Gallagher: Town Council denies the will of Paradise Valley people

On Dec. 6, the Town Council met to consider and vote on the East Doubletree Capital Improvement Plan project. This project would create East Doubletree from Scottsdale Road to 64th Street in the same design that has existed for some time on the west section of Doubletree.

Ronald Gallagher

This CIP project was projected at a cost of $3.3 million including a roundabout at Doubletree and 64th Street. In prior fiscal years $110,00 of this amount had been spent, leaving a budget allocation of $3.19 million for the current fiscal year. About $295,000 has been spent of the original $3.3 million. What remains is about $3.1 million of the projected costs and if the Roundabout is not done about $2.9 million.

So of the projected cost, the town has already spend about 10 percent on the desired project costs. These monies will be lost or wasted if this project is not done.

It should be noted that this improvement project was included in the town’s 2018-19 budget as a strategic initiative of the CIP. The budget was approved by the council by a 7-0 vote. As referenced above, required actions including feasibility, design, engineering, permitting, and funding allocation have been completed.

The only actions remaining are for the Council’s approval to spend the money ($2,900,000 remaining) and to pick a contractor. There has been some confusion on this statement by the council that they approved the involved project; they have not. But no business would approve a budget that included a project that was 20 percent of the planned CIP expenditures when it felt these monies should be spent in some other fashion.

In addition council members indicated that the Doubletree project was ranked 27th of CIP needs.

Again, if this were true how did it become a strategic objective of the 2018-19 Budget? What business with limited CIP funding would put the 27th project on the list to be done in 2018-19? The answer is they would not. So, if the Budget was approved 7-0, this project must have been seen by them as important at the time of budget approval.

The council was to consider and vote on 4 alternatives:

  • Plan as designed with Roundabout at 64th and Doubletree;
  • Plan as designed without Round (4 way stop as is now the case);
  • Doing only the entrance to Doubletree at Scottsdale Road at a cost of about $400,00 or ~13 percent of the entire project; or
  • Table the project and seek more input for later consideration.

The primary concern of residents that live on this section of Doubletree and in the affected area is safety. Traffic volume is any were from 4,000 to 8,000 cars a day. Of this volume 34 percent exceed the speed limit by 5 MPH and 15 percent exceed it by 10 MPH. Some have been clocked at over 50 MPH, which is primal speeding. And, I and others have been passed on the left several times while going the posted speed.

A meandering design would slow travel and improve safety on this section of Doubletree as it has done on the west portion of the street. In addition the project would correct drainage problems that exist and, as noted by a local Realtor, enhance the value of houses along the road.

A survey of home owners on this section of Doubletree has been done via direct contact with 73 percent of those living on this section of Doubletree. To be clear, there are 48 homes that have property that is on the road. Of these 49 homes, 37 have driveways that enter on Doubletree and 12 have property that backs to or has side yard on the road.

A statistical projection based on the results of the referenced survey shows 77.1 percent are in favor of this project. And, 12.5 percent are opposed and 10.4 percent have no opinion. So, it is clear that those directly affected want this project done. And, this doesn’t take into account those in the affected area that don’t live directly on Doubletree that are overwhelmingly in favor of this project.

However, most are not in favor of the roundabout as they think this will increase traffic volume and reduce safety for walkers and bikers at the associated intersection.

There is a small vocal minority that has made statements about this project that are at best laughable, but more precisely just false.

There is no way that a meandering road will increase accidents and make it more dangerous than it is now. This group frequently recited that at a meeting in September of the Council — 30 were opposed to this project while only two stood for it. As you can see from the survey results, this could not possibly be true. So this raises the question about where these 30 people came from?

Had this been a reflection of reality, the survey results would be decidedly different.

What the council did was refuse to vote on any of the options that would address our concerns. Not a single council member would second a motion to vote on any version of this CIP project. So, in effect they refused to go on the record about their support for the desire of the citizens. To be clear, most implied that they could not support it as they don’t know if it would address the residents’ concerns.

And, they implied that there were better uses for these funds.

On this latter point, mentioned was the under-funding for pension liability of the town. A review of the current plan to reduce the underfunding shows that with about $5.8 million planned contribution in 2018-19 fiscal year, by 2020 this underfunding will drop to 11 percent or $4.323 million. Thus diverting the monies from the Doubletree project to this unfunded liability (at 7 percent as stated by the council) will have at most a $320,000 interest payment reduction during the period indicated for payoff of this obligation by 2022.

Is this $320,000 worth the risk to the residents due to the safety issues noted? The vast majority of the residents I suspect would say, “no.”

The council elected to punt on this project and say it needs more study. What more do they need to know? The vast majority want this done and safety is the main issue.

What they approved was:

  1. Tabling this project
  2. Studying the CIP selection and approval process
  3. Development of a Education and Outreach program for such projects
  4. Look for ways to reduce Cut-through traffic in Paradise Valley

So what they approved was more study and no real action. While the first 3 items are OK, they don’t accomplish anything that addresses the need for this improvement project. The last is a joke as people will cut-through PV on major east-west and north-south arterials because this is the best way to get where they want to go.

The best you can do, is slow the traffic down which in turn will cause a small minority to find a faster route.

The town is in a unique funding position for the next couple of years with revenue from building permits and fees from all the new development in the town. So what happens to the allocated funds? There is some indication the council wants to divert these funds to pay down a loan on the public service pensions, as noted above. And, while I understand this desire, is this more important than the safety issues involved and the protection of those that walk and bike on the road? I would say most rational people with say, “no!”

The reaction of the council is why people have problems with government and its actions. In this case there is overwhelming support for this project.

So, it appears that the will of the people isn’t what drives government actions as it should be. We are most disappointed in the council’s failure to at least vote so we could know who stands for the good of the majority of the citizens affected.

Had the council said that this was a project that needs further input from the residents, they could have agreed to a short three-month window to gather such input by the town staff to adjust the design to more completely reflect the problems that are seen by those directly affected.

But instead they elected to kill this project.

Editor’s note: Mr. Gallagher is a resident of the Town of Paradise Valley

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