Pinal County Willing to Maintain Gold Canyon’s Dinosaur Park

School district will vote on IGA in January

By Dana Trumbull

Tacked on to the end of the Pinal County Board of Supervisors’ (BOS) November 28 agenda, with Chairman Todd House reminding Bob Harris, Treasurer of A.D.O.B.E., “We’re trying to get out of here; you have 3 minutes to speak,” the supervisors approved an Intergovernmental Agreement with Apache Junction Unified School District that will transfer management of Gold Canyon’s only community park to Pinal County.

Dinosaur Park sits on 1.35 acres of the Gold Canyon Elementary School grounds. The agreement, proposed by AJUSD and A.D.O.B.E., is now pending ratification by the AJUSD Board.

According to the agreement, Dinosaur Park would be leased to the county for a ten year term commencing “30 days after the district either closes on the sale of or enters into a long-term lease for the property known to the parties as the Gold Canyon Elementary School.” The lease includes options for annual renewal after the initial term.

AJUSD Superintendent Dr. Krista Anderson confirmed via email that there are currently no offers for lease or sale of the property.

Although no lease payments are listed in the agreement, the IGA specifies that the county would assume responsibility for all maintenance and utility costs and insurance. The county may, however, enter into an agreement or sublease arrangement with A.D.O.B.E. for these responsibilities.

A.D.O.B.E. (Association for the Development of a Better Environment) has maintained the park since it was founded in 2000. Harris spoke briefly to the supervisors, “Dinosaur Park is near and dear to us, because a group of concerned citizens felt we needed a public park in Gold Canyon, so they got their heads together and they formed committees and started raising funds. They needed a piece of land, because A.D.O.B.E. has no real property. So, we went to the superintendent of schools in Apache Junction, Dr. Barry Sutter. He was very much in favor of letting a small unused part of the Gold Canyon Elementary School property be used for our community park…”

Through individual fundraising, business and corporate donations and lots of volunteer hours, Dinosaur Park opened to the public in 2003. Volunteers from A.D.O.B.E. have maintained the park ever since.

In November, 2016, Apache Junction/Gold Canyon voters approved the sale of “unused” school buildings by the school district, with proceeds earmarked for capital needs.

In September, 2017, the AJUSD Board voted to offer Gold Canyon Elementary School (currently leased by the Gold Canyon Community Church) for sale to raise capital for critical building repairs and buses for the aging AJUSD fleet. The district has not, however, actively pursued the sale, pending resolution on the park.

RTA Ruling Appealed

Also at the November 28 meeting, County Manager Greg Stanley informed the BOS that the final judgment rejecting the Regional Transportation Plan excise tax (Proposition 417) had been received. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Christopher Whitten ruled on November 15 that the tax was “void and unenforceable.” Stanley stated that county attorneys and the RTA were prepared to appeal the judgment. That appeal was submitted on December 7.

The county has been collecting the half-cent sales tax, intended to fund transportation projects thoughout Pinal County, since April 1, with proceeds being held in escrow awaiting the outcome of litigation. A determination as to whether the county can continue to collect the tax until appeals are resolved could come this week.

Election Results Approved

In Special Session on November 26, the BOS approved the canvass of election results from November 6. Pinal County Elections Director Michele Forney stated that this was the first time Pinal County has had over 200,000 registered voters. “We had a turnout of 58.56%, which is pretty good for a non-presidential year. In comparison, the last off-presidential year turnout, in 2014, was 45.86%; and the one before that, 2010, was 48.48%.

73.4% of those who voted did so by mail.

The highest turnout was in precinct 8 in Saddlebrook West, with 87.49% voting; followed by 83.81% in precinct 66, which is MountainBrook Village in Gold Canyon.

“We did conduct a hand count, as required by statute, with full participation by both parties on Nov 7th and 8th,” added Forney. “The two hand count boards randomly chose precincts 54 and 92 for the hand count, and also conducted a hand count of approximately 1% of the early ballots. They found 0 discrepancies between the machine count and the hand count.”

Photo above: An IGA, approved by the Pinal County BOS, could save Gold Canyon’s Dinosaur Park from Extinction

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