MARCH 7, 2012
Carefree renews contracts with town magistrate and Rural/Metro
‘We should be looking at a way to pay for fire service without whittling down our general fund’
CAREFREE – With Vice Mayor Melissa Price absent, council approved a two year contract with Town Magistrate K.C. Scull (l) through Nov. 30, 2014.
Councilman Jim Van Allen said, “Carefree deserves and has an outstanding court. We’ve been extremely happy and proud to have the judge on our team,” adding, “He’s agreed to lower his rate by 10 percent.”
The new contract is for $3,000 per month plus any out-of-pocket expenses incurred for attendance at any supreme court-mandated continuing education seminars and Arizona State Bar membership dues.
Desert Foothills Library (DFL) Executive Director David Court explained the services and programs provided by DFL and asked the town to reinstate contributions to the library.
He said the library first started lending books on Feb. 14, 1954 and has since grown to 20,000 square feet after five expansions.
Court stated he is the only full-time employee of a very small staff but said they have 140 volunteers.
Van Allen asked if he was seeking funding for the current year or next year. Court said he was seeking funds from the town for the fiscal year 2012-2013.
Councilman Mike Farrar (l) asked if Cave Creek contributed to the library.
Court said Cave Creek, like Carefree, used to contribute to the library and, like Carefree, stopped for the same reasons.
He said he had made a similar presentation and request to Cave Creek Council a few weeks ago.
Council unanimously authorized the execution of a five-year contract with Rural/Metro with automatic renewal for an additional five years unless three months’ notice is given to provide the town with an opportunity to evaluate the current market value of the contract.
Town Administrator Gary Neiss said the new $1.25 million contract provides significant savings to the town.
The new contract eliminates the $52,000 per year ambulance subsidy, saving the town over $250,000 over five years, which, as discussed during the previous meeting, would be better spent on community infrastructure such as street maintenance projects.
Neiss said Rural/Metro also agreed to base the inflator, currently at 4 percent, on a local index in order to minimize annual increases.
According to Neiss, the new local inflators are now based on the local labor index (CPI – U/W Mesa-Phoenix) with a minimum cap of 1.5 percent and a maximum cap of 2.5 percent.
He said basing annual increases on a rational local labor index would minimize increases and maintain a competitive price point.
Councilman Arthur Gimson commented he was concerned that the town takes $300,000 per year out of the general fund to pay for the fire contract and said he’s saving approximately $900 per year, between his previous subscription fee and insurance discounts, since 2003 when the town entered into a master contract with Rural/Metro.
When sales tax revenue is not enough to support the contract, it is subsidized by the general fund.
Noting property tax is a “dirty word” in Carefree, just as it is in Cave Creek, Gimson said, “We should be looking at a way to pay for fire service without whittling down our general fund.”
Councilman Glenn Miller presented an agenda item requesting funds to purchase seven customized, double-headed pedestrian lights to be placed along streets entering the town center.
He asked that the $50,000 estimated cost to produce and deliver seven pedestrian lights, which would replicate the existing lights, be funded through the FY 2011/2012 contingency fund, while the cost to install the lights, estimated at $37,000, be budgeted in the next fiscal year.
Miller said the cost has gone up because the company, which used to be in Mesa, was bought by Hanover Lantern out of New York and he was recommending ordering the lights now because they require 12 weeks lead time.
Van Allen objected to an unbudgeted item that’s not an emergency and budgeting the balance into next year in a budget they haven’t done yet.
Stating he wasn’t even sure what was being proposed was legal, Van Allen asked to put off the purchase until the new budget year.
He asked Miller what the specific purpose was.
Miller responded, “To show the town is open at night.”
Van Allen said, “I strongly oppose this.”
Gimson said he was as for the project as Van Allen was against it.
Councilman Marty Saltzman (r) wondered if it wouldn’t be a better idea to wait until council decides what the town center was going to look like, i.e. single lane with bike path.
He suggested the town change the town center first then “light and sign” it rather than “light and sign” it first and then change it.
Farrar said he would like to drive to see where the new lights were going first and stated, “We don’t need to decide this today.”
Saltzman said there were two issues, the first was whether it was legal, which Town Attorney Mike Wright assured them it was.
He said, “If it’s legal, the question is: Do we want it?”
During public comment, Catherine Marr from Venues Café said, “From a business perspective, customers talk about how dark it is.”
She also said other business owners have said they’d be open later if there were better lighting.
Lyn Hitchon asked if the town could order the lights now before the price goes up again and decide where to place them later.
Mayor David Schwan suggested a motion to approve ordering the lights now, due to the 12-week lead time and have the community participate in deciding the location.
Council approved the purchase as suggested by Schwan by a vote of 5-1, with Van Allen dissenting.
Farrar, after taking over the sign project from Price last month, proposed the purchase of signs in an amount not to exceed $6,900, which would include $1,200 for a revamp of the sundial sign, $2,600 for a new sign at Mariachi Plaza, on which merchants are willing to pay to place their names, and $2,900 for a newly designed test sign to be placed on Pima Road.
He said the money would come out of contingency funds.
During public comment, Holly Bergman said every merchant likes the current signs, there were plenty of slots for merchants to place their names and called them “outrageously effective.”
Council unanimously approved the purchase.
Council also voted unanimously in favor of a revision to its policies for use of the town council chambers by delegating the town clerk authority to approve all use and scheduling of the council chambers.