Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Guest View-LOVE Contributor: Town Council Kept In Dark About Council Policies and Procedures

Publisher Note: Items that are on the town council agenda matter because it is the only time that all members of council can talk about the item. It is also the only time that the council, generally through resolutions, can take action. The following is from a reader who asserts that town staff has acted improperly in regards to "allowing" items on the council agenda. We have not verified all of the assertions in what follows. If true, however, it most certainly paints a view of town staff not operating in the best interest of the town.
August 18, 2021 Special Session Council Meeting: Town Staff refuses to place an item on the agenda.

Prior to the August 18, 2020 Oro Valley Town Council Meeting, there was an attempt by some Council members to amend the agenda to include something like the following: 

Discussion and possible action to designate the Pusch Ridge Course as a discontinued facility. 

Had this been on the agenda, the Pusch Ridge course likely would have been closed as I suspect that there would have been at least four votes to pass this item. 

Claiming the need for 12-day notice
However, Town staff illegally kept this item off the agenda. The town staff told the requesting Council members that there was a requirement of giving a 12-day notice for agenda revisions. 

This is not true

State Law requires only a 24-hour notice to amend an agenda.

And that an agenda amendment had to go through the agenda committee.
This is also NOT TRUE. 

Council Policy 11 (panel right) documents the procedures for Council Members to amend an agenda. It says only that Council Members must provide basic information relating to their request  

Staff also said that they were waiting for the mayor’s approval
The Mayor's approval is not needed to add an item to the agenda according to Policy 11.

In total, all this is yet another example of decisions being decided by staff rather than by the elected Town Council
It is very unfortunate that the Council members had no idea of the existence of the Council Policies. These policies should have been handed to them during their first meeting with staff…but, for some reason, they were not.

Consequently, on September 8 Council approved taking money from the HOA's to support a golf course that may well have been closed
Item “G” on the September 8 Town Council Consent Agenda directed the Town Manager to enter into a financial agreement with the HOA’s surrounding the 9-hole Pusch Ridge course. This agreement authorized the Town to take $34,050 from the three HOA’s to assist in offsetting the costs of the course. 
Had the discussion item been on the agenda, it is likely that the property would have been designated as "discontinued" and the thousands of potable water that are used on this course save for important consumer use.
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Monday, September 20, 2021

Town of Oro Valley's Financial Situation Strong Entering 2021

Good Financial Times Prevailed in fiscal 2021
Oro Valley completed fiscal 2020 with strong financial results. This according to a discussion that town staff will hold with the town's finance and budget commission tomorrow.

“The Town has thus far successfully navigated the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic” according to Oro Valley Finance Director David Gephart and Town Manager Mary Jacobs. “Financial performance across all funds has exceeded expectations," according to a town memorandum that was provided to the town’s Budget and Finance Commission. (Source: "Memo")
Revenues were strong
"...especially for single-family residential permits and construction sales taxes due to a strong housing market, as well as retail and online sales tax collections. There are also indications of improvement in restaurant/bar and bed tax collections.” In addition, the town received federal CARES Act and American Rescue Plan Act funds "ARPA". These totaled $13.5 million, more than $8 million over budget. The town is due some additional ARPA funds this fiscal year.

Fund balances increased
Other highlights provided to the commission include: 
  • The General Fund, the fund that finances town operations, had a surplus of almost $15 million, increasing the fund balance to $36 million. This happened because of the stronger than anticipated sales tax revenues and permit fee revenue;
  • General Fund expenditures of $42 million were $2.6 million less than budget; 
  • Highway Fund Revenues totaled approximately $3.8 million or 102.1% of budget, while expenditures only totaled $3.4 million or 86.8% of budget; and
  • The Community Center Fund outperformed the budget. Revenues were $500,000 over plan while expenditures were $1.1 million under plan. 
Municipal Golf Cash Flow a $700,000 deficit.. far better results than expected
Golf operations are part of the community center fund. Total reported losses were $373,000 less than budget. This is because gross income from golf operations exceeded plan by almost $600,000.  Financial performance was boosted from a substantial increase in green fees and and an increase in monthly dues. These two items were $753,000 more than the budgeted amount. In addition, underspending was driven by the town not doing the golf course irrigation project. This happened because bids to replace the irrigation far exceeded planned spending.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Meet the Marin Family: Homesteaders Circa 1880

This article is part of our continuing series by the Oro Valley Historical Society. Future OVHS articles will appear on LOVE every other Thursday.
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Francisco Marin marries Mercedes Ruelas
Francisco Marin was born in 1847 in Tucson. At a young age, he was captured by Apache Indians and spent three years in the Sierra Madre Mountains until he was able to escape.

Francisco married Mercedes Ruelas in 1876 when he was 29 and she was 22 years old. They had five children; one son and four daughters.

Circa 1880, he established a ranch on the west side of North Oracle Road. It was located opposite of the present day Catalina State Park entrance and one mile north of Steam Pump Ranch. He homesteaded 160 acres of property and received full title in 1908.

