Monday, May 16, 2022

Chief Riley: TMRB Has Everything We Need

Request of $19. 1 million is "everything I asked for"
“Mr. Mayor and Council. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to proudly present to you the Police Department's 2023 budget recommendations.” Thus began the remarks of Chief Kara Riley at last week’s 2023 Town Manager Recommended Budget study session. 

The budget request is $19.1 million [Panel below-right] for the Police Department. The request includes funding for every item that Chief Riley requested. In response to a question asked by Council Member Solomon, Chief stated that "I got everything I asked for."

Bottom-up budget involves "rank and file" and more
Riley built the budget request involving many of the personnel in the department. “Back in November 2021, we begin the process and discussion of what … police department men and women think we need in order to continue to be the best police agency in Arizona.” That means keeping Oro Valley the safest city in Arizona.

Requests adds two police officers.. frees up another for field work... focusses on recruiting
One of the key focal points of the budget is adding four positions: Two police officers, a dispatcher, and a civilian public information officer (PIO).  Staffing the PIO position releases an officer who is the current PIO for patrol work.

The goal of the PIO position “is to really focus on marketing and recruiting with diversity; so we want to make sure that we continue to have the best person to tell our story as a profession… We are focusing on marketing and campaigning to hire more police officers and get people in the door sooner” by working to increase interest in the profession.

Having the ability to recruit and develop officers is going to increase in importance. Some officers on the force are moving toward retirement. Future leaders need to be ready to assume new roles. Recruits will be needed to fill patrol openings. 

Inflation and availability play a major role in the budget
For example, there is a large increase in the cost of outfitting and operating vehicles. “Our biggest expenses is vehicles. Right now are starting to see the cost of the equipment for the vehicles go from $50,000 almost up to 70,000.” Availability is also an issue. “I have vehicle sitting right now that are not being outfitted because we can get the stuff.” Other cost increase include gasoline cost.

Technology use increasing... drives up cost... but improves quality
The Oro Valley Police Department has been implementing technology to improve policing. "Every time we go to a crime scene there is technology involved. We must be able to gather information that is evidence. It is an expensive process of software that we have to be able to have in order to be the voice of victims.”

Chief Riley thanks the community
Chief Riley thanked the community for it's commitment to law enforcement [see panel above-left]. She also thanked her team.

Chief Riley thanks her colleagues on the Police Force
"Men and women in the law enforcement profession still come to work they serve every day through the structures of this job, through the pandemic and all the other calls for service that they may take. For that, I want you to know how grateful I am for the men and women of this agency. I want to publicly recognize all of them for their hard work and dedication to this community. I'm humbled and grateful and honored to be their Police Chief."

Friday, May 13, 2022

Bits and Pieces

Friends celebrate successful Pusch Ridge Golf season
The group “Friends of Pusch Ridge Golf” celebrated the end of a very successful season with and event last week.  “Our morning shotgun sold out overnight with 52 players.” You can read more about that event here

According to their news release, there also were 14,000 rounds played at the course in six months, far more than planned.  Three weekly leagues were wildly successful. 

The course reopens for operation in the fall.

Community Center will accept "Renew Active" memberships beginning June 1
“Beginning June 1, the Community & Recreation Center will begin offering Renew Active, which is a Medicare fitness program similar to Silver Sneakers. UnitedHealthCare members over the age of 65 qualify for this program and would be given a classic membership at the CRC. For those of you that are existing members that would like to change over, please plan accordingly as this date approaches. Prorated refunds will not be issued on month-to-month memberships, but will be offered for six month and annual memberships. To check your eligibility and retrieve a participation code, click here. To successfully set up your Renew Active membership, we will need a nine digit code beginning in A, B or S." (Source: Oro Valley Parks and Recreation weekly email).


Thursday, May 12, 2022

Some Relief... But No Solution To The CAP Water Problem

Cesare: We're working diligently to address the problem
Yesterday, we wrote about the dreadful Colorado River Basin situation and its importance to the town of Oro Valley. What we did not report is what’s being done to “work the problem.” 

We communicated with Karen Cesare, CAWCD Board Member Representing Pima County. Cesare updated the Oro Valley town Council last November on Water. 

