during the incident.

According to Gilbert Police, Aranda is continuing to recover from his injuries.