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Bill Van Nimwegen

Bill Van Nimwegen has 584 articles published.

AJHS Opens Boys Golf Season

Prospectors’ Talbott 3rd Overall vs. Desert Ridge

Apache Junction opened its boys golf season with a dual against Mesa Desert Ridge on Aug. 16 at Apache Creek Golf Course.

The Prospectors’ Harrison Talbott finished third overall with a nine-hole score of 40, 5 over par.

Jake Washburn finished fifth at 10-over (50), Matthew Swigert was eighth at 19-over (54), Wesley McJunkin was ninth at 20-over (55) and Dylan Corbett was 10th at 26-over (61).

Desert Ridge’s Noah Allen fired a 1-over 36 for individual honors, and teammate Bryan Beyer shot a 2-over, 37 to finish second.

Photo above: AJHS golfer Harrison Talbott hits out of a sand trap during the Prospector boys season opening golf dual against Desert Ridge. (Photo courtesy AJHS golf)

Prospectors’ Season-Opening Road Trip a Success

Offense and Defense Enjoy Big Night in California as AJHS Upends Royal 28-7

By Daniel Dullum

After traveling 447 miles to play its football season opener, Apache Junction emerged victorious on Friday night, defeating the Royal Highlanders 28-7 at Simi Valley, Calif.

The Prospectors (1-0) departed for California Thursday afternoon.

“Coming in on Thursday was the best thing for us to do,” AJ Coach Vance Miller said. “That gave the kids enough down time to get some rest. We went to Cal Lutheran, did warmups at noon on their field, and that was a great experience. We had plenty of time to warm up and be ready.

“We’re pretty happy. It’s our first time playing out-of-state and we’re coming home with a ‘W.’”

AJ won the battle of total offense, gaining 296 yards to 192 for the Highlanders (0-1). The Prospectors held a huge edge on the ground, outgaining Royal 155 rushing yards to plus-5.

“Right from the get-go, we were smothering them defensively,” Miller said. “We moved the ball just fine. In the first half, our defense was stopping (Royal) on a short field. We were able to sustain some drives, (quarterback) Gibson Limongello ran well and picked up some key first downs on rollouts.

Miller said Royal “did what we saw on film, pretty close to what we saw in our preparation. Our game plan was pretty solid.”

The Prospectors opened the scoring in the first quarter when Justin Ramirez connected with Limongello on a halfback reverse pass play of 24 yards. AJ made it 13-0 on a 10-yard scoring pass from Limongello to Gino Andrade.

William Lohman scored the first of his two rushing touchdowns from 1 yard out in the second quarter. Joe Pomeroy’s 2-point conversion run put AJ up 21-0 at halftime.

Royal battled back early in the second half when Ryan Flora threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Nicholas Torres, cutting the Prospectors’ lead to 21-7 with 10 minutes left in the third quarter.

Apache Junction answered with a 38-yard TD run by Lohman with 3 minutes left in the third quarter. Freshman Jordan Morris added the extra point – his first as a varsity player.

Defensive highlights for the Prospectors included a pair of interceptions – one each for Eli Alexander and Freddie Borunda.



This Friday, Tempe High (1-9 in 2017) pays a visit to Davis Field to play the Prospectors in its season opener. Last year AJ defeated the Buffaloes 24-20.

“Tempe is big and fast with a lot of athletes. In fact, this is the best talent they’ve had in years,” Miller said. “If we have an edge, it’s that we have a game under our belts and they don’t. It’s going to be a tough one.”

Miller said there were a couple of injuries in the win over Royal, enough to where “we’ll have to move some personnel around. We’ll have to make some adjustments.”

Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

Above: Apache Junction players and coaches settle in on the bus, awaiting the trip to  Simi Valley, Calif., to open the 2018 high school football season against Royal High.

Summer Storms

By Tom Kollenborn

According to legend and myth, the great “Thunder God” roars during the summer months. Many of us do not find this hard to believe, if we have experienced a violent thunderstorm in the Apache Junction area during the summer months. There are basically two types of storms that occur in our area.

