Green Committee dissolves to promote a free and open discussion

By Linda Bentley | May 19, 2010

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Cave Creek adopts tentative budget of $24.5 million for FY 2011
CAVE CREEK – Mayor Vincent Francia asked that Dissolution of the Green Advisory Committee be pulled from the consent agenda so it could be addressed separately.

Patrick Grady, chairman of the committee, explained that the committee wanted to convert itself from a town committee to a Green Advisory Group to continue to advance its sustainability agenda. 

The reason he stated for wanting to dissolve as a town appointed committee was because there are “rules and regulations that impedes discussion.” For example, he said, during meetings, if someone brings up an idea they’d like to discuss further, they are prohibited from doing so because it is not on the agenda.

Grady said the committee could function more freely as an informal citizens’ group.

Councilman Ralph Mozilo questioned if an informal citizens’ group could request grants and funding.

Town Attorney Marlene Pontrelli assured them they could, just like the open space groups have requested volunteers and donations.

Councilman Jim Bruce stated, “Our action should be limited to dissolving only.”

Francia thanked Grady for abiding by open meeting laws as council unanimously approved dissolution of the Green Advisory Committee.

Council voted unanimously to approve a resolution declaring Appendix A of the zoning ordinance a public record by reference, which Town Clerk Carrie Dyrek said the town could amend or act on at a future date.

Gary Filmore, a Cave Creek Museum board member, addressed council during Call to the Public on behalf of the museum to say any funding the town could provide this year would greatly assist.

However, Town Accountant Marian Groeneveld advised council not to authorize the expenditure of $20,000 to be distributed to the Cave Creek Museum, Desert Foothills Library, Foothills Animal Rescue and Fiesta Days, due to the financial status of the town.

Groeneveld said staff is still on a 32-hour work week and the town’s first priority is to meet its debt service.

Councilman Dick Esser made a motion to approve the donations, for discussion only, with Vice Mayor Ernie Bunch seconding the motion for the same reason.

Esser, who served on the budget committee, said the budget was really tight and he wasn’t sure if he could support it.

Bunch said he believed in each of the nonprofits and encouraged citizens to contribute what they could.

Councilman Ralph Mozilo stated, “As much as I support these organizations, the money is just not there.”

Councilman Steve LaMar complimented town staff for continuing to perform high quality work under these conditions and said he could not support the donations until staff was back up to working full time.

During public comment, Don Sorchych pointed out everyone was hurting financially and the increase in water rates has caused his water bill to go from $100 per month to $600. He indicated it would be unconscionable to use taxpayer money to make donations during these times.

Council unanimously voted with staff’s recommendation against providing donations to the four nonprofit organizations this year.

Francia pointed out this was only the second time staff has recommended they not approve the donations.

Council then unanimously approved the tentative budget to be capped at $24.5 million, which Groeneveld said still allowed for money to be moved between line items, it just could not be increased above the cap.

Groeneveld said, “We’re counting our pennies, but we’re on track.”

When the mayor asked, “Is there anything else we can do?” Groeneveld responded, “We’re running pretty lean. Every department is double hatting.”

LaMar thanked staff and said, “We are blessed to have managers who have sucked it up and still delivered quality service. I’m proud of all of you, as a citizen.”

Esser agreed, adding, “We’re in far better shape than a lot of other communities.”

Mozilo stated he hopes the economy flattens out and said, “We need to be vigilant and look for other ‘Walmarts.’”

Councilman Adam Trenk stated he still had concerns about water company money going into the general fund but said he understands they’ve got to do what they’ve got to do.

Bruce said this was just another example of not only Usama’s quality leadership but that of staff as well.

Mozilo noted Litchfield Park is putting a property tax before the voters.

Dyrek introduced the next agenda item for council to consider sending out a very broad-based request for proposals (RFP) for town-wide collection and disposal of solid and bulk waste, recycling and green waste services.

She said town-wide services could reduce costs while providing both solid waste and recycling services to all town residents.

For the time being, Dyrek said the request is only for council to approve the issuance of RFPs to see if the town could establish disposal services on the same day of the week throughout town and include recycling at a reduced cost to citizens.

Mozilo felt it didn’t hurt to look into it, while Trenk said he was skeptical, although agreeable to see what the RFPs produce.

Bunch said, “I want choice and I don’t like that choice being taken away,” even if it was something as silly and small as deciding who picks up his garbage.

Because there could be people who don’t want or need service, LaMar said, “I do think there will be some issues that need to be ironed out.”

Dyrek reiterated that the RFPs would help determine whether or not services are beneficial and explained what Queen Creek did to negotiate the services they needed.

LaMar wanted to know, “Where in the proposal are we dealing with manure?”

Dyrek said that would be in Phase II of their proposal and stated Queen Creek changed their ordinance.

LaMar said he was concerned that horse people have the same options they have now.

Mozilo asked Dyrek if she envisioned people going along with this or if they’d be able to show residents a savings.

Dyrek said the object would be to get two services, solid waste and recycling, for less than they’re paying for their current service.

Usama addressed the question of billing for those not getting their water from the town and said the new accounting software has the ability to do additional billing for people not on town water.

Trenk said, “I know very little about waste management even though I’m from New Jersey.”

Carefree Councilman Bob Coady said Carefree was looking into the same process and stated there were companies that will pay for recyclables.

Currently, between the two towns, Coady said only about 20 percent of the people recycle.
Charlie Spitzer said it may reduce costs for some but could increase costs for others who take their recyclables to the transfer station for free or those who take their household waste to the transfer station for $1 per bag.

Council voted 6-1, with Bunch dissenting to authorize issuing RFPs for solid waste and recycling services.

The last item on the agenda to discuss and possibly approve placement of signs in the town right-of-way at wash crossings indicating motorized vehicles are prohibited in washes.

The suggestion was brought to council by Trenk, who said there have been a couple occasions where he has encountered “quads tearing down washes” and, although no one has gotten injured yet, he felt it was a health, safety and welfare issue.

Pontrelli said she was concerned about the town putting up signs designated as trails.

Mozilo had liability concerns.

Town Engineer Wayne Anderson addressed the question of cost and said the town could provide and install such signs for $75 each.

However, he noted many of the washes traverse private property.

Pontrelli stated washes aren’t given the designation as a trail and said, “So, first you’d have to designate the wash as a trail, but people would still have a right to ride a motorized bike across their property.”

Esser said he had no trouble with the intent, but did with the issue of private property.

LaMar said the town could ask property owners if they could designate the property as a trail but from a legal aspect stated, “We don’t have a right to designate a trail on someone else’s private property.

During public comment Sorchych said, “This is Cave Creek,” and scoffed at “trying to do this stuff in Cave Creek.”

He said, “How about we just keep Cave Creek, Cave Creek. We don’t want more regulations and more signs.”

LaMar said, “I don’t see where we have the authority to do it.”

Bruce said, “I know what Adam’s trying to do but I can’t support it. It looks like lawsuit heaven.”

Mozilo said, “It’s a very complex issue that needs more investigation.”

Bunch said getting the dedication of more trails was the way to address this.

Trenk said, “I didn’t bring this up to make a federal issue, I just feel it’s a health, safety and welfare issue.”

Francia suggested they table the matter, which council voted unanimously in favor of doing, until Trails Coordinator Bambi Muller could look into the trails aspect.