Alarmed by spending

Every resident of Carefree should be alarmed at how our town, with a population of less than 4,000 permanent residents and an annual budget of about $11 million, seems to be spending taxpayer dollars like there’s no tomorrow.

There’s the $20 million Mayor Les Peterson, his council and town manager are spending to provide water service to a few hundred residents, plus hundreds of thousands of dollars more in legal fees. Why the need for expensive lawyers? Because the Town is suing its own residents in an eminent domain case that will surely take years to go through the court system. All to seize property near homes and the scenic entrance to Carefree along Tom Darlington Drive – and then use that valuable desert land as the site of a 300,000-gallon industrial water tank.

After all the public hand-wringing and massive expense over the noxious Liberty wastewater treatment being decommissioned, have we learned nothing at all? No one wants to live yards away from an industrial utility operation, nor should they be forced to do so.
In his recent budget message to the Town, Mayor Peterson urges his fellow residents to work together: “In the future, I would like to see more collaborative grass root (sic) collaborations so we may share our experiences and design the appropriate solutions for our community.”

While this sounds ideal, it flies in the face of Peterson’s approach to the water issue. Suing residents, having them served with legal documents, and seizing property using a controversial legal scheme is hardly a paragon of collaboration or sharing our experiences.

This lack of transparency in our Town government needs to end.

All residents of Carefree have not been informed of the water transition project, unless you are in the area this will benefit or the area the Town wants to install the 300,000 industrial water tank. There are avenues that the Town can use to inform ALL residents. The Town wants to spend $20 million dollars for this project. How many Carefree residents are aware of this? How many Carefree residents are aware that the Town wants to put a resort at the intersection of Carefree Highway and Tom Darlington?

The Town feels COINS is the way to inform residents. It is one way for sure. Although not every resident is aware of COINS or wants to sign up for COINS. It took me 3 times signing up and 2 emails advising there was an issue until I finally got COINS. The Town can mail information on all large projects it plans to residents. Yet there is a problem. The Town, I have been told, does not have a database of all residents mailing addresses in Town. Then why not a flyer in the Carefree Water bill or email that goes out each month? The folks that do not have Carefree Water could get the notice forwarded from their HOA’s. Does the Town genuinely want the input from ALL residents on projects that will affect all residents? It does not appear that way with the lack of transparency.
Is it any wonder a citizens group plans to put a term limits measure on the ballot for Carefree voters to decide?

Mayor, you can’t have it both ways: You can’t spend taxpayer funds to bully residents one day and then shill for a “collaborative citizen driven process” the next. It’s no wonder a number of residents don’t trust our politicians.

John Mattes
Carefree resident