Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Explosions rock Arizona Grain; 3 workers injured (updated)

Fire crews from Goodyear, Gila River, Maricopa and Phoenix responded to a series of explosions at Arizona Grain this morning that left three men with serious burns, requiring air evacuation.

"The force of that explosion should have killed at least one of those men," said Tom Randl, an employee of Pinal Feed, which is located next to Arizona Grain.

Maricopa Police spokesman Sgt. Stephen Judd was at the scene said that the explosion was caused by the ignition of grain dust, but that it was not clear what caused that ignition.

"Sometimes just static electricity will cause these explosions," Judd said.

However, Randl said that he had seen a man on top of one of the elevators welding just several moments before the explosion occurred. "He had finished the welding and lowered the equipment when the explosions occurred," Randl said.

Randl, who witnessed the explosions, said the force was so great the explosions almost knocked him to the ground.

At the scene of the explosion the damage was clearly visible. A pipe used to bring grain in from the train to the feed store collapsed, the tops of two elevators were blown off, as was the side of a building.

"My father always told me a grain explosion was dangerous, but I never thought it could be this bad," Randl said.

Randl said when the explosion occurred there was one man on top of a silo and another in his semi-truck parked in the building where the wall blew off.  He didn't know where the third man was.

He stated that two of the men injured were truck drivers who did not work for the company.

The names of those injured were not released.

Update from MFD Division Chief Mark Boys:  At approximately 9:15 this morning Maricopa Fire Department crews responded to a report of an explosion at Arizona Grain Company located at 38501 W Cowtown Rd. in Maricopa. Numerous other agencies responded as well for automatic aid to the units already on scene. Three workers were treated by Maricopa paramedics on scene and then flown to Maricopa County Medical center with first and second degree burns to their face and hands as a result of the powerful dust explosion.

Fire investigators have determined the origin of the initial explosion was in one of the four vertical grain elevator legs with a secondary explosion reportedly caused by the first and subsequent fireball to the subterranean grain elevator network.

The explosion could be felt and heard throughout the City of Maricopa. The tremendous force of the explosion was such that it sheared six 7/8-inch bolts to a truck scale lifting a semi loaded with grain weighing approximately 80,000 pounds.

According to fire officials on scene it was a miracle the three individuals did not parish in the explosion. They were somewhat shielded from the flying chucks of concrete and metal by a portion of the weigh station. Other employees on scene were obviously shaken by the event but were not injured.

Preliminary fire investigations by Maricopa Fire Investigators indicate at this time the cause to be accidental as a result of routine maintenance being conducted around the time of the explosion. Dust and grain elevator explosions are among the most powerful and dangerous type explosions known to fire service.

As of 1:30 p.m. it was reported two of the three individuals flown to the hospital were in good condition and one remained in critical condition. There were no fire fighter injuries.

Additional inquiries may be made to either Division Chief Boys (928-970-9994) or Field PIO Brad Pitassi at (480-282-2520).

Photos by Michael Rich

Thursday, December 11, 2008

CGRMC Hosts Blood Drive December 23, 2008

By Karen Kerr-Osman

Casa Grande Regional Medical Center (CGRMC) invites the community to participate in a life-saving blood drive on Tuesday, December 23, 2008, from 8:00 a.m. to 1 p.m.  Registration will begin in the Informary Room across from the cafeteria.  Come help us meet the critical blood shortage in Arizona.  All donors will receive a holiday t-shirt, as well as be entered in drawings for Fiesta Bowl and Phoenix Coyotes tickets.  All blood donors are needed.  To schedule an appointment, call Karen at (520) 381-6571 or go on-line to www.bloodhero.com and use the sponsor code: casagranderegional.  This drive is being conducted by United Blood Services, Arizona's number one non-profit blood supplier.  United Blood Services is the current blood supplier for CGRMC.  Give Blood. Be a hero.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

CGRMC Seeks Life Stories Volunteers

CGRMC Seeks Life Stories Volunteers  

Casa Grande Regional Medical Center (CGRMC) is seeking volunteers for an exciting new program called Life Stories. The goal of the program is to bridge the gap between patients and health care staff by giving providers more information about the patient's life beyond their medical condition. 

Volunteers in this program interview patients about their life and write a one page story to give the patient. This story is also shared with clinical staff involved in the patient's care. Volunteers in the Life Stories program will have strong interpersonal skills and be comfortable with writing. The initial training for this program is scheduled for Tuesday, December 2, 2008, so if you are interested please contact Karen right away!

CGRMC always has a variety of openings for volunteers who are service minded, enjoy working with people, and make customer service a top priority. If you have time and the desire to give back to your community, you may apply on-line at www.casagrandehospital.com in the volunteer section or call Karen at (520) 381-6571 to obtain an application. We look forward to working with you!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Renee Louzon-Benn

By Renee Louzon-Benn

Casa Grande, AZ – The Oasis Project, a community outreach, health and resource fair, held Saturday, October 18, at Peart Park in Casa Grande experienced a great turnout. The Oasis Project was organized to address issues that are paramount to the low income and homeless of the city. The fair provided blood pressure screening, oral health education, diabetes education, alcohol and drug awareness and counseling, resources for application assistance for enrollment in AHCCCS and KidsCare, and other discounted health and dental services. A "goodwill" table was set up for attendees to select new shoes, and gently used clothing items. Each family received a gift bag filled with hygiene items, and books for the children.

Throughout the event, entertainment was provided, including puppet shows, gospel and Christian rock. Through generous donations from Cottonwood Medical Center, Food City, Target, Walgreens and Wal*Mart, the Oasis Project was able to offer freshly prepared boxed lunches to all attendees and exhibitors.

"We estimate attendance between 125 and 200 individuals, and served over 200 meals," states Pastor Smith, Oasis Project's organizer. "Together we helped direct the homeless and low income individuals in our city to the resources that are essential to good health and independence."