Francisco owned and operated several stagecoach stations on the Tucson-Oracle run. One was at the base of Marin Hill presently the area between Catalina State Park and Tangerine Road. The Marin Hill station was a good watering and switching point for horses and stagecoaches before continuing north due to the steepness of the terrain.

On the 1902 General Land Office survey plat map of the area, the Marin property was referred to as the “Mexican Ranch."  The Marin property was purchased by the parents of Buster Bailey in 1920.

Mercedes died in 1913 followed by Francisco in 1923. At the time of their deaths, they lived on Carmen Street in Tucson.

Teodoro Marin
Teodoro was born in 1880 and was the son of Francisco and Mercedes. He established a 160 acre homestead near his father’s property at the entrance to Catalina State Park and gained title to it in 1913. During his lifetime, Teodoro worked as a rancher, as a stagecoach driver, and for the Southern Pacific Railroad. He died in Tucson in 1961.

Members of the Marin family still reside in the Oro Valley area.

Source: Claiming the Desert: Settlers, Homesteaders and Ranchers in Oro Valley, Arizona 1865-1965 by James A. Williams. (This book can be purchased through the Oro Valley Historical Society at the Pusch House Museum or on Amazon.)

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WE WANT YOU! The Oro Valley Historical Society is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit volunteer organization, whose mission is “To promote research, preservation, education, and dissemination of historical information related to the greater Oro Valley area."  We invite you to become a member or volunteer. Visit us at ovhistory.org and help keep Oro Valley history alive!

We are currently looking for enthusiastic volunteers who are interested in becoming docents at the Pusch House museum and for Steam Pump Ranch tours. Training sessions are being scheduled in October. We hope to hear from you. Contact: Teri at tcolmar@comcast.net

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Guest View: Mike Zinkin ~ Is Oro Valley still a Town of Excellence?


Below is a timeline of how we went from a PROMISE to cut golf losses (with the possibility of closing at least one of the courses), to continuing to operate ALL of them on a pay-as-you-go basis (with no option for bonding), to the most recent decision of foregoing pay-as-you go in favor of bonding.

December 2014
On December 17, 2014, the Town Council, with a 4-3 vote, approved an increase of our sales tax from 2% to 2.5%. The ordinance (14-17) states that the purpose was to fund/supplement the needs of the newly purchased Community Center, with its 45 holes of golf, 2 swimming pools, tennis courts, and a 1980 style building. The ordinance clearly states that this new tax would generate “approximately $1.6 - $2 million dollars annually.”

November 2018
In November 2018, with over-development and golf losses being the two major issues, the Town’s voters decided to elect a new Mayor and Town Council. Mayor Winfield was elected with 9,242 votes and three new council members were elected with 8,000+ votes each. The newly elected Council majority pledged to do something about the golf losses.

What followed were numerous contentious meetings that included approximately 400 citizens who were passionately opposed to closing any of the existing 36 holes.

November 2019
In an attempt to soothe the pro-golf-courses crowd, Mayor Winfield moved on 11/20/2019 that:
“All golf course repairs and improvements to be funded on a pay as you go basis from the Community Center Fund. No bonding will be undertaken for community center improvements.”

In addition, the motion stated that, “Oro Valley will retain a $100,000 minimum reserve in the Community Center fund.”

How approximately 400 citizens were able to overturn the will of over 9,000 citizens is beyond me.

Fast-forward to 2021
The half cent increase in the sales tax is now producing about $2.7 million. This is $700,000 more than what was initially stipulated in the 2014 ordinance. So, what does our “fiscally responsible, citizen-centric” Town Council do? Instead of lowering the sales tax to continue to meet the original needs of $1.6 - $2 million, they decide to use the additional revenues (your tax dollars) to consider bonding.

In May 2021, Mayor Winfield motioned that the additional monies be utilized to BOND for all park improvements including exterior community center and golf course improvements.

So, in the 18 months from November 2019 to May 2021, our Mayor/Council switched gears and decided that now we are going to BOND for Community Center and Golf improvements. This is in direct opposition to what the same Mayor/Council mandated in November 2019. Where did the bonding idea come from?

The code of ethics for the International City/County Managers Association (ICMA), of which our Town Manager is a member , states in Tenet #6 to: “Recognize that elected representatives are accountable to their community for the decisions they make; [ICMA] members are responsible for implementing those decisions.”

Remember that the additional $700,000 currently being generated from the half-cent sales tax is your money. This tax could have been reduced and still continue to be utilized for its original purpose…to supplement the Community Center Fund. Now YOUR money is going to be used to make golf course improvements. Why? Because without additional bond monies, the Community Center debacle that came to us in December 2014 was bound to fail. Without bonding, the money is not there for building and golf improvements despite all of the past assertions that the half cent sales tax would cover all costs.

Time to retire the Town motto
As a result, Oro Valley should retire their motto that we are a “Community of Excellence.” Oro Valley is being run by the staff (who are not accountable to any Citizen). The staff originates and organizes all proposals and is not carrying out Council decisions. It seems that Oro Valley has become just like any other community, taking every cent possible from its Citizens and spending it irresponsibility.

