Scottsdale City Council bond priorities emerge at City Hall

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An outline of marching orders for the 58 approved bond projects is beginning to take shape a City Hall as Scottsdale officials define municipal priorities.

During a Feb. 11 study session meeting Scottsdale city staff presented a timeline for the projects to be paid for by voter-approved funds. Last November, residents of Scottsdale approved all three bond questions:

  • Question 1: Parks, recreation and senior services: 14 projects, $112.6 million;
  • Question 2: Community spaces and infrastructure: 20 projects, $112.3 million; and
  • Question 3: Public safety and technology: 24 projects, $94.1 million.

Projects that require immediate attention between now and June 30 --- the end of the fiscal year --- will come to council for approval individually to allow spending to occur, according to City Engineer Dave Lipinski.

The City Council was pleased with the outline for the most part, with a special request to move project 62, building a bridge on Thompson Peak Parkway Bridge over Reata Pass Wash to improve safety, up on the priority list.

Councilwoman Kathy Littlefield voiced a desire to prioritize the senior center expansions and improvements as well meanwhile Councilmember Virginia Korte asked about Civic Center Plaza work to accommodate the upcoming 2023 Super Bowl.

“Those forecast in the next five years will be included in the 20-21 budget adoption process,” Mr. Lipinski explained for the bond approval process. “Those outside the five years will be included in the budget process moving forward as they come into that five-year window.”

The project timeline spanned from fiscal year 2019-20 to fiscal year 2030-31, and was broken up by various criteria including project timing, dependency, spending by year and bond issuance timing, operating impacts and total project funding.

Overall, some fire department apparatus has already been approved, and there is a second item that is set to be approved by City Council immediately: replacing a fire-utility truck. Mr. Lipinski says the truck is to be on the council’s Feb. 18 agenda for approval, because the city will save about 3% on cost if the order is placed in February.

“Another is project dependency --- do they have to be delivered in a certain order? We can’t go in and do all of this downtown streetscape projects at once. We would shut down the downtown, and that would not be good,” Mr. Lipinski said of the proverbial game of Tetris played at City Hall to determine the order of bond projects over the next decade.

Mr. Lipinski says by working with all city departments and the city treasurer’s office, Scottsdale laid out a fairly aggressive plan to ensure secondary property tax values were not increased through the issuance of bond debt.

When the city treasurer issues a bond, the city has three years to spend the funds.

“We have the approval of the voters to move these forward, there is not a limitation on when that money can be spent. If we see high inflation rates in the next couple of years, we can actually slow down the delivery of this program until the market corrects,” Mr. Lipinski said. “If the market goes the opposite direction, we’re in a great position to deliver as fast as we can.”

Mr. Lipinski says there are many aspects effecting the delivery of bond projects.

“What we’re presenting is more project starting time frames, not necessary completion dates because they tend to bleed over when we start getting into robust public input --- that takes time,” he said. “We have to take the time to schedule those meetings, take that feedback, make sure our residents are in town when we are having those meetings and really take that into consideration. Some are very straight forward, and some obviously will take a while to get delivered.”

Immediate projects

Initial projects set to come before council as standalone projects for approval this fiscal year, as the timeline looks are:

  • Replace tennis court surface at Indian School Park and Scottsdale Tennis Center;
  • Install high efficiency sports lighting at four facilities;
  • Build multi-use sport fields in the area of Bell Road;
  • Replace aging infrastructure and improve public and event spaces on Civic Center Plaza;
  • Expand restrooms in WestWorld North Hall;
  • Replace emergency power source for public safety radio network;
  • Install fiber optic infrastructure to reduce operating costs;
  • Replace the city’s obsolete training software; and
  • Replace the fire utility truck.

Next fiscal year, there are 24 projects identified. They include:

  • Add splash pad and improve walkways at McCormick Stillman Railroad Park;
  • Build a 17-acre neighborhood park at Ashler Hills Drive and 74th Way-Whisper Rock;
  • Build roadway and pedestrian improvements along Second Street from Drinkwater Boulevard and Goldwater Boulevard;
  • Repair lakes and irrigation at Vista del Camino Park in Indian Bend Wash;
  • Renovate WestWorld horse barns to increase rentable space;
  • Replace the public address system at WestWorld;
  • Replace WestWorld arena lights to reduce operating costs;
  • Renovate arena at WestWorld to provide flexible event space;
  • Install solar systems north corporation campus; and
  • Build parking structures in Old Town Scottsdale.

Council priorities

Councilman Guy Phillips was the first to ask for the Thompson Peak Parkway bridge to be moved up.

“Outside of the five-year plan, you have building the bridge on the Thompson Peak Parkway. I think those people have waited 20 years already for that, so I’d like to see that get at least inside the five-year CIP --- I realize you have to take something out to do that, and what are we going to take out? But I’d like staff to be able to look into that and see that it isn’t possible to bump up the bridge a little sooner than ‘25-’26,” Mr. Phillips said.

Councilwoman Solange Whitehead, among other councilmembers, added to her colleagues comments, pointing out a safety concern along that thoroughfare.

Councilwoman Kathy Littlefield asked for the daycare center at Granite Reef Senior Center be moved up.

“Scottsdale is an older community, and we are getting older. Many of us in Scottsdale not only are those who would be participants in the daycare centers themselves, but the people who help those folks away from the centers they all need this,” Ms. Littlefield said of full-time caretakers.

“So it’s kind of a double-whammy that we put this at the tail-end. I think Scottsdale is interested in this, it’s something that would serve our citizens well and there is a huge need for it.”

Councilwoman Suzanne Klapp also called the need for senior center improvements “more and more critical.”

During Mr. Lipinski’s presentation, he mentioned that the entire Civic Center Plaza renovations would not realistically be completed in time for the 2023 Super Bowl. Councilmember Virginia Korte said that comment concerned her.

“That’s concerning to me, very concerning. You look at your timeline, and I know we were working on it last year, the design. Though that civic plaza is going to be critical to us if we’re going to attract any of the events around Super Bowl and bring them into our city,” Ms. Korte said. “If that’s not complete then we’re not going to be able to attract and be a part of that game.”

Mr. Lipinski says the city and the Super Bowl Committee are working together to see what the right improvements are.

“We’ve gotten some feedback --- in the master plan there was a stage contemplated on the top of the bridge, that might not be a good idea,” Mr. Lipinski explained.

“So we’re going to try and complete the portions that we get the most benefit out for those events. We’re going to sit down, and if it does move forward and we bring it to council, that will be our first discussion: what does that picture need to be when we roll into the Super Bowl?”

Mr. Lipinski says the reality of completing the entire plan for the Civic Center Plaza, within the limited construction window between now and then would be “awfully tight, if not impossible” without disrupting a lot of the city’s event seasons between now and then.

“So we will sit down and pick it apart and make sure we pick the right pieces to deliver for the events coming on-board,” Mr. Lipinski said.

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