Council unanimously passes $17.8 million budget

‘In my view, the budget is a fair use of taxpayer money’
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jim periceCAVE CREEK – Tuesday night’s special session of the town council began with Carefree resident Jim Peirce (r) speaking during Call to the Public.

Peirce read the following from Vice Mayor Adam Trenk’s website:
“Cave Creek annexed 4,000 acres of State Trust land in 2009 which it designated ‘open space.’ But before the land is safe from speculators it must first be acquired from the state land department at auction. If the town does not purchase the land within the next 15 years the state land department may ‘sell it for development.’ Planning must be done to ensure the town is able to afford to take title to that property and preserve the open space so vital to the character of our community.”

Peirce indicated a town with the population the size of Cave Creek would have no prospects of acquiring the open space without imposing a property tax.

He suggested the town de-annex the state land and give it back to the state.

A continuance was being requested for a special use permit application for the OK Corral project to allow for a commercial ranch with an equestrian RV Park on TC Thorstenson’s parcel on Vermeersch Road behind the Tap Haus Restaurant by applicant Mike Noonan.

Planning Director Ian Cordwell said it would be re-advertised. He also said staff would be bringing an expansion of the notification boundaries to the planning commission, which he said is currently 300 feet.

Although council was being asked to continue the case, Noonan spoke about how they came up with the idea for the project a year ago, first with 100 RV sites, which he said they pared down to 40.

He said there were concerns about noise from the Hideaway Bar and stated, “We need some code enforcement.”

Noonan said they were trying to develop the property in the best interest of the town with equestrian use and direct access to a trail system going all the way to the Grand Canyon if they wanted.

He said, “Now what we’re being stifled with is a right-of-way issue.”

According to Noonan, access shouldn’t be a problem if it’s not a problem for Rural/Metro.
He said, “Now we have to hire more consultants, spend more money, spend more time.”

Noonan said Black Mountain Shadows was the only opponent to the project, stating they fear it will turn into a trailer park.

“I don’t blame them,” said Noonan, adding, “There’s no code enforcement.”

Bob Moore, a Black Mountain Shadows resident, said he was standing there not as a homeowner, but as a citizen. He said commercial use must have ingress and egress from a collector street.

Moore said, “It’s no surprise. The ordinance says no RVs in Cave Creek. I’m strictly talking code and ordinance here.

“No woe is me. No surprise.”

Vice Mayor Adam Trenk questioned the time period allowed for a continuance and asked if it shouldn’t be restricted to no more than a year.

Cordwell said it was usually six months.

Councilman Charles Spitzer’s motion to continue the case for no longer than six months carried unanimously.

Council unanimously approved an IGA (intergovernmental agreement) with Maricopa County Animal Care and Control (MCACC).

Town Clerk Carrie Dyrek explained the services provided by MCACC and said the IGA was for five years at a fee of $6,260, billed quarterly.

Al Aguinaga from MCACC was on hand to explain their services and answer questions.

Councilman Mike Durkin asked how many calls they get per year.

Aguinaga said they average 70 calls per year from Cave Creek and also provide free spay and neuter clinics as part of the services they provide.

Trenk moved to approve the IGA, stating $100 per call and free spay and neuter was bargain.
The motion carried unanimously.

robert weddingtonFinance Director Robert Weddigen (r) presented the tentative budget to set the cap or the maximum amount the town can expend.

Weddigen asked council to make an adjustment to increase the grant funds budgeted by $500,000 and asked for council to pass a motion to contract court services with the county.

He said the county will not negotiate or even discuss costs until council passes a motion.

During public comment, as Cave Creek Museum Board President Sue Mueller passed out the museum’s annual report, Executive Director Evelyn Johnson told council the stamp mill being restored by volunteers will be operational by Nov. 12 for the annual Miner’s Dinner.

She asked council to support the museum in an amount of $10,000.

Marc Peagler from the Cave Creek Merchants and Events Association (CCMEA) said he noticed the $10,000 line item and thanked council for that.

Peagler said they lost their volunteers and have no one to man the information center and asked if the town could increase that amount.

David Smith commented on the town magistrate’s budget and 100 percent increase. He also commented on Durkin’s suggestion that the town have a five-year budget.

Smith said, “A five year budget plan is a great thing but first you need a five-year plan for the town. You need something to budget.”

Scott Dahne, who said he serves on the board of the Desert Foothills Library, asked council to put a donation for the library back in the budget.

Johnny Ringo, president of the CCMEA said the $10,000 it receives from the town is not enough and stated it costs a lot of money to promote events for the town.

According to Ringo, Wild West Days alone costs $30,000.

He said they would like to have a little cushion.

Ringo said maybe the town doesn’t realize what CCMEA does to promote the town, including all the charity events and money they give to the library, food bank and others.

He invited council members to attend one of their meetings so they would have a better idea.

Councilman Reg Monachino moved to adopt the budget cap of $17,753,926, with Durkin seconding the motion.

Monachino said, “In my view, the budget is a fair use of taxpayer money,” but said there were a number of items that should come back to council for discussion and review, including street maintenance, medical benefit costs and the court.

He said they needed an in-depth examination of the costs and their options.

Durkin said he agreed and suggested if there were areas where money could be saved, staff should be rewarded.

Town Attorney Marlene Pontrelli said the motion suggested by Weddigen regarding the court would need to be placed on the next agenda, as the matter was not agendized for that meeting.
Spitzer commented about the utilities not being self-supporting and said, “I’d like to see [the general fund subsidy] go down.

Council members all praised staff for the comprehensible format of the budget, with the Mayor commenting, “This is as good as it gets.”

Council voted unanimously to adopt the tentative budget.

Council voted unanimously to approve all the items on the agenda, which included a transfer of funds in the amount of $436,555 from the general fund contingency account and $15,024 from the general fund engineering account to the enterprise fund and $60,000 from the general fund engineering account to the Phoenix Mine Site Debt Service Fund.

They also authorized entering into an IGA with Maricopa County Department of Public Health to provide Strategic National Stockpile Assets (vaccines) in the event of a public health emergency, as explained by Town Marshal Adam Stein.

Stein said there was no cost to the town and he hoped they never needed to use the services.
With Trenk recusing himself because he is the statutory agent for TC Thorstenson’s Hogs and Horses Development, council accepted a deed of gift for 12 feet of right of way and a deed of gift for 15 feet for a streetscape trail easement to fulfill a requirement of the project’s site plan.

It was interesting to note that Trenk felt a need to recuse himself from this agenda item due to his business relationship with Thorstenson, but didn’t feel it was necessary to recuse himself from the earlier discussion of the OK Corral agenda item, which is also on property owned by Thorstenson. 

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