04/18/2011 & 04/21/2011 Town Council Study Session & Meeting

GILBERT – THE SHINING TOWN IN THE VALLEY OF THE SUN.
Why do tax and spend Council members Abbott, Cooper, Crozier, Presmyk and Sentz wring their hands in despair when witnessing the exemplary capabilities of Gilbert town employees? “They do so much with so little,” goes the mantra.

These employees are setting a higher standard that other towns and cities across America should emulate!

Council Member Jenn Daniels knows what high standards are all about. She stated on 6/30/2009, just 14 days after taking office: “I don’t want Gilbert to be compared to other cities. I want Gilbert to stand alone and set a precedent and set an example.”

Case in Point at the 4/18/2011 Study Session:
Town Manager Dewitt noted that Recreation Manager Giles recently negotiated a 2.5% decrease in the cost of a contract before the Council. Also, the Town was successful in achieving a savings of $52k due to a tax abatement for a recent property acquisition.

I say, “BRAVO”!!!

SONORA TOWN GETS NEW WATER AND WASTEWATER IMPROVEMENTS. This community of 23 dwellings, 4 of them owner-occupied, will receive upgraded sewer and water systems as well as minor roadway and streetlight improvements. The project is not to exceed $480,289.65 and will be funded by Community Development Block Grants (most likely federal tax dollars). Homeowners must pay the connection fee.

COUNCIL APPROVED BUDDHIST TEMPLE. Neighbors near the proposed site of the Tu-Vien Phuoc Tuong Temple had formally appealed the final approval to this site plan, which is to be built at the SE corner of Gilbert Rd and Harrison St.

Several residents spoke out against the building. They were concerned about traffic flow and potential dangers, as well as the unique appearance and size of the building, which doesn’t blend in with the neighborhood.

I can identify. Change is difficult. They were respectful. None of the residents were opposed to the Buddhist Temple itself.

Staff advised that the Temple met all zoning and building requirements, and didn’t think traffic flow would be a problem. The Town Attorney advised that the Council would not have grounds to deny the application in light of the Arizona Free Exercise of Religion Act.

Mayor Lewis expressed understanding and encouragement to the residents, and confidence that all parties will work together and be good neighbors to each other.

CITIZEN THINK TANK – FINAL REPORT. First, a correction. I was wrong regarding a previous post. Council Member Linda Abbott clarified that this particular “Citizen Think Tank” was NOT her idea. Please refer to previous posts in Gilbert Watch regarding the “Citizen Think Tank.”

I’m glad this one is over. If you would like to see the final report, go to http://www.gilbertaz.gov/budget/

Here’s the problem with these citizen task forces, budget committees, and think tanks that are selected by Council members to generate both cost savings ideas, as well as revenue generating ideas: The citizens on these committees mirror the views of the Council members who selected them. We have 5 tax and spenders on the Council, and 2 conservatives. So, what do you think the ratio might be on the citizen committees?

This problem could be overcome if the citizen groups were given one caveat: They are not allowed to suggest tax increases or additional taxes to generate revenue.

Now THAT would force people to think harder about cost savings!

Another problem is that these committees keep coming up with virtually the same ideas. Some are implemented. Yet the tax and spend majority Council won’t approve others. For example, combining city elections with state/national would save between $250k and $500k per election. That was soundly rejected by Council Members Abbott, Cooper, Crozier, Presmyk and Sentz a year ago.

More ideas not taken seriously include cost recovery of recreational services; eliminate or charge for bulk trash pick-up; seek out ways to privatize services; streamline the permit process; look at options for waste management services.

BUDGET – Multi-year financial plan. Budget Administrator Dawn Irvine reviewed projections and impacts of revenue and expenses, proposed legislation, fund balance, and repair and replacement funds.

Like years past, the budget projections have never come close to actual since FY1999. Having said that, it is true that Gilbert’s population continues to grow, though not as much as alluded to in this meeting. The 2010 census indicated we are at 208,453, not 225,000.

Town staff and the Council have some budget challenges. However, there are still cost-savings measures identified by two citizens budget committees that have been rejected by the tax and spend majority and should be resurrected, hopefully by a new, more Conservative Council.

Go here to see Ms. Irvine’s report:

http://www.gilbertaz.gov/budget/

ZINKE LAND DEAL – ATTORNEY GENERAL’S EVALUATION.
Outside Attorney Charlie Ayers advised that Attorney James Keppel of the Attorney General’s Office is heading up the investigation, which is just getting underway. No news yet.

STRATEGIC PLAN – NEXT 15 YEARS. Assistant Manager Marc Skocypec reviewed the new dashboard designs. These designs are an initial attempt at taking the goals that have been defined by the Council in the Strategic Plan and then finding a way to measure them. All of this has to do with monitoring progress on achieving 5 “Strategic Initiatives” relating to: 1) Community Livability, 2) Being a Technology Leader, 3) Financial Plan, 4) Infrastructure, and 5) Economic Development.

To read the Strategic Plan, go here: http://www.gilbertaz.gov/efficiency/

The Council discussed ways to create objective measurements from subjective goals, and also suggested prioritizing certain goals.

PKID’s. Have you ever wondered what the heck these are? Budget and Financial Plan Analyst Lorenzen gave a brief, concise report. First, a PKID stands for a Parkway Improvement District. The Town has created landscape master plans and improvements for certain subdivisions. Gilbert has 11 PKID’s, which were established back in 1988, usually in areas without an HOA. The idea is that a community relies on the Town to improve and take care of common area landscaping. The community pays for this service. Consensus among residents of the community is generally reached as to the quality and expense of the service. Of course, now and then some residents have come to the Council to speak out about these costs. Not too much different than an HOA.

STREETS. Streets Manager Yardley provided an overview of the Pavement Management Program, including the life cycle of roads, various methods to keep them maintained, and the cost to maintain them at the current high level of PCI 91. In FY2010-11 that cost was $2.6 million. If his department receives $2.6 million for FY2011-12, it will likely not be enough to continue maintaining the current PCI rating.

BIO/MED LIFE SCIENCES & TRIP TO WASHINGTON, DC. Mayor Lewis reported on his trip to Washington DC, as part of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. His goal is to open doors and market Gilbert’s assets to the rest of the country. He said that the National Institutes of Health has several projects taking place in Arizona. The next bio/med life sciences summit will take place in February, 2012, in Gilbert.

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