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Council tables marijuana ordinance following community concerns
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ELOY — There have been many discussions among Eloy City Council members about Proposition 207 since Arizona voters approved the sale and use of recreational marijuana in November.

Monday might have marked the adoption of an ordinance that addresses recreational marijuana use and facilities. But the council voted 5-1 to table the agenda item.

Vice Mayor Andrew Rodriguez voted against the decision and Councilman Georges Reuter was not present at the meeting.

At the start of the meeting three community members expressed their concerns about the proposed changes to the distances regarding where a marijuana establishment can be located.

The city’s ordinance for a medical marijuana dispensary states that it cannot be located within 1,320 feet of the same type of establishment, residentially zoned property, a preschool, kindergarten, elementary, secondary or high school, place of worship, public park or public community center.

The proposed minimum separation requirements for recreational marijuana facilities are 25 feet from residential buildings, 150 feet from the property line of a high school and 100 feet for all other buildings such as elementary schools, community centers and public parks.

Community Development Director Jon Vlaming told the council that establishments cannot operate without a conditional use permit in the following zoning districts: general commercial district, business park, light industrial, general industrial and neighborhood commercial district.

“Conditional may be the permit but it really depends on a lot of extenuating circumstances that are typically only site specific,” Vlaming said. “You have to handle those on a case-by-case basis because you don’t know the size of the site and you don’t know where it’s located adjacent to, you don’t know and you don’t know the proximity to residential and you don’t know what kind of marijuana usage is actually going to be taking place.”

Councilman Jose Garcia brought up the drug free school zone law, which is 300 feet.

City Attorney Steve Cooper reiterated Vlaming’s point about conditional use permits given that dealing with recreational marijuana is relatively new for many states and there has not been a case law interpretation yet.

Rodriguez, who voted against tabling the item, emphasized the conditional use permit and that ultimately the council has the final decision as to whether it wants to approve the location of an establishment and allow a marijuana establishment near a school.

“If we don’t approve it, they can choose another site and we can give them our blessing, saying that we don’t feel that you guys would be good there, let’s move you guys somewhere else,” Rodriguez said.

Vlaming did mention that whoever is requesting a permit can go through the legal process if they do not agree with the council’s decision.

City Manager Harvey Krauss told the council that because the conditional permit is on a case-by-case basis, the city can change the separation requirements and can change the 150 feet near a high school to 300 feet or more.

Krauss and Cooper agreed that there likely won't be much of a demand to set up a business in Eloy and if an establishment were interested in coming to Eloy, the city would only collect sales tax.

Councilman Dan Snyder conducted an online survey and provided his findings to the council. Of the 128 responses he received, 65% either said no or wanted to keep the existing medical marijuana ordinance and 35% said they approved of the changes.

“I asked for comments and almost every comment that came was not against it but the distancing,” Snyder said.

Following the council’s discussion, Mayor Micah Powell allowed comments from the public and the three community members who spoke earlier agreed with a fourth member who stated, “Why not leave everything the way it is?”

During Monday’s meeting there was also a public hearing to annex a 4.5-acre property near Acoma Avenue and 11 Mile Corner Road.

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CoreCivic inmates in Eloy learn computer coding
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Sean Hosman is the founder and CEO of Vant4ge, a human services and predictive analytics technology company that works with correctional care and case management.

In an interview with Authority Magazine’s Doug C. Brown, Hosman stated that he wanted to make a difference in the world and figured that he could do that by becoming a politician and decided to study law.

Hosman later realized that he wanted to create things such as companies, products and services, so he became an entrepreneur.

After many attempts, Hosman eventually began Vant4ge to help people who are often underserved or disadvantaged.

“It was easy for me to focus on the individuals caught up in the criminal justice system and their families as well,” Hosman said in the interview.

Eventually in 2012, Hosman co-founded Persevere, which is a national nonprofit organization that provides inmates with training, support and mentorship in computer coding, employment readiness and more.

While he always had an interest in helping people and became an expert in criminal justice systems reform, Hosman also became an alcoholic and a drug addict.

