The Only Hometown Newspaper

Author

Bill Van Nimwegen

Bill Van Nimwegen has 1048 articles published.

SRP Board Approves Price Cut

$64 Million Decrease Lowers Overall Average Annual Prices by 2.2 percent

By Scott Harelson

Following an extensive 3-month public process, Salt River Project’s publicly-elected Board of Directors today approved changes in price plans, effective with the May billing cycle, that include an overall average annual price decrease of 2.2 percent. The $64 million overall decrease in prices is a result of a reduction in fuel expenses and a modest increase in base prices. The approved decrease will vary by customer type and price plan.

The price reduction incorporates and is in addition to decreases SRP implemented on a temporary basis in 2018. The new price changes will appear on bills beginning with the May 2019 billing cycle. On average, SRP residential customers will experience a decrease of about $1.78 per month in their electric bill, although individual customer experiences will vary by price plan and the way they use energy.

According to SRP General Manager and CEO Mike Hummel, SRP has been able to keep prices stable for the past four years through prudent operations and management, strategic resource acquisitions and taking advantage of market conditions that have allowed SRP to generate a greater share of energy using lower-cost natural gas. Hummel added that because natural gas prices are projected to remain low, SRP can continue to pass those savings on directly to its more than 1 million customers.

While more than offset by a decrease in fuel expenses, the approved change in prices reflects a modest increase in base prices that will address investments needed to maintain reliability in the face of customer growth, support SRP’s commitment to increasing sustainable resources and adding new technologies such as battery storage, and reflect the shorter depreciable lives of SRP’s coal generation assets.

“The Board thoughtfully and deliberately discussed or debated a number of different issues during this very public process before agreeing on this overall price reduction,” said SRP President David Rousseau. “Ultimately, each Board member voted for what they believe is in the best interests of SRP’s more than 1 million customers they were elected to represent.”

“Deliberating pricing measures for SRP customers is one of the most important responsibilities of SRP’s Board,” said Hummel. “I want to thank the Board for demonstrating their commitment to our customers with their engagement and ideas throughout the process.”

In addition to an overall reduction in prices, the Board approved a one-hour reduction in summer on-peak hours for some price plans from 1 – 8 p.m. to 2 – 8 p.m. Also approved are additional pricing options for residential customers who produce some of their own energy using rooftop solar or other technologies, including two non-demand time-of-use price plans and an average daily demand price plan. In a separate action, management committed to increase SRP’s current battery storage program incentive from $150 per kilowatt hour (kWh) to $300 per kWh of storage capacity, up to a maximum of $3,600 per system. The doubling of the incentive will be capped at 4,500 installations.

In addition, the Board approved a significant increase in SRP’s Bill Assistance program. Beginning this year, SRP will increase the amount they match to the SHARE program (Services to Help Arizonans with Relief on Energy) to a minimum of $500,000 annually for five years. SRP partners with the Salvation Army to provide energy assistance to those in need through SHARE by matching one-time or recurring donations made by SRP customers. In addition, SRP will increase the credit provided to limited income customers in the Economy Discount Rider to $23 for every month and will increase the separate SRP Bill Assistance program qualification requirement from 150 percent to 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guideline.

Detailed information about the pricing changes can be found by visiting www.srpprices.com.

Photo courtesy of SRP

Call to Artists

Artists are needed for the 20th Annual Gold Canyon Arts Festival, a one-day event, to be held on Saturday, January 25, 2020, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the grounds of the Gold Canyon United Methodist Church, 6640 S. Kings Ranch Rd. in Gold Canyon, Arizona, 85118.

Many artists and participants say this is the “best one day show” they’ve experienced. The venue offers good parking and drive-by visibility. Our attendance is over 4,000 each year!

Typically, 85-90 artists are jury selected to show their work. Reserved artist spaces are 10ft x 10ft. (tents are encouraged, but not required). The application fee is $25 and, if selected, the Festival fee is an additional $125 plus a contribution of a piece of your art to support the Gold Canyon Arts Council School Educational Outreach programs.

In addition, the Festival features live musical entertainment throughout the day and a variety of professional food vendors.

Admission to the event is free and there is ample free parking at the Festival venue.

Application deadline is November 8, 2019. Applications shall be made via the ZAPP website (https://www.zapplication.org/event-info.php?ID=7571), which includes all details about the Festival and the application process.

For questions and additional information, contact: Carole Lindemann, Festival Chair; GoldCanyonArtsFestival@gmail.com.

