03/20/2012 & 03/22/2012 Study Session & Town Council Meeting

Council Approves new Contract with the South East Regional Library (SERL).
To understand what happened at the March 20 Study Session, it’s important to step back to prior events that led up to this presentation and discussion.

Back in June 2011, then branch manager of the South East Regional Library (SERL), Andrew Chance, reported to the Council on ill behavior going on at the SERL. He had previously reported this through the Parks, Recreation and Library Services Advisory Board (Council liaison at the time was Linda Abbott). Former Community Services Director Jim Norman brought the issue to the Council. There were discrepancies, however, in Mr. Chance’s testimony provided to the Council as reported in Gilbert Watchlast July 2011.

Nevertheless, the County, under the direction of Library District Director Harry Courtright, took the outrageous action to post armed guards at the SERL, and for the first time, initiated unarmed security at the Perry Library.

Soon after taking office, the new Council authorized the renewal of the County contract for just 1, not 5, years, while they could determine what was happening at the library. They hired a consultant Teri Garvey, former head librarian for the Phoenix Public Library.

In the meantime, the new branch manager is Troy Reed. The new district director is Cindy Kolaczynski. The Interim Community Services Director is Melanie Dykstra.

At the March 20 Study Session, Teri Garvey gave her report of findings related to the SERL. Among the many statements she made, were these:

1) She had never seen armed guards at any of the libraries she studied. (Can you imagine that the South Phoenix Library doesn’t have armed guards, but Gilbert’s does?). Also, Mesa, Glendale, and Chandler do not have armed guards.
2) There is a lack of sufficient programming at SERL;
3) There is a lack of coordination among staff at the two Gilbert libraries.
4) SERL has a low number of registered borrowers.

Teri advised, “You are getting a good value for what you are paying,” but there were no specifics on what that meant.

Council members Jordan Ray (liaison to the Parks & Recreation Board) and Victor Petersen asked:

“What would it cost if Gilbert took over some or all of the services of the Library?” “How is the money being spent?”

Council member John Sentz noted: “There is no delineation of costs on the monthly invoice from the Maricopa County Library District (MCLD).

On March 22, the Council approved the IGA with the County, which included some changes, including:
1) 5-year contract, with a 1-year cancellation provision by either party;
2) Security guards at both libraries will not be armed;

Also, programming will be added at the SERL: one teen program month, one adult program a month, story time two times per week for toddlers, story time two times per week for preschoolers, etc.

The Council directed Staff to return to Council at the second meeting in April with a timeframe to research alternatives to the current arrangement with MCLD.

SOLAR BLANKETS – The Street Light Pilot Project.
Green Global approached the Town in late 2010 with “such a deal, you just cannot believe it.” At no cost to Gilbert, Green Global would connect an energy control system to the base of certain street lights, along with a solar “blanket” around the pole itself, thus reducing energy costs to the Town by 30% per light pole.

As presented by Town Engineer Mike Gillespie, Green Global and the Town worked together on a pilot project that covered July, August, and September 2011. It resulted in 30% savings.

Michael Hoffman, managing partner of Green Global, referred to this deal as a “business model.” Green Global makes money, and the Town is supposed to save $367,000 per year in utility costs. This assumes that 27,200 poles are used.

So, who pays for all this equipment? Who is the benevolent benefactor providing the cash for this “business model”?

You are! Through your tax dollars, a “1603” Department of Energy grant has funded the project. Green Global went after that grant.

What is the real cost? If we had to pay the full cost, and then were credited back the savings, would we be in the red or black? Also, is this technology truly viable yet?

Whenever I see a Federal grant involved, I wonder: Does it make sense to send our tax dollars to Washington, DC (where the bureaucrats take their cut for salaries and benefits) and then, in order to get any of it back, we must meet certain elaborate criteria (more bureaucrats take their cut for salaries and benefits), and even if the money is awarded and spent (bureaucrats take their cut for salaries and benefits), there are strings attached? Or does it make better sense to keep our tax dollars and use the money the way we want?

Mayor Lewis requested Staff to review the proposal and make a recommendation to the Council at the 2nd meeting in April.

Council Terminates Lease Agreement with Zinke Investments.
At Town Manager Patrick Banger’s suggestion, the Council took advantage of an early termination provision in a 5-year lease agreement with Zinke Investments to terminate the contract effective March 26, 2013.

Back in 2009, the Council at the time approved the purchase of about 142.5 acres of this farmland for the controversial sum of $50.2 million ($300,000 per acre.). The real estate market and economy had taken a nose dive when the expensive deal was struck. The Town still lacks the funds to develop the land into parks and facilities.

Since that time, Zinke has been able to continue using the land, paying the Town $1 a year.

The undeveloped land includes a 62.5-acre parcel on the southwestern corner of Greenfield and Germann roads, and 80 acres on the southwestern corner of Greenfield and Chandler Heights roads.

The Town will have a year to consider other uses for the land.

Budget and Financial Plan Analyst Hakon Johanson did a great job of presenting a dry, sleep-inducing topic almost painlessly.

His Presentation Covered:
• Overview of municipal bonds.
• Impact of ratings on a municipality’s ability to borrow.
• Debt is issued for large projects which will continue long into the future
• Types of bonds: General Obligation, Revenue, Lease Revenue
• Gilbert’s current existing secondary tax rate is $1.15.
• Gilbert does not have a primary tax.
• Due to the decline in home prices, Gilbert’s tax revenues have also declined. However, Gilbert is able to meet its current debt obligations.
• Issuing new bonds isn’t a problem, because there isn’t a demand for funding new Capital Projects. Those have been “pushed forward” until the economy improves, and property values increase.

The Gilbert Foundation – Request For Quote Discussion
Victor Petersen (Chair), as well as Mayor Lewis and Council member Ray have been working through the Council Subcommittee on Non-Profit Community Support since November 2011. The purpose is to evaluate and make recommendations on how the Town supports local nonprofits that provide human services to Gilbert residents.

There are two goals: 1) Facilitate private giving in Gilbert; and 2) Reduce the Town general fund contributions to non-profit human services.

The Subcommittee, along with Staff, have drafted an RFQ (Request For Qualifications) process to find a non-profit organization to become The Gilbert Foundation. This organization would: 1) Assess the social service needs and resources currently available in Gilbert, 2) assist the Town in administering the annual funding process of distributing general funds to non-profits, and 3) generate other revenue sources to reduce the amount of general funds and eventually replace the need of general funds allocated to nonprofits.

The Council discussed the RFQ in its present form, and decided it needed more clarification relating to conflict of interest, the wording of the purpose of the Foundation, inclusion of monitoring and accountability, and oversight of the organizations receiving funds.

A Change Order versus a Construction Phase.
At last! Following a good amount of Council frustration in seeing the term “change order” used to describe both unforeseen delays and events, as well as new phases of a construction project, the terms have been defined.

“Change Order” will be used for unforeseen, unplanned situations. However, the term Construction Phase will be used for each new planned phase of a Construction Manager-at-Risk project as each new phase is negotiated. Whew!

Minutes for March 2012 Meetings:

Channel 11 Videotape of Meetings