07/25/2011 & 07/28/2011 Town Council Study Session & Meeting

$3,343,600 in Spending Requests from Town Staff.
With over 30 agenda items, many of which included detailed spending requests that ranged from pedestrian countdown signals to mosquito and midge fly pest control, street renovation micro seal services, as well as services that used federal grant dollars, where do you begin questioning logic, appropriateness, and fiduciary responsibility?

Many agenda items elicited the need for a Council policy. As Vice Mayor Jenn Daniels put it: “My concern is that we are applying a policy without having one.” The Council members will be formulating Council policies at their upcoming Retreat, which will be held on Friday and Saturday, August 26 and 27.

Council member Eddie Cook spoke to the issue of $664,000 worth of services using federal grant money. He expressed concerns that, ”our nation is having a difficult time with debt. Cities across the country apply for and receive this money. Are these for essential items? Or are they ‘nice to haves’? Do other cities need some of these things more than we do?”

Council member Victor Petersen stated, “Regardless of where these grants come from, federal money is still taxpayer money. Let someone else waste the money. Not us.”

Among the funding allocations was an additional $250k in federal grant money to Community Services of Arizona (CSA) for emergency and minor home repair to Gilbert’s income eligible residents. When Council Member Ray asked if the money could be returned to the federal government, Community Development Specialist Jessica Fierro replied that Gilbert would lose its status as an “entitlement community.”

Next year, Gilbert is set to receive a total entitlement amount of $654,792.

GW Note: Council members Cook, Petersen and Ray are starting to shine a light on the enormous amount of tax dollars that are literally gushing out of our federal government. Why do we wonder that our country is in such horrendously deep debt?

$490k was requested for 85 Ruggedized Mobile Data Computers for Police Vehicles.
Councilmembers Jordan Ray and Victor Petersen asked why the bidding requirements had been waived. Police Support Service Manager Kim Scott stated concerns that the Town might have had to accept the lowest bid without knowing for sure that the units purchased would work out the best.

She explained her involvement in a very lengthy process that entailed: 1) identifying the unique specifications of the units needed, 2) reviewing the specifications and various brands and models available, including pricing, 3) testing three possible units in police vehicles for a 6-month trial period, 4) and comparing the prices that other agencies had recently received through their bidding process, to the quote that Gilbert had received from Creative Communications for the General Dynamics computers.

In the final analysis, Kim was amazingly conscientious and professional and probably obtained a good price for the right product, but it begs the question: Do we need to hire a professional Purchasing Agent rather than expect individual staff members to pinch hit?

A Bright Spot!
The Council approved using water and wastewater repair and replacement funds to accelerate the repayment of outstanding Water Resource Municipal Property Corporation funds.

Budget and Finance staff worked to refinance bonds which resulted in a net savings of $1.7 million. The obligation to pay these bonds comes from both System Development Fees (SDF’s) and the water and wastewater operating funds, but primarily from SDF’s.

In light of our downturn in SDF dollars, if we used only those funds, it would take forever as we snailed along with minimum payments, and we would end up paying tons of interest. So, if for 2 years, the staff simply deferred contributions from the repair and replacement fund toward bond principal, we speed up the process and cut out all that interest.

This won’t reduce the R&R fund balance, it would hold steady. Then, after 2 years, Staff could reassess the SDF balance. They could, with the savings on interest they didn’t have to pay, reimburse the R&R fund.

According to Budget Administrator Dawn Irvine, “To give you a sense of the magnitude, simply advancing the final wastewater payment to October 2011 instead of April 2012 saved the wastewater fund approximately $600,000.”

Library Contract Extended for 1 Year.
In light of Maricopa County Library District’s hiring armed guards against the stated wishes of the Town of Gilbert, and the breakdown in commuications, including cancelling meetings with Staff, Council member Jordan Ray advised that he met with the County Supervisor and the Director of the Maricopa County Library District.

All sides are open to Gilbert looking at other options, including taking over operation of the Southeast Regional and the Perry Branch libraries.

The Council directed Staff to create a 1-year contract with Maricopa during which time staff will work to keep the libraries open on Sundays, explore inter-library loan alternatives, and additional operations alternatives.

Fall Even Year Council Elections – Ordinance to be Prepared.
Vice Mayor Daniels asked each Council member to state their preference for even year or odd year elections.

All favored even year elections, except Council members Ben Cooper and John Sentz. The ordinance will be brought up for a vote on August 18.

Two citizens spoke in favor of odd year elections: Former Mayor Cynthia Dunham, and Ryan Smith. Their concerns were that citizens can focus on off-cycle, odd year elections. During even year elections, citizens will be more interested in national and state elections. Also, Ryan Smith stated that the cost to candidates to run their campaigns will be much higher in even years.

Anita Christy spoke in favor of even year elections. She cited the savings to taxpayers, plus the fact that the Town has a long history of odd year elections, and those odd years have never elicited much interest from Gilbert voters. Only 14% of registered voters bothered to vote in the last election, May 2011.

Numbers from the Town Clerk’s Office:

1. Actual Cost to the Gilbert taxpayers for the 5/17/2011 Council Election $558,732.92.

2. Estimated Cost if the Election had occurred in the Fall Even Year: $162,623.69.

3. Estimated Cost if the next Council election occurs in 11/2013: $561,697.94.

4. Estimated Cost if the next Council election occurs in 11/2012: $148,137.02.

5. Estimated Cost at build-out if Council election occurs in Fall/Odd years: $869,927.67.

6. Estimated Cost at build-out if Council election occurs in Fall/Even years: $209,578.00.

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