By Skip Hall, Special to the Independent
On Feb. 21, the Council had its second in a series of work sessions on the upcoming fiscal year 2018 budget.
The focus was on the sources of funds for the General Fund. The General Fund’s unassigned fund balance is $2.5 million higher than estimated due to greater revenues and lower expenditures than expected for last fiscal year. These funds can be used for one time uses such as capital projects. Revenues for the current fiscal year are also currently 4 percent or $1.8 million above budgeted amounts. Impacts to local sales tax collections within the Bell Road and Grand Avenue Interchange Improvement project area are smaller than anticipated. These impacts are further offset by greater collections in other areas of the city.
Also reviewed were the city’s reserves which total $35.2 million for the current fiscal year. A revision to establish separate Operating, Budget Stabilization, and Emergency reserves within the General Fund was discussed. This will help to clarify the purpose of the General Fund reserves, identify when they can be used, and establish timelines to replenish them when they are used.
The budget discussions will continue over the next few Council meetings resulting in the June adoption of the fiscal year 2018 budget that will become effective July 1.
Arts & Cultural Advisory Commission Chairwoman Susan DeJong has provided an overview of the proposed Public Art Plan. The purpose of the plan is to identify and refine how art is integrated into City Hall. Commission members have worked in partnership with Consultant Architekton. The Commission would like to utilize some of this fiscal year’s funding to cover some of the priority projects. The goal is to proceed with the highest impact projects for the lowest cost.
Sustainability Engineering Group, on behalf Taylor Trust Farms LLC, has sought approval of an amendment to the zoning of the Sycamore Farms PAD to modify land uses and to adjust certain commercial development standards. These proposed amendments demonstrated intent to develop the site to better represent the current needs of the residential and commercial development community that has transformed since the adoption of the Sycamore Farms PAD 16 years ago. The amendment passed unanimously.
Staff has requested the approval of an annexation of a 3.34 acre portion of Peoria Avenue, located between Sarival Avenue and Reems Road. Based on a previous Intergovernmental Agreement, Maricopa County expanded and constructed this proposed annexation section of right-of-way on the south side of Peoria Avenue between Reems Road and Sarival Avenue. This annexation will transfer ownership and maintenance to the City of Surprise and provide a safe transportation option and improve connectivity. The recommendation passed unanimously.
The city of Surprise has a history of responding to business needs. During the last economic recession, Council adopted a citywide temporary signage policy, in 2009, to temporarily allow for a-frame signs, building banners and ease restrictions for sign walkers.
Council extended it for one year in 2012 and agreed to keep it in place during the Bell-Grand Construction Project in 2016.
Eight years later with an improving economy, Council approved removing the temporary policy, at the Feb. 21 regular meeting. This move is aimed at eliminating the clutter of too many temporary signs that have popped up along city sidewalks and other locations throughout the city.
Businesses citywide have until April 22, (60 days following Council action) to comply with the original signage policy.
Under the original policy:
A-frames are not permitted.
Building banners are only allowed twice per year, for 30 days.
In the event of a grand opening, the building banner is permitted for a 60-day period.
The city also realized that closing Bell Road for seven months during the Bell-Grand intersection work would impact area businesses, so Council adopted a temporary Bell-Grand Signage Policy, for businesses surrounding the construction zone that allowed for more temporary signage during construction and waived temporary use permit fees.
Now that the work is complete, Council has voted to repeal this policy as well. Bell-Grand businesses have until April 22 to comply with the original signage policies as listed previously. In addition, Bell-Grand area businesses will once again be required to obtain a building permit for directional signage and special events may also require a Temporary Use Permit. These two items were temporarily lifted under the temporary Bell-Grand policy.
The ultimate goal is to remove clutter from our city streets and sidewalks and create an atmosphere that aims to make business signage more impactful.
The sign code is available online.
Questions? Call Community Development at 623-222-3000.
The City Council has identified the Surprise Heritage District as an important area to the city’s heritage and as such to expand current city services in the area. The city owns the majority of property surrounding the site and thus has identified the Do Norma property as a property to acquire as an investment for City services in the future. The Council unanimously agreed to purchase the 5.84 acres.
In February 2015, City Council formed a Capital Improvement Funding Exploratory Committee to review potential use of general obligation bonds to fund specific capital improvements. Construction of eight additional lighted pickleball courts was included in the review of the committee and the courts were supported by the Community and Recreation Services Advisory Commission. It was later decided to remove the courts from the bond package and look for other sources to fund this $500,000 project.
Construction of the additional courts adjacent to the existing courts will require the relocation of the sand volleyball courts at Community Park. Conservative estimated project completion would be August 2017.
Separately, over the years City Council approved the construction of a wide variety of Park and Recreation facilities, including sports fields and courts, playgrounds, water features, dog parks, and open space. These facilities are a gathering place for all ages. During much of the year, the heat from the shade makes it difficult to fully enjoy our facilities. Equipment is hot to the touch, flooring too hot for bare feet, and without shade of any kind, there is no way to find respite other than leaving the facility and heading inside.
Shade structures may be constructed throughout the city at a cost of approximately $20,000 for a 30’x30 and $40,000 for a 40’x40. Staff will specifically analyze the needs citywide and recommend the best mix of structures to maximize the benefit from a $200,000 investment in shade. City Council unanimously approved the budget amendment to proceed.
We are thrilled to kick off the 15th annual Spring Training Season in Surprise. If you haven’t secured your tickets for the Kansas City Royals or Texas Rangers games, it’s not too late. The first game began on Feb. 25 with a hometown match-up between the Royals and Rangers to support our local youth sports programs.
This season, there is something for everyone. Here are a few of the remaining fun promotional event dates:
• March 12 – Ronald McDonald visits Surprise Stadium
• March 25 – Budweiser Clydesdales visit Surprise Stadium
With craft brew all the rage these days… For $30 you have access to the Four Peaks Pavilion in right field, a catered meal and a beverage! Other options include the Boulevard Craft Brew tent and our local State 48 craft brew stand! New on the food menu includes grilled corn on the cob and the Triple Play- a hot dog inside a hamburger, wrapped in bacon!
For a complete game schedule and more, visit www.surprisespringtraining.com or call 623-222-2222.
Editor’s Note: Mr. Hall is Surprise councilman representing District 5.