Leaders of some of the important organizations, which serve the Sun City West community, expressed what they perceive to be the challenges and opportunities they will face in the new year.
Funding, outreach and volunteer recruitment were identified as challenges, while continued growth and new services and amenities give cause for encouragement.
Challenges facing the Recreation Centers of Sun City West in 2107 include implementation of the organization’s newly adopted goals, as well as continuing to develop strategic opportunities and long range plans, according to a statement from Governing Board President Wanda Schnabel.
The governing board adopted a set of goals for 2017 at its Dec. 15 regular meeting (“Board takes aim at 2017,” Sun City West Independent, Dec. 21, 2016). The four key goals they approved include developing a plan to gather public input to guide the board in crafting actionable recommendations, conduct an annual goal-setting and training meeting for the board, develop a plan to educate the community about diminishing water resources and develop opportunities for civic engagement directly related to recreation.
The goals, each with deadlines through spring and summer, will be implemented by RCSCW staff members with input from the board. Mike Whiting, RCSCW general manager, expressed confidence in the abilities of his staff members.
“I think we can do this,” he said at the December meeting, regarding the May 31 deadline to come up with a plan for gathering public input.
Rec centers officials are also excited about a number of coming milestones, according to Ms. Schnabel.
She cited the anticipated completions of the $4.1 million pool complex renovation and installation of new pickleball and tennis courts at the R.H. Johnson Recreation Center, 19803 R.H. Johnson Blvd. 2017 will also be the first year members will be able to vote online for the upcoming board election (“Prepare for online voting for RCSCW board election,” Sun City West Independent, Jan. 4, 2017).
Rob Robbins, president of the Property Owners and Residents Association, noted challenges for his organization, including increasing community outreach and representing the community before the Arizona Corporation Commission as it considers approving utility rate increases for EPCOR, APS and Southwest Gas this year.
“Getting our message out is important,” said Mr. Robbins. “PORA is the best kept secret in our community.”
He wants more residents to know about the roles filled by the volunteer-driven organization, including enforcement of CCRs, vetting vendor services, adult learning classes, greeting more than 1000 visitors each month at the Vistors Center and the Friday night Bingo games they host at R.H Johnson Recreation Center social hall, which help fund local charities.
Among the opportunities Mr. Robbins identified for this year is the development of a marketing plan for PORA.
“We are working to enhance our community by promoting public services, guarding property values and promoting and advancing Sun City West as an active adult residential community,” he said.
Commander Bob Carneiro of the Sheriff’s Posse of Sun City West said recruiting continues to be a key challenge for his organization in the coming year and likely beyond.
The all-volunteer organization is 100 percent funded by donations from the community and in recent years had boasted more than 200 active members. But a number of factors, including an increasingly complicated and time-consuming process to vet and approve prospective members, have caused those numbers to dwindle to half that size.
Mr. Carneiro said the Posse patrols as much as 25,000 miles per year and stressed the importance of uniformed patrols to the community.
“Presence is what we are here for, to be the eyes and ears of MCSO,” he said.
Although uniform-wearing Posse volunteers patrol the streets of Sun City West in police cars that look like Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office vehicles, they have no authority to question or detain people. Their role is to be present and patrolling in the community and to report any incident to MCSO.
Nonetheless, volunteers must complete extensive training — including a two-day, 20-hour course provided in South Phoenix — and the process, including background checks, can sometimes take seven to nine months to complete. Too often, candidates pursue the opportunity, but by the time they are approved, move on to other commitments.
The problem was exacerbated by an 18-month recruitment moratorium, which was imposed while MCSO addressed some regulatory issues over the past two years, he said. Recruitment is back on and the Posse is working hard to get the word out.
“People have got to step up,” Mr. Carneiro said.
What can be done to streamline the approval remains to be seen and is, to some extent, dependent on the priorities of the new county sheriff and the outcome of ongoing lawsuits from the previous administration, which may not be resolved for years.
Citing opportunities for the coming year, he said they are already seeing a bump in new recruits and he anticipates their numbers will grow faster in 2017.
Thomas O’Donohue, division chief and fire marshal for the North Valley Fire & Medical District, said his organization, like most non-municipal fire districts, continues to face economic challenges. Such organizations rely primarily on growth to keep up with rising costs — they anticipate a 12 percent rise in calls annually and expect to answer more than 12,000 calls in 2017.
The District will meet this challenge while they maintain a tax rate of only $2.80 for every $1,000 of property value; the maximum allowed by law is $3.25 per $1,000. The recent consolidation of the 45-square-mile district brought in outlying communities, such as Wittman, which is seeing rapid growth.
This will help the district continue to meet is obligations without need for increasing tax rates, he said.
Mr. O’Donohue was optimistic about opportunities for the district this year, including expansion of their integrated mobile health care program, which provides community health services using patient-centered mobile resources without requiring hospital treatment. Some of those services include preventative care, post-discharge follow-up visits, transportation and referrals for additional care.
The district also anticipates growing its Fire Corps program, which relies on community volunteers to deliver important services, such as help with administration, installation of lock boxes, checking smoke alarms and other tasks associated with the district’s community safety programs.
The program is the first of its kind in the nation, Mr. O’Donohue said.