Wed, Nov

The Camp Verde Town Council voted unanimously April 25 to approve an intergovernmental agreement with the Camp Verde Sanitary District.

The IGA formalizes the initial understandings reached between the town and the district over the last few months, with the town pledging to pay the district about $3.4 million in the form of yearly payments of $135,000.
For its part, the district promises to set itself on the road to dissolution, asking its members to turn over its treatment facilities, all other property and day-to-day operations to the town.
The district promises to hold an election to fulfill those conditions in November 2008.

“I’m very pleased,” CVSD Board President Rob Witt said. “It’s a good document — good for town, good for the district, and it gives them a measure of comfort, I believe. It was not too much for them to ask to have a measure of control based on the amount of investment they’re making.”
While the town is waiting for this to happen, the district would also provide treated wastewater effluent to the town at no charge to
irrigate town parks. The district would also lease 15 acres of developable land to the town for its equipment yard.

Witt said the town currently pays about $48,000 a year for a 5-acre lot, but that the district’s lot — three times the size — would only cost the town $100 a year.

Although the district has yet to formally respond to or resolve two bid protests on its yet-to-be-built wastewater treatment plant, Witt is confident the project can still break ground in mid-June.
“It’s not anything I’m concerned about,” Witt said.

According to Witt, one protester, CNB Excavating, of California, made no mistakes in its bid documents, but its argument as to why it should win the contract of more than $8 million doesn’t merit its price, around $400,000 more than the winning bidder, Fann Environmental, of Prescott.

The other protester is Highland Engineering, of Phoenix.

“Highland has an argument that they’re the lowest bidder, but they don’t have an argument to be the lowest responsible bidder, because they screwed up the bid documents so badly,” Witt said.

For its sewer project to go forward, Witt said the district would need its attorney to issue a document saying it faced no pending litigation — something he felt sure the district would secure.

According to Witt, neither protester would serve their best interests by suing the district, as any legal questions to such a suit could open either protester up to a multi-million-dollar lawsuit by the district for damages incurred for any delay of the project.

Under the IGA with Camp Verde, town employees will begin taking over operation of wastewater treatment, but first would take over accounting and billing duties of the district, starting in January.
The town will have to hire new staff, including a certified operator to accomplish that last goal.

Of additional benefit to the district is a promise by the town to provide $240,000 in state highway funds for the repaving costs associated with the expansion of the sewer system.

The town will continue its yearly pledged payments of $135,000 after taking over the district

What we have here is a failure to communicate.

Camp Verde Unified School District Superintendent Jeff Van Handel and his governing board thought they had a great idea — take over the 7-acre Butler Park, which sits smack up against CVUSD property and will soon be in need of much renovation. In return, the district would give 10 acres of parkland near the Verde River in the Simonton Ranch development.

Camp Verde Town Manager Bill Lee said that in retrospect, he didn’t see a clear advantage for the town.

“The way I looked at it is we get a little bigger park, but there were more advantages for the school district,” Lee said.

The 10-acre site is land the school district has rights to going back to pre-Simonton days.

Developer Scott Simonton, who said he is a booster for public schools, said he felt he had given the town many commitments: reducing the density of Simonton Ranch almost by half, donating land for a new library, committing to pay for the widening of Finnie Flat Road and committing at least $1 million toward completing the sewer system.

For Simonton, agreeing to a high- density elementary school in what he plans to be a retirement age-oriented community didn’t really make sense and was one concession too many.

Van Handel said that a park in Simonton Ranch would potentially connect to adjacent parklands and trails, including a possible environmental museum. So Van Handel saw a park as a win-win-win situation, for the district, the town and Simonton.

After talking with Lee and laying out the advantages he saw for all parties, Van Handel asked Lee to take the temperature of the Town Council on the idea in an executive session.

Van Handel said he had hoped that Lee would be able to list the contemplated land swap as a vague agenda item, drawing little public attention, allowing the council to hear from Lee and Lee to get back to Van Handel, before a full public discussion of the pros and cons.

But Lee said that what Van Handel had envisioned wasn’t possible under state open meeting laws.

With Van Handel out of town on the night of the March 21 Town Council meeting, and with a conflicted relationship between Mayor Tony Gioia and Lee added to the mix, Gioia and Lee apparently had a limited pre-council discussion of the agenda, the agenda item, stood little chance of bringing about a hoped-for meeting of the minds.

Simonton came up from Phoenix, saying he was unaware of the idea or that it was on the agenda until an hour before the meeting. He asked that the item be tabled, after saying he had no desire to have anything to do with the dissolution of Butler Park.