“Between 2010 and 2012 I was arrested 12 times,” he said. “My mugshot was online for everyone to see. Once I got clean and sober in July 2012, I had a decision to make, ‘Would I be able to be effective as a leader of my company and as an advocate for improving the criminal justice system? I decided that I could and that I could do even more.”

While he realized that he could earn a living because of his technology skills, others with criminal records like himself could not despite having the necessary skills for a job.

National data shows recidivism rates are highest among those who are unemployed.

Hosman began working with men in similar situations and helped them learn computer skills and then gave them a job with his company.

Persevere has become a new innovative coding program at Red Rock Correctional Center.

“When we first put this out to the inmate population, they were very excited,” Assistant Warden at Red Rock Greg Fizer stated in a press release. “These student developers will gain skills and certification to make them highly marketable employees in the coding field upon their release. They graduate with the ability to build a web page that is functional, attractive and professional.”

CoreCivic had already partnered with Persevere in Tennessee and is also working with it in two state-managed facilities in Arizona.

The three-phases coding program is customizable and is available in various lengths and formats. The self-paced, 12- to 18-month course trains students in front-end and full stack development.

The course enables students to earn certifications in:

  • Responsive web design
  • JavaScript algorithms and data structures certification
  • Front-end libraries certification
  • Data visualization certification
  • APIs and microservices certification
  • Information security and quality assurance certification

“We are extremely fortunate to be receiving this education and making the best possible use of our time,” Persevere participant Jorge Garcia said. “This is going to impact not only our lives but the lives of our family and society as a whole. This is the start of a new and improved rehabilitation process.”

Inmates wishing to participate in the coding program must have a GED or high school equivalent, be a U.S. citizen, have a minimum of 13 months remaining in their sentence and have good disciplinary history with no violent offenses.

“Being a Native American and also counting myself a part of (high recidivism rates), Persevere has given me hope about my life and who I can become,” Persevere participant Larmaie Secody said. “Words could not explain how thankful I am with this program for not looking at my (past) mistake. I’m determined and destined to be a better man.”

In collaboration with the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry, CoreCivic launched the first Persevere class at the Red Rock facility in October with 17 students. Persevere hired two staff members as instructors and supplied computers for all the students.

“I stuck with my purpose and my mission and I have since grown several companies in this space and developed a new focus for working directly with those impacted by the criminal justice system,” Hosman said. “These companies are working to bring them real hope, valuable skills, meaningful opportunity and helping them change their lives.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, individuals with coding skills are in demand; the sector is expected to grow 13% in the coming decade.

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Eloy City Hall finalist for RED Awards
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ELOY — The Eloy City Hall project is a finalist for the 2021 Real Estate and Development Awards of AZRE Magazine.

The category the building is nominated in is for an office project that is smaller than 100,000 square feet.

According to a press release, the RED Awards are the "Academy Awards" for Arizona’s commercial real estate industry, honoring the year’s top brokers, architects, contractors, developers and projects.

The new City Hall is approximately 18,000 square feet and houses the finance and community development departments along with the city administration, council chambers and a community room.

“We are very grateful and humbled by this nomination,” Mayor Micah Powell said. “We appreciate that the review committee acknowledges the significant effort, cost and commitment we have put into this building for our residents.”

City Manager Harvey Krauss added that former City Councils and Mayors were committed to the budget, design and construction expectations and maintained a steadfast focus on the project the whole way through.

City staff worked hand in hand with project designer SmithGroup and contractor CORE Construction to blend style and function for the day-to-day operations of the city and create a "living room for the community."

The landscape features donated saguaros and embraces the Sonoran Desert. There is also signage and lighting that create a sustainable and dramatic focus for the community.

The building set a tone for the new vision of the downtown area, which will soon include a newly renovated public safety building.

The winners for each category of the RED Awards will be announced on March 11 during a live Hopin Virtual Event, beginning at 3:30 p.m., and all the finalists will be highlighted in the March/April edition of AZRE.