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SR 347 overpass ready to open in Maricopa Monday 7-15-19

347 overpass set to open Monday July 15th 2019

MARICOPA — As the time finally approaches for the overpass on State Route 347 to open to traffic, local drivers should prepare for one last big traffic headache before they can use it, followed by a months-long closure to another highway.

The Arizona Department of Transportation announced that SR 347 will be closed between Edison and Bowlin roads from 12:01 to 4 a.m. on Monday to allow crews to make final preparations for the official opening of the overpass, which is scheduled to take place at 5 a.m.

Detours will be in place to help guide early morning drivers around the closure. Those who are already in that area when the closure begins are asked to drive slowly out of the area.

However, the major closure will take place following the overpass opening, as ADOT will be closing Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway between SR 347 and Plainview Street for three months beginning Monday. Drivers coming from that direction will have to connect with SR 347 at another point.

This will be the final three-month stretch of the overpass projects, which will consist mainly of dealing with the part of SR 347 that will no longer be part of the highway once the overpass opens, including everything from one end of the overpass to the other.

Traffic on the stretch of the current SR 347 between Hathaway Avenue and MCG Highway will be restricted to two lanes in each direction. That, and the other parts of the current SR 347 that will remain open when the new highway alignment opens Monday is being re-named Maricopa Road.

One more closure announced Friday includes the intersection of Alterra Parkway and SR 347, which will be shut from from 9 p.m. Monday to 5 a.m. Tuesday. During this closure, crews will be installing traffic signal foundations and new poles.

SO...... what are you thoughts about this new overpass -- do you think it will be a huge benefits for Maricopa commuters? 



After being closed for a “small” fire in January, Native Grill & Wings may re-open Friday.

Until this afternoon, the restaurant had a sign on the door stating it would re-open Thursday, but that is no longer the case.

Pat Kieny, franchise owner, said he plans to have the city inspector in the restaurant Thursday after final touches this week. That would allow for the June 14 opening to coincide with Father’s Day weekend.

However, he said, if the inspector is unable to come Thursday, the city does not work Fridays. That would delay inspection until Monday, and re-opening would not happen until Tuesday.

Most of the work has been in areas away from customers, Kieny said, so the restaurant will look almost exactly as it did before the fire.

“We have some new equipment, but nothing else has changed,” he said. “We have most of the same employees.” 

Are new apartments coming to Maricopa ?

City re-zones Porter Road property for possible apartments

A developer wants to build a 100-unit apartment complex in Maricopa, and a vote by Maricopa City Council on Tuesday may spur the project.

As proposed by Englewood Group, Vista Village will be constructed on a triangular, six-acre lot north of Walmart and south of Banner Health on Porter Road. The multi-building development would include two-story and three-story buildings with a pool, laundry, fitness center and playground.

The city council approved the re-zoning of the property from light industry to general mixed use. It was not an approval of the project but allowed Englewood Group to start the development process. It would be the first apartment complex in the city.

No member of the public or city council spoke against the re-zoning at the Tuesday hearing. Planner Rodolfo Lopez said the Development Services department did not receive any public comment, either.

The rezoning was previously recommended by city staff and by the Planning & Zoning Commission.

Development Services commissioned a study last year on housing needs in Maricopa. The idea of an apartment complex has been controversial in the past, with opponents saying rentals bring crime, but it has gained interest in the past year.

The Housing Needs Assessment Report from July 2017 noted that 97 percent of Maricopa’s housing is single-family homes, far above the Arizona average of 64 percent. It found a lack of “work force” housing for teachers, police, etc.

“For single people who wish to live alone, there are no housing options other than living alone in a large home,” the report stated.

The result is two or more families renting one “single-family” home.

Englewood, which has 74 properties in Arizona, Indiana and Illinois, has been eyeing Maricopa for more than a year.

Maricopa residents-- what are your thoughts about this?? 


