ELOY — The celebration on Thursday night will be a little unconventional for graduating seniors at Santa Cruz Valley Union High School due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
After Gov. Doug Ducey announced in March that schools would remain closed for the rest of the school year, many students and their families worried about whether there would even be a graduation ceremony.
Santa Cruz Valley’s graduation was originally scheduled for this Thursday and although it won’t be a traditional graduation, seniors will still have the opportunity to be recognized on that day.
“We’re going to have a graduate recognition and then whenever permissions are available, we’re going to have a traditional graduation ceremony just as we would any other time,” Santa Cruz Valley principal Dr. Orante Jenkins said.
The graduate recognition celebration on Thursday is closed to the public, but it will be live streamed and available for viewing beginning at 8 p.m. on the high school’s Facebook page.
According to Jenkins, students will drive up to a staging area and exit their vehicle to receive their diploma and will then return to their vehicle and drive out of the campus.
“I got a couple emails back saying, ‘Thank you. We really appreciate something, something is better than nothing,’” Jenkins said. “I guess they heard that some schools are not having any type of ceremonies. I think they understand that when these stipulations will have lifted, we’re going to give them the ceremony that they deserve. We wanted to do something; we didn’t want them to not have anything.”
Although the recognition celebration is not open to the public, the city of Eloy has agreed to close off Main Street at that time which will allow family and friends of the graduates to lineup along the sidewalk to cheer them on as they drive by.
“The city is going to block off the roads going from Eighth Street to Main Street and then all the way down to Frontier,” Vice Mayor Micah Powell said during Monday night’s City Council meeting. “It’s a nice thing to still honor our graduates and practice social distancing, where you’re not in a crowd and you’re spread out a long Main Street. We’ll also have a banner, so it’ll be a nice thing.”
Jenkins said that the administration has talked about a traditional graduation ceremony, but there is no date at this time.
“We’re excited,” Jenkins said. “We wanted to make sure we did something temporarily to recognize them (and) get them their diplomas in their hands because they do deserve this. We know it’s not ideal, but we definitely didn’t want this moment to pass without them being able to receive some type of recognition.”
ELOY — Public access to Eloy City Hall and the Community Services Department will remain closed until May 26, city officials said.
“We are keeping the safety of our staff and residents top of mind while striving to continue to provide services,” the city said in a post Friday to its Facebook page.
Eloy plans to put together a phased reopening plan for city facilities, activities, and amenities next week.
City Manager Harvey Krauss told the City Council during the May 11 meeting that like many other cities and towns, Eloy has been working on a return to service plan.
Gov. Doug Ducey announced Tuesday he was lifting the stay-home order.
“Most of the communities in Pinal County or in the region are looking at a graduated plan to open up the economy or open up city facilities,” Krauss had said earlier. “Next Monday, assuming the governor does relax the restrictions, we would open up City Hall, public safety, the library, community services, public works offices and go back to a normal schedule and normal staffing, with some exceptions.”
Krauss added that additional measures would be taken to protect staff and the public, including setting up plexiglass shields at counters in specific departments that interact with the public and also taking the temperature of all employees before they begin their work shift.
“If they have a temperature of 100.4 degrees, we’re going to send them home,” Krauss said. “We will not require citizens to wear masks. There will be signage that will indicate that if they’re feeling sick that they should call us to make appointments and for service.”
Krauss also mentioned that the staff will be cautious about future public events. The Memorial Day celebration was already canceled, and staff is currently looking at just holding the fireworks show on July 4th and not having any activities that draw a large crowd at Jones Park.
The two question marks remaining on how the city will decide to go forward involve the aquatic center and the summer recreation program.
“Several communities in the area — Chandler, Gilbert, Maricopa, Coolidge — they’re going to open up their city swimming pools,” Krauss said. “Recreational programs, some of the communities are opening up their recreational programs, but they’re applying certain restrictions such as reducing the capacity.”
Krauss told the council that after having talked with the surrounding communities, it would be best that if their public pools are open, then the city should probably also open its pool.
“I think we need to send a unified message to the public in that regard,” Krauss said. “It appears that they’re headed in the direction of opening while putting additional restrictions on reopening these facilities.”
ELOY — The renovation for the new Eloy Police Department building hasn’t slowed down during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Monday the City Council approved the purchase of furniture for the first remodeled portion of the building, where the council chambers and finance department used to be located.
The total cost for the furniture and the dispatch consoles for the first phase are approximately $188,400. The furniture for the second phase of the building will come later once that portion of the facility is reconstructed.
