By Roland Murphy for Arizona Builder’s Exchange
For most Arizonans, Spring means warmer temperatures, baseball and seasonal allergies as the desert starts coming into full bloom.
For AZBEX, it means easing (we hope) back into a heavy Public Sector project focus as towns, counties, universities and state agencies start discussing and evaluating their upcoming five-year Capital Improvement Project plans.
The past couple of weeks we saw a few stories trickle in from around the state. In starting to put today’s (April 3) issue together, there were four. The deluge is, apparently, starting. Rather than bombard our readers with stories from four different news outlets and agencies, we figured it would be easier for all concerned if we summarized them in one spot.
Scottsdale will almost certainly be seeking a $350M General Override bond request in the Nov. 6 election. The Scottsdale Independent reported on March 29 the City Council is also considering sales tax increases – either a 0.1 percent increase in addition to the GO bond request – or a series of incremental increases of 0.1, 0.2 and 0.3 percent.
According to a March 22 story in The Arizona Republic, “Scottsdale voters have been a tough sell on bond requests over the past decade. Voters passed two of six requests in 2015 but rejected all bond requests in 2010 and 2013 as the nation crawled out of the Great Recession. The last major bond requests for city infrastructure projects green-lighted by voters was 18 years ago.”
While frugality is a laudable trait, it means a lot of infrastructure maintenance projects have been delayed, and others long sought have been kicked down the road.
According to the Independent article, “Scottsdale City Engineer Dave Lipinski introduced Scottsdale City Council to the current state of affairs regarding capital improvement projects identified and the price tag for those projects.”
Regarding developing a CIP, he said, “There has been some changes from when this process started. In total, after the requests within the CIP; if those are moved forward, it leaves 160 projects and a total of $639M in unfunded requests – that is where we start today with the different scenarios.”
The Republic gave a short list of some of the projects on the extensive list:
The number of projects on the list that would be completed will depend on how council moves forward, but a sampling of the 100-plus requests include:
- $4.9M for improvements to Loop 101-Hayden Road interchange.
- $16.2M for improvements to Pima Road from Dynamite Boulevard to Stagecoach Road.
- $10.2M for improvements to Pima Road from Happy Valley Road to Dynamite Road.
- $5.7M for Civic Center Plaza improvements.
- $20.9M for downtown public parking.
Other pricey projects on the list relate to flood control.
“The needs are great and they are getting greater, and I would hope we, and the people of the city, can see they have been avoided too long,” Councilman David Smith said in the Republic article.
Having done better with earning bond approvals in recent years, Surprise is farther ahead than Scottsdale in realizing its CIP wish list.
According to a March 29 article in Independent Newsmedia: “High-priority public safety projects, which already have funding from the $59.5M general obligation bond approved by voters last fall among various sources, include:
- $3M for a 16-acre land purchase for a future shared police substation, fire station and public park in the southwest part of town;
- $9M for design and construction of a 29KSF public safety evidence and readiness facility on city-owned land at 134th Avenue and Foxfire Drive;
- $8.6M for a new, permanent Fire Station 304 comprising an 18KSF facility to be designed and (constructed) along 163rd Avenue south of Happy Valley Road;
- $7.1M to design and build the 14KSF Fire Station 308 at the southeast corner of Litchfield and Cactus roads;
- $1.9M for a 8.500KSF police training facility on Litchfield Road north of Bell Road.”
The leading transportation projects on the list are designing and implementing roadway improvements on Waddell, Greenway and Litchfield roads for $15.5M and a $10M pavement preservation project. These are funded by last year’s bond.
As yet unfunded transportation projects include improvements from Cactus Road at $7.4M and Peoria Avenue from Cotton Lane to Reems Road for $3.6M.
The city also has $35M in library and parks and recreation projects that were not funded by the bond. Finding funding sources for these will be a challenge, according to city staff, because a 2012 law (SB1525) significantly restricts in most cases – and outright prohibits in others – the use of impact fees for such projects.
Yuma Considering Tax for Transportation
The Yuma Metropolitan Planning Organization is considering following the lead of its larger cousins around the state to create a countywide transportation plan and asking voters to approve a tax to fund it.
Maricopa, Pima, Coconino and Pinal counties have met with success developing, funding and implementing such plans and campaigns in recent years, although Pinal’s – the most recently approved – is currently involved in a lawsuit.
A March 29 Yuma Sun article (subscription required) reported on plans by YMPO to conduct a meeting of regional leaders April 12 to discuss and assess such a plan. Potential organizations to be involved include: Greater Yuma Economic Development Corporation, Greater Yuma Port Authority, Yuma International Airport, Yuma Proving Ground, Marine Corps Air Station-Yuma, American Western College, and major regional employers.
The state gas tax has traditionally been a major funding source for transportation projects, but it hasn’t seen an increase in its $0.18/gallon rate since 1991, and improved vehicle fuel efficiency has cut into revenue streams even farther.
Regarding the counties that have had success in earning voter approval, The Sun quoted YMPO Executive Director Paul Ward as saying, “Each one of those regions have gone out and got their own half-cent sales taxes, for transportation purposes. As a result, 85 percent of the state’s population has already found a way to fix the fact that we haven’t increased the gasoline tax in the state of Arizona. It’s not surprising, in the Yuma County case, we don’t have enough money to fix our roads,” Ward said, noting voters approved the measures because the requests were accompanied by regional transportation plans detailing how the money would be spent.
Much like Yuma, Apache Junction hopes to develop a comprehensive plan to integrate all its all its transportation needs and goals into one coherent process.
Unlike Yuma, however, AJ isn’t looking so much at roads and major infrastructure as it is a way to provide for all the city’s other transportation needs.
A March 28th article in the Apache Junction/Gold Canyon Independent reported, “The city has embarked on a year-long process to create a transportation plan, a planning document for the provision of sidewalks, bicycle lanes, bicycle paths and equestrian paths, officials stated in a release.”
Watch Out for More
These initial reports and targets are kind of like the first cactus blooms along your favorite trail. Not to belabor the metaphor too much more, but before long the CIP updates will be more like that cloud of cottonwood detritus or mesquite dust enveloping the car in the morning.
We braced for it, and we’ll keep you updated as the news comes in. If you don’t already have your copy, you can catch where things stand going into the season with the AZBEX FY 17-18 CIP Special Report here.