Building center of budget problems for Carefree

By Curtis Riggs | June 10, 2009

$60,000 income still listed for vacant building
CAREFREE – What to do with the soon to be vacant Eight Sundial Circle building, which the previous town council purchased hurriedly at the end of 2008, is causing budget problems from both ends for the new town council.

Not only is the town now faced with coming up with a new use for the building, which will be vacant on June 30, but the council is also struggling with the loss of $60,000 in annual rent on the property in a year when the budget is already $1 million out of balance.

The use the council decides on could cost the town more money when the council is seeking to cut expenses wherever it can.

The cost of moving the Carefree Municipal Court to the new building is somewhere between $70,000 and $125,000, said Vice Mayor Glenn Miller. He is examining the best use for the 4,400-square-foot building soon to be vacated by Alchemix Corp.

While Miller and Mayor David Schwan envision the court or Carefee Town Hall relocating to the building as the only viable choices, three on town council say there are other options.

To six-term Councilman Bob Coady the best options for the council are to sell the building or pay off the $500,000 loan for the property out of the town’s near $3.9 million general fund.

New Councilman Peter Koteas disagrees with Coady on selling the building, which was acquired from the Dennis Lyon family trust, because other than the streets of Carefree the building is the most valuable asset the town owns.

“Before we make any decision we need to consider its financial value to the town,” he said. “We don’t want to make a hasty decision.”

Koteas talks of having a “headache for four days” because of budget problems, which were left unresolved by the former town council.

“We were just sworn in and the balloons started to pop and we’re left saying, what, what, what?” he said.

Councilman Doug Stavoe says having the soon to be vacant building is not the only budget problem of concern. The budget appears even more unrealistic because the $60,000 in revenue from the building is still included.

“They gave us a budget, which shows revenue that doesn’t exist,” he said. “Revenues are overstated and they need to be more realistic on the money coming in.”

He suggests the town could also “trade use of the building” for services provided by other agencies such as a sheriff’s office substation.

To him having the court move to the new building is “political suicide” because of the new money that would have to be spent in a tight budget year. He said the problems with keeping the building go beyond the $60,000 in lost revenue because of property taxes and insurance.

“If you can’t justify keeping an asset based on the return then you are not justified in keeping the asset,” Stavoe said.

Mayor Schwan considers the court, or town hall, moving to Eight Sundial Circle as the only viable options. A major impediment to either agency moving to the new building is the low rent the town pays at its present location.

When the Eight Sundial Circle building was purchased it was agreed it would be best for both the court and town hall to stay where they are until the lease expires in 2013 because of the favorable rent at the town hall/post office.

He defends town hall staff, which is facing criticism over the budget.

“I understand some people may think the budget is too rosy, but the staff is doing a good job,” he said.