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Latest News in Fountain Hills, AZ

Wrestlers host home meet tonight

The Fountain Hills High School wrestling team will host eight other teams in a home meet today, Wednesday, Jan. 11, at 3 p.m. The Falcons just competed at the 26th annual Coolidge Lions Club Invitational this past weekend, and two Falcons won their individual weight classes.The Falcons only have one home meet per year, and eight seniors will be honored today. Several wrestlers have been with the program all four years, but others are newer to the team. Senior Franklin Fiola picked up the sport this year, and senior Cy Dethlefs wrestle...

The Fountain Hills High School wrestling team will host eight other teams in a home meet today, Wednesday, Jan. 11, at 3 p.m. The Falcons just competed at the 26th annual Coolidge Lions Club Invitational this past weekend, and two Falcons won their individual weight classes.

The Falcons only have one home meet per year, and eight seniors will be honored today. Several wrestlers have been with the program all four years, but others are newer to the team. Senior Franklin Fiola picked up the sport this year, and senior Cy Dethlefs wrestled for three years in Washington before coming to Fountain Hills.

“I don’t know how home meets are here yet, but they were hyped up at my old school,” Dethlefs said. “I hope it’s pretty fun here. Hopefully get some good [matches] in.”

Dethlefs helped the Falcons go 4-3 and beat Casa Grande, ALA Anthem South, San Manuel and Hayden High School this past weekend. The Falcons lost by criteria to Salpointe Catholic and they lost by one match to Coolidge.

Dethlefs managed to win his match against Coolidge in the 144 lbs. class, but standouts junior Ty Flynn and senior JP Cahill couldn’t say the same. The host school forfeited Cahill’s 120 lbs. match, and Flynn fell to a senior Coolidge wrestler in the 132 lbs. class on Friday, but both Cahill and Flynn would go on to win their individual weight classes on Saturday.

“We had success in the individual portion of the tournament on day two,” head coach Luke Salzman said. “JP won in overtime for the second straight tournament, beating Central High's Jonathon Fierro 7-5. Two matches later Flynn wrestled a phenomenal match beating Coolidge senior Wyatt Ostrander 4-2. Ostrander beat Flynn the day before. Fynn was very focused Saturday and took care of business.”

Two other Falcons placed in the top five of the individual tournaments. Junior Ty Langer went 8-1 over the weekend and took third place in the 175 lbs. class, and junior Lucas Philips placed fifth overall in the 165 lbs. class.

The Falcons have just under a month until sectionals on Friday, Feb. 10, and three more invitationals and one more dual meet after today’s home meet to prepare. Dethlefs placed third in districts but did not advance past regionals to make it to the state competition in Washington state last year. He has one less obstacle in his way since he only has to place in the top four at sectionals to advance to state in Arizona.

“I never went to state up there, but I’ve gotten a lot better since last year and a lot stronger,” Dethlefs said. “I think it’d be cool if I make a push for that this year. Just going to do what I can.”

According to Dethlefs, his old school and his old team were bigger than Fountain Hills, but he feels more support inside the smaller school. Dethlefs, Cahill and Fiola will be joined by Ty Jablonsky, Tyson Rynearson, Brandon Despain, Heath Edwards, and Wyatt Mowers for a senior night celebration during the Falcons’ one and only home wrestling meet.

The Falcons hit the road for the Demon Classic Invitational this weekend at Dysart High School. They will wrestle another two day tournament on Friday, Jan. 13, and Saturday, Jan. 14.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST to Open at Fountain Hills Theater in January

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast will play Jan 27 – Feb. 12, 2023. Fountain Hills Theater will present Disney's Beauty and the Beast. This fun and family-friendly musical, adapted from the original Disney film, brings to life the timeless story of a selfish and hot-tempered prince who is turned into a hideous monster and must win the affection of a beautiful, young girl in order to regain his humanity. This musical's classic score includes "Be Our Guest", "If I Can't Love Her" the title song "Beauty...

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast will play Jan 27 – Feb. 12, 2023.