Mixed stratified water and blooming algae are the suspected culprits in a massive die-off of fish in The Lakes at Rancho El Dorado, a not uncommon result of monsoon runoff.

Some residents estimated 2,000 dead fish. Resident Tod Antell said residents were very upset with the sight and the smell.

“It’s an ungodly smell. You can’t walk out and breathe correctly,” resident Danelle Mayfield said. “There’s probably close to 800 plus fish in my visual view of what I’m seeing on my little part of the lake. The ducks are not even getting in the water. They are staying on the shore at this point. There’s still multiple fish gasping for air.”

The situation was noticed last week during monsoon rains.

Megan Perry, a Maricopa resident who worked for U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services, took a look at the situation and believes the monsoons played the biggest part in the die-off.

“It’s natural and nothing to panic about,” she said.

In summer, water levels stratify in lakes, she said, with warm, low-oxygen water on the bottom and cool, higher-oxygen water on top.

“When an event happens like a temperature shift or monsoon or even sometimes an algae bloom, the warm low-oxygen water on the bottom and cool, denser water on the top suddenly mix as they try to switch places,” she said. “This causes the oxygen levels overall to suddenly fall, suffocating the fish and causing a large die off.”

The fish, other than being dead, look to be in normal health, with no indication of poisoning or other unnatural cause, Perry said. She noted the small minnows are still alive because they live closer to the oxygen and have less oxygen demand.

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Meanwhile, monsoons can also cause algae bloom, which can be fatal to fish as well when soil is washed into the water. The soil creates an overload of nitrates. Algae bloom, eat the nitrates and then die. Bacteria devour decaying algae and, in the process, use up much of the oxygen in the lake.

That kills the fish.

In the Lakes, it was apparent some fish were dying last week. By Monday morning, the result was thousands of dead fish, affecting every reach of the lake.

H2Ology, the company hired by the HOA to take care of the lake, said these kinds of fishkills are “an unfortunate part of ornamental lake systems in the summer.”

Mayfield, the resident, said she had contacted the homeowners association, Associated Asset Management, which is responsible for the lake conditions.

“I contacted the HOA emergency line last night,” she said. “They said that they would be dealing with it today. I have contacted Fish and Game Department. They advised that the HOA needs to deal with it. I have contacted the company that handles the water for the lakes and they stated that they are taking care of it. I have contacted the health department and also, again, the HOA today. I left a message again; no call backs. As of right now, we have not seen anybody coming out to address any of the issues so far this morning.

“We haven’t had anything like this. I know one of the other neighbors was talking about it and they’ve lived here six years and they’re all on the water, too, and they’ve never seen anything like this.”

Perry, the local fish expert, said water features can help mitigate the situation.

“Those fountains like those you see at the entry of Rancho El Dorado and the Villages, they’re are not just for show,” she said. “They help aerate the water.”

The Lakes does use landscaped water falls in some locations to churn the water.

According to H2Ology, a crew will be removing all the dead fish that have surfaced today, and “measures will be taken to stop future kills.”

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson


Businesses within the new Edison Pointe shopping plaza are beginning to open this month.

The first opening is the Goodwill store, which plans a grand opening March 16 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The thrift store is offering a $5 gift card to the first 150 people in line. They will have coffee and doughnuts.

Those who bring a bag of donations during the opening weekend, March 16-18, will receive a $5 coupon.

Planet Fitness is already taking memberships and has its grand opening planned for March 27 at 11 a.m. The 24-hour gym is offering pre-grand opening discounts.

Ross Dress for Less is also on track to open in late March, but date and time have not been set.

Other upcoming businesses include Dunkin Donuts and Wingstop. Construction of a Burger King has not yet begun.

The plaza is at 20595 N. John Wayne Parkway on the northeast corner of John Wayne Parkway and Edison Road



Do you like your salsa hot or mild? Or just interesting?

