Monthly Archives: February 2015

Open Mayor Sharon Wolcott

How corporations secretly influence elections

TLG attorney Jim Barton explains

TCLG also helped guide Local 469’s successful campaign activities in Surprise, including those supporting Mayor-Elect Sharon Wolcott and councilmen Richard Alton and John Williams.
TCLG client Arizona Pipe Trades hosts League of Cities and Towns reception

TCLG’s Public Relations Account Executive Veronica Hernandez and Government Relations Associate Feruza Amanova planned the event, which drew nearly 200 elected officials, city and town employees, contractors and other stakeholders.
TCLG client Arizona Pipe Trades hosted a reception for attendees at the Arizona League of Cities and Towns conference. Clockwise from top left, Surprise Mayor Sharon Wolcott, left, and TCLG Managing Partner Israel Torres; TCLG Davis-Bacon clients UA 598 join TCLG staff, and from left to right, 469 member Mark Gallego, TLG attorney Jim Barton, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and AZ Pipe Trades Financial Secretary/Treasurer Scott Vaugh

OPEN………Bob Vukanovich

The Republic | 12:34 p.m. MST September 19, 2014

A former Surprise employee who managed city finances could face criminal charges after officials said she mishandled funds.

The city fired Estella Sanchez, who worked as the revenue and utility billing manager, in March after officials determined she violated policy by cashing a $3,000 check for petty cash and held it for three weeks before returning it.

City Manager Bob Wingenroth said he could not comment on the specifics of the incident because Surprise police have opened an investigation to determine whether Sanchez has broken any laws.

Surprise police confirmed that they are investigating Sanchez but would not comment on the case.

The criminal investigation is running concurrently with an internal audit, which officials said should uncover any financial discrepancies.

Sanchez had worked for Surprise for nearly 17 years. Her annual salary was about $91,000. A woman who identified herself as both Estella Sanchez and a former Surprise employee said she had no comment when contacted by The Arizona Republic. She then said the reporter had the wrong phone number.

If the investigation finds that money is missing, insurance will cover the funds, Wingenroth said.

“We want to do a good and thorough job with the investigation because this is very serious,” he said. “We will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law based on our findings.”

Since the firing, Wingenroth said, he has eliminated petty-cash accounts and hired a new revenue manager. The City Council also has funded an additional position to beef up internal controls, he said.

Surprise spokeswoman Diane Arthur said petty cash was a way for employees to request money to cover unexpected work-related expenses, such as parking at a work-related meeting or conference. “Traditionally, there was not that much money kept in petty cash, because it covered small, unexpected expenses,” she said.

City officials became aware of the incident during an unannounced cash-handling audit, which the city conducts periodically.

Internal Auditor Ramon Ramirez said in a separate memo to top city officials that Sanchez’s actions “put the city at considerable risk of not properly safeguarding cash.”

According to city documents, on Feb. 14, Sanchez, who had check-cashing authority, cashed a $3,000 check intended for petty cash.

Thirteen days later, Sanchez returned $1,900 to the city. She did not mention the remaining balance, which she still possessed, the documents said. The next day, officials asked Sanchez about the remaining money, and she did not respond.

Former City Manager Chris Hillman put Sanchez on paid administrative leave.

Wingenroth said that the city immediately contacted the Police Department and that Sanchez “has not been back to work, has had no access to (the city’s internal) Internetor city buildings and has been advised not to talk to city employees.”

She returned the remainder of the money, plus $2, on March 6.

Last year, Sanchez took away a colleague’s check-cashing responsibility and stopped recording how much she requested to replenish petty cash, which “obscured insight into the propriety of finance’s petty cash requests and balances,” according to city documents

Mark Coronado………….Sharon Wolcott Mayor City of Surprise


City Parks
• Section 10 – 24303 N. 183rd Ave.
• Asante Park – 16763 W. Vereda Solana Dr. (164th Ave and Pat Tillman Blvd.)
• Surprise Farms Park – 17894 W. Westpark Blvd.
• Sierra Montana Park – 17680 W. Spring Ln.
• Heritage Park at Marley Park – 15703 W. Sweetwater Ave.
• Veramonte Park – 122741 N. 140th Ave.
• 3-Star Park – 15825 Jerry St.
• Bicentennial Park/Lizard Run – 16705 N. Nash St.
• Johnson Townhomes Park – 16255 N. Desert Sage St.
• Gaines Park – 15837 N. Nash St.
• Stonebrook Park – 14431 W. Ely Dr.
• Surprise Community Park – 15953 N. Bullard Ave.

