It has been 17 years and 88 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.
Please note: Before discussing the city council workshop meeting of Tuesday, March 24, 2015 I wanted to alert you to a very important series of meetings. The first was on Wednesday, March 25, 2015 at Glendale’s Civic Center. By law every ten years every city must revisit and update their General Plan. This effort is called Envision 2040. The city website says, “Every city and county in Arizona is required by state law to prepare and maintain a planning document called a general plan. A general plan is designed to serve as the jurisdiction’s ‘constitution’ or ‘blueprint’ for future decisions concerning land use and resource conservation. All specific plans, subdivisions, public works projects, and zoning decisions must be consistent with the City’s General Plan.” I encourage you to take the time to attend one of 6 district meetings that will be held on this topic and to offer your opinion on what Glendale should become in the future.
Now on to the workshop. Here is the link to the slides used during various staff presentations: Budget Workshop Powerpoint .
It was a full agenda: Budget strategy, property taxation, human resources (employee salaries and benefits); review of FY16-25 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), review of General Fund Sub-Funds Restructure.
Since the last blog dealt with the Capital Improvement Plan, a follow up is in order. During the staff presentation Mr. Freidline, Public Works Director, stated the number of parking spaces planned is 4,000 at a cost of $14,000 to $16,000 per parking space. At $14,000 per space the bill is $56 million dollars. At the high end of $16,000 per space the bill is $64 million dollars. Who is smoking what when staff allocates $46 million dollars over three years in the CIP? Councilmember Bart Turner has proven himself to be the most effective of all councilmembers. He is articulate, asks the right questions and since the beginning of his service has proposed several very effective actions. The rest of council…not so much.
Mayor Weiers and Vice Mayor Hugh are generally silent; Councilmembers Aldama and Chavira are the Bobsey Twins of the “thank you;” Councilmember Sherwood only speaks when an item aligns with his personal agenda; and Councilmember Tolmachoff’s questions tend to be irrelevant. Keep an eye on Councilmember Turner. His reasoned approach to issues will serve him and the citizens of Glendale well.
In fact, it was Councilmember Turner who said, “The Westgate parking garage is the elephant in the room.” It is that and more. One item never mentioned during this discussion is the AZSTA/Cardinals/Glendale agreement and the stipulation that requires the city to build the parking garage and what exactly triggers that obligation. The public wants to know. It’s strange. The city website has posted all kinds of contracts online going back to at least 2000 but not this one from 2002. Why isn’t it available publicly?
Among other questions, Councilmember Turner asked if the city will build another Taj Mahal immediately or if the garage could be built in phases. He also asked for the number of spaces currently available to the city to meet its agreement requirement and also inquired as to how new development in the Westgate area will impact (and perhaps improve) parking availability. Good questions. They demand answers before this council approves the CIP with the Westgate parking garage for $46 million dollars.
Another CIP item to appear before council was an amount not to exceed $500,000 for an automated library book dispenser. It would be placed in Hero’s Park in the now abandoned skateboard concession stand. The funds would be used to purchase the dispenser, retrofit the concession area and add more of those pesky, costly parking spaces. Mr. Strunk, Director of Parks, Recreation and Library Services, stated that this dispenser is not intended to replace the over arching need for a library in West Glendale. Clearly it is not. The largest dispenser available can only hold 3,800 books. Wasn’t there dismay in the library community when there was the possibility of downgrading Foothills library to a collection of 35,000 books? The dispenser will only accommodate 1/10 of a Foothills collection. Mr. Struck did not speak to the manpower that will be needed to service this dispenser. After all, someone will need to gather up the books and transport them to the dispenser as well as picking up returned books daily. As Mayor Weiers observed there is also the issue of security. The location is very dark and very lonely. Maybe they can install a half dozen strobe lights…Or a large, very tall, well lit digital billboard would work well too (courtesy of DM).
Why has the stop gap proposal of a library book dispenser popped up all of a sudden? Could it be the renewed request by West Glendale residents for the West Branch Library? Do not think that this action will diminish the need for and the growing demand for the West Branch Library.
Another item of interest on the agenda, especially for City of Glendale retirees, is the increasing cost of medical insurance premiums to that community. As an example, my monthly payment for medical insurance through the city for my husband and I is $1,117. As of July 1, 2015 that will increase to $1,280. That is a monthly premium increase of $163 or $1,956 a year. Yet the slide on premiums for retirees over 65 shows a monthly increase of $88 or $1056 a year. Hmmm…it looks like Jim Brown, Director of Human Resources, was only off by $900 a year. It’s almost to the point that retirees’ entire monthly pension check will be used exclusively to pay medical premiums. Glendale retirees are worried. They took a big, big financial hit last year with a major increase in the premium and now it seems as if the plan is to continue, only incrementally.
Last, although not discussed at this workshop but a week earlier, is the council action to approve Finance Director Duensing’s plan to wipe out its debt repayments to the city’s Enterprise Funds. Glendale, in order to pay the NHL a management fee for the arena, borrowed $15 million from the water and sewer Enterprise Fund; $40 million from the landfill Enterprise Fund; and $5 million from the sanitation Enterprise Fund. When asked how the Enterprise Funds could make up for the loss, Mr. Duensing said, “you could do rate increases, you could defer maintenance, you could cut your operating losses.” Oh really, Mr. Duensing? The repayment to those Enterprise Funds was a firm pledge of a previous council. It was their solemn intent to repay those funds over time. To erase that debt in some kind of accounting trickery is beneath contempt. Is this Glendale’s future? To erode the intent and word of a council to the point where it becomes meaningless? At what point will we, the residents, no longer believe council’s word?
© Joyce Clark, 2015
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