A little of everything is expected at Maricopa’s 13th annual Salsa Festival. The city’s biggest event is set for March 24 from 2 to 8 p.m. at Copper Sky Regional Park.

It is a time of salsa tasting, game playing, hot-pepper eating, piñata busting, salsa dancing, music listening and, yes, beer drinking.

City events manager Niesha Whitman said more than 30 vendors have signed up.

As for the salsa, contestants can enter one category for free and others for $5. The three categories are hot, mild and unusual. Chefs will compete for cash prizes up to $1,000.

Each category win is $500 while second place is $150 and third is $50. The celebrity Judge’s Choice earns $250. The overall best, based on public voting, wins the coveted $1,000.

To try the salsas and vote, attendees purchase a $1 box with corn chips and room to place plastic cups of the competing salsa they can get.

Attendees who want to win a hundred bucks the hard way can enter the Chili Pepper Eating Contest. Contestants must work their way through a series of progressively hot peppers to take the title.

As usual there will be live mariachi music and performances by community groups.

Besides the Lil’ Pepper Zone with inflatables, Whitman said Artisan Signs is providing a craft area with sand painting, coloring, piñatas, face painting and more.

Admission to Salsa Fest is free. There is a $5 charge for Lil’ Pepper Zone wristbands. Parking at Copper Sky will also be $5, but there will be free park-and-ride areas at six schools and Maricopa Ace Hardware, with a shuttle service running from 2 to 8:30 p.m.


ED3 announces 2018 electric rate decrease of 2% 

The Electrical District No. 3 (ED3) board of directors approved its 2018 budget, which will see the 2018 electric rates go down an average of 2 percent for residential, commercial, small industrial, large industrial and agriculture.
The board met in executive session on the budget at the Oct. 25 meeting.
William Stacy, CEO and general manager of ED3, said the District has worked diligently to reduce costs and, for the third year in a row, will provide a rate decrease to its customers effective Jan. 1. ED3 estimated its average residential rates are 10 percent lower than Arizona Public Service.
Stacy said the nonprofit was able to cut costs through pooling management with Southwest Public Power Agency and other measures to save money.
“It helps that Maricopa is growing,” he said. “We’re adding new meter connections all the time.”
ED3 began operation in 1926, to provide area farmers with electricity to irrigate their crops and is a nonprofit utility currently serving an area of approximately 245,500 acres around Maricopa and Stanfield. The District operates 12 distribution level substations, approximately 1,034 miles of 12 kV lines (621 miles of overhead and 413 miles of underground) and 77 miles of 69 kV lines. The District currently serves approximately 25,005 residential, commercial, and irrigation meter connections.


A base rate increase is in store for customers of the Maricopa Domestic Water Improvement District.

The cost of infrastructure maintenance is a leading cause, office manager Sara Sheehan said.

A public hearing on the tentative budget including the new base rates is scheduled for June 17 at 5:30 p.m. at the district office, 19756 N. John Wayne Parkway, Suite 109.

“We haven’t had a rate increase since 2010,” Sheehan said, adding the increase is only on the base rate, not on the commodity.

MDWID is a public utility serving about 300 customers in the Heritage District of Maricopa. Sheehan said it also manages four other districts for a total of about 600 customers.

Original infrastructure was put in place in the 1980s with upgrades in the 1990s. Two big blows during the current budget year – a major leak on State Route 347 and a well failure – cost the district around $30,000, Sheehan said.

“We have to maintain the system and manage the four other districts,” she said. “We only have five employees, and they have to do a lot of driving.”

The base rate increases
Residential ¾-inch: from $22 to $25
Residential 1-inch: from $38 to $40
Residential 2-inch: from $55 to $60
Residential ¾-inch out of district: from $44 to $50
Residential 2-inch out of district: from $110 to $115
Commercial ¾-inch: from $75 to $80
Commercial 1-inch: from $75 to $80
Commercial 2-inch: from $75 to $80
Commercial ¾-inch out of district: from $75 to $80
Commercial 3-inch: from $110 to $115
Commercial 4-inch: from $165 to $170

The 2015-16 budget expects water sales of $240,000. MDWID’s total budget revenues are $1.4 million. Expenses are $455,547, and capital expenditures are $876,214.

