By Linda Bentley | February 10, 2016

Carefree expands scope for pumpkin artist for 2016

CAREFREE – Jim Van Allen spoke during Call to the Public on Tuesday evening to thank Vice Mayor John Crane and Councilman Bob Gearhart for assisting the Carefree/Cave Creek Chamber of Commerce during a recent event.

Tom Rawles said he had been invited by Mayor Les Peterson to participate in a committee to revise the town code. However, he wanted it to be on the record that he was not involved in the changes being proposed that evening as agenda item 16.

Ron Nye stated he lives on Tom Darlington Drive just north of Stagecoach Pass and said there is no reason, if the town were to do a traffic count, to change Tom Darlington to one lane. He said there is no turn lane for him, which causes a hazardous condition when he has to slow down to a near stop to turn into his driveway.

He asked whether the town had some sort of street analysis committee and reiterated there was no reason “to do this bottleneck.”

Town Administrator Gary Neiss stated it was designed by traffic engineers and said the town has traffic engineers it can consult with to see if they can come up with a better solution.

Under Current Events, Crane announced the Cave Creek Water Advisory Committee was seeking new members.

He said a number of Carefree residents receive their water from Cave Creek and the town is seeking volunteers from Carefree to serve on the committee.

He said they would send out information on how to apply through COINS.

Councilwoman Melissa Price asked that item 15 regarding an update on the Gateway project be continued possibly to Friday, Feb. 12.

Council voted unanimously to continue the item to a special meeting to be held at 3 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 12.

Chris Camacho

Chris Camacho, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC), a public-private partnership engaged in bringing economic development and quality high-paying jobs to the Phoenix Metro Area, made a presentation to council.

According to Peterson, the town joined GPEC approximately six months ago for about $1,700, which Camacho said was based on population.

Camacho said GPEC, comprised of a team of 26 people, help companies evaluate various factors and has helped many companies relocate to the Valley.

He said 65 percent of their funding is private and its members include 23 cities and towns and 170 companies.

Camacho said they target key industries, engage stakeholders and “do a significant amount of research.”

He said to avoid the pitfalls and repeat of previous boom and bust economies, whereas construction jobs diminished and were replaced with lower wage jobs, they need to rely on more than tourism.

According to Camacho, Maricopa County will grow from 4.5 million people to 6 million over the next 20 years and GPEC is focused on bringing higher wage jobs to the Valley.

Gina Kaegi and Ray Villafane

Marketing Director Gina Kaegi said they have enjoyed a great partnership with Ray Villafane, who created the Enchanted Pumpkin Garden and said he found the gardens were a place that inspires him.

She said, “When you have a fun feeling about something, you hate to see it end.”

Kaegi said they had very steady attendance over the 16-day period with over 30,000 visitors, averaging about 1,900 per day.

According to some business owners, sales were up by as much as 25 percent over the same time in previous years.

Kaegi said people came to the event from all over the place, adding, “Ray has groupies,” who came from out of state to see his work.

Kaegi stated the event brought not just national but global media attention and said Ray is a pioneer in the Halloween industry.

“This event was more than I could ever imagine,” said Kaegi, as she thanked Villafane.

Councilman Mike Farrar thanked her and Villafane for a “spectacular event.”

Peterson asked, “How do we continue and build on this?”

Villafane said he was really drawn to Carefree and the gardens.

Being from New York, Villafane said it seemed odd to do a Halloween thing with cacti.

However, he said the uniqueness of the desert gardens grew on him with plants that have sort of a Dr. Seuss feel.

Villafane, who is also renowned for his sand sculptures, said he wanted to propose a year-‘round venture and “maybe have a playground for me where I can do sand.”

He said he would like to expand the Halloween thing and stated, “I want to do fun stuff. When I dive into stuff with the purpose of having fun, it’s magnetic.”

For 2016, Villafane said he would like to expand the Enchanted Pumpkin Garden and create a village.

“I want to build a little boxing ring.”

He said he’d like to bring more edginess to the event to give it more of a Halloween feel and bring in different demographics.

He said, “Scarefree Nights … just sounds like it has to be said.”

He wants to bring in music, lighting and animation and for 2016 he would like to incorporate scarecrows.

Villafane said they will have the ability to create the numbers [of people] they want.

Stating he loves to do sand sculptures, which can be done any time of year, Villafane said they are quick and, if tented, can last.

He said, “If you give me a sandbox, I will play in it,” and also spoke about the possibility of doing snow sculptures.

Villafane said he is looking into moving his family to Carefree and then went on about possibly placing some permanent art in the gardens in the way of bronze sculptures, such as “fairies cleverly placed,” “trolls under bridges,” or some driftwood sculptures.

Villafane mentioned he left a good job at Warner Bros. because his pumpkin success got out of hand.

