BY LINDA BENTLEY | FEBRUARY 8, 2012
Carefree’s sign of the times becomes déjà vu all over again
Council authorizes renewal of Rural/Metro contract for five more years
Photos by Linda Bentley
CAREFREE – In an effort to promote Carefree and assist people with knowing they’re actually in Carefree, signs continue to be a hot topic amongst Carefree Town Council.
With Councilman Marty Saltzman absent, council voted 4-2 (councilmen Jim Van Allen and Mike Farrar dissenting) authorizing replacement of 53 street name signs within the town core center at a cost not to exceed $3,500.
According to Vice Mayor Melissa Price (l), the signs would be part of setting up an identity for the town with the uniformity of the sundial.
The signs would also have reflectivity three times higher than the current signs for better visibility at night.
Town Administrator Gary Neiss said the current signs have a life of up to two years.
However, he said some with whimsical names are often shorter because they get stolen.
Van Allen suggested the town auction the old signs off, while Price recommended selling them at the visitor’s center.
Councilman Arthur Gimson said he supported the entire concept but stated he would like to see the sundial logo a little larger.
Councilman Glenn Miller said the old signs could be saved for replacements throughout other parts of town, using Carefree Drive as an example of a road that continues beyond the town core center.
Farrar (l) disagreed that the town needed new signs and said the existing signs were still in good condition.
When it came to discussion of what Mayor David Schwan referred to as the “alleged gaudy signs” in town, he reminded council the merchants’ names on the signs expired in March and were coming up for renewal.
Price presented options for new signs, which included a version that looks like the current signs but with the colors “somewhat muted.” However, she did not have a picture available to share with council.
She then presented pictures of powder coated metal signs that were in keeping with the sundial theme and colors at a cost of $250 each for single-sided signs and $1,000 for double-sided signs, plus $65 per sign for powder coated posts.
The town currently has 10 signs, two of which are double sided.
Price said the results of the town survey indicated the direction she took in designing the new signs to replace the “gaudy” ones.
Van Allen said he wasn’t sure there isn’t a right third answer and spoke about the money the town spent on the original sundial signs.
Those signs originally cost the town $40,000 and were subsequently retrofitted in an effort to make them more visible to what the mayor said became a total investment of between $60,000 and $80,000.
Farrar said he would like to see other designs.
While Price appeared flustered by the lack of support for her proposed new signs, she suggested council order one at a cost of $315, including the posts, to see the quality and for citizens to compare.
Schwan suggested putting it up at Mariachi Plaza, since the building was in foreclosure and the owner was unlikely to spring for a sign.
Jeff Bergman spoke during public comment and told council the current signs are extremely effective. He also said he was disappointed there was no other option shown and stated more than one sign design needs to be taken into consideration.
Jo Gemmill had plenty to say about the subject. She said placing a sign where one doesn’t currently exist would basically prove nothing, stating, “Of course it will increase business because there’s currently no sign.”
She also pointed out the town had already spent a great sum of money on signs that didn’t work and just blended into the background.
Al Swanson and Catherine Marr both said they agreed with Gemmill, while Marr also stated the town should install lighting in the town core so people will know everything is not closed at night.
Denise Turner said the signs proposed by Price were too generic and she would rather see other options, adding, “I don’t think we should change them; they’re working.”
Lyn Hitchon supported the existing signs, pointing out they are the colors of the Arizona state flag. She too didn’t believe the signs proposed by Price would work.
Gimson suggested council take no action and have Price continue her research, while Miller stated, “I like what we have.”
Price, however, stated she was guided by survey results and indicated she wasn’t willing to invest more time in further researching the issue.
Farrar said he would like to see perhaps three other designers come up with ideas.
When Price asked Farrar if he would be willing to seek out those three other designers and pursue the issue, he agreed to take that on and bring something forward at next month’s meeting.
Council unanimously agreed to authorize the town to negotiate another five-year contract with Rural/Metro for fire protection services but without the subsidy for ambulance service, which Town Administrator Gary Neiss noted was primarily subsidizing non-residents.
Neiss said subsidizing ambulance service cost the town approximately $50,000 per year, which he said could be put to other uses such as road maintenance.
Price said “Part-timers are getting a really good deal,” since sales tax covers the cost of the contract and they’re not here spending money in town for most of the year.
Neiss said they couldn’t really exclude them because they could run into discrimination issues.
Schwan added even though part-time they have made an investment in the town.
Town Accountant Jim Keen said sales tax revenue was coming in higher than budgeted and now that the town is getting into its better months he is predicting the town’s sales tax would end the year up 6-8 percent.
In announcing Current Events, Schwan said Rep. Ben Quayle, R-Ariz, would be holding an Open House/Town Hall meeting in Carefree at 6 p.m. on March 14.
He also said Stan Francom announced his retirement as general manager of the water company this fall and the town would be actively seeking his replacement.