By Linda Bentley | october 14, 2015

Carefree touts court consolidation as a point of pride for both towns

Bodega 13 owners air troubles before council
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CAREFREE – Council voted unanimously to approve the consent agenda during the Oct. 6 meeting with the exception of the paid bills, which Councilman Mike Farrar had pulled.

Farrar questioned various payments associated with the fireplaces and noted the budget was $30,000 but they had already spent $50,000.

He also questioned the “large slope” at the south fireplace and asked, if the town knew it was going to place furniture there, why it wasn’t graded so it was level.

Town Administrator Gary Neiss stated that was all taken into account by the designer.

Larry Foppe

Call to the Public aired somewhat of a feud that has been brewing between the building department and Bodega 13 (formerly Cellar 13) owners, Larry Foppe and Mike Hightower.

Mayor Les Peterson asked those wishing to speak to limit their comments to three minutes, state their address and say if they were Carefree residents.

Gene Scharenbroich said he and his wife frequented Cellar 13 and was there to support the renovation to becoming Bodega 13. He stated, “They’ve put a lot of money into and now they’re having a lot of trouble getting it approved by the town.”

Les Peterson

Scharenbroich asked, “How much money can you expect a person to put into a building?”

Andrew Goulder said he was the electrical contractor on the remodel and he completed everything on the inspector’s list except the emergency lighting.

Goulder said during the final inspection the inspector added more items, including the relocation of electrical panels.

Foppe said Hightowner opened in 2009 and since they became partners to reopen as Bodega 13, the entire remodel project was only about 200 square feet upstairs.

Foppe mentioned some of the work that was done, such as replacing an existing wall and extending the bar by four feet and said “This project has evolved from this to tens of thousands of dollars.”

Mike Tibbett

He disputed Building Official Mike Tibbett’s requirement for stamped engineered drawings and said Neiss told them Tibbett would be pulled from the project and another independent inspector would be assigned.

Foppe said he was a licensed engineer and claimed the project met all of the statutory exemptions for stamped drawings.

He claimed Tibbett’s actions were retribution for calling him out on statute.

Foppe stated he installed a one-inch gas line, which Tibbett made them replace with one-and-a-quarter-inch line at an additional cost of $4,000.

Foppe stated, “We spent $7,000 correcting everything they asked” but said during the final inspection he received a list of 20 more items that needed to be corrected.

He said, “The bottom line is, we are shut down. They are asking us to do things we cannot do.”

Foppe said they were losing $10,000 per day in revenue and losing employees.

Hightower stated they were simply asking the town to work with them. He said, “We’ll do what we’re asked but then don’t come back and ask us to do more.”

Hightower said he had plans drawn by a relative who was a retired architect but was told he needed stamped plans and spent $9,000 to have them redrawn by Shelby Wilson.

Tibbett also spoke and said, “Let’s start with state statute.”

Noting the occupancy downstairs was 27 and statute required engineered drawing for occupancy of 20 or more, Tibbett said, “So, I believe he falls under that.”

Tibbett stated council adopted all the building codes his department currently enforces.

When he received a call from Hightower to stop by and see the improvements they were doing, Tibbett said they had no plans and no permits.

Tibbett said he could have shut them down but didn’t because the town wants to be more business friendly.

He said they were called to do a final inspection, which was the first time they were called to do a final, stating they don’t tell anyone what inspection to call for.

Tibbett said the inspector didn’t finish the inspection because he was being threated by Foppe with lawsuits.

He asked council, “What part of life safety do they want us to overlook?”

And while Tibbett said they claimed to have passed final inspections from the health department and Rural/Metro, they’ve not provided copies.

He said Cellar 13 received conditional approval, contingent upon them correcting the handrails but they never corrected it.

Tibbett said they have created these problems themselves by doing work without permits and, for example, stated a water heater was added upstairs in the way of the electrical service panel, which needs to have clear working space of 30 by 36 inches.

Peterson stated, “We have a building code in this town. How far are we? We’d like to see this restaurant open.”

Tibbett said, “We keep writing things and they do not get addressed. I made a phone call to Mike Hightower yesterday when I heard they were moving to Cave Creek to give them a final list.”

He said the town has been more than cooperative but stated Foppe “wants to fight us every step of the way.”

Peterson asked Neiss to intervene to help get the project done without jeopardizing safety.

