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Maricopa ranked in top five for longest commute in state
 Grace Harrah  / 
 06.30.19

MARICOPA — Many residents of Maricopa have experienced the burden of the everyday commute to the Valley.

But now a study proves just how bad drivers on State Route 347 between the city and Chandler really have it. It shows that Maricopa ranks in the top five for the state’s longest commutes.

Maricopa placed fifth in Arizona’s longest commutes, according to American Community Survey. The data was obtained by the U.S. Census Bureau and analyzed by UnitedStatesZipCodes.org.

Maricopa’s average commute has been determined at 35.2 minutes. According to Taylor Adams, account executive of Prism PR, the average commute time for Arizona is 25.6 minutes.

According to the survey, Maricopa’s ranking decreased from last year, when it was in fourth place at 36.2 minutes.

American Community Survey is conducted annually by examining a sample of the population of the United States. The survey topics include income, commute time and education. The survey is divided through geographic regions such as states, metro areas and ZIP codes. The goal of the surveys is to provide context to the numbers by comparing areas.

Matthew Klob, chief technology officer of UnitedStatesZipCodes.org, has said that it is difficult to analyze a solution for long commuters since Maricopa is such a residential area with limited local businesses.

“While more travel infrastructure could ease commute times, the large distance to more populated areas likely prevents drastic decreases in commute times as the result of infrastructure improvements,” Klob said.

“Attracting more local businesses to boost local employment so residents do not have to commute as long of a distance could ease commutes.”

There are more Maricopa rankings on a variety of topics at www.unitedstateszipcodes.org/rankings.


Howard Waggner/PinalCentral  

Asphalt was put down at the new alignment of Plainview Road and Honeycutt Avenue in Maricopa last week leading to the new State Route 347 overpass. Once the new alignment is open to traffic, crews will begin making changes to the current roadway, including cul-de-sacs just north and south of the railroad crossing and just north of Alterra Parkway. That work is expected to be completed by November. The $55 million overpass will eliminate the need for drivers to wait for trains crossing SR 347. Train traffic and vehicular traffic are expected to double in the area in the next 20 years. The city has announced the long-awaited ribbon cutting will take place July 13. SEE PAGE 3 FOR MORE INFORMATION.


Education
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MUSD board members disagree on bond amount for upcoming election
 Grace Harrah  / 
 06.27.19

MARICOPA — Some members of the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board disagree on the amount needed for a proposed capital bond issue to go before voters Nov. 5.

The bonds are seen as vital for the needs of MUSD, with plans for a new high school and other capital needs that are set to replace life cycle items and to renovate the schools. The total of all proposed capital projects comes to more than $140 million.

However, during the Wednesday board meeting, members Patti Coutre and Torri Anderson disagreed on the amount. Coutre was set on $75 million in bonds, while Anderson believed that amount was too high and preferred $65 million. MUSD board President AnnaMarie Knorr was on board with the $65 million while Vice President Ben Owens agreed with Coutre on the $75 million. Josh Judd was not present at the meeting, while Knorr participated via phone.

Anderson said the $75 million number is too high and was sure that adding more than $100 more on homeowners' tax bills per year would mean exceeding taxpayers’ expectations. She said MUSD could lose the election and she would rather go for a conservative amount.

“If we lose in this election, we will not pass it in 2020,” Anderson said.

On the other hand, Coutre emphasized that sacrifices need to be made for a prosperous future for MUSD and the growing city of Maricopa.

“I’m willing to make sacrifices for my kids,” Couture said. “It’s going to be worth it at the end.”

Anderson originally wanted to pass a $50 million bond issue and explained the possible plan of asking for another one after five years.

However, Coutre explained that the longer the wait, the more expensive it will be. She also said that passing budget overrides will be harder in the future, and therefore, the $75 million is the right amount.

Although the new high school might have fewer amenities, Knorr wants to make sure the opportunities are still there for the students.

“I just want to make sure that all of our students have equal access to opportunities in all schools,” Knorr said. “And making sure that schools are safe.”

The board members have decided to add a special meeting on July 3 to further discuss the issue and decide on the bond amount.


News
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City announces property closing for hotel in Maricopa
 Grace Harrah  / 
 06.25.19

MARICOPA — The city’s lodging accommodation options are about to expand.