Cesare wrote to us: “You’re right in that things within the Colorado River Basin are still getting worse not better - and what I want people to know is that everyone involved, in Arizona, the Lower Basin States and the Upper Basin States, along with the Bureau of Reclamation, is working diligently and cooperatively to address rapidly changing scenarios in real time. The recent Drought Response Operations Plan (aka DROA) is an example of this cooperation.”

Some relief to Lake Powell
In April, the representatives of the seven states that use CAP water sent a letter to US Department of Interior Assistant Secretary Trujillo. The letter is “legalese” in its structure. Essentially, the letter confirms the commitment of the seven states to work cooperatively during this crisis. 

The letter also confirms that the bureau will release 500,000 acre-feet of water from one of the reservoirs that fees Lake Powell. This measures come on top of emergency releases last year from Flaming Gorge and two other upstream reservoirs, totaling 161,000 acre-feet. Will allow the electric turbines that Glen Canyon Dam to continue to operate.

Pray for an end to the drought
All of these efforts continue. Of course, there is the hope that the drought will end soon and normalcy will be restored. There's also the prediction for another active monsoon season here in Arizona. Unfortunately, much of that "runs off" but let's capture as much as we can!

Opinion: Time for Town of Oro Valley to budget to reduce outdoor drinking water use in it's facilities and more by converting use to reclaimed water
All of this points to the need for the Town of Oro Valley to step up and take action regarding its wasting drinking water on two outdoor facilities: Pusch Ridge Golf Course and Kreigh Park. We're not talking about closing them. We're talking about using reclaimed water instead. 

And, while the town is at it, why not negotiate with well-water users, like the Oro Valley Country Club, to get them into the town's reclaimed water system. It's in the same area.  As is CDO high school and Pusch Ridge Christian Academy. All use drinking water. 
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Wednesday, May 11, 2022

CAP Water Crisis Worsens... Efforts Underway To Further Reduce Use

All data points point down
We wish we could present a more encouraging report on what's happening with CAP water. But we can't; certainly not after listening to Tom Buschazke, Director of the the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) at last week's briefing. "All the trending of the data points to a need for us to take serious action."

What happens to CAP water matters to Oro Valley because the town uses it to replenish the groundwater supply. This replenishment makes Oro Valley's water supply sustainable. 

Lake Powell at historically low levels
There are two Colorado River Basin reservoirs. Both are now at historically low water levels. One is Lake Powell. It is on the Arizona/Utah border. Water from Lake Powell feeds the second reservoir, Lake Mead. 

Lake Powell is at its lowest level since it was filled. This fall, it is possible that the system will rely on an untested alternative method of delivering water downstream to Lake Mead. The water level in Lake Powell will be so low that there won't be enough water to flow over the dam. Even if that alternative method is successful, it is likely that it will lack the capacity to meet water inflow needs of Lake Mead.

Therefore... Lake Mead, the source of CAP water, is at historical low levels... more action needed
The news on Lake Mead was equally discouraging. Lake Mead sits at 31% of total capacity. In fact, it is so low that barrels and dead bodies being discovered in the dry lake bed. The expectation is that further significant actions are going to be needed to reduce water use. Large reductions in use could be required in the by 2024. We will feel it here in Oro Valley. Lake Mead’s projected water level possibly will trigger a Level 2 shortage by year end.

A four-fold problem
The problem is a combination of a 22 year historic drought (“We’re being piled on by mother nature”), over allocation of water among the states that draw from Lake Mead, extensive growth in population, and user conservation that simply is not sufficient to make up the a huge difference between demand and supply.

Statewide, Arizona trying to make a "dent" in CAP water consumption
ADWR contends that statewide CAP water consumption will be reduced by almost 812,000 acre-feet this year. This is the result of a several actions. One is the Tier 1 reductions in usage. This took water allocated to farming. Another is a State program ("500 + Plan") for voluntary consumption reduction. Part of this plan has had cities in the Phoenix area reduce consumption by 35,000 acre feet. 

