Look ahead to 2010: Queen Creek - East Valley Tribune: Queen Creek & San Tan Valley

Look ahead to 2010: Queen Creek

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Posted: Friday, January 1, 2010 3:45 pm | Updated: 3:26 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

The Town Council is guaranteed to look significantly different when new members are sworn in this July.

BUDGET

Queen Creek's general fund has already been slashed by a third compared withthree years ago. And Assistant Town Manager Patrick Flynn is projecting it will decrease again in 2010.

"The pie will be less for next year," Flynn said earlier this month. "We'll be in the fourth year of the Great Recession."

Flynn expects revenue for the $20.1 million general fund to be down between $2.5 million and $3 million. He expects an uptick in residential construction, but retail spending and commercial building will still be down.

But Flynn is even more concerned about an item that will go to voters in March: Residents will have to decide on a home rule question, which lets local officials determine how much the town can spend instead of leaving it up to a state formula. Queen Creek currently has home rule in place, but it's up for renewal.

The town's budget, which includes the general fund and other accounts, is $98 million. Under state limits, Queen Creek would be able to spend a total of $42.9 million in 2010-11 if the measure fails.

"This is not a revenue issue. We would be unable to spend the revenues that were coming in. It's a draconian formula," Flynn said. "Departments, programs would be decimated."

COUNCIL ELECTION

The Town Council is guaranteed to look significantly different when new members are sworn in this July.

Three council seats and the mayor's office are up for election, and no incumbents are running. Mayor Art Sanders and council members Joyce Hildebrandt, Jon Wootten and Gordon Mortensen all decided it's time to move on.

Former councilman Gail Barney will be the only mayoral candidate on the March ballot, although a write-in candidate could still come forward to challenge him.

The field of seven council candidates is full of fresh faces. While several of them volunteered with the town or community groups, the only one to have held elected office in town is Toni Valenzuela, who lost her council seat in the 2008 election.

Sanders said he's pleased with the field.

"I think there's going to be some fresh ideas and fresh thoughts," he said. "The ones I know don't seem to have agendas. They want what's best for the town."

TRASH PICKUP

Whether Queen Creek residents will start getting townwide trash pickup service or continue contracting with waste providers if they don't want to haul garbage is still up in the air, but resolution is expected at the end of January.

The council was expected to vote on a contract in November. The contract negotiated with Right Away Disposal would give residents curbside trash and recycling pickup once a week plus other services including bulk waste pickup for $15.41 a month.

However, the council delayed a final vote on the contract due to concerns raised by homeowners on large lots and horse owners who must dispose of manure.

The town's staff is continuing negotiations with the disposal company, specifically looking at an option that would let large lot owners opt out of garbage service if they meet certain requirements, said Deputy Town Manager Shane Dille.

"The people who need to deal with manure typically have a system in place today that deals with those needs a lot better than the proposal," he said.

Negotiations are ongoing, so Dille said he couldn't talk about many details. But he did say it's his goal to keep the price for service at $15.41 per resident.

The issue is expected to go to the council Jan. 20.

CONSTRUCTION

While new home construction isn't nearly at the levels it was during the housing boom, builders are starting to trickle back into Queen Creek.

Queen Creek had 1,200 new home permits during the height of the boom in the 2005-06 fiscal year. That plummeted to about 180 in the 2008-09 fiscal year, which ended June 30.

Town staff had projected 100 this year, but the number is above estimates at this point. Looking at calendar year 2009, Queen Creek had 217 permits issued as of Nov. 22, said Wayne Balmer, planning manager.

Also, builders indicate they plan to start building in at least four neighborhoods in the early part of 2010.

Town staff is estimating 125 permits in 2010 at this point, although Balmer said they haven't completed a market absorption study or subdivision analysis to get exact numbers.

"We are hoping our budget number is low, but we want to budget conservatively," he said.

BRANDING

From fighting a ZIP code change to disputing foreclosure reports that lumped it into other areas, Queen Creek was very vocal in efforts to distinguish itself from surrounding communities in 2009.

Those efforts are continuing into 2010, most notably with a branding campaign. Residents are weighing in on three possible themes for advertising campaigns, which will be used to promote the community locally and nationally to distinguish it from other areas, said town spokeswoman Marnie Schubert.

The Town Council is scheduled to select a campaign in February.

Queen Creek's fight to keep its old ZIP code, which has an "852" prefix instead of a new "851" prefix mostly associated with Pinal County, is continuing. So far, Queen Creek has appealed to the congressional level, Schubert said.

There has been a bit more distinction made between Queen Creek and surrounding areas since an unincorporated area in Pinal County started using "San Tan Valley" for its addresses in 2009, Schubert said.

However, there's still a lot of confusion, she said. Town staff has met with different real estate groups over the past few months to try to educate that community.

"The larger metropolitan area views Queen Creek as this foreclosure-ridden cow town. And that's why this branding effort is so important," Schubert said. "That's why this education effort is so important. It is not millions of 'foreclosed' signs."

ROADWORK

Queen Creek drivers can expect one big project to be finished by the end of 2010: the widening of Ellsworth Road.

The town has been preparing to expand Ellsworth to six lanes between Cloud and Empire roads for a couple of years now, said Troy White, public works divisional manager. That heavily traveled stretch of road takes commuters into Pinal County and onto the Hunt Highway.

The town expects to accept bids for the $15 million project in January with work starting in April or May.

Queen Creek also expects to complete work on Ellsworth Road between Ocotillo and Rittenhouse roads by the end of 2010. It is the last stretch of road that needs improvements in the town's main retail corridor, White said.

That $3.4 million project will add turn lanes and bike lanes to the entire stretch and expand the road to four lanes north of Victoria Lane, White said.

Construction is expected to start in July.

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