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Northern Avenue road construction in Coolidge close to being finished
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COOLIDGE — The road construction that has closed a portion of Northern Avenue by Coolidge High School and Arizona Boulevard for weeks is expected to be completed by the end of the week.

City Engineer and Public Works Director Matt Rencher said the project was needed because an old irrigation pipeline was leaking.

Haydon Construction, which also built the new Coolidge Aquatic Center, thought it had fixed the problem by replacing part of the pipeline but realized after repaving the road that there was still a leak.

Workers for Haydon Construction had to tear the road apart again to fix the leak, which could have been caused by gaskets connected to the pipeline, Rencher said.

“We knew the pipe was bad, but something happened, and (the new pipeline) was not installed correctly,” Rencher said on Friday morning. “It was leaking so badly.”

On Friday morning Haydon Construction was still trenching the road where the new pipeline had been installed.

City Manager Rick Miller said the pipe that was installed by a subcontractor was leaking at a few locations near Arizona Boulevard.

“We won’t accept a leaking irrigation pipe and want the job done right,” Miller said.

The project is being funded by $5 million in bonds that voters approved in November of 2019 for the aquatic center and the Northern Avenue construction.

In April 2020 Haydon Construction was listed as the best bidder and the City Council approved the bid on April 27, 2020.

Rencher said the city was pretty sure the old pipeline was leaking.

“If the pipes were not leaking we would not have touched them,” he said. “When we installed the new pipe we did not know the pipes were leaking for not being installed correctly.”

Many students and staff going to Heartland Ranch Elementary, Coolidge Junior High and Coolidge High School have been taking detours to get to the schools.

Rencher said the city will look at the contract to see if completion of the construction did not meet deadline, which could result in possible damages.

“That is why we are in negotiations with the contractor,” Rencher said, reiterating the hope that the project will be finished and the roadway will be reopened by the end of this week.

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SRP expansion would be a moneymaker for Coolidge, Pinal
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COOLIDGE — The proposed expansion of the Salt River Project plant in southern Coolidge could prove to be a big moneymaker for the city and county.

The utility says the expansion would help SRP integrate more renewable energy resources into the power grid and provide reliable power to its rapidly growing customer base during times of peak electricity demand, including some of the hottest days in Arizona’s summer season.

The city of Coolidge will not be making the decision, as this must come from the Arizona Corporation Commission, said Coolidge City Manager Rick Miller. The ACC will have an open meeting in March to discuss the expansion.

Miller explained the issue to the Coolidge City Council at its Monday night meeting.

The city would anticipate receiving about $900,000 on construction taxes if the expansion is approved, though those funds are for just one time and not recurring.

In lieu of taxes, Miller expects for the city to receive $76 million by 2033 from the nonprofit entity, beginning after the expansion is completed. Pinal County each year would receive $18.5 million, while Coolidge would get $10.8 million.

The Coolidge Unified School District’s share would be $31.6 million, and Central Arizona College would receive $11.4 million.

Miller said the payments would continue to roll in well after 2033.

In construction tax, the state would receive $1.2 million, while the Coolidge share would be the $900,000 and Pinal County would get $360,000.

SRP has indicated there would be hundreds of jobs during the construction phase of the expansion. Miller thinks once the plant is complete and operating there will be very few employees added.

The station would add 820 megawatts of capacity that would be produced by 16 natural gas turbines capable of ramping up to full production within 10 minutes. This is enough energy to power about 150,000 average homes when there is high electricity demand, with half of the 16 turbines in use at the beginning.

If the ACC approves the expansion, construction would likely begin in 2023 for eight of the natural gas turbines, with the other eight being in operation by the summer of 2025.

“There is a local benefit of the expansion and a benefit to the (electric) grid,” Miller said, pointing out the electricity generated at the plant would be used for SRP’s Maricopa County customers.

Miller said there are revenue streams for wind and solar projects, but there are several factors in how productive they can be in contrast to this proposed expansion using natural gas.

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Coolidge food pantry struggling after thefts
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COOLIDGE — New Hope Food Pantry operator Pastor Anthony Warren and his wife, Audri, have been providing food to the less fortunate for several years, but it recently has gotten a lot harder.

First, Warren said the truck parked in front of his home, which he used to pick up food and other items, was stolen.

The pantry’s van, which he used to pick up food, was still available and in good working order until about a week ago when he tried to start it.

After it would not start, he looked underneath and realized someone had removed and stolen the catalytic converter when it was parked outside the pantry.

Warren said he has heard catalytic converters are in great demand for thieves right now.

“These are experienced people,” he said. “They know what they are doing. I had just used it to pick up food. I think it was an easy target with it being so dark at night.”

Warren knew having a new catalytic converter installed on the van was not going to be cheap and estimated the cost to be $600.

“We give food out for free,” Warren said. “We want to feed people in Coolidge.

“We had just restored the van, and that is when they went after it,” he said, adding that his GMC Sierra that was stolen was being used to pick up food, too.

Now, he and his wife are trying to find a way to pick up food with no transportation.

The pantry serves about 300 people a month, which he thinks will increase with some unemployment benefits ending.

“We are constantly spending,” he said. “It takes money to run this food pantry.”