|Volume 8, Number 5||May, 2010|
Welcome to the Picture Rocks Digest,
a free newsletter about issues and events in the community. The print
version of this all-volunteer publication is distributed at area
businesses and community sites. If you have calendar events or news
items, or if you would like to be added to our email
list, please contact us at PictureRocksDigest@comcast.net.
The Picture Rocks Digest is a publication of Citizens for Picture Rocks, Inc., a nonprofit 501(c)(4) civic organization dedicated to improving the quality of life in the community. Citizens for Picture Rocks usually meets the third Tuesday of each month, however there will be no meeting in May. Meetings are free and open to the public. Membership is not required, but strongly encouraged. Dues are $20/year for an individual or $25/year for a family.
Food, games, prizes (including four reconditioned computers), a cake walk,
a pie-eating contest, community information, and some surprises. Free.
Volunteers needed. Call Jamie Kisthardt at 682-0287.
Sponsored by Citizens for Picture Rocks, Picture Rocks Community Center,
Picture Rocks Community Center, Inc., and Ortiz Community Clinic
Because PRCC is a polling place for the Special Election on May 18, there will be no regular monthly meeting of Citizens for Picture Rocks in May.
With housing foreclosures continuing to set records and locals
hard-hit, there is help available. A
Foreclosure Workshop April 10, sponsored by several community groups,
Pima County and federal
agencies, let concerned residents still caught in the lingering
recession know that there is hope they can
save their homes. Martha Martin from
Community Development and Neighborhood Conservation Department
walked participants through several options.
The Making Home Affordable programs can help modify home loans to reduce interest rates and extend the length of a mortgage to reduce monthly payments. This applies to homes financed or guaranteed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and many private banks that have agreed to participate. The federal government has put in $75 million to help with refinancing or reducing adjustable rate mortgages that reset beyond the owner's means. There are time limits, however, and the interest rate reduction program expires on June 10, 2010. Go to MakingHomeAffordable.gov for applications and information. Ms. Martin recommended that a cover letter be submitted with an application detailing family circumstances.
In addition to the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP), there is also the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), which expires at the end of 2012 unless extended by Congress. This could cut interest rates to as low as two percent in order to make house payments equal to less than 31 percent of a family's pre-tax monthly income. Be aware that there is a lot of paperwork involved, including the applicant's financial and tax records. This program runs through 2012, unless extended by Congress. The State of Arizona has received $125 million in federal funds to help homeowners in trouble pay down their principal, with matching reductions from the lender. The State, however, has not yet submitted a plan for implementing the program.
Because of all the paperwork and detail involved, it was recommended
that applicants use the free services
of a HUD-approved Counselor to help them. Alison Torba, from Catholic
Decimo Center, told participants that counseling is
always free and that counselors can help contact banks in support of
loan modifications, they are persistent
advocates for the home owner, and can discuss other options, including
bankruptcy, one-on-one. The
Bankruptcy Court in Tucson also has a self-service center with volunteer
lawyers after applicants take an
online course. For information, call 1-866-553-0893.
Housing Counselor Lydia Gonzales joined Martin and Torba in warning against frauds and scams taking advantage of people about to lose their homes. They urged people to be wary of anyone who asks for payment to help, offers to make your mortgage payment, or "guarantees" they can fix the foreclosure. Never sign anything that has blank spaces "to be filled in later." California has passed a law regulating scammers, so they are moving into Arizona at a rapid rate. U.S. Housing and Urban Development has a list of HUD Counselors, or contact Pima County's Don't Borrow Trouble at 792-3087.
The bad news is that unemployment remains high and many people cannot make their house payments. The good news is that there is help available. Use it or lose it.
A gala grand opening of the new Picture Rocks Fire Station No. 121 was held on May 8. The June issue of the Picture Rocks Digest will feature full coverage of the event.
Picture Rocks Fire District Board Chair Mike Lytle reports that a Community Development Block Grant of $38,000 was won to install an electronic sign that will carry community messages, including announcements of meetings and events. The e-sign, with TV-quality screens on both sides, will be located on Sandario Road south of Picture Rocks Road. Lytle said he hoped the sign would be in place within the next three months.
The new and very popular Picture Rocks BMX/Skate Park was closed briefly last month for removal of racially hateful graffiti. Security cameras will be installed throughout the park and community center this summer to deter crime and help authorities identify offenders. The same Neighborhood Reinvestment Program grant that awarded funding for the BMX/skate park included $30,000 for a security camera system. Jonathan Bedoe of Stanley Security Solutions presented a proposal for the system at the May Coordinating Committee meeting.