City Manager Rick Horst announced at the June 18 Maricopa City Council meeting the property purchase had closed for a proposed La Quinta Inn hotel.

The property is located at 44575 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Horst said he is hoping for a late August or September groundbreaking ceremony. He announced that the staff has completed the initial view for the site. As the attendees applauded the exciting news, Horst thanked the City Council members for their leadership on the project and assured that “it is coming.”

The city helped broker the private purchase deal for the property because of a need for lodging in the city.

The need for lodging has increased with the population growth of Maricopa, which is now reaching 52,000. Although it is primarily a residential community, attractions such as Nissan and Volkswagen proving grounds, an agriculture research facility, convention center at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Resort and Copper Sky Recreation Complex have brought visitors from all around the state. The growing retail and restaurant sectors are also among these factors.

According to Jennifer Bostian, the city economic development specialist, a Holiday Inn Express was in the works a few years ago but did not come to fruition.

“Ultimately, the timing has to be right and the right decision-makers have to be in the right place,” Bostian said.

A hotel feasibility study was completed in early 2018 by the city to recognize and address the needs for lodging accommodation in the city.

Since then, Steve Murray, broker and owner of Maricopa Real Estate Company, and Andy Bhakta from ABR Consulting have worked with Horst to meet and develop the future plan. Multiple properties have been discussed in the process, yet many of them did not meet the hotel developer’s needs.

Bhakta has worked closely with the city during the due diligence period to provide accurate information for the project. Although Bhakta has worked with many communities, he acclaimed the city of Maricopa for the success of the project.

“With the city of Maricopa, everything is set to go and they are easy to work with.” Bhakta said.

The development of the hotel is to be discussed further at future City Council meetings.


Education
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New high school and repairs discussed at MUSD stakeholder forum
 Grace Harrah  / 
 06.26.19

MARICOPA — The new high school budget and life cycle measures of the Maricopa Unified School District were discussed at the district's recent Capital Stakeholder Forum.

The meeting took place on June 20, bringing community members, school board members, City Council members, principals, parents and teachers to get together to discuss the plans while objective facilitators were present.

Those who attended the forum were able to ask any questions that they had regarding updates on the proposed new high school and other developments of the MUSD.

Superintendent Tracey Lopeman emphasized that transparency and collaboration were two priorities for the forum and being able to hear from every voice is a vital aspect in the capital planning process.

Lopeman opened the meeting with four goals that emerged from the strategic plan that officials have been working on for the past 10 months. They are: every student graduating; 100 percent access in equity; an organizational culture that prioritizes people over programs; and community pride through excellent customer service, safe and attractive facilities and sound business practices.

Mark Rafferty, facilitator of the capital planning committee, gave a thorough presentation on the potential financial scenarios for the new high school project and priority projects. Those were presented were based on the life cycle forecast that Rafferty and his team had come up with for the district. A life cycle forecast involves items such as carpeting, roofing, lighting and fire alarms. The team has measured all of the materials in the district and assessed them in terms of how many years of their cycle they have left.

“We should’ve started a year ago,” Rafferty said.

The life cycle analysis showed that for the first year, $8.7 million worth of replacement is needed for the district. He said that the district has only worked on preventative maintenance and nothing else has happened.

For the next four- to five-year forecast, the number dropped to $2 million per year.

He then presented budget scenarios of the future planning of the district. This involved the budget for the new high school and the priorities for life cycle measures.

He addressed the capacity issue at Maricopa High School, where a demographer did a study and concluded the projected enrollment growth to be 500 students per year over the course of the next 10 years. Currently the high school holds about 2,400 students, when the capacity is 1,800.

The district has placed 16 portable classrooms at MHS for the beginning of the 2019-20 school year.

The total budget for the new high school project and the priorities came to $72 million. The two other scenarios he presented were lowered to $63.5 million and $56 million, due to the removal of energy-saving projects and solar with battery storage.

There will be additional stakeholder forums and meetings to discuss the future planning.

“Our family is growing,” Lopeman sad. “We want to look at the long-term future of the city of Maricopa and how we can educate our kids here to do our part to make this a vibrant city.”