03/06/2012 & 03/08/2012 Study Session & Town Council Meeting

The Intersection of Power and Williams Field Roads is a mess in more ways than One.
Both the March 6 and 8 meetings were consumed with discussion regarding one of the most critical, complex, and difficult decisions that the Council will ultimatey have to make on April 5. It concerns the single versus dual road alignment at the intersection of Power and Williams Field Roads. The decision favoring the dual alignment had been made by the previous Council some years back, and work has begun.

However, several land and business property owners have serious issues with it. At least one of those business owners has been trying to work with the Town of Gilbert for over 2 ½ years.

The stakes are high, since a dual alignment might ruin some businesses. But even a single alignment might be detrimental. The majority of this Council thinks the issue is serious enough to take another look, gather all the facts, and weigh competing interests. That process hasn’t been easy or simple. Conflicting information was presented on March 8.

First, there are constraints which include a canal that runs along the east side of Power Road, the need for a curve in the road due to flood issues, the fact that this is an Intergovernmental agreement with Mesa which has already spent its portion and won’t spend anymore, traffic flow and safety issues, complex design issues, the pros and cons and costs of each, the precedent that’s being set…not to mention millions in taxpayer dollars.

At the 3/8 meeting we heard from Edgar Medina, the Town’s Assistant Engineer, who has been involved in the project since its inception. His presentation addressed all of the competing issues, the result of which was the dual alignment. He said there was a fundamental engineering process in analyzing the preferred alignment.

We heard from Reese Anderson, the attorney representing some of the property owners, who disputed some of the numbers presented by Mr. Medina. He asserted that the single alignment would actually result in a cost savings over the dual. He said that some numbers in the Town staff report showed double-dipping. (Mr. Medina later disputed Mr. Anderson’s numbers.)

Some of the property owners spoke out, including the owner of an apartment complex on Power Road, who stated that the dual alignment would put her out of business. Also, landowner Jeff Cooley spoke, advising that he and his family had been brushed off from the stakeholder process, and the only way they could be heard was through a lawsuit. He asked the Council to take another look at the decision.

The bottom line is that the numbers from competing interests don’t add up. There are serious disagreements among various interests; and a full understanding of the design rules and issues need to be vetted.

Free Money! (You know, from the Feds) to pay for Ongoing Expenses?
In a 4-3 split (Cook, Petersen, and Ray voted No), the Council approved an application for a federal grant to hire 12 firefighters to staff the new Fire Station #10. Those in favor saw the grant as an “opportunity” for funding during hard economic times.

Those against it stated that public safety is the Town’s number one priority, so funding should go there first, without reliance on federal dollars. It isn’t good policy to use one-time revenues to meet ongoing needs. Also, the staffing for Fire Station #10 wasn’t scheduled until 2016. Chief DeWitt advised that current staff would have shifted to Fire Station #10. If received, the grant dollars will pay for hiring the 12 firefighters, who will go though the academy in September/October and be on the street the first of 2013. The feds will pay for the first two years. The town pays after that.

10 Acres of the Infamous Overly Expensive Land Purchased by the Previous Council Earns Taxpayers a Few Bucks
The Council approved a lease of 10 acres of raw land to Heliae Development for an initial period of 3 years. These 10 acres were part of a 40-acre parcel which was purchased by the previous Council for the high market price of $14.5 million. A Fire Dept. training facility was supposed to be built on that 40-acre parcel…until the economy flatlined putting the project on hold indefinitely.

Now, instead of sitting idle, some of the land will produce the highest and best use on a temporary basis. The annual lease income of $1500 isn’t much, even at market value. However, Heliae develops algae, a clean technology, and has the potential of bringing high wage jobs to Gilbert.

262 New Single Family Building Permits!
Town Manager Patrick Banger reported that 262 single family building permits were issued in February 2012. This is an astounding number, considering that the rest of Arizona lags far behind Conservative Gilbert.

The Parks Master Plan – Status
Interim Community Services Director Melanie Dykstra gave an update on the current status of the development of Gilbert’s Parks Master Plan. The second of two kick-off meetings for the Parks Master Plan was held recently. The Technical Committee and Steering Committee will each meet four times. They are reviewing surveys that will be used to gather information on facilities and programs. They are also comparing Gilbert to other communities. The Parks Master Plan will take 18 months to complete.

You, the citizens, will be paying for these facilities and programs.

Keep your eyes open for information about plan, which will soon be made available on the Town of Gilbert website.

Coming Up: Cost Recovery Policy Discussion for Recreation Centers.
Originally suggested by Council Member Victor Petersen, Town Manager Patrick Banger asked that the policy discussion also include establishing a standing committee to review all operations of the Town and cost recovery. He said recreation centers could be the first item to look at.

For Our City Kick-Off Breakfast.
Council Member Petersen reported that the first meeting of For Our City will be a breakfast scheduled for Tuesday, March 27, from 7:30 am to 9:00 am. He invited the community to attend and asked people to RSVP him at Victor.Petersen@gilbertaz.gov. At the meeting, you will hear about the program, vision, and the first project which is planned for April 21.

And no, Council Member Sentz, taxpayer dollars will not be used to pay for the breakfast.

Minutes for March 2012 Meetings:

Channel 11 Videotape of Meetings