Wow! It is hard to believe that March is already here, and the 15th Annual Spring Training season is underway. I attended the Opening Day game between the Kansas City Royals and the Texas Rangers at the beautiful Surprise Stadium along with Councilmembers Skip Hall and Jim Hayden. The spectacular Surprise Sundancers, the official Spring Training volunteer organization, are geared up for another successful season. I’m grateful that we have this organization to help our spring training visitors at the complex.
I attended the graduation ceremony of our newest firefighters, after they successfully passed their rigorous training program at the Firefighter Academy. The ceremony took place at Orangewood Church in Phoenix on Friday, February 3. It’s always inspiring to watch these men and women become full-fledged firefighters who are willing to make sacrifices for our safety. The ceremony included the pinning of the badge for each graduate by someone they personally selected. We even had our own Fire Captain Julie Moore and her husband, Brian Moore, a Fire Captain with Phoenix Fire, pin a badge on their son Michael who will be a Surprise firefighter. Congratulations to the Moore family and to all the graduates.
The annual Tale of Two Cities Parade took place on February 4 at Estrella Mountain Community College. I was honored to be part of it. This community multi-cultural event celebrates the cities of Avondale and Goodyear. The day was beautiful and the turn-out by the residents was fantastic. That same evening, my wife and I attended a fundraiser at the Wig Wam Resort for Benevilla. Benevilla is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization that provides several services for Surprise and surrounding neighboring residents in need.
I hosted my monthly meeting on Friday, February 10 at the Retreat Community Center in Arizona Traditions. Much of the conversation concerned the new development (Bell Point II) that will be located immediately outside of the Arizona Traditions community. Bell Pointe II is comprised of two parcels, North and South. The current proposal is for 141 single family detached residential lots.
Bell Pointe II North is planned for 38 single family detached residential lots with a minimum size of 45’ x 110’. A tot lot is planned to be installed within a turf area around the amenity. The remaining tract areas will be planted with low water use landscaping appropriate for the Sonoran Desert. Bell Pointe II North will also provide an emergency access easement connecting to Arizona Traditions to the east for public safety.
Bell Pointe II South is planned as 103 single family detached residential lots with a minimum size of 45’ x 110’. A tot lot and ramada are planned to be installed within a turf area around the amenity area. The remaining tract areas will be planted with low water use landscaping appropriate for the Sonoran Desert.
I was an early riser the following morning, February 11, so I could attend the ribbon cutting of the 99 Cent Store on Bell Road and Greasewood. This store has been there but they just completed a major remodel and celebrated with the ribbon cutting event. The first nine shoppers received a 36 inch tv for 99 cents.
Ottawa University made an exciting announcement on February 17. Surprise will be the home of a four-year residential university. What an excellent opportunity for our high school students to continue their education right here in Surprise! Ottawa University will be opening this fall, expanding upon the university’s 40-year presence in Arizona. At the dedication event, Ottawa University President Kevin Eichner announced the university aims to enroll 250 students for its first year of classes at the new campus, with a target of up to 3,000 residential students over 10 years, adding to its current 8,300 alumni in the Valley.
The future 35-acre OUAZ campus will be embedded within the Surprise City Center, integrating with the existing 250-acre City of Surprise Civic Center and Recreation campus. The school will also launch out of existing space within the Civic Center (the former Communiversity), allowing students to avail themselves of the surrounding city amenities, including the Surprise Aquatic Center, Dream Catcher Park, the Surprise Tennis & Racquet Complex, and Surprise Stadium, as well as robust shopping and dining amenities.
Expansion plans for the Surprise campus include development of residential housing, an indoor activity center, dining and conference space, and new athletic fields, including a stadium with artificial turf for football and soccer.
I don’t usually mention our City Council meetings in my newsletter despite the fact that is where we do the bulk of our work, but I requested an agenda item for discussion and possible action for the February 21 meeting due to the amount of frustration I heard from my constituents. The item I requested was the removal of the green fence located near Surprise Community Park in Surprise Farms. I was delighted with the resident turn-out at this meeting as well as the help of Mark Beaudry and the remainder of the Surprise Farms III Board. This issue has been very important to many District 1 residents. I will say, as I said at the meeting, I am grateful to each of my colleagues for their vote to dispose of this eyesore. The experience just enforces when we all stay engaged on what is important in Surprise, we can make things better.
Another item I was pleased unanimously passed was the shade structures for our parks around the city. It is very difficult for our youngest residents to play in the park on hot sunny days without shade.
The Mayor hosted her State of the City Address on February 22. The event was well attended. The event provided an opportunity for the public to discover what we have accomplished as a city this past year. Everyone is ecstatic about Ottawa University’s announcement as the plans to bring a university to Surprise has been a goal for almost a decade. Mayor Wolcott also encouraged residents to become more engaged with the city and reminded all that their City Council is here to help and assist as we grow Surprise.
While it is difficult to mention all that was accomplished in Surprise last year, there is one thing I would like to highlight. In September 2016, classes began at the Surprise-Gateway Training Center (SGTC). The classes, and the facility in which they are housed, are the result of a partnership that was forged between the City of Surprise and GateWay Community College in 2015. The Center is located on the City’s SPA1 Water Campus which includes the City’s largest Water Reclamation Facility (WRF) and largest Water Supply Facility (WSF). GateWay Community College is one of the 10 Maricopa County Community Colleges, but is the only school with a Water Technology program. This program teaches students the many facets of water and wastewater treatment and operations.
Design of the SGTC began in mid-2015 and construction was completed in August 2016. The multi-purpose facility is approximately 13,000 square feet and provides space for students to learn and work alongside industry professionals. The SGTC is home to the Water Resource Management (WRM) Department’s mission critical laboratories, several training rooms, traditional classrooms, and education laboratories. For many years, WRM has had an internship program that hired GateWay students each semester. With the addition of the SGTC, the Water Campus has transformed into a teaching facility where the water industry’s next generation of professionals have an opportunity to learn in a real world environment. Classes began with the focus on certificate programs to prepare students for the state license exams. It is GateWay’s intent to also teach degree program classes from the SGTC in the near future. Director Terry Lowe and his team did an amazing job forming a partnership with Gateway Community College to make this possible.
The Surprise Regional Chamber of Commerce hosted their Annual Legacy Awards Banquet at the Colonnade on Friday, February 24. As a member of the Northwest Valley Connect Advisory Board, I was thrilled that they received the award for Small Non-Profit of the Year. Congratulations to Kathy Chandler and her team!
For Dial-A-Ride users, starting July 1, 2017, there will be a new provider and it will operate on a shared ride system. I will be receiving more information in the near future, and I will be sure to pass it along.
The Assistant to the Council, Jodi Tas, informed me that there are more than 200 subscribers to my newsletter, so thank you for your interest. Until next time, please be good to yourself and be good to each other!
Roland F. Winters Jr.