Additional information on the Citizens Patrol can be found on their website at or by calling 623.222.4277.

Police Chief Michael Frazier………………Bob Vukanovich

Michael Frazier, Police Chief Surprise Police Department Michael Frazier was appointed as the Police Chief for the City of Surprise on February 14, 2011.

Jan 30, 2015 – “I’m hugely supportive of body cameras,” Surprise Police Chief Mike Frazier said, whose department bought 89 cameras for about $250,000 …

Police seek help locating runaway teenager

Surprise, AZ… (February 20, 2015) The Surprise Police Department is seeking assistance in locating a 17-year-old girl who was last seen on Thursday, February 5, 2015.

Police received a call on February 5, from family members, reporting her as a runaway. The girl, identified as Madeline Elizabeth Corbin, is approximately 5 feet tall and weighs approximately 106 pounds.

She has shoulder length brown hair, blue eyes, and was last seen wearing blue jeans and a blue “Willow Canyon High School” tee shirt.

Madeline was last seen by her parents as she was being dropped off at school in the area of 23000 North 166th Drive. Madeline has a history of running away and was last reported as a runaway in November, 2014.

Police are following up on all leads, continuing efforts to locate the juvenile, and are asking anyone with any information to call the Surprise Police Department at 623-222

Surprise, AZ (February 20, 2015) The City of Surprise is hosting a multitude of fun activities for youth during spring break, including a K-6th grade camp and baseball and soccer sports camps.

The K-6th grade Spring Break Camp will be held March 16-20 from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Countryside Recreation Center, located at 15038 N Parkview Place. Camp fees for Surprise residents are $110 for a full week or $85 for three days, which includes field trips and afternoon snacks. Planned field trips include: Makutu’s Island, a Spring Training game and a trip to the White Tank Mountains.

The basketball and soccer Spring Break Sports Camps run March 16-19. The Basketball Camp will be held at Valley Vista High School, 15550 N. Parkview Place, and will be run by Valley Vista High School’s men’s basketball program. The Soccer Camp will be held at Marley Park, 15126 W. Sweetwater Rd, and will be run by Worldnet Soccer. Instructors will concentrate on building and refining fundamentals in all aspects of the game.

Applications are currently being accepted for each of the camps at the City of Surprise Community and Recreation Services Office, 15960 N. Bullard Ave.

For more information about youth and family programs please call 623.222.2000 or visit

Surprise, AZ (February 20, 2015) Surprise is offering free Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training for residents interested in learning how to help in an emergency or disaster situation. The training, which offers certification upon completion, is designed to help build a team of community volunteers who can respond to incidents effectively and efficiently without putting themselves in danger.

Trainees will learn how to:

• Manage utilities and put out small fires
• Apply techniques for opening airways, controlling bleeding and treating shock
• Provide basic medical aid
• Work in search and rescue situations
• Organize spontaneous volunteers to be effective
• Collect disaster intelligence to support first responder efforts

The classes are scheduled for three consecutive Saturdays – Feb. 28, Mar.7 and Mar. 14 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Surprise Public Safety Auditorium, 14250 W. Statler Plaza. All three training classes must be completed in order to receive full certification.

For more information or to register for the CERT training, please contact the Surprise Fire-Medical Department at or 623.222.5400.

Surprise AZ (February 25, 2014) Surprise is the newest member of the Canada Arizona Business Council, a group promoting trade between Canada and Arizona.

“More and more Canadian citizens are part of Surprise as winter or full time residents and property owners,” said Surprise Mayor Sharon Wolcott. “Like many of us, they love the area and see the tremendous business potential here. We need to capitalize on that.”

According to the CABC, Canada is the largest foreign investor in Arizona, with bilateral trade worth $3.9 billion dollars annually, excluding tourism. The Association says the total Canadian economic footprint in Arizona in 2012 was more than $6 billion, with Arizona welcoming more than 872,000 Canadian visitors that year.