There will be a regular meeting of the board to approve the budget and base rate increase immediately following the June 17 public hearing.

Canadians, other snowbirds cashing out of Maricopa

With the upswing in the economy and the rise in the value of the American dollar, homeowners across Maricopa are cashing in on houses they purchased a few years ago.

“Now is a good time to move,” Maricopa Real Estate Company owner Steve Murray said. “The values of homes are on the rise, and the market is strong. We are seeing huge increases in values right now.”

Maricopa has seen an uptick of homeowners from colder climates in recent years. To escape frigid conditions at home and to find great deals on houses, snowbirds have flocked to sunny Maricopa during the economic downturn. Since the housing market crashed in 2008, brand new homes were being purchased for as little as $60,000, Murray said.

Now that the economy has leveled out, the value of these homes has soared. In some cases, homeowners are selling for twice what they paid.

HomeSmart Success owner Dayv Morgan sees a similar trend with his clients: Seasonal homeowners are selling and permanent residents are moving in.

“We are seeing more [seasonal] owners selling rather than buying,” Morgan said. “Now is a good time to list. The values of the homes are going up, and the days a home spends on the market are decreasing. There are definitely more homes being bought than being listed.”

Canadians in particular are using the improving economy to their advantage. Currently, the American dollar is worth 28 percent more than the Canadian dollar. This is translating to large initial profits at the time of sale, and massive profits when the money is exchanged over the border.

“Homes that were bought over the last year or two are selling for huge profits,” Murray said. “This is working for the Canadians especially right now. If they sell a house for $100,000 in profit, they’ll have $128,000 Canadian dollars when they get home. “

Not all members of the exodus are selling their homes for the increased exchange rates or values though. Some simply can’t justify the cost of owning a second home. Others don’t want to deal with the hassle of upkeep on the home.

“Some seasonal homeowners just don’t come down (to Maricopa) enough to justify keeping the house,” Morgan said. “For some, it costs too much to maintain, and then they feel obligated to vacation here each year. For those homeowners, they’d rather have the extra money to go on vacation where they please.”

Some homes have sold for as high as $440,000.

“We are seeing houses listed far too high,” Murray said. “Houses that should be listed at $120,000 are being listed at $160,000. When this is explained, it’s often refuted with a ‘try it and see what happens’ attitude.”

Morgan said the rise in property value also hurts the market for new seasonal owners. The rise in costs will prevent some potential owners from making the investment in the market. For others, who would have considered buying two or more properties in the area, the decision to stay with just one home becomes the only feasible option.

This can also become an issue when the housing market slows down again. If the house is bought for too much initially, the homeowner may not have the funds to do any upkeep on the property. If the house is used for seasonal living, the homeowner may not be able to afford caretaking services when they are not there.

“It put a dent in my business,” Sara Manochio, owner of Anyone Home? home watch and landscaping, said of when seasonal owners started selling. “I lost a few long-time customers who flipped their homes. However, thanks largely to word of mouth from HOAs, previous customers and InMaricopa, business has been recovering since then.”

Manochio went on to say she has not seen the surge of seasonal owners selling their homes have a negative effect on the community. She said it has brought new owners and new business into the market.



Classes, meetings, get-togethers and fun are all part of events going on this week in Maricopa.

Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Committee
meets at 5 p.m. at City Hall, 39700 W. Civic Center Plaza. Among other items, the committee will receive a presentation/recommendation from Maria Lewis, president/CEO of the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce, regarding a partnership with senior volunteers.

Maricopa Historical Society meets from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Maricopa Public Library, 41600 W. Smith-Enke Road, to discuss ongoing projects. bmurphree@brentmurphree.com, 602-810-1171.

