Town to retire $750,000 WIFA loan early

In response to their concerns, Francia stated, ‘Water will not be shut off, I can assure you’
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vince franciaCAVE CREEK – Mayor Vincent Francia (r) announced Fiesta Days was coming up this weekend and people should “jump in and have some fun.”

During Call to the Public, Rob Hamblin and Barbara Middletown both spoke regarding a letter received by residents in the Desert Hills Water area mandating they install backflow prevention systems within 30 days or their water will be shut off.

Hamblin asked what was prompting the mandate and said the equipment is expensive and bids have been received reflecting costs of anywhere from $200 to $2,000.

He said his questions to the utility department have not been answered satisfactorily.

Because the area is rural, both Hamblin and Middleton noted the equipment can be easily stolen, vandalized or run over, since there are no sidewalks or curbs to protect the equipment.

Middleton said the letter was threatening, misleading and inaccurate, and stated the equipment is only required for commercial property not residential.

She pointed out in addition to the cost of installing the backflow prevention system there is an annual fee for inspection.

In response to their concerns, Francia stated, “Water will not be shut off, I can assure you.”

Councilman-elect Adam Trenk also spoke during Call to the Public where he quoted from my Feb. 27 article, in which I stated “However, it was interesting to note Trenk never refuted the allegations or claimed they were false.”

He then pointed my attention to line 69 of the Feb. 19 council meeting minutes, where it states he said during Call to the Public that “Mr. Sorchych’s allegations of corruption are patently false.”

After reviewing the audio CD from that meeting, Trenk is correct and he did, in fact, state the allegations were false.

Mike Durkin spoke to repeat his request made during that same meeting on behalf of two citizens who had made public records requests for documentation showing where Maricopa County required the town to build a new sewage treatment plant.

He claimed all they’d received was a March 5, 2010 letter from Maricopa County, which was two years after the town had already made the decision to build the wastewater treatment plant, nothing indicating the town was required to build one.

Durkin asked the town manager to direct staff to provide that information.

Carole Perry thanked council for the job it had done during incredibly hard times.

Perry stated she doesn’t attend many meetings, not because she’s disinterested in town affairs but as a show of confidence in council’s decisions.

She said, “Your concern for us is apparent and appreciated,” and stated the election results were a wake-up call.

korina rigginKorina Riggin (r) said she left a flyer for council regarding the Fourth Annual Cave Creek Trail Run on March 30.

She said the event, which drew approximately 400 participants last year from 22 states, raises approximately $10,000 each year to put toward the purchase of the 4,000 acres of open space.

Riggin also said she was in desperate need of volunteers and asked those interested in volunteering to call her at 415-606-1946.

With Councilman Steve LaMar absent, council voted unanimously to approve the official canvass of the March 12 primary election.

Council also voted unanimously to approve a resolution authorizing the mayor to enter into an amendment to the intergovernmental agreement (IGA) between the town and Maricopa County for intersection improvements at Carefree Highway and Cave Creek Road.

The amendment was due to residents in the county island area south of Carefree Highway not wishing to annex into the town and changing the language to reflect the town’s good faith attempt to annex the area.

Utilities Manager Jessica Marlow said the amendment to the IGA will allow the town to receive the balance of funds Maricopa County agreed to pay toward the improvements.

Council voted unanimously to authorize paying off a Water Infrastructure Finance Authority of Arizona (WIFA) loan for an amount not to exceed $749,700.

However, it was not without Vice Mayor Ernie Bunch first questioning why the town would want to retire the debt early, when there was still the additional half cent sales tax, water rates were high and the water utility still need improvements.

Finance Director Robert Weddigen explained that paying off the WIFA loan early will save approximately $90,000 in interest and will improve the town’s financial condition.

According to Weddigen, the town’s cash reserve is currently at $4.2 million.

He said sales tax revenue is going up higher than anticipated and the town’s overall cash condition has improved by approximately $700,000 per month.

According to Weddigen, the town is close to its debt service reserve and paying off this WIFA loan reduces the amount required in reserve by approximately $200,000.

During public comment, Planning Commissioner Reg Monachino, who said he worked in finance his entire life, asked how it was possible to pay off a non-callable bond and asked to meet with someone at town hall to explain it to him.

Town Manager Usama Abujbarah said WIFA changed its policy and now bonds can be called in 10 years instead of 20. In this instance, he said the WIFA loan is being paid off three years early.

Abujbarah stated if revenue continues down the same path, the town should be able to pay off the remainder of its debt in 2017 instead of 2027.

Responding to a question by Councilman Dick Esser Abujbarah said the town had never missed a debt payment.

When Esser asked over how long a period of time, Abujbarah replied, “Since 1997.”

Planning Commissioner Ted Bryda questioned why the town would choose to pay off the WIFA loan, considering the low interest rate.

Abujbarah said the return on investment was only earning one-tenth of 1 percent.

Council members seemed to agree paying off the WIFA loan early was a good idea.

Francia, after a long pause, said, “Debt seems to be a topic brought up at the election and at the national level.”

Stating he agreed with the early payoff of Spur Cross and would like to address the half cent sales tax, Francia said, “For me, as soon as the cash reserve hits $5.2 million, I will bring it up again. Any time we can pay debt off early, it’s a good thing.”

Town Marshal Adam Stein asked council to renew the town’s IGA with Maricopa County for Emergency Management Services. He said the current 10-year agreement is expiring and this time the county is asking for a five-year IGA.

Stein said, in the event of an emergency, the IGA entitles the town to apply for certain grants.
However, he said it would not qualify for grants if there were a fire-related emergency because the town does not have a fire department or a fire contract with Rural/Metro.

Council voted unanimously to approve the IGA.

As council prepared to adjourn, Francia wished all the council candidates the “best of luck.”

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