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It’s time to Decide Surprise as Council sends 3 bond questions for Nov ballot

At their June 6th Regular Meeting, City Council approved sending three General Obligation Bond questions in the areas of Public Safety, Traffic Congestion Mitigation and Pavement Preservation to the ballot in a Special Election on November 7, 2017. All registered voters in Surprise will receive a ballot by mail.

Residents are invited to learn more about the projects, costs and voter information at a specialized website Decide Surprise www.surpriseaz.gov/decidesurprise.

The projects included in the following questions were based on community needs, comments received from residents during the 2016 bond election outreach process, and input received during and after the Surprise Capital Improvement Funding Exploratory Committee’s April 19 meeting.

Question #1: Voters in Surprise are asked to consider a $34 million public safety bond proposal to: build a Public Safety Evidence & Readiness Center; renovate an existing city facility into a Police Training Facility; acquire Land for Future Fire Station/Police Substation & Park; build a new Fire Station at Cactus and Litchfield roads; build  a new Fire Station along 163rd Avenue, south of Happy Valley Road, to replace the current temporary station; and build a Public Works Operations Facility to centralize  operations. The annual cost for a homeowner would be approximately $26 per $100,000 in Limited Property Value (LPV).

Question #2: Voters in Surprise are asked to consider a $15.5 million street bond proposal to provide funds to plan, design, construct and improve Waddell, Greenway and Litchfield roads. The annual cost for a homeowner would be approximately $12 per $100,000 in Limited Property Value (LPV).

Question #3: Voters in Surprise are asked to consider a $10 million street pavement preservation bond proposal to plan, design, construct, replace and improve deteriorated street pavement citywide. The annual cost for a homeowner would be approximately $8 per $100,000 in Limited Property Value (LPV).

General Obligation Bonds are sold to investors who are repaid with interest. The repayment comes from a secondary property tax, which Surprise does not currently have.   If all three questions are approved, the annual secondary property tax could be up to $46 per $100,000 in Limited Property Value, or approximately $4 per month.  ($92 per $200,000 in Limited Property Value, or approximately $8 per month).  You can determine the exact cost to your property by following the steps listed at www.surpriseaz.gov/decidesurprise.

Educational public meetings will be scheduled ahead of the November 7 Special Election. Meeting dates and locations will be posted at www.surpriseaz.gov/decidesurprise.

Voter registration for this election closes on October 9. You can register online by visiting:  https://recorder.maricopa.gov/elections/registrationform.aspx, or stop by the Surprise City Clerk’s Office in person Monday thru Friday 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Council oks FY18 budget that maintains services & property tax rate

The Surprise City Council approved a $275.8 million Fiscal Year 2018 Budget, at a Special Meeting Tuesday night.

The budget maintains existing city services and identifies creative options to maximize some resources.

That includes securing outside revenue sources and reallocating the operating budget to provide new positions that address public safety, water and inspection demands.  Two public safety grants (SAFER Grant and COPS Hiring Program) will partially fund a five-member Fire-Medical Peak Time Response Unit and two police officers, focused on community policing, through 2019.

This budget maintains the city’s current property tax rate of $0.7591 per $100 of assessed property valuation. Due to new construction and higher property valuations, as assessed by Maricopa County that would generate approximately $380,100 in new money. The primary property tax levy is set to support the uses of the General Fund and provides a more diversified revenue system that protects city services.

The budget also dedicates $49.8 million to support the city’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), which is used to maintain, preserve, and/or replace city infrastructure. This includes funding for pavement preservation of city streets, vehicle replacement and aging communications, information technology, recreation and utility infrastructure.

There are also a number of financial policy revisions regarding the level at which Council adopts the budget, who can amend the budget, minimum fund balances for the new Stormwater and Workers’ Compensation funds, and clearer definition of the reserves and their potential uses in the General Fund to strengthen the city’s financial position.

Council will vote to set the property tax levy and revise the financial policies at their June 20 Council Meeting.

