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Eloy council selects landscape design for portion of Frontier Street
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ELOY — It began with an Eloy resident trying to find a way to bring more trees to the city.

Now it has grown into a full-blown landscape project for the section of Frontier Street between Myers Boulevard and Stuart Boulevard.

During Monday’s City Council meeting, Community Development Director Jon Vlaming presented the three final designs that community members voted on.

“When a resident comes to the council and has an idea to help improve our city, I think that’s amazing,” Mayor Micah Powell said. “And when we act on it, that’s even better. It shows that people care out there, and it’s not just us on the dais.”

The project is part of the city’s Capital Improvement Program and is intended to improve air quality through carbon capture, reducing stormwater runoff through increased infiltration and reducing the urban heat island effect, all while enhancing the aesthetic natural environment and providing a welcoming gateway to assist with the city’s economic development efforts.

The three proposed landscape designs are:

  • A desert oasis that uses trees that respond to the Sonoran Desert environment and contribute a spring color. The planting scheme for the desert oasis features the foothill palo verde, cascalote, desert willow, Texas mountain laurel, blue agave, saguaro, ocotillo, yellow lantana and blue elf aloe.
  • An agricultural design that reflects the farming history of the area and contributes fall color. The agricultural design features trees like the red push, cascalote and oleander, which give a different array of color year-round. The cascalote and the oleander feature yellow, pink, white and red flowers, while the red push provides an orange and red color in the fall.
  • A design with small trees and plants that have limited color and uses trees that are monochromatic (containing or using only one color). The small tree design includes mulga, Texas mountain laurel, chaste tree, Ebenopsis ebano and yellow lantana.

In an online survey, the city received 109 submissions from the community and the desert oasis had the most support of the three options.

“I like the agriculture one because it’s more color,” Vice Mayor Andrew Rodriguez said. “The trees put out more color. I know the desert oasis is what everybody voted for, but I personally think the agricultural one has more color and would shine better on the whole area.”

All of the plants featured in the designs are drought-tolerant in an effort to keep water costs down.

“These will be designed and implemented with an irrigation system,” Vlaming said. “It’s going to be low as it can possibly be. We’re utilizing species that are of low water use. Ultimately it depends on the spacing of the trees that we utilize.”

A big concern for many of the council members are the oleanders. Although the plants do reduce noise from passing trains, there is the maintenance issue for trimming the shrubs and Councilwoman Sylvia Guanajuato Rodriguez mentioned the plants can provide a hideout for illegal activity.

Councilwoman Sara Curtis suggested a combination of the desert oasis design and the agricultural design so that there could be some color while also incorporating desert plants.

Vlaming told the council that this project could be the beginning of planting more trees throughout the city but that it would be a good idea to establish a theme.

“This is very much an initial demonstration project on a bigger project that could really create a very aesthetic final product,” Vlaming said. “There could very much be more to come.”

Powell brought up the idea of having community members adopt or sponsor a tree, which could alleviate some of the work when it came to trimming the trees and keeping the area clean.

The council decided to go with the agricultural design and requested to have the oleanders replaced with the Texas mountain laurel.

“I hope it doesn’t give a bad taste to the people who put their time and effort into it,” Powell said.

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Community celebrates lighting of Eloy water tower
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ELOY — Dressing up the city water tower has been one of Vice Mayor Andrew Rodriguez’s main goals for the past six years.

On Jan. 6, Rodriguez finally let out a sigh of relief as people gathered at Main Street Park that night and all along Main Street and Frontier Street for a water tower lighting ceremony.

“It was a lot of emotions because a lot of people depended on me to get it going,” Rodriguez said after the inaugural lighting of the water tower. “It was awesome to see it turn to fruition. I’ve worked on so many other projects with the city, but this right here is one of the iconic ones and I think it will last us for a long time.”

Rodriguez added that he was amazed to hear that people were lined up and parked on Frontier Street to witness the lighting.

“I’m glad a lot of people came out to see this,” Rodriguez said. “Wednesdays have never been like this in Eloy.”

The lighting of the structure was livestreamed by Blossom Digital Marketing with Mayor Micah Powell and Rodriguez giving some background on how the project came together.

Built in 1945, the water tower was in service for approximately two decades before it was replaced by a ground unit. Since then, the structure has remained empty for the past 50 years.

Last month the council approved in a 5-2 vote to have PCL Construction clean and paint the tower and approved the installation of lights.

“This is an added benefit for the city that we can be proud of,” Powell said. “For people to actually want to come to our city and take pictures. This is something special. You’re going to have the negatives, I get it, but the smiling happy faces from here on out, they’ll remember this night. It’s something that Andrew brought together.”

