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Jeff Bell – the city of Apache Junction’s only parks director until his retirement in 2016 – died on Wednesday, March 13, after an illness. He was 61.
Bell, born on June 28, 1957, grew up in Casa Grande and volunteered with that city’s parks department before he was a teenager. He worked there before and after he attended Arizona State University, where he earned a degree in recreation management. Before that, he attended Mesa Community College, where he played on a tennis team that finished fourth in the nation.
Bell steered the Apache Junction’s parks department for 35 years. He oversaw the development of more than 2,000 acres of park and open space in a thriving operation that now employs more than 100 full and part-time staff, has hundreds of volunteers and serves a community of tens of thousands, winning accolades from peers and citizens alike.
“Jeff was a visionary public servant who found creative methods to deliver world-class facilities and programs to our community,” said current Parks Director Liz Langenbach, who worked with Bell for 20 years. “He worked hard to develop staff that focused on high quality, personal customer experiences. Jeff was a beloved mentor and father-figure to many of us in the department, and will be missed dearly.”
Bell is survived by his wife, Mary; children Scott Bell and Bridgette Bell, children by marriage Heather Basford and Jason Borelli (Michelle); grandchildren Kailey Basford, Michael Basford and Morgan Gonzales and Lydia Borelli; mother Pat Yuhas, siblings John Bell, Kristy Johnson (David), and Vicki Walker. He was preceded in death by his father, Harold Bell, and stepfather, George Yuhas.
The city of Apache Junction will be re-paving Winchester Road from 4th Avenue to 2nd Avenue on March 18-28. Winchester will be closed from Old West Highway to Junction Street except to local and business traffic only off of Junction Avenue and 4th Avenue.
The Apache Junction Police Department (AJPD) is seeking the public’s help with apprehending a suspected bank robber in the city. According to a press release from AJPD: “The robbery took place on March 4 at 4 p.m. at the U.S. Bank location inside the Safeway supermarket at 3185 W. Apache Trail.
You can make friends; it’s not difficult here,” Valentina summarized her experience as a foreign exchange student attending Apache Junction High School. “It’s the same – with different language, food and habits – but underneath, everybody is the same everywhere you go. I’ve learned to be a citizen of the world, not just my little Italy.”
Work Session On Monday, March 4, the Apache Junction City Council discussed three items during their work session. The first item was an agreement with Roadway Electric, LLC for traffic signal repair. This is an agreement in partnership with Mesa that will cover repairs to the city’s traffic signals over a three year period at a maximum cost of $100,000 per year or $500,000 if the Mesa contract is longer than three years.
The Cactus Canyon Jr. High girls basketball team won the Middle School League championship on Monday, March 4, defeating J.O. Combs, finishing its season undefeated in 10 games. Eighth-grader Alyssa Demery averaged 12.5 points per game for the Cougars. In a game against Combs, seventh grader Alexis Alsenay made seven 3-pointers to lead CCJH to a victory. The Cougars averaged 35 points per game and held their opponents to an average of 16 points per game.
Apache Junction High School student Matthew Swigert knows how to score. The high school senior recently received a $1,000 scholarship from the Rhythm in Blues Community Choir at Roadhaven Resort, 1000 S. Idaho Road in Apache Junction. Roadhaven resident Mike Radniecki inquired about potential scholarship recipients, and Swigert was nominated by his teacher, Andie Chung. When the scholarship panel met with Swigert, they were impressed with his work ethic, musical expertise and versatility.
An Apache Junction resident suffered severe burns when his mobile home caught fire on Saturday, March 2nd. Superstition Fire & Medical District (SFMD) and Mesa Fire & Medical Department responded to a mobile home fire just after 8:00 a.m. in the 900 block of N. Plaza Drive. The first unit on the scene found a single-wide mobile home well involved with fire.
Ever been to a comic-con? This is your chance! The Apache Junction Public Library has an exciting, free full-day of events planned for the whole family. All-day activities include panels, prizes, photos, costume contest, and more. Meet your favorite Star Wars, Ghostbusters, and Power Rangers superheroes —and more.
The driver of a pickup truck that hit a propane truck on Monday, March 4 on US 60 near Gold Canyon has died of his injuries. At about 9:00 a.m., Superstition Fire & Medical District (SFMD) and the Queen Valley Fire District responded to a motor vehicle accident on US 60 at Mile Post 207 spokesperson Richard Ochs said.
