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  • Marana adds extra Christmas tree light shows

    Whether you loved it or missed it, the Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony is replaying every night at 5, 5:30, 6, 6:30, 7 and 8 through Jan. 5. The show takes place in our Municipal Complex Courtyard at...

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  • Golf tournament at Quail Canyon Golf Course on Dec. 27

    For those looking to enjoy some golfing in the next week, a 18-hole golf tournament will take place on Saturday, Dec. 27 at Quail Canyon Golf Course.The course is located off of Oracle and Rudasill roads and the tournament will start at 10 a.m. Entry fee is $30 and the green fee is $20. The tournament will include prizes and drawings as well as the honorary player, 102-year-old Jerry McWayne. Reservations for the tournament can be made at 520-405-7278.

  • Oro Valley residents file referendum petition to overturn town El Conquistador vote

    Oro Valley residents who oppose the Town Council’s recent decision to purchase the El Conquistador country club and golf facilities for a town community center have filed an application for a referendum petition, potentially allowing local voters to ultimately decide.A group known as Tee’d Off Over Tax Hike (T.O.O.T.H. in OV) is challenging the council’s vote to buy the El Conquistador facilities from Tucson developer HSL Properties. They seek to send the issue to the local ballot.The council voted 4-3 Wednesday to purchase the complex for $1 million and raise the town sales tax by a half-cent to keep up its operations and renovations. Mayor Satish Hiremath, Councilwoman Mary Snider, Vice Mayor Lou Waters and Councilman Joe Hornat voted to approve the purchase and corresponding tax hike. Councilmen Bill Garner, Brendan Burns and Mike Zinkin voted against both.More than 40 commenters spoke at the five-and-a-half-hour council meeting, split between supporters who wanted a community center and opponents who questioned the transparency, speed and economic viability of the project. “It is unfortunate Hiremath, Snider, Waters and Hornat, who were elected to represent the people they serve, not only ignored the will of their constituents by approving this financially flawed project but have further risked the financial future and prosperity of Oro Valley in doing so,” said Shirl Lamonna, who is heading up the referendum, in a statement.T.O.O.T.H in OV plans to set up various locations in Oro Valley to have residents sign petitions in order to allow the decision to be placed on a ballot for vote.  The group needs at least 1,148 signatures. Petitions must be turned in by Jan.16.

  • Oro Valley going ahead with El Conquistador purchase

    A split Oro Valley Town Council voted to move ahead with negotiations to purchase the El Conquistador country club and golf courses for a municipal community center Wednesday. After a five and a half hour meeting in a packed chambers, the council decided 4-3 to spend $1 million on the facilities and raise the local sales tax to pay for continued operations and maintenance. Mike Zinkin, Bill Garner and Brendan Burns dissented.More than 40 residents spoke and all of the council members gave strong endorsements or rebukes of the plan to purchase the 45 holes of golf, 31 tennis courts, two pools, restaurant and café, and fitness center from local developer HSL Properties, which closes on the entire distressed property today after acquiring it from the previous owner's lender.Council members and residents gnashed over issues of transparency, speed - the council first brought the deal before the public at its Dec. 3 meeting - and the economic future of the game of golf, a key component for many speakers. Some commenters said the deal was too good to be true. Others encouraged the council to seize a rare opportunity to get the town its first community center. HSL is keeping the Hilton-branded hotel and conference center and spinning off the recreational facilities, complete with management; it has already secured a private firm, Scottsdale-based Troon, to manage the golf, restaurant and part of the tennis operations, a contract that the town will inherit. Town parks and recreation staff will oversee the rest.The town expects to open the community center to residents early next year. Over the first five years of ownership, Oro Valley plans to spend about $5.5 million in renovations and absorb about $2.5 million in operational deficits. The town projects a profit by 2019.