The first storm type we experience brings the central mountain area of Arizona its winter rains. These winter storms result from the general cyclonic patterns that move across the United States every ten days or so during the winter months. These storms originate in the Aluetian Low in the Gulf of Alaska. These storms can dump enormous amounts of precipitation on Arizona below the Mogollon Rim if their course is altered by the jet stream. The storms will generally last four or five days with intermittent rainfall. This type of weather can be identified with the solid, unbroken overcast resulting from Stratus clouds. These are what we call our winter storms, and they are usually not violent in nature.

The second storm type is known as the monsoons. These storms bring massive thunderstorms with heavy showers, lightning and sometimes devastating winds called microbursts. During the summer months, most of the storms over central Arizona and the eastern portion of the Superstition Mountain Wilderness result from warm, moist air flowing in from the Gulf of Mexico and Sea of Cortez. This air moves across Texas, New Mexico and Mexico. Mountains force the moist warm air upward forming clouds. These clouds release their moisture as they rise. This is known as orographic lift. The massive anvil-shaped thunderhead clouds that form over Superstition Mountain from July to September normally combine both orographic lift and convectional activity. The convectional storm clouds result from the rapidly rising and expanding of warm moist air and rapidly falling cold moist air. Uneven heating of the earth’s surface causes convectional activity in the atmosphere. This uneven heating of the earth’s surface is caused by the open cloud pattern in the atmosphere.

Lightning can be caused by the attraction of unlike electrical charges within a thunderhead. The rapid movement of ice and water molecules, going up then down in a thunderhead cell, creates friction that results in an enormous amount of static electricity being produced. A single lightning discharge can produce about 30 million volts at 125,000 amperes. A discharge can occur in less than 1/10 of a second. The results of a lightning strike can be horrific.

The rapid rising and falling of warm and cold moist air also creates violent bursts of energy. This type of activity results in microbursts. These microbursts can develop winds, momentarily, up to 200 mph. As the clouds build and combine they form massive anvil-shaped thunderheads called cumulonimbus clouds. These clouds are massive static electricity generators, dispersing lightning and creating turbulent winds. These summer thunderstorms are extremely violent and can be very dangerous.

It is these giant thunderheads that dominate the sky above Superstition Mountain during the monsoon season. The lightning produced by these storms can be spectacular. According to most sources, the safest place during a lightning storm is in an automobile. Don’t make yourself part of a lightning rod during an electrical storm by standing near a lone tree or on a high point. The use of your telephone during a violent lightning storm could be your last conversation. The same is true connecting to the Internet during a lightning storm. Standing near or in a swimming pool is asking to meet your maker. Boating on a lake during a lightning storm is certainly risking your chances of living to a ripe old age. Common sense needs to prevail during our violent thunder and lightning storms.

Most Arizona monsoon storms are associated with two other dangerous factors. These factors are flash floods and dust. Thunderstorms can dump three to five inches of rain over a small area in an hour and create a massive flashflood. A flashflood near Payson in the 1970’s claimed twenty-two campers along Christopher Creek. Many years ago, I witnessed a four-foot wall of water that roared down Hewitt Canyon, claiming a couple trucks, horse trailers and a couple animals. These flashfloods result from heavy isolated downpours of rain in the mountains. There is often very little rain at the site of a flashflood.

Huge dust clouds are often associated with monsoon storms in the desert. Local weather reporters often refer to monsoon generated dust storms as haboobs. Egyptian dust storms that blow in from the Sahara or Sinai Deserts in North Africa are called haboobs.

Dust storms are extremely dangerous to automotive traffic along our state’s highways and freeways. Extreme caution should be used during these storms. It is recommended during these storms to pull as far off the highway as possible and turn your lights off. While waiting for the dust storm to blow over, don’t rest your foot on the brake pedal. Your taillights or brake lights might attract reckless drivers in the storm.

It is not difficult to see why the early Native Americans held Superstition Mountain in such awe. If you have ever witnessed a violent electrical storm over the mountain you can see why. We can partially explain the phenomena today with modern science, but the early Native Americans could only look to their Gods for an explanation. The storms were certainly caused by their “Thunder God,” with all his might and fury. We, as late arrivals, should respect the awesome power of the “Thunder God.”