"Significant action needed to avoid a crisis"
Even with all of these efforts, Lake Mead was projected to decrease in elevation by 23 feet as of the end of this year. [panel above left] That is significant.”Even with the actions being taken in the lower basin, the result is a significant difference between supply and demand. These numbers might be relatively alarming to some…. but it is merely to point out that we need to take significant action moving forward to avoid a crisis.” Fortunately, there is no imminent threat to water inside our homes, according to ADWR Director Buschazke. 
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Note: Both Lake Powell (Glen Canyon Dam) and Lake Mead (Hoover Dam) have hydroelectric power plants. The operation of both of these power plants is threatened by the low water levels. "The hydroelectric power generated by the [Hoover] dam is allocated between the states of Nevada, Arizona, ten cities in Southern California, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and Southern California Edison Company. The latter two and the city of Los Angeles account for nearly half of the electric power received."(Source)

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

LPO Nate Vera... "2021 Officer of the Year"

Oro Valley Lead Police Officer (LPO) Nate Vera has been selected as at the town's "2021 Officer of the Year."
Lead Police Officer Nate Vera joined the Oro Valley Police Department in 2017. He previously worked as a police officer with the Tucson Police Department. Additionally, he worked as a Crime Scene Technician for a year before becoming a sworn officer. 

The extent of knowledge and experience he has gained during his career is impressive
LPO Vera has routinely demonstrated this by example. OVPD is a grateful recipient of his contributions. Such contributions i  include growth and development, commitment to service, and enhanced leadership.

From a development and growth perspective, LPO Vera is actively involved and committed to the department’s field training program. His ability to effectively develop less tenured officers is excellent and enhances the likelihood of achieving the desired level of success and maintaining quality police officers as they continue their careers. LPO Vera’s contribution to development does not end at the field
training level. He contributes to the success of the entire organization at so many levels and in many different categories. His contributions in the year of 2021 alone include his routine volunteering for programs throughout the agency, community, and other law enforcement partners. Additionally, LPO Vera received a Life Saving Award in early 2021, wherein he was directly involved in saving the life of a juvenile community member who made a full recovery because of LPO Vera’s actions. These are only some examples of LPO Vera’s proven commitment to service and passion to facilitate growth and development.

LPO Vera has a keen ability to retain information and impart the knowledge and training he received. His knowledge and experience are sought after on a regular basis and his sound decision making and problem-solving capabilities are supportive of this. LPO Vera is a complete employee and a model police officer.

LPO Vera serves in a unique role within the organization. In the absence of the sergeant, he is the formal leader of the squad. During 2021, he was in this position for four months. During this time, he demonstrated leadership that is generally seen from those with much more experience and exposure in a position of leadership. He was tasked with several duties that are not typically a part of his job description. His work product exceeds expectations. Additionally, LPO Vera attended and completed the Basic Leadership Academy that was hosted by Arizona POST. This will only serve to sharpen his already present and effective leadership skills. LPO Vera aspires to be a leader within our organization and has proven to be one in a short time.

It is for these reasons that LPO Vera is set apart from others. He is a clear positive outlier at OVPD. He should be recognized for the asset to the organization that he is. LPO Vera's 2021 performance evaluation supports this documentation with a rating of Outstanding. For these reasons, LPO Vera was selected for the 2021 Officer of the Year Award.
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Monday, May 9, 2022

Council Approves "HAWK" At Ironwood Ridge

Device will be installed this summer
Last week, the Oro Valley Town Council approved the installation of a HAWK traffic control system at Ironwood Ridge High School. Students will be able to cross Naranja Drive safely starting with the fall semester. 

Council overrides staff recommendation
The decision of the Council to move forward with this overrode the recommendation of town Public Works Director Paul Keesler. Keesler did not believe that there would be use sufficient to warrant requiring the system.

Keesler based his conclusion on standards published by the US Federal Highway Administration. "The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways (MUTCD) defines the standards used by road managers nationwide to install and maintain traffic control devices on all public streets, highways, bikeways, and private roads open to public travel."  Keesler said that an average of 20 students per hour needed cross in a one-hour period. His team observed the intersection on several occasions in late April and identified not more than a maximum use of 14 people.

Keesler's strident assertion that the standards of the MUTCD must be met in this case is in stark contrast to the implementation of a traffic light at the Community Center and La Canada Drive. There was no study done to determine the need for that traffic light. Town staff justified that light on the basis that there was a "line of sight" problem and that a traffic light was necessary.

Council Member Solomon brought the issue to town council
Council Member Solomon presented the motion to move forward with HAWK approval.  Solomon said that he had been contacted by residents. We do not know if he discussed this with town staff. Rather, he chose to discuss it with former Police Chief Danny Sharp. According to Solomon, Sharp chairs the Highway Safety Committee of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Sharp is also a candidate for mayor. Sharp told Solomon that a HAWK system was the most appropriate solution.

