Vol. 15 Issue No. 2 | January 14 – 20, 2009

Dismal economy highlight mayors’ annual addresses

By Curtis Riggs | January 14, 2009

Kiwanians hear about 09 challenges

CAVE CREEK – Discussions about the stagnant economy and how to revive it dominated the annual State of the towns addresses at the Kiwanis Club of Carefree weekly luncheon last week.

After admitting previous State of the town addresses had been easier for him because the times were better then, Cave Creek Mayor Vincent Francia simply said, “Things are tough in Cave Creek,” when addressing the large crowd at Harold’s Cave Creek Corral.

Francia explained sales-tax revenue and growth, which had kept Cave Creek flush with cash the past seven years, were down dramatically this year.

“The economy was moving along and then something happened,” he said. “The economy changes like the seasons of nature, although, with nature it is every year and the economy changes every decade.” The long-time Cave Creek mayor had just come from the first meeting of a new committee that has the mission of coming up with a new business model for the town.

“The business model, which has worked for the last 12 years has borne the last of its fruit,” he said. Cave Creek can no longer depend on sufficient sales-tax revenue or any new income from building development fees.

“In the last eight years they produced a surplus and we were able to do things, but in 2007-08 growth came to an abrupt halt,” he said, drawing a comparison between the development fees from 100 new homes in the community dwindling to 20 this past year.

“That economic model no longer serves us,” he said. The need is to develop a new financial plan where development fees, “will just be the icing on the cake and not the whole cake.”

He explained Cave Creek is in a “serious financial situation” because of debt it must retire from the purchase of the old Cave Creek Water Company and upgrading its long ignored infrastructure.

“The good news is in the past two years we were able to get the Cave Creek Water Company up and running to serve 11,000 customers,” he said.

When commenting on the only truly positive portion of his address, Francia said the annexation of Arizona State Trust Land, which will preserve 4,000 acres of desert, is in the final stages of approval.

He talked about how the preserved area in the newly annexed land will complete the Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area. He added a focus of the town’s new preservation property would link Spur Cross with the Cave Creek Recreation Area.

“Cave Creek will have more preserved land than any town in Arizona,” he said. Fifty two percent of the land within the town’s boundaries will be preserved after the annexation.

Carefree Mayor Wayne Fulcher said, “While 2008 was a year of challenges” efforts were made to increase tourism by adding lighting, signage and turn lanes to the downtown Easy Street area.

“We finished the 150,000-gallon water tank, installed automatic water meter readers and purchased the Lyons building before the end of the year,” he said. Carefree continued to prepare for the future despite the trying economic times.

“That should hold us in good stead,” Fulcher said.

He explained Carefree officials realized how much the economy had deteriorated in the third quarter of last year.

“We decided then we have to rethink our spending policy,” he said about freezing spending.