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'Nightmare' construction prohibits customers from accessing Napa Auto Parts
 Grace Harrah  / 
 07.31.19

MARICOPA — The owner of a Maricopa NAPA Auto Parts store is upset that access to the business was cut off Wednesday due to construction on the old State Route 347.

Initially, Maricopa Police Department was at the scene, stopped the customers and even the owner, Tena Dugan, from accessing it. Afterwards, customers were able to access the business by walking through the closed areas. MPD directed them to park across the street, where the construction is on-going, guiding them to walk through the construction zone.

“It’s been a nightmare for all of us,” Dugan said. Her business is one of the many that has been affected by the three-month construction on the old SR 347, now known as Maricopa Road. “Not a single one of us had communication.”

The work is related to the construction of a railroad overpass, which opened recently.

Dugan said the safety of the customer was also a concern for her, as MPD directed them to walk across the construction zone.

According to police spokesman Ricardo Alvarado, MPD worked traffic control on Wednesday morning to have the unneeded traffic lights removed. MPD held traffic while the equipment was on the road, then let traffic through afterwards. As of midday, the closure was lifted and the road was unrestricted, according to Alvarado.

Mayor Christian Price commented on the issue via Facebook during the closed hours and said that he is working on the issue with Mike Riggs and Ames Construction. He wrote that he wished he had more control on the issue.

Dugan expressed her frustration on the lack of communication between the businesses and the Arizona Department of Transportation, city of Maricopa and the construction company.

“The communication is horrible. You shouldn’t have to show up to your business and be confronted by a police officer,” Dugan said.

The closure lasted approximately 45 minutes, when no customers at all were able to access the business.

“It would be much easier if they communicated ahead of time and we could make arrangements to work around it,” Dugan said. “We are happy to work with them. They just don’t give us any warning at all.”


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Riggs Road and SR 347 recognized as Valley's longest red light
 Grace Harrah  / 
 07.29.19

MARICOPA — With the help of their listeners, two DJs from Phoenix placed an official plaque for the traffic light at Riggs Road and State Route 347 honoring it as the longest red light in the Valley.

NeanderPaul Marshall and Mark Devine were hosting their typical morning radio show at the classic rock station 100.7 KSLX when a listener brought attention to the Riggs Road and SR 347 stoplight north of Maricopa. The topic of stop lights in the Valley became a mission with the search for the longest red light.

“Everybody experiences red lights, we just got curious to which is the longest in the Valley,” Devine said.

Devine and Marshall then sent out their producer, Gerion Cota, to find out where the most dreaded red light in the Valley is.

The longest red light, with approximately four minutes of wait time, is at Riggs Road and SR 347 going east and west, according to Marshall.

“Let’s face it, with a population growth in Maricopa, you would think at some point, they would fix the 347, especially when there is only one way in and out,” Marshall said.

It’s an issue that has been haunting the residents of Maricopa for years and is expected to keep going as the city continues to grow.

The second longest stoplight was a three-way intersection at 19th and Grand avenues near the state fairgrounds.

“When it’s a three-way or a four-way, it naturally takes longer,” Devine said. “But when it’s a simple way like 347 and Riggs, it’s a universal problem.”

When asked if they received any feedback from the residents of Maricopa on the issue, it was apparent that the light has caused frustration for the drivers.

“It was universally recognized,” Marshall said. “Once we mentioned it on Facebook, people were commenting on how frustrating it is and saying how much they hated that road.”

Devine and Marshall were familiar with the city of Maricopa, where they have visited and even worked in previous years. They understand the importance of a good transportation system in a growing city such as Maricopa.

“I’ve watched the city grow,” Marshall said. “Going from small town to medium to what it is now. Some of these road problems don’t seem like a minor annoyance anymore. It’s all relative.”

The plaque was placed on the morning of July 26 by Devine and Marshall, yet according to Marshall, it had been stolen by the next Monday.

“It was short lived,” Marshall said.


Howard Waggner/PinalCentral  

Lightning strikes above Maricopa during a monsoon Saturday night.


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Florence, Maricopa ranked among safest places in Arizona
 Grace Harrah  / 
 08.01.19

MARICOPA — The safety of a city is an important factor that residents and potential residents examine to attain full comfort to live in or move to the area, and two Pinal County municipalities are in position to reap the benefits.

Florence has been ranked the safest municipality in Arizona, according to alarms.org, an official site of the National Council for Home Security and Safety. Maricopa, meanwhile, came in sixth.

Florence, with many official residents in prison, often shows up at the top of surveys like this.

