ELOY — During last week’s City Council meeting, City Manager Harvey Krauss provided the council with details about the death of Javier Moreno Sosa, who died alone in an Eloy Police Department holding cell.
On Monday, Maria Hamilton, Moreno Sosa’s sister, spoke with PinalCentral to address some of the comments that Krauss made.
“It’s just something that’s pretty infuriating just because those little facts, they go a long way in the long run,” Hamilton said. “That’s just something that I wanted to clarify because those are the little things that really do matter the most.”
Moreno Sosa, 24, was arrested by Eloy Police at 6:14 p.m. July 9 after he reportedly was seen breaking equipment at an area laundromat. He was arrested for criminal property damage and several outstanding warrants, a press release from Eloy Police said.
Police Chief Chris Vasquez said no force or weapons were used in taking Moreno Sosa into custody “other than the normal search of his person and cuffing.”
Upon arriving at the Eloy police station, Moreno was placed alone in a holding cell.
“When officers later returned to make contact with Mr. Moreno (Sosa), they found him unresponsive in the cell with a makeshift ligature around his neck, taking his own life,” the press release said.
Lifesaving measures were performed by the EPD and Eloy Fire District personnel, but Moreno Sosa was pronounced dead.
Investigators with the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office are looking into the case.
Hamilton told PinalCentral Monday that there had not been much communication from EPD regarding the death and that information was not relayed in a timely manner, which is contrary to what Krauss said during the council meeting last week.
“The communication was barely there and when it was there it was never the same thing twice,” Hamilton said. “The police did come as he stated, they did come on multiple occasions and both times they told my mom different things. The information was being given to us simply because we had family and friends from everywhere calling and pretty much demanding that we get information.”
Krauss told the council that the police went to Moreno Sosa’s mother’s house the same evening that he was pronounced dead, but Hamilton said that her mother was not informed of the death until early the next morning.
Hamilton stated that an officer arrived at his residence to make the arrest. Officers later told his mother that their delay of informing her of his death was due to them not knowing where she lived, which was the same location were he was arrested.
According to Hamilton, the arrangements made for his mother to view the holding cell was because she went down to the station and asked.
“They didn’t make any effort as far as trying to get some clarity, get some closure for her or any of that,” Hamilton said. “There has been nothing transparent going on between the Eloy Police Department and my family. Everything has been double-sided, there are too many stories going on. What they ended up doing, because there were so many officers giving different stories, is they ended up appointing a liaison and since that happened (the officer) has only been in communication with my mom once.”
Hamilton added that the family has done a private autopsy and a majority of the information they continue to receive is coming from the independent investigation that is being conducted by the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office.
ELOY — Voters in Eloy will want to make sure they turn over their ballot to vote on the two propositions concerning the Southwest Gas franchise agreement and a permanent base adjustment.
Proposition 444 is a permanent base adjustment which, if approved, will establish a permanent base spending limit at $46 million.
In 1980, the Arizona Constitution prescribed an expenditure limitation for local governments to allow a home rule option, which allows the city council to establish an annual budget based on available revenues at the local level.
The home rule option is voted on every four years and was previously approved by voters in the 2018 election.
Another option available besides the home rule is the permanent base adjustment, where local governments set a specific spending limitation and if approved, voters do not need to vote for that every four years.
“We’ve already been doing the Home Rule every four years,” City Manager Harvey Krauss said. “We’ve been going to the voters to get approval. Instead of doing it that way we’re proposing to set a permanent base adjustment at roughly $46 million, so we will not exceed that and we have plenty of room to grow.”
Krauss added that with the permanent base adjustment, no money will be spent every four years to put it on the ballots.
“The reason it’s desirable from a taxpayer’s standpoint is we won’t have to pay for an election every four years so there’s thousands of dollars that can be saved,” he said.
If voters do not approve the permanent base adjustment, it still has two years left under the Home Rule option.
“We figured if we get the permanent base, we put down $46 million which is roughly last year’s budget and so we feel that will last us for the foreseeable future,” Krauss said. “Unless we start major, major growth here. It would take a lot of growth, and we just haven’t experienced that in the last 15-20 years.”
The other item on the ballot is Proposition 445 which is a Southwest Gas franchise agreement, which by state law requires voter approval for a utility company to operate with the city.
“Basically, what it does is it allows the gas company to install lines in public rights-of-way,” Krauss said. “It kind of lays out the terms and conditions for them to provide gas in our rights-of-way and serve the public. We get a small franchise fee for that, but the fee cannot be incorporated into the rates by law.”
The city is currently not receiving anything from its previous agreement, which was approved in 1994, as that agreement expired in Sept. 2019. Cities and towns in Arizona receive a 2% franchise fee from gas and electric utilities.
“It’s based upon how much gas sales they have within the corporate limits of Eloy and that franchise will just generate maybe $25,000 dollars a year to us,” Krauss said. “If it’s not approved, they’re not going to pull their gas lines,” Krauss said. “We’d just go back to using the same franchise agreement.”
Krauss also mentioned that neither proposition will increase taxes or have any type of impact on property or sales tax.
If voters still have questions, Krauss can be reached at email@example.com or 520-466-9201.
ELOY — School began via remote learning this week for students in the Eloy Elementary School District as in-person learning has been pushed back until October.
The district is currently offering virtual learning for students who have access to technology, and packets are available as an alternative.
The district has provided devices to students from sixth to eighth grade and is currently waiting for additional digital notebooks that are on backorder.