Residents of Gold Canyon who live just east of Kings Ranch Road spoke for twenty minutes at the Pinal County Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting on Feb. 13 in hopes of persuading supervisors to block the sale of 7.4 acres of county land adjacent to their properties. A single-level storage unit facility has been proposed by a company seeking to purchase the vacant land.
Three Apache Junction Unified School District students traveled to Casa Grande to compete in the 56th Annual Pinal County Spelling Bee, and all three students earned a spot in the Top 10. Nearly 70 students throughout the county participated. Hailey Adams, a fifth grader from Peralta Trail Elementary School, placed fourth; Susana Martinez, who attends Cactus Canyon Junior High, came in 5th place and Elijah Anderson, who attends Desert Vista Elementary School, finished 10th.
Apache Junction Mayor Jeff Serdy has announced a public meeting in Gold Canyon with the goal of forming a group that will represent Gold Canyon and Peralta Trail areas on regional issues. The meeting is scheduled for March 14, at 7 p.m. at the Gold Canyon Community Church, 5810 S. Alameda, in Gold Canyon.
The Apache Junction Police Department’s (AJPD) mission to keep our community safe recently received some additional support. AJPD will be adding two new police package motorcycles to its fleet thanks to a grant from the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (AZGOHS).
Lost Dutchman Days overcame the challenges of a statewide winter storm last week and, once again, did not disappoint. Adept fairground crews adapted the layout during a wet setup on Thursday, February 21 and opened the event as planned—for the 55th time. Attendees from near and far were treated to clearing weather and three days of rodeo action, a parade on Saturday, arts fair and a carnival that featured rides and attractions.
Apache Junction Police Department (AJPD) said that a man has died after an apparent altercation with his girlfriend in the Apache Junction Walmart parking lot. “Oscar Coronado, 25, died early Thursday, February 21 after being struck late Wednesday night by a car allegedly driven by his girlfriend, Dalia Villalobos, 23, in the parking lot off Apache Trail and Delaware Drive,” police reported.
The Apache Junction Police Department has been alerted to an apparent scam in which a person is representing himself as an Apache Junction police officer. Under the ruse, a person identifying himself as “Sean Parker” is calling individuals and stating he is an Apache Junction police officer.
In response to increased calls from citizens regarding traffic violations in schools zones, Apache Junction Police Department traffic division has increased their enforcement efforts in the areas of Apache Junction High School and Four Peaks Elementary School.
The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office and the Apache Junction Police Department are investigating what appears to be a murder-suicide that took place last weekend. On Friday, February 8, 2019 at approximately 10:30 p.m., the Goodyear Police Department contacted the Apache Junction Police Department, requesting assistance in locating 30-year-old Stuart Milne, who was possibly suicidal.
Newly released numbers from the Arizona Department of Tourism shows that tourists spent over $500 million dollars in Pinal County in 2017. The study conducted by Dean Runyan Associates, highlighted tourism dollars spent in Arizona and broke them down by county. Pinal County’s economy realized $691.5 million in tourism-related spending.
Students at Desert Vista Elementary School, 3701 E. Broadway Ave. in Apache Junction, wrapped up 2018 sharing their Gifted Projects with Jodi Walker, academic coach for AJUSD elementary schools, and Robyn Gonzales, educational services curriculum manager. The students demonstrated initiative, imagination and creativity in their projects and presentations.
On Tuesday, February 5, the Apache Junction City Council appointed volunteer Dave Hantzsche to fill the one vacancy on the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission. There were eight applicants for the seat, and Mr. Hantzsche was selected by a vote of 5-2 with councilmembers Gail Evans and Christa Rizzi dissenting.
Apache Junction Police Department detectives, working in partnership with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and Pinal County Sheriff’s Office assisted in the arrest of an Apache Junction man on Monday, January 28.
In April, 2011, when Gold Canyon resident Curt Fonger snapped a series of photos and video near (aptly named) Prickly Point Rd. and Cloudview Ave., he had no idea what an impact they would make. The photos found their way to YouTube, and, from there, they quickly went viral.
As we embark into 2019, we begin to think about the upcoming community impact projects — one of the largest being our annual community hydration drive. In the spring of 2018, united together, we launched the Pinal County Heat Relief Network.
