The Explorer: Pima Pinal

Pima Pinal

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  • Now is the time to spray for buffelgrass and fountain grass

    Oro Valley resident John Scheuring sees a lot of buffelgrass and fountain grass in and around town alive, well and green, but would like to see those plants dead, dying and brown.The invasive and non-native plant buffelgrass has received a bit of attention over the years for its aggressive nature, non-value to the ecosystem, and its high burn temperatures when dried out. While these points are all true, Scheuring says buffelgrass and fountain grass go hand in glove.“Buffelgrass sits on hills, fountain grass chokes out the bottoms of our canyons and then climbs up on rocks where buffelgrass doesn’t grow,” Scheuring said. While buffelgrass was listed as a noxious weed in 2005 for Oro Valley, fountain grass has, until recently, been looked at as a pretty plant to landscape with. “You go up into the Catalinas, all of our beautiful riparian canyons are choked with this stuff and it loves to climb steep rocky areas,” he said.With help from Oro Valley resident Ed Nigl, Scheuring has spent the past three years spot-spraying buffelgrass and fountain grass along 38 roadside miles within the town, slowly chipping away at the plant’s growth and aggressive nature. The portion that has seen the most attention is along Tangerine Road between the town limit to the west and First Avenue. The duo, who volunteer about 30 hours of their week to spraying, have nearly eradicated the two plants along that route.

  • AIA opts to continue investigation

    Three Mountain View football players have been held out of action while the Arizona Interscholastic Association continues to investigate allegations of improper conduct. The case was discussed during an executive session of the regularly scheduled AIA meeting last week. “We continue to work with the AIA and hope the process will work itself out in a timely manner,” said Mountain View Athletic Director Todd Garelick. “We have done everything we can to cooperate with the AIA and are confident that it will work out for our student athletes.”At the center of the controversy are three former Tucson High players who moved into the Mountain View boundaries over the summer. Senior Demetrious Flannigan, his younger brother Deshaun Flannigan and Bryce Coleman are voluntarily being held out of action after the AIA advised Mountain View to not play them until the matter is resolved. Although the players have not been ruled ineligible, the team would have to forfeit any games the players participated in if they are found to be ineligible at the conclusion of the investigation. The case is a convoluted one, but stems from the boys’ transfer to Mountain View after Harold Coleman, Bryce’s father and the Flannigans’ guardian, was dismissed from the football staff at Tucson High. They moved to the Mountain View area, but the debate seems to be whether or not they did so before or after talking to the Mountain View football staff. AIA General Council Mark Mignella said the investigation could look at both recruiting and improper prior contact. Recruiting is using “undue influence” to attract a player to a particular program before they change domicile. Improper contact could stem from a student athlete receiving private coaching, whether paid for or not, prior to changing enrollment, even if the player has changed domiciles. Mignella did indicate that there were special circumstances and that waivers could be granted in the case of improper contact.Part of the transfer process included filling out a 520 form, which is a request for transfer students seeking eligibility. On the form the previous school must give a reason for leaving and initially Tucson High officials put “recruiting” as the reason, though a source close to the situation has indicated that new forms without the recruiting allegation were submitted on behalf of Coleman and Deshaun Flannigan. Despite these new documents, the AIA is still looking at their eligibility. 

  • Hiremath proud of town accomplishments, delivers Oro Valley State of the Town

    In his fifth State of the Town address on Sept. 12, Oro Valley Mayor Satish Hiremath said he is proud of what continues to be accomplished in the community located six miles north of Tucson.“I am pleased to tell you that in 2014, our house is in order, and that is not by accident,” he said. “It is by design. It’s been through the deliberate building of relationships with residents, businesses and employees that the Town of Oro Valley had been able to meet and exceed the community’s expectations.”Earlier this year, the town council approved a $107 million budget. The town currently has 342 employees.Hiremath, recently elected to a second term in office, touted what the town is accomplishing when it comes to a balanced budget, and responsible fiscal management that started with tough decisions three years ago, and has resulted in a surplus that has allowed more than $5 million in special projects in the last year.Some of those investments include the construction of the multi-million around aquatics center, the $1-million project to improve Naranja Park and the costly project to put the town’s power lines underground is costing the town more than $2 million.“We have done all of this while also growing our cash reserves above where they were three years ago, and stable cash revenues contribute to the town’s strong bond rations,” Hiremath said. “In February of this year, Stanard & Poor’s Rating Services raised the town’s long-term rating on the Oro Valley Oracle Road Improvement’s District’s special assessment revenue bonds two notches from A- to A+. This investment rating will allow the town to access future capital on the bond market at much lower interest rates, saving taxpayer dollars on the town’s debt payments. Additionally, the town of Oro Valley earned four national awards in the areas of financial reporting, budgeting and procurement.”