Coffee with Friends Maricopa Library
is from 1:30 to 3 p.m. at Maricopa Public Library, 41600 W. Smith-Enke Road. Come join the Friends of the Maricopa Public Library for refreshments, conversation, and get acquainted with the Library. All ages are welcome. Maricopafriends@aol.com, 520-431-9198.

Public Safety Personnel Retirement System Board meeting starts at 4:30 p.m. at Maricopa City Hall, Human Resources Conference Room, 39700 W. Civic Center Plaza. Five new members of the Maricopa Police Department are coming into the system and two are going out. Two are leaving the system from the fire department.

Maricopa City Council meeting starts at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 39700 W. Civic Center Plaza. Action items include the 2040 Vision and Strategic Plan, a transportation/transit plan, the Non-Profit Funding Program and more.

Butterfield Elementary School
will have its night at Yogurt Jungle from 5 to 7 p.m. at 21101 N. John Wayne Parkway.

Saddleback Elementary School’s Site Council
meeting is from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. at 18600 N. Porter Road. 520-568-6110.

Creative Ram’s Maker Showcase is from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Maricopa High School Library, 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave. Come see what makers of all ages have created using the Creative Ram resources; 3-D printing, Arduino electronic boards, Raspberry Pi computers, iPads, and more. rshoup@musd20.org, 520-568-8100, ext. 4147.

Santa Cruz Elementary School’s PTO meeting is at 4 p.m. at 19845 N. Costa del Sol. 520-568-5170.

The Maricopa Unified School District Art Walk is from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the district office, 44150 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Hwy. 520-568-8100.

Maricopa High School Evening of Honors is at 6 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center at Maricopa High School, 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave. Honor the success of students in all grades who have demonstrated outstanding achievements in academics, athletics and attendance and those who have received scholarships. 520-568-8100.

Central Arizona College-Maricopa Final Exams
begin and continue through May 14 at 17945 N. Regent Drive. 520-494-6400.

Second Saturday Copa Market
is from 8 a.m. to noon at Copper Sky Regional Park, 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Support your local businesses and check out fresh produce and homemade arts and crafts. kelsie.orrock@maricopa-az, 520-316-6865.

Mental Health Awareness event runs from 9 to 11 a.m. on the Great Lawn at Copper Sky Regional Park, 44345 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Changing the way we think about mental health - includes a balloon release and one-mile walk. Guest speaker is Erin Callinan, author of "Beautifully Bipolar." 520-316-6844.

from 10 a.m. to noon at Fire Station 575 Community Hall, 45695 W. Edison Road, is a contining education course on the second and fourth Saturday of each month. bkrgma@gmail.com, 602-358-1192.


Benefit Concert and Mother's Day Weekend Market starts at 3 p.m. at Bead & Berry Coffee House, 20800 N. John Wayne Parkway, Suite 115. Features music by Laura  Walsh, Joanna Joy, Nancy Elliott, Rich Bailey and Jeshua Lincoln to raise money to sponsor a victim of human trafficking.

Get more details on these events and add your event to our free calendar at http://www.inmaricopa.com/Calendar.

 “We probably can’t eliminate [discharging effluent water into the wash], but this should remove a lot of the need to flush water through the area,” Corwin said.

Residents of the communities surrounding the 404 wash are set to meet with Global Water on Wednesday to further discuss possible changes to the point of discharge and to come up with a legal resolution to the problem.

As Starbucks Coffee opened its doors Thursday at the Maricopa Station, local business owners are looking at how their livelihood will be affected by franchises that will soon populate the retail plaza.

“It's difficult to say how the new franchises will affect my business and local companies like mine,” Bead & Berry Coffee House owner Claire Bullivant said. “People tend to go for what they know and are familiar with. It's easier and there are no unpleasant surprises, so I understand the draw that franchises have.”

