BY LINDA BENTLEY | MARCH 21, 2012
Town code amendment raises ire of planning commissioners
APS is largest taxpayer in Arizona and fourth largest employer headquartered in state
Photo by Linda Bentley
CAVE CREEK – The March 19 council meeting began with a presentation about APS by Vern Braaksma, APS Manager – Metro Northeast.
Braaksma began by saying APS is the largest taxpayer in Arizona and services 1.1 million customers in 11 counties.
With $13 billion in assets, Braaksma said APS is also the fourth largest employer headquartered in Arizona.
He presented a pie chart of APS’s energy source mix for 2011 and the expected mix by 2025, which reflected increases in renewable energy, distributed renewable energy and energy efficiency.
A bar chart compared the increase in APS rates of 14 percent to other everyday items, including major appliances, down 10 percent; breakfast cereal, up 11 percent; coffee, up 50 percent; postage, up 64 percent; eggs, up 93 percent; prescription drugs, up 98 percent; bread, up 106 percent; and gasoline, up 237 percent, which Braaksma noted was before the latest increases in gas.
All in all, Braaksma noted electricity was still a good deal for consumers by comparison.
Braaksma posted his e-mail address: Vern.Braaksma@APS.com and his phone number 602-250-3066 and told citizens to feel free to call him with any concerns.
Councilwoman Shelley Anderson asked Braaksma about smart meters.
Braaksma said smart meters only transmitted meter readings throughout the day and had no way of knowing what appliances people were using so there should be no concerns over privacy issues. He did not address health issues associated with radio frequencies, which has also been raised by the public as a concern.
During public comment, Sonoran News Publisher/Editor Don Sorchych told Braaksma APS needed to do something about their customer service so people who call to decline having a smart meter installed didn’t have to wait on hold for up to two hours.
When Town Clerk Carrie Dyrek introduced the second reading of amendments to the town code, Councilman Jim Bruce questioned the addition of section 33.07(B)7, outlining the duties of the planning commission which reads, “All applications, other than applications initiated by the town, shall be reviewed and forwarded to the town council within 60 days following the first public review before the commission.”
Dyrek explained the reasoning behind the section was to ensure an expedited processing of applications, other than those items that are town initiated.
Councilman Dick Esser stated he still had some problems with the elimination of the water advisory committee and had concerns there would be no oversight for those who live outside the community.
During public comment, Planning Commissioner Rae Iverson asked council to strike section 33.07(B)7, stating, “the added language places artificial time limits on cases.”
Agreeing with Iverson, Commissioner Ted Bryda said, “You tie our hands by placing a 60-day limit,” and asked council to strike the language.
Planning Commission Vice Chair Reg Monachino said he had issues with the same section.
Mike Chutz, who said he was an attorney, stated, “I haven’t heard anyone articulate any reason for this.”
Town Attorney Marlene Pontrelli said, “[The section] was meant to be a benefit. The intent was to move cases along. It was intended as a benefit to applicants that things were moving along on an expeditious basis.”
Bruce, in moving to approve the second reading, said he saw the issue both ways and asked, “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?”
He said, “Personally, I would like to see 33.07(B)7 stricken.
Councilman Thomas McGuire seconded the motion and agreed it placed an unnecessary restriction on the commission.
With Councilman Steve Lamar and Mayor Vincent Francia dissenting, the amendment to strike the language passed by a vote of 5-2.
Esser asked if there were an alternative to dissolving the water advisory committee and moved to have staff look into reinstating the committee.
Anderson seconded the motion, stating she would just like to see some oversight.
Utilities Manager Jessica Marlow explained how, over the last year, there hasn’t been a lot of work done by the committee.
She said the committee typically reviewed contracts that are also reviewed by the town attorney and it drafted the drought plan. However, due to lack of participation and failure to assemble a quorum, it has been unable to make any recommendations to council, which Marlow stated was ultimately the decision-making body.
McGuire asked what the committee’s thoughts were on dissolving.
Marlow said the consensus amongst the committee members was the committee served its purpose and was no longer needed with the exception of one member representing Desert Hills.
LaMar said he didn’t understand the need and asked, “Why are we wanting more bureaucracy if the bureaucracy doesn’t want it?”
Vice Mayor Ernie Bunch said, “If needed, we can always make a new one.”
The amendment failed by a vote of 5-2, with Esser and Anderson voting in favor of reinstating the committee.
Council passed the second reading, as amended by Bruce, by a vote of 6-1, with Esser dissenting.