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        Earlier reports are found in SPECIAL ARCHIVE

Kortsen Road main sewer line to be enlarged

(Posted Aug. 12, 2021)

The staff report is HERE

The scope of work involved is HERE

Another step toward enlarging the main city sewer line running down Kortsen Road was given final approval by the Casa Grande City Council during Monday night's special meeting.

As Public Works Director Kevin Louis pointed out to the council prior to initial approval during the previous council meeting, "Currently, the existing sewer lines within Kortsen serve approximately 50 percent of the city’s wastewater service area, just under half of the total flow that goes to our wastewater treatment facility.

"And this line obviously needs to be evaluated and the relief sewers built to provide the needed sewer collection capacity that we need for not only the existing growth but the growth that we've planned for here in the very near future; probably nearer than we want it to be, but we're excited to see all the development and this is a key part of us being prepared to help manage that development growth in the city."

The project has been in the works for awhile, taking several initial steps.

"We did a design concept report with Sunrise Engineering," Louis said. "They finished that in January of 2019, so this is the next step. We take the 30 percent design set where the design concept report took the design and we'll take that to the final design with Sunrise Engineering and will also prepare all the construction documents that we need to put this out on the street and get this bid and constructed for us.

"Obviously, we're choosing to move forward with Sunrise Engineering because they've done this effort to this point. It makes economic sense to continue to move this project forward with this firm."

During that initial discussion, Mayor Craig McFarland asked if the project covers just the Kortsen line or if it will look at other areas such as a line down Florence Boulevard from the east.

Louis responded, "What we're trying to do is this is a key piece of our collection system. It's not going to solve all of the issue that we have with our collection system but when we did the evaluation we looked at running a new line down the wash, which basically would have then accepted everything from the north. 

"We looked at upgrading the line on Cottonwood Lane, which basically would intercept anything coming from the south. And we looked at those two alternatives, along with the relief sewer in Kortsen alignment itself. 

"And when we did all the cost estimates of each of those different options, as well as the benefits from each of those options, we looked at Kortsen and said this is where we're going to get the biggest bang for our buck and it's going to have the most impact.

"Now, having said that, you're going to see additional projects in the coming months and in the following years where we've identified through our system evaluation those other chock points, those areas where our capacity is pinched. We just wanted enough for that next wave of growth. So you'll see those projects coming on board as well. But this is probably the most important one moving forward at this time."

Councilman Dick Powell noted that the Kortsen line stops at Interstate 10, asking, "Will it pick up and go on to the east if we have need for it, I guess would be the question."

Louis answered, "This design will take it to the interstate but it will not go under the interstate or east of that. 

"That section of the sewer line has already been designed and this interceptor will take that design into consideration and manage those flows, as well. So will take all that into consideration but that's a separate project from the end of the existing line today east to serve that side of the city."

$65 million in bonds to cover retirement deficit

(Posted Aug. 1, 2021)

Video of the discussion is HERE   Click on Item K1 for retirement bonds discussion or K2 for retirement funds reserve discussion

The presentation, with charts, is HERE

The staff report is HERE

The full pension reserve fund report is HERE

The pension reserve fund staff report is HERE

Casa Grande has taken the first steps toward refinancing the deficit of about $63 million in the retirement pension fund for police and fire employees.

It's a move that will save about $34 million, the city says, because of refinancing the bonds from a little over 7 percent interest down to 2.5 percent.

Following City Council approval during the July 19 meeting, the city will issue up to $65 million in bonds, with about $5.3 million of that put into a public safety retirement fund as a guard against future market fluctuations or changes.

Although the retirement fund covers Casa Grande public safety personnel, it is administered by the state of Arizona, which local government entities have accused of previous mismanagement that resulted in huge deficits.

The new bonds will be repaid with the same General Fund revenues now being paid toward the deficit.

"What this essentially is," Human Resources Director Scott Barber told the council, "is taking the current unfunded actuarial liabilities that exists upon which we're making contributions as an employer today and refinancing that outside of the pension program, taking the debt that we're financing right now at a little over 7 percent and refinancing it hopefully to something under 3 percent.