Barrett... Jacobs.. Keesler say they have been "working on this for some time"
According to Vice Mayor Barrett, speaking at the same meeting, this is not a new item. The town has been aware of the need to consider a traffic control device at the school since students returned to school last August after the pandemic.  According to Town Manager Jacobs: "We have been working very closely with the neighborhoods and the police" in this regard.  According to Keesler: "We've been working on this for quite some time."

... with no results
Regardless of alleged good intentions, the issue did not become important enough to investigate in detail until this April when Keesler did a survey to determine the actual potential HAWK usage.  That's when he did his surveys of potential use.

Town Manager asserts that she budgeted for the signal but...
The Town Manager stated (1.34:38 at the meeting) that she included funding in the 2023 Town Manager Recommended Budget Capital for the signal. Her statement is true but it is misleading. 

The Town has not allocated any of its own funds for the signal. The $400,000 for the signal is a line item in the Regional Transportation Authority and Pima Association of Governments ("RTA/PAG") This means that the Town must apply for the money and then RTA/PAG must approve the money to come out of their funds. There is no guarantee that they will approve it.  In addition, Keesler would need to approve the warrant for the signal. 

Council approval settles the issue and funds project
By approving the HAWK system at last week’s meeting, the Council said that it’s time to get this done regardless of what is Mr. Keesler or Ms. Jacobs thinks.

What else is being overlooked by town staff?
The decision to move ahead with HAWK does make one wonder. Why did Council Member Solomon have to put this on the agenda to prompt town staff to do something now? Isn't student safety of paramount importance? Why was the decision allowed to languish in a "bureaucratic" state?

This is the second item that Solomon has put on the agenda that appears to have been overlooked by town staff. The other is the discussion about improving mobility access at the community center. It was the action of Solomon that brought this to the forefront so that the Council acted to do something now. We wonder what would’ve happened if he had not made this a centerpiece of discussion?
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Note: Ironwood High School sits on a Naranja Drive, east of Shannon Road. It was opened in 2001. In recent years, medium density housing has been built around it, creating the need for some sort of crossing traffic control. Resident Jeff Taylor lives in the area. Yelling a council at the meeting, Taylor said that he has been after the town to do something for the past 18 months. Taylor did not live in Oro Valley prior to that. The schools were closed for much of that time due to the pandemic. They opened last August.

Friday, May 6, 2022

Town of Oro Valley Seeks Applicants For Volunteer Boards and Commissions

The following is an opportunity for those of you who have the time and want to serve our community.
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ORO VALLEY, Ariz. (May 2, 2022) –– The Town of Oro Valley is accepting applications from residents who are interested in serving on a commission or committee. To serve, members must be residents of the Town of Oro Valley, be available to attend the designated meetings and be committed to completing the Town’s Community Academy within their term. These positions will remain open until filled. Those interested in applying can visit the application process on our website. The Town of Oro Valley has the following vacancies open:

Historic Preservation Commission-Three vacancies
Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) members serve three-year terms. The commission was formed to promote the educational, cultural and economic welfare of Oro Valley by ensuring the preservation of historic buildings, districts, landmarks, structures, documents, photographs and other artifacts that represent the historic background and development of the greater Oro Valley area. The commission meets on the first Monday of every month at 5 p.m.

Pima Association of Governments Environmental Planning Advisory Committee - One vacancy
The Town of Oro Valley provides a representative to be part of the Pima Association of Governments Environmental Planning Advisory Committee (EPAC). The committee provides technical review and develops recommendations on environmental plans, studies, reports and programs to the Pima Association of Governments management. Every year, the committee recommends a key list of environmental issues likely to be of note for the region during the coming year. EPAC meets four times per year or as needed.

Tucson-Pima County Bicycle Advisory Committee Representative – One vacancy
The Town of Oro Valley provides a representative to be part of a joint committee that acts as the official advisory body on bicycling matters in Pima County and the City of Tucson. The Tucson-Pima County Bicycle Advisory Committee meets at 6 p.m. on the second Wednesday of the month.

(Source: Town of Oro Valley Media Release)
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