Que Pasa

Recently, a gentleman by the name of Robert West called, praising our efforts to carry on since the passing of founder, editor, mentor Ed Barker. He said that he is still a dedicated reader, but he misses Ed. “When he wrote about ‘being human,’ civility and common sense, it helped me to see that there was still kindness in the world; that the fight was still worth it.”

At the end of the conversation, he asked if we’d consider re-running some of those editorials that lift the human spirit up and make people smile.

Mr. West, we hear you. And we miss Ed, too. This reprint is dedicated to you. Thank you for your kind words. We hope you enjoy the article. And we promise it won’t be the last rerun. Ed Barker will always be a big part of our News Staff; his words continue to guide us, even as we move into new projects and broader venues. We will always strive to make “Papa” proud!

Stand and Deliver

By Ed Barker

It’s the policy of Arkansas schools to recite the Pledge of Allegiance each morning at the start of classes. Ms. Martha Cothren, a social studies teacher at Joe T. Robinson High School in Little Rock, was having trouble getting her students to stand during the pledge, so, with the permission of her principal, Ms. Cothren had all the desks removed from her classroom on the first day of school in 2005.

I learned of this event when a friend emailed me about it last week. I called Ms. Cothren and we talked on the phone for a few minutes. Nice lady.

She told me the students came into first period and there were no desks. They looked around and said, “Ms. Cothren, where’s our desks?”

She told them, “You can’t have a desk until you tell me how you earn them.”

They thought for a while and finally said, “Well, maybe it’s our grades.”

“No,” she said. “It’s not your grades.”

“Maybe it’s our behavior.”

“No, it’s not your behavior.”

The students then stood while saying the pledge and spent their first period without desks.

Second period, the same thing, and third period and so on. By early afternoon, local television crews had gathered outside of Ms. Cothren’s class to find out about this crazy teacher who had taken all the desks out of the classroom.

Ms. Cothren’s students attended classes all day, sitting on the floor or standing around the sides of the room. Then came the last period of the day.

During her last class, Ms. Cothren finally announced to the classroom, “Now I’m going to explain to you how you earn those desks.”

She went over and opened the door of her classroom, and, as she did, 27 U.S. military veterans, wearing their uniforms, walked into the classroom, each one carrying a school desk. They placed the school desks neatly in rows, and then stood along the walls as the students took their seats.

After the room quieted down, Ms. Cothren explained, “The fact is, you don’t have to earn those desks. These guys did it for you. They paid a price for you to have these desks, and you have the responsibility to be good citizens and stand when you say the Pledge of Allegiance.”

Ms. Cothren, whose father was a P.O.W. in Germany in World War II, reminded her students and all who hear this story, that we enjoy our freedoms because of ordinary people who do extraordinary things.

I’ve lived in Apache Junction for a long, long time and can vouch that it’s one of the most patriotic communities in the country. I’ll bet most people who are reading this column feel a blush of pride.

We have the “Trail of Flags” here and an annual Veterans Day Parade that’s much bigger than many larger cities. Hardly anyone in Apache Junction would sit through the Pledge of Allegiance, and knowing all that makes me wonder why almost 90 percent of the voters sat through last month’s election.

We’ve got another election in May. Don’t sit through that one.

You don’t earn the right to vote. Just like Ms. Cothren’s desks, if you’re not a veteran, someone else has done that for you.

*Remember to vote in the Primary on August 28, 2018. Several local candidate races will be decided then!

Mediacom Opens New AJ Facility

New bilingual customer service center is currently hiring

Mediacom Communications officially opened their new customer service center and retail store at 1435 E. Old West Hwy. in Apache Junction on Thursday, August 16 and the company continues to hire new employees to fill positions in a newly-created bilingual call center.

