By Cecilia Chan for Gilbert Sun News
Given the current economic situation and the uncertainty surrounding the future, Gilbert Town Council will hold off going to voters this November with a $465M transportation and infrastructure bond.
Instead, an ad hoc Citizens Transportation Task Force recommended Gilbert put the bond on the November 2nd, 2021 ballot. Council would take a formal vote in June 2021 to do so.
Postponing the election would delay project design by six months, which is not a significant impact, Public Works Director Jessica Marlow told the Council.
The town’s funding for transportation projects come from a combination of sources, including Proposition 400 funds, the Highway User Revenue Fund, town enterprise funds and bonds.
Proposition 400, a statewide half-cent sales tax earmarked for transportation, and bond monies make up a big chunk of the town’s funding for transportation projects, Marlow said.
The $465M bond would cover roughly 85 percent of the cost for the 43 proposed transportation and infrastructure projects over a decade, she added.
The projects — which include new construction, reconstruction and technology needs — have not been specified.
Voters last approved a transportation bond in 2007 and since then Gilbert’s population has grown 44 percent. From 2001-07, voters passed four transportation bonds totaling $360M.
Sarah Murley, a consultant, said the economic impact of the proposed bond totaled $575M total with over 3,500 jobs for the town during the 10-year period.
Every $1M spent on transportation infrastructure support nine jobs and $485K in labor income in Gilbert during construction, she said.
Councilwoman Aimee Yentes said she supported the bond going forward, stating “I think it is necessary.”
Councilman Jared Taylor said it was wise to defer the bond to next year and suggested “skinny bonds” instead of trying to go for the entire package at once.
Perhaps, he said, the town can prioritize the projects and break up the bond into smaller ones.
Police Chief Michael Soelberg also updated Council on two proposed projects — a family advocacy center to help adult and children crime and the expansion of the police dispatch center. The center was first broached in the Council’s spring retreat last year.
He recommended building the 19.3KSF center on town-owned vacant land adjacent to the public safety building. The estimated cost of the center was $16.4 million, he said.
Yentes said $16.4M for a 19KSF building worked out to $850/SF, which was high.
The chief noted that the building would house medical exam rooms with special equipment, interview room, private counseling area and a waiting room for families.
Mayor Jenn Daniels said the town’s capital improvement projects include a possible crime lab in the distant future for Gilbert and questioned if police would build such a facility at the proposed site, which is much larger than what the advocacy center would need.
Soelberg also presented the need to expand the department’s dispatch center.
He proposed the department take space in the Municipal Court building currently occupied by Highland Justice Court.
He explained the justice court was leasing in the building and was scheduled to relocate elsewhere in July 2021. Additionally, space reserved for Motor Vehicle Services but never used would give the department a total of 5KSF, according to Soelberg, who estimated the expansion project to cost $7.9M.
Soelberg requested the funding for both projects be included in the proposed bond election for November 2021.
Read more at Gilbert Sun News.