Carefree’s capital improvement ideas unfunded and under fire

Miller: ‘Economic Development is good common sense and I got that’
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carefree workshopCarefree Town Council held a special workshop meeting on Tuesday to discuss the general concepts of building of a splash pad, adding shade structures to the amphitheater and constructing a veterans’ memorial, the only project that would be self-funded through the sale of engraved pavers.
Photos by Linda Bentley

CAREFREE – Town council held a special workshop session on Tuesday to discuss its three major proposed capital improvement projects.

Council also took action, voting unanimously to approve utilizing the services and becoming a member of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) and a resolution to submit a grant application to the Gila River Indian Community for Proposition 202 funds, to help fund the projects.

Although Mayor David Schwan, Councilman Mike Farrar and Town Administrator Gary Neiss attended a meeting with ULI, they appeared to come away with different impressions.

Farrar said ULI told them they were on the right track but needed to bring in someone with expertise in these areas because ULI does not recommend specific projects.

Neiss said they were told shade and a splash pad are the best practices of their time and stated, “We’re not planning to build a water park.”

Farrar said they needed to do a RFP (request for proposals).

Councilman Glenn Miller stated he didn’t think they needed to bring in someone with expertise and said, “Economic development is good common sense and I got that.”

Farrar reiterated that ULI will only give general direction, not recommendations for specific projects.

Schwan told Farrar not to question him and said he was trying to get the town to a position where it could ask for donations.

melissa price
She went on about how she fell in love with a condo, decided to move to Carefree,opened a beauty salon and decided to run for council.
Vice Mayor Melissa Price (l) stated she liked using ULI and said, “This is a great contact.”

Miller asked, “Can we make a motion and move on?”

Councilman Marty Saltzman’s motion to enlist the services and become a member of ULI carried unanimously.

Price then did a presentation that began with a “Background/Refresher,” which talked about what Carefree was like the first time she saw the town while she was living in the Bellasera subdivision in Scottsdale.

She went on about how she fell in love with a condo and decided to move to Carefree and opened up a beauty salon and what she came to run for council.

As Price continued on about her reasoning for being on council and how council has worked on the economic development strategic plan (EDSP) for the past two years, Farrar and Saltzman repeatedly stated, “This is not on the agenda.”

Farrar finally stated, “Mayor, this is not on the agenda.”

Schwan and Town Attorney Michael Wright said nothing while Price, who has already been found to be in “inadvertent violation” of Arizona’s open meeting law, was allowed to continue.

Miller said he thought the information being presented was interesting and stated, “She worked hard on this, let her finish.”

Price continued to discuss the EDSP, how it was a living document that would be updated after ULI review and how the town was developing a plan for a sustainable future.

Despite not being agendized and continuous protests from both Saltzman, who is a lawyer by profession, and Farrar, Price continued her presentation.

The town was cited for an open meeting law violation by the Arizona Attorney General’s office for improperly noticing meetings by not stating what would be discussed.

To rectify both Price’s and the town’s violations, the town agreed to attend training on Arizona’s open meeting law.

However, the training was being delayed until after the new council is seated in June.

A “plain vanilla” splash pad with eight nozzles and no special features can cost between $155,000 and $211,000.

Water features will cost $78,000 to $111,000 extra.

With tax and 10 percent contingency, the estimated total cost for the splash pad would be $233,000 to $322,000.

Price said the goal was to enter into a partnership with the business community to contribute $115,000 to $150,000.

Councilman Arthur Gimson asked where the rest of the money would be coming from.

Price responded, “I would hope the town would invest in itself.”

During public comment, Jim Van Allen noted in a citizen survey of 10 items, the splash pad got the lowest marks and only 10 to 15 percent responded positively to the splash pad.

Van Allen said at the time the survey was done, “They didn’t know it was going to cost $320,000.

The proposed amphitheater shade structure is estimated to cost between $250,000 and $300,000.

Council voted unanimously to authorize applying to the Gila River Indian Community for Proposition 202 grant funds.

When discussing the Veteran’s Memorial, which is to be self-funded through the purchase of engraved pavers, Gimson asked whose name would be going on the paver, the person purchasing it or the veteran’s.

Schwan said they were getting way ahead of themselves.

Gimson said he’d like a timeline for the completion, so from the time the person buys the first paver five years doesn’t pass before the last one is sold.

Miller said every one he’s seen has taken three to five years to complete.

Schwan asked how the town would go about soliciting donations for each of the projects and stated coordinating that is hard to do.

During public comment, Lyn Hitchon said it would be difficult to solicit contributions from the business community if they are hit up repeatedly for donations.

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