Starbucks became the first business to open in the Maricopa Station as a crowd descended Thursday afternoon.

“I’ve been so touched by the outpouring from the community,” store manager Bonnie Shouse said.

As first in line in the development, she pointed out, Starbucks is also in a place of welcoming the other business as they begin to occupy Maricopa Station. They will include Jersey Mike’s Subs, Sport Clips, Zoyo Yogurt, Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers and Chipotle.

Along the same line as Bullivant, Honeycutt Coffee owner Cathy Dykstra is uncertain how the new national franchises will affect her business.

“We have to compete,” Dykstra said. “Being local is not a free pass to run a business that doesn't strongly compete.  We have to win first on personalized local customer service. People still enjoy the small-town feel of walking in and we already know them and start their drinks.”

The soft opening Thursday was to help get the Starbucks store up to speed in serving customers, and it immediately had a long line. The store will be open from 4:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.  There are Starbucks outlets nearby within Bashas’ and Fry’s, managed by those grocery stores. Shouse said they keep a strong relationship to operate by the company mission: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”

Shouse, who lives in Ahwatukee, said she has more than 30 employees, most of whom live in Maricopa. She started with Starbucks in Tucson eight years ago as a barista and worked her way up through varied positions.

“It’s a great company to work for and I’m very excited to be able to open a store here,” Shouse said.

The biggest issue local companies run into in comparison to national franchises like Starbucks is the amount and speed of products they can produce. A chain store can prepare a cup of coffee or a meal in a much quicker time frame. They also have the capacity to handle more business.

“The principle of making craft coffee and having high-end, well-trained baristas and doing things with excellence is still our plumb line for success,” Bullivant said. “Preparing our own food from scratch is time consuming and less profitable than buying bulk frozen, pre-packaged, or pre-made meals full of preservatives. On one level we cannot compete with franchises if we keep our ideals, but I hope there are enough people in Maricopa who appreciate how good things can be without the added sugars and salt and possibly preservatives.”

But can a small company really compete in the long run with a franchise? What if the franchise opens up a new location? These are the questions each local business owner has to ask once a national franchise comes into their market.

“I think in the case of Honeycutt Coffee it’s a bit more unique in that there were already two Starbucks and now there are three in a quarter mile of each other,” Dykstra said. “It’s an example of corporations just strong arming any competition. For us the big impact will be the drive thru. People of Maricopa deserve that convenience and I understand the demand and need for it.”

Despite the increase in competition, the addition of more franchises also points to growth within the city of Maricopa. For local companies, it simply means more opportunities to grow their brand and reputation among the community.

“We were very excited, like I think most folks in Maricopa, when we heard the news of new businesses coming to Maricopa,” Dykstra said. “That means Maricopa is growing and getting more healthy every day. Trust me, these corporate stores invest money in research in demographics. They know Maricopa is on a strong growth path or they wouldn't invest.  Sure we are concerned, and we plan to fight to grow and earn more customers, but its great knowing as a city we are on a positive path.”

“I'm happy to see Maricopa thrive,” Bullivant said. “I love that it's getting bigger, attracting business and that more people are choosing to live here. I'd like to see it grow in the way of Nashville, where the residents are so into the arts, creativity and individuality, that they prefer the unique boutique restaurants and coffee shops.”
It is still unknown which direction Maricopa will grow. Regardless, local owners are excited to have the opportunity to be a part of the growth.

“Large franchises don't have the pull when patrons prefer the hand-made trade and art of it all,” Bullivant said. “Will Maricopa choose that? I hope so.  And also that we can share our passion about pure products with no additives giving Maricopa residents the opportunity and option that previously they could only find in certain areas in Phoenix and other parts of the [United States].”Honeycutt Coffee is floating ideas on how to stay competitive.

“We are considering doing something completely unique and opening a drive thru owned by the people of Maricopa, their drive thru, like the Green Bay Packers of football,” Dykstra said. “Stay tuned.”


