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Councilwoman Jacque Hendrie-Henry seeks re-election to serve hometown

COOLIDGE — Jacque Hendrie-Henry is no stranger to city government.

Before she was elected to council, Henry worked in multiple city departments over more than 35 years of employment.

She began her career as a dispatcher, and eventually worked her way up as the dispatch supervisor and administrative assistant to the chief of police. As a dispatcher, she was also trained to be an EMT, acted as a reserve officer and a member of the reserve fire department.

At the end of 19 years at the Coolidge Police Department, Henry moved on to apply her expertise in other city functions, such as Public Works and Building Safety, Growth Management and City Hall.

Her varied experiences within different departments, she said, provided her with insight into some critical city operations, such as putting together the city’s budget and the need for city code.

But even long before she retired in 2010, Henry held on to the aim of one day giving back to her community by serving on council.

She was elected to serve her first term in 2012 and re-elected four years later. As an incumbent, she seeking to keep her seat in the 2020 election.

A lifetime Coolidge resident, Henry said that her primary motivation behind serving on council is to assist in bringing businesses that provide children, young adults and their families with fun things do to back into the community.

“Growing up here we had a lot of things to do,” she said. “We had movie theaters, the drive-in theatre, a bowling alley, skating rink— all that kind of stuff. I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to get it all back, but I’d like to get some of that stuff back for our community.”

Over the past four years, the council has gotten close to that goal through a heavy focus on economic development, with the largest and most anticipated project being the upcoming Nikola Motor Company factory. Last week, the company announced plans to hold a ceremonial ground breaking on site of the future facility on July 23.

Council played a part in paving the way for equipment manufactures like Nikola to see Coolidge as a viable destination long before the city was ever on the multi-billion corporation’s radar.

Henry noted that though city staff and Mayor Jon Thompson worked heavily with the company before and after its announcement to build a manufacturing facility Coolidge, council helped by annexing more properties into the city.

The Nikola Motors plant will be located on Housers and Vail roads, an area that was annexed in to the city in 2015.

Other past annexations have also proven fruitful to the city, Henry noted, such as the decision to annex the Coolidge Municipal Airport. Recently reconstruction of the airport’s main runway generated about $100,000 in construction sales tax revenue for the city.

“The airport was one of the things that I was really interested in because it could be a goldmine for the city,” Henry said.

Attracting more industry to the community is something Henry said she would like to continue to support if re-elected.

“I hope that we are able to get businesses here so that our citizens won’t have to travel (to work) and they can stay local,” she said.

Beyond her service to council, Henry is also an active member of the community. She belongs to a number of local organizations such as the Pinal County Chapter 36 Disabled American Veterans Auxiliary, the American Legion Auxiliary and the Coolidge Cotton Patchers Quilting club.

As an alumni of the Central Arizona College, she was also a receipt of the Wall of Success Alumni Achievement Award.

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Coolidge to refurbish 2005 firetruck

COOLIDGE — After months of discussion, debate and the establishment of a committee to further study the issue, the Coolidge Fire Department presented a recommendation to council on a firetruck refurbishment.

At the direction of the City Council, CFD was instructed to create a committee to examine and recommend the refurbishment of one of two firetruck options presented during a study session held on June 8.

Coolidge Fire Chief Mark Dillon said that the city had the option to refurbish a 1992 KME Falcon the department already had on hand or to purchase, and subsequently refurbish, a 2005 Pierce Saber through the Henderson, Nevada based company.

The department’s recommendations came under scrutiny by full-time and volunteer CFD staff, who felt administration was overlooking firefighter safety and failed to notify staff members of the refurbishment prior to making the recommendations.

But at the end of the two week deadline set by Mayor Jon Thompson, a committee comprised of full time, volunteer CFD and public works staff came to a unanimous agreement.

Going before the council on Monday, Dillon said that the appointed committee unanimously voted to recommend the purchase and refurbishment of the Pierce Saber over that of the KME Falcon and requested that council waive the sealed bid requirements for the purchase.

“Everyone was heard and a lot of frank discussion was had on what are needs are, what we can afford and what works best for us,” Dillon said of the committee’s meeting. “This is the conclusion we came to.”

CFD will use funds from the sale of Rescue 534, approximately $140,000, and capital sales tax monies to cover the cost of purchasing and refurbishing the firetruck.

Though the decision will cost the city more compared to the refurbishment of the 1992 vehicle, as the final purchase and refurbishment price amounts to $232,597, Dillon said the committee believed the Pierce Saber the better option in the long term— an opinion which he backed.

Once the project is completed, CFD expects it will get about 15-20 years out of the later model fire apparatus — approximately 10 years of additional service compared to Engine 533.

A full engine rebuild, transmission dyno testing and inspection of the vehicle’s pump are among the items included the price of the refurbishment, along with various cosmetic and functional updates.

According to Dillon, if the transmission fails testing, it will be rebuilt at the expense of Firetrucks Unlimited.

All updates and changes made by the company will be warranted for a year.

“I think its the right decision too,” Thompson said. “We’re going to have to build a new public safety facility somewhere going west and south in the near future and we’re going to have to get a new (fire)truck. But this (the Pierce Saber) will get us to that point in time.”

CFD also provided council, at their request, with a list of repairs needed across the department’s fleet. Addressing the vehicle deficiencies could cost up to $32,550 — the bulk of which would go to repairing issues with the TAK-4 suspension on the department’s main vehicle and repairs to the ladder truck.

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Pinal cities split in addressing rise in COVID-19 cases and face masks

COOLIDGE — Some cities are firm on their stance about enforcing face masks amid the coronavirus pandemic, while others are still exploring the issue, according to the Pinal Partnership's virtual mayors' update on Friday.  

