03/27/2010 Town Council Meeting Summary (Special Meeting)

by Eddie Cook
This special meeting was to address only 3 agenda items:
1. Discussion and possible action to release to the public the memorandum from the Town Attorneys dated December 14, 2009 and the legal brief from Perkins Coie Brown and Bain dated February 8, 2010. Both of these are related to changing the election cycle from spring to fall and from odd to even years.
2. Discussion and possible action related to 73 employee cost saving suggestions totaling $5.5 million.
3. Discussion regarding the process for filling Councilmember Urie’s vacant seat. Councilmember Urie resigned March 26th to pursue a State of Arizona public office for 2010.
There was an executive meeting that started at 7:30am to discuss the issue related to releasing the legal documents to the public.
The open meeting began at 8:00am. Mayor Lewis asked Erin Scroggins to open the meeting with the Invocation and asked Eddie Cook to lead the Pledge of Allegiance.
The first item of the agenda was immediately motioned by Councilmember Sentz and seconded by Councilmember Crozier to not release the legal documents to the public. There was no public discussion due to the executive session discussion. The vote was 5-1 not to release the documents. Councilmember Daniels was the dissenting vote. A quick analysis shows that the council wants to maintain the client/attorney privilege even though in prior town council meetings, excerpts of the legal briefs have been shared to the public supporting both for and against moving the election cycle from odd to even years. Our theory is that if the public were to get access to the legal briefs, the briefs would indicate that moving the election cycle to this Fall of 2010 and shortening a councilmember term by 6 months would not be illegal as the Town General Council has indicated in prior town council meetings to be illegal. The council’s vote of 5-1 protects their position not to move forward in changing the election from the Spring of 2011 to the Fall of 2010. The town council could save $300,000 in the General Fund if they would move to the election to the Fall of 2010.
The second agenda was the discussion and possible action of vetting the 73 employee cost saving suggestions. All of the Town’s department heads were present during the meeting representing the 73 employee suggestions. Out of the 73 suggestions only 31 were recommended for the General Fund and 11 were Policy related. The council then spent the majority of the meeting vetting the 11 Policy related suggestions. The initial savings of the 11 suggestions would be around $895,000 to the General Fund. Below are the 11 suggestions and the outcome of the councilmember’s votes:
1. Charging businesses for fire inspection fees. Today no fees are charged. The council voted 6-0 for fire staff to develop a fee schedule/policy based on low, medium and high risks. Then to present this to council at a future meeting for final approval. Revenue generation would save the General Fund around $400,000.
2. This employee suggestion was very similar to the above suggestion. This was combined with the above item #1.
3. Establish Photo Radar in the Town of Gilbert. The council immediately voted 6-0 not to establish this policy. (I clapped loudly of my approval of their vote)
4. This employee suggestion was very similar to the above suggestion. This was combined with the above item #3.
5. Annual license be required for everyone conducting business in Gilbert. The council voted 6-0 to eliminate the business registration process and to establish a new “Business License” policy. Gilbert does not currently have a business license requirement. Today all businesses must register with the town for Water and Sewer assessments and risks. Council asked staff to develop a policy for this new “Business License” for anyone who wants to conduct business in Gilbert.
6. The continuation of the town to subsidize swimming pool fencing. The council immediately voted 5-0 not to continue to subsidize swimming pool fencing. Savings of $15,000.
7. The continuation of the town to provide meals to Boards and Commissions, specifically for Planning Commission and the Design Review Board. The council voted 6-0 to continue the meals if the boards could not change the times of the meetings to accommodate board members work schedules and normal dinner times.
8. Reimbursement of the General Fund costs by Capital Improvement Projects. The council voted 6-0 for staff to further develop a policy to recover this cost. Staff would present to council this new policy at a future date.
9. Should Gilbert expand advertising on town assets. The council voted 6-0 for staff to further develop a policy for allowing advertising on town assets.
10. Entrance fee to use Cosmo Dog Park and Skate parks. The council voted 6-0 not to charge a fee to use these parks.
11. Should the council authorize a dedicated tax for the parks and open space. The council voted 6-0 not to have a dedicated tax.
After the vetting was completed of the 11 policy suggestions, approximately $415,000 of initial cost savings could be recognized. After staff completes the work of developing the new policies, additional cost savings would then be recognized.
Vice Mayor Abbott asked to look at 3 additional General Fund employee suggestions, of the 31 that were recommended.
1. Elimination of paper agenda packets. Council did not vote, but left the decision for each member their choice to either receive a hard or soft copy of the agenda.
2. Elimination of Civilian uniform allowance. Council voted 6-0 to eliminate the allowance for non-critical positions. Cost savings of $8,550.
3. Install grocery bag donation dispenser instead of Mutt Mitts at Cosmo Dog Park. Council voted 6-0 in favor of this suggestion. Cost savings of $1,500.
The last agenda item was to discuss the process for filling Steve Urie’s vacant council seat. Vice Mayor Abbott and Councilmember Presmyk will develop a process and present this process to the April 6th regular town council meeting.
A question from the council as to when the vetting of the Citizen Budget Committee could be addressed using this format was asked to acting City Manager Dewitt. Chief Dewitt indicated that the next available Saturday would be May 1st, 2010. Chief Dewitt indicated that staff has been looking at the CBC recommendations for the last 1 to 2 weeks.
Many of us have been asking the council to review the CBC recommendations sooner than later. Unfortunately May 1st is nearly 6 months after the initial CBC recommendations were submitted to the council. I did appreciate the vetting of the employee suggestions. I look forward to the vetting of the CBC recommendations. However, to force the Gilbert citizens to vote on a sale tax increase before the vetting is complete is not in the best interest of our town and unfairly has divided our community because the true cost saving numbers are not even close to being recognized.