The pursuit of happiness remains focus of Paradise Valley Town Council

The precipice of an overhauled municipal alarm system, fears of state law impacting photo radar remits and improvements to both cell phone coverage and local trash service are key issues that need attention in 2018, according to some members of Paradise Valley Town Council.

The Town of Paradise Valley Independent reached out to four members of Paradise Valley Town Council to better understand what they believe to be items of importance headed into the new year.

But those contacted agree on one thing: Public safety should be the town’s No. 1 priority in the new year.

This is part 2 of a two-part series

Jerry Bien-Willner

“As I often share with people who ask about Paradise Valley, in many ways our elected leaders’ top priority is to protect and preserve what our community has already achieved through the vision and work of its founders and residents — that mandate has many dimensions, and public safety is always a key area of emphasis,” said Paradise Valley Vice Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner in a Dec. 27 statement.

“We need to stay alert and prepared for any curve balls that may come our way, while also not trying to seek solutions for problems that don’t exist.”

Vice Mayor Bien-Willner expects to work closely with his mayor and fellow members of council to maintain a positive working relationship as municipal happenings unfold in the new year.

“We always focus on public safety. Other areas of focus should be maintaining the town’s financial health while striving to maintain or achieve town service levels at an ‘A-plus’ standard, responding effectively to resident concerns, avoiding any wasteful or untimely spending, and working with the cell industry to improve cell phone service coverage in our town without sacrificing the hard work that has been done to promote the town’s high aesthetic standards and beautiful vistas.”

A focus of the vice mayor has been finding a solution to the antiquated municipal alarm system hardware and service model.

“I am also very optimistic that we have found a way to stabilize and protect the town’s alarm monitoring service in a way that will give the devoted group of existing customers the quality of service that they deserve with a self-sustaining revenue model,” he pointed out.

Since October 2015 Paradise Valley Town Council has been searching for a way to create a cost-neutral alarm system in order to maintain a service offered since 1984.

The system’s hardware and software have become outdated and on New Year’s Eve 2015 the system failed, according to Paradise Valley Police Chief Peter Wingert.

The alarm system today is fully operational through emergency assistance from a private company, but the recent outage that spanned a seven-day period from Dec. 31, 2015 to Jan. 8, 2016 illustrates the necessity for repair to the antiquated system, officials say.

Ultimately, the town wishes to explore a partnership with a monitoring provider who can receive signals from town subscribers, and provide them to the Paradise Valley Police Department dispatcher.

Along the lines of communication, Vice Mayor Bien-Willner says a lot of the accomplishments in 2017 were due to a positive working group at Town Hall.

“I am especially proud of our actions to pay down significantly — and ultimately pay off ahead of schedule — the town’s outstanding police pension balance, which immediately saves taxpayer dollars and helps put our town in a much stronger financial position going forward. Another team effort that took a lot of creative and hard work over many years and finally came to fruition this year was the completion of the town’s public safety communication facility.

Scott Moore

Paradise Valley Councilman Scott Moore says the town will need to keep an eye on the state Legislature in 2018.

Scott Moore

“As a top priority going into 2018, we will continue to work on ensuring the public safety of our residents, provide essential public services, and to effectively lobby our state legislators to better understand Paradise Valley’s unique character,” he said.

“Our community values efficient and effective services and our limited government model. We continue to express those values with our esteem newly elected district legislators.”
Councilman Moore contends local leaders need to be on the their toes as those elected at higher office have eyes on Paradise Valley — and all the things that make it tick.

“Some examples of potential concerns we see happening on the state level is changing Transaction Privilege Tax Construction Sales Tax from a point of construction to the point of sale,” he said of a years-long fight at the capitol.

“This possible shift in how the state mandates where construction sales tax is collected could reduce of town’s revenue by as much a $4 million annually. This loss in revenue effects the town’s ability to pay for services such as police, fire and public infrastructure and for our staff that provides the building safety reviews and enforcement and all administrative services.

“This would be in addition to the $1.3 million our town has already lost due to the MRRA legislation passed by our state legislators in 2014,” he said, but the concerns don’t stop there.

There continue to be rumblings about state officials banning photo-radar systems — which has proven to be an important revenue stream for the town.

“Another challenge on the state level is ensuring our town’s photo radar system is not eliminated by any new legislative bills. Photo radar helps offset the need to hire more officers in order to manage traffic safety. By using photo radar as a tool for traffic safety it utilizes our officers more effectively by allowing them more time to patrol our neighborhoods for criminal activity.”

