Carefree to upgrade flashing beacon crosswalk lights

Budgeting considerations get an early start with workshop
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CAREFREE – With Councilman Marty Saltzman absent, council voted unanimously on Tuesday to recommend approval for a permanent extension of premises/patio permit for AZ Wine Company/Paradise Valley Wine Outlet, LLC, in order to provide alcoholic beverage service to the Carefree Town Center when it would otherwise not be possible upon short notice.

The recommendation was passed with a request that it be for a period of one year.   

After frequent complaints from residents about safety, council voted unanimously to expend $12,500 to refine the existing solar crosswalk system at the intersection of Tom Darlington Drive and Ridgeview Place/Ho Road.

Town Administrator Gary Neiss told council the matter had come up frequently and he had been working with the contractor that provided the original system.

According to Neiss, the system is unique and there are not too many like it.

He said the refinements would include adding a red light so the lights would go from just flashing amber to red, indicating cars must stop.

Neiss said the fix should address the concerns raised by area residents.

He said the lights, upon pedestrian activation, would flash three seconds of amber and then eight seconds of red. However, he said the system can be reprogrammed to extend the time.

Councilman John Crane asked how much the original system cost.

Neiss said he wasn’t sure because it was part of a larger grant project.

Councilman Glenn Miller stated the original system cost $30,000.

Pointing out it is a customized system from the original manufacturer, Neiss, addressing comments from Councilwoman Melissa Price, said the system does not have a feature to alert pedestrians that the light has turned red other than cars stopping.

Mayor David Schwan stated, “Sometimes people need to look out for themselves,” and said the town could only do so much to protect citizens.

He said, “They can’t just push a button, count to three and walk out into traffic. People need to wait until the cars stop.”

Vice Mayor Les Peterson asked if there was anything the town could do to help during the six to eight-week period until the changes are made.

During public comment, Glen Ernst stated, “I don’t think this is going to help,” noting, during the day, the lights are not visible at all.

His wife, Alice Ernst, said she was hopeful the upgrade to include a red light that is not blinking will help.

Linda Covey also spoke to say the red light is a good idea but a white line that says “Stop Here for Pedestrians” should be painted on the road.

She said people don’t know the law and stated more signs with so much going on already wouldn’t be effective.

Schwan said the upgrade includes a white line but he was “flummoxed” over what the verbiage should be since pedestrian was such a long word.

During the budget workshop, Schwan said council might want to consider budgeting $1.5 million in cash reserves to build an addition to the Sundial building to add council chambers and court facilities.

He stated the landlord wants to use the space the town is currently occupying to put in retail.

Councilman Mike Farrar said with the Ed Lewis project coming in council could possibly share space in the proposed satellite Phoenix Art Museum.

Schwan said that would be impractical for scheduling.

Price stated the town has a good relationship with Cave Creek right now and said, “I don’t think this makes sense right now. The nation is in economic turmoil.”

Neiss told council the landlord wants to “activate this space” so it generates retail sales revenue for himself and the town.

Neiss said the issue is, in 2016, when their lease is up, the town needs to decide what it is going to do for meeting space.

He said it is used by more than just council and stated it is used by the planning commission and HOAs.

“We need to meet somewhere,” said Neiss. “Fundamentally, we need a meeting space that meets multiple criteria.”

Farrar said, “I don’t think we need to do this now.”

Neiss stated they didn’t need to decide “today” but said, “We need to discuss this as part of the budget process.”

Peterson said, “We need to do something. This is a signal that time is of the essence.”

Crane said, “The lease expires in 2016,” and asked if the landlord had the option to renew it or say no.

Neiss responded, “Yes.”

When asked how much it would cost for architecture, Neiss said it is generally 10-12 percent of the overall design.

Schwan said the figure of $1.5 million was a high estimate but Neiss pointed out it was a holistic number that included everything.

Other items Neiss told council they may want to think about budgeting for included crack sealing roads, a product for preserving hardscape surfaces, entry monument signage on the west side of Black Mountain, additional wayfinding signs that could be done in partnership with developers and diversifying programs at the amphitheater.

The mayor raised the issue of the judge’s salary, which was recently raised to $69,000.

He said the judge, whose contract was coming up, was “very well compensated.”

Peterson stated, “We should look at alternatives,” noting it was nothing personal but council should review its options.

In order to add a marketing person to staff, which Price said she supported for the past three years, Neiss said the town needed to reevaluate its staffing needs and would need to eliminate an existing position and replace it with something else.

Farrar said someone with expertice in marketing would cost in the neighborhood of $30,000 to $50,000.

Neiss said he saw the position as more of an internal position with the town still contracting an outside company such as Owens Harkey.

Neiss also said the town needed to expand public works, which is currently staffed by four people, including the supervisor.

Miller said the town keeps putting more and more work on the public works employees and their list never goes away.

Schwan also wanted to include cost of living increases for staff, which he said is the town’s most important asset.

Neiss stated the cost of insurance benefits has also gone up 40 percent.

The cost of the town’s contract with Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office will be going up $30,000, which, according to Miller, is due to deputies getting their first raise since 2007.

The cost of Rural/Metro Fire will also be increasing by about $30,000 as well, as per their contract with the town.

Neiss said the town might also want to consider enhancing the town’s Christmas decorations, lighting and enhancements, and kick it up to the next level.

He said Price had done some research and it would cost about $30,000, which Neiss said could be done incrementally.

Neiss also thought the town might want to consider increasing its pledge of support to the Christmas Festival from $20,000 to $30,000, noting the return on their investment was many times over that amount.

The mayor stated Jo Gemmill was thinking of ways to extend the Christmas Festival beyond just a weekend and mentioned setting up an ice skating rink on fake ice.

Neiss stated the town might want to consider budgeting for outside consultants to look at all the town’s issues together in a more holistic approach and said, “There are people who specialize in this stuff.”

Farrar said he was looking forward to seeing the Urban Land Institute report, which recommended the town hire a consultant, and agreed the town needed to bring someone in.

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