A Deadly Vision

By Tom Kollenborn

Gold and treasure have attracted men and women to the Superstition Mountain region for more than a century, and their quest for lost treasure has often turned tragic.

Searching for treasure in the summer months with little or no experience in the region can result in deadly consequences. The vision of riches has led many to their final resting place among the rocks and cacti of the unforgiving Superstition Wilderness. This story is a reminder of how dangerous and deadly these mountains can be in the summer months.

In July, 2010, three men from Utah embarked upon a treasure-hunting quest that ended their lives. Curtis Glenn Merworth, Malcolm Jerome Meeks and Adrean Charles headed for an unknown destination deep in the Superstition Wilderness Area. At that particular time of year, the ground surface temperatures can rise to 180°F. The air temperature was above 110°F and water was scarce within the vastness of this mountain wilderness in July.

A blind vision of golden riches drew these men into this internal hell like a magnet. They were somewhat aware of the dangers, because they carried umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun. However, they failed to carry enough water to survive the stifling heat. The victims’ car was parked at First Water Trailhead around Tuesday, July 6, 2010.

The last person to visit with these three men prior to their fatal journey was Louis Ruiz at the Blue Bird Mine Curio Shop and Snack Bar on the Apache Trail. Curtis Merworth purchased a map and bid Louis farewell.

Soon after the men arrived, they were reported missing. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office set up a search and rescue command post at First Water Trail Head on Sunday, July 11, 2010. This was three days after they had gone into the mountains from First Water Trail Head.

The sheriff’s office had a helicopter transporting search crews to different points within the wilderness to conduct searches. Approximately one hundred people were searching the area on foot, horseback and by air. All of this searching did not produce a single clue as to what had happened to these men.

The MCSO Search & Rescue Command Post was taken down on Sunday July 18, 2010. Members of the MCSO, PCSO, Superstition Search & Rescue and other volunteers continued searching for the three missing men through December 2010. As of January 1, 2011, not one clue had been found associated with these three missing men. It was as if they had vanished from the face of the Earth.

Ironically, searching for hikers is one thing, but searching for treasure hunters is something entirely different. Hikers and horsemen generally remain on wilderness system trails. However, treasure hunters (Dutch hunters) wander in all directions over the mountain’s vastness looking for clues to lost gold caches.  A clue might be a pictoglyph, a certain shaped rock, a cactus or maybe an old claim marker. These treasure hunters are usually far removed from system trails and often in extremely rugged country.

I am sure the MCSO and other search groups did everything possible to locate these missing men. These officers are dedicated men and women who are here to protect and serve us. Once the officials scaled back their operations, the volunteer groups began their search for the three missing men.

I followed the activities of the volunteer Superstition Search & Rescue Teams during their searches. They are a very dedicated and highly trained group of young men and women who devote hours of volunteer time to help others. This team is a member of CERTS, a Community Emergency Response Team working with the Apache Junction Police Department and trained by the State of Arizona.

We cannot fault anyone for not finding these men sooner, because, in the end, they were far off any beaten path. They were in an area where it was highly unlikely anyone would search.

Richard “Rick” Gwynn, author and prospector was hiking in the Superstition Wilderness Area on Wednesday, January 5, 2011, trying to piece together clues about the lost gold of these mountains about two miles east of First Water Trailhead. He made a gruesome discovery on the NNE slope of Yellow Peak. He found two skeletons, fully dressed, lying on loose and steeply sloping black-basaltic rock talus about 150 feet wide and 1000 feet long. Nearby, he found two umbrellas they had been using for shade.

Near the bodies was a battery-powered lamp. Rick said it appeared the men had died of natural causes. They had no water. Summer temperature on the black basaltic rock probably reached an easy 180°F.  No human or animal would have lasted very long lying or crawling across that black rock.

Again the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office helicopter and search teams searched for the third victim; again with no success. The Superstition Search and Rescue Team returned to the field. They began on Thursday, January 13, 2011, searching northward toward Black Mesa near the southeastern part of the mesa. It was in this area, about ¾ mile north of the first site, that SSAR team found what appeared to be a debris field that included a bone. They had no idea if it was human, but thought it was fresh. The team returned to the area on Saturday, January 15, 2011, and found skeletal remains.

Search Commander Robert Cooper immediately notified MCSO, and their helicopter rescue team supervised the removal of the third victim’s remains from the wilderness area.

This discovery and removal of the last body closed another sad chapter in the history of these mountains and the search for the missing Utah prospectors. The failure of these men to understand the dangers of the mountains in the summer months cost them their lives.