Maricopa residents are invited to participate in Holiday Homes on Parade. This holiday decorating contest showcases the creative talents our residents have for designing amazing holiday displays!

Participants in the Holiday Homes on Parade are encouraged to be original, colorful and creative in decorating the exterior of their home with lights, seasonal characters, scenes, and props.

Registration for the Holiday Homes on Parade is free and entries will be accepted from Nov. 4 through Nov. 27. Judging will take place nightly from 6-9 p.m. between Dec. 9 and Dec. 18.

Entries in the Holiday Homes on Parade contest will be judged in the categories of Best on Parade, Best Light Show, Best Theme, Best Use of Color and Residents’ Choice.

Winner of Best on Parade will receive a $500 gift card to Ace Hardware! Other entry categories also receive great prizes to local businesses.

Once again this decorating contest is being extended to commercial businesses. Winners in the business category will receive a fee waiver of banner permits for a period of six months (January-June 2014). 

The City invites all of the citizens and businesses of Maricopa to share the holiday spirit by recognizing and appreciating the efforts put into making Maricopa shine this season.

To enter your holiday display on the parade of homes, simply complete the online form below:

2013 Holiday Homes on Parade Application

For more information contact Audra Trudell at (520) 316-6865 or audra.trudell@maricopa-az.govThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

- See more at: http://www.maricopa-az.gov/web/communityservices-home/876-holiday-homes-businesses-to-light-up-maricopa#sthash.V5Cw4VxV.dpuf


Financing changes with USDA Loans will hurt City of Maricopa homes sales

The mortgage industry has been criticized for making the process of obtaining a loan a little too easy and causing the housing crash several years ago. Regulations were passed to prevent a similar outcome and to make sure buyers are qualified and financially stable.

However, a $0 down loan program still exists today and has been an important part of the housing recovery in Maricopa, and it has provided thousands of families the opportunity to purchase a home they would otherwise not have had.

Known as a United States Department of Agriculture loan, or rural housing loan, it is a loan designed for rural development areas and is fully guaranteed by the U.S.

There are still basic qualifications that must be met by the buyer, such as a minimum credit score and debt-to-income ratios, and the property must qualify. It must be located in an area deemed "rural" by the USDA. Maricopa has been one of these areas for many years, and most daily commuters would tell you that Maricopa still feels like a very rural area.

However, by USDA standards, Maricopa’s population has grown large enough that this loan program will no longer be available in the city as of Jan. 15.

What does this mean for buyers?

With USDA loans no longer an option, most people will attempt to switch to an FHA loan that requires 3.5 percent of the purchase price as a down payment.

According to Arizona Regional MLS, the median home sale in August was $147,000. So for an average property these buyers now will have to come up with an extra $5,000 to complete their purchase, in addition to any other closing costs.

Ultimately, this will push a lot of buyers out of the market. Many families would struggle to save an extra $400 per month, and at that rate it would still take them over a year to acquire the minimum down payment.

Lenders also are feeling the impact of this change, which will affect not only Maricopa but Casa Grande and San Tan Valley, too.

Rudy Benitez of GenCor Mortgage said USDA loans make up 32 percent of his business. He said he expected the loss of USDA eligibility will be "detrimental to Pinal County."

"Even if borrowers can take the time to save up the money for the down payment, during that time the property values and interest rates will most likely increase, meaning that borrowers will qualify for less and less as time goes on," he said.

Fewer qualified buyers will mean less demand. Less demand will mean a slower appreciation of home prices, and a slower recovery of the housing market in Maricopa.

There is still a chance the USDA program will continue for a little bit longer. Maricopa has been set for disqualification ever since the population grew above 25,000, but each year the city has received an exception — the latest coming only a few weeks ago. The current population is nearly 45,000.

Congress is scheduled to meet on this matter and could pass a proposal to extend the current rural definition until Sept. 30, 2014.


