10/21/2010 Town Council Meeting Summary

With the exception of the request from the Gilbert Promotional Corporation (GPC) for taxpayer money for the Special Event Gilbert Days the weekend of 11/13/2010, all of the following items on the Agenda for tonight were previously reviewed at the 10/18/2010 Town Council Study Session (See GW for the Summary). The GPC discussion requesting an expenditure of about $28k took 51 minutes and stands in stark contrast to no discussion whatsoever back on January 20, 2009, when Council members Abbott, Crozier, and Presmyk approved $42.7 million in land purchases.

Note: Since Mayor Lewis is on vacation for 2 weeks, Vice Mayor Presmyk conducted this evening’s Council Meeting.

The Council approved all items on the Consent Calendar, pulling the following for discussion:

Tonight, the Council voted 5-0 to approve funding, with direction to Staff to complete an analysis, within 6 months to a year, regarding type, location, destination, and frequency of Dial-A-Ride trips taken.

At the 10/18/2010 Study Session (see Gilbert Watch summary), Council member Linda Abbott had requested demographic information, by zip code, regarding who is utilizing the Dial-A-Ride service.

Assistant Town Manager Rall presented an overview noting that from January 2010 to September 2010, there were 138 ADA-certified users who made 18,778 trips. (That is 136 trips average per user.) On 10/18/2010, Ms. Rall advised that it is anticipated that there will be 30,735 trips made for FY2011. The per trip cost is $37.38. (Maricopa County picks up over half. In November 2004, Maricopa County residents approved Prop 400, a 1/4 cent tax for regional transportation services.)

Here’s the calculation for FY2011: Gilbert will spend $446,262. The Regional Public Transportation Authority will kick in $659,166. That’s a total of $1,105,428 for an anticipated 30,735 rides. With 138 people needing rides, that’s $8,010 per person.

GW NOTE: We have in our Gilbert community 138 people who don’t have any family or friends to take them to doctor appointments. According to the map presented by Ms. Rall, 112 folks are in just 3 zip codes: 85233, 85234, and 85296.
This looks like an opportunity for a volunteer organization. Or, what about a contract with a private taxi service? They would probably do this at a fraction of the cost. At least a private company PAYS taxes. One thing is clear, the government solution is costly and inefficient.

Discussed at both the 10/4/2010 and 10/18/2010 Study Sessions (See Gilbert Watch), tonight the Council voted 5-0 to approve: (a) a Credit Purchase Agreement with Arizona Public Service, and (b) a License Agreement with SPG Solar Inc. for the use of property at the Neely Recharge Facility for the Solar Project.

Council Member Jenn Daniels had stated concerns at the previous Study Session that not all of her questions had been answered. Now that the information had been received, she stated that she decided to vote for approval, with the understanding that more work needs to be done beyond the deadline of 10/29/2010 for the documents approved tonight.

The Council voted its approval of all Public Hearing items.

Louis Anderson, Solid Waste Manager, reported on the progress of the Environmental Programs Task Force in creating vision and mission statements. This is an ad hoc subcommittee which may evolve into a formal board or commission.

Vice Mayor Les Presmyk stated that this item was removed from the agenda, because “we started the process and will bring it back when we are ready to discuss it.”

GW NOTE: The need for this Council Policy was in response to the much-publicized lack of an appraisal and rubber-stamp Town Council approval of the infamous Zinke land purchases of 1/20/2009 in the amount of $42.7 million. The Town Council Members at that time (Ms. Abbott, Mr. Crozier, and Mr. Presmyk) approved this expenditure with no discussion at all.

Town Manager Dewitt had presented in a previous Council meeting the Town’s current “Property Acquisition Procedures for Entire Parcels,” which is an internal procedure that is generally followed by staff. It will not suffice in its present form, however, lacking much Council oversight. The Council charged Mr. Dewitt with the responsibility to present a rewritten Council Policy. It is this Policy that is in process.