Finally, the three Utah gold hunters had been found, ending one of the most difficult searches in Superstition Wilderness Area history.

Their vision of lost gold had been a fatal attraction for them.

Photo above from left: Missing hikers Adrean Charles, Malcolm Meeks and Curtis Merworth.

Peralta Trail Bobcat Gets On Chess Board

By Sally Marks

Noah Tholen may only be in third grade, but the Peralta Trail Elementary student knows a thing or two about games. He plays with confidence on his iPad tablet, but when it came time to learn something new, he decided to go with the non-electronic game of chess.

Noah was one of many elementary school students in Apache Junction Unified School District to learn chess and play against other students in the Student Chess League that began in 2018 under the direction of AJUSD volunteer, Joseph Gerber. Competition in the chess league has ended for the school year, but student interest in the game continues.

“Chess is fun! It has helped me learn various strategies by anticipating my opponent’s next move and planning for it,” said Noah, who moved to Arizona from Indiana with his family in 2017.  “It has also helped me learn to play as a team with others and use good sportsmanship. The matches allowed me to see other schools and meet different players and coaches. It is also a game I can play outside of school with my family. I can teach them a few things and they can teach me a few things.”

In addition to having access to a game that does not require electricity or batteries, learning how to play chess can enhance a student’s creativity, improve concentration and focus and develop stronger critical thinking skills, boost memory and support superior academic performance.

Noah’s enthusiasm extends beyond chess. I have really liked the teachers I have had at Peralta Trail Elementary School, and I like playing with my friends on the playground at recess. I also enjoy the variety of extracurricular activities they offer such as Chess Club, Science Club and Sports.

For more information about AJUSD call 480-982-1110, visit www.ajusd.org or follow on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ajusd43. #WeAreAJ

Photo above: Noah Tholen has learned to play – and compete – at Chess through AJUSD.

Universal Licensing Bill Signed into Law

Arizona’s first-in-nation law helps licensed individuals get to work

By Chad Heinrich, NFIB

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) joined Gov. Doug Ducey and others at a signing ceremony for House Bill 2569 on April 10 at the State Capitol.

With Ducey’s signature on the measure, authored by Rep. Warren Petersen, Arizona became the first state in the nation with universal recognition of occupational licenses from other states.

“Universal Recognition is the near-automatic acknowledgement of out-of-state licenses within Arizona,” according to a fact sheet issued by the governor’s office. “Implementing universal licensing recognizes that a person does not lose their skills or qualifications simply because they moved to our state. For example, under our plan, if you’re a licensed nurse in Washington, your expertise would be recognized here in Arizona. This plan increases opportunity for new Arizonans and addresses shortages in critical-need areas, including healthcare professions.”

The new law could not come at a better time, said NFIB Arizona State Director Chad Heinrich. “Our members are telling us that finding qualified workers to fill positions is the single most pressing problem today. Through this policy, Arizona recognizes employees who move to Arizona with an occupational license from another state and accepts that state’s license in Arizona. This allows the employee to hit the ground running for employers in Arizona.

One hundred thousand people will move to Arizona this year. We have a job open for every one of them. This bill will help employers continue to grow their business in Arizona, while easing the transition for employees moving to our state.”

House: Pinal County BOS “Looking Forward to Working on Gold Canyon Plan”

May 3-9 proclaimed Peace Officers Memorial Week

By Dana Trumbull

Roberto Reveles and David Coward spoke at the April 3 Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting during the call to the public. The Gold Canyon residents thanked Supervisor Todd House for attending the recent meeting concerning ingress/egress routes for Gold Canyon, as well as the increased traffic anticipated on Peralta Road due to the addition of 761 homes in the new Peralta Canyon subdivision.

Coward went on to suggest that the Board consider conducting a study for Gold Canyon, similar to the one recently completed for San Tan Valley, which resulted in major changes to the Pinal County Comprehensive Plan. “We need to do some planning in our area that affects, not just the unincorporated area around Gold Canyon, but the whole region, all the way into Superior,” he said. “A lot of the people working for Resolution Copper now live in Gold Canyon, so that’s becoming a major corridor.”

House replied, thanking Reveles for organizing the meeting, “I think the citizens of Gold Canyon had their voices heard.” He also assured Coward that the BOS is looking forward to working on a Gold Canyon plan during the next budget year.