Fountain Hills Theater will present Disney's Beauty and the Beast. This fun and family-friendly musical, adapted from the original Disney film, brings to life the timeless story of a selfish and hot-tempered prince who is turned into a hideous monster and must win the affection of a beautiful, young girl in order to regain his humanity. This musical's classic score includes "Be Our Guest", "If I Can't Love Her" the title song "Beauty and the Beast" and many more. The exuberant musical offers humor, romance, and excitement for all ages.

A traditional fairytale first published in France in the mid-18th century, Beauty and the Beast is an enduring story of love and friendship that has been translated into hundreds of versions worldwide. When Walt Disney Pictures released the animated feature film Disney's Beauty and the Beast in 1991 with a score by composer Alan Menken and the late lyricist Howard Ashman, it was hailed as an instant classic with critics praising its "songs worthy of a Broadway musical." The film went on to win Academy Awards for Best Song and Best Original Score and made history as the only animated feature ever nominated for Best Picture. Given the power of the film's story and music, the decision was made to bring Disney's Beauty and the Beast to the Broadway stage.

Disney Theatrical Productions assembled the creative team and worked hard to combine the strengths of the beloved film with the possibilities that only live theatre can offer. Linda Woolverton adapted her Disney's Beauty and the Beast screenplay to the stage, adding new scenes to fill out the story for the stage. The Oscar-winning score was expanded to include several new songs by Menken and veteran lyricist Tim Rice. Beauty and the Beast opened at the Palace Theatre on April 18, 1994, played on Broadway for over 13 years (5,461 performances, finishing its run at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre), ultimately becoming the eighth longest-running musical in Broadway history.

Disney's Beauty and the Beast is directed by Peter J. Hill, musically directed by Seikai Ishizuka and choreographed by Noel Irick. Disney's Beauty and the Beast is presented through Special Arrangement with Concord Theatricals.

Disney's Beauty and the Beast will play Jan 27 - Feb. 12, 2023. Performances are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30PM and Sundays at 2PM. Individual tickets are $35.00 for adults and $18.00 for youth 17 and under. Seniors receive a $5.00 discount on all Thursday performances. Group, Active Duty and Veteran discounts are available. All performances are at Fountain Hills Theater on its Mainstage at 11445 N. Saguaro Blvd. (The Corner of Saguaro and Rand). Tickets are available through the Theater Box Office at (480) 837-9661 x3 or by visiting fhtaz.org. Box Office Hours are 10:00AM-5:00 PM Tuesday through Saturday. For additional information not contained in this press release, please call Fountain Hills Theater Artistic Director, Peter J. Hill at (480) 837-9661 EXT. 7. *FHT follows current CDC Covid guidelines.

Garden reconfiguration begins

The International Dark Sky Discovery Center reached a significant milestone when it contracted the Fountain Hills-based Echelon Company to begin reconfiguration of the Community Garden.This is the first step in preparing the construction site for the Discovery Center. A kickoff event for the garden project was celebrated Thursday, Jan. 5, with board members of both the Discovery Center and the Garden, Mayor Ginny Dickey, members of the Town Council, Town staff, State Senator John Kavanagh, former Mayor Linda Kavanagh, the Chamber of C...

The International Dark Sky Discovery Center reached a significant milestone when it contracted the Fountain Hills-based Echelon Company to begin reconfiguration of the Community Garden.

This is the first step in preparing the construction site for the Discovery Center. A kickoff event for the garden project was celebrated Thursday, Jan. 5, with board members of both the Discovery Center and the Garden, Mayor Ginny Dickey, members of the Town Council, Town staff, State Senator John Kavanagh, former Mayor Linda Kavanagh, the Chamber of Commerce and other community leaders.

“This is an example of extraordinary partnerships,” Dickey said. “These are hardworking dedicated people, and this brings us closer to our objective.”

Kavanagh said he is pleased to be able to work through the legislature to get the state funding budgeted for the project.

“(The Discovery Center) serves as a research facility for higher education, a tourist attraction and educational opportunity for kids. When we lived in the city the kids loved a field trip to the planetarium.”