The FY18 Budget will be available at www.surpriseaz.gov/budget.

Emergency response in a growing city can be challenging

Over the last few months, several meetings were held to discuss the city’s FY18 budget and its priorities. After many discussions, City Manager Bob Wingenroth presented his Recommended Budget which is scheduled for approval this month. These budgets discussions marked my first as an elected official in Surprise. With that being said, maintaining current services and protecting our residents is my priority.

When I reflect on the protection of our residents, public safety comes to mind. One of the key aspects of public safety is to save lives and protect property. In order to accomplish this, we need to ensure our response times to these incidents are more than sufficient. As an elected official, I have an obligation to the citizens of the city to make sure we can adequately protect our residents in the event emergency and fire services are needed. Having spent most of my career with the Glendale Fire Department, I focus on response times. When lives and property are at risk, every second of the emergency response cycle counts.

Response to medical emergencies is constantly evolving. Science is becoming more and more sophisticated. The more we learn, the more it changes. Paramedicine has certainly contributed to quicker and more efficient responses as has telemedicine. For example, telemedicine utilizes technology that has significantly changed how EMS providers perform care. Ambulances and fire apparatuses can now carry advanced diagnostic equipment that has become more portable and more affordable. EKG monitors perform and transmit 12-leads, record vital signs, and measure carbon dioxide levels in expired air and carbon monoxide levels in blood.

Even with all of the enhancements listed above, response times and resource management remains a complex part of service delivery. The time of day, street networks and traffic planning are all items that have a large impact on the response times.

The City of Surprise currently has seven fire stations, all of which provide for Advanced Life Support (ALS) via Fire Engines and Ladder Trucks. This delivery model has proven to be very effective and ensures that the crews are always ready for whatever call comes up. All trucks are equipped with GPS devices that report their location to the Phoenix Fire dispatch center. Phoenix Fire is then able to determine the closest unit to the call and sends them to help reduce response times. This process ensures all resources are being used in the most efficient manner. Unfortunately, if there are multiple or stacked calls for service in a specific areas of the city, units are sent over to help cover those calls. This situation is what causes response times to become extended. Here is an example:

If a call for service comes out in the southeast corner of the city, currently there is no fire station there to cover that call. This call is routed to the closest unit; a majority of the time this is Fire Station (FS) 305, near Surprise Stadium. When FS305 gets that call their area is left uncovered. Any call for service in that area is now served by neighboring fire stations such as Fire Station 306 located at 16645 W. Clearview Boulevard. This means that the response to a current call in Fire Station 305’s first due will be extended. In addition, any call that takes place in Fire Station 306’s first due while they are out will also be extended because it is being back filled with a unit outside of that area.

The Surprise Fire Medical Department (SFMD) has a goal to be at your door step within 6 minutes of the call for service 90% of the time. With this goal in mind you can see why calls for service in uncovered areas can cause the entire system to underperform. According to the American Heart Association, every minute after cardiac arrest and no advanced care (AED & CPR), the chance of survival decreases by 10%. After 10 minutes the chances of survival is very poor.

Surprise continues to grow which means more demand on all of our services, including public safety. It is imperative that we continue to serve our residents adequately and ensure their safety is our first and foremost concern.

City, Valley Metro host public meeting to discuss Dial-a-Ride transition, June 14

The city of Surprise, in partnership with Valley Metro, will host a public outreach meeting on Tuesday, June 14 to provide current Northwest Valley Dial-a-Ride passengers an opportunity to learn about the new transportation service models prior to the July 1 transition of Dial-a-Ride to RideChoice and Valley Metro Paratransit.

The outreach meeting will be held in the Surprise City Hall Community Room, 16000 N. Civic Center Plaza, on June 14 from 4:00-5:30 p.m. A brief presentation will begin at 4 p.m.

Information about the shared route Senior Bus will also be presented at the meeting.

Following the presentation, city and Valley Metro representatives will be available to answer questions about the transportation services.