  • Monsoon season wrapping up, big storm still possible

    When it rains, it pours – and in Tucson’s case it floods. On Sept. 8, the city received a downpour of rain from the post-tropical cyclone, Norbert.Gov. Jan Brewer issued a statewide emergency and the National Weather Service issued a Flash Flood Watch to southeast Arizona. The rainfall, from Norbert, was born on Sept. 2 in southwest Mexico. The tropical storm traveled along the coast of Mexico where it turned into a Category 3 hurricane, which is a storm that carries winds between 111 and 130 miles per hour and can cause flooding, strong winds, and damage to residential and utility buildings. By Sept. 7, flash flooding began to occur in California, southern Nevada and Arizona. On Sept. 8, Southern Arizona was hit the hardest.The Pima County Sheriff’s Department reported that from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sept. 8 they received 1,000 calls. On average, they receive about 1,400 emergency calls within 24 hours. Of the 1,000 calls, the department responded to 279 incidents that involved traffic hazards, river rescues, vehicle collisions, public hazards and search and rescue. The death of a 53-year-old woman also took place on Sept. 8. The woman’s car was swept down by water as deep as 12 feet near the Alamo Wash and 22nd Street. Tucson Fire responded to a call about a car being in the wash around 9:30 a.m. Upon arrival, a person pointed to where the car was pinned up against a bridge. The crew started to get ready to rescue the woman, but the car was swept downstream and was found about a half an hour later. The woman was later identified as Debra Annette Williams.Those from the Golder Ranch Fire District also received numerous calls, according to Anne Braswell, the community relations manager.“It was an exceptional day for everyone in the county,” said Braswell. “The dispatch center was overwhelmed and resources were working overtime for the amount of calls they were responding to. They’d dispatch from one call, rescue and then dispatch to another.”

  • Marana graduate beats the odds, comes back from injury

    Blood dripped from his face and lacerations covered his arms. Dallin Wengert lay unconscious as his body jerked around in a fit of seizures. Amy Wengert sat by her husband in the helicopter praying – praying that he would live.“I did not think he was going to make it. It was surreal – like something you’d see in a movie,” said Amy. “It was pretty much my worst nightmare.”---Dallin, a 2008 Marana graduate, first met Amy in 2007. Amy lived in Wisconsin and Dallin lived in Arizona. Though miles apart, the two met through Tara, Dallin’s sister—who suggested that the two get to know each other. The two hit it off and what started as just a few text messages led to phone conversations, letters and packages being sent back and forth. After graduating high school Dallin and Amy both took separate mission trips that resulted in them not seeing each other for three years and three months. Even with the distance, they wrote each other letters every week and in November 2012 were married. Life was bliss. Dallin was pursuing a degree in animal science at Utah State University, Amy was working and about five months into their marriage they found out Amy was pregnant. But what started out as a season of happiness quickly made a turn for the worst on the night of May 30, 2013.It was 9:15 p.m. when it happened. Both were driving their separate cars to Dallin’s work, the Animal Science Farm, which is located directly off of Highway 89/91 in Wellsville, Utah. Dallin was taking a left turn into his work when a SUV, traveling 60 miles per hour, t-boned him. 

  • Amphi override plan would not increase tax levy

    Amphitheater School District wants to hold on to the budget override that it has used to maintain lower class sizes, keep physical education and the arts in elementary schools, and boost teacher pay.Because the 10 percent override to the district’s maintenance and operations budget would be an extension to an existing override, voting to renew the levy would not increase the current tax rate. A defeat of the override would mean tax rates would go down, but approval means they wouldn’t change.If the vote fails, taxpayers would completely cease funding an override after fiscal year 2017.The override would be good for about $6.8 million in annual funding for the maintenance and operations, or M&O budget. This is the lion’s share of any school district’s budget, the portion that pays for people and programming.Todd Jaeger, associate to the superintendent for Amphi, said this essentially preserves what the district has already been spending its override money on.“We still have sthose same needs we had back then and even more of course now with all these cuts we’ve experienced,” he said.