The approximately five-month Community Garden Reconfiguration project will enhance the existing site by taking advantage of space recently made available at the south end of the garden area. The project will include 124 garden rental beds, several new sheds, a restroom and improved access for delivery vehicles. After the Garden is completed, the site of the future Discovery Center will become more visible for everyone to see.

The Fountain Hills Community Garden will celebrate its sixth year in existence. It is a gathering place where residents can learn to garden, grow healthy produce, connect with nature, stay physically active and build social interactions. The Garden is in the heart of Fountain Hills, adjacent to the Town Library, Community Center and Town Hall.

“We have been pleased to be able to work collaboratively with the Discovery Center to develop a win-win outcome,” said Rita Applegate, Community Garden manager. “I want to thank everyone involved in the very successful Garden reconfiguration plan. It has been a wonderful experience working together and achieving our goals to have a Garden that will continue to thrive in this amazing community.”

The 22,000-square-foot Discovery Center is being billed as a world-class destination for STEM education, featuring a planetarium, a 150-seat theater/auditorium and an observatory. It will also feature an Immersion Zone where patrons will learn about dark sky protection and the effects of excessive artificial light at night on humans, animals and plants. Additionally, the Einstein Exploration Station will offer students hands-on opportunities to experiment with the properties of light and serve as a classroom for other educational and research activities.

“We are very excited to have reached this milestone and look forward to continued collaboration with the Garden,” said Joe Bill, Discovery Center president. “With detailed design of the Discovery Center nearly complete and reconfiguration of the Garden underway, we will continue working to reach the funding level needed to begin construction of an amazing facility that will benefit Fountain Hills and the entire state of Arizona.”

2022 was a big year for Community Center

As 2022 comes to a close, the Fountain Hills Community Center reflects on a year teeming with club activity and operating at full capacity as new and existing programs, clubs and private events vie for space in its cavernous rooms and amenities meant for a host of activities.The Center’s Program Coordinator, Cheryl Ponzo, often finds herself shuffling programs around the calendar to accommodate for physical space, a commodity in high demand especially during the holidays, as end-of-year parties and private events fill the Center...

As 2022 comes to a close, the Fountain Hills Community Center reflects on a year teeming with club activity and operating at full capacity as new and existing programs, clubs and private events vie for space in its cavernous rooms and amenities meant for a host of activities.

The Center’s Program Coordinator, Cheryl Ponzo, often finds herself shuffling programs around the calendar to accommodate for physical space, a commodity in high demand especially during the holidays, as end-of-year parties and private events fill the Center’s map.

After its closure in 2020, the Community Center extended its memberships through 2021 with social distancing in place and limited programming. Entering 2023, a high volume of Community Center members is renewing according to Ponzo, who says her patrons have been starved for interaction and anxious to return to in-person gatherings.

“They missed each other,” Ponzo said. “Interacting with their neighbors and their friends and like-minded people playing dominoes or scrabble or [attending] something on arthritis and diabetes, they’re ready to be back out there.”

Ponzo said friends of the Community Center have begun to reintegrate themselves in ways that are both familiar and new, highlighting a few clubs that have taken the spotlight when it comes to growing membership, the first being Mahjongg.

“There’s a real big interest in mahjong in Fountain Hills,” Diane Barbuto said, who runs the Beginner Mahjong classes at the Community Center.

With an explosion of interest in the traditional Chinese game, the Center plans to add two more mahjong meetups to its existing three classes: Evening Mahjong and Hong Kong Old Style Mahjong.

“I’m constantly having people call me about joining mahjong and I could probably do more if I chose to,” Barbuto said, who decided to cap her class size because there were too many people to look after.

Barbuto also runs Hooks & Needles, a social club that meets weekly to knit and crochet for personal use and also for charity. This year, the group has contributed 2,500 items to organizations including the Crisis Center in Fountain Hills, Native Health in Phoenix and Mesa and a number of veteran groups in Fountain Hills and throughout the Valley.

“Both of the clubs have grown significantly since the downturn of COVID,” Barbuto said. “We’re doing very well.”