Local BMX riders and skaters are working together to discourage graffiti and other vandalism at their park that opened in February
Construction of sidewalks and multi-use paths around Picture Rocks Intermediate School, Desert Winds Elementary School and the Picture Rocks Community Center and Park are scheduled to begin in mid- August. Mosaic artist Robin Riley told the April Citizens for Picture rocks meeting that she will be working with Pima County's Transportation Dept. to decorate the sidewalks with glass "marble" mosaics symbolizing elements of water in the desert. The art enhancement includes input from local school students who are rewarded with a decorated tile to take home. Robin Riley started her career as a landscaper and abstract painter. In 1995 she began working with glass mosaics. Transportation projects have a "one percent for art" requirement and a community panel selected Robin from a number of proposals.
Reflecting cuts due to recession-caused budget deficits, Picture Rocks Community Center hours of operation are now Monday-Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., except on Thursdays when it says open one- half hour later for Hummin' & Strummin' who gather to play and sing from 7:00-9:00 p.m. Alcoholics Anonymous meetings (M-T-W-F) have shifted to 7:15-8:15 p.m.
Lack of action on fixing a leak in the Picture Rocks swimming pool prompted neighbors to contact District 3 Supervisor Sharon Bronson, and the leak was fixed within days. All Pima County Natural Resources, Parks & Recreation (NRPR) pools are scheduled to open May 29. Fees have been increased to $1 for kids 17 and under (50 cents for low-income qualified) and $3 for adults ($1.50 for seniors over age 65, persons with disabilities, or low-income qualified). Season discount passes will be for sale in all categories. Additionally, Picture Rocks Pool will continue adult/senior swim time from 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. with open swim on Mondays and Wednesdays, water aerobics on Tuesdays and Thursdays; closed Friday. For more information call 877-6126 or 877-6109, or Picture Rocks Community Center, 682-7166.
On April 24, 13 volunteers, organized by C4PR coordinators Chris Banks and Jan Pekelder, picked up litter along five miles of Picture Rocks, Sandario and Rudasill Roads. The Adopt-a-Roadway crew filled 20 giant bags with trash, using tools from a PRO Neighborhoods grant, wearing safety vests provided by the Pima County Dept. of Transportation, and enjoying lunch provided at a generous discount from the local Subway. Volunteers included, in addition to Jan and Chris, Dorothy Banks, Ken Kisthardt, Jim Pethe, Robin Nicholson, Keith Winans, Dawn Rishel, Lorra Lytle, Mike Lytle, Diane Mattison, Greg Mattison and Karen Zopf.
Renewable energy in the form of rooftop solar panels (photovoltaic or "PV") and/or solar water heating equipment was the subject of Trico Electric Co-op's CEO/General Manager Vincent Nitido's visit to the April Citizens for Picture Rocks meeting. Nitido presented an overview of Trico's Sun Watts program, which includes a rebate system for both on-grid and off-grid equipment. The on-grid PV rebate formula is $3 multiplied by PV cell nameplate rating in watts, multiplied by number of PV cells, to a maximum of 40 percent of the total cost of the system (not including backup components like batteries, transfer switches, etc.)
Trico CEO/General Manager Vincent Nitido was the guest speaker at the April meeting of Citizens for Picture Rocks, where he explained Trico's Sun Watts program
Trico recommends obtaining three estimates from licensed contractors
and then submitting an application
to Trico for approval to be eligible for the Sun Watts rebate. The
rebate is paid for by the Renewable
Energy Standard Tariff, a surcharge on all membersĀ’ bills. However, it
cannot be guaranteed if the Arizona
Corporation Commission changes the program. Applications that meet the
necessary standards are assigned
a place on a waiting list and an estimated rebate date is given. The
current wait time is over a year.
Solar water heaters must come from an approved list; go to www.trico.coop and click on Renewable Energy. This rebate is calculated at 75 cents multiplied by the kilowatt/hour savings of the unit for one year, usually over $2,000. For details regarding Trico's solar rebates call the Sun Watts desk at 744-2944, ext. 1524.
Nearly a decade ago residents of the Avra Valley joined with
environmental groups to block a proposed
Public Service Company power line that would cut through their
communities to sell electricity to Mexico.
Now the SunZia Power Company and the federal Bureau of Land Management
(BLM) are soliciting
comments on proposed routes through the San Pedro and Avra valleys. The
proposed line would be 500
miles long and carry 500 kilovolts of electricity over two lines, ending
at the Pinal Station near Casa
Grande. Transmission towers would rise up to 180 feet high and 120 feet
wide, requiring a right-of-way up
to 1000 feet for two lines. At 12 Scoping Sessions in 2009, their
initial route choices ran into immediate
opposition, so SunZia and BLM have now expanded the possible routes to
the Avra Valley. At an April 29
Scoping Session hundreds of people came to view the proposals and
comment, many of them from the
well-organized San Pedro River valley's Cascabel Working Group, which
blocked the I-10 bypass in their
The SunZia power line faces the same problem that the proposed I-10 Bypass does: the Tucson Mitigation Corridor (TMC), located east of Sandario and south of Mile Wide Road, established when the CAP canal was constructed to provide a place for wildlife to move through. One of the possible line routes would also skirt Tucson Mountain Park and Saguaro National Park, and pass about 1-3/4 miles from two schools and the Picture Rocks Community Center, following the CAP canal and little more than a half-mile from homes on Avra Road. At the Scoping Session the potential routes were shown in blue lines. This reporter asked a number of BLM and SunZia staff, including Project Manager Adrian Garcia, "Which blue line goes through your community?" The answer was, of course, "None." To see maps and the current proposals online, click here. Comments can be made online, or by Email at NMSunZiaProject@blm.gov. Written comments can be mailed to Bureau of Land Management, SunZia Transmission Line Project, P.O Box 27115, Santa Fe, NM 87502-0115. Comments will be accepted until June 10.