Earlier this week, Gov. Doug Ducey announced that he would allow mayors to make the call on mandating masks as the number of COVID-19 cases in Arizona surged. 

Some Pinal County municipalities, such as Casa Grande, said they will require residents to wear masks since Ducey's announcement on Wednesday. 

Casa Grande Mayor Craig McFarland said the decision on the mandate came as a response to the surge in cases the city witnessed over the last week. 

As of Friday, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases jumped from 408 across the city's three ZIP codes to 453. On Monday, the total was at 309.

McFarland said the city would release an official proclamation regarding the mandate, which will go into effect Saturday. The requirement will stay in place until the rate of infections declines. 

The proclamation will allow for some exceptions, he said, specifically for those with certain medical conditions, children under the age of 6 or those dining in restaurants while observing social distancing. 

The town of Superior is also taking a similar stance, mandating the use of face masks in public. 

Since June 11, the COVID-19 cases in the town have risen from less than five to 17. 

Mayor Mila Besich said in a small community like Superior the matter is personal and hits very close to home.

"These are not just numbers, these aren't just addresses, these are people that we know," Besich said. "Our community experienced our first death (from the virus), so it's very real (and) it's connected to everyone." 

However, under the direction of their mayors, other cities are taking a different approach — recommending the use of masks rather than mandating it.

For Maricopa residents, the choice to wear a mask in public will likely remain voluntary

Christian Price, mayor of Maricopa, noted that under the state of Arizona's COVID-19 requirements for businesses, restaurants and bars, those that serve the public are ordered to adopt policies that follow the guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encompassing masks or other face coverings where physical distancing is not possible. 

The guidelines apply to an array of businesses and require those companies to inform customers about their policies, which can include asking customers to wear face masks, Price said. 

The requirements as outlined by the state have led the city to request, rather than require, Maricopa residents to wear a mask. 

"If you're a business that can't social distance then the governor has said you have to require masks and you have to enforce it," he said. "The city of Maricopa is filling the gap, and that gap from your car to walking into that business is our request for you to wear a mask." 

Similarly, the town of Queen Creek has also opted to recommend, but not mandate, the use of face masks. 

But some mayors see the mandates as an encroachment on civil liberties. Apache Junction Mayor Jeff Serdy asserted that he decided to leave the decision up to individuals, asserting that cities do not have the right to mandate one way or another. 

In Florence, Eloy and Coolidge, no concrete announcements have been made regarding mask requirements. 

Mayor Tara Walter of Florence told those logged onto Friday's virtual meeting that she had spoken to mayors around the state to get their insight on what options are available to cities when it comes to implementing, or not implementing, a mask requirement.

Walter also said she met on Thursday with the town manager and other staff members to examine the available data on Florence's COVID-19 cases and consider what measures surrounding municipalities have taken so far. But no definitive decision has yet been made by the town. 

"I just want to make sure that we're making the right decision that will reflect our community," Walter said. "Our stance right now is encouraging people to be informed, understand what the guidelines are and wear a mask if you choose to." 

Like Florence, Eloy is home to several correctional facilities. But with the number of COVID-19 cases only broken down by ZIP code, Vice Mayor Micah Powell noted that it's next to impossible to determine how many of those cases are confined to detention centers. 

Powell said that Eloy city officials plan to meet on Monday to discuss what measures would best suit the community. 

The city of Coolidge announced Thursday that it is working with city attorneys to determine the best course of action related to Ducey's latest guidelines. 

Since Monday, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases within Coolidge has increased by 36. 

Coolidge Mayor Jon Thompson said that of the individuals who had either reached out to City Hall or to members of the council personally, Coolidge citizens appeared to be split 50-50 about the desire for a mask requirement. 

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Coolidge following safety guidelines close as football practice resumes

COOLIDGE — The Bears football team is back on the field, though there is something notable missing from the practice field: footballs.

Coolidge coach Rodger Schenks has been working with district and Coolidge High School administrators to figure out how to hold practice while following state guidelines. The result is a bunch of mini-sessions as opposed to one large practice, with small groups training together. Linemen practice on Mondays and Wednesdays, and skill players on Tuesdays and Thursdays. And even then, they’re split by grade level and last name.

At the beginning of each session, Schenks asks the players if they’re experiencing a series of symptoms, then checks their temperature. They take regular water breaks, but it’s with water each player brought on their own. And at all times, the players keep their distance from each other.

“It’s just something new and you have to adapt,” Schenks said. “If you’re a teacher in the classroom you have to adapt, and it’s the same thing here. When you’re involved in education, things can be different every year.”

All the players, no matter their position, are working on technique while Coolidge remains in Phase 1 of its restart. They’re not allowed to share anything, and that includes a football. So there is a lot of footwork and mentality, and less on schemes. Schenks hopes they’ll be able to introduce the football soon and get larger groups together.

But Schenks doesn’t actually mind how this has played out, since he wants all his players to be technically sound anyway. He said there is a lot of experience on the team, so getting schematics down isn’t as much of a concern. He doesn’t feel like the team is behind at all. What’s more, months of being stuck at home has appeared to get the players more excited to get out there and work.

“We’ve got a lot of kids out here, and that’s exciting,” Schenks said. “We’re breaking things down with fundamentals.”

One thing that could cause a problem is Coolidge having a new quarterback, and everyone not being able to get comfortable with whoever that might be. But Schenks said everyone has stayed in touch through Zoom meetings, and stayed in shape throughout the whole process.

No matter what happens, Schenks said the Bears will be following guidelines 100%, because he doesn’t want to put the future season at risk.

“Outside of us, you see everything on Twitter and social media, and guys doing different things, but you know, those are probably gonna be the first programs that will be shut down because they’re not following the phases,” he said. “We’re doing a good job with it, so we’re just gonna keep working and taking care of business.”