  • Pima County Health: Watch for the signs, seek help for depression

    Once again we share in the sadness of losing one of our most beloved entertainers, Robin Williams. He was someone I grew up seeing on television and in the movies. He seemed real, kind and so very funny. Many were shocked to learn that he had taken his life after struggling with substance abuse and mental health issues for many years. I mean, how can someone so talented be so troubled? How does someone who spent years making us laugh, cry, think and feel be someone who we could not collectively save with our appreciation and adoration? How did fame and fortune not create a ‘cure’ for whatever was ailing him? Mental illness is not a definition of a person; it’s a manageable condition like diabetes, arthritis, and high blood pressure. So why do we think of mental illness differently than medical illness? How many times have you heard, “oh just snap out of it,” or “it’s all in your head.” Society reinforces messages that depression and other mental health issues mean weakness. We tell men in many ways that emotions are wrong, bad and anti-masculine. We tell women that they are “high maintenance” or “drama queens.” These messages perpetuate the stigmatization people feel. Given the messaging, who then wants to admit to the world they suffer from depression, alcoholism, anxiety, or bipolar disorder?Depression is an equal opportunity illness. It crosses all socio-economic, racial and cultural lines. Many times a history of trauma in childhood or young adulthood contributes to mental health issues later in life, especially depression. Add in alcohol and drug use and mental illness gets worse. Pile on the stigma that exists for people trying to cope with mental health issues and soon a person may end up living in isolation, hiding their problems and suffering in silence.If someone you love expresses hopelessness, lack of motivation, excessive sleeping, insomnia, lack of interest in activities once loved, numbing with drugs and/or alcohol, it may be due to depression. One in 10 people who suffer from depression commit suicide. We can change this statistic with education and community commitment to destroy the boundaries created by stigma.If you suspect someone you love suffers from a mental health issue, talk to the person. Offer to help. Offer to listen.  Seek help. Depression can be successfully treated. Recovery from depression and substance abuse is not necessarily a straight line. Sometimes it’s a step or two backwards and then a struggle to move forward again. If a person relapses, they usually feel far more disappointed in themselves than anyone else feels towards them. Encourage them to get back into treatment and remind them that we all stumble from time to time.Truth is we all have problems. In the movie, JACK, Robin Williams said “when a shooting star streaks through the blackness, turning night into day, make a wish. Think of me. Make your life spectacular. I know I did.” Thank you, Robin, for the gift of your talent and humor. And also for reminding us that we all struggle from time to time and that struggle is part of the human condition.

  • Oro Valley Police Department trains officers on new motorcycles

    The Oro Valley Police Department has switched from its BMW motorcycles to Victory Commander. Last week, the motor unit spent two days at the Marana Regional Airport getting familiar with their new wheels.The department now has eight 1,400-cc V-Twin engine motorcycles. Seven of the motorcycles are leased at a cost of $45,453.18 per year for five years, and the eighth was purchased through a grant for $31,849.

  • Third Age: Have to express gratitude

    It’s been a heck-of-a-summer.  Campaigning for re-election to the town council again put me in close touch with folks whose doorbells I poked and whose small dogs became extremely alarmed.  One little older woman said she’d vote for me just for coming to her door in the heat. Will Rogers said the older we get, the fewer things seem worth waiting in line for. And for awhile, I figured trudging door to door in 106-degree heat to get re-elected when so many of us hate politics was one of them.But I was wrong.  I know Washington politics is sour but I also know that at the local level we’re taking the bull by the horns and solving the problems ourselves.  I also know many folks in Oro Valley aren’t aware of how we’re working to accomplish that but they are willing to listen.Education about land use, amendments to a nearly 10-year-old General Plan, land owner rights and stringent Oro Valley codes and ordinances are being orchestrated by Town Staff  neighborhood by neighborhood.It’s important for our residents to listen closely, ask serious questions and consider the long range implications of our short term decisions.And Town Staff and your elected leaders also are listening - closely.  In fact, Oro Valley just this month has been recognized “for outstanding local government achievements in communications, public-sector marketing and citizen-government relationships.” More about that on the Town website.

  • Local news anchor, Town of Marana embrace each other

    Chances are if you have been to an event in Marana that requires a host or emcee, then you have seen KOLD news anchor Dan Marries. Since he first moved here in 1999, Marries has tried to be involved in a wide variety of functions. “I love being out and about I love talking to folks,” Marries said. “Wherever I go I have fun, it is part of my outlook.”Marries moved to Tucson in 1999 to become KOLD TV’s weekend news anchor and assumed the nightly news anchor spot in 2006. He quickly took to southern Arizona and eventually moved to Marana. Since both he and the station are based in Marana, he has become a fixture in many of the events including State of the Town, Marana Unified School District awards events and the Star Spangled Spectacular. “To me it is an honor and a privilege to give back to the community you live in,” Marries explained. “It also makes me feel like I have roots here, even though I am not from here. I feel like the more involved you are, the more established you are, the more friends that you make and the more you make it feel like home.”While he enjoys many of the events he is a part of, his three years of emceeing the State of the Town is one of his favorites. “I like politics, so I really enjoy the State of the Town,” he said. 