“I have given the total project cost of $8,400,000 and change, which includes everything,” project consultant Regis Reed told the council. “We have a $320,000 furniture budget and we’re right within that realm for this. So far everything has been falling within budget and we’re going to have a couple items in there that are going to be under budget. So at the end of the day I’m hoping I can come back and tell you that this project is $8 million and change.”
Also during the meeting, the council reviewed a presentation with proposed amendments to Chapter 12 of the city code in regards to business regulations.
The proposed amendments are in an effort to streamline processes and make more business-friendly practices for business licenses.
After staff reviewed the business license regulations, which have not been updated in several years, they came up with the removal of three of the eight articles, which include peddlers, canvassers, solicitors and transient merchants, along with yard sales and swamp meet operations.
The remaining five articles: business licenses, mobile vending, adult-oriented businesses, licensing of medical marijuana facilities and pawnbrokers, secondhand dealers, junk dealers and collectors, include revisions ranging from grammatical to more significant revisions such as removing specific requirements.
The council also adopted an updated general plan, which by state law is required to be updated and readopted every 10 years.
ELOY — For nearly two months, the Eloy City Council has provided live streams of its council meetings on Facebook to adhere to the stay-at-home order set by Governor Doug Ducey.
Those who have checked in during the past two meetings may have noticed that Mayor Joel Belloc has been absent as he is recovering from surgery.
The city code states that the mayor cannot be absent from the city for more than 15 days without the consent of the City Council and that during the mayor’s absence or disability, the vice mayor will perform the duties and responsibilities of the mayor.
With Belloc out, Vice Mayor Micah Powell has taken over his obligations.
While this is an election year and both Belloc and Powell are running for mayor, this temporary change of power is in accordance with the city code.
“His health is 100% more important than anything else right now,” Powell said. “When it was brought to us that this is according to the city code. I don’t want it to look like I had this done, that I am using his absence to my benefit. I love Joel, he’s a good guy, it just so happens that it’s an election year.”
According to the city code some of the responsibilities of as mayor include signing all ordinances, orders and resolutions, together with warrants drawn on the treasure. The mayor can also execute all bonds, deeds, leases, conveyances, contracts and all other instruments authorized by the city council requiring his signature.
The code also states that if any council member is absent from more than two consecutive regular council meetings without the consent of the other members and it is recorded in the journal, that member will no longer be a city official.
City attorney Stephen Cooper told the council that the approved agenda item only excuses the mayor for two regular meetings and that the council will need to continue approving his excused absences, every two meetings, as long as he is unable to resume his role and handle his responsibilities.
ELOY -- Various groups and individuals have come together to make face masks as part of the continued effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
Firebird USA, a parachute making company located on Eloy’s Main Street, has joined the effort with the military in mind. The company is cranking out camouflage masks for both military personnel and civilians.
City Councilman and Firebird CEO Georges Reuter received a Paycheck Protection Program loan, which has led to his four sewing employees making the face masks.
“I got the PPP so I decided not to have my staff stay at home,” he said. “We work with military gear, we are an essential business. I don’t want to fire or furlough anybody and we’re doing something for the people.”
The masks are made from NYCO fabric, which is a blend of nylon and cotton and slightly thicker than fabric made only from cotton, but it is washable and breathable.
“We found a liner that we use for the inside that is thick enough,” Reuter said. “We did tests with liquids and pressured air and nothing came through it. We don’t work with fabric usually. In parachutes we use like pure plastic that is zero breathable so people would sweat and probably suffocate, so we had to find good material.”
The masks are offered in the various camo that the different military branches use.
“We actually just have camouflage because my customers asked for it and most customers are military,” Reuter said. “We have all the different camouflage, like the Navy, they have three different camouflages that they use, so now they can buy (masks) and wear the same pattern.”
At first Reuter was only looking to make masks for his staff and the local fire and police departments, but when he posted a photo online, everything took off from there.
“We got a few hundred emails and that’s when we thought OK, let’s build them,” he said.
The masks include a nose piece that is made from thin gardening wire and two elastic bands that go around the back of the head to secure a snug fit.
The company offers three different sizes and also has a reversible option with a different camo pattern on each side.
Orders can be made online at the Firebird website and people have the option to purchase a mask for themselves and also donate one to a first responder in Pinal County.
“This is for everyone including civilians,” Reuter said. “We just decided we’d do camo. A lot of people wear camo anyway, so we decided to cater to everyone. We didn’t think people would actually like them this much. We got overrun with emails and then we had to set up an online shop.”
While Reuter anxiously awaits Governor Doug Ducey’s announcement on what the next steps are during this pandemic, Firebird is going to continue making masks as long as there’s a demand for them.
“I think people are just going to wear masks until we have a vaccine,” Reuter said. “We’re just trying to do it a little more fashionable.”