By Linda Bentley | january 27, 2016

Council hammers through policies and direction during retreat

CAVE CREEK – On Monday council held a retreat, an informal session during which council may openly discuss matters brought forward by various council members, set policies and provide the town manager with direction.

The sparsely attended retreat, although agendized and open to the public, was not open for public comment.

Peter Jankowski

The first item, placed on the agenda by Town Manager Peter Jankowski, Mayor Vincent Francia and Vice Mayor Steve LaMar, addressed the future of Wild West Days.

Jankowski stated the town only took the event over for a year or two while the Cave Creek Merchants and Events Association (CCMEA) was in transition, following CCMEA’s previous year’s dismal results.

LaMar stated the CCMEA used to handle the event and that’s who should do it.

He said, “There was a time when the business community did a good job. Just because they didn’t do a good job … I don’t think taxpayers should pay staff time to do this.”

Steve LaMar

Kristin Lewis, CCMEA’s new vice president and Treasurer Marc Peagler provided council with a handout that described CCMEA’s plan to organize Wild West Days 2016.

According to Peagler, the projected expense of putting on Wild West Days is approximately $36,200.

Peagler noted that is the cost without accounting for parade entry fees and sponsorships.

He said CCMEA currently has just under $4,000 in the Wild West Days account but they anticipate netting $8,000 after expenses.

Peagler said insurance was their largest expense at close to $10,000 but CCMEA has been in discussions with Jankowski about possibly placing the event under the umbrella of the town’s policy, which would reduce that expense to about $1,500.

He also said there was sponsorship interest from a craft brewery from New Mexico, as well as interest from the Arizona Chuck Wagon Society and the Arizona Barbecue Society, which were both looking for a new home.

Councilman Thomas McGuire asked what happens if they fall short of their expenses.

Peagler said that would be a problem but it hasn’t happened yet.

Council agreed to place the item on the Feb. 1 council agenda.

Jankowski was seeking council’s direction regarding the use of town property and public rights-of-way (ROW) asking, “How do you want me to deal with requests to place things in the town ROW?”

Francia suggested, “Maybe it should be presented to council on a case by case basis.”

Councilwoman Susan Clancy stated, “It just seems to me it shouldn’t be done.”

Jankowski added, “I get a lot of requests,” and mentioned a recent request by an HOA to place monument signs at the entrance of their subdivision.

LaMar said, “If we allow one, it’s a slippery slope … If we make exceptions, it looks like selective enforcement.”

Jankowski said he agreed.

LaMar went on to say if it’s something the town doesn’t need or will never use, then council could consider abandonment.

He said, “I say our policy is no.”

Councilman Ernie Bunch asked, “Where’s the criteria?”

LaMar said requests should only come before council if they have to do with the health, safety and welfare of citizens.

Council seemed to be in agreement the town’s policy is “No,” unless it’s a legitimate safety issue.

LaMar brought up the median banner program and stated the last time he met with CCMEA president Evelyn Johnson, she gave them assurances that all of council’s concerns would be addressed.

He said, “That’s not been done. We haven’t been paid. We gave them 90 days.”

Jankowski stated they’ve only paid off half of the costs.

Francia stated CCMEA hasn’t followed through.

LaMar said, “Anything that goes in our medians should enhance them,” and stated banners were still up advertising events that happened last June.

“They look like crap,” said LaMar. “It needs to be corrected or eliminated.”

Bunch said the only reason he voted for the program was because it was supposed to generate revenue for CCMEA so they would not keep coming back to the town asking for money. However, that has not been the case.

McGuire said he was concerned about the cost and spending staff time if the town were to take over the program.

LaMar also brought forward the subject of proactive planning and action to facilitate successful completion of the town’s open space initiative.

He said they had another great meeting with the state land commissioner and praised Steve Betts’ assistance.

LaMar also made it known publicly that neither he nor anyone else on council has ever mentioned property taxes as a means of acquiring the open space.

He said, “We’re working on a better way. I believe we’re on the right track and will get this done. We all have to be ambassadors and get the truth out to get this done. This is something we can be very proud of – just like Spur Cross. I know everyone here is committed.”

Bunch said, “Very few things we can do that will matter 100 years from now, but open space is one of them.”

LaMar said they were taking their time to present a win-win-win situation for all and he was encouraged that they were eliminating issues.