  • 9/11 Tribute

  • Police Reports

    Pima County Sheriff’s Dept.On Saturday, Aug. 30, at 9 p.m., deputies with the Pima County Sheriff’s Department responded to a theft from a car at The Plaza Colonial at Skyline Drive and Campbell Avenue. The victim’s Ford F250 lock had been punched out. He told deputies that before going into Shlomo and Vito’s, he took the items that were in the truck bed and placed them into the cab of the truck. He was missing a shopping bag that had 12 pairs of jeans and 10 dresses all valued at $200. He was also missing a junk box valued at $250 and an OBD scanner valued at $300.  On Thursday, Aug. 28, at about 10:25 p.m. deputies with the Pima County Sheriff’s Department responded to a report of a suspicious person at the FedEx Office Print and Ship Center at 2220 W. Ina Road. Deputies were told there was a man, who had been walking around the store for about two and a half hours mumbling to himself. As deputies talked to the man outside of the store, he appeared very fidgety and nervous. After a search of his bag, the man was arrested for shoplifting and for having methamphetamine, along with other drug paraphernalia.  On Wednesday, Aug. 27, at about 2:30 p.m., deputies with the Pima County Sheriff’s Department responded to a burglary at an apartment on the 2600 block of West Ina Road. The victim told deputies that she left her apartment unlocked for about 10 minutes while she walked her dog and got the mail. When she came back home, her door was ajar, her purse had been gone through, and several of her electronics had been taken, including an iPad, iPod and a MacBook. 

  • Breakers Water Park Brings Oktoberfest to Marana

    The smell of Brats and the sound of Bavarian music are in the air and the Marana Oktoberfest is here. The official start of this three-day event is Friday, Sept. 26 at 5 p.m. at Breakers Water Park. The festival continues through the weekend, opening from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 27, and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 28. The cost of admission to Oktoberfest is less then a regular admission, you get much more and you can help out a good cause.There will be plenty of traditional Bavarian foods including brats, smoked sausage, roast chicken in German beer as well as all of your favorite American foods.  We have hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza and more. You can’t have Oktoberfest without traditional German beers and, as a sponsor, Paulaner is offering a selection of their finest brews at the Beer Sampling Tent. Purchase a beer-sampling pass, which offers you the opportunity to try out Paulaner’s special Oktoberfest selection. In addition to the food and beer, over 80 vendors are traveling to Breakers from all over the Southwest to display and sell their finest artistic creations.There will be entertainment, games and music throughout the day to keep the festival moving. In addition to traditional Bavarian music, there will be contemporary and Hispanic musical performances as well. The ladies will be able to compete in the Great Stein Race, where they race with full steins of beer to see who can win without spilling a drop. We’ll also play Pass the Schnitzel, a fun game for all ages and skill levels. Come prepared to compete.What’s Oktoberfest without a wiener dog race? Bring your Dachshunds to compete for the prestigious honor of “Official Pet of Oktoberfest.” Proceeds from the race will go to the Humane Society to help out our canine friends that are less fortunate.If that’s not enough, Breakers Water Park is opening the slides and kiddie pool for all who attend the Marana Oktoberfest to help keep cool. Admission on Friday and Sunday is $5 for everyone and Saturday tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under. Don’t miss out on the fun and excitement at the Marana Oktoberfest. For more information, visit

  • Food Truck Roundup in Oro Valley

    Southern Arizona Arts & Cultural Alliance invites the public to join in gallery reception, food, art discounts, local business promos, kids’ fun and more during a special food-truck roundup on Sept. 18, from 4 to 6 p.m., eclectic eats will accompany the free Northwest Block Party, where attendees can view arts exhibits and open houses from neighborhood businesses, at the northwest corner of Oracle Road and Ina Road.Event presenter Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance will host an open house with exclusive discounts on tickets to upcoming events while honoring the many supporters who help keep the arts alive in Southern Arizona.Attendees can enjoy ticket giveaways, kids’ activities, music and merchant promotions.Gallery ExhibitionThe Gallery at Tanque Verde Dental will showcase the deep and subtle drama of Kay Mitman’s art. An opening reception will feature complimentary wine and appetizers, raffles and exclusive discounts on dental treatments. Mitman found painting as an ongoing learning experience, and her work has evolved over the past four years into multiple styles. She is an active member of the Southern Arizona Arts Guild.

  • Catalina Mountain Elks Lodge remembers Firefighters

    Catalina Mountain Elks Lodge #2815 expressed its appreciation to local firefighters for the valuable service they provide to the community on the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Members of the lodge prepared and delivered turkey dinners with all the trimmings to eight fire stations in the Golder Ranch Fire District and two in the Mountain Vista Fire District. These dedicated men and women provide service to Catalina, Oro Valley, SaddleBrooke and southern Pinal County. The lodge has provided dinners for firefighters since the year following Sept. 11, 2001.

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