Mr. Moore is a strong advocate for the use of public radar devices within town limits.

“Photo radar not only keeps traffic accidents and speeding occurrences low, it protects our motorists and police by having fewer cars stopped for traffic citations on our already heavily traveled arterial roads,” he said.

Councilman Moore is also concerned about town finances, especially the municipality’s willingness to pay high-priced consultants.

“Before we spend any money hiring consultants, I would like to see us spend more time first on using the Statement of Direction to set specific goals,” he said noting the value he found in the document during his time as a planning commissioner.

“The SOD is a very important tool that can help in minimizing costs, the ineffective use of our staff’s time and consultant’s expertise and in the end provide a better more defined result. Too often we spend an exorbitant amount of money on consulting fees for ideas that are not going to be approved due to a common theme such as financial, safety and priority concerns.”

Mark Stanton

Paradise Valley Councilman Mark Stanton agrees it’s time to make the improvement of cell phone coverage a priority for local government.

Mark Stanton

“I know that many residents are frustrated with unreliable cell coverage in the town. I believe that helping assure reliable cell signal coverage will positively impact public safety and quality of life for our residents and guests.”

An expanded focus on the established limited government model — a beloved hallmark of the Town of Paradise Valley — will be a top priority for Councilman Stanton.

“Supporting public safety, maintaining our quality of life, protecting vital revenue sources and the town’s ability to self-govern are at the forefront of my priorities for 2018,” he said.

“This includes addressing the cell phone signal coverage, finalizing the town approach to trash collection, protecting natural hillside open space, managing a responsible town budget and assuring our infrastructure is properly maintained.”

Looking back at 2017, Councilman Stanton is pleased with the town’s continued ability to pay down its unfunded public safety pension liability.

“The fact that the town, with resident support, enacted a plan to pay down the unfunded liability within three years is undoubtedly one of the top accomplishments for 2017. I am proud to have been part of this accomplishment that will have a positive, long-term effect on our budget and allow us to avoid substantial interest payments for the town.”

Julie Pace

Paradise Valley Councilwoman Julie Pace is ready to hit the ground running in 2018.

Julie Pace

“The discussions and big decisions will be single-hauler trash service; capital improvement projects; integrating safety protections into the town’s Hillside Code; addressing false alarms to reduce distraction and increase efficiency of our officers; cell phone coverage; and addressing bills in the Legislature that could adversely impact revenues and budgets in our town, as well as cause serious safety issues on roads that could lead to increases in accidents and even fatalities,” she said of her 2018 focus.

But while the Town of Paradise Valley is a pinnacle of the limited government model, Councilwoman Pace acknowledges all Arizona municipalities are susceptible to lawmakers at the capitol.

“We are a town of residences and resorts with no property tax, which makes our town vulnerable to changes at the state level, outside our control, that can impact our small budget and resources,” she said.

“We are a unique town because of open space, undergrounding of nearly all utilities, no commercial businesses, and residential driveways on every street. This uniqueness sometimes makes it hard for our excellent District 28 senators and representatives to work with their colleagues about why Paradise Valley needs to be considered before voting on certain proposed bills.”

Councilman Pace fears certain legislation could result in “unintended consequences,” which could force the town to enact a property tax.

“Open communication and dialogue are important with our legislature to avoid unintended consequences to our town. Our town and mountains are a gem for the state and the tourist industry and we — and the Legislature — should continue to preserve what makes it special for all to enjoy.”

Hillside preservation and a reboot of the local Mummy Mountain Trust are personal priorities of Councilwoman Pace.

“I will continue to focus on hillside preservation and reinvigorating the Mummy Mountain Trust, ensuring a high commitment to public safety, continuing ACOPS education outreach to residents, fostering support of our police department, false alarm reduction, keeping a keen eye on budgets, revenue, and paying down the debt in the public safety pension fund, and developing a voluntary mediation program to resolve disputes among neighbors,” she said of 2018 priorities.

Councilwoman Pace points out the vision of the Paradise Valley Police Chief Peter Wingert is one local leaders are finding great value in.

“The vision of Chief Wingert is a significant town asset,” she said. “The police are out in the community doing home security checks, having Coffee with a Cop, reading books to kids and are truly engaged in our town, while catching the bad guys!”

Northeast Valley Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

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