The water tower resonates with a lot of people and whenever they see it, it’s always connected with Eloy. People have it tattooed on themselves, it’s a filter on social media and it’s become a historic site for the city.

“For a lot of people, I think it’s home,” Rodriguez said. “It’s something they see, and they know it’s home.”

Eloy water tower lighting ceremony 12/30/20

The tower has over 2,100 lights and can be set up for a combination of sequences that include the city’s colors of purple, orange and green.

During the ceremony, the other lighting combinations included blue for First Responders, red and gray for Santa Cruz Valley Union High School and blue and silver, the colors of Eloy Junior High School.

The tower will be lit every night from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. and there will be a light show at the top of every hour.

The city also set up a social media initiative where people can look up #lightupeloy for an explanation of why the tower is given a certain color on a certain night.

Beginning in February residents will be able to submit a request online to have the tower given a specific color on a specific date.

Powell and Rodriguez both stated that the renovations done to the buildings on Main Street and the lights on the water tower are only the beginning phases of what’s to come for the city.

“This is for our generation to move forward,” Powell said. “We want to honor and value the past and history, but we need this for our generation now. The lighting of this water tower celebrates our past by making this landmark the focal point of our downtown and truly represents a rebirth of our community.”

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Skydive Arizona relying more on local jumpers during pandemic
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ELOY — The last week of December would have been a very busy one at Skydive Arizona as the drop zone was selected to host the 2020 United States Parachute Association National Collegiate Skydiving Championships.

Earlier in December Skydive Arizona announced that it had submitted a request to cancel the competition due to significant concerns about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic among military academies and civilian competitors.

A statement posted on Skydive Arizona’s website mentioned that even a scaled down version of the event was not possible.

Skydive Arizona Marketing and Events Coordinator George Hargis told PinalCentral that the military academies thought it would be best if their students did not travel. The military academies make up 85% of the students who compete.

“We reached out to other known skydiving clubs that have competed in the past and these schools informed us that their students were not allowed to travel as well,” Hargis said. “We understand the need for these academic institutions to enforce travel restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID and without any competitors other than a very small quantity of locals, there was not enough participants to hold the competition.”

With its normal day-to-day operations, Skydive Arizona is relying heavily on locally licensed skydivers. Similar to the collegiate championships being canceled due to only a limited number of instate skydivers, normal operations are also lacking the out of state and out of the country skydivers that usually visit this time of year.

Hargis added that because a majority of the business operations are outdoors and in the open air, COVID-19 precautions such as mask wearing have been successful to prevent spread at the facility.

Courtesy photo 

Sara Curtis

Some of the local skydivers include Eloy City Councilwoman Sara Curtis, who is part of the Women’s Skydiving Network.

The WSN is a nonprofit organization that provides women skydivers with opportunities for training, networking and fellowship in an effort to increase the number of females and female leaders in the sport.

According to the USPA, there are 35,000 active skydivers in the U.S. but only 13% are women.

“Before the pandemic we did jumps in front of crowds of people that address issues of equality and or any other issue of the day that we feel kind of needs to be mentioned,” Curtis said. “Our goal is to really inspire women and girls to lead bold, brave lives of their own. Maybe it’s not skydiving, maybe it’s something else that you want to do that’s your goal in life, but it’s to kind of inspire women and girls.”

Due to the pandemic, Curtis and the other female skydivers have not been able to jump in front of big crowds. Instead they’ve jumped at special locations to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed women the right to vote.

“We’ve been doing live feeds on Facebook or a news channel will show up and we’ll just have press people there and answer questions for the press,” Curtis said. “That’s the way we’ve been addressing it, keeping the viewership online or on TV.”

Originally the WSN developed two initiatives to celebrate the milestone. The first was to develop an all-female demonstration team of professional skydivers to perform at events across the country. Curtis is one of the 12 members of the Highlight Pro Skydiving Team.

The second was Project 19, where 100 women from around the world attempt to set a vertical skydiving women’s world record in November.

“We’ve been working on this for several years but because of the pandemic people can’t travel internationally and it’s just too sketchy to have 100 people gather anyway,” Curtis said. “So we’ve moved it to 2021 but we haven’t firmly set the date yet because we don’t know for sure yet that in 2021 people from all over the world will be able to come, but we’re working on that.”

Women have been able to attend small camps of 10-12 people across the country to be part of what is called phase one training, which is where women get together at their local drop zone and learn the skills needed to break the record.

The next two phases included skydiving with bigger groups of 20-40 people and eventually holding a tryout event to select the 100 women who would participate in the record-breaking jump.

Curtis mentioned that the women had already made it to phase three, but everything had to stop because of the pandemic and now they’re back to the beginning with phase one.