Participating agencies included: Against Abuse, Cenpatico Behavioral Health, Casa Grande Alliance, Casa Grande Fire Department, Exodus Program, Home of Hope – Teen Challenge, More than Conquerors Ministries, Pinal County Health Department – Smoking Cessation Program, St. Michael & All Angels Catholic Church, Success by 6, Sun Life Family Health Center, United Way of Pinal County and University Family Care.

Oasis Project will be organized again for Spring 2009. To learn more about Oasis Project, to volunteer or sponsor, please contact Pastor Wayne Smith, Associate Pastor, More Than Conquerors Ministries, 371-9704.

Photo 002 – Pastor Wayne Smith, Oasis Project Founder with Reyna Villegas, Sun Life Family Health Center

Photo 001 – Misty George, Sun Life's Family Nurse Practitioner, with an attendee who just had their blood pressure screened.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Governor Napolitano tours Sun Life

By Renee Louzon-Benn


Casa Grande, AZ – On Wednesday, October 8, 2007, the Sun Life Family Health Center was honored by a visit from Governor Janet Napolitano.  The Governor, along with Senator Rebecca Rios, Representative Barbara McGuire, Health Director January Contreras, and Casa Grande Mayor Bob Jackson, enjoyed a tour of Sun Life's Casa Grande facility. The tour was followed by an informal health issues roundtable focusing on 'Kids as a Basis For Developing a Healthy Community.

Joining Sun Life and the Governor's group in the roundtable discussion were Tom Schryer, the Director of the, Pinal Division of Public Health; Aimée Kempton-Sarosi, Pinal Regional Coordinator; Barbara Mezzio, Pinal Regional Coalition Chair, First Things First; Russell Smith, Project Manager, Empowerment Systems; and Terry Stevens of Cenpatico Behavioral Health. The Governor lead discussion on four key topics: Immunization, Access to Care (AHCCCS/KidsCare), Oral Health, and Community Collaboration.

"It is always a pleasure to visit this part of Pinal County," said Governor Napolitano. "I'm impressed by the good work and good thinking that is occurring at the Sun Life Center."


Sun Life Family Health Center is a not-for-profit organization providing health care to Casa Grande, Eloy, Coolidge, Maricopa, Mammoth, Oracle and San Manuel. The Casa Grande facility is the flagship of the organization, offering multi-specialty services including Family Practice, OB/GYN, Dental, Radiology, Pharmacy and Laboratory. The San Manuel facility also offers Laboratory, Radiology and Pharmacy services. Behavioral Health services are also available at the Casa Grande and San Manual facilities. Sun Life is one of two community health centers in the state that are accredited by the Joint Commission.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Early Voting Sites Open to Pinal County Voters

By Joe Pyritz

FLORENCE- Voters who want to avoid the lines at the polls on November 4th's General Election can place their ballot at numerous locations throughout Pinal County.

     "We have our main office in Florence open for early voting as well as our satellite offices in Apache Junction and Casa Grande," said County Recorder Laura Dean-Lytle.  "These three sites are open Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, through the end of October."

     In addition to the three County Recorder offices, there will be regional early voting sites in various areas of the county, Dean-Lytle added.

     "We are working hard to make voting a little easier for those who want to place their ballot before the general election."

     If you were mailed an early ballot, please don't forget to vote it, sign it and send it back in to Pinal County.


Monday-Friday Early Voting Locations (8:00 am until 5:00)

  • Florence; Recorder's Office (Building E) County Complex
  • Apache Junction; Recorder's Satellite Office; 575 N. Idaho Road, Suite 110
  • Casa Grande; Recorder's Satellite Office; 820 E. Cottonwood Lane


Regional Early Voting Locations

  • Maricopa; 19955 N. Wilson Avenue (JP Court); Thursday, October 16 and 23
  • San Tan; 968 W. Hunt Highway (Next to Johnson Utilities); Tuesday, October 14, 21 and 25
  • Saddlebrooke; 63701 E. Saddlebrooke Boulevard, Suite C; Wednesday, October 15 and 22
  • Kearny; 355 Alden Road; Saturday, October 18
  • Arizona City; 13970 S. Sunland Gin Road; Saturday, October 18
  • Gila River Indian Community; Site to be Determined; Friday, October 17 and 24


     If you have any questions please call the Pinal County Citizen's Contact Center at (520) 509-3555 or 888-431-1311.

Monday, October 13, 2008

CGRMC Foundation Hosts “Lunch and Learn”

Casa Grande, Arizona - The Casa Grande Regional Medical Center Foundation (CGRMC), with sponsorship by SRP, invites the public to attend their first "Lunch and Learn" of the season.  It will be held on Monday, October 27, 2008, from 12:00 noon to 1:30 p.m. in the Education Center at Casa Grande Regional Medical Center. 

After a complimentary lunch, Dr. Bhatnagar will address the audience with his presentation of "What's New in Prostate Cancer".  Dr. Bhatnagar is a specialist in radiation oncology at Cancer Treatment Services Arizona in Casa Grande.

Reservations are required for this event.  Please call the Foundation reservation line at 381-6300, ext. 5840, with your name, number of people attending and a phone number.  Space is limited to the first 70 reservations.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Governor Janet Napolitano to Visit Sun life family health center

WHO:             Governor Janet Napolitano

Senator Rebecca Rios (D-Arizona)

Representative Barbara McGuire (D-Arizona)

Travis J. Robinette, Chief Executive Officer, Sun Life Family Health Center, Casa Grande

WHAT:           Facility tour, followed by an informal health issues discussion "Kids as a basis for developing a healthy community."