On a recent, cold December night, Ponzo was shocked to see the number of people showing up to enjoy an evening film at the Community Center.

“We had 18 people come out for a movie night and we thought it was going to be a flop because it’s dark outside,” Ponzo said. “It may not seem like much to you, but to them, it’s everything.”

Other table-based groups like the Bridge Club, Spanish Club and Bingo have all begun to grow out of their assigned rooms, while movement-based programs like line dancing have also shuffled their way into larger spaces.

Pam Vaccaro is the Center’s line dance instructor who, in preparation for her daughter’s wedding, learned how to dance by attending lessons at the Community Center in 2009. She began teaching in 2013 and has witnessed her classes grow from a handful of dancers to a total of 85 sign-ups entering the new year.

With her line dancers sidelined in 2020, Vaccaro took some time to reformulate and extend her class structure from a few months to a year-long syllabus. As dancers returned, Vaccaro saw major improvements and interest from her dancers, crediting her time away from teaching as the catalyst to start something new.

“It gave me time to help people actually learn how to dance and we’re thrilled with what we’re seeing,” she said.

Health and wellness initiatives have grown in number at the Community Center including practical stress management workshops, new Geri-Fit classes and continued wellness-based sessions on functioning without joint pain.

The Metabolic Support Group – a new club that helps people understand their metabolic strengths and weaknesses – has met only twice, but Ponzo is already planning to move them into a larger space due to increased group interest.

“People are hungry for health and they’re hungry to be with other people,” Ponzo said, who recently purchased a fourth ping pong table because of a growing interest from Center members hoping to rally with friends and neighbors.

With a mission to enrich and provide an active quality of life for residents and visitors, it’s no wonder the Community Services staff was Gold Award finalists for the second year in a row, and a winner for the first time, from the National Recreation and Parks Association and the American Academy for Parks and Recreation Administration.

Leading two of the largest social clubs at the Community Center, Barbuto said there are not enough good things to say about the Community Center staff and their ability to manage waves of folks hoping to reengage with their fellow community members.

“They go out of their way to do above and beyond,” she said. “They’re marvelous.”

For Ponzo, the best thing to come out of COVID is “it taught us how much we need one another. People need human contact. Hallmark movies doesn’t cut it all day.”

For more information about clubs, programs and other activities at the Community Center, check out regular postings in The Times, pick up an “In The Loop Community Activity Guide” or visit fountainhillsaz.gov/151/In-the-Loop.

Prosper Names Three Finalists in Selection Process for Town Manager

PROSPER (January 5, 2023) The Town of Prosper has narrowed down the extensive nationwide search for the next Town Manager. The Town engaged the services of Government Professional Solutions, a municipal recruiting consultant, to coordinate the search and the candidate selection process. The pool of 77 candidates has been narrowed to three finalists following a rigorous interview process. Each applicant was evaluated based on their experience, education, accomplishments, presentation skills and knowledge in local government management. Each o...

PROSPER (January 5, 2023) The Town of Prosper has narrowed down the extensive nationwide search for the next Town Manager. The Town engaged the services of Government Professional Solutions, a municipal recruiting consultant, to coordinate the search and the candidate selection process. The pool of 77 candidates has been narrowed to three finalists following a rigorous interview process. Each applicant was evaluated based on their experience, education, accomplishments, presentation skills and knowledge in local government management. Each of the three finalists will have the opportunity to meet with senior staff and community leaders in addition to taking a tour of the town prior to their final interview with the Prosper Town Council. A decision is expected to be made by mid-January to determine who will be Prosper’s next Town Manager.

Prosper Town Manager Finalists:

Mario Canizares has served as City Manager for the City of Nacogdoches since 2020. Prior to this role, he served as both Deputy and Assistant City Manager for the City of Denton, and Deputy City Manager for the City of Coppell. Mr. Canizares earned a Master of Public Administration Degree from the University of North Texas and has a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Stephen F. Austin State University.

Richard Davis has served as City Manager of the City of Baytown since 2015. Prior to this role, he served as City Manager of the City of West Jordan, Utah; Town Manager of Fountain Hills, Arizona; and City Manager of West Point City, Utah. Mr. Davis earned a Master of Public Administration degree and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Government/ Corporate Relations from Brigham Young University.

