I want to give a big shout-out to all the great folks here in the City of Surprise. Let me start with my apologies to all of you who read my newsletter for being a little late this month. We are slowly getting back to normal, and things are getting busier. I hope you are all safe and healthy and, like me, happy to be coming out of this terrible pandemic.
Tuesday, April 6, you would find me in our council meeting, and it was nice seeing an audience instead of empty chairs. On April 13, the City of Surprise debuted the State of the City video. What a great job our staff did on that. The State of the City video will continue to be replayed on Cox Cable Channel 11 and online at surpriseaz.gov/surprisetv for a while.
As of April 19, passport services have returned to Surprise City Hall by appointment only. Regular business hours for passports are Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the City Clerk’s Office. City staff can accept applications for first-time passport books and passport cards and review paperwork for renewals. They do not offer passport photos, so be sure to have your photos with you at your appointment. CVS is one location that does offer passport photos should you need to get them before your appointment. To make an appointment or for questions, please visit surpriseaz.gov/passport or call the City Clerk’s Office at 623.222.1200.
I attended my Valley Metro meeting on April 22. They are still using Zoom for our meetings, but I guess that’s better than going to Phoenix, and Valley Metro still has the mask mandate.
As of April 26, the Maricopa County Library District libraries are open for full browsing. Customers can stop by the library during Pop-In Pick-Up hours to browse every shelf and all selections, rather than a limited collection. Asante Library, located at 16763 W. Vereda Solana Dr., has Pop-In Pick-Up hours Monday – Wednesday, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m., and Thursday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. The library is closed on Sunday. For more information, please visit surpriseaz.gov/library.
To my friends at the Dick McComb Dog Park, I called a meeting on April 27 with the appropriate people that take care of that park. We had some residents in attendance at this meeting to discuss the condition of the park, so look to see some improvements to the dog park.
On April 29, I went back to Dick McComb Park near the splash pad. The Surprise Rotary Club donated a tree to the park, which just so happened to be on Arbor Day. Thanks, Rotary Club, for the beautiful tree. It is right next to the splash pad.
Well, I will close for now, so be good to yourself and be good to each other.
Hi out there to the residents of District 1 and all the citizens of Surprise. As I sit here on a beautiful Easter Sunday morning, writing my umpteenth newsletter to all my friends, I can’t help but be hopeful. Hopeful because I think we are getting this COVID-19 under control, we are all getting a chance to obtain our vaccine, and we are slowly opening things up, but we still need to be on our guard for a while longer.
March was a little busier for me, but still had those virtual meetings. March started right off with a City Council Meeting on the 2nd, which had a pretty good-sized agenda. On March 4, I had a meeting with the new Vice President at Ottawa University, Todd Simpson. The University has done such a great job since coming to the City of Surprise, and it’s wonderful that we have such a good partnership with them.
Monday, March 8, I attended the class the City puts on about the workings of the City. City Academy is a free class for the residents of Surprise. The Mayor, myself and the rest of the council members happened to be on the other side of the questions on what we do, our backgrounds, and biographies. If you have not taken this class, you should sign up for the next one at surpriseaz.gov/cityacademy.
On Wednesday, March 10 at 1 p.m., I helped Suzanne Smith celebrate her store’s first anniversary. Pure Water Nutrition is located at 16630 W. Greenway Road, Suite 314. Pure Water Nutrition provides reverse osmosis and alkaline water. The store also sells some excellent ice cream. It’s located just around the corner from North West Ranch, so visit her and check out the photos below.
Thursday, March 11, I was at City Hall to discuss the new Fry’s going up on the corner of Pat Tillman and 163rd. It was a virtual meeting for all the stakeholders to receive their overall consensus. The general feeling was that they wanted the project. I’m very excited for my friends in the northwest part of my district. It has been a long time coming – about 11 years.
On Saturday afternoon, most of the Council were at Surprise Stadium to meet some of our Legislative District 22 State Representatives such as Frank Carroll and Senator Rick Gray, to name a few; all great people. It was a very windy day.
Of course, on Tuesday, March 16, we had our City Council Meeting with a reasonably short agenda. Then on Wednesday, March 17, I was in the Surprise TV studio to tape some footage for our State of the City video presentation which will be aired on Tuesday, April 13 on Cox Channel 11 at 6 p.m. and will be repeated from time to time and also shown online at surpriseaz.gov/SurpriseTV and posted on social media.
On Thursday, March 18, I attended my Valley Metro meeting virtually from my office at City Hall with some discussion about trying to get back to normal as we get out of this pandemic. I returned to City Hall at 5:30 p.m. that day to be present for another virtual meeting with Kelly Hall and the rest of the Board members of North West Ranch HOA. I was invited to their meeting to discuss what to do about making Sarival Ave. safer to drive on because the road curves and people speed on it. There are more than the usual number of accidents on that road. We will do something to mitigate that dangerous road, and we have been actively having meetings and talking about the problem.
On March 24, I was back at City Hall to have yet another virtual meeting from my office at 6 p.m. about the storage unit going in on the access easement parallel to Grand Ave. and near the intersection of 163rd Ave. I was impressed with the architecture of the building. It does not look like a storage place. The storage unit will be another addition for my friends in the northwest part of my district. It was great to have a few residents attend that meeting.
Friday afternoon on March 26, you would have found me at our stadium with the Mayor and Council for an award to our great volunteers, the Sundancers. It was a congressional award presented by Congresswoman Debbie Lesko for all the hard work our Sundancers do taking care of our guests who attend the spring training games. The city also inducted into our baseball hall of fame, Charlie Pride, Buck O’Neil and others. Thanks, Debbie!
The last day of March was a long day for me, starting with a 4-hour training class for FEMA at City Hall – virtual, of course. Then, off to a lunch meeting with the Mayor to catch up with each other. Then a 2 p.m. meeting back at City Hall to discuss how many parks we can build in future years, where to build them, how big, etc. We know we are behind in parks and recreation space, but we are taking steps to correct that in future years. My last meeting that day was about our budget and keeping from overspending our income. Thankfully, we did not get hit as hard as we thought financially by the pandemic due to our entire Finance Department’s skill and professionalism.
So you can see we are picking up in this great City we call Surprise, and we are getting a handle on this virus. I am starting up my monthly meetings on May 14, 2021, and I believe it is safe to do so. They will be on the second Friday of the month at the community center in Arizona Traditions beginning at 7 p.m. and usually go until 8:30 p.m. We will follow the social distancing encouraged by the CDC, and face masks will be optional. The address of the community center is 18250 W. Weatherby Drive. Your GPS will get you to my gate. On the phone box, push “0” four times. When the guard answers, tell them you are here to attend my meeting. The Community Center is on your left. Well, I will close for now, so be good to yourself and be good to each other.
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!