Individuals needing reasonable accommodations should contact the ADA coordinator at 623.222.3531 (Voice); or 623.222.3503 (TTY) at least three (3) business days prior to the meeting so arrangements can be made.

Customers unable to attend the meeting can stay informed about the Dial-a-Ride service changes by visiting surpriseaz.gov/transportation.

Council briefed on possible General Obligation Bond questions; Call to Election vote set for June 6

City staff briefed City Council on three proposed General Obligation Bond questions in the areas of Public Safety, Traffic Congestion Mitigation and Pavement Preservation, at Tuesday’s Work Session.

The three proposed questions and projects, as presented to Council, were determined based on community needs, comments received from residents during the 2016 bond election outreach process, and input received during and after the Surprise Capital Improvement Funding Exploratory Committee’s April 19 meeting.

Proposed Question #1: Voters in Surprise are asked to consider a $34 million public safety bond proposal to: build a Public Safety Evidence & Readiness Center; renovate an existing city facility into a Police Training Facility; acquire Land for Future Fire Station/Police Substation & Park; build a new Fire Station at Cactus and Litchfield roads; build a new Fire Station along 163rd Avenue, south of Happy Valley Road, to replace the current temporary station; and build a Public Works Operations Facility to centralize operations. The annual cost for a homeowner would be approximately $26 per $100,000 in Limited Property Value (LPV).

Proposed Question #2: Voters in Surprise are asked to consider a $15.5 million street bond proposal to provide funds to plan, design, construct and improve Waddell, Greenway and Litchfield roads. The annual cost for a homeowner would be approximately $12 per $100,000 in Limited Property Value (LPV).

Proposed Question #3: Voters in Surprise are asked to consider a $10 million street pavement preservation bond proposal to plan, design, construct, replace and improve deteriorated street pavement citywide. The annual cost for a homeowner would be approximately $8 per $100,000 in Limited Property Value (LPV).

Per City Council consensus at the Work Session, staff will bring back a Call to Election action item at the June 6 Regular Council Meeting. If approved, the three separate bond questions would appear on the ballot in a Special Election on November 7. All registered voters in Surprise will receive a ballot by mail.

View the May 16 Work Session bond discussion

City Council Work Sessions begin at 4 p.m. and Regular Meetings begin at 6 p.m. They are open to the public and carried live on Surprise TV and online www.surpriseaz.gov/surprise11. All meeting agendas are posted online at least 24 hours ahead of the meeting at www.surpriseaz.gov.

Luke Air Force Base Community Partnership

Earlier this year, Mayor Sharon Wolcott appointed me to Luke West Valley Council. As an Air Force Veteran myself, it is certainly an honor and a privilege to be part of this group. Luke West Valley Council promotes Luke Air Force Base as well as the F-35 Lightning II Fighter Jet pilot-training program and the continuation of their F-16 training mission.

When I left Vietnam, I was asked to list my stateside choices. Luke and Williams Air Force bases were my choices and I was assigned to Luke AFB in 1964. My military records had indicated that I had been involved in counter insurgency and while that was incorrect, it allowed me extra time on the Base. I remained at Luke until 1969 where afterwards, I was transferred to the Philippines on a two year accompany assignment. I returned to Luke AFB on a retirement assignment in 1974 so it is fair to say, I consider Luke my home.

Luke West Valley was formed in the 1980s to build regional and community support for Luke’s success in the region. The group is comprised of Luke AFB officials, elected leaders from 12 West Valley cities and Maricopa County, as well as representatives from Sun City and Sun City West. Its purpose is to discuss and address community issues, challenges and successes concerning Luke activities.

Members of Luke West Valley Council at Goodyear Ballpark.
Members of Luke West Valley Council with Brig. General Leonard at spring training game last month at Goodyear Ballpark.

Recently Brigadier General Brook J. Leonard updated City Council on Luke AFB 56th Fighter Wing mission and activities.