  • McSally Wins Recount, Officially Declared Winner

    TUCSON - Retired Air Force Colonel Martha McSally today was named the official winner of the race for AZ CD-2, after results from a state-mandated recount gave her a 167 victory over incumbent Ron Barber. The court announcement is the last step in the recount process and makes McSally's victory final in CD-2."We're grateful to everyone who devoted their time and resources, especially during the extended vote and recount processes, to get us over the finish line," said McSally. "With the results of the recount now official, we can move forward as one community to bring Southern Arizonans the strong representation they deserve.""There's no getting around that this was an incredibly close and hard-fought race. After what's been a long campaign season, it's time to come together and heal our community. That's why my focus will be on what unites us, not what divides us, such as providing better economic opportunity for our families and ensuring our country and community are kept safe.""I sincerely thank Congressman Barber for his service over many years to Southern Arizona. I'll be seeking his input to continue strong constituent services and help ensure a smooth transition. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but I know that we're a community dedicated and united in our love for Southern Arizona - And, together, we can make a positive difference."Last week, McSally was appointed to serve on the House Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees, two committees that play key roles in the policy decisions affecting Southern Arizona. The new Congress and its members will be sworn in on January 6, 2015. Colonel Martha McSally (ret.) is an independent voice who is committed to fighting for equal treatment of women and more opportunity for the middle class. She has been active in defending Southern Arizona's critical job-creators like Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and Fort Huachuca. A 26-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, McSally was the first woman to fly in combat and command a fighter squadron in U.S. history.

  • Students take a virtual tour of the Great Barrier Reef

    A group of students at Copper Creek Elementary School gave the OK sign letting everyone know they were ready, then, within a few seconds, they were transported underwater with a scuba diver at the Great Barrier Reef Aquarium in Australia.The students stayed dry, though, as they embarked on a virtual field trip – a first of its kind.For the following hour, the motionless students watched a scuba diver tell them about the Great Barrier Reef. The students and the scuba diver each could listen and speak to each other.Lisa Hopper, founder and CEO of World Care, and her colleague Andrew Foley, worked together to create and develop an infrastructure that provides an independent portal for educators to access new, different and relevant curriculum content. The project is called STEM Learning.“The evolution of education is changing,” Hopper said. “We have to change with it. We looked in many different areas in identifying what was missing. And it was this portal of getting great content and bringing the world to the United States.”  World Care’s STEM Learning is not a school and is not a product provider; it is simply the gateway to connect students with information about science, technology, engineering and math with the hopes of trying to ignite an interest in education.

  • Northwest Fire has new life-saving device thanks to grant

    The Northwest Fire District has a new lifesaving device thanks to a grant. The fire district purchased a hydraulic extrication tool, which are used to free trapped motorists after a crash, thanks to a $20,868 grant from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.The tool is commonly referred to by the general public as the “Jaws-of-Life”, though technically that is a specific brand of extrication tool. The new tool will replace an older tool and is a “more powerful piece of equipment compatible with other extrication tools in the district’s inventory,” according to a Northwest Fire district press release. “This new extrication unit is going on one of our front line engines,” said David Arneson, Public Information Officer for Northwest Fire. All 11 engine companies in the Northwest Fire District are now be equipped with this same type of hydraulic tool, which allows means that there is now standardization across the District, which will simplify things for training purposes.A demonstration of the tool was given to the media last week in a simulation of a car crash with a person stuck inside the vehicle. “They will be pulling up and acting as if this is a real accident and using this

  • OV council set to vote on tax increase, $1M acquisition

    The Oro Valley Town Council will vote tonight (Dec. 17) on whether to purchase the golf and other recreational amenities of the El Conquistador resort, spending $1 million to acquire the property and committing to a half-cent sales tax increase for improvements and its continued operations.Mayor Satish Hiremath has touted the property as a turnkey operation that gives locals the community center they’ve long wanted. But Councilman Mike Zinkin is doubtful. He said it’s clear that residents want a community center. But he said he would rather have them specifically define what they want in such a center, which should be built new. Then he would want the town to determine where to put it and how much to spend before taking a temporary secondary property tax to the ballot.But as it is, the process is rushed and opaque, he said: “This thing smells.”For $1 million – spread over an interest-free, three-year payment plan – the town would get 45 holes of golf, 31 tennis courts, two pools, a fitness center, and a restaurant and café, allowing residents to have a community center by early 2015. Local apartment and hotel developer HSL Properties is purchasing the entire distressed El Conquistador property but with plans to keep only the hotel and convention center, spinning off the recreation components. HSL plans to close on the property on Dec. 18.The country club and golf courses need renovations, as town staff detailed earlier this month, and the venture would take some time to become profitable. In its first year, the community center would operate at about a $1.2 million loss, almost entirely on the golf side, the town estimates—“however, it is anticipated that this deficit lowers each year and turns positive by (fiscal year) 2018/19 as a result of increased capital investment, marketing of the facility and programs, and quality management,” according to a memo attached to the meeting’s agenda.