Eleven months after upgrading its fiber optic network to make gigabit broadband speeds available to all homes and businesses within its Arizona service areas, Mediacom invested more than $600,000 to expand its Apache Junction presence by leasing and renovating a new office complex that adds more than 10,000 square feet of space. The facility is equipped with new technology to support the company’s first-ever bilingual call center, created to support Spanish-speaking customers throughout the company’s 22-state service area.

Mediacom continues to post job openings to fill 27 new, full-time positions for individuals proficient in English and Spanish. Employees receive competitive wages, comprehensive benefits, paid on-site training, and other benefits. A $1,000 signing bonus is offered to newly-hired call center employees.

Apache Junction Mayor Jeff Serdy and other leaders with three area Chamber of Commerce organizations participated in a ribbon cutting ceremony last week to officially open the new center. The open house featured interactive technology displays, where consumers could test drive products and experience new digital tools being added to services subscribers typically receive today. Mediacom’s latest enhancement is the Alexa-powered TiVo, which lets customers control television selections using voice commands to their Amazon digital assistant, Alexa.

“With more devices connected to home networks, an explosion of smart home devices and the popularity of over-the-top streamed video, consumers benefit when they see how these services can be integrated for easier use,” said Mediacom Area Operations Director Marla Bowen. “In our new redesigned setting, customers are given hands-on demos of our Xtream platform, which will help them choose which digital tools they want to use to maximize the power and value of their Mediacom services.”

Mediacom has added Saturday customer service hours at its new location. The new retail store is open and staffed from 10 am to 2 pm on Saturdays; and from 9 am to 6 pm on weekdays, Monday through Friday. In prior years, the company operated from a smaller building on South Ironwood Drive.

Mediacom’s fiber-rich digital network delivers Gigabit broadband speeds and digital television services to homes and businesses in areas of Pinal County that include Apache Junction, Gold Canyon, Queen Creek and San Tan Valley. Local employees live throughout the East Valley area. As a growing company, Mediacom is increasing its customer base and workforce. Prior to this expansion, Mediacom employed 25 people in the Apache Junction area. With the hiring of 28 new positions, it will support a local workforce of 53 full-time employees.

Photo above: Apache Junction elected officials joined company staff and the AJ Chamber for a ribbon cutting ceremony last week to officially open the new center.

Gateway Posts Record Growth

Airport says summer has been the best in its history

Ryan Smith

Signaling a shift in local travel habits of the Greater Phoenix Market, Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport posted its best ever summer passenger numbers in the history of the Airport. July marked the 10th consecutive month of year-over-year passenger activity growth at Gateway Airport. Travelers can now choose from one of 46 nonstop destinations offered at Gateway Airport through its airline partners Allegiant, WestJet and Swoop.

“More and more people are finding that Gateway Airport is a convenient and affordable way to take a much-needed vacation or travel to visit family and friends,” said Apache Junction Mayor and Chairman of the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport Authority (PMGAA) Jeff Serdy. “The authority planned for this continued growth in passenger activity and recently completed several important facility and infrastructure improvement projects to make it even more convenient to travel through Gateway.”

May, June and July were all record-setting months with double-digit increases in year-over-year passenger growth. Concession and parking operations at the airport both experienced similar growth patterns this summer. Parking revenue in July was the highest in the airport’s history, reflecting a growing number of local travelers choosing Gateway Airport to escape the summer heat.

“A growing number of greater Phoenix families have discovered how easy and cost-effective it is to travel through Gateway Airport,” said PMGAA Executive Director/CEO J. Brian O’Neill, A.A.E. “We are pleased that a record number of local air travelers are making Gateway their airport of choice.”

Gateway Airport is located in Mesa, the 38th largest city in the United States. Mesa is part of the greater Phoenix area of Maricopa County, the fastest growing county in the nation in 2017.

Pinal Supervisors Adopt Lower Property Tax Rate

Joe Pyritz

Good news for taxpayers in Pinal County, as the Board of Supervisors adopted a lower tax rate for FY 2018-2019.

The new property tax rate, $3.83, is nearly four cents lower than last year’s $3.86.9. Pinal County joins four other Arizona counties to offer their taxpayers a break this fiscal year.