WHEN:           Wednesday, October 8, 2008

                        3:15 PM – 4:00 PM

WHERE:        Sun Life Family Health Center

                        865 North Arizola Road

                        Casa Grande

WHY:              Health Centers are treating more low-income, chronically ill and uninsured patients now more than at any time in their 43 year history. According to a study conducted by George Washington University Medical Centers, community health centers (CHCs) provide significantly more preventive care to Medicaid beneficiaries and the uninsured than do other primary care facilities, which researchers said has saved the publicly funded health centers billions of dollars yearly. Sun Life Family Health Center provides medical and dental services, and health screenings to Pinal County's underserved population and is the only primary care provider in the county to offer a sliding scale discount for services provided to low-income residents.  Additional information about Sun Life Family Health Center is available at www.sunlifefamilyhealth.org.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


It's the time of year when I know I can leave some windows open to catch those delightful (low) nighttime breezes and my steering wheel won't leave burn marks on the palms of my hands when I first start the car.  Up north the leaves are starting to turn colors – as are the license plates on our streets and roads: it must be FALL!


Although the current stress in our national economy, financial institutions, and housing market has us all worried about investments, employment, and retirement – there are some very worthwhile (and fun!) events taking place this month.  In fact, if you sit at home on any given weekend in October, then you're just not paying attention to a very full calendar of community activities. 


For example, if you'd like to partake of some good, filling breakfasts while donating to a very worthy cause (helping the dependents of our deployed soldiers), VFW Post 1677 has the answer.  Their regular Saturday morning breakfasts – featuring eggs, breakfast meats, pancakes, and beverages for $5 a person – get underway on October 4th at the VFW Hall located at 111 E. Second Street (across from the downtown Food City store) in Casa Grande.  They are also selling snow cones on the following Saturday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Safeway Store at Trekell Road and Cottonwood Lane in Casa Grande.  Proceeds from the snow cone sale will go to aid dependents of deployed soldiers as well as cancer research.


Before I leave the subject of our veterans and the debt we owe them for their service to our country, I'd be remiss if I didn't sneak in a heads' up for your calendar in November.  On Saturday, November 8th, Casa Grande will see an improved and expanded Veterans Day Parade: the route's been moved from Cottonwood Lane to the downtown area and a number of new floats and other entries have been added.  It's slated to get underway at 9:30 that morning – stay tuned for more information as we get closer to the parade date. 


And, as it does every year, Pinal County will also host a Veterans Day event in Florence on Wednesday, November 12th at 2 p.m.  Regardless of where you observe this holiday, please join me in thanking all veterans – regardless of dates of service – for all that they have done, are doing, and will do to protect our country.  It's their willingness to go in harm's way that keeps us our great nation free from tyranny's grip.


Moving away from the calendar and back to some current events, I'd like to briefly visit the topic of our process to review and revise the County's Comprehensive Land Use Plan.  As many of you know from many of these columns and other media outlets, a draft of the newly revised Plan was released for comment and review some months ago.  State law provides for a minimum 60 day public review and comment period and that "deadline" arrived in mid-September. 


But the County Board of Supervisors is committed to the concept of having the best possible plan to put into place so that it can guide the County's land use decisions during the coming decade and therefore, we will be reissuing a second draft of a proposed Plan in mid-October and establishing a second 60 day review and comment period.  I think the new version will be much stronger for the voluminous input from citizens and stakeholder groups – but we'll see at the end of November.  Please plan on checking out the new document at http://pinalcountyplan.com.


Back to the calendar before I close out this month's column: on October 11th, the dedicated volunteers of the Eden Equine Rescue Center in the Maricopa-Stanfield area are holding their Fall Follies Horse Show.  Proceeds from this fun event (fun to watch and fun to participate) will go to provide shelter and relief for distressed or abandoned horses in the western part of our county.  For more information, go to www.equineeden.org or call 520.568.9315. 


My last word(s) for the month are focused on The Big Election on November 4th.  Regardless of who is elected President of these United States – or to any other office at the local, state, or Congressional level – this election cycle will go down in the record books as an historical event.  I'd like to think that part of that historic record will include the fact that voter turn out and participation at all levels was at an all time high as well.  As I said earlier in this column, our country's veterans have put their families and lives in jeopardy throughout the centuries so that we can participate in this grand exercise of democracy.  I hope to see you at the polls.


David Snider, Supervisor

Pinal County District 3

Friday, September 12, 2008

Flu Vaccines available to Sun Life Patients

By Renée Louzon-Benn


Casa Grande, AZ – Sun Life Family Health Center is scheduling appointments for their patients to receive flu vaccine.  The vaccine is currently being offered to existing patients over the age of eighteen, with priority being given to senior citizens and patients with chronic conditions as they are considered high-risk to catch the flu. Sun Life expects vaccines for children to be available in October.


Each year, 5 to 20 percent of the population gets hit with the flu virus, and more than 200,000 are hospitalized with flu complications, according to Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But, people can take preventive measures in the simple form of a flu vaccine.


While anyone who wants to reduce their chance of getting the flu can get vaccinated, the CDC recommendations include children 6 months to 4 years of age, school age children, people who are at high-risk of having serious flu complications, or people who live with or care for those at high risk. To learn more about CDC flu vaccine guidelines, visit www.cdc.gov.


To schedule your flu shot, contact your local Sun Life Family Health Center office. Learn more about Sun Life, visit www.sunlifefamilyhealth.org.


Sun Life Family Health Center is a not-for-profit organization providing health care to Casa Grande, Eloy, Coolidge, Maricopa, Mammoth, Oracle and San Manuel. The Casa Grande facility is the flagship of the organization, offering multi-specialty services including Family Practice, OB/GYN, Dental, Radiology, Pharmacy and Laboratory. The San Manuel facility also offers Laboratory, Radiology and Pharmacy services. Behavioral Health services are also available at the Casa Grande and San Manual facilities. Sun Life is one of two community health centers in the state receiving accreditation from the Joint Commission.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Flu Season is Around the Corner, Schedule Flu Shots Starting September 22

FLORENCE, AZ – The Pinal County Public Health Services District will begin providing flu shots to the public on Wednesday, October 1, 2008 by appointment only.  For your convenience, and to ensure short wait times, we will begin scheduling appointments starting Monday, September 22, 2008 and continuing through the end of November.  In order to schedule appointments for adults, please call toll free 1-888-431-1311, Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:00 am and 5:00 pm. 