Francia stated patience was the key and said it wasn’t going to happen over the weekend but the process has started.

LaMar also brought forward discussion of the medians and expectations of landscaping after the bike lane project is completed.

He said the town used to have beautifully landscaped medians but when the economy went south, median landscaping maintenance was pretty much eliminated.

“We all have expectations,” said LaMar. “The medians need to look better than they did before. We are being judged [by citizens].”

Jankowski said plants that were removed were being stored at the Neary Tank site and once the project is near the end the town can re-vegetate.

Marketing was another subject brought forward by LaMar, who noted the town has a part time PR person who works 10 hours a week and the town marshal, who has other duties.

He said marketing of the town has pretty much been event driven that benefits a few businesses.

“We need to enhance the image of Cave Creek,” said LaMar, who believes the town needs a marketing plan that attracts businesses that fit in Cave Creek.

Pointing out Carefree Highway is going to be three lanes in each direction, LaMar said, “I don’t want us to miss the boat. We’re not just an entertainment town and we need to maximize sales tax revenue to preserve our eclectic community.

“It all has to do with the beauty, the quiet, the dark … the core can’t be all we think about,” and suggested the town hire a sophisticated marketing firm to get quality businesses to locate in Cave Creek.

Clancy said, “We need some branding.”

LaMar pointed out the town was well positioned to take advantage because the infrastructure is already in.

Bunch stated the town still has a reputation as being very difficult [for developers] to work with and said, “We still have some pitfalls.”

Francia noted the town didn’t invite Walmart, Tractor Supply or Auto Zone and said, “They came to us.”

He questioned how much more the town would be able to do if it had someone going out to hustle on its behalf.

Francia stated visitors were up in Las Vegas but gaming was down and said people want to be entertained.

LaMar said the difference between waiting for something to come to the town or a firm that can market the town, “Then we’re light years ahead. It’s time to have some vision instead of reacting. I think we should look into hiring a consultant. I don’t think our marketing should be following TC’s [Thorstenson] buffalo through town.”

McGuire said,” We don’t want to undervalue [the town] but I don’t think we should be pushing growth.”

LaMar said the consultant should do something that works with the general plan while acknowledging “everything costs money.”

Jankowski said he would put some feelers out and find out what the costs might be so he could present something to council.

Clancy wanted to know what kind of solutions the town has come up with for Bike Week and joked about when the five-foot bike lanes were completed they could be used for motorcycle parking.

Jankowski said the town hasn’t had that discussion with Mark Bradshaw yet.

Clancy raised the issue of businesses using their entire parking lots to rent out vendor booth space during Bike Week and said, “They should be required to have parking.”

McGuire said, “I would like to see the town get a return on Bike Week so we can share in the success.”

Jankowski said one of the attractions of Bike Week is seeing all the motorcycles parked along the road.

Francia said, “If the bike lane project is still going on the bike people are going to have to do something else.”

LaMar said 80 percent of citizens are fed up with lane closures.

Jankowski said, “Obviously we can’t have construction going on and bikes parked along the road.”

LaMar said, “The community just wants us to be reasonable about this,” while noting the lane closures during Bike Week had grown to nine days.

Francia stated he doesn’t have a problem with Bike Week but a number of citizens do and said the event should come before council so the public will know what is being proposed.

Clancy raised the issue of the town being on a four-day work week and questioned whether the public would be better served if they returned to five days.

Jankowski provided a list of cities and towns, including 12 in Maricopa County, that are on a four-day, Monday through Thursday work week.

He said he didn’t have any figures available to show the cost savings for a four-day week versus a five-day week.

Jankowski also stated the four-day week is regarded by employees as a perk and employees did not want to return to a five-day week.

Francia asked Jankowski to bring the item back to council with a cost-savings analysis.

LaMar brought up the subject of misinformation being distributed throughout town and said, “Publication X prints something that’s not true … seems to come around before elections.”

He said the town has a legitimate reason to disseminate accurate information, possibly in the Cave Creek Coyote newsletter, but made it clear it should not be for “self aggrandizement” as it was misused in the past.

“Our names shouldn’t even be mentioned,” said LaMar.

While noting the town’s website doesn’t contain much information, Clancy suggested updating the town’s website on a regular basis so citizens can find accurate information about what’s going on in town.