“We’re excited about the recognition again, happy for our citizens and grateful for our police and law enforcement community that does such a great job of protecting our citizens,” Benjamin Bitter, assistant to the Florence town manager, said Thursday.

With 91 incorporated cities in Arizona, being in the top 10 of the safest cities in the state is an achievement for the city of Maricopa.

“To be in the top 10 is phenomenal,” said Mayor Christian Price. “I think that speaks volumes, because people want to live in a safe community. It all comes back to how you feel when you move here.”

Arizona is moderately well-positioned in terms of crime statistics when compared to national averages, according to the alarms website. The organization reviews the most recent Federal Bureau of Investigation uniform crime report statistics to identify the safest cities in each state. The most recent FBI report is from 2017.

Maricopa Police Chief Steve Stahl said that over the past five years, the crime rate in the city has progressively gone down. Rather than city rankings, MPD examines national crime trends and tackles preventative and safety measures to ensure the safety of the city.

“Our trends are, I believe, better than the national trends,” Stahl said. “Even though the number of people that have moved in has gone up, the crime rate has been going down for the past five years, each and every year.”

According to incident reports from the Maricopa Police Department, total violent crimes decreased 16% from 2017 to 2018. The total of property crimes decreased about 19%.

Violent crime is composed of four offenses, including murder and non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, according to the FBI.

On the other hand, non-violent crimes are those with no force or threat of force to the victim, such as burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft and arson.

Stahl said that it takes the community to cooperate with MPD in lowering the crime rate and keeping the city safe.

“You can’t make a full-effect change without the 53,000 eyes and ears out there reporting to the police department when they find something suspicious,” Stahl said.

MPD’s No. 2 call for service is suspicious activity, according to Stahl.

“When you have an active and involved community, that’s what you have,” Stahl said. “People comfortable enough to call the police department and speak up about suspicious activity.”

Other programs that MPD has incorporated to ensure safety and resources include the Family Advocacy Center, surveillance camera registration, domestic violence education to youths and neighborhood apps.

“There’s always room for improvement — at the same time, it’s like market share,” Price said. “Sure, we’d like to be number one, I think it’s about incremental measure of success.”

In a growing community, MPD is addressing challenges that it has not addressed before, such as various traffic challenges and making sure those who move in from other parts of the country are aware of the laws and regulations in Arizona.

“I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied with whatever that status is,” Stahl said. “We’re always looking for the next tool to be able to help our community be as safe as it can be.”


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Maricopa judge asks for apology letters from jury dodgers
 
 07.31.19

Judge Lyle Riggs

MARICOPA — The judge presiding in Maricopa wants residents to feel remorse for missing jury duty, and he has found a creative way for them to express it.

Lyle Riggs, the judge at Maricopa Municipal Court and Western Pinal Justice Court, was upset when he needed to hold a rare jury trial and realized a significant number of people did not show up for their jury summons. In fact, the number was high enough that he came up with a new policy.

As is usual, Riggs held a hearing where those who did not show up were summoned to explain why. Those with good excuses were given a warning, but those he determined did not were told that they would be held in contempt of the court unless they pay a $100 fine or they wrote a letter apologizing to their community for not performing their duties as a citizen.

That letter will then need to be published in either the Maricopa Monitor or InMaricopa.com. So far, at least two people have taken the judge up on the offer, submitting their letters to PinalCentral expressing remorse for missing their appointment.

“What I really want is for people to show up for jury duty,” Riggs said. “I’m not trying to make their lives difficult.”

The would-be jurors have 60 days from the time of their hearing to comply with either demand. Once they do, the contempt charge is purged from their record, Riggs said. However, if they do not comply by the deadline, there could be a warrant issued for their arrest and they could be detained until they do.

Riggs said the apology needs to be made to the community in general because it costs the taxpayers money when an insufficient number of jurors show up for a trial. If there aren’t enough suitable candidates to be seated, the trial has to be vacated and rescheduled, which then pushes other court dates around.

In addition to the money spent sending a summons and staffing a jury trial, this also adds unpredictability that doesn’t suit a justice system well, Riggs said.

Municipal and justice of the peace courts aren’t often associated with juries, as they tend to be involved in civil matters such as traffic violations and personal disputes. However, Riggs said he gets plenty of jury-eligible cases in his court, though only a couple actually make it to trial every year without being settled first. Those tend to involve DUI, shoplifting and theft.

Riggs said he hopes the letters cause both the sender and those reading them to rethink their attitude toward honoring their summons.

“Serving on a jury is both a privilege and an obligation that we have as citizens,” he said. “It’s the people’s check on government.”