  • MUSD’s Dr. Doug Wilson wins administrator award

    The Arizona School Administrators has selected Dr. Doug Wilson, superintendent of the Marana Unified School District as the All Arizona Superintendent of the Year for Large Size District. “I am more honored by the fact that my staff thought to nominate me,” said Wilson. “It is an honor that my staff took the time to nominate me.”The award looks for administrators who are have outstanding relationships with their school board, the public and their communities. Leadership in curriculum and instruction, as well as management of student activities, including short and long term planning are looked at. “This recognition is indicative of the quality of leadership provided in the district as well as the overall respect and professional appreciation given by peers,” the ASA said in a release. Wilson was honored in the Large District category, which is for school districts with more than 5,000 students. For Wilson this is more of a team award, than an individual award. 

  • After 20 years Meaders says goodbye to department she helped build

    Ann Meaders was there when the Marana Utilities Department started in 1997 and has seen the department grow as the town has grown. Meaders retired last week after 20 years of service to the town. The brief history of the department is inextricably linked to Meaders.  When the Town of Marana started their water department in 1997, Meaders was named the administrative manager. At the time they opened in January there were two employees, a consultant and about 200 customers. “So we were a blank slate, we were starting from zero,” said Meaders.By May the town had purchased three more small water companies and saw their customer base rise to 500. In September, the town bought the domestic water system from CMID and that provided another 600 customers. “She was fundamental when the town started the Water Department,” said John Kmiec, Marana’s Utilities Director. “Her continual employment over the last several years has been important.” It was a busy year that saw them had to normalized the systems and billing, which meant public hearings. 

  • County delays vote to ban smoking

    Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry is asking the Board of Supervisors to delay a vote on a controversial Tobacco/Nicotine-Free Healthy Workplace Initiative that was slated for a decision yesterday.Now requesting a Feb. 10 vote, Huckelberry has touted the measure as an effective way to increase employee productivity while creating a healthier workplace.If passed, the initiative would require current county employees and those seeking employment to submit to nicotine tests.Those who refuse to test or who test positive for nicotine would be subject to higher health premiums; a 30 percent surcharge for nicotine users in the first year, 40 percent increase in 2015-16, and 50 percent increase in 2016-17. Would-be employees are also subject to testing. Anyone refusing testing, or testing positive for nicotine would be denied a county position. Approximately 32 percent of county employees are nicotine users. 

  • Mother of wounded soldier works as Fisher House advocate

    The incoming arrival of a Fisher House means out-of-state families can stay closer to their injured veterans – and for Tucson mother Libby Mannel that’s a subject that’s very close to home. Libby’s son and Flowing Wells graduate Cpl. Delvin Jones was wounded in action while serving overseas in Operation Enduring Freedom. On a mission to collect supplies, Delvin and three soldiers were riding in a Humvee when they struck an improvised explosive device, badly injuring all aboard.Delvin was transferred to the Walter Reed Hospital in Washington D.C., where he underwent care for numerous broken bones in his face and spinal injuries that altered his memory and affected his ability to walk. “As a parent, it was the hardest thing to see,” said Libby, who along with her husband Tom adopted Delvin when he was four years old. “It has been a long haul, but we thank God he’s alive.”Delvin’s care continued at an area Fisher House, and he was ultimately awarded a Purple Heart for valor in the line of duty and medically discharged from the Army. During that time, Libby traveled back and forth to the Walter Reed/Fisher House in Washington D.C. where Delvin was receiving care – a task she was happy to undertake, but one that was time consuming and mentally exhausting.