The base was named after 2d Lieutenant Frank Luke Jr., a Phoenix native, Fighter Ace and the first airman to receive the Medal of Honor. He joined the Air Force during World War I. Lt. Luke was responsible for 13 confirmed kills during a 7-day combat period and 18 overall kills in Germany.

Thunderbolt Nation is comprised of four different locations – Luke AFB, Holloman AFB, Davis-Monthan AFB, Klamath Falls AFB. There are over 5,600 people as part of 56th Fighter Wing. Approximately 10,000 people come on and off the base on a daily basis. Lockheed Martin employs almost 400 civilian employees on the Base who take care of the F-35s. Between the 56th Fighter Wing and the 944th Fighter Wing (the reserve component), Luke AFB produces 66% of the World’s F-35 pilots and 97% of the F-16 pilots.

The partnerships that the Base forms with the community involves more than the West Valley. The Barry M. Goldwater Range in southern Arizona not only provides 4,300 square miles of restricted air space but 1.75 million acres of ground space for the Air Force to train.

The F-35 program at Luke AFB continues to expand! They just took possession of their 51st F-35 and plan to acquire a total of 144. They are now breaking ground on Ops 4 and Ops 5 and have plans for a total of six F-35 squadrons.

Fighter Country Partnership is a community and advocacy support group for Luke AFB that was founded in 1997. Fighter Country Partnership is a non-profit 501(4)c organization with a 501(c)3 foundation. FCP works to support the Airmen and families at Luke AFB focused on three primary areas: morale and welfare, culture and tradition and sustainability of the Luke mission. More than 300 people are part of FCP. Last year FCP provided more than $260,000 in, in-kind donations to the Airmen of Luke and hosted numerous events for the Airmen and families including a financial saving expo and appreciation dinners.

To say that Luke AFB is a regional economic driver is an understatement. The 4,200-acre base contributes an estimated $2 billion into the state economy on an annual basis and serves more than 100,000 servicemen and -women, military family members and veterans.

According to Brig. General Leonard, Luke AFB payroll is an estimated $448 million per year. The Base spends $52.7 million annually in local contracts, provides $2 million annually for education assistance and spends $276.7 million yearly on purchases. There are approximately 30,000 retirees within a 50-mile radius. Luke AFB spends $55 million a year on retiree payments. These figures should continue to increase.

In the words of our Air Force, history makes us smarter but our heritage makes us prouder. I hope this summary reflects the gratitude I have not only for Luke Air Force Base but all of our branches of military and our veterans!

FY18 Recommended Budget released

City Manager Bob Wingenroth presented a $336.5 million Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Recommended Budget to City Council at Tuesday’s Work Session.

The Recommended Budget maintains existing city services and identifies creative options to maximize some resources.

That includes securing outside revenue sources and reallocating the operating budget to provide new positions that address public safety, water and inspection demands. Two public safety grants (SAFER Grant and COPS Hiring Program) will partially fund a five-member Fire-Medical Peak Time Response Unit and two police officers, focused on community policing, through 2019.

The Recommended Budget also includes $49.8 million to support the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), which is used to maintain, preserve, and/or replace city infrastructure. This includes funding for pavement preservation of city streets, vehicle replacement and aging communications, information technology, recreation and utility infrastructure.

There are also two recommended financial policy revisions regarding the Minimum Fund Balance Policy for the General fund and the Stormwater and Workers’ Compensation funds that will provide clearer definition for the reserves to strengthen the city’s financial position.

The FY18 Recommended Budget will be available at www.surpriseaz.gov/budget.

Council is scheduled to vote on the final budget in June.

Stay Connected to Your City

Spring has sprung in Surprise, signaling a time when many of our residents head to “less warm” locations to spend the summer months….

While you are away, I encourage you to stay engaged with what is happening here in Surprise. This amazing and rapidly-growing city has so many exciting things happening, that I wouldn’t want you to miss out on.

How can you stay connected?