Peace Officers Memorial Week, May 3-9
Sheriff Mark Lamb read a proclamation designating May 3-9 as Peace Officers Memorial Week, and May 9 as Peace Officers Memorial Day. The proclamation, which was unanimously approved, urges “all citizens of Pinal County to recognize and remember the sacrifices that these officers and their families have made and the legacy they have entrusted to all of us.”

The BOS also approved a proclamation recognizing April as Fair Housing Month.

Purchasing Report
During the Purchasing Division Report, the BOS approved a new contract for Aviation Parts & Service to Pro Flight Gear, LLC for a term of one year. The contract is used by PCSO. Securus Technologies, Inc. received a one year renewal of their contract for Video Visitation (PCSO); and a job order contract for Roadway Pavement Markings was also approved for annual renewal with Franklin Striping, Inc.; MRM Construction Services, Inc.; Pavement Marking, Inc. and Sunline Contracting (Public Works).

Databank IMX received a contract for OnBase maintenance in the amount of $210,000. The Detention Food Services contract with Summit Food Services, LLC was amended to facilitate a kitchen remodel in the Adult Detention Center.

Denise Hart Named New Chamber President / CEO

The Apache Junction Chamber of Commerce has named Denise Hart as the Chamber’s new President and Chief Executive Officer.

“We are excited to add Denise Hart to our team and to our community,” said Steve Byfield, Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce. Denise has been leading the way in challenging businesses; she is going to be a great fit for Apache Junction, bringing excitement and enthusiasm to our community that will serve us well.

Denise has extensive experience in marketing and community relations and collaborating with cities to develop vacant land. She served as Marketing Director for Nike, Inc. promoting events for NCAA Final Four basketball, professional beach volleyball and other sporting events. She was awarded as Tempe Business Woman of the Year in 2016 and was very involved in the Tempe Chamber of Commerce. Denise has experience in budgeting, staffing, employee management and working with volunteers, which will serve her well in her new CEO position.

Denise was a mentor for the Tempe Chamber of Commerce Women in Business and enjoyed serving on the Tempe Tourism Board of Directors (past chair and current treasurer) for over a decade. She is anxious to become just as involved and utilize her tourism and municipal relationship skills to aid small businesses in the Apache Junction community.

The Apache Junction Chamber of Commerce has spent more than 50 years serving and advocating for businesses and has more than 440 members. The Chamber also hosts the Arizona Office of Tourism’s designated Visitor Center, in partnership with the city of Apache Junction, drawing more than 30,000 visitors annually and receiving thousands of phone calls from all parts of the globe.

Denise starts on April 29th and will hit the ground running to get up to speed with everything going on in the community. We hope you will stop by and welcome Denise to Apache Junction. We wish the best for her success.

AJUSD Approves Salary Schedule/Raises

$900K invested in move toward competitive salary ranges

By Dana Trumbull

Over the course of the last few months, representative employees from all Apache Junction Unified School District schools and departments have met to research, discuss and rebuild the district’s salary structure. The efforts of this salary committee, working with consultant Vance Jacobson, JB Rewards Systems, resulted in a new salary structure that drives the district’s median pay scale from the 25th percentile to the 40th percentile, as compared to 25 similar and/or neighboring districts.

The recommendations were approved by the AJUSD Governing Board at the April 9 meeting, with the caveat that the committee would rejoin to address the six employees whose circumstances resulted in frozen wages under the plan.

According to Jacobson, in addition to having an overall pay scale that was lower than 75% of all Arizona school districts, AJUSD was dealing with a “preexisting lack of structure.” The district’s pay schedule and classifications had not been updated to evolve with changes in the district, education norms and changes to minimum wage over many years.

As they rebuilt the salary schedule, the salary committee incorporated “meaningful differences for different skill levels.” The previous schedule included increases as low as 6 cents between steps.

With every employee reclassified to normalize AJUSD employee classifications with national standards and then placed into the commensurate salary step, implementation will cost the district about $900,000. Funding for the increases is cobbled together with a 2% inflation adjustment from the state, an increase in per student funding (ADM), proposition 301 budget adjustments and prepaid insurance funds, combined with Governor Ducey’s promised 5% increase for teachers (based on 2016-17 funding year wages).

“When we started doing the numbers, we found that, if we set our salary ranges to where the center of the range matched our competitive target, we would break the bank,” explained Jacobson. “However, if we set the middle of our salary ranges at the 40th percentile of the market, we could afford this and a multi-year plan to move ahead on a cost-effective basis to get us up to a little bit more of an appreciable competitive level.