Mike Zinkin and his wife have lived in Oro Valley since 1998. He served on the Oro Valley Development Review Board from 2005-2009, the Board of Adjustment from 2011-2012, and the Town Council from 2012-2016. He was named a Fellow for the National League of Cities. He was a member of the NLC Steering Committee for Community and Economic Development and a member of the Arizona League of Cities Budget and Economic Development Committee. He was an Air Traffic Controller for 30 years. Mike has a Bachelor’s degree in history and government from the University of Arizona and a Master’s degree in Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education from California State University, Northridge.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Town Unveils Major Upgrade To Council Chambers

Council cleared up some open items
Last week’s council meeting, was the first in person council meeting since March of 2020.  The council cleared some open items including:
  • Approved a resolution to accept an annual subsidy of $34,050 to support the operation of the town’s 9 hole Pusch Ridge Course. The subsidy comes from three homeowner associations that abut the property. The amount will be paid for the next three years.
  • Retained Jonathan Rothschild as outside attorney
  • Amended the town's water code to penalize water wasting. You can read more about that code here.
Renovated council chambers
The council chambers were renovated and updated to take advantage of the latest technology.  The cost of the renovation was $600,000.   The facility was built and maintained years ago when the town offices were built.  
Click on picture to expand view

Changes include:
  • Increased capacity to 190 from 104 persons
  • More comfortable chairs
  • Improved ADA compliance
  • "Loop system" for people with hearing aids
  • Better technology including two large monitors and improved lighting for visual quality streaming
  • New audio-visual system to enable virtual public participation, boards and commission members, and council members

With the new chambers and in person meeting, the town has changed its council meeting procedures.
The new technology allows residents to participate both in person and virtually. “For agenda items listed as Public Hearings, there is now an option to speak publicly via Zoom if the speaker registers at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting by filling out a “virtual” speaker card. Once a speaker has registered online, they will be provided with additional instructions and a Zoom link on the day of the meeting. The new virtual option also applies to the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Board of Adjustment, as they are both held in Council Chambers and have Public Hearings.  

Links to register for a virtual speaker card will be included in each meeting’s agenda, which is posted to the Town’s website one week in advance. ”

Monday, September 13, 2021

Big Changes At Oro Valley Marketplace On Display Tonight

Big changes are planned…
…for the Oro Valley Marketplace. Many of these will require town council approval of general plan amendments and zoning code changes. Tonight, the town will host a discussion of these changes at a neighborhood meeting via Zoom. You can join the meeting using this link

Apartments… Hotels… Entertainment Center 
Town West Realty, the project owner and developer, is proposing five separate changes (see panel) to the property. According to project representative Kerry Sylvan, “Town West is committed to repositioning and reimagining the property” for the benefit of existing residents and newcomers.

If approved, the project will result in:
  • Three hotels with a total of 362 rooms and proposed heights of 49 feet;
  • A five story, 500 unit luxury complex near Tangerine Road; 
  • A four and five story, 229 unit luxury apartment complex near Oracle Road
  • An entertainment and water park area built in a wash inside the Marketplace
Council approvals required
Much of what the applicant wants to build will require council approval because the land is planned for or zoned for only some of what they want to do. These include:
  • Allowing apartments
  • Reducing building setbacks and landscape buffer yard requirements along Tangerine and Oracle Road
  • Increasing building heights up to 49 feet
  • Building an entertainment center in a designated wash
You can watch an introductory video on the project here.

The town has yet to determine when the project will be heard by the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission and then by the Town Council.
Note: The panel is the original submission by Town West.  The numbers in the text reflect the plans as shown in the project video.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Bits and Pieces

Update Your Water Account Information
The town's water department is implementing a new customer information system and customer portal in the near future. They are  asking our customers to please call 520-229-5000 or e-mail OVWater@orovalleyaz.gov, to verify that they have your correct phone number, billing address and e-mail address on file. They want to make sure we have your correct contact information as we prepare for the upcoming software changes. 

According to the department's fall newsletter, "the new system will allow customers convenient ways to access account and billing information, more options to make payments and other self service features."
Five ways to save even more water
Did you know that irrigation watering can easily be half of  a home's total water use? There's a huge opportunity for homes to reduce this use by:
  • Checking for system leaks
  • Reducing the amount of watering so that the plants get only the water they need
  • Reducing the watering schedule in those seasons where the plants are really just dormant
  • Choosing native and low water use plans
  • Harvesting rainwater

Celebrate Hispanic-American Heritage Tomorrow
The Oro Valley Historical Society is hosting an exhibit that celebrates Hispanic-American Heritage tomorrow at Steam Pump Ranch.  The event will be held in concert with the town's "Second Saturday" events. It starts at 8:30am. The exhibit is at the Pusch House Museum.

You can add your dream to "Dream it, then do it" mural at James D Kreigh Park
The Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance is painting a mural at Kreigh Park. The theme is "Dream it, then do it." You can participate.  In four words or less, simply tell SAACA what you dream. Your responses will be painted as the background of the new mural by artist Ashley White. Visit this link to participate.