Steven Rapson has served as County Manager of Fayette County, Georgia since 2013. Prior to this role, he served as City Manager of the City of Union City, Georgia. Mr. Rapson has a Bachelor of Business Administration and Accounting degree from Georgia State University.

“The Town Council has been very intentional in the selection process to identify the best candidate who aligns with Prosper’s culture, priorities, values and vision to serve as the next Town Manager,” said Mayor David Bristol. “We owe it to our residents and our staff to select and hire the right person and we are confident that one of these three finalists will be the one to lead our growing community now and into the future.”

A year of changes for Fountain Hills schools: Part two

Last week, The Times recapped some of the biggest events of the school year in Fountain Hills. This week, The Times will focus on major events from over the summer and into the fall semester.Private schoolThis summer, former Fountain Hills Charter School teacher Lisa Ristuccia founded The Inspiration Academy (TIA) for children who were displaced when FHCS closed. TIA is open for K-12 students, and Ristuccia leads them in what she calls “an engaging education option.”TIA utilizes “Commun...

Last week, The Times recapped some of the biggest events of the school year in Fountain Hills. This week, The Times will focus on major events from over the summer and into the fall semester.

Private school

This summer, former Fountain Hills Charter School teacher Lisa Ristuccia founded The Inspiration Academy (TIA) for children who were displaced when FHCS closed. TIA is open for K-12 students, and Ristuccia leads them in what she calls “an engaging education option.”

TIA utilizes “Community Modules,” something Ristuccia and her husband came up with while planning for the school. In these modules, Ristuccia gets professionals in certain fields around Fountain Hills to share their knowledge and lead the students in projects around town.

Among the many community modules, students did an entrepreneurship module with the help of the Fountain Hills Chamber of Commerce, and they teamed up with staff at The River of Time Museum and Exploration Center to do living history projects.

Ristuccia said she wanted to recreate the hands-on and interactive approach she and her students enjoyed at FHCS. She and her staff teach in multi-age classrooms.

Students rotate between three locations in town to utilize their facilities for different activities. They attend class at the Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and students attend the Community Center and Library and the River of Time Museum on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Ristuccia also founded a new 4-H Club in Fountain Hills this year and has several connections with STEM and wildlife groups around the state. She took the 4-H Club to Flagstaff for an educational field trip earlier this year, and they do several science-based lessons at regularly scheduled meetings throughout the year.

School board

The Fountain Hills Unified School Board had three seats up for election this past November, and three new board members were elected. Board members elect Lillian Acker, Madicyn Reid and Libby Settle will join sitting Board members Jill Reed and Dana Saar after swearing in at the first Board meeting of the new year on Wednesday, Jan. 11.

Each candidate carries out a four-year term in an unpaid position to serve the Fountain Hills community. Nadya Jenkins and Dr. Wendy Barnard decided not to run for reelection, but the late Judith Rutkowski did and passed away before election day.

There was over an 81% turnout of Fountain Hills voters and 14,980 ballots cast in the November General Election for school Board members. Settle led convincingly with 28% of the vote (6,293 ballots cast), while Reid, Acker and Tara Lamar were within a few percentage points of each other.

Reid received 21% of the vote (4,719), Acker got 20% (4,425), and Lamar was just short. She received 19% (4,200), and fellow challenger Jenny Amstutz-Guerrette got 13% of the vote (2,898).

Jenkins served as Board president in 2022 and Rutkowski served as vice president of the Board. After Rutkowski’s passing, Reed was named interim vice president, and one of the first orders of business for the new year will be office elections for 2023.

Reid and Settle are both mothers of school-aged children in town, and Settle has two years of teaching elementary school experience. Acker is a retired educator with over 25 years’ experience teaching, and she also earned administrative certificates while teaching in Ohio and Illinois.

