Kiwanis of Carefree presents annual mayors' addresses

By Linda Bentley | January 13, 2010

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‘That’s OK, he’s from Cave Creek and we still practice free speech in Cave Creek’

susan vanik, david schwan, vincent franciaKiwanis President Susan Vanick introduced mayors David Schwan (l) of Carefree and Vincent Francia of Cave Creek, seated to her left on either side of her husband Carroll, to give their annual state of the town addresses during the Jan. 6 Kiwanis meeting at Harold’s.
Photo by Linda Bentley

CAVE CREEK – Kiwanis of Carefree hosted its annual state of the town addresses last Wednesday with Cave Creek Mayor Vincent Francia and Carefree Mayor David Schwan speaking on behalf of their respective towns.

Kiwanis President Susan Vanik’s husband Carroll introduced the speakers and announced, “In the tradition of Cave Creek, I have a new deck of cards,” and said the highest card would decide who would speak first.

Schwan drew an ace while Francia drew a king. Schwan elected to speak second.

The format allowed each mayor a few minutes to speak first and then they would take questions from the floor.

During his state of the community address last year, Francia said Cave Creek was in dire straits.

“Things are not healthy in America. The state situation is already worse.”

Francia said the two main revenue streams, construction and development fees, which were keeping Cave Creek healthy, were in decline and the town needed to take proactive measures in 2008 and 2009.

“In a town of 5,000,” Francia said, “We had to lay off 12 people,” lamenting how personal that is in a small town.

In addition there were salary cuts and hours were reduced to a 4-day, 32-hour week.
However, he said, “There are only so many cuts a town can make,” and still function.

He had citizens come together to come up with a new economic model for revenue. A committee was formed and they came out with the White Paper.

Francia said, included in their recommendations were things the town would not have considered five years ago.

When Walmart approached the town, Francia said he asked two questions. The first was, “Are you in the right neighborhood?”

He said they had studied the demographics and were convinced they were.

Francia’s second question was, “What is it you do to make money in these times, while other businesses are struggling?”

He said the response was, “Walmart sells what people want or need at a price they can afford,” and noted three out of four citizens supported Walmart when the land use issues were voted on in a referendum. The store is expected to open in 2011.

“Why is this important? We cannot ever rely on one revenue stream,” said Francia, adding, “My citizens spend 90 percent … in other communities. Walmart is the beginning of that process.”

He said the town’s debt service is $4.2 million and when the wastewater treatment plant comes online the debt service will be $5.2 million.

“We have turned the corner on calculations for our future. Our reserves will enable us to meet our obligations.

“If Arizona’s communities are in trouble, the state is in trouble.”

As far as the community of Cave Creek goes, Francia said, “We’re doing just fine.”

Schwan opened by saying, “Carefree is in sound financial shape” but may be $130,000 short of its $5.2 million operating budget.

He stated there was $4.2 million in unrestricted capital reserves.

Schwan mentioned the town would be receiving American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to do some road projects.

He said “Carefree Resort was in bankruptcy last year,” but such was no longer the case. According to Schwan, the new operating company plans to invest $6 million in the resort and will market the resort as a premier desert destination.

Then Schwan stated there were two problems affecting and dividing the community – “hatred and lies.”

“The second bigger problem,” said Schwan, “The only thing for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.”

He went on to say, “A 14-year-old girl took up the flag” to say “We need to stop the hatred and we’re not going to support the people that support it.”

Hopefully, he said, there will be a national dialogue and a local dialogue to improve.

A question to Francia came from a Carefree resident who complained about his water rates, said the town didn’t have to purchase the water company, the Arizona Corporation Commission would have never allowed such an increase if the company were left in private hands, and asked, “What can we do to turn Cave Creek customers over to the Carefree water system?”

Francia said he did not have an answer for that but explained that raising the rates was not an arbitrary and capricious act and was predicated on meeting debt obligations.

No, the town did not have to buy the water company, said Francia, adding, “The reason we went after it will become apparent soon.”

Next, Bill Rintelmann addressed Schwan. He said a statement in Sonoran News said Schwan “did not support the free speech of Ryan Ducharme, a paid consultant from Chandler,” and asked Schwan, “Would you like to comment on that?”

Schwan, who admitted he was being recalled, said Ray Klemp, who owns the building which houses the Carefree Post Office and was, at the time, Carefree Town Hall’s landlord, did not want Ducharme on his private property and claimed, “Carefree played no part in that. I stayed out of it. Such is life – You get accused of things you didn’t do.”

Francia was asked what the sales tax rate was in Cave Creek and how much revenue Walmart is expected to produce.

Francia said the sales tax rate is 3 percent but did not know how much Walmart is expected to bring in.

He said, “Citizens spend $9 million per year on groceries in other jurisdictions,” but couldn’t project what it would bring in. Francia added, “I see they’re a very successful company.”

Lamont Cole also addressed Francia by stating, “When Rawhide wanted to come here – kibosh! Home Depot – kibosh! Magic Bird was hit with such impact fees they were shut down. Why not let businesses in that will bring money from the outside?”
He said, “Walmart comes in and has the town by the …”

Francia responded by saying there was never a serious proposal to the community from Rawhide.

As far as Home Depot was concerned, Francia said, “I was for it. At the time the community was divided – 65 percent against.”

He said Home Depot, not wanting to become embroiled in the controversy, chose to go across the street.

Francia said 10 years ago it was something the citizenry didn’t want, while 78 percent voted to buy Spur Cross, which he said would be paid off next year, nine years early.

“Walmart didn’t have anything on us,” said Francia. “They rolled the dice, bought the property, expected a referendum,” after which they prevailed.

While Cole was ranting rather than asking a question, he was eventually booed by the audience, to which Francia responded, “That’s OK, he’s from Cave Creek and we still practice free speech in Cave Creek.”