Flu shots through the Pinal County Public Health Services District are just $15, a bargain compared to the cost of cold and flu medicines or trips to the doctor's office and missed work.


If you are unable to schedule an appointment, the opportunity to receive a flu shot as a "walk-in" will be available on the following days after October 18, 2008:


Kearny – Wednesdays 8:00 am to 6:00 pm at 355 Alden Road

Oracle – Wednesdays 8:00 am to 6:00 pm at 1870 West American Way

Eloy – Mondays, Tuesdays & Thursdays 8:00 am to 6:00 pm at 302 East Fifth Street

Mammoth – Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays & Saturdays 8:00 am to 6:00 pm at 110 Main Street

Superior – Thursdays 8:00 am to 6:00 pm at 60 East Main Street

Apache Junction – Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays & Saturdays 8:00 am to 6:00 pm at 575 North Idaho, Suite 301

Coolidge – Tuesdays, Wednesdays, & Thursdays 8:00 am to 6:00 pm at 119 West Central Avenue

Casa Grande – Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, & Saturdays 8:00 am to 6:00 pm at 802 East Cottonwood Lane, Building E

Stanfield – The 3rd & 4th Wednesdays 8:00 am to 6:00 pm at 36711 West Papago Drive

Maricopa – Wednesdays 9:00 am to 3:30 pm parked at 44625 West Garvey Avenue


Please be advised, all Pinal County Public Health Services District clinics will be closed in observance of the national holidays on Monday, October 13th, Tuesday, November 11th and Thursday, November 27th.


The Pinal County Public Health Services District has not received flu vaccines for children yet.  Upon receipt, children can receive a flu shot without an appointment at their local Pinal County Public Health clinic.  That information will be posted on the Pinal County Information Hotline toll free at 1-866-763-7252 as it becomes available.


In order to reduce that chance of catching the flu this season, the Public Health Department recommends frequent hand washing using soap and warm water for 30 seconds.  If you do become ill, it is important to stay home to help prevent spreading the illness to others.


For more information on influenza and vaccinations, please call the Health District hotline at 1-866-763-7252.


The number to call for appointments is 1-888-431-1311.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Portion of Maricopa Area’s White & Parker Road to be Closed for Repair

By Joe Pyritz

FLORENCE, AZ – White & Parker Road, which runs north and south just below the City of Maricopa boundary and adjacent to the Ak-Chin Indian Community will be closing for repairs.  White & Parker Road will be closed from Peters & Nall Road south to Lewis Johnson Drive. 


A sink hole opened up near the road after pipes for irrigation water collapsed beneath the road surface.  In order for Pinal County crews to complete the repair and ensure the safety of motorists, excavation work and replacement of the irrigation pipe will begin early this week.  The repairs are expected to take about a week.


Pinal County Public Works recommends using the John Wayne Parkway (SR 347/Maricopa Road) as an alternate north-south route.  Drivers heading north on White & Parker from SR 84, will detour onto Louis Johnson Blvd, over to SR 347 and travel north to Peters & Nall, where traffic will flow back east to White & Parker.  Once back to White & Parker, drivers can resume their northbound travels.


"We are working to notify as many of the nearby industries and businesses as well as the Ak-Chin Community and schools," Chairman and District 3 Supervisor David Snider said.  "Our goal is to minimize inconvenience but make sure our roads are safe and in good condition."


The work is expected to take about a week with possible delays if monsoon activity or heavy rains return.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Homemade Invention Saves Pinal County Water and a lot of Money

     By Joe Pyritz

     FLORENCE- Florence is a hard place to be.

     If you are a plumber, that is.

     The hard water in the area plays havoc on the pipes and plumbing fixtures inside the many of the County buildings.  One building, in particular, uses a lot of water – the Adult
Detention Center.

     One way the center tries to minimize costs is by regulating the amount of water that is used by the inmates.  This is accomplished by an electronically controlled manifold that allows a certain amount of water to be used in a sink or toilet.  This avoids any misuse of water, such as leaving the faucet on or unnecessary flushes of the toilet.

     Deep inside the detention center is a maze of pipes that supply water to the facility.  At the junction where the pipes disappear into the wall is a two piped manifold with eight valves that feed toilets and sinks inside the detention center. 

     A problem arose earlier this year when some of the fittings inside the electronic manifold started failing due to the hard water.

     "We started noticing that many of the valves were shutting down because the water was leaking though the rings and brass thereby shorting out the electronic controller," said Facilities and Maintenance worker Mike Gregus.  "This wasn't a warranty issue.  It was a premature erosion of the parts inside the manifold due to the hard water."

     Gregus and co-worker Craig Williams decided that a replacement for the failing part, a hot and cold water mixing valve, was needed before other units began to fail.

     "We checked through the manifold manufacturer to see if we could get just the mixing valve," Williams said.  "We were told that we would have to purchase the entire unit.  The solenoid and valves would cost $183.33."

     To replace the entire manifold came to a cost of $1,825.  With another 100 manifolds inside the detention center with risk of failure, the cost to the County would be over $145,000.

     "I thought there should be a better way to handle this problem," Gregus said.  "All of us at the Facilities and Maintenance department inside the detention center put our heads together to come up with a solution."

     Following a study of the manifold's design, along with its schematics and an internet search, they decided on a novel solution.

     "We needed to make a unit that would do the same thing as the original manifold," Williams said.  "Mike is a good engineer and once we had an idea of the parts we needed, there was no stopping us."

     "Through the internet we found an inexpensive mixing valve for $17.00 per unit," Gregus explained.  "The next thing we had to find was a solenoid to replace those that were failing on the original manifolds.  We found one for $6.00 to adapt to the manifolds.  So a $183.33 part is now down to $23.00."

     But they were not done, yet.  It was discovered that if Facilities and Maintenance crews had to routinely clean out the manifolds.  The original units were hard, if not impossible to clean.  So Gregus and company came up with another solution-use PVC pipe rather than the brass pipe.