“This is a target for us in our Strategic Plan,” stated Chairman Todd House. “I would like to see it go even lower next year and the following year.”

For taxpayers in Maricopa Unified School District Number 20, there will be a change in their tax bills due to an Arizona Legislature change in school desegregation funding for selected districts. Senate Bill 1529 shifted responsibility from the state to certain local school districts, including the Maricopa Unified School District, in the form of a secondary property tax added to a homeowner’s tax bill. This increase will appear on their next property tax bill. This change does not affect any other taxing jurisdiction in Pinal County.

“I’m disappointed,” District 4 Supervisor Anthony Smith said, “that the state, in their effort to balance their budget, imposed a new tax on me and tens of thousands of my fellow citizens of my community without a vote of the people.”

For a further understanding of your tax bill, please point your browser over to:

Pinal County Tax Facts:

  • On average, the FY 2018-2019 Pinal County portion of the tax levy is roughly 26 cents of your tax dollar. This is down from 31 cents in FY 2010-2011.
  • The maximum tax rate Pinal County could have is $6.099. The County’s tax rate is $2.269 below the maximum.
  • Pinal County has the lowest income per capita in the state – 45 percent lower than the state as a whole.
  • Pinal County has the 3rd highest primary property tax rate in the state at $3.83.
  • Pinal County has the 4th highest combined property tax rate in the state at $4.0958.
  • Pinal County’s primary property tax levy per capita at $211, which is $21 or 11 percent higher than the state average.

AJ Police Pursue Burglary Suspects

2 apprehended after crash on US 60, 3rd takes his own life

Apache Junction Police Department (AJPD) said that two burglary suspects have been arrested and a third suspect shot himself after a chase.

AJPD was responding to a complaint in the neighborhood west of Ironwood Rd. and south of 16th Ave.

According to an official report: “On August 16, 2018, at about 9:15 p.m. two suspects entered a residence in the 1900 block of West Renaissance in Apache Junction. The suspects entered through an open garage door,” the statement says.

“Once inside the residence, the suspects took the victim’s purse, fled through the garage and entered a vehicle. AJPD patrol officers responded to the scene and observed the suspect vehicle fleeing eastbound on 16th Avenue.

“The suspect vehicle continued south on Idaho Rd., entering US 60 traveling westbound. The suspect vehicle exited the westbound off ramp at Signal Butte, then left the embankment and rolled, ejecting one suspect.

“DPS investigated the injury collision scene. The ejected suspect was identified as Roman Michael Sprouse (20), a Mesa resident. Sprouse was transported to a local hospital for injuries sustained.”

AJPD said the second suspect fled on foot and AJPD officers, assisted by Mesa Police Department, Department of Public Safety (DPS) and Maricopa County Sheriffs Department (MCSO), set up a perimeter.

In the midst of the investigation, MCSO received 911 calls of a male subject running northbound from Southern Ave., west of the aqueduct, into a neighborhood.

AJPD said several 911 calls were received until Mesa K9 located and apprehended the suspect.

The second suspect, Brandon James Pharr (28) of Phoenix, was transported to a local hospital with injuries from a dog bite.

Pharr was later released into AJPD custody and booked into Pinal County Jail. Pharr also had a felony warrant.

According to an official report from AJPD: “As the apprehension of Pharr was occurring, AJ officers encountered a third suspect. As officers attempted to take the third suspect into custody, the suspect took his own life with a firearm that was concealed. He was pronounced deceased at the scene. This suspect’s identity is not being released at this time, pending notification of family.”

Roundabout Opens

City officials to attend on Monday, Aug. 20, 1:00 p.m.

The city of Apache Junction announced last week that the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) installed roundabout at State Route 88 (Apache Trail) and East Superstition Blvd. will officially open on Monday, August 20.

The city will hold a brief photo opportunity on the site with the city’s mayor, council and others at 1:00 p.m. Public is welcome. Those who wish to attend are invited to park in the City Hall lot and walk to the event.

ADOT’s contractor, Haydon Building Corp., plans to remove the barricades and open the road afterward.

