Mesa voters have approved a $70 million bond for the city to make a myriad of improvements, according to unofficial results
With 90 percent of the precincts reporting, 58 percent of voters supported the measure.
The city asked for approval of the bond to help improve aging parks and add new parks and trails. Old playgrounds would be replaced, irrigation improved and shade structures added.
“I’m really pleased so far. It looks like it’s pulling ahead,” Mayor Scott Smith told the East Valley Tribune during a phone conversation Tuesday night. “The need in Mesa is like the need in most communities. We need to continue to invest in our community. Because of the recession, we haven’t kept up. These are investments that will pay back over many, many years, decades. And the citizens are agreeing, at least right now, that these are the things the people want to do in our community to make Mesa a better place.”
Later, Smith sent out another statement: “We are very gratified that City of Mesa residents have once again chosen to invest in our community. We are confident that these projects, which came from a citizen driven initiative, will Build a Better Mesa for current residents and generations to come. These improvements to our parks and trail systems are part of the iMesa process where residents were challenged to imagine a better community, invest in that community and improve our community. We hope to build on this success by utilizing the iMesa process to develop more ideas for great projects in the future.”
According to the city, the bonds would cost the owner of an average Mesa home $28.84 a year.
Of the bond funds, $8.7 million has been earmarked to convert former public school sites in west Mesa into parks. That includes the former Mesa Junior High School site, which now sits mostly vacant. The district closed the school in May 2012 as part of its “defining the future” program to address low enrollment and lower funding.
Smith said Tuesday night that the city hopes to transform the site into a community activity center with youth sports fields.
“We would be able to upgrade and use the gymnasium there and other facilities,” he said earlier in the night. He said there is no time line for the project yet. “We had some rough drawings. If the bond issue passes, we could have the money and start planning immediately and in the next couple of years it would be under construction.”
Part of the bond also is earmarked for historical preservation for a long-standing roadside landmark with an iconic neon sign in east Mesa.
With funds from the bond, the city also hopes to purchase the 15-acre Buckhorn Mineral Baths complex, convert vacant land into parks in east Mesa and build pedestrian paths, an estimated $10 million project for the 73-year-old complex on the southeast corner of Main Street and Recker Road.
The former business, known for its supposed healing powers from its hot mineral baths, once was owned by Ted and Alice Sliger and was the catalyst to lure Major League baseball teams to the Grand Canyon State for spring training, including the New York (now San Francisco) Giants in 1947 and later the Chicago Cubs in 1952.
The establishment also has a large collection of rare Native American stones and a collection of mounted animals once hunted by Ted Sliger Sr. The display shows many different animal species that used to live in Arizona.
Soon after Alice Sliger died at age 103 in October 2010, her son, Ted Sliger Jr., turned to the Mesa Historical Museum to help gather some of the artifacts in the building for safe-keeping as it continues to develop an ongoing exhibit dedicated to the history of spring training in Arizona, “Play Ball: The Cactus League Experience.” Exhibit planners hope to transform the exhibit - now housed in a former art gallery in downtown Mesa - into its own museum to promote tourism and showcase the East Valley’s role in developing spring training as a major economic engine and tourism draw.
The city’s bond question could have been larger, but with the school district’s $230 million bond question on the ballot, elected officials decided to address the most pressing needs first, according to city and school officials.
Tribune reporter Michelle Reese contributed to this story.
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