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Florence gets first win of the season, blows out Veritas Prep
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PHOENIX — Florence’s fans were treated to some big touchdown runs by Tommy Carberry, Daven “Day Day” Neal and Isaac Sandoval Friday as the Gophers enjoyed their first win of the season.

The host team, Phoenix Veritas Prep (2-2), went down 42-3.

Sandoval caught the ball and ran almost 50 yards for the night’s first TD. Carberry scored twice for Florence, beginning with catching a pass for a 51-yard score in the first quarter. He then intercepted the Falcons and ran 65 yards for a TD in the second quarter. In the last minute of the first half, Neal grabbed a fumble and ran more than 80 yards for the goal.

Victor Aguirre and Josh Jackson also ran in touchdowns.

Jackson’s touchdown came in the third quarter after Carberry returned a punt to the 6 yard line, and Jackson threaded through the Falcons’ defense for the score.

“I thought our offensive line and our defensive line played well,” Florence coach Bill McKane said afterward. Defensive line pressure led to interceptions, including two by senior Javon Williams.

“I’m just proud of the kids,” McKane said. “We worked hard in practice this week. And we’ve got a lot of work to do. We made mistakes, as you can see, and we’re going to correct those.” Sophomore Jett Scott started the game as quarterback for Florence, and freshman Logan Stenson took over toward the end.

The Falcons’ only score was a 13-yard field goal in the second quarter.

“We couldn’t keep up with the physicality, but we knew that going in” Veritas Prep coach Jason Black said.

He said Florence is in a division above the Falcons, and his team worked with this in mind all week.

“But we weren’t able to match it when the clock turned on,” Black said.

State lawmaker from CG Frank Pratt dies
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PHOENIX — Arizona state Rep. Frank Pratt of Casa Grande died Tuesday after a long illness, state officials said.

Since 2009, the Republican Pratt, 79, has represented Legislative District 8, which includes Casa Grande, Eloy, Coolidge, Florence, Superior and southern Gila County.

Gov. Doug Ducey ordered flags at all state buildings be lowered to half-staff from sunrise to sunset Wednesday in honor of Pratt.

“Representative Frank Pratt was a champion of rural Arizona,” Ducey said in a statement Tuesday. “He was a staunch supporter of economic development, an advocate for workforce training programs and someone who believed in the necessity of developing sound water policy. In both chambers of the Arizona Legislature, he was unwaveringly dedicated to serving the people of Arizona and expanding opportunities.”

Pratt was a farmer and rancher before forming a Casa Grande swimming pool construction business with his son in 1986.

Pratt served first in the House, then in the Senate before returning to the House at the beginning of the year. He was a loyal Republican and a quiet legislator who rarely spoke on the House and Senate floor.

On Christmas Day in 2010, Pratt was tied up and beaten at his business on Cottonwood Lane in Casa Grande, found hours later by his worried wife, Janice Pratt. The assailant, a homeless person who had broken into the business, stole his Rolex watch and vehicle, and Pratt was hospitalized.

More recently, he missed many legislative days this year as he battled an illness.

“He was a trailblazer not just in Pinal County politics but also in life,” said Sen. T.J. Shope, a Republican who represents the same district as Pratt. “While most knew him to be a quiet type who played his cards close to the vest, I knew him as somebody of deep conviction and a firm belief in right and wrong.”

Ducey said Pratt did it all — public servant, business owner, rancher, farmer and family man.

“He was one of the good guys, and we’re lucky he called Arizona home,” Ducey said. “Representative Pratt was asked once why he went into politics. His answer was simple and straightforward: He said he was ‘just trying to make Arizona a better place.”

House Democratic Leader Reginald Bolding also paid his respects to Pratt, despite being in different political parties.

“Representative Pratt was a deeply respected member of our legislative family who loved this state with all his heart. We may not have always agreed, but he was never once disagreeable,” Bolding said in a statement Tuesday. “He loved his work for his constituents and always showed up ready to work. And although he was not vocal, when he spoke, his words carried weight. I will personally miss our conversations on the House Floor, and our caucus will all miss the presence of a class act who never put partisanship in front of relationships. “

There are now three and soon to be four vacant seats in the Legislature. Former Sen. Kirsten Engel, D-Tucson, and former Rep. Aaron Lieberman, D-Paradise Valley, resigned to focus on campaigns for higher office. Rep. Bret Roberts, R-Maricopa, is moving out of state and plans to step down on Sept. 30.

