Paradise Valley council forum covers top candidate issues

 

About 50 residents attended the Paradise Valley Town Council forum held at The Village at Mountain Shadows on Aug. 11, where the four town council candidates squared off in anticipation of the Aug. 30 primary.

Mayor Michael Collins, running unopposed for re-election, answered a short question-and-answer segment before the four council candidates took the stage.

The four candidates are: incumbent Mark Stanton, and challengers Scott Moore, Julie Pace and Darren Wastchak. There are three open seats on the council.

Topics of the night included: cell phone reception, expenditure limitation, trash and recycling, drainage issues throughout town and zoning issues.

Mayor Collins opened the show with the first question explaining what expenditure limitation is and why the Town of Paradise Valley is pursuing on the November ballot an increase to the state-imposed limitation.

Expenditure limits pertain to how much a municipality can spend each year on its day-to-day operations. The town has needs — general maintenance and repairs — that over time have surpassed the expenditure limitation.

State law says the town cannot use general funds to pay for those needs. So, even though the town is flush with cash and has money available, it is forced to pursue loans to pay for those projects. If the town is able to increase its expenditure limitations, it would be able to use its available cash to pay for needed services.

Those limitations can only be increased through voter approval.

“We’re the third highest public safety pension liability in the state,” said Mayor Collins. “So we want to pay down that debt.”

The mayor says the state charges the town 8 percent a year to float funds for the pension balance, while the money in the bank is regenerating less than 1 percent interest.

“So the question isn’t borrowing or raising more,” he said. “The question is we have a lot of money in the bank and we’re only making 1 percent interest on it, and we have this outstanding liability with 8 percent interest on, so it’s good steward, good fiscal planning and we need the money to pay down the debt.”

In addition, the town has been reviewing poor cell phone reception issues faced by many residents. In February, the town sent out a notice to residents asking for feedback.

In 2011 the town attempted to rectify the issues through new technology known as a distributed antenna system, which consists of fiber-optic backbone that includes a series of six-foot antenna nodes installed throughout the community.

The 42 antenna nodes installed were to improve coverage, voice quality and Internet access to cell phones, according to Independent records.

“What we have learned has been fascinating,” said Mayor Collins about his months-long investigation talking with cell carriers and industry experts.

“First of all, technology is changing so frequently, that the cellular companies are responding much more to the customers demand for data, so their interest in solving our cellular concerns have kind of taken a back seat.”

The problem even impacts the town police department, which bears the cost of two cellular carriers because no single carrier provides good enough coverage for law enforcement communications.

“What’s fascinating is the carriers will change their bands without telling us,” he said. “So when service is good one day and bad the next day sometimes that’s because the carrier decided to switch the frequency on their antennas to a frequency that better supports data and doesn’t support cellular.”

Because of the community’s geography and land-use patterns, traditional macro cell sites are limited within town limits. Sloping hillsides and mountains create challenges to the quality of cell phone coverage and how that service can be improved, town officials say.

The town is continuing to work with carriers to resolve these issues and identify blind spots, he said.

The four town council candidates, from left, are Julie Pace, Daren Wastchak, Scott Moore and Mark Stanton. (photo by Melissa Fittro)

The four town council candidates, from left, are Julie Pace, Daren Wastchak, Scott Moore and Mark Stanton. (photo by Melissa Fittro)

Council candidates

The candidates all echoed sentiments of maintaining the quality of life within the town. Each resident has lived in the town for nearly a decade – if not more – and they appreciate the special charm of the community.

“I think that’s the most encompassing of what I think we have looking forward,” said Mr. Stanton. “That includes responsible development and public safety, but also it incorporates community. It incorporates what we want from the residents, and as residents.”

Mr. Stanton is finishing up a two-year stint on the council and is now seeking to serve a full term.

Mr. Moore said one important topic is continuing to find a solution to the flooding that many residents experience, and that all goes back to the transparency between the town and residents.

“We’ve been working on the quality of life issues, and I’ve been working with Councilmember Hamway, more as an adviser with the flooding issue,” said Mr. Moore. “I’d like to carry that on and work through some of the town’s issues that we’ve seen with the flooding.”

Mr. Moore has previously been involved with the town’s Board of Adjustment, Planning Commission and he is a rotating member of the Hillside Committee, he said. His background is in planning, zoning, civil engineering and development.

Challenger Mr. Wastchak said his top priority will be maintaining fiscal responsibility. Mr. Wastchak has a Ph.D. in public policy, and is a small-business owner.

“Fiscal issues are really, probably my No. 1 issue,” said Mr. Wastchak. “Having the focus on issues like quality of life, those things are all undergirded by a strong fiscal government.”

Mr. Wastchak said there is no need to raise taxes.

“We have the dollars now, and we don’t need to do anything other than the dollars we have,” he said. “We need to make sure we’re good stewards of the dollars you guys are putting into the bank.”

Ms. Pace also championed for resolving the drainage issues and figuring out a solution to the sewer issue.

“We need an IGA with the city of Phoenix dealing with the sewer issue,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of neighbors calling me saying ‘what are you going to do, how are you going to help and what are you going to do to solve it?’”

A second issue Ms. Pace said she has proposed is reevaluating the order in which newly proposed developments are reviewed.

“One of the things I’ve advocated is to move hillside concept review before some of these extreme variances come before us,” she said. “I’m going to continue to advocate for that, and I think it’s the right way. Before they get to the Board of Adjustment, to help the Board of

Adjustment not be put in an uncomfortable spot.”

Ms. Pace is a lawyer and has previously served on corporate boards of directors, she said.

News Services Editor Melissa Fittro can be reached at 623-445-2746, by e-mail at mfittro@newszap.com or follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MelissaFittro

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.