“Our mandate is to increase bilateral trade between Canada and Arizona,” says CABC Chief Executive Officer O. R. Glenn Williamson. “We bring together CEOs, Presidents, entrepreneurs and professionals on both sides of the border. We make business happen at the decision-maker level.

Wolcott cited Surprise’s improving transportation and communications infrastructure, readily available land, capable workforce and excellent weather as a natural fit for Canadian businesses offering good jobs that are looking to expand or relocate.

“We are the perfect location for professional, sustainable jobs in areas like financial services and communications,” Wolcott said. “Surprise needs to focus on head of household employment, exactly the kind of jobs Canadian business people who already know Surprise represent. It’s time to get aggressive and really spread the word.”

“I salute Mayor Wolcott’s vision in joining the CABC,” Williamson added. “Surprise is a welcoming place where opportunity thrives, and now, more and more influential Canadians are going to hear about it.”

Wolcott has been a strong advocate for developing international trade at the regional and municipal level for long-range economic vitality. “The I-11 corridor talks are underway, and people are starting to recognize it as the future transportation and communication backbone of the Western United States and ultimately our cross-border connection,” she said. “It will also be part of the Surprise community, so it’s critical to begin building solid business relationships to position Surprise for the long run.”

AZ TechCelerator

Surprise, AZ (February 17, 2015) IRIS USA, Inc, a subsidiary of IRIS Ohyama, Inc headquartered in Sendai, Japan, will build its new Western United States Regional Headquarters in Surprise. The new facility represents a $33-$40 million investment, 100 new jobs, and $800,000 of new city revenues in the first year of operations.

In making the announcement during her State of the City address Tuesday morning, Mayor Sharon Wolcott said, “This project is aligned with the city’s goal of attracting foreign direct investment from quality companies that want to be a part of the vision and vitality of Surprise. We could not ask for a better new neighbor. Welcome IRIS USA.”

IRIS USA’s new 280,000-square-foot building will include office, manufacturing and distribution space; located on 30 acres within the city’s Southwest Railplex Industrial District – a designated Foreign Trade Zone with convenient rail access.

“Surprise offers a premier business park that supports our global initiative,” says IRIS USA President Chet Keizer. “Equally important to us is the corporate and community connectivity due to the close proximity of the city’s civic and recreational campus to the business park.”

The recruitment of IRIS USA was a collaborative effort by the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA), the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) and the City of Surprise.

“Arizona’s world-class infrastructure system and strategic Southwest location are key advantages supporting the distribution channel and supply chain management needs of growing manufacturers and international companies,” said Sandra Watson, President and CEO, Arizona Commerce Authority. “We welcome IRIS USA to our business community and thank them for investing in Surprise for their corporate expansion.”

GPEC President and CEO Chris Camacho adds, “The IRIS USA selection of Greater Phoenix reinforces the pro-business environment the market has cultivated in recent years. Mayor Wolcott and her team are aggressively building a robust community. The Iris USA investment is the latest achievement in growing base industry jobs in Arizona.”

In the development agreement, which the City Council approved Tuesday evening at their Regular City Council Meeting, the city will reimburse up-to $500,000 in review/permit/impact fees at time of occupancy, provide project office space at the city’s business incubator – AZ TechCelerator during construction and host a job fair.

IRIS USA’s Western United States Regional Headquarters is expected to open in December 2015. In addition to manufacturing and distributing its consumer plastics Storage Products, the Company will be dedicating space for research and development for its commercial LED (light-emitting diode), Housewares, Wire, Pet Supply and E-Commerce divisions.

IRIS USA is a consumer products company that sells to retailers throughout North America. It currently has office, manufacturing and distribution facilities in Pleasant Prairie, WI, its corporate headquarters, and Mesquite, TX.

To learn more about IRIS USA, please visit

To learn more about IRIS OHYAMA, please visit






David Madrid, The Republic |
Surprise residents opposed to high-voltage power lines skirting their community on Friday, Feb. 13, lost their fight to move the lines when the Arizona Corporation Commission voted against them. Arizona Public Service will resume power line work in their neighborhood Monday, Feb. 16.

The commission, in a unanimous 5-0 decision, voted not to reopen the case in which residents of the Sarah Ann Ranch community sought to move the power lines 250 feet from the north side of Cactus Road to the south side.