     "This in-house manifold does exactly the same thing as the Willoughby unit," Gregus said.  "There are a lot of benefits to this new device.  We are no longer dependent upon a single manufacturer for replacement parts and the cost of replacing the entire manifold is around $100.  The cost through the manufacturer is $1,825.  We're saving over $1,700"

     With 101 units inside the detention center, the cost to replace all parts is only $31,000.

     "I'm a taxpayer," Williams added, "and I'm all for saving money."

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Art in the Alley is back!

By Lynn FitzGerald, Executive Director, Casa Grande Main Street


Hello everyone!  Tonight is the first "Art in the Alley" event. Please stop by for a great evening in the Casa Grande Historic District - on Florence St. between 2nd and 3rd Streets - "Down the Alley". 

There will be music, poetry, art, arts and crafts and a good time for all. Bring your friends!  The event is held the first Tuesday of every month from September through June, 5:30 -9:30 p.m.  See you there! You may call 836-8744 for further information.

Mosquito Fogging Scheduled for the City of Maricopa

FLORENCE ––Pinal County Environmental Health Services announced today that a mosquito sample collected in the city of Maricopa has tested positive for West Nile virus.

     This brings to twenty-five the total number of West Nile virus positive mosquito samples collected by Environmental Health in 2008. 

     In response, Environmental Health will conduct adult mosquito fogging, weather permitting, Friday September 5th, 2008 from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m.  The area to be fogged includes the subdivisions of Maricopa Meadows, Alterra North and Alterra South.

     The pesticide that will be used during fogging is called Anvil. It is a pre-mixed, ready to use product that contains two active ingredients: Sumithrin (2%) and piperonyl butoxide (2%). Sumithrin is a man-made version of a natural pesticide found in chrysanthemum flowers. Piperonyl butoxide enhances the ability of Sumithrin to kill mosquitoes. Anvil is registered with the U.S. EPA and is effective against mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus. There are several things that residents can do to reduce exposure during fogging:


There are several things that residents can do to reduce exposure during fogging:


·        Close all windows and doors. Air conditioners can still be operated, but if they have vents to bring in outside air, they should be closed.  Turn off evaporative coolers.

·        Stay inside your home

·        If possible, bring pets inside.

·        Thirty minutes after the end of the scheduled fogging each night, you may resume normal activities.


     West Nile virus is transmitted to humans and animals through the bite of an infected mosquito.  West Nile virus can cause severe illness in people and horses, although not everyone that is infected will develop symptoms.  People of all ages can be affected.  However, the elderly may be more prone to serious illness. 

     County health officials urge all county residents to "Fight the Bite" and follow these simple personal precautions to avoid mosquitoes and the diseases they may carry:

·        Avoid outside activity between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.

·        If you must be outdoors when mosquitoes are active, wear lightweight clothing that covers your arms and legs and use an insect repellent containing an EPA registered active ingredient such as DEET, Picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus.  Always follow the directions on the label.

·        Make sure doors and windows have tight fitting screens and remain closed. Repair or replace screens that have tears or holes in them.

·        Eliminate mosquito-breeding sites around the home by removing standing water in potted plants, tires, bird baths and other containers where water may collect.

·        Ensure that swimming pools and decorative water features are properly maintained.

·        Change water in flowerpots, birdbaths and pet watering bowls located outdoors at least twice per week.


     The County has a mosquito hotline and a webpage.  If you would like information on mosquito prevention and control, please call: 866-287-0209, ext. 6200, or visit the West Nile virus webpage at www.pinalcounty.org/envhealth 

     For information or questions concerning the health effects of West Nile virus, please call the Pinal County Public Health Information Hotline: 866-763-7252.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Drivers Urged to Use Caution Around Storm Runoff and Washes

FLORENCE, AZ – Pinal County Public Works and Emergency Management officials are reminding residents and motorists to steer clear of washes and moving water.  Recent storms have saturated areas of Pinal County, channeling water into existing natural washes and man-made drainage structures.  Along with mud, debris and other hazards, this water may look harmless on the surface but caution is advised.


Driving any motorized vehicles, including ATVs, into and around washes or flooded roads puts the motorist at risk of serious harm. 


Meteorologists are suggesting that additional severe storms may be on the way during the holiday weekend.  Please use appropriate caution to protect your home, property and loved ones from harm.


Observe the following tips:


  • Obey all caution or warning signs on roadways.
  • Slow down while driving in heavy rain or dust storms.
  • If caught in a dust storm, continue driving slowly and turn on your emergency hazard lights to increase your visibility to other motorists.
  • Keep a safe distance from trees and windows.
  • Do not stand in open fields or under trees during a lightning storm.
  • Turn off unnecessary electronic equipment.
  • Have candles, flash lights with fresh batteries and a wireless or corded phone.  Cordless home telephones will not work if the power is out.
  • Listen for weather updates or advisories broadcast on local radio stations.


Call 9-1-1 in the event of a serious emergency or injury.  If your power is out, report outages to your local utility.  Phone numbers to call in case of outages are usually printed on the utility bill.

Friday, August 29, 2008

County & Eloy Applaud Commissioners on Rail Crossing Decision

By Heather Murphy

FLORENCE, AZ – Pinal County officials and the City of Eloy commended the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) for today's approval of Union Pacific's application to add a second main line and modify public road crossings in the county.  The ACC's action allows Union Pacific to move forward with their double track project of the Sunset Route, Union Pacific's east-west main rail line through Southern Arizona. 


The application included public crossings on Toltec Road, Houser Road, Battaglia Road, Eleven Mile Corner Road, Main Street and Sunshine Boulevard.  The Commissioners approved the placement of the additional track with upgrades to safety and signal devices to ensure the safety of motorists.