“We haven’t had too many concerns,” district Superintendent Ruby James said Monday. “One of the things is students logging in for the virtual learning, that has been a little bit challenging for some students, but we have worked it out with them. Parents have been coming through all day picking up packets for their children. We have had to make some phone calls and some home visits to remind parents that school starts today, but all in all it’s been a successful day.”
The district is also working on a contract with an internet service provider to give Wi-Fi to every student enrolled in the district.
“Every home will receive free Wi-Fi,” James said. “Once the devices come in and if the pandemic and its trajectory is still moving upward, we can go virtual for the entire district.”
Each teacher is in charge of providing instructions for their students and provide face-to-face virtual teaching and have provided specific websites for students. Additionally, teachers are providing support through phone calls; students can call their teachers from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. if they are having trouble with an assignment.
The district is also providing meals for students enrolled in the district, which can be picked up between 9 and 11 a.m. daily.
James mentioned that communicating with parents has been a key factor ensuring that things run differently from how they did back in the spring.
Additionally, both the district staff and parents are better prepared this time and are not scrambling trying to figure out a plan as they did when schools first closed in March.
“We were trying to get packets together, trying to educate Eloy children,” James said. “This time we knew what we were up against. We were more prepared to provide opportunities for all students. We worked all summer to make sure that every child is being educated or has the opportunity, either by packet or virtually.”
James added that although Gov. Doug Ducey currently has issued Aug. 17 as the start date for in-person learning, the district board decided to delay in-person learning until Oct. 12 due to safety of the staff, children and the community.
Ducey has allowed districts the flexibility to remain in distance learning past the date of Aug. 17.
“The parents and the community have been very supportive of our effort and I can’t say enough about the Eloy Elementary staff,” James said. “We’ve come together and we’re providing what I feel is one of the best opportunities during this pandemic.”
ELOY — They’ve been the City Council’s one-two punch for nearly six years, but after the November election only one will remain an elected city official.
Joel Belloc was elected mayor in 2014 and that same year Micah Powell was selected to be the vice mayor by the rest of the City Council.
This year both are running for mayor in a contest that will be decided in the Aug. 4 primary.
Powell has served on the City Council since 2012 and although he wasn’t born and raised in Eloy, he grew up in the area around Eloy and Casa Grande and has family roots in Eloy. He feels that’s a positive as he is well known in other communities surrounding Eloy, which can benefit the city.
“I’ve put my heart and soul into this city and representing this city,” he said. “I feel like I’ve done a good job representing the city, not only within the city but statewide. I’m very passionate and I get emotional. I feel I’m very approachable and easier to talk to, where the residents or the people feel comfortable discussing their issues with me, positive or negative.”
Powell was first elected to the City Council in 2012, has served as the ex-officio member for the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission and is the vice chairman of the Eloy Cemetery Board, as well as a member of the Infrastructure Committee. He is also on the board of Grande Innovation Academy, a Casa Grande charter school.
He works for the Pinal County Medical Examiner’s Office as a death investigator and is certified by the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators, which is a voluntary not-for-profit, independent professional certification board that promotes the highest standards of practice for medicolegal death investigators.
Powell is a strong supporter of economic development and bringing jobs that fit the Eloy community.
“These eight years have been an amazing ride and I feel like I’ve given my all, good or bad,” he said. “I’ve always taken the outside-the-box approach for where I feel it would best lead Eloy in the future, but at the same time respect the heritage and the culture. I want to see Eloy grow and prosper. I want to see the excitement come back to the city.”
In addition to building off the momentum of what the City Council has managed to accomplish, Powell hopes to have a better working relationship with both the Santa Cruz Valley Union High School District and the Eloy Elementary School District.
“We want to make sure our kids have an opportunity for the future,” Powell said. “We have to look toward the future because when the kids succeed, the school districts succeed, and the city will also succeed.”
Before he was elected mayor, Belloc had already served as the vice mayor and has been on the City Council since 2002.
“He understands that quality schools also drive the economic development by attracting local businesses to relocate here,” said a statement Belloc sent to PinalCentral. “Toward that end he sees a close collaboration between the schools and students.”
Belloc has also been involved with his church and has served as a member of the council and Finance Committee.
Other committees and boards he’s served on include those of the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, the Community Action Human Resources Agency, Knights of Columbus, the high school and the Eloy Housing Authority.
“Being rooted in the community of Eloy all his life, he has developed a deep sense of affinity to all that Eloy represents,” Belloc’s statement said. “While most individuals with his level of education can’t wait to go on to bigger and better things outside of their provincial small town of Eloy, he has stayed and lent his intellect, his energy and his heart to make his community a better place for his children and grandchildren.”
Belloc said his vision is of a participatory government that drives local business development and is on the cutting edge of sustainable economic development.
During his time on the City Council, the home property tax rate has been reduced by 12.07%.
“Being a small businessman himself, he understands that local government is best when it provides opportunity for local businesses to thrive,” Belloc’s statement said. “He would like to see the city undertake a partnership with the local business community in developing the city landfill as a clean energy-generating site for methane fuel. He will ask the council to establish an exploratory business council in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce to see the feasibility of such an undertaking.”
Belloc added that he understands that the youth is the future of the Eloy community and will ask the council to establish an Eloy Youth Leadership Council in partnership with private and public sectors to establish youth goals in the community.
“He plans to focus his next term on expanding Eloy’s economic base in sustainable energy, marketing Eloy to draw businesses for job creation and housing by partnering with the Eloy Housing Authority and establishing the expertise in-house to implement his vision,” Belloc’s statement said.