The city’s Marketing and Communications Department offers a myriad of ways you can stay on top of what’s happening here, so when you return later this fall, you won’t have missed a thing.

A quick visit to www.surpriseaz.gov will provide you with the latest news and updates through the news section on the homepage. While online you can also browse the calendar of events, which are broken up by a public meetings calendar and an all-events calendar.

You can continue to watch City Council meetings while out of town, as all of our meetings and work sessions, as well all Surprise TV programming, are streamed live on www.surpriseaz.gov/surprisetv. A reminder, that Council does not meet in the month of July for the summer recess.

Another great way to stay connected is to sign up for the Notify Me email list. Visit www.surpriseaz.gov/notifyme, type in your email address and make the selections for what type of information you would like to have emailed to you.

There are many options to choose from including all Current News Releases, Council Agendas and I personally have my own District 2 list in which I share city and district-based news to those that sign up. After your selections are made, click the ‘Sign In’ button to begin receiving city news directly to your email account.

You can get social with the city too! Follow us on Twitter @AZSurprise. Like us on Facebook /CityofSurprise or watch our latest videos on YouTube /SurpriseTV11.

Did you know?

The Surprise Police Department offers the no-cost Vacation Watch program to residents who will be out of town for a minimum of two weeks. Through this program, our Citizen Patrol volunteers will check your home on a recurring basis looking to make sure things remain secure while you are away. You can register for this program by calling 623.222.4277.

For those residents that will be away for four months or longer, you also have the option to temporarily suspend your trash/recycling service. The service fee is $55, to cover the cost of can pickup, restocking and redelivery. The charge will appear on your next bill following the requested date of suspension. Your billing will automatically start up again after your normal service resumes. For more information on how to enroll call Public Works at 623.222.6000.

I love being part of this connected community and I know you do to, that’s why even when we leave for short periods of time, we always return home to Surprise!

Building a Safe Surprise – Begins With You

Here in the City of Surprise we have a great public safety team at work. In this article, I’d like to share the latest happenings within the Surprise Police and Fire-Medical Departments.

Police on alert for property crime:

Surprise Police report that approximately 64% of all thefts from vehicles are the result of people leaving their car doors unlocked or leaving items of value in the car where would-be-thieves can easily see them. The theory behind our “Lock it or Lose it” campaign is simple – if the thieves can see it, they will steal it.

No one wants to be a victim of crime, that’s why I am passing along the Surprise Police Department’s reminder that the majority of thefts from vehicles are preventable. Here are some safety tips to follow:

  • Always lock your car! By simply locking your car doors and taking valuables with you, you dramatically reduce the risk of being a crime victim.
  • Park in a secure and well lit location.
  • Don’t leave valuable items in plain sight. Lock them in the trunk or take them with you.
  • Park in your home garage.

Police Chief Terry Young says nearly 95% of crime in Surprise is property crime and the vast majority is from items being stolen from open garages or unlocked vehicles. Property crime is a category of crime that includes, among other crimes, burglary, larceny, theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson. Property crime involves the taking of property, and does not involve force or threat of force against a victim. The good news is more than 70% of property crimes are preventable! Again it comes down to closing your garage door and locking your car.

To report a crime or suspicious activity, call Surprise Police at 623.222.4000. If it is an emergency or dangerous situation, please dial 9-1-1 immediately.

Another concern is that traffic accidents are on the rise. That’s why the City recently launched a new traffic safety campaign aimed at encouraging safe driving habits. The slogan: “Drive Wise, Surprise.”

According to Chief Young, every year, traffic accidents increase by an average of 8-to-10 percent amid a growing population. This campaign is designed to create a culture of safe driving in Surprise, whether you are a resident or a visitor driving through the city.

The campaign uses play on words and bright, creative imagery to deploy safety reminders via new street signage that you will see across the city. While the campaign may sound playful, the intention behind it is more serious.

“When you are practicing good driving habits, you are helping to make the road safer for everyone,” says Chief Young. “Getting to your destination faster is not worth a serious injury; driving distracted or under the influence is not worth a life.”