"I am glad to see the process move forward and thank the Commissioners for requesting that Union Pacific first seek local support on their project," said Byron Jackson, Mayor of Eloy.  "The City of Eloy will continue to work with Union Pacific representatives to address local concerns and issues during this project."


An historic agreement was reached in May 2008 between Union Pacific and the Cities of Casa Grande, Eloy, Maricopa and Pinal County.  The agreement included a $35 million commitment from Union Pacific over 25 years for the construction of grade separations at major public railroad crossings.  The agreement provided the framework for transportation planning, economic development, historic preservation and support for increased railroad capacity in the region.


"There is a significant need for economic development in our region and Union Pacific's double track project is a major component in creating more jobs in Pinal County," said Pinal County Supervisor Lionel Ruiz.  Supervisor Ruiz's district is the one affected by these crossings.


Pinal County Board of Supervisors' Chairman David Snider and Sandie Smith also praised the Commissioners for their decision. 


The application was one of nine packets filed with the Corporation Commissioners involving Union Pacific's addition of a second main line.  Three applications were approved in March, May, and June of this year.  There are five more applications still pending with the ACC.

Heather Murphy
Director, Communications & Public Affairs
Pinal County


*Please update your address books to include our new e-mail address domain.  Our email addresses have changed to firstname.lastname@pinalcountyaz.gov

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Presiding Judge Establishes Court to Manage Mental Illness Cases

By Heather Murphy

FLORENCE, AZ – Imagine if a loved one suffered from a serious mental illness and is accused of a crime.  Imagine if you are the victim of a crime committed by someone with a serious mental illness.  In both situations, the ideal outcome is one where justice is served and appropriate care and consideration is paid to both the victim and the accused.  After the Pinal County Mental Health in the Courts Task Force spent many months of planning and coordinating resources, Presiding Superior Court Judge Boyd T. Johnson signed an order establishing the Mental Health Court in Pinal County.


"National research shows that 16 percent of people jailed for criminal offenses also have mental health diagnoses," Judge Johnson said.  "People with mental health conditions are more likely to be arrested.  By default, the criminal justice system becomes the mental health care delivery system or the gateway to that system."


Judge Johnson appointed Judge Janna Vanderpool as Administrative Presiding Judge over the Mental Health Court in Pinal County.


To address a growing problem and awareness of the issues facing the mentally ill in the justice system, the Superior Court in Pinal County formed a Mental Health Task Force in 2005.  Judge Vanderpool is a founding member of the task force.  Other members included representatives from medical and behavioral care providers, County Health and Human Services, the County Attorney, Public Defender, County Jail, Clerk of the Court, Probation and other allied organizations. 


"The task force's goal was collaboration to more swiftly identify the mentally ill, ensure that they are treated with dignity and provide opportunities for treatment," Judge Vanderpool said.  "This protects our neighborhoods and communities, saves money and reduces trauma to both the accused and the victims."


When someone is accused of a crime, the courts have to determine if someone is competent to stand trial and if the person can assist their attorney or public defender in preparing their defense.


"Individuals who do not have the ability to understand what is happening – whether that is due to a disability, mental illness or other mental health issues – must be protected from prosecution in our courts until their ability to understand the proceedings and to assist their attorneys is restored," Judge Johnson said.  "Often, with treatment, medication and education on how the justice system works, we can move forward with a case that might have been dismissed due to competency issues."


"Prior to these recent changes, it could take a year or more of back and forth, just to determine if someone is competent to stand trial or aid in their defense," Judge Vanderpool said.  "Now we can shorten that time by many months."


The process for court-ordered mental health treatment or therapy falls under stringent guidelines laid out in law.  There multiple legal steps and professional evaluations before someone can be court-ordered into treatment or placed into a qualified facility for therapy.  Low-level, non-violent offenders with mental health conditions sometimes can be released for appropriate treatment and supervision.  The courts can also appoint a conservator or guardian, if necessary.


"There are several significant public benefits from more acute attention to, and early assessment of, the mentally ill in our justice system," Judge Vanderpool said.  "Previously, those needing these services were sent to the state hospital and the state's cost for evaluation and restoration to competency was incredibly expensive.  Now, we save taxpayer money by not incarcerating non-violent offenders who have a suitable place to reside.  Additionally, we are now able to provide monitored, out-of-custody and in-jail restoration to competency services."

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Chairman David Snider to Hold Maricopa Office Hours on Wednesday, September 3

CASA GRANDE- Board of Supervisors Chairman David Snider will hold his monthly office hours at the Maricopa Interim City Hall on Wednesday, September 3.  Supervisor Snider's office hours in Maricopa are normally observed on the first Tuesday of the month; however, due to the Primary Election, he'll be available to meet with residents the following day.  The Chairman and District 3 Supervisor will be at the Interim City Hall, located at 45145 W. Madison Avenue from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm.

     "My appreciation goes out to the City Council and staff with the City of Maricopa for loaning me the office space to meet with constituents in this area," Chairman Snider said.  "There is never a lack of topics to discuss in this and the surrounding communities.  We've just cut the ribbon on a new Justice Court for this precinct.  I am pleased that we were able to work as a team to accomplish such an important project."

     Chairman Snider said that he will be available to answer any questions or discuss regional topics during his office hours.

     If you would like to schedule a specific time to meet with the Supervisor, please call his office at 836-0003 – otherwise, it's a first-come, first-served opportunity to meet with Chairman Snider.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Superior Court Earns Award from Arizona Supreme Court

FLORENCE, AZ – The Superior Court in Pinal County is the recipient of a prestigious award issued by the state's highest court, the Arizona Supreme Court.  The award recognizes important initiatives designed to improve the justice system experience for the county residents who are served by the legal system.


The award recognized programs aimed at "Protecting Children, Families and Communities."  Three programs were highlighted in the nomination and all three resulted from the diligent, hard work of the Pinal County Juvenile Court Community Advisory Board.  This is an all-volunteer group made up of diverse professional, cultural and community backgrounds.  They are appointed by the Presiding Juvenile Judge to help evaluate and enhance services provided by Juvenile Court Services.  The common interest is to ensure that Juvenile Court practices continue to reflect the best interests of youth, families, victims and the community.