Well, not exactly our owl. A pair of great horned owls has been
hanging around our trees at night for many
months, sometimes having loud arguments with Harris's hawks or ravens.
It's kind of cool that they like
our place, and there are plenty of doves, rabbits, lizards and ground
squirrels to keep them well-fed and
happy. They might come over from the nest built by volunteers at Desert
Winds Elementary School to visit.
Then the female turned up one morning next to our swamp cooler with a shattered wing. Some idiot had shot her, breaking several laws. The injury was several days old; how she got to our place is a mystery. I called the Desert Museum and they referred me to the Hills of Gold Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, 3690 W. Hills of Gold, off Silverbell Road south of Camino del Cerro. We caught the bird in a net, got her in a box without getting slashed by beak or talons, and took her to Hills of Gold where a team of volunteers went to work. She lost half of a wing, so her future as far as being released back into the wild is unclear.
What is clear is the shooting of raptors in Picture Rocks cannot be allowed to continue. Owls and hawks, along with coyotes and snakes, keep the rodent population down, and it is illegal under both state and federal law to capture or kill or possess any part, including feathers, of raptors, without a state permit.
And if you come upon a wounded raptor, call Hills of Gold Wildlife Rehab at 743-0217 for advice on how to catch the bird and how to get it to them for help. Wildlife rehabbers are all volunteers and receive no public funds, so also consider a donation to help keep our owls, hawks and eagles flying safely over this piece of the desert.
And if you believe that critters are just dumb animals, consider this: The evening of the day we brought the owl in for help, the larger male was in a tree nearest the swamp cooler, hooting gently, looking for his lost mate - maybe even thanking us.
This male great horned owl returns to our yard each evening, perhaps in search of his injured mate who had to be transported to Hills of Gold Wildlife Rehabilitation Center for treatment of a gunshot wound to her wing. - A.V. Lannon
On April 6 the Pima County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to
speed up the noisy animal
complaint process and increase penalties. The owner of any animal or
bird that frequently or continuously
"howls, barks, meows, squawks or makes other sounds" that "disturb the
public peace and quiet or comfort
of (their neighbors)" faces a formal hearing for violations, and a third
violation will land the owner in Pima
County Justice Court.
Owners of the property on which the offending animals reside will be held responsible. Fines from $50 to $500 may be imposed on violators, the money going to the Pima Animal Care Center (PACC). Enforcement will be carried out by PACC and local law enforcement if necessary.
To register an animal noise complaint with Pima Animal Care Enforcement, call (520) 243-5900. There is a rather involved process that follows, including possible mediation, keeping a noise log, and a hearing, before an enforcement officer may actually be dispatched to the scene. For more information, go to www.pimaanimalcare.org and click on Animal Noise Complaint Process.
Officials at Saguaro National Park have announced a two-week project to resurface all paved roads and parking areas in the park's east and west districts. The tentative schedule for the West District is: May 17-18 on Kinney and other West District roads and parking areas (visitor center, administrative, maintenance and residential areas) and May 19 on Picture Rocks Road (from Cam Boh picnic area to Contzen Pass). Visitors may experience brief delays and can expect traffic control flaggers and pilot cars.
Following rejection by voters of a five percent budget override, the
Marana Unified School
placed 64 certified employees (teachers, librarians), 113 support staff,
administrators and two exempt personnel on forthcoming layoff status and
announced class size increases
of about four or five students per class. Kindergarten and 1st grade
classes will have 25 students and classes
from second grade on will have 30 or more students. The Governing Board
voted to keep all-day
Kindergarten in effect for the 2010-2011 school year. The 185 jobs cut
do not include 42 positions
eliminated by not filling them when they became vacant.
With 1,789 employees and an annual budget of $74.6 million, the District is coping with an $18,900,000 cut, a reduction of some 25 percent. If the proposed 1 cent sales tax increase is approved by voters May 18, MUSD Superintendent Dr. Douglas Wilson said the hoped-for $5 million would "allow us to rehire some employees." But with unemployment and foreclosures still at post-Great Depression highs, many observers think the sales tax increase will be a hard sell.
Polling places will be open from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. for this special election to vote on the proposed temporary state sales tax increase. For more information, call 351-6830 or visit www.pima.gov/elections.