Bond and override

The Fountain Hills Unified School District Governing Board put two items up for election this past November, and both failed to pass. The final numbers showed 57% of voters were against approval of a $20 million bond, and 55% were against the approval of a district additional assistance (DAA) Override that would have brought in no more than $750,000.

DDA Overrides raise funds up to 10% of the district’s budget, and those funds can be spent on school buses, technology, athletics and facility repairs and renovations. FHUSD was the only school district in the state to reject a DAA override this year. Six other districts around the state passed a DAA override, and FHUSD was one of six districts to reject a bond proposal. There was still a 60% pass rate of school district bonds across the state this year, according to azednews.com.

FHUSD has passed one measure out of four proposals in the last two years. Both failed this year, and last year there was a split ticket between a DAA override and a Maintenance and Operations (M&O) Override. In 2021, the M&O Override passed with 51% of the vote, but only 48% of voters were in support of the DAA Override then.

Turnout nearly doubled between the 2021 and 2022 elections. In 2021, 8,087 local voters participated for a turnout rate of 41.53%. This year, 14,980 local residents voted, for a turnout of 81.31%.

Rutkowski passes

Judith Rutkowski was completing her second term on the FHUSD Governing Board and was running for a third term before she passed away suddenly on Thursday, Sept. 29. She and her husband, Dr. Richard Rutkowski, married in 1987 and moved to Fountain Hills in 2001.

Her two children, Maggie and Adam, attended FHUSD schools and Rutkowski volunteered her time in the health office and in several classrooms at Fountain Hills. Rutkowski was a registered nurse, and she spent much of her life involved in pediatrics.

Rutkowski regularly did “Tar Wars” with her husband. Tar Wars is a tobacco and drug use prevention program, and Rutkowski also volunteered annually to run the Bingo table at the Falcon Fiesta graduation celebration.

Rutkowski was a dedicated Board member who often volunteered for Arizona School Board Association conferences and always came prepared to meetings. She was involved in other activities as well, such as singing in the choir and teaching religious education to children at St. Bernard’s Catholic Church in Scottsdale.

“I appreciated Judy's open heart. She had such warmth and a genuine compassion for all,” FHUSD Board President Nadya Jenkins said. “Judy displayed her care and love through high expectations for our district, its students and staff. She equally had high expectations for the Board and its responsibilities to all its stakeholders as well as the Board members to each other. She took pride in the work the Board did to provide academic programs, increase staff pay, and offer safe learning environments.”

The remaining Board members missed Rutkowski’s joyful presence in each meeting after her passing. They found ways to honor her memory, and the Board provided Dr. Rutkowski with a plaque and commemorative coin at what would have been Rutkowski's final Board meeting of her second term.

Field woes

The field at Fountain Hills High School will reach the end of its safe usability following the end of the current soccer season. The current field was estimated to have a 10-year life span when it was installed in 2014, but it has deteriorated faster than expected.

This past summer, two things happened to the field. There was a formal inspection that said the field would not be safe to play on without maintenance, and former head football coach Jimmy Curtis and other members of the community did some patch work maintenance to make the field playable for this year.

After the inspection into the field, Dr. Cain Jagodzinski was hired as Superintendent, and Sean Moran was hired as the new head football coach. Both had lots of new responsibilities off the field, and the condition of the field seemed to fly under the radar until the beginning of the soccer season.

Back in 2014, the FHUSD Governing Board approved a $1.4 million landscaping initiative that included projects on all district sites, including the artificial turf field at Fountain Hills High School. The cost of a replacement will not be as steep as $1.2 million.

In 2014, Fountain Hills High School’s natural grass field was flattened and dug out to make room for the artificial turf. The subbase under the turf is likely still in good shape, because subbases are typically made of stone, and only the artificial turf will need to be replaced.

The Fountain Hills Athletic Booster Club will be championing fundraising campaigns for a new field. There are only two options if the field is not replaced or repaired to the point where it can be used. High school field sports, like football, marching band, soccer and track and field, will have to be played on the middle school’s grass field, or all competitions will have to be away in upcoming seasons.