"The efforts of the Community advisory Board have allowed the Juvenile Court to continue with its mission of empowering our children to make wise choices. By providing youth with educational assistance when needed, by affirming their positive progress on probation through additional incentives, and by focusing on the fact that character does in fact count, we remind young people that they have control of their futures," said Judge Stephen McCarville. 


Judge McCarville handles the Juvenile Court cases that are heard at the Superior Court in Pinal County.


"I am proud of the Community Advisory Board for all of the great work they have done on behalf of our children," the Judge added.  "They have given the courts additional resources to benefit not only the child, but all of us in these times of financial concerns."


The nomination that earned the prestigious award mentions three Superior Court initiatives:


  • "Probation Works" Incentive Program – Working with probation staff, the Community Advisory Board developed a plan to teach responsibility by rewarding probationers for good behavior.  A point system allows probationers to gain rewards for improving their grades, completing community service projects or paying restitution ahead of schedule.  Points can be redeemed for movie passes, pizza, school supplies, etc.


  • Character Counts Essay Contest – Now in its third year, the contest is open to Pinal youth from K-12, including home-schooled youth.  Essays on one of the "six pillars of character" – Caring, Trustworthy, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness and Citizenship – are judged by the Community Advisory Board.  In 2008, students submitted 825 essays.


  • Youth Justice Center Enrichment Programs – The Community Advisory Board has been instrumental in bringing several initiatives that enrich the lives of the young people serving detention at the Youth Justice Center.  They created a photography and art program; initiated a partnership with the YMCA, which resulted the donation of $17,000 worth of fitness equipment to begin a Healthy Body/Healthy Mind program; and developed a music program, complete with donated instruments and books.


The Superior Court's Mental Health Task Force earned an Honorable Mention for its efforts toward forming a better, more comprehensive approach to individuals in the justice system who are affected by mental health conditions.

Monday, August 18, 2008

County to Allow Open Burning in Areas with Reduced Wildfire Risk

FLORENCE, AZ – Pinal County Air Quality has resumed issuing open burning permits in portions of Pinal County.  The ban originally went into effect in late April to mitigate the risk of wildfire.  Recent rains and higher humidity levels have reduced the fire risk in many areas.  


The ban on open burning will remain in effect where local fire departments still regard open fires as a threat, including the Apache Junction, Oracle and Queen Valley Fire Districts.  


State law prohibits open burning in the portion of north central Pinal County that includes Apache Junction, Queen Creek, Gold Canyon and the Johnson Ranch area.  This region is affected by more stringent air quality regulations that prohibit open burning until after October 1.


Applications for burn permits are posted on the Air Quality Division's website at http://www.pinalcountyaz.gov/Departments/AirQuality/Documents/AQForms/BURN-APP.PDF.


Additional information on the Pinal County Air Quality program can be found at www.pinalcountyaz.gov/Departments/AirQuality/ or by calling the Pinal County Air Quality Division at 520-866-6929.


Friday, August 15, 2008

Senior Freeze’ Applications Due September 1

Pinal County Assessor Staff Ready to Help with Application Materials


FLORENCE, AZ – September 1 is the deadline for filing for the Senior Property Valuation Protection or more commonly known as the 'Senior Freeze.' 


"This is an important program approved by the state that allows us to freeze the full cash value of a primary residence," Pinal County Assessor Paul Larkin said.  "What this does is provides a greater degree of financial stability for people with qualifying low incomes."


Larkin explained that state laws do not allow taxing jurisdictions to freeze taxes because tax bills reflect the tax rates of multiple jurisdictions such as fire districts, school districts and community colleges. 


"The actual tax bill may fluctuate from year to year but because the full cash value of the property is frozen, people on low or fixed incomes should see less movement in the total tax amount," Larkin said.


The total gross income of all owners is what is used to determine eligibility.  For a one-owner property, the income limit is $30,576.  If there are two or more owners, the limit is $38,220.  Income is verified using tax returns, W-2 forms or 1099 forms.


To qualify for the valuation freeze, at least one of the property owners must be at least 65 at the time of application.  The property must be the primary residence and the individual(s) must have lived there at least two years.  Owners can protect up to ten acres, plus the primary residence as long as it is at the same location and is identified by just one parcel number.


Applicants need to provide proof of residency with an Arizona driver's license or Arizona ID card.  If the property held in trust, individuals must provide proof of trustees along with the application.


Once approved, the valuation freeze is in effect for three years.  Six months prior to the expiration of the current period, the Pinal County Assessor mails existing freeze recipients a reminder to renew by reapplying.


Assessor Larkin's Exemptions Department is available to answer questions or assist with obtaining or completing the application.  The phone number for the department is at 520-866-6363.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Time Running Out to Vote Early in Primary Election

County Recorder Says Almost 14,000 Early Ballots Have Yet to Be Turned in

     FLORENCE- Residents who received an early ballot by mail should think about voting and sending it back in soon said Pinal County Recorder Laura Dean-Lytle.

     "We have less than three weeks to go before the September 2nd primary and there have been a little over 4,000 ballots turned back in," Dean-Lytle said.  "Filling out the ballot and dropping it in the mail is the easiest way to go.  But voters can also bring their completed ballot to an early voting site.  We want to make sure their vote is counted."

     Dean-Lytle added that residents can also turn their early ballots in on election day at any polling place in Pinal County.  If someone who has received an early ballot goes to the polls to vote, they will have to vote a provisional ballot while the records are checked to ensure both ballots are not voted.

     Any ballots received by the county after September 2nd will not be counted. 

     The County Recorder said that for the residents' convenience, satellite early voting locations have been established in several areas throughout Pinal County.


