Apr 292011

By Linda Kor —

The City of Holbrook appears well prepared for the upcoming budget year if the latest budget session is any indicator. During a preliminary budget session held prior to the regular city council meeting on April 26, there were only minor changes suggested by City Manager Ray Alley, and no criticisms or real concerns offered by council regarding the proposed $9.8 million budget for fiscal year 2011-12.

Two minor changes included a change that would transfer the $15,000 to be paid to Evelyn Marez as justice of the peace from magistrate professional and consulting services into payroll. This is a requirement by the Internal Revenue Service so that FICA and Medicare can be taken out. The other is a reduction in the budget, since the city will not have to pay for retirement for Smartworks employees. Although this was an item approved through the state, it will not go into effect until 2012, so that expenditure will be removed from the budget for fiscal year 2011-12.

Other changes that were suggested by Alley did not alter the preliminary budget funds, but reallocated some funds into other areas. He explained to the council that $50,000 under Community Development had been allocated in the budget to pay expenses associated with the abatement of condemned and dangerous properties within the city.

Despite an aggressive abatement program, only $8,000 to $10,000 in costs were incurred this year and similar costs are anticipated for the upcoming year.

Alley informed the council that the dollar amount affixed to that endeavor was primarily to account for potential legal costs for abatements, but due to the majority of the owners’ willingness to work with the city, very little has been spent on legal services.

He would like to take $15,000 out of that fund in order to allocate $5,000 to pay for a part-time summer employee for the Parks Department, and $10,000 for improvements to the pool, parks and cemetery grounds.

“The facilities at Hunt Park are in real disarray. The bleachers are in need of repair and the concessions building needs to be painted, the bathrooms are a mess; it’s all really rundown,” stated Alley.

He would also like to divide the tennis courts into four separate sections with 10-foot fencing around the sections, making one for tennis, one for basketball, one for skating and another for an undetermined use.

“I’d also like to take the fence around the skateboard park up to eight feet so kids won’t be able to throw their bikes over them to use the park and damage it,” stated Alley.

He also explained that the area between the cemetery wall and Navajo Blvd. has become difficult to maintain with the grass dying off. He suggested that the best solution might be to remove the remaining grass and plant desert landscaping that would be low maintenance and cost effective.

Alley also would like to improve the ramadas at West End Park, and paint walls and improve the bathrooms at the pool.

“This doesn’t mean we’re backing off of the abatement program at all, we’re not slowing down on that. These areas are just looking pretty rough,” Alley explained.

The council appeared to be in agreement with Alley’s suggestions, with Councilman Richard Peterson suggesting that Alley organize some of these specific projects and offer them to organizations within the community that may want to do a community service project.

Alley also mentioned that he would like to use a portion of the $160,000 to be delegated to the water and wastewater departments toward the purchase of a new backhoe.

Last year the council leased two backhoes for the city, but one of those is being used for street work and is unable to handle the job.

“We rebuilt one of them, but it’s not holding up with all the street work we’re doing,” he explained, adding that a new backhoe would cost between $50,000 and $60,000.

“I’m not getting rid of the other backhoe. It’ll be used at the cemetery like it was originally intended and the other one is working fine at the golf course,” stated Alley.

Another item Alley felt was of urgent need was a new well for Sun Valley at a cost of approximately $20,000 to $30,000.

These items were presented to the council for consideration, and will be addressed again at the next budget session scheduled for May 10.

At the close of the session, Mayor Jeff Hill stated that he would like to see some planning for the 2012-13 budget to include a possible influx of housing due to the potential addition of potash mining in the area.

“I know it’s too early for this year, but next year I’d like to see some serious discussion of this matter,” he stated.

The biggest concern regarding a possible increase in housing would be the need to address the cost of an interceptor line for the sewer. This is an item that has been discussed over the years and has been estimated to carry a price tag of approximately $11 million to implement.

The city has a tracing and mapping of the sewer system that has the capability to model volume and flow rates, but that has not yet been added to the mapping. “If growth comes we could bottleneck downtown where we may already be close to capacity. I’d like to know where it bottlenecks and consider solutions. Maybe in the next budget year (2012-13) we can establish where to go for growth,” he stated.

During the regular council session, Alley informed the council that he expects to have the submersible pump for the McLaws Road well in this week and once it is installed, water samples will be drawn. He plans to have the well house built mostly in-house to reduce costs.

Street repairs and reconstruction are continuing, with the work on East Hampshire Street to be completed this week.

Abatements are also moving along, with a trailer on Hermosa under abatement, as well as two trailers on McLaws Road and one on Mission Lane.

Several building permits were issued recently, including one for a remodel of Safeway that will include some remodeling of the deli area, bathrooms and painting. Remodeling is also being scheduled for the Moen Kopi Motel on Navajo Blvd.

In other business, the council also approved an agreement between the city and Patrick Serna that would allow him to live in the trailer at the Hidden Cove Golf Course in exchange for opening and closing the course, as well as providing security in the evenings.

The council also approved an agreement with Loni Hatch allowing her to provide dance instruction at the community building located next to the Holbrook Public Library at a cost of $1 per student per month. She will provide her own insurance.