Surprise’s City Council and staff have made tweaks to its bond proposal and hope voters will support it in another bond election in 2017.
Surprise lost a bond election by 447 votes last fall.
City Manager Bob Wingenroth recalled the heartbreak that reverberated throughout City Hall after the bond’s narrow loss during a City Council workshop on Tuesday.
“We were this close,” Wingenroth lamented. “You could actually hear almost a very collective cry from, I think, from all of us because we were so close and had done so much work.”
With months to reflect and reassemble, Wingenroth and his staff tweaked last year’s proposal into something he hopes voters will support come November.
The proposed $59.5 million bond request is $3.5 million less than before.
And it’s likely to be broken into three separate questions that residents can vote on individually. This would be a departure from last year’s failed bond election, which conglomerated every item into a single vote.
This year’s bond would also drop requests to fund recreation projects — such as an expansion to the aquatic center. Wingenroth said staff would pursue such projects through business partnerships rather than tax dollars.
A boost to public safety
The bond’s first question would request $34 million to help fund the city’s current and future public safety needs. The items include:
- $9 millionfor a larger police evidence storage facility.
- $1.9 million to renovate the existing evidence facility into a police training area.
- $3 million to buy 16 acres of land where a future police substation, fire station and local park would be built.
- $8.6 million to build Fire Station 304, a permanent facility that would replace the temporary station on 163rd Avenue and Happy Valley Road.
- $7.1 million to build Fire Station 308 at the southeast corner of Litchfield and Cactus roads, as well as a new fire engine.
- $4.4 million to build a “public works operations facility” that would house public safety vehicles and equipment, among other things.
Tuesday’s workshop was a revolving door of city employees explaining why the proposed items were worth the cost.
Police Chief Terry Young presented pictures of an evidence room packed with cardboard boxes and manila envelopes. Young said the storage room was at roughly 90 percent capacity, and warned it would soon reach full capacity at the current rate. Young also explained the benefits of a dedicated training center that could host specialized training that a typical classroom couldn’t.
Fire Chief Tom Abbott made a case for two new fire stations to maintain or improve response times in growing areas of the city.
But the “Public Works Operations Facility” has something of a deadline.
Though $4.4 million of bond money would go toward the facility, the project’s actual cost is $12 million. Public Works Director Mike Gent explained most of the remaining money — over $7 million — would come from development impact fees the city had already collected. However, those fees will expire on December 31, 2019 if left unused.
Adding money to add lanes
The bond’s second proposal requests $15.5 million to add lanes to major roads in Surprise. These include:
- $7 millionto create a total of six lanes on Waddell Road between Loop 303 and Reems Road, add traffic signals at the Sarival Avenue intersection, along with bike lanes and sidewalks. It would also remove areas where lanes merge into one.
- $5.1 million to create four total lanes on Greenway Road between Cotton Lane east and Sarival Avenue, as well as bike lanes, sidewalks and street lighting.
- $3.4 million to add a total of four lanes to Litchfield Road between Waddell Road and Peoria Avenue. The money would also go toward other street improvements such as bike lanes and sidewalks.
Gent said the proposed improvements would reduce congestion in traffic-dense areas and make the roads safer for drivers and possibly reduce emergency response times.
The third and final proposal would earmark $10 million toward street repavement, but no streets or areas are named in particular.
The cost to residents
Homeowners with a $200,000 limited property value would see a $92 increase to their property taxes per year if all three questions passed, Wingenroth said.
00Here’s how the costs break down individually:
- Proposal 1 — Public safety: $26 per $100,000 in limited property value.
- Proposal 2 — Traffic congestion: $12 per $100,000 in limited property value.
- Proposal 3 — Street re-pavement: $8 per $100,000 in limited property value.
The council’s plea
Every councilmember gave their full-throated support for the bond election.
Vice Mayor Todd Tande highlighted that landowners along the major roads would likely have an easier time attracting popular retailers if the infrastructure is in place.
Councilmember Ken Remley offered his support as well — despite his loathing for higher taxes.
“I recognize that we have the need,” Remley said. “I also recognize I hate taxes, and I regard bonds as taxes. If I’m paying it, I regard that as another tax. But this is a need that we have and one that we can’t put off.”
Remley illustrated how the bond would affect Surprise’s average resident using his own home value as an example.
“If all three parts of this bond issue were to be approved by this board and this council and go forward and be voted on, my taxes are going to go up by about $46 — four bucks a month,” Remley said. “I think I can handle that.”
Mayor Sharon Wolcott’s sentiments echoed the rest of the council’s.
“Frankly, this whole bond initiative is about the quality of life as we define it in the city of Surprise,” Wolcott said. “And those things that brought us here will not last forever.”
Wolcott then addressed her friends and neighbors in the retirement communities whom she said take more than their fair share of the city’s most expensive service — public safety — and asked for unity among the city’s residents.
“I for one believe that this is a quality of life question,” Wolcott said. “Do we want to live in the quality of city that we chose to be a part of, that we all as a council agreed to help improve and deliver back to you in better shape than we found it? Or do we just want to watch the city decay? Because that’s precisely what will happen if we don’t, as a community, come together and agree to invest.”
What happens next?
The council plans to vote on a “Call to Election” on June 6. If approved, the bond initiative would go on the ballot for special election on Nov. 7.
The ballot would be mail-in only as it’s not part of a normal election year, though the city would mail the ballot to all registered voters whether they normally vote via absentee ballot or not.
Read or Share this story: http://azc.cc/2r0uFDa