“Even though we do have 70 of the 100 women committed for the record, we still have that last 30 that we’re working on,” Curtis said. “And who knows of those 70 how many are going to drop out because of personal reasons or whatever so we’re going back to the phase one training and then when the world allows, then we’ll start getting back to the phase three training.”

For the record jump, the women will board five aircraft and jump out headfirst at 18,000 feet and fly head down in a snowflake-like formation, seeking no errors at speeds averaging 165 miles per hour.

The action must be done within 70 seconds of exiting the aircraft before they break off in separate waves, in a starburst-like pattern to safely find space to open their parachutes to land.

The women have found ways to stay connected with their teammates around the world and participate in online camps that have included a lesson on the history of women’s suffrage, a sports visualization practice, guided breathing techniques and more.

While the pandemic has put the Project 19 jump on hold, Curtis and the rest of the Highlight Pro Skydiving Team continue to skydive to celebrate and amplify women’s rights initiatives.

“It’s the same everywhere with sports teams, everybody’s been dealing with it,” Curtis said. “It’s challenging but it’s kind of cool because we’ve come up with a whole bunch of new ways of doing things. It’s not perfect, we’re not skydiving in a big way like we wanted to, but we’re utilizing the time to meet our goals with personal development.”

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How close should a marijuana dispensary be to a bar? Eloy council discusses
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ELOY — While many other cities have been quick to restrict the use of recreational marijuana, the city of Eloy is taking a different approach.

During a City Council work session last month, Planning Manager Jerry Stabley discussed with the council some items concerning medical and recreational marijuana establishments.

One of the changes considered would be allowing a business owner to apply for a permit in the neighborhood commercial district, which is what portions of Frontier Street are zoned as.

Another change is that marijuana establishments could not be located within 1,320 feet of schools, public parks, public community centers or residentially zoned property. A 100-foot distance is proposed for public parks, public community centers and most schools. The exception is that the 1,320-foot distance remain for high schools.

The proposed distances now include 25 feet from building to building, in a residential zoned property, allowing a business to open up on Main Street.

Councilman Georges Reuter did not agree with the distance set up for the schools, stating that there is no proof that the distance from a school makes things safer.

“I don’t like that there are young kids that can be 100 feet from a marijuana dispensary and the high school kids a quarter mile,” Reuter said. “I think as long as a marijuana dispensary does not have a view on the high school, if it’s not one of the adjoining streets that has direct access to it, I’d rather see that 100 feet or something. There is no back story to the 1,320 feet, it’s just another administrative number just to make it hard.”

Councilman Jose Garcia expressed his concern that the regulations do not specify any distance between a marijuana establishment and a bar.

“I don’t know if we want that within 25 feet from a bar,” Garcia said. “That might make it a little too tempting to people once they’ve been drinking.”

Reuter commented that he did not see a reason to separate the two businesses because both marijuana and alcohol are legal substances.

Regulations previously stated that smoking marijuana was not allowed in a public place or open space; the revision now also includes regulations for the consumption of marijuana including gummies or lollipops.

The proposed penalty is that any person found guilty of violating any provisions of the code would be guilty of a misdemeanor and punished by a fine that did not exceed $2,500 or could be sent to jail for a period that did not exceed six months or both a fine and jail sentence.

Stabley added that the number of dispensaries allowed in a city depend on the number of pharmacies that are also located in the city.

“Other communities are not jumping into this and they’re waiting to see which way this whole thing goes,” Councilman Dan Snyder said. “I get the feeling that we’re rushing into this a little bit."

City staff is still working on restructuring the Downton Advisory Commission, Historic Preservation Committee and the Leisure Services Advisory Board.

“Jon Vlaming and I will work on the purpose and composition of the Downtown Advisory Commission,” City Manager Harvey Krauss said. “We’ll combine that probably with the Historic Preservation Committee; I think that’s what the council decided. We’ll reconstitute the purpose of the Leisure Services Advisory Board, most of the communities call it parks and rec and we’ll also incorporate the library board into that commission.”

Krauss told the council that it would likely take about a month for staff to make the adjustments to the groups that are being restructured.

The council also approved the following appointments of council members:

  • Board of Adjustment: Andrew Rodriguez
  • Board of Appeals: Jose Garcia
  • Cemetery Board: Micah Powell, Sylvia Guanajuato Rodriguez and Andrew Rodriguez
  • Planning and Zoning Commission: Sara Curtis
  • Municipal Airport Advisory Board: Georges Reuter
  • Infrastructure Subcommittee: Micah Powell, Andrew Rodriguez and Dan Snyder
  • Pension Board: Micah Powell