  • Community Food Bank “School Pantry Initiative” Food and Fund Drive

    The Corporation for National Community Service, Tucson Police Department, Arizona Serve, Prescott College and the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona will partner to hold a special food and fund drive specifically benefiting the new “School Pantry Initiative.”The Food and Fund drive will run from Dec. 29 through Jan. 19. The goal is to provide a readily accessible source of food to children and their families who are in need of food assistance.  Distribution models and frequencies are determined according to the needs of each school.For more information about the food and fund drive, contact Sarah Smolowitiz at 800-950-8681 x 7232 or cell at 282-0697.

  • OV chamber calls tax-increase plan “least objectionable”, Visit Tucson supports facility acquistion

    In a vote on Dec. 11, the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce board of directors voted to support the town council’s plan to increase sales taxes and purchase the Hilton El Conquistador country club building, golf course, tennis courts and facilities for $1 million.The controversial proposal was officially released to the public on Dec. 3, with the council planning to vote on Dec. 17. HSL Properties is planning to close a deal on buying the resort part of the Hilton El Conquistador on Dec. 18. HSL Properties did not want the golf portion of the resort, offering it to the town for $1 million. Dave Perry, president/CEO of the chamber, said while he officially heard the news with the rest of the community on Dec. 3, he had heard rumors of the ongoing negotiations earlier. The Oro Valley Town Council held three executive sessions (not open to the public) prior to making the measure public on Dec. 3.In the press release, provided to The Explorer on Dec. 15, Perry said the venture brings the community more recreational and youth services.In a phone interview on Monday, Perry said the current proposal to increase sales taxes is the “least objectionable” option.

  • Vantage West gets in giving spirit

    Vantage West Credit Union invited members and employees to contribute to a toy drive through Arizona’s Children Association’s  “Gifts of Hope” program.The toy drive will benefit local foster children and those from families facing financial struggles. These families turn to Arizona’s Children Association because they want to make life better for their children. The toy drive is just one of the ways Vantage West employees and members are helping make the holidays brighter for local families.The collection boxes have been in all Vantage West branches for several weeks are full of donated toys from employees and members. All items collected was picked up on Dec. 15. Vantage West is a $1.4 billion financial institution in Arizona, which serves a growing membership of more than 130,000 via online channels and branches in Pima, Pinal, Maricopa and Cochise Counties.  Vantage West offers consumer and business loans, credit cards, and deposit products, as well as retirement accounts and other financial services. Some products and services subject to approval. Vantage West is federally insured by NCUA. www.vantagewest.org 

  • Final week to win - Donate for chance to win iPad, gift card in Give to Win

    Here is your chance to win a variety of prizes, including an iPad and restaurant gift cards, in the name of helping those less fortunate during the holiday season. All you have to do is get into the giving spirit, as The Explorer and Tucson Local Media have teamed up with Interfaith Community Services (ICS) for a second year.The Explorer is currently collecting donations of new unwrapped toys, new clothes, food donations or cash. Every time you bring in a donation to The Explorer office, you will receive a raffle ticket, and automatically be entered into a drawing for an iPad Mini and other prizes. Participants will receive one ticket per trip.The food clothing and toys will be given to ICS next week, which means there are only a few days left to donate to the many families in need of assistance this holiday season.Cash can also be donated.Donations will be accepted at the office located at 7225 N. Mona Lisa Road, Suite 125.

  • Sippin’ Social at Mr. An’s Jan. 15

    Join staff of Tucson Local Media for the monthly Sippin’ Social at Mr. An’s on Jan. 15 from 4 to 6 p.m. Discuss story ideas, current news, or simply enjoy food and drink. Mr. An’s is located at 6091 North Oracle Road.Tucson Local Media does not pay for food and drink. 

  • High Five for Week of Dec. 17

    1  Bring the entire family to Magic of Christmas to see and hear the TSO and special guests play your favorite Christmas carols and holiday masterpieces, sing, dance and tell the story of Christmas with a special visit from Santa. Details: 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 20; 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 21; Tucson Music Hall, 260 S. Church Ave.; $28-$75; 882-8585. 2  Enjoy the award-winning Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker 2014 bringing the holiday season to life with the stunning Dove of Peace created by two dancers moving as one. Details: 7:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 22; UA Centennial Hall, 1020 E. University Blvd.; $30-$115; 621-3341. 3  Have a Merry-Achi Christmas featuring Mariachi Sol de Mexico de Jose Hernandez. Details: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 18; Fox Theatre, 17 W. Congress St.; $22-$56; 547-3040. 