"What that will do, the expectation is it will make us 100 percent funded in both of our plans."

Nick Dodd, managing director with the investment bank Piper|Sandler, told the council he expected the interest rate on the new bonds would be 2.45 percent, saving the city about $34 million in interest over the life of the issue, expected to be paid off in 2036.

What Casa Grande is doing with rescue plan money

(Posted July 24, 2021)

Video of session is HERE    Click on Item 2

Rescue Plan Casa Grande statistics charts HERE

Full plan charts HERE

Casa Grande was awarded $11.4 million from the Biden administration's American Rescue Plan Act aimed at mitigating COVID-19 problems.

Half of that has been received, with the second part coming next fiscal year.

So, what has the city done with that first half and what lies ahead?

During Monday night's City Council meeting, City Manager Larry Rains outlined several areas, noting that, "There still seems to be some level of guidance (from feds)  that continues to come out. We've tried to wait to a point where we better understood  all of the requirements both for the drawing down of the funds as well as for the annual accounting that will be necessary.

"There are a variety of requirements on the eligibility of the expenditures and what you'll find is costs incurred between March 3, 2021, which is when the act was passed, through Dec. 31, 2024, is when costs can actually be incurred for the use of these funds, but all funds must be expended by Dec. 31, 2026."

Two questions arose at the beginning, Rains said, regarding pensions and taxes.

"I know there were a lot of questions being asked about whether or not these funds could be utilized by local pensions and there has been specific information that these funds cannot be spent on pension deposits," he continued. (Casa Grande plans to issue up to $65 million bonds to pay off the deficit in the city's public safety retirement obligations. The fund is administered by the state of Arizona but cities are responsible for payments and balances even if there has been state mismanagement over the years.)

Rains added that, "The ARPA money cannot be spent to reduce taxes or delay tax increases. Funds may not be used as a non-federal match for other federal programs, so essentially these funds are to be allocated for projects that are not funded by other federal tax dollars."

One spending category is to make up for loss of city revenues caused by COVID.

"It would apply to any loss of taxes, fees or other revenues to support public services," Rains said. "We did do the analysis on this because we felt that perhaps those services that we actually would have been collecting revenues from but that we shut down during the pandemic, such as our rec center, could potentially qualify for this. However, the formula that is utilized requires that you actually be in operation for a period of three years, so that would exempt the rec center for being eligible for this."

The city did not consider the area of expanding broadband internet service, Rains said, for two reasons.

"Number one," he continued, "we've got a number of broadband companies that are moving into our community, we've recently entered into various agreements for broadband, and number two, there are very sizable amounts of funding that is being allocated through the federal government that is outside of this particular act that is going to focus on broadband. We are staying very in tune with some of the provisions of those various funding sources. Many of those will support the private industries to develop broadband.

CG Cares

"The mayor and council did allocate funding from our CG Cares program, which was a direct allocation from the state that actually covered costs associated with public safety police and fire and communications, payroll and benefits expenses," Rains said. "That money was actually converted into a plan known as the Casa Grande Cares program."

Of that, $35,000 was given to the local chamber of commerce for marketing and business retention and another $500,000-plus that was allocated directly into our nonprofits and our business community."

So far, Rains continued, $216,903 has been allocated for residential assistance, such as overdue utilities bill.

"We are still allocating funds through our CG Cares program into the community for residential assistance and likely will continue to do so throughout this fiscal year," he said.

Councilman Bob Huddleston asked if more of the CG Cares money could be allocated toward programs and if other money has been set aside.

Yes, Rains replied, the Cares money is available and "we've got roughly a million dollars that has been allocated in the stabilization fund, which was really just a set aside for the mayor and council to actually use to continue the financing or funding of these programs, and we've also set aside roughly $3 million in fund balance reserves and should the pandemic continue to be something that we're dealing with in future years, the mayor and council could essentially allocate that money into variety of programs or services provide by the city or by the community."