Following much discussion and additional information from Code Compliance Administrator Adam Adams, the Council voted 5-1 to erect a fence around this property due to it being a health hazard. Town Manager Dewitt suggested that the Town could erect a fence around this property in the public rights-of-way. Town Attorney Susan Goodwin advised it would be cheaper to pay for the rental of a fence at $2,680 for 12 months, than to pursue litigation for reimbursement.

Gilbert Watch Observation: This discussion took 51 minutes. It isn’t over yet. There is another Special Council Meeting to be held at 6 pm, 10/26/2010 to discuss it some more.

Chelle Bullard, president of the GPC (Gilbert Promotional Corporation), asked for the Town’s help in funding Gilbert Days, which is to be held the weekend of 11/13/2010. She indicated that she had just that day received invoices from Jim Norman, Community Services Director. Costs were much higher than expected, she stated.

She addressed the Council: “You are also the benefactors in this. This is for our Town. We believe that the Town benefits from this and being a co-benefactor we would like for you to share in some of the costs that it takes to produce this event.”

First, it isn’t the “Town” who pays for it, it’s all of the Gilbert taxpayers. Do “all” of the Gilbert taxpayers benefit? Only a fraction of those taxpayers attend. Also, as you will see below, there are many more reasons why the taxpayers should NOT be expected to subsidize this Special Event, which, in spite of the sentiments to the contrary, appears to be unsupported by most of Gilbert’s residents. If they supported it willingly, Ms. Bullard wouldn’t be demanding that the taxpayers fund it.

Several Council members expressed astonishment at this request, and for good reason. One year ago, there was a “last minute, furious fund-raising effort” to put on the parade. This year, Ms. Bullard says they have the money for the parade, but listed other items needing funding. She also expressed confusion over “how the game is to be played.” I assume she was pleading ignorance about the Town’s current budget problems and desire to extricate itself from perpetually funding Special Events.

Council Member Jenn Daniels stated that Council had been asking for an update on the progress of Gilbert Days for months and expressed frustration with the timing. “We have spent 9 out of 12 months working on the budget. We have not allocated funds for Gilbert Days this year. There is no money in the budget for Gilbert Days. Last year, Mayor Lewis made personal phone calls. Individual Council Members donated personal dollars. I’m more willing to do that than use taxpayer dollars.”

(NOTE: In late 2009, the Citizens Budget Committee had recommended to the Council to “increase special events cost recovery by $283,300.” It also had recommended “special event program modifications” which would reduce costs by $102,800.)

Council Member John Sentz used the analogy of a child coming to his father at the last minute for money to go to the Prom. He was interrupted by Council Member Dave Crozier who made excuses for Ms. Bullard’s lack of planning. Not to be silenced, Mr. Sentz stated, “It’s like putting a gun to our heads at the last minute saying we need money!”

Council Member Linda Abbott weighed in with, “Either the community supports it or it doesn’t. Your challenge for GPCs survival is that you need to grow your membership (of 11 volunteers). Some of this planning could have been anticipated.”

Vice Mayor Les Premyk stated, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result…here we are again. This is not a surprise……Gilbert Days has fallen on the 2nd Saturday of November for the last 32 years. People should be falling all over themselves to be the title sponsor.”

Council Member Ben Cooper said, “It pains me to have to deal with this at this point. We knew it was coming….”

My all time favorite quote, however, came from Jenn Daniels when Assistant Town Manager Marc Skocypec was asked for the total costs being requested and was handed a post-it note with the numbers on it, which he had to add up.

Ms. Daniels: “With all due respect, I’m not willing to approve a contract that’s written on a post-it.”

Finally, after 51 minutes of discussion, the Council decided they wanted a Staff report on the GPC’s requirements, and they would meet again to take action. (Update: That meeting has now been set for 6 pm, October 26.)

Ms. Abbott also requested a report from Staff of "Town support" for other Special Events.

GW NOTE: So, now that they have all “vented” their frustration, will they vote to give GPC the money after all? Oh probably….but no more after this! Really. We mean it.