This message is especially relevant as accident statistics increase and bad driving behaviors continue:

  • Surprise saw an 8 percent increase in accidents from 2014 to 2015 and a 10 percent increase in accidents from 2015 to 2016.
  • Arizona Department of Transportation reported a statewide increase of more than 6 percent from 2014 to 2015.
  • About 87 percent of drivers engage in unsafe behaviors behind the wheel, according to national research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
  • Nearly 80 percent of drivers expressed significant anger, aggression or road rage behind the wheel at least once in a one year period, according to a national study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

In addition to street signs, the campaign includes community and media engagement, social media messaging, ads, a public service announcement and various other marketing tools. We invite residents to help us with how we can evolve the message so it remains meaningful and impactful.

If you’d like to learn more, the Sun City Grand Neighborhood watch meetings are held on the first Wednesday of each month at 4:30 pm at the Sonoran Plaza. Additionally, Surprise Police Department hosts “Coffee with a Cop” each month. Residents can also access our crime mapping system by going to www.raidsonline.com. For more information, please contact our Community Action line at 623.222.4140.

For those residents that reached out about noise pollution along Bell Road…. Chief Young has increased patrol for this particular area. In addition to increased patrol for the noise pollution, our bike patrol enforcement has also increased to help prevent residents from becoming a victim of crime and to educate our residents to “Lock It or Lose It”.

The Evolution of Surprise Fire-Medical:

Fire-Medical Chief Tom Abbott and I spent time together to discuss the transformation of the fire service over the last four decades. Since many of us transplant ourselves here from other states, we don’t fully understand how our fire departments operate differently from those across the country. It is helpful to thoroughly comprehend how the emergency system here in the valley works.

The Phoenix Fire Department is one of the largest fire departments in the country and their Regional Dispatch Center provides fire and emergency medical dispatching services for approximately 26 Valley jurisdictions directly, including Surprise, and 3 entities indirectly. This service area is over 2,000 square miles!

This regional system is known as Automatic Aid and it began in January 1981. This time-tested deployment system provides the closest most appropriate fire service resource regardless of jurisdictional boundaries.

In most communities outside of the Phoenix metropolitan area, jurisdictional lines prevent firefighters from entering neighboring towns and cities, although they may be closer to the emergency call. In the Valley, the closest, most appropriate resource is dispatched regardless of jurisdictional boundaries.

What does this mean to you? The Automatic Aid system provides Valley communities, including Surprise, with the highest level of efficiency, service and effectiveness. This system gets first-responders to you faster, reduces resources and personnel costs for each participating community. And because the Phoenix Regional Dispatch Center currently partners with the Mesa Regional Dispatch Center to dispatch most of the communities in the Valley, that eliminates the need for each of 26 participating agencies to pay for their own dispatch center.

Cost savings do not end there…ISO (Insurance Service Office) ratings determine a portion of how much you pay for homeowners and business insurance premiums. The ISO categorizes municipalities and fire districts from 10 – 1, with 1 being the best. Due to Automatic Aid, the city of Surprise currently holds a rating of 2. According to Fire Chief Abbott, in all likelihood our rating would be 4 without automatic aid.

Another benefit to the Automatic Aid System is that it puts us in a better position during large catastrophic incidents. During these large scale incidents, we rely on our partners to send resources. They also backfill our fire stations and run our calls when our firefighters are committed to other incidents and our resources are depleted. Additionally, the regional partnership provides our firefighters with the ability to utilize state-of-the-art regional training facilities that provide the most innovative training.

The protection of life and property is the mission of the Surprise Public Safety Teams!

We’ve placed police and fire stations strategically across geographic regions, commensurate with population densities and workload needs. While Automatic Aid provides us with innumerable benefits, we must continue to follow growth trends to ensure we have the proper number of fire stations and police stations/sub stations available in the right areas to continue to keep Surprise a safe and thriving community.