Small crowd gets full service at Surprise bond meeting

The five Surprise residents who did show up for Tuesday’s second bond election meeting in a series of three received almost a personal guide to the projects and a chance for an audience with multiple city leaders.

Resident Carey Mhekin heard about the meeting at City Hall from his brother just before it started and went in “basically blind” as far as the bond and its projects.

He left the presentation opposed to the bond, largely because he fears the city could seek another bond and associated tax increase five to ten years from now. To him a proposed $4 million purchase of land for a future police station, fire station and park — while a smart move financially — is the perfect illustration of this concern.

“They want money, the bond gets passed. Three years down the road they could come back wanting more money. How much money do you want from us? That’s the problem,” Mr. Mhekin said. “If they have the money to buy the property and then they want to develop it five or six years down the road, are they going to come back to the general public wanting more money.”

If the $63 million bond passes Nov. 8, it would add a .4642 secondary property tax for residents. For a home with a limited property value of $200,000, this translates to $93 in additional taxes a year.

Surprise Finance Director Lindsey Duncan said the city updates its list of capital improvements projects annually. So the actual police station/fire station/park construction could crop up as soon as three years.

But the timing of bond projects, including building two fire stations and operating new facilities, puts a more realistic timeline for projects on that land at least five years into the future and probably more, Ms. Duncan said.

“Plus we have to absorb operating costs (on bond projects). We could look to impact fees but those come in so slowly. They can help repay over time,” she said.

Jim and Carol Palmer entered the meeting thinking that the bond proposal sounded reasonable. They said nothing in Tuesday’s meeting changed their views.

“If you want to have a government, you’ve got to pay for it. That’s how it works,” Mr. Palmer said.

Carol Palmer said the road projects were her top priority, while the aquatic center was the most problematic.

“I like the idea of purchasing land now instead of 10 years down the line when it’s more expensive,” Ms. Palmer said.

Mr. Mhekin also questioned the proposed location of Fire Station 308, one of nine bond projects. It would be at Litchfield and Cactus roads, three miles east of current Fire Station 307.

He asked how many times residents have to get squeezed by taxes and bills before they start yelling?

“Most of the people out here are senior citizens on a fixed income. You take out $93 a year, it means something to them. It could be gas, a prescription, who knows? Ten of 15 years down the road, how many (current residents) are going to be here to see this,” Mr. Mhekin said.

During the meeting, city officials mentioned a few fairly new details about some of the projects. They include:

• Fire Station 308 would start with 16 employees.

• An additional 5,000 square feet for the police property evidence facility would give the department 15-20 years before it pushes capacity again, Chief Terry Young said.

• If a new public works operations facility is built, the current site can house the police department’s tactical (SWAT) vehicle as well as ambulance supplies.

• The planned Litchfield Road improvement would finish the city’s planned expansion of the road in its boundaries.

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