Gioia asked how the item came to be on the agenda and if there were any representatives from the district present.

Lee said Van Handel had asked for the agenda item, and gave no indication that he knew anything more about it.

The item was unanimously taken off the agenda.

Lee said that the tabling of the private discussion of the land swap probably told Van Handel all he needed to know: the council wasn’t interested.

According to Lee, Camp Verde would do better to focus on larger community parks, rather than smaller neighborhood parks anyway.

Van Handel said if the town has no interest in the land swap, he is prepared to move ahead with a school plan for the 10 acres within Simonton Ranch.

Van Handel also said he is willing to discuss a lower-density high school on the site that would offer classrooms and possibly computers for use by Simonton Ranch residents, in an effort to make the school an amenity for those residents, rather than an albatross.

Simonton meets with Van Handel on Wednesday, April 4, and said he was withholding any comments until after the meeting

When it comes to the streets of Camp Verde, “accepted” is not “approved,” and thereby hangs a tale.

For at least the last three months, the Camp Verde Town Council has been repeatedly considering accepting the streets of the Verde Cliffs subdivision in the Cliffs development just north of downtown.

Then the item mysteriously vanished after the Feb. 7 council meeting when the specter of litigation raised its head over the issue.

As recently as last week, Mayor Tony Gioia was under the impression that the streets had not been accepted, while Town Manager Bill Lee said they were.

“It’s just plain crazy,” Verde Cliffs resident John Stephens said. “Originally, I went downtown and they said, ‘no,’ the streets had not been accepted, then they said they had. A couple of weeks ago, Marvin Buckel [the town’s street inspector] told me the year warranty on the streets is up in June of this year.”

In a letter to contractor Joe Contadino dated Feb. 22, Town Attorney Bill Sims said when the streets were accepted on Nov. 29 of last year, the
warranty period began.

Apparently, when the town approves the final plat, or plan, for a development, it accepts title, or ownership, of the streets.

The town can then “approve” the streets, or not, once they are built.

Sims said that the town had two additional protections to rely upon.

First, the town can make a developer post a bond and draw money from that bond if it does not approve of how streets are built.

Second, the town can refuse to issue permits for the entire development if, after a few houses are built, it does not approve of the streets.

Gioia said he thought those protections were insufficient.

“It seems ridiculous to me because it seems like the only way we can stop from accepting streets before they’re even built is to not accept the plat,” Gioia said. “Before the town takes on the responsibility of maintenance, I for one would like to make sure that everything is in top order, not starting from some need for repair.”

Sims said that this problem stems in part from outdated and imprecise sections of town code that were pasted in wholesale from county ordinances during incorporation 20 years ago.

“This has been on the radar screen,” Sims said, “and Joe Contadino really brought it home.”

The question of who approves streets that have been accepted in the planning stage is still open.

Gioia said that after all the confusion over “accept” and “approve,” he thinks council needs to have a hand in approval of improvements once they are built.

Stephens, the Verde Cliffs resident, said he and Buckel would be walking the subdivision together this week to assess the quality of the streets.

Of even more concern to Stephens is what he sees as a dangerous lack of parking enforcement in Verde Cliffs.

According to Stephens, the town accepted the subdivision with the most minimally acceptable width of 24 feet, and that allows no room for on-street parking.

“The other day two pickups were parked opposite each other,” Stephens said. “A school bus might get through, but not the fire department, and an emergency wagon cannot get through.”

So nevermind the cracks in the streets — if residents need an ambulance and their neighbors have blocked the street, not only the residents, but the town of Camp Verde may be in deep trouble at that point.

Tony Gioia defeated Mitch Dickinson by 250 votes to retain his seat as mayor of Camp Verde.

Gioia won with 1,370 votes to Dickinson’s 1,120, according to the Yavapai County Elections Department.

All results are unofficial until certified by the county.

With three open Town Council seats, Greg Elmer won outright with 1,506 votes.

The two remaining seats must be filled by a runoff in the general election on Tuesday, May 15.

Four candidates remain to fill two open seats: Harry Duke [1,223 votes], Councilwoman Jackie Baker [1,053 votes], Norma Garrison [1,033 votes] and Councilman Mike Parry [804 votes].

Impact fees, also known as development fees, won an overwhelming victory, 1,567 votes to 843 votes.

The fees could take effect as early as Thursday, March 22, depending on when the Town Council canvasses, or accepts, the vote.

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