APS held off planting the four 120- to 130-foot poles as the residents and Surprise tried to convince the Corporation Commission to allow APS to relocate the power lines away from the Sarah Ann Ranch greenbelt. The residents say the high-voltage lines will harm their health, their quality of life, their home values and the enjoyment of 161 trees in the path of the project that will be cut down.

The residents came late to the fight, because the APS transmission line route was approved by the Corporation Commission 10 years ago after extensive public outreach that included Surprise, Maricopa County, Luke Air Force Base and others. APS officials said construction must continue to meet a June 1 deadline to ensure reliability for summer electrical service in the area.

Residents should have signed a form disclosing the lines when they purchased their homes, though some claim the power lines weren’t disclosed by their developer and others say that disclosure was inadequate.

The poles, in a greenbelt area of the Sarah Ann Ranch community, are part of a $50 million, 32-mile stretch of 231 poles that are being installed between the Palm Valley, Trilby Wash and Sun Valley substations.

Joe Mansour, a spokesman for about 180 residents, said the community lost at the Corporation Commission, and that homeowners are putting their homes up for sale.

Residents filled the Surprise City Council chambers in December in opposition to the power lines, and Council members acknowledged the issue blindsided them.

Surprise Mayor Sharon Wolcott wrote a letter to the Corporation Commission on Feb. 10 siding with the residents.

“APS waited to begin construction of this line for more than 9 years, has itself requested an extension of its completion deadlines, and, according to APS’ own filings, a delay would not jeopardize reliability of the system or service to the area,” she wrote. “The City Council strongly urges the Commission to grant the request being made by the residents of Sarah Ann Ranch … by moving the approved corridor between the Loop 303 and 195th avenue 250 feet south.”

The poles that residents oppose will carry a 230-kilovolt line designed to move large amounts of electricity long distances at the top of the poles, and several feet below that on the same poles will be a 69-kilovolt line used to distribute electricity to customers. Residents want the poles moved from the north side of Cactus Road to the south side where there are now temporary 69-kilovolt lines on power poles.

The residents reasoned it would be no big deal for APS to replace the temporary 69-kilovolt poles with the larger poles. But APS plans to take down the temporary poles on the south side of Cactus Road after it completes the larger poles on the north side.

Paul Gilbert, an attorney with Beus Gilbert, represents SLR, the owner of the property on the south side of Cactus Road. He said if the high-voltage lines have a “deleterious effect” on the Sarah Ann Ranch community, then it will likewise have that same effect on the master-planned community that will eventually be built on SLR’s land.

Commissioner Bob Burns said his concern is the reliability of the electrical system that serves the entire area.

“I understand that area is over 20 square miles, and so that would be a significant impact on that community if there were outages,” he said.

The power line project originates at the Palm Valley Substation and generally follows the west side of Loop 303 to Cactus Road, where it turns west to about 195th Avenue then north again to the Trilby Wash Substation. From the Trilby Wash Substation, the project generally heads west along the existing transmission-line corridor before it ultimately terminates at the Sun Valley Substation northwest of the Sun City Festival development.

Photo: David Madrid/The Republic)

Story Highlights
Surprise residents opposed to high-voltage power lines skirting their community lost their fight to move the lines Friday when the Arizona Corporation Commission ruled against them
The commission, in a unanimous 5-0 decision, voted not to reopen the case in which residents of the Sarah Ann Ranch community sought to move the power lines 250 feet to the south side of Cactus Road
APS held off planting the four 120- to 130-foot poles as the residents and Surprise tried to convince the Corporation Commission to allow APS to relocate the power lines away from the Sarah Ann Ranch greenbelt north of Cactus Road

Department: Community and Recreation ………….Outlay to lure baseball teams

What the city did: Surprise approved funding for the design and development of Village 5 plan. Villages 1 and 3 plans have been completed, with a total of nine villages planned for the city.
What it cost: $222,000. Why it was needed: The villages are a big component of planning a framework for the future of Surprise.

A village is a group of neighborhoods anchored by a central activity area that includes residential and commercial as well as public facilities that could include schools, libraries and emergency services.