Tibbett noted all of his inspections are in writing.

Peterson said, “Let’s take a can-do, let’s do – put the guns down” attitude.

Lyn Hitchon said she and her husband did a big solar panel project and didn’t want to put it on the roof so they put it on a shade structure instead.

She said Tibbett told them they needed an architect and engineer.

While Hitchon groused at the notion at first, she said the architect and engineer had some good ideas and they ended up with a better project.

Herbert Hitchon stated he really appreciates what building inspectors do.

Marty Holmes of Holmes Construction, who is remodeling Black Mountain Coffee Shop, said, “You just can’t bend over on safety issues.”

Although it’s cost $125,000 to remodel the restaurant, Holmes said it was the first restaurant in town and they want to do it right.

“Mike Tibbett does a heck of a job,” said Holmes.

Jim Van Allen complimented the mayor and vice mayor for bringing everyone around on the gateways but said the town hasn’t even gotten into the engineering yet.

He asked the town to wait until they had the entire costs associated with the project before moving forward, pointing out the $30,000 fireplaces were now at $50,000.

Councilman Gene Orrico stated council was not going to let anyone strong arm them by threatening to go to Scottsdale.

During Current Events, council announced the Enchanted Pumpkin garden was coming up Oct. 16 – 31 and there would be a dedication of the Kiwanis Splash Pad at 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 18.

Neiss announced the consolidated court audit had been completed and it was the for first complete fiscal year.

Stephanie Olohan

Judge Stephanie Olohan said the court is mandated to adhere to certain standards, and while they require the court to have an external audit once every three years, they have chosen to do one every year.

She said the system is very complex but there were “no findings” with their audit.

Olohan said it reflects the expertise with the court staff and complimented Court Clerk Adrianne Larson.

Neiss gave a presentation of the court costs by both towns and said, “Justice is not a profit center,” but they should be celebrating.

He said it takes $411,162.53 to operate the court, with the largest costs being salaries and benefits, which consumes close to 60 percent of the annual budget.

According to Neiss, it costs more to prosecute cases in Cave Creek than Carefree because Cave Creek has a higher number of criminal misdemeanors, such as DUIs and bar fights, while Carefree’s are primarily civil traffic cases.

He said criminal cases are more labor intensive because the defendant often has a lawyer.

Going into the consolidation, it was estimated Cave Creek would be 60 percent of the case loads and 40 percent Carefree.

He said the actual costs show Cave Creek at 58 percent and Carefree at 42 percent – right in line with the estimate.

He said the intergovernmental agreement (IGA) was based on a cost recovery model and fines collected offset the costs.

However, Neiss stated they only get to keep about 30 percent of the fines.

Neiss said the IGA was spot on in estimating the cost recovery, and said Cave Creek pays $146,196 (35 percent) and collects $59,634 (15 percent) in fines, while Carefree pays $115,881 (28 percent) and collects $89,700 in fines (22 percent).

Neiss said they run a very efficient court and they should all celebrate.

He stated the court should be a point of pride for both towns.

Council voted unanimously to accept the audit into the public record.

Farrar thanked Van Allen for recognizing the opportunity to discuss consolidation and Neiss for putting it all together.

Council voted unanimously to adopt the revised 2015 Maricopa County Multi-Jurisdictional Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan, which Fire Chief John Kraetz said the town must have in place in the event of a natural disaster and the town wanted to apply for federal grants.

Council also voted unanimously to execute a short-term lease of the first floor of the 33 Easy Street building the town just purchased for Ed Lewis to use as a sales office, pointing out he needs to pre-sell 25 percent before moving forward with his Easy Street condominium project.

According to Peterson, the town’s existing lease on the council chambers expires in 10 months but they have short-term alternatives available for town meetings.

According to Farrar, the fair market value for commercial space is $12 per square foot, which would bring $32,160 per year for the first floor.

With the second floor is currently being leased for $15,000 per year, the town would realize $47,000 in annual revenue.

With financing for the building at $34,000 per year, the town would be $13,000 in the black.

The town expects to be able to pay off the loan in its entirety with the water company’s first payment of its loan in 2018.

Council voted unanimously to approve $98,000 for undergrounding the electric along Carefree Drive for the new gateway, Neiss said the work could start as soon as this week and would take about two weeks to complete.

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