Utility bills

"One of the things we discovered during this past year was that as we were allocating funds to the various nonprofits to assist individual residents of our community is that the majority of that money, if not all of it, went to those private utility companies that have a metered service, because that's who would actually shut off their services if they did not pay," Rains said. "So none of the money was utilized to pay for sewer and trash (run by city) billing as an example. This could be a program if the mayor and council elected to go down this path that we could essentially utilize funds to essentially pay for those particular services."

Sewer, water projects

The city has set aside money for three major sewer projects, Rains told the council.

"It really ties to the growth that we've been experiencing in Casa Grande," he continued, "and the mayor and council will be hearing at a future study session staff is preparing an overview presentation on the impact of the growth is having on our, particularly our sewer infrastructure with the amount of new houses that are coming onboard, along with the amount of industrial development that is transpiring. The capacity that we once enjoyed at our wastewater plant and within the main lines that transmits the effluent is reaching what I consider to be a stage that we're going to have to take some immediate action. 

"There were three particular projects that were approved by the mayor and council during the capital improvement program during our fiscal year '22 budget that do qualify under ARPA sewer projects. 

"We have a Florence Boulevard relief sewer main that in fact extends the capacity in the transmission line on Florence Boulevard for the growth that's happening closer to Interstate 10. 

"Construction of a recharge facility, which ultimately is the facility that we've had permitted and planned around the Dave White Park. What that particular project does is it allows us to recharge our effluent and actually earn a longterm storage credit. While we specifically focused on that, I can tell you that in recent weeks we've learned about a couple of other projects that may become invaluable to us as we're trying to deal with some of our effluent issues. But ultimately this is a project that would qualify. 

"The water reclamation (sewer plant) facility again is something that we need to begin to focus on, expanding our wastewater treatment plant. 

"I recognize that from an intake perspective we're about 50 percent capacity at 12 million gallons per day but there is more that needs to be done to begin planning for the next expansion and it was a project that was approved that would be qualifiable under these particular funds. 

"What you find here this evening is really a one-year allocation Our desire was to ultimately align our projects with the amount of money that we receive in fiscal year 2022. We do envision that there might be some water related projects that we would have on the horizon for next fiscal year that would quality, as well. But until we have more detailed information on what those projects might look like and the cost estimates for that I did not want to make a list that was greater than the amount that was allocated this year for two reasons: number one, I want to be more specific on those costs, and number two, there has already been some discussions about potential of the second year allocation being somewhat clawed back by the federal government, so I don't want to ask for your approval of a plan this fiscal year that may not be funded for next fiscal year."

Council reactions

Mayor Craig McFarland said, "I think that infrastructure and water and sewer are critical at this point in time in our community life, especially with the growth that we're experiencing and some of the issues that we're starting to see with regard to our (sewer) collection system. We have half of a wastewater treatment plant that we can't get all the wastewater to, so there's some issues there that we need to really consider. This is an opportunity, I think, for us to do that. 

"I think we have other monies still in the other Cares side, there's still money that's available there to use for other community things. From some auditing and restricted monies standpoint, this Recovery Act money is more restricted than the other monies. So it might behoove us that we look at concentrating this money into infrastructure areas and then use the other monies that we still have available to potentially look at some partnership programs."

Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons partly agreed.

"Obviously infrastructure is very important for the health of the community," she said, "but what I do like about the requests that are submitted (from the community) is there is a broad range of not only the support of business and infrastructure, some CIP projects but also the health of the community. 

"We all know how much COVID has affected our community and the community health. People are suffering, there's a lot going on with the family units, children, schools, working parents, so I do like that there's a variety of requests that you have here. Of course, it's still important to support the businesses but I want to learn more about the cultural center (request from Casa Grande Alliance). What I read through some of the information I got, what I like about it is its a collaboration between a lot of agencies, the community and it focuses on the health of our families, our children and I just think that we need to invest in that, too."