Photo above: The roundabout, looking south from Superstition Blvd., will be easy to navigate when drivers pay attention to yield sign markings.

Cactus Canyon Attracts AVID Learners

Program guides students into positive mindset and higher expectations

By Dana Trumbull

AVID stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination. It’s an appropriate name for a program that unlocks potential by changing students’ perception of themselves from tacit acceptance of the status quo to belief that they can achieve whatever goals they set for themselves – not with the wave of a magic curricular wand, but with positive mindset, peer support, organizational skills, study skills, communication and self-advocacy.

By teaching and reinforcing strong academic behaviors and higher-level thinking, AVID teachers create a ripple effect in later grades. Apache Junction Unified School District is planning to send that wave rippling through the district, beginning this year with the 7th and 8th grade students at Cactus Canyon Junior High.

The 29-8th grade and 15-7th grade students accepted into the AVID program are making a 5-6 year commitment. With that in mind, Apache Junction High School is gearing up to open the 2019-20 school year with AVID implementation at the 9th grade level, adding additional grade levels as the cohort advances. Administrators hope to push the program to the elementary grades in the future, as well.

CCJH Principal Courtney Castelhano explained that the strategies used in AVID add focus to many of the teaching strategies that have been used at Cactus Canyon for years; however, students accepted into the program should expect increased rigor. All of the AVID participants are enrolled in at least one advanced class, while many are taking up to three advanced classes, choosing from advanced language arts, advanced science or a higher level math class (advanced math, algebra, or geometry). “We’re teaching the kids that, if they’re not good at something, they need to keep trying; failure is just another step toward success.”

AVID students attend classes with the general education population throughout the day, but their schedules include one course simply referred to as “AVID elective.” It is in this class that students learn to integrate the socio-emotional habits needed to excel in college – or in achieving any other goal. “Right now, we’re working on relational capacity,” explained AVID Math Teacher Tina Jada. “They are trying to become better friends with each other and getting to know more about themselves. We just finished creating our social contracts of the rules and policies that we’d like to see in our classroom, then we all signed it.

“We are also working on formal introductions – how to introduce themselves so that they can talk with other people and advocate for themselves. After the first quarter, we’ll be doing tutorials, where we’ll have high school and college students come in; students will pick their points of confusion, and they will get into groups to work on those subjects. If they’re not having difficulty with anything, then they will work on helping others.

“The hope is to encourage them to feel confident about themselves and to advocate for themselves so that they can get the best educational experience possible to help them get into a university – whether they’re the first generation in their families to attend college, someone who might not have that opportunity otherwise, or someone who needs more assistance at school. And for all of them, it’s giving them a place to belong at school.”

“We have a lot of great kids,” added Math Teacher and AVID Counselor Rachel Mangum. “They just don’t necessarily have the path to get them to that further education.”

Statistically, 97% of students who complete AVID go on to attend a college or university. 85% enroll in a second year of college, as compared to the 78% average for US students (2015 data). Overall, the college graduation rate for AVID students slashes the achievement gap by as much as 15 points, with the greatest advances made in socio-economic groups that are traditionally underrepresented in higher education (

“I was this kid,” shared Jada. “I am the first generation in my family to go to college. I’m also very strict as a math teacher, but I’ve seen a transformation in myself, just in the short time I’ve done AVID. My classroom environment has changed – I’ve always had desks in rows, and now I have tables. My AVID kids get to pick where they want to sit, so as long as they’re responsible – which really requires me to know them as individuals. I end my class by asking them to sum up what we did that day or to tell me what their opinion is. I find I do a lot less talking and a lot more listening, and for some strange reason, I share things about myself that I have never shared with students before – things that make me nervous; things I get excited about… I’ve always tried to play it off like those feelings weren’t there, but for some reason, I feel like these kids need to know that I get nervous, too; I make mistakes too. I find myself wanting to model for them what I think this program is about – the changes and the hard work it takes, but how rewarding it is, too.”

Photo above: Tina Jada’s AVID class members participate in a Socratic Seminar, where students are encouraged to think for themselves, exploring and evaluating ideas and issues.

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