RVCA, Club call on residents to speak up on Foothills water issue

Rio Verde Community Association and Rio Verde Country Club are urging residents and community stakeholders to sign a petition and write the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) stating opposition to construction of a water standpipe within the Verde Communities.RVCA President Kevin Waring and Country Club President Jay Brown both signed off on a letter dated Dec. 19 and circulated to residents in Rio Verde.The petition that is circulating and will be sent to the ACC states:“We, the undersigned residents and stakeho...

Rio Verde Community Association and Rio Verde Country Club are urging residents and community stakeholders to sign a petition and write the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) stating opposition to construction of a water standpipe within the Verde Communities.

RVCA President Kevin Waring and Country Club President Jay Brown both signed off on a letter dated Dec. 19 and circulated to residents in Rio Verde.

The petition that is circulating and will be sent to the ACC states:

“We, the undersigned residents and stakeholders of Rio Verde, oppose the construction of a standpipe or any other facility within the existing EPCOR Water Arizona’s Rio Verde water district to supply water to Rio Verde Foothills residents, a separate and distinct community from Rio Verde. Specifically:

“We oppose any action that could diminish or jeopardize the present or future physical or legal water supply to the Rio Verde community. Rio Verde Utilities and EPCOR each have promised long term water security and no diminution of water supply for our Rio Verde community.

“We oppose any new standpipe that will increase commercial traffic within Rio Verde. Large tanker trucks hauling water daily on local streets from sunrise to sunset (and possibly later) would be noisy and dangerous and would negatively affect the quality of life for local residents.

“We oppose any imposition, through rates on Rio Verde residents, of any share of the capital or operating costs EPCOR incurs to solve the problem of delivering water to the Rio Verde Foothills.”

Rio Verde Foothills is the unincorporated area that lies west of the Verde golf communities between 172nd Street and 136th Street (roughly the City of Scottsdale boundary). Many residents in this area receive water via tanker haulers who get water from a standpipe supplied by the City of Scottsdale. About a year ago the city announced that as part of its drought emergency contingency plan it would no longer supply water to the standpipe used by the water haulers. That supply is due to be terminated as of this Saturday, Dec. 31.

Citizens in the area attempted to form a water district but that effort was rejected by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.

EPCOR Water USA, a private company that serves the Verde golf communities and other areas of Arizona including Fountain Hills, stepped up to take the lead in finding a solution to the Foothills water situation. The company has proposed long-term as well as short-term options to keep the water running to the area. One option to provide additional water to the City of Scottsdale via existing rights to keep the standpipe operating for water haulers. At this point the Scottsdale City council appears split on this option with the mayor definitively opposed.

Other options proposed by EPCOR impact the Verde Communities as noted by the officials’ communication. One of those options “would not require permission from a third party, but instead involve connecting a newly constructed standpipe to Rio Verde Utilities’ distribution system. Using an existing distribution system might avoid the need to construct a separate storage tank, but building a standpipe in the Rio Verde Utilities area would necessitate equipping an existing well with new arsenic removal facilities and replacing aged water main sections that are currently incapable of handling the additional flows. As with prior options, EPCOR would bring new water to the Rio System and replenish gallon for gallon any water pumped from this well. EPCOR has not identified a site for where this standpipe and well might be located.

The letter from Waring and Brown also urges residents to write to the ACC expressing concerns about the water situation. Emails can be sent to efiling.azcc.gov/online-services/utilities-public-comment-external. The messages should refer to docket #W-01303A-22-0264, referring to the case for EPCOR Water Arizona, Inc.

The public hearing for the case is scheduled to begin with public comment on Monday, Jan. 23, at 10 a.m. in person or by phone.

NPOA celebrates 30 years of serving community

During a block party in the spring of 1992, the Neighborhood Property Owners’ Association (NPOA) became an Arizona Nonprofit Corporation dedicated to preserving the beauty of local neighborhoods.Since its founding by its former President, Jerry Miles, the focus of the NPOA has maintained that initial goal.“It’s neighbors helping neighbors keep their property values without any annual fees or monthly dues,” Executive Director Kim Robertson says. “If we could all have car insurance without a monthly ...

