By Linda Bentley | September 16, 2015

Oversight non-existent for median banner program

According to CCMEA, the program earned $4,500 during its first year and CCMEA agreed to make a $3,500 payment to the town
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CAVE CREEK – Two years ago, the Cave Creek Merchants and Events Association approached town staff with an idea for the town to place poles in the medians throughout town for the purpose of posting banners to advertise events, nonprofit organizations and businesses.

CCMEA initially proposed placing 24 poles in medians and Planning Director Ian Cordwell authorized a pilot program of four poles so council and the public could see what they would look like.

Although the median banner program generated $4,500 during its first year, Cave Creek Merchants and Events Association never made any payments to the town to reimburse it for the nearly $7,000 in costs associated with installing the banner poles as per the agreement.

According to Cordwell, the cost for each of the poles, including installation and the straps that hold the banners in place, was $700.

Back in December 2013, former CCMEA Treasurer Jean Glass, who is no longer affiliated with the organization, claimed the banners would relieve some of the clutter of sandwich signs throughout town.

Council expressed some concerns about the program and questioned how it would reduce the clutter.

It was suggested that 24 poles would be clutter in itself and 12 sounded like a more reasonable number.

Council voted to have staff bring the item back in January and work on addressing its concerns.

On Jan. 6, the proposal came back to council to approve 12 poles with a revenue split of 20/80 percent to the town and CCMEA, respectively, for $129 that CCMEA charged per banner per month.

Despite questions of financial accountability being repeatedly raised by Mayor Vincent Francia, council voted 5-2, with Francia and former Councilman Reg Monachino voting no, to pass former Vice Mayor Adam Trenk’s motion to move forward with locating 12 poles and extending the pilot program for four months.

However, Trenk’s motion also required CCMEA to bring back policies before the end of April on how it would allocate signs to businesses, set prices, and, beginning that day, and until the town recouped all of its expenses associated with the installation of the banner poles, there would be no split in revenue with CCMEA.

The motion specified only after the town had recouped all of its fixed costs for the installation of the 12 signs would the 20/80 percent revenue split occur.

Before the vote, Trenk again reiterated there would be no split with CCMEA until after all the town’s costs of installing the 12 poles were completely recaptured.

Meanwhile, citizens complained to the town about how unsightly the empty poles with brackets looked while waiting for advertisers.

So, the town spent an additional $800 to $1,000 in non-recoverable costs to purchase town of Cave Creek banners to place in the empty slots.

As it turns out, the town never did install all 12 poles. It installed nine, one of which the town retained control over for town-sponsored events.

Fast forward to Sept. 3, 2015, Sonoran News filed a records request with the town to ask how much the town had received to date for the banner program.

That request was answered a few days later with a phone call from Town Manager Peter Jankowski, who said the town hadn’t received a dime from CCMEA but he was meeting with CCMEA President Evelyn Johnson that afternoon.

That meeting resulted in a signed agreement from CCMEA to reimburse the town for the cost associated with the eight poles CCMEA controlled.

Apparently the original cost of $700 per pole was inaccurate and the town’s records established the cost was actually $800 per pole plus engineering costs of $550 or $61.11 per pole for a total of $861 per pole.

On Sept. 8, 2015, CCMEA agreed to pay the town a total of $6,888.88 for the cost of eight poles.

According to CCMEA, the program earned $4,500 during its first year and CCMEA agreed to make a $3,500 payment to the town, which it did on Sept. 9.

A new agreement for reimbursement was also made on Sept. 9 between the town and CCMEA, stating CCMEA will make payments to the town, as revenues are earned, based on a 50/50 split until the full program costs were reimbursed and payments would be made to the town within 30 days of receipt by CCMEA.

The only question that remains is about oversight, which was raised by Francia nearly two years ago.

And, what would have happened if Sonoran News never posed the question?

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