Each village will have a committee, made up of village residents, to make recommendations to the city on village goals, policies and long-term plans. The village committees focus on improving the long-term environmental, economical, and social health of the city, making it a more sustainable community, according to officials. The strategy is a component of the state-mandated Growth Element of the General Plan 2035.



Surprise development
Nick Cote
Surprise development Rick West, left, president of Carefree Partners Investments and vice president Scott Phillips stand on a parcel of land in Surprise that they have plans to develop as part of the effort to build a downtown Surprise. Wednesday, February 11, 2015 (Nick Cote/Daily News-Sun)

Posted: Thursday, February 12, 2015 10:07 am | Updated: 10:19 am, Thu Feb 12, 2015. By Richard Smith, DAILY NEWS-SUN

For more than a decade, the development of the area Surprise sees as its downtown has amounted to barely a trickle.

Phoenix-based Carefree Partners Investments, L.L.C., the area’s primary development company, intends to start a steady stream of activity, if not open the floodgates.

Company president and co-founder Rick West said Carefree has received letters of intent from several companies — though nothing he can disclose yet. Once finalized, these businesses will form the foundation of the tentatively named The Shops at Elm Street on 100 acres of the northern portion of the parcel, south of Bell Road and north of the general Young Street alignment.

West said if there are no snags Carefree will be drawing plans by summer and in the ground by the end of the year. The Shops at Elm Street — mixing restaurants and other entertainment destinations with retail, including a department store — should be built up in three or four years.

“Elm Street exists. You wouldn’t know it. It’s a road that nobody drives on except for me and (Carefree Vice President) Scott (Phillips) and a couple of other people,” West said.


West said these chains face a new reality, trying to figure out what’s a good store size. “They haven’t sorted that through so they don’t know what their square footage needs are going to be and what sort of distribution facilities they need,” West said.

Wherever it goes, this will be the next surge in Carefree’s two-decade history with the city. Like Surprise’s growth chart, it’s had plenty of fits and starts. Then known as Westcor Land Company, Carefree bought 2,000 acres in Surprise in 1994.

In addition to the city center, this land encompassed the current Surprise Farms and Arizona Traditions developments as well as Willow Canyon High School.

Downtown, it took Carefree a full decade — from 2004-2014 — to build a small restaurant row and a two-story office building. This parcel, near Bell and Litchfield roads, now includes a Paradise Bakery, Carraba’s, Red Robin, Pei Wei and now Kneaders Bakery.


A land exchange and settlement agreement transferred ownership to Surprise and the development company. In order to protect Luke Air Force Base, the agreement prohibited venues offering overnight stays, such as hotels, hospitals or apartments.

Surprise and Phoenix struck a deal ending the restrictions in late 2013. Since then both the city and Carefree ran into tenants still a bit leery from a shaky economy.


Carefree’s biggest downtown contribution was giving Surprise 110 acres to build its Civic Center in the late 2000s.

The city is taking an active role in populating its downtown, particularly on its No. 1 priority — a full university campus with dorms and academic buildings.

City officials remain largely mum on the subject of downtown, in advance of Mayor Sharon Wolcott delivering her State of the City address Tuesday.

“What I can tell you is how the voter General Plan calls for a downtown to be established at Surprise Center. It is at the core of our city and encompasses plans for retail, office, four-year university and entertainment,” Surprise Communications Manager Diane Arthur stated this week in an email.

West said his company has assisted Surprise in its college search and that Phoenix-based Arizona Christian University wanted to make a big splash but had to pull the plug.

Arizona Christian had land reserved, but it didn’t have the financial heft to make its vision of a 125-acre campus that could serve 6,000 students come true.

West said most universities looking to branch out are OK with the idea of a 30- 40-acre campus.

West used his ties with the Duluth, Minn.-based College of St. Scholastica to help bring some of its classes to the Communiversity next to City Hall. He said this college or a similar small Midwestern University looking to branch out could be a future target.

Both the city and Carefree are on the same page with the university as the centerpiece of an downtown with entertainment to attract both halves of the city’s “bimodal” demographic — young families and seniors.

“The mayor has had a vision under their economic development policy to have a university there and we’ve been very supportive of that,” West said. “Our vision has always been to create a 24-hour downtown. That’s how we started with it back in 1997.”