He said Carefree and its gardens seems like a good fit for him.

“What I just told you are my short-term goals,” said Villafane.

Peterson told Villafane, “The people of this town have embraced you.”

Kaegi stated, “Everything comes at a cost,” but said she views it as a marketing investment.

Calling the proposal a “very conservative investment,” Kaegi said, “We can either do this or continue doing what we’ve been doing.”

She proposed securing Villafane for 2016 with a guarantee of $75,000 for the Pumpkin Garden with another $75,000 for other events throughout the year.

However, she said, “We need to secure Ray if we want to keep him here.”

She said they could do that with a 25 percent deposit of $37,500 from the marketing budget.

Kaegi said this will bring a spotlight to Carefree and sponsors and ticket sales will probably pay 50 percent.

Peterson told Villafane, “You overwhelmed us with the Pumkin Festival.”

Kaegi said she needed council’s commitment that night if they wanted to secure Villafane for the year.

Villafane said, “When Gina said 50 percent I wanted to smack her for thinking that small.”

Peterson said, “We want to do this.”

Price said she concurred but echoed Farrar’s concerns about having something more specific presented since this was public money they were dealing with.

Kaegi said she will present something more detailed when she puts together her marketing plan for the new year.

Villafane assured council this will be the best money it spends on the gardens and said, “I will give way more than you spend.”

Council voted unanimously in favor of securing Villafane with a $37,500 deposit.

Peterson stated, “This is tremendously exciting. This will be a big deal.”

Council voted unanimously to approve a medication/vaccination dispensing program in the event of an emergency, which Fire Chief John Kraetz stated was a longstanding agreement it has had in place for a number of years with Maricopa County at no cost to the town.

Council voted unanimously to approve item 16, amending Chapters 2,3 and 4 of the town code.

Crane said when former Mayor David Schwan resigned, they found their town code was deficient in providing a means to replace him.

He said other changes were made to conform to state statute.

Crane said the committee looked at other towns’ town codes and decided what they felt were best practices.

Michael Wright said there were some areas that needed explanation, such as what constitutes a quorum.

While a meeting may be conducted with a quorum of at least four members of a seven-member council, to pass any items, it must be by a vote of a quorum of the full council, not just the members present. In other words, in order for council to pass anything it would still require a minimum of four votes.

Peterson said this was only the first reading so if anyone had questions or comments they should send them to Neiss.

Item 17 on the agenda was a resolution to adopt a code of conduct policy for elected and appointed officials, with a town code amendment to provide for sanctions in the event of violations.

Peterson said over 80 percent of cities and towns have a code of conduct policy and they decided it could be a very appropriate thing to do.

During public comment, Van Allen addressed the previous item and said there was no reference to making the full agenda packet available online and said he would like to see language in the town code that says the town will do so.

Van Allen said Section 3.2.1 was all brand new and looked like it was authored by Neiss personally.

Peterson said it was authored by him and was taken from various other town codes.

Van Allen said council was giving up too much of its authority to Neiss and said, “He’s not the king,” adding, “We don’t have a town manager, we have a town administrator.”

Lyn Hitchon clarified that the planning and zoning commission doesn’t approve anything and said, “We’re just a recommending body.”

John Traynor said he was speaking not necessarily on the town code and stated, “Intent is interesting but the text is the law. Unless this says what the intent is, it’s not the law.”

Kandace French and Michael Wright

Town Clerk Kandace French said the last page of the document addressed sanctions, which she said was since revised because she realized council members, such as Bob Gearhart and Gene Orrico, may also be appointed, not just commissioners and committee members and the sanctions portion had been reworded to address elected and appointed members of council.

It was explained to council the code of conduct would be adopted by resolution as a policy and the sanctions portion was an ordinance that would become part of the town code and require a second reading.

Council voted unanimously to continue the resolution to the next meeting when council will hear the second reading of the ordinance.

Council voted unanimously to adopt a resolution to incorporate procedures regarding access to town owned and leased properties.

Peterson said the town had experienced town supplies missing and felt they needed to tighten up controls.

Peterson announced they anticipate the Liberty/Black Mountain Sewer case will go before the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) in April.

He said the ACC will address closure of the plant, restructuring of rates and industrial use that would allow for a brewery.

He said once approved by the ACC, implementation could be in July or possibly as early as June.

Council requested putting the issue of interim council chambers on the next agenda since the town’s lease will be expired and it has agreed to lease out the space purchased at 33 Easy Street to Ed Lewis as a temporary sales office for his condominium project.

Price provided an update on the splash pad, which she said was essentially complete, but they were having the scorpion repainted so it would stand out more.

She said the total cost for the splash pad came to $169,992 but with $142,000 in donations, $135,000 of which came from Kiwanis, the total cost to the town was $27,992.