Councilman Dick Powell also asked about the cultural center request.

Rains said that as presented, "ultimately it is a project that is really geared toward educating our residents, primarily through some type of after-school type of a program and/or programs that are focused on cultural activities more than just academic. It really is a combination and also will focus on mental health, just a variety of different nonprofits that come together to provide what I consider to be a one-stop shop for our children of the community that need a place to really grow and for assistance. We will have some more detail on that, but I really think it's focused on our young adults in the community."

Councilwoman Donna McBride, noting that the Community Rec Center loss of revenue did not qualify because of the three-year limit, asked if that also applied to Len Colla Center.

Rains replied that, "The Len Colla Center is operated through grants or through taxpayer dollars so there's not a revenue stream that actually comes into that, so we did not think that particular project would qualify."

McBride said it is important that word get out through the community that funds are available.

"How do we make it fair so that other agencies, other nonprofits all have the same fairness and opportunity to apply for this money?" she asked "We need to make sure that we are doing our due diligence to open that up for all people. The last time we did this there were comments made about only so many people from so many agencies got the money. It's hard for us to get the word out, but I  think that we have to do our due diligence to give everybody the opportunity for that. And if they then don't apply, they don't apply."

Councilman Matt Herman said he agrees with the concept of spending one-time money on one-time projects.

"We've lived by that rule for a lot of time in our city," he said, "and those are investments in our future, as well, so it's going to help everybody. It's more narrow, but I think it's really going to help our city in the longterm if we focus on big capital projects, because that's going to help everybody, but not lose sight of our small businesses and our citizens, such as the past due sewer and trash bills."

Councilman Huddleston noted that the city Fire Department has been heavily affected by the COVID pandemic.

"If I had to pick a department or an area that the pandemic has hit the hardest," he said, "I would say the Fire Department. They are the ones that were responding to EMS calls at all hours and addressing the illness that's associated with this pandemic. 

"We've already talked about this in budget meetings about the need for an additional fire station and ultimately my question is, can this rescue program funding be used to build a fire station instead of tagging that $5 million or $4 million cost onto a bond issue we go to the taxpayers for?"

Rains responded that, "I have not seen any type of allowance for public facilities outside of the sewer and water infrastructure. We can certainly take an additional glance at that, but what I have seen is that you can actually utilize it to cover payroll and benefits for those individuals (in Fire Department) and I suspect that if you wanted to do something similar to what we did with the CG Cares program we can use that money and transfer your savings into actual infrastructure that is outside of what's allowable here. That's something that could potentially be done but I've not seen anything specific for public facilities."

Huddleston answered that, "I respect that. That would be my preference if it was allowable. If it is not, I tend to lean toward what  the mayor brought up about water and sewer infrastructure."

Police Chief Mark McCrory outlines the reserve program to the City Council. At left is Lt. Scott Sjerven, credited by McCrory as being the driving force behind setting up the proposal.

Police Department setting up special reserve program

(Posted June 25, 2021)

Video of the presentation is HERE.

The Casa grande Police Department is in the process of starting a reserve officers program utilizing retired personnel.

As Chief Mark McCrory described it to the City Council during Monday night's meeting, the program "is to supplement and assist our sworn and non-sworn police employees in their duties. We feel that it will provide special sworn reserve officers to support both the Patrol element and the Criminal Investigations Division."

These will not be additional cops out patrolling the streets and alleys, it was pointed out, instead used as support for administrative activities.

McCrory pointed out these parts of the proposed program:

• The reserve officers will work part-time on a volunteer basis, yet maintain their certifications under the Arizona Police Officers Standards and Training, or AZ POST, requirements.

• We are currently going to only appoint Casa Grande police officers who are retired in good standing. We're not going to open it up to outside agencies. We're going to run it with our own retirees. Since we have so many of them retiring in the next couple of years we're going to evaluate the program on that and if it is successful then at that time we can explore bringing in people from outside. Our reasoning behind that, obviously is the fact that we know these people, