05/02/2011 & 05/05/2011 Town Council Study Session & Meeting

“SERVICE LEVELS RIGHT NOW FOR FIRE ARE UNACCEPTABLE!” asserted Council Member John Sentz at the 4/21/2011 Council meeting. And so the following presentation was required at the 5/2 Study Session.

REPORT ON FIRE DEPARTMENT RESPONSE TIMES COMPARED TO THE NATIONAL GOAL OF 90% WITHIN 4 MINUTES AND ACTION PLAN TO IMPROVE RESPONSE TIMES
Chief Jobusch produced several charts showing IMPROVED performance of Gilbert’s finest.

According to Chief Jobusch, Town wide, in 2007, the response time was 4:22 (4 minutes/22 seconds), which was achieved 51% of the time; in 2010 response time was faster at 3:43 which was achieved 65% of the time; and so far in 2011, it is 3:37 65% of the time. (Please recall that Council Member Sentz was one of 4 Council Members who sent a sales tax increase to the ballot 5/18/2010, scaring Gilbert voters into thinking there would be massive lay-offs of public safety personnel and that response times would increase. Prop 406 failed, and life went on.)

Following Chief Jobusch’s presentation, I wondered if Council Member Sentz might recommend building a Fire Station on every street corner, but he had nothing to add.

MEET AND CONFER DISCUSSION
Call the newspapers!!! Call the presidents of WalMart, Intel, and about 85% of the rest of the private sector and send them to Assistant Town Manager Marc Skocypec who will explain how the Union’s Meet and Confer benefits their companies. Unions offer “the most effective communication tool with discussion on items of mutual concern.” Plus, “they aid in developing trusting relationships and create a culture of leadership.”

Never mind the last 50 years of government labor laws designed to protect all workers. Don’t bother with paying HR consultants to design your Policies and Procedures Manuals, and you may as well relieve your HR departments of the responsibility of ensuring employees are treated fairly.

Here are some statistics: Ordinance 2085 was established on 11/13/2007, through Council Member Linda Abbott’s determined efforts. That Ordinance expires on 12/1/2014, unless Council takes action. Of 197 eligible Gilbert sworn police officers, 179 participate in the GPLA. Of 168 sworn firefighters, 165 participate in the IAFF. Of 512 eligible non-supervisory employees, 90 participate in SEIU.

Operating in an “environment of mutual respect,” the Unions require that the Town of Gilbert deduct Union dues from each Union member’s paycheck and send the dues to their respective fraternal organizations.

The 3 MOU’s (Memoranda of Understanding) will be voted on at the 5/19/2011 Council meeting. Since I’m writing this on 5/24/2011, I can tell you that all 3 MOU’s passed, but with some fascinating Council Member comments.

CPC CONSTRUCTION, INC. REQUESTS A PRICE INCREASE OF $500K FOR CONCRETE SERVICES, CITING INCREASED FUEL COSTS, MAINLY GASOLINE, AND THE COUNCIL APPROVES
This is a prime example of how government rules and regulations have conspired to undermine the taxpayer. These services were bid out several months ago, and CPC Construction, Inc. was the low bidder. Now, because their fuel costs have gone up, they want $500k more for their services.

My reaction was, “Go pack sand. We’ll find somebody who can do it for less!” Isn’t that what we do in our personal lives every day? As business people, do we go running to our customers and raise prices because our costs have gone up? No, we can’t. Not unless we’re prepared to lose the business to a competitor.

So, CPC’s fuel costs have gone up. Whose fuel costs HAVEN’T gone up?

Unfortunately, other than going out to bid all over again….which might not have been such a bad idea, the Town apparently cannot use commonsense methods to save taxpayer dollars.

The government’s bidding process works much differently. They must “protect” the bidders with arcane rules.

To her credit, using one of the few tools she had, Council Member Daniels asked that Staff check to see what neighboring communities are doing regarding pricing. Staff came back and advised that Gilbert was still getting the best price, and it was under budget.

This still sticks in my craw.

$1 MILLION IN HEALTH TRUST RESERVES TO BE RETURNED TO BOTH THE GENERAL FUND AND TO THE EMPLOYEES
Gilbert’s Self-Insured health insurance plan is doing well, with plan reserves exceeding that which is required. Thus, $1 million in reserves will be returned to both the taxpayer (General Fund) and the employees.

Employees have been much more careful about using their plan, choosing Urgent Care over the emergency room for example. Approximately $569k will be returned to employees, and $320k to the General Fund.

NEIGHBOR TO NEIGHBOR PROGRAM STATUS
This has not been a resounding success, in spite of Council Member Jenn Daniels best efforts. The idea was to build this program of voluntary donations, so that the Council could more easily wean charities off taxpayer dollars in the General Fund.

Back in late 2009, the Citizens Budget Committee recommended cutting the amount given to charities (“outside agencies”) by 25%. Thus, in 2010, the Council was supposed to award $325,980 instead of $434,600 as in the previous year. This reduced amount was to continue for 3 years, giving the charities an opportunity to find other funding sources.

At this meeting, Utility Billing Administrator Nieves reported that only $10k had been donated. Thus, following much committee work, Mayor John Lewis and Council Member Jenn Daniels floated the idea of a pilot “opt-out” program in which 400 Gilbert residents would see a $1 increase on their utility bill. This would be donated to the "outside agencies." The residents would be sent an explanation ahead of time, so they could “opt-out” if they wished, at any time. If they didn’t discover that the donation was being deducted until after several months, they could receive a full refund.

This idea crashed and burned. The other Council members weren’t "comfortable" with this method.

And so the “stealth” method of simply robbing the taxpayers and giving it those deemed more worthy continues….

STATUS REPORT ON THE COLLECTION OF DELINQUENT ASSESSMENTS FOR IMPROVEMENT DISTRICT NO. 11
Assistant Town Manager Marc Skocypec advised that, per Council policy and direction, staff went after about $900k in delinquent assessments. Those assessments were the result of improvements in four square miles of area in Gilbert, in which 1,000 parcels benefitted.

Town Employee Florence Shultz received recognition for contacting property owners, obtaining $307k this year, and another $531k in payments over the next 5 years. All monies will go to the General Fund.

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