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State to pay $1M for new bridge near Eyman prison

FLORENCE — The town will receive $1 million from the state to replace the bridge over a canal on East Butte Avenue.

The bridge, on the way to Arizona State Prison-Eyman Complex, has been in failing condition for years. The town’s firetruck exceeds the weight limit seven times over, according to a town staff report. Emergency vehicles and other large vehicles must make a 5.2-mile detour in each direction.

Town staff approached local legislators about this problem, and thanks to their efforts, $1 million was ultimately included in the state budget. The Town Council Monday approved an agreement with the Arizona Department of Transportation to receive the funds.

Bids to replace the bridge in 2018 came in around $800,000, Ben Bitter, assistant to the town manager, told the council. Costs have risen since then, and if more money is needed, the town would have to cover these out of its fund balances or seek further allocations from the state, according to the staff report.

The town needs to have the new bridge designed, and isn’t ready to build anytime soon, Bitter said.

In other action Monday, the council:

  • Approved an agreement with Pinal County for a sidewalk improvement project with Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding. The work will include removing and replacing curb ramps and sidewalk along Ruggles Street between North Quartz and North Pinal streets; North Pinal Street between Ruggles and 8th streets; North Bailey Street between Ruggles and 8th streets; and 8th Street between Main and Bailey streets. The project will remove architectural barriers that limit the accessibility of sidewalks and ramps.
  • Approved an agreement with Pinal-Gila Council for Senior Citizens, doing business as Meals on Wheels of Central Arizona, to provide senior nutrition to elderly Florence residents. The only modification to the new agreement is that Pinal-Gila Council is now providing all weekly meals at no cost to the town.
  • Ratified a vehicle lease agreement with Pinal-Gila Council for Senior Citizens for a 2011 Ford bus for senior transportation.
  • Proclaimed September as Deaf Awareness Month.

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FUSD laptop fee policy revised
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SAN TAN VALLEY — The Florence Unified School District Governing Board on Tuesday night changed its policy on fees for students taking home and using laptops provided by the district.

In the past students’ families would have to pay $50 a year, but that policy was revised Tuesday night.

FUSD Chief Financial Officer Denice Erickson said in place of the mandatory fee of $50 for each of the 8,000 laptops provided to students, families would have the option of paying $50 for the insurance on the laptop in case something were to happen to the computer.

“The difference is it is insurance rather than a fee, and it is optional,” Erickson said, adding the fee in the past had been mandatory.

The insurance fee, she said, is not a mandatory fee like before and those fees can be waived.

FUSD Superintendent Chris Knutsen took exception to resident Gary Gartner’s claims that the fees cannot ever be waived.

Knutsen said the option of waiving the fees has always been there.

“Waiving fees happens all the time,” Knutsen said.

Over the last five years the district has waived $258,634 in fees across the board, an average of $51,687 a year.

Gartner, who addressed the board before the vote on the policy revision, said he sent an email to the district Aug. 16 regarding the district’s imposed and required laptop fees.

However in the workshop meeting before the board voted on and approved the policy revision in the meeting, the revision was explained to the trustees.

For more than a year, Gartner said he has been questioning the approved laptop fees, and in particular that the claim cannot be waived, which Knutson said after the meeting that this statement is incorrect.

“The sad part is that the district has enriched itself by intentionally misleading the public, especially the poor, thereby receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Gartner said.

Gartner said he believes the assessment of laptop fees violate Arizona law since they are required for student learning and have taken the place of textbooks.

“I think it is time for the district to do the right thing by its taxpayers,” he said.

Gartner said he is saddened that he never received a response from any of the board members and that something like this could have been slipped by them twice.

"You, as elected officials, are supposed to be our representatives with the district, whose main job is to keep the district from falling outside the law, would have missed something this major,” he said. “It is time for each of you to start reading and questioning everything the district leadership puts before you and doing what’s right by the public you represent.”

Gartner then in his prepared statement told Knutson he was disappointed in him since the superintendent had never taken ownership of this issue.

“You are a great example to your staff of what not to do, and it’s embarrassing,” he said.