Voting in Pinal County could see changes in 2020 to simplify and enhance the voter experience. County Recorder Virginia Ross and Elections Director Michele Forney presented nine ideas to the Board of Supervisors regarding the 2020 Elections and beyond.
Another year has come and gone, and 2019 is sure to bring even more development and good news to Apache Junction. Having completed my first term as mayor, I can look back at a number of issues we have successfully addressed with smart, managed growth for our community.
Apache Junction Police Department (AJPD) Auxiliary Patrol is amping up their training in preparation for the Lost Dutchman Marathon and Lost Dutchman Day’s Parade. Officer Wes Kelley has been providing Auxiliary Patrol Officers traffic control training leading up to the events.
Apache Junction Police Department (AJPD) has reported that four juveniles have been arrested and booked into Pinal County Juvenile Detention on multiple counts of Burglary, Aggravated Criminal Damage, Theft of Means of Transportation and Criminal Trespass.
A jury found 40-year-old Michael Huntoon guilty of ten counts of sexual exploitation of a minor and dangerous crimes against children. At sentencing on January 9th, the court imposed a presumptive sentence of 28 years for each of the ten counts against him. In total, Huntoon was sentenced to 280 years in prison.
An apparent fire in a dryer at the KOA campground on South Tomahawk sent the Superstition Fire & Medical District (SFMD) and the Mesa Fire & Medical Department to the area on January 24. According to SFMD Assistant Chief Richard Ochs, when they received a report of smoke and fire in a structure, firefighters were dispatched at 8:20 p.m. to a building in the 1500 Block of South Tomahawk Rd.
A retired Superstition Fire & Medical District (SFMD) fire captain and paramedic jumped into action and helped save the life of an Apache Junction woman last week. On Jan. 14, 2019, retired Fire Captain and Paramedic Mike Gregorie witnessed a woman driving erratically in Apache Junction.
Hailey Adams, a fifth grader from Peralta Trail Elementary School, won the Apache Junction Unified School District Spelling Bee on Wednesday, Jan. 16. Hailey competed with fellow students from PTES, as well as Four Peaks and Desert Vista Elementary Schools and Cactus Canyon Jr. High, and walked off the stage with the first place trophy.
During the last several months, August through December 2018, the Apache Junction Police Department’s (AJPD) Criminal Investigation Division (CID) and Community Resource Enforcement Unit (CREU) have made numerous narcotic as well as other criminal arrests in this recent roundup.
At the Apache Junction City Council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 15, outgoing Councilman Dave Waldron was recognized for his years of service to the city of Apache Junction. Attendees were treated to some slides of Mr. Waldron in action over the years, and he was honored with a standing ovation by the council and audience.
On February 11, The Apache Junction/Gold Canyon News will NOT be in your driveway or news stand – until two days later! Wednesday deliveries, beginning February 13, will allow your locally owned, locally reported and locally supported Hometown News Team to expand opportunities with advertisers…
The Apache Junction Police Department (AJPD) has arrested and charged an Apache Junction man in connection with eight different incidents involving counterfeit bills. On January 9, 2019, Toby Tyler Heidebrink, age 44, was arrested in the 1600 block of S. Idaho Road.
Apache Junction Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Krista Anderson received word on Friday, January 4, that the district had been awarded funding for five school buses through the Volkswagen lawsuit settlement. With $110,000 per bus allocated, the district will receive $550,000 for the purchase.
Greater Phoenix is fortunate to have a modern and vibrant multi-modal transportation system that helps safeguard our region’s economic vitality and long-term sustainability. Airports are a critical component of that system and create jobs, facilitate commerce and provide access to the global marketplace for the communities they serve.
The city of Apache Junction Active Transportation Plan is the first active transportation plan developed by the city. The plan will serve as the primary tool for deployment and integration of connected, comfortable facilities for bicyclists, pedestrians, equestrians and other non-motorized modes within Apache Junction.
Board members at the December 11 Apache Junction Unified School District Governing Board meeting addressed the topic of updating and diversifying course curriculum throughout the district. The presentation documented efforts to improve the quality of education available to Apache Junction/Gold Canyon area students.