During a block party in the spring of 1992, the Neighborhood Property Owners’ Association (NPOA) became an Arizona Nonprofit Corporation dedicated to preserving the beauty of local neighborhoods.

Since its founding by its former President, Jerry Miles, the focus of the NPOA has maintained that initial goal.

“It’s neighbors helping neighbors keep their property values without any annual fees or monthly dues,” Executive Director Kim Robertson says. “If we could all have car insurance without a monthly fee, we’d do it. So [the NPOA] is aesthetic protection with no fees.”

Because the NPOA is not a homeowner association (HOA) or a planned community, it collects no regular dues or assessments from its member property owners. As an Arizona Nonprofit Corporation, however, the NPOA has the authority to enforce deed restrictions.

“It’s just a little bit of an insurance policy that you buy when you purchase your house that something crazy isn’t going to happen next door,” current NPOA President Jeff Esposito said.

The only payment that the NPOA receives is a transfer fee made whenever a property changes ownership. According to Esposito, those changings of hand hit an all-time high during the frothy housing market in 2021.

In 2019, there were 213 transfer fees within the NPOA jurisdiction. In 2020, there were 277. In 2021, transfer fees skyrocketed to 411 as homebuyers rushed into town, paying cash for new homes, short-term rentals and investment properties.

“It really changed the dynamics of the town because a lot of [the new homebuyers] were investment companies,” Esposito said.

It’s important to note that 411 home transfers represent only a fraction of the homes sold in 2021 since NPOA jurisdiction encompasses roughly a third of the homes in Fountain Hills, equating to approximately 4,500 homes.

“When you’ve got that many people under one umbrella of an aesthetic oversight, that is significant,” Esposito said. “We’re really an unusual entity, I don’t think there’s anything like it in the metro area.”

Esposito is in his fourth year as a member of the NPOA, three of which he has served as president. His presidential term ends this upcoming March. Robertson has been working for the Association since 2008 and is the only salaried NPOA employee. Judi Choate and Joan Thompson round out the staff at NPOA, whose board of directors is made up of volunteers, elected by delegates representing each plat in the association.

For residents whose properties fall within the NPOA jurisdiction, their properties are subject to the architectural and aesthetic guidelines listed in the NPOA development guide and enforced by the Neighborhood Committee of Architecture (NCOA), who meet weekly and maintain architectural control of member plats.

Members of the NPOA board and the NCOA are all volunteers and homeowners within the NPOA jurisdiction which encourages neighborly conduct, a fundamental value of the NPOA.

With a goal of preserving the beauty of Fountain Hills and upholding the guidelines originally put in place by McCulloch Properties, the master developer of the town, the committee faces a perennial struggle between upholding time-tested, steadfast guidelines and an ever-changing palette of style and colorway. In the end, this is the reason why the NPOA exists; to create harmony amongst property owners while maintaining property value.

“When you don’t have rules, things can slowly decline,” Robertson said. “If you drive through a development and it looks awful, it didn’t start that way, there were just no rules or anybody to enforce them.”

Looking to the future, Esposito said increasing the awareness of the NPOA throughout the community is a continued priority for the years ahead.

“If people don’t know that they’re part of the organization, they’re not going to come in and get their permits,” Esposito said, who last year commissioned a communications committee to spread the word about the NPOA which included strategic advertising and sponsoring in-person presentations throughout Fountain Hills.

“We’re continuing that communications committee again next year,” Esposito said.

The NPOA has also been working closely with the Town of Fountain Hills, asking the Town for help and opinion and, in the same way, the Town looks to the NPOA for guidance in return.

“It’s mutual support, as we both have the same desire to maintain our great and beautiful town,” Esposito said.

Every year, a new flow of soon-to-be residents bring their Midwest, East Coast and West Coast vibes into town, and for 30 years, the NPOA has met their requests with aesthetic guidelines and architectural expertise.

“We’re here to figure it out so that everybody lives in harmony,” Esposito said. “Everybody has their rights. We’re just here to protect people’s property values.”

For more information or to see if a plat is within the NPOA jurisdiction, visit their website npoafh.org.

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