The Independent examines Scottsdale bond package: Question 5

Included in Question No. 5 projects is the renovation of Fire Station 605 at 75th Street and Shea Boulevard at a cost of $800,000 and includes the improvement of the bathrooms, locker rooms, bunk rooms, and kitchen. (File photo)

Included in Question No. 5 projects is the renovation of Fire Station 605 at 75th Street and Shea Boulevard at a cost of $800,000 and includes the improvement of the bathrooms, locker rooms, bunk rooms, and kitchen. (File photo)

Scottsdale City Council is asking voters next month to approve a $95.9 million bond the majority of the governing body says will pay for failing infrastructure, provide new technologies and help cover the costs of public safety facilities.

The Scottsdale Independent, through a six-part series, is providing readers with a breakdown, explanation and commentary on each bond question and its projects each week leading up to the November election.

Question 5 of the Nov. 3 bond proposal totals $16.35 million and is focused on what city leaders consider “Public Safety-Fire.” There are four projects within this question:

  • The design and construction of Fire Station 613 at Desert Foothills at a cost of $5.1 million, which includes the replacement of a temporary modular facility in the Desert Foothills area at Jomax and Hayden roads.
  • The design and construction of Fire Station 616 at Desert Mountain at a cost of $3.7 million, which includes the replacement of a temporary facility with a permanent fire station at 110th Street and Cave Creek Road.
  • The relocation of Fire Station 603 in the McCormick Ranch area at a cost of $6.75 million and includes the purchase of land, design and construction of a new site for Fire Station 603 in the McCormick Ranch area to improve response times to that portion of the city.
  • The renovation of Fire Station 605 at 75th Street and Shea Boulevard at a cost of $800,000 and includes the improvement of the bathrooms, locker rooms, bunk rooms, and kitchen. The renovated apparatus bay area also will include an OSHA compliant decontamination room and personal protective equipment storage.

The proposed bond package would cost homeowners 11.5 cents per $100 of net assessed valuation used for secondary property tax purposes. According to the city, an average Scottsdale homeowner living in a home valued at $370,000 would pay an additional $3.50 per month if the bond is approved.

The six proposed projects to be voted on in November include:

  • Parks and community facilities — $31,900,000.
  • Transportation — $16,540,000.
  • Citywide technology — $6,870,000.
  • Street pavement replacement — $12,500,000.
  • Public safety-fire — $16,350,000.
  • Public safety-police — $11,800,000.

The city of Scottsdale today carries $619 million in outstanding general obligation bonds, of which $331 million is supported by preserve sales taxes and $288 million supported by property taxes, Independent archives state. The city has about $3.5 billion in assets.

Same council, different views

Scottsdale Councilman Guy Phillips feels there are better ways to fund projects in Question No. 5.

Guy Phillips

Guy Phillips

“It’s not about improving work conditions or response times. We all agree on that. It’s about responsible funding. For example, If we dropped the LEED certification and used an architectural template we could reduce the costs of building the fire stations to the point we could build two for one,” he explained in an Oct. 13 written response to e-mailed questions.

“Also, dropping the LEED certification could save up to $2.5 million in costs, enough to buy two fire engines or add additional fire fighters. Doesn’t that improve conditions and response more efficiently?”

Councilman Phillips points out the city of Scottsdale has paid for fire stations before through a capital improvement campaign.

“In the past the city has built six fire stations through capital funds and five through public bonds. So, the discretion is there,” he said. “The city wants to see if they can defer the money to your property first.”

Scottsdale Councilwoman Virginia Korte calls the projects within Question No. 5 “critical needs.”

Virginia Korte

Virginia Korte

“The improvements of our fire stations are critical needs. Two of our fire stations are single- or double-wide trailers with inadequate storage for equipment and do not meet industry and safety standards,” she said in an Oct. 14 written response to e-mailed questions.

“Another station needs to be relocated near the McCormick Ranch area to provide better service and decrease response times.”

The city cannot afford to pay for these needed improvements, Councilwoman Korte contends.

“The city’s General Fund budget is $264 million. These are annual revenues collected from local sales tax and various user fees. They fund services such as police and fire, libraries, parks and community services,” she said.

“Simply, the city does not collect enough annual revenue to reinvest in its $3 billion depreciable assets.  Depreciable capital assets, such as fire stations, are best paid for by revenues spread over a period of time, just like a personal home mortgage.”

Councilman Phillips disagrees.

“These projects can and will be done anyway through the course of business but the city wants to see if your willing to raise your property tax to cover the expenses, thereby freeing up General Fund money for special interest projects like the Desert Discovery Center, am $80 million dollar boondoggle, which should actually be the one project that should go to the voters,” he said.

“Let’s not enable special-interest groups to hijack the General Fund by voluntarily raising your own taxes.”

Protecting Scottsdale’s quality of life is something that takes community investment, Councilwoman Korte says.

“Since 1989 the citizens of Scottsdale voted for capital bonds exceeding $700 million,” she said.  “We built libraries, parks, senior centers, public safety facilities, widened roadways, implemented flood control systems, and constructed our Giants spring training baseball field and more. Our quality of life is in large part, due to our willingness to invest in our community through bonded capital projects.”

The proposed bond package is one carefully considered worthy of voter approval, Councilwoman Korte says

“These bond projects were vetted through many processes including staff, citizen bond task forces and the city council. Your Scottsdale City Council voted 6 to 1 in favor of submitting these projects for voter approval,” she said.

“They represent the basic infrastructure needs of our community. The average homeowner will spend $3.55 per month to maintain the quality of life in Scottsdale.

The 2015 Proposed Bond Program for the City of Scottsdale aims to put nearly $96 million dollars in improvements where it belongs: in our city.”

Northeast Valley Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

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