Firefighters from the Superstition Fire & Medical District (SFMD) and the Mesa Fire & Medical Department were dispatched at 10:03 a.m. on Tuesday, January 1 to an apartment fire in the 5800 block of East Estrella Road in Gold Canyon. The first fire truck arrived in six minutes to find smoke showing from a second floor apartment.
If you have the experience and want to share your time and talents, this is a good time to renew your commitment to your community in the spirit of volunteerism. Apache Junction Police Department has one of the finest volunteer programs in the country, but we are constantly looking for opportunities to improve.
I hope we’re all ready for the surprises the state has for us this year. First of all, when you register your vehicle this year, you will see a “public safety fee” (not a tax) added to the final total. The “fee”is set by the ADOT director annually to cover the cost of the state Highway Patrol. This will purportedly free up funds to repair roads and help fund the teacher raises the governor promised.
Three new firefighters have begun serving with the SFMD. Although each of these individuals will be serving as new firefighters for the district, none are new employees. All three have previously worked on an ambulance for the Fire District’s Transportation Division.
From the struggles of getting everyone ready to the bows after the show, it was all worth it for eighth grader Lauren Coburn. Coburn, the student director, was very relieved that she and her classmates got through the Cactus Canyon Junior High advanced drama class’ performance of Santa’s Sugar on Dec. 6.
The Apache Junction Police Department announced that the police firing range has added concrete lanes to aid police personnel in properly qualifying with their duty firearms, which is a Departmental requirement in addition to Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training requirement. This project was completed at no cost to the Apache Junction Police Department or the City.
A long-term ecological restoration project is happening on the Lower Salt River of the Tonto National Forest’s Mesa Ranger District in the area of the 2017 Cactus Fire. The Lower Salt River Restoration project will restore 70 acres of riparian habitat along an 11-mile stretch of the river by removing exotic plant species and planting over 500,000 native plants.
The Arizona Lecture Series is proud to present its 2019 season lineup. The first lecture is on Monday, January 7, 2019. Doors open at 6 p.m., with the lecture starting at 7 p.m. All presentations are held at the Performing Arts Center on the campus of the Apache Junction High School. Tickets are $5 per show (available one week prior to event). Season tickets for the 12 lecture series are $50.
The Apache Junction Elks Lodge #2349 is excited to announce the winners of the annual Hoop Shoot Contest, which was held on Saturday, Dec. 8, at the Apache Junction Multi-Generational Center. The free throw contest was open to boys and girls, ages 8 to 13 years old and was free to all contestants. In the Boys 8-9 Division, Tanner Chaney finished in first place, Nickolas Acosta in second place and Preston Sorenson in third place.
The increase in our population means that there are more people out and about enjoying the beautiful weather and the plethora of activities available to us here in AJ. Be it walking, jogging or biking, the opportunity for accidents increases. Since we have several months of good weather in front of us, here are some safety tips to help you get the most out of the winter season.
At their work session on Dec. 17, the Apache Junction City Council opened a discussion of the ethical behaviors of board and commission members. The Council appoints almost 50 volunteers who serve on ten different boards with varying responsibilities. “It seems to me that when we appoint board members, we just sort of turn them loose,” said Councilwoman Robin Barker.
The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office is the first agency in the nation to participate in the Department of Defense SkillBridge Program, helping military service members trasition into civilian jobs. The SkillBridge initiative helps link military occupations to civilian jobs and promotes employment training, apprenticeships and internships.
Arizona is in the twenty-first year of a long-term drought, according to the Arizona State Climate Office, and at least one Apache Junction couple has decided to do something about it. In late November 2018, Elizabeth Butler and Bill Gorrell hosted a party of sorts – a rainwater harvesting party.
As a precaution, Apache Junction High School was locked down on Friday, December 14 at around 1:45 p.m. The campus was about to let out for the week when the Apache Junction Police Department (AJPD) received a call saying there was an active shooter at the school.
The award-winning Apache Junction High School Navy Junior ROTC is under new “management” this year. Stepping into the big boots are LCDR Gary Lock and Senior Chief Kendra Welchert, who have already marched the young cadets to a new level with an unprecedented early win in the annual Brain Brawl last September, earning an automatic qualification for the Western Regional competition in California.
Sheryl Anderson’s senior government students at Apache Junction High School take their studies seriously. In a recent competition sponsored by VFW Post 7968, 250 S. Phelps Drive in Apache Junction, the Prospectors took first, second and third place in the essay contest, “Why My Vote Matters.”