Communities dispute Global Water effluent charges

Maricopa residents have raised concerns about being charged to clean up the 404 wash that Global Water flushes with effluent water.

The issues arising from the effluent water discharge into the 404 wash involve the amount each community is being charged.

“The cost for their water is charged three times,” Maricopa resident Terry Clark said. “The first charge comes when you flush the toilet. Then they charge to water the greenbelts with effluent water. Finally they cause the surrounding communities to be charged by landscaping companies to clean up Global Water’s action.”

Residents of Senita, Rancho El Dorado, the Villages at Rancho El Dorado and Province have raised concerns about being charged to use the water in their homes, paying a fee for Global Water to fill their lakes and ponds with the effluent water, and then being forced to pay for landscaping inside the 404 wash to keep it clear of debris after excess water is discharged through the area. The Maricopa Flood Control district mandates the bottom of the 404 wash remain clear of obstructions, so the communities bordering the wash are obligated to keep it in working order.

According to Clark, Global Water discharges 2 million gallons of water into the wash each day. By doing so, Clark claims, this creates a wet land in the area. This in turn causes overgrowth of plants and weeds, and allows mosquitoes to develop breeding grounds.

However, Global Water General Manager Jon Corwin said the amount of water discharged was much lower. He said Global Water only discharges water that isn’t used, and the amount fluctuates throughout the year. His approximation was no more than 25 percent of the water is flushed through the wash.

“In the winter months, the water gets discharged into the wash,” Corwin said. “The majority of the year, we send the water to the communities for their lakes and ponds. In the summer, there is rarely any discharge because all the water is in use for the lakes.”

This still causes an issue for Clark and other community members though. The communities surrounding the wash already pay for water services and for the effluent water to fill their lakes. The added cost of landscaping to keep the wash clear from debris or overgrowth caused by any amount of discharge, they claim, is unfair.

The communities also can’t opt out of keeping the wash clear. The 404 wash is a safeguard for flooding, and any obstruction could cause the wash to fail. Keeping the area clear of debris and overgrowth is necessary, but it also isn’t as simple as it sounds.

According to Clark, the Army Corps of Engineers prohibits machined equipment from going into the wash. The items naturally growing in the wash also can’t be uprooted, or the integrity of the wash could be compromised. These stipulations cause landscaping rates to escalate. Clark estimated Senita alone had to pay $17,200 in 2014, and will likely pay upwards of $20,000 in 2015 to keep the wash clear.

“We don’t want them to pay for all of the landscaping,” Clark said. “We want Global Water to take responsibility and share the cleanup costs caused by their actions.”

Clark has been challenging the charges for the last three years. He and other members of the surrounding communities have gone to the Arizona Corporations Commission, but Clark said they have been unable to help so far. However, ACC spokesperson Rebecca Wilder hasn’t seen a case regarding the issue come through the system since 2014.

“We’ve had rate cases involving Global Water in the past,” Wilder said. “The last rate case was decided Feb. 26, 2014.”

Wilder also checked with the other members of her staff, and no pending cases or complaints were found.

Clark and other members of the frustrated communities have also looked to the city for help. However, as City Manager Gregory Rose explained, the city definitely has an interest in the issue, but they also have agencies set up to monitor situations such as this. If the issue became a health or safety concern, the city would then step in and try to resolve the problems by working with the appointed agencies. There is no need to do so because none of these concerns exist at this time, he said.

In an attempt to resolve the issue, Global Water is looking into alternative points of discharge for the effluent water. Their hope is to diminish the impact the discharged effluent water has on the surrounding communities.

“We probably can’t eliminate [discharging effluent water into the wash], but this should remove a lot of the need to flush water through the area,” Corwin said.

Residents of the communities surrounding the 404 wash are set to meet with Global Water on Wednesday to further discuss possible changes to the point of discharge and to come up with a legal resolution to the problem.