Monday-Friday Voting Sites (Sites are open from 8:00 to 5:00):

  • Florence – County Recorder's Office, Building E at the County Complex on Butte Avenue
  • Apache Junction – 575 N. Idaho Road, Suite 110 at the Roy Hudson County Complex
  • Casa Grande – County Recorder's Satellite Office at 820 E. Cottonwood Lane


Regional Early Voting Sites (All regional sites are open from 9:00 to 4:00):

  • Maricopa – 44625 W. Garvey Avenue; open Thursdays August 7, 14, & 21
  • San Tan – 968 W. Hunt Highway (next to Johnson Utilities); open Tuesdays August 12 & 19
  • Saddlebrooke – 63701 E. Saddlebrooke Boulevard, Suite C; open Wednesdays August 13 & 20
  • Gila River Indian Community – TBA


Special Saturday Early Voting Sites (Weekend voting sites open 9:00 to 4:00)

  • Maricopa – 44625 W. Garvey Avenue; August 9
  • Saddlebrooke – 63701 E. Saddlebrooke Boulevard, Suite C; August 9
  • Kearny – 355 Alden Road; August 16
  • Arizona City – 13970 S. Sunland Gin Road; August 16
  • San Tan – 968 W. Hunt Highway (next to Johnson Utilities); August 16
  • Florence – County Recorder's Office, Building E at the County Complex; August 23
  • Apache Junction – 575 N. Idaho Road, Suite 110 at the Roy Hudson County Complex; August 23
  • Casa Grande – County Recorder's Satellite Office; 820 E. Cottonwood Lane; August 23


     For more information please call the Pinal County Citizen Contact Center at 520-509-3555 or 888-431-1311.  Information can also be found on the web at http://pinalcountyaz.gov.




Who can vote on September 2nd?

  • Any voter registered on or before August 4, 2008 can vote in this year's primary election.
  • Arizona has what is termed an "Open Primary." According to Arizona Secretary of State Jan Brewer's guide for candidates and political committees:
    "Arizona's Open Primary Law allows voters registered as independent, no party preference or members of a party without ballot recognition to vote in the partisan Primary Election of their choice of one of the recognized political parties [Ariz. Const. Art. VII, § 10]. Voters who are registered with a recognized political party will receive their political party's early ballot." (page 10, section D)
  • This means if you are registered as a voter for one of the four recognized political parties – Democrat, Green, Libertarian or Republican – you will get the primary ballot for races featuring that party's candidates for office.  If you are registered as an Independent or another party, you may request any of the ballots. The only exception is that the Libertarian Party ballot is for that party only.  A 2007 federal court decision ruled that only registered members of the Libertarian Party may vote in that party's primary contest.
  • There are currently 133,547 registered voters in Pinal County.  There are 48,232 Democrats, 45,941 Republicans, 9,107 Independents, 657 Libertarians, 108 Greens and 29,355 who did not designate a political party.  A further breakdown of voting statistics can be found on the voter registration page on Pinal County's website.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

This week is National Health Center Week

By Travis Robinette, Chief Executive Officer, Sun Life Family Health Center

     With the campaign season in full swing, we regularly hear about bold new health reform proposals that target insurance coverage as a sure fix for what ails our health care system. But at Sun Life Family Health Center the growing line of patients outside our health center doors demonstrates one simple truth: insuring the uninsured alone will not grant access to a health care home.

     As we mark National Health Center Week (August 10-16th, 2008), there are 56 million people in this country – nearly one in five Americans – without a source of primary care to help them stay healthy and out of emergency rooms.  According to the National Association of Community Health Centers and the Robert Graham Center, many of these people have a health insurance card but no place to go for care – no health care home. It doesn't have to be that way.

At Sun Life Family Health Center, we are proud to be part of an aggressive new plan called ACCESS for All America that will bridge the widening gap between the demand for primary health care services and the available supply.  How?  By expanding and strengthening a community health system that, for more than 40 years, has proven its value by achieving cost savings through increased access to preventive health services.  The payoff is a strengthened primary care infrastructure that results in healthier communities around the nation. 

     Imagine the difference we can make by creating and staffing more health care homes through health centers.  Health centers save the health care system an estimated $9.9 billion to $17.6 billion a year by providing care to anyone regardless of their ability to pay or insurance status. The cost of treating a health center patient is 41 percent lower than other providers. That's why most Republicans and Democrats agree that the health center program has proven its worth as a sound taxpayer investment, with top rating as one of the most highly effective federal programs by the White House Office of Management and Budget. 

Putting the ACCESS plan into action requires continued investment and strong partnership from the federal government.  For example, to grow and develop to serve 30 million people, health centers will need $10.5 billion for renovation of new facilities and equipment.  In addition, health centers will need more primary care doctors and health professionals ready and willing to serve communities in need.  The payoff is a strengthened primary care infrastructure that will create healthier people in our community and around the nation. 

     Improving both health insurance coverage and access are important steps to fixing our ailing health care system.  Without adequate support for America's health centers, we miss the opportunity to pursue the real cost-saving strategy: Pre-empt the $18 billion wasted each year on avoidable and costly visits to the ER by treating patients when their health and illnesses are still manageable. This National Health Center Week 2008 (August 10-16, 2008), we must spread the message that there is already a system of care in place that saves lives and deserves continued investment and public support. Best of all, you don't need an insurance card to get in the door.        

     Sun Life Family Health Center is a not-for-profit organization providing health care to Casa Grande, Eloy, Coolidge, Maricopa, Mammoth, Oracle and San Manuel. The Casa Grande facility is the flagship of the organization, offering multi-specialty services including Family Practice, OB/GYN, Dental, Radiology, Pharmacy and Laboratory. The San Manuel facility also offers Laboratory, Radiology and Pharmacy services. Behavioral Health services are also available at the Casa Grande and San Manual facilities. Sun Life is one of two community health centers in the state receiving accreditation from the Joint Commission. For more information about Sun Life Family Health Center visit www.sunlifefamilyhealth.org. For more information about National Health Center Week visit www.healthcenterweek.org.