  • Award-winning lecture series comes to Tucson

    The award-winning January Series of Calvin College is coming to Tucson. From Jan. 7 through Jan. 27, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church will be one of 45 remote webcast locations worldwide to broadcast one of the nation’s leading lecture and cultural arts series.The 2015 edition features a solid lineup of speakers including Richard M. Daley, the longest-serving mayor in Chicago’s history; Tova Friedman, one of the youngest known survivors of the Auschwitz concentration camp; and Bryan Stevenson, who is considered by archbishop Desmond Tutu to be “America’s young Nelson Mandela,” to name a few.The experts will be discussing a wide range of today’s most relevant topics, including mass incarceration, the persecution of Christians around the world, the obesity epidemic in America and the effect technology usage has on people’s spiritual and social lives.While the January Series doesn’t follow a particular theme year to year, Potter says the 2015 edition seems to have a couple of threads woven throughout: the power of story and global security.Nationally recognized screenwriter Bobette Buster kicks off the series by talking about how to tell a good story. Tova Friedman will then share her story of surviving the gas chamber at Auschwitz and Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi will share her modern day experience of imprisonment in Iran. Jerry Sittser, chair of the theology department at Whitworth University will conclude the series drawing on his personal experience of how adversity in general and suffering in particular can be formative in the Christian life, in telling one’s story.Along the global security thread, Admiral James Stavridis, a former NATO Commander, will provide a retired navy admiral’s perspective on what the keys are to the future of security.  Paul Marshall, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom in Washington, D.C., will provide insight into the persecution of Christians worldwide. And, James Fishkin, best known for developing Deliberative Polling, will talk about how a more informed citizenry leads to better democracy.

  • Pima College will likely be taken off probation

    Pima Community College got word today that it will most likely have its probation lifted, based on a report by the Higher Learning Commission.The report, which was put together based on a visit to Pima in September, will be one of the main pieces of evidence the commission takes into consideration when deciding the college’s fate in early 2015. The report included the caveat that while the college has made some good progress, many of the programs that have been implemented are still new. As a result, the team is recommending that the college be taken off probation, but put “on notice”—essentially saying that while the progress looks promising, the HLC should make sure everything holds up over time.“I see today’s recommendation as positive news of where we’ve come and where we’re headed,” Pima Chancellor Lee Lambert said at a press conference. “The team that spent the most time with the college is coming back with this positive recommendation. I think it will be hard for them not to follow that.”The announcement, which Lambert made encircled by smiling college employees, was met with a standing ovation.The college’s accreditation has been on probation since the spring of 2013, when community concern brought the HLC to Tucson to look into problems at the college. During that evaluation, the HLC found five standards for accreditation that the college did not meet, including failing to investigate sexual harassment allegations quickly and abusing the college's HR practices.Read the full report that will be submitted for Pima's upcoming trial here.

  • Christmas tree safety tips

     Christmas tree safety tips from the National Fire Protection Association and the Golder Ranch Fire District. Each year, fire departments respond to an average of 210 structure fires caused by Christmas trees. Carefully decorating Christmas trees can help make your holidays safer.Picking the tree•             If you have an artificial tree, be sure it is labeled, certified, or identified by the manufacturer as fire retardant.•             Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.Placing the tree

  • Marana Police Holiday Patrol

    The Marana Police Department’s Annual Holiday Patrol will begin Wednesday, December 17th and will conclude on Wednesday, December 24th.The Department’s Holiday Patrol is a proactive approach for deterring crime during the holiday shopping season. The goal is to provide high visibility of law enforcement officers in various shopping centers within the Town of Marana and ensure the safety of the shopping community. The Marana Police Department’s efforts will focus on shoplifting, theft, disorderly conduct, and motor vehicle violations. In years past, the Holiday Patrol has been extremely successful in reducing crime.The command post for this deployment will be at the Target located at 3901 W. Ina Rd.

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