“We also identified about 20 or so instances where employees were moving into one step, but, in a perfect world, they would be a lot further down the scale. We designed a formula to give them special equity adjustments – not full tilt to a ‘perfect world’, but a ‘good faith effort’ for long-term employees who should probably get a trophy for patience [after enduring multiple years with pay freezes].”

Dr. Cruz added, “It is important to realize that not every employee will hit the 40th percentile; we can’t afford that this year. This is truly a best faith effort to try to make up for some of the things that have happened in the past, knowing that it is flawed.”

The committee also created a formula to equitably place new employees who already have years of experience on the scale without jumping over the pay rates of current employees with similar years of experience.

In discussion, Board members each expressed a strong reluctance to approve a schedule that froze the salaries of even a few long-term employees such as AJHS teacher Russ Young, who, with 41 years in the district was among the “handful” of employees listed between the 122nd through 126th percentile of their pay bracket.

“I can tell you that, during my tenure, I’ve experienced my share of pay freezes – probably more than anyone. Yet, my salary is scheduled to be frozen for next year,” he told Board members, speaking during Public Comments. “Unfortunately, the committee’s goal of making people feel valued didn’t apply to everyone. As a long term employee with 41 years of service, hours of professional development and uncompensated 70 hour work weeks being the norm for several years, one would think that service would be recognized.”

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Cruz clarified, “The folks who are frozen are not necessarily long-term employees. They are the ones who, for various reasons, are at the 120th percentile or higher in their specific band.”

With this point in mind, Board President Jodi Ehrlich amended the motion to approve the new salary schedule and raises with a caveat that the salary committee would meet again and return to the Board after considering the six frozen employees individually and finding a solution to compensate those who are long-term employees. The amended motion passed unanimously.

In addition to assisting the salary committee with research and analysis, JB Rewards Systems provided the district with administrative tools that will help ensure that the programs are maintained. The tools include decision support models and a technical system for measuring the content of a job and placing it in the right salary range. “This software looks at the job, not the person in the job,” said Jacobson.

JB Rewards Systems was retained by AJUSD through a purchasing consortium, partnering with 7 other districts in the contract. The approach saved about 30% in consultant fees.

Four Peaks Elementary School Principal Chad Cantrell, who served on the salary committee, commended the consultant’s work, “What really allowed us to nail things down was the work from Vance. The value that came from the survey and the tools provided, really laid the groundwork for informed decisions.”

AJHS Student Kennedy Bishop Receives $10,000 Presidential Scholarship

By Sally Marks

Kennedy Bishop, a senior at Apache Junction High School, 2525 S. Ironwood Drive in Apache Junction, received the Grand Canyon University Presidential Scholarship. The scholarship is for $10,000 a year and can be renewed annually as long as Kennedy maintains her unweighted grade point average of 3.93.

Kennedy plans to major in pre-med. Her long-term goal is to become a cardiothoracic surgeon. During her time as a Prospector, Kennedy has been involved in Student Council, Site Council, National Honor Society and varsity sports.

“I am really happy that my hard work paid off – literally,” said Kennedy.

AJHS students have access to more than $1 million in scholarships. Students who make a written promise in 8th grade and agree to the following conditions: maintain a 2.75 GPA and participate in 20 hours of community service can qualify for tuition funding through a partnership between Central Arizona College and Pinal County schools, such as AJUSD. For complete guidelines visit https://centralaz.edu/community/foundation/promse-for-thefuture/.

For more information about AJUSD, call 480-982-1110; visit www.ajusd.org.

Photo above: Kennedy Bishop, GCU scholarship winner

GC Lions Club Donates Easter Baskets

By Sally Marks

Members of the Gold Canyon Lions Club dropped off Easter treats to Project HELP to provide holiday gifts and goodies to students in Apache Junction Unified School District.

Project HELP, 195 E. Superstition Blvd. in Apache Junction, emerged over 30 years ago to offer creative solutions to temporary, emergency situations for AJUSD  students and families in times of need. The program is 100% supported by donations: financial, food, new and gently-used clothing and household goods provided by churches, organizations businesses and individuals.

For more information or to make a donation, visit  https://www.ajusd.org/Page/215 or call Rosie Portugal-Brastad, Project HELP coordinator at 480-288-2955 or email rportuga@goaj.org.

Photo above from left: Anna Monzon, Service Committee Leader; Barb Hoyle, Lions Club Vision Screening Leader; Pam Burks, Lions Incoming President and Rosie Portugal-Brastad, Project HELP Coordinator

1 2 3 105
Go to Top