01/10/2011 & 01/13/2011 Town Council Study Session & Meeting

THE RIPARIAN CATS. Several citizens spoke out about the cats suddenly disappearing from the Riparian Preserve. To provide a little history, over the years irresponsible pet owners have dumped their cats at the Preserve. It’s cruel. Perhaps they do it because their home has gone into foreclosure, or they are moving to an apartment that doesn’t allow pets. Whatever the reason, it has caused problems for the Town, the Preserve, the cats, the bird lovers, and those who want to Save the Cats. There always seems to be 40-60 feral cats living there. Many citizens who spoke were from Save the Cats, who want to continue working with the Town. Save the Cats favors a TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) policy which they say works to reduce the numbers. They also work to find homes for the cats. Feral cats usually require extra attention, however, and not everyone wants to spend the time.

Others spoke representing the birds. They explained that the Save the Cats effort wasn’t working well enough and that the Riparian Preserve wasn’t intended to house a cat colony. They also were concerned that the cats feasted on the birds, primarily ground feeders, although Save the Cats representatives stated that there is no evidence of that. A deadline of 2/18/2011 has been set to get the cats removed. Save the Cats is fearful that the trapping methods used by the Town are injuring the cats and that the cats are then being carted off to the Humane Society to be euthanized.

There will be a meeting on Wed, Jan. 26, at 4:00 pm, at the Town Hall, 50 E Civic Center Drive, 2nd floor, to which the public is invited. The discussion will focus on: How, When, and Who will be involved. Also, the participants will discuss Where the cats might be relocated.

The Council has been discussing the issue of hours of operation, site restrictions, etc., since before Arizona voters passed the proposition last November 2010 legalizing medical marijuana. Tonight the Council came to an agreement to permit dispensaries and off-site cultivation in the Light Industrial and General Industrial zoning districts with a Use Permit. Hours of operation will be limited to 8 am to 6 pm daily.

The Council voted to release the Legal analysis, which is now available on the Town’s website. The Dennis Lopez appraisal is also available for review.

Town Manager Collin DeWitt provided an overview of the history of the 2/2009 purchase of 62 acres on the SWC of Greenfield and Germann, the dairy equipment and property on the SEC of Greenfield and Germann, and 80 acres on the SWC of Chandler Heights and Greenfield. He explained that during the negotiations, all the way up until and including the Council vote to pay $300,000 per acre for the property, there was never a Public Hearing, or an Appraisal, or an Attorney’s sign off. He also stated that Zinke had contacted former Town Manager George Pettit and advised Mr. Pettit verbally that a developer had offered him a price for the land. Mr. Pettit then matched the verbal offer.

The appraisal revealed that the Town overpaid by $8.6 million.

A few people spoke. Two gentlemen appreciated that, in spite of the overspending, Gilbert is a great place to live. John McLemore thanked the Council members who approved the purchase of the land. Greg Ostapuk spoke on behalf of all Gilbert residents saying that they are satisfied with the quality of life in Gilbert, and he was sure that Town leadership had learned from their mistakes.

Jim Torgeson spoke out, seeking accountability. He had read through the 1349 pages of the appraisal, and he noticed that the appraiser, Mr. Lopez, had based his report on the date 2/1/2008. Yet, the land wasn’t actually purchased until 2/2009, a year later.

When asked about the 2/1/08 date, Town Manager DeWitt advised that Mr. Lopez had been asked to do the appraisal based on the date f purchase.

Jim pressed the fact that no bank will lend based on an appraisal that is one year old.

THE FY 2012 BUDGET. Here we go again.
The final FY2010 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) hasn’t been released yet but will go to the Council on 1/27/2011 for presentation, after which it will be available on the Town’s website. That report is for FY ending 6/30/2010.

The Council will soon be grappling with the next budget, FY 2012.
With a recent reorganization, the Budget responsibility has shifted from the Town Manager’s office to the Finance Department. Newly hired budget administrator Dawn Irvine presented an overview of the process she proposed in order to implement a balanced budget.

As usual, there is a projected deficit. It is estimated at about $12.6 million, but the final estimate will be presented to the Council on 2/10/2011. Please recall that after the Town Council had taken Gilbert citizens into about $90,000,000 of debt, in January-February 2009, they started beating the drum for tax increases. (That ultimately resulted in a proposed tax increase called Prop 406, which was defeated at the ballot box.)

The question is: How to bridge the shortfall?
Ms. Irvine advises there are 3 ways: 1) Fund balance transfers; 2) Increase revenues (this often means raise taxes); 3) Decrease expenditures. (This means: Cut spending!)

Her timeline:
2/10/2011 Provide Council with “The Number” (projected deficit)
3/10/2011 Budget Strategies Discussion
3/26/2011 Citizen “Think Tank” Forum for Citizen Input (GW comment: These folks tend to recommend tax and fee increases in order to support more government-provided high quality of life.)
4/7/2011 Budget Approach: Discuss strategy
5/5/2011 Consider final MOU’s (Memoranda of Understanding. These are Union negotiations)
5/19/2011 Preliminary Budget Adoption
6/23/2011 Final Budget Adoption