The foundation of a strong community is a strong education system. Think about it. Whenever a society has lacked educational structure, crime and poverty are more widespread, people lack skills and knowledge to succeed and change the direction of their lives, and general health suffers.
Apache Junction drivers are doing an “about face” since the closure of a popular shortcut from North Plaza Drive into and out of the Patterns of the Past Antique Mall parking lot. The private driveway was frequently used as an unofficial extension of N. Plaza by patrons of several businesses that line the west and southwest corner of the parcel.
According to a press release from Giving USA, American individuals gave an estimated $287 billion in 2017 to charitable causes. The amount represents an increase of 5.0% over 2016. The outpouring of goodwill, however, seems to be slowing to a comparative trickle in 2018. Economists are pointing to new tax laws, which nearly doubled the standard deduction on 2018 federal income tax.
There is no better time to experience life in the desert than during these mild-weather months in Apache Junction. “As the temperatures cool down, we see many of our winter residents returning,” said Apache Junction Police Department (AJPD) Chief Thomas E. Kelly.
Jaren Hemphill, a Central Arizona College Graphic Design student was recently notified that the poster he designed and submitted for the Amazon Prime Original Series Jack Ryan was selected as the winning entry. Through the art networking site Talenthouse, Hemphill reviews creative invites and briefs from major US companies for various graphic design contests.
Due to nearly $10,000 in contributions, the Apache Junction Unified School District’s football program received enough donations to acquire 41 football helmets for next season and continue the tackle football program at Cactus Canyon Junior High in Apache Junction. The purchase amount was $11,662.74.
The Superstition Mountains are awash with amazing geology, history, legend and intrigue. They were officially designated as the Superstition Wilderness Area in 1964 and are thus preserved. But the Superstition Foothills, an area of primarily State Trust lands adjacent to its southern border, are unprotected and required by law to be auctioned if and when they are sold.
An ongoing theme around our fair city is the negative perception that seems to stick to our town like stink on skunk, despite numerous awards for livability – for both retirees and families. For this week’s editorial, we offer up some historical perspective on the topic – from none other than the founder and mentor of the crew at The News, Ed Barker.
The nautical history of Canyon Lake has been an interesting one. When Canyon Lake was first filled in 1925, several valley entrepreneurs were convinced they could operate a profitable business enterprise by transporting visitors by bus up the Apache Trail and then place them on a tour boat for a cruise up Canyon Lake.
San Tan Valley residents have been twice thwarted in their efforts to bring the option of incorporation to a vote; however, they now have a participative comprehensive plan to help guide future growth. On October 31, the Pinal County Board of Supervisors, in regular session adopted the San Tan Valley Special Area Plan – a major amendment to the 2009 Pinal County Comprehensive Plan.
Nov. 19 Work Session: The Apache Junction City Council discussed a bid award for Superstition Shadows Park Aquatics Facility Pool Re-Surfacing, for a maximum cost of $276,387.10. The project includes replacement of lighting and hand rails. The pools were last resurfaced in 2002. This item was approved with the Nov. 20 consent agenda. There was a discussion on proposed amendments to Apache Junction City Code, Property Maintenance Standards.
With a project to resurface the roadway and construct improvements along a 17-mile stretch of State Route 88 (Apache Trail) complete, east of the Valley, the keys to safety on this historic, winding roadway remain obeying the speed limit, staying alert and not driving impaired. The Arizona Department of Transportation has finished $6.5 million worth of improvements that include paved vehicle pullouts, adjustments to several curves and replacement of some existing sections of old guardrail.
We all have heard that a caravan made up of peasants and, among other people, thugs, drug dealers, terrorists and MS13 members, is headed north to our border with Mexico. These people are, we are cautioned, armed to the teeth, just like the soldiers in Pancho Villa’s or Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna’s armies once were. Again, we hear, an invasion is approaching. Fear reigned then, and again, fear reigns in our country.
We love promoting Apache Junction, Arizona's gem city at the base of the Superstition Mountains. For those who live and work here, this is home. For many that visit, it's a second home where it's always sunny and friendly with so much to do. Take the time to look around, discover the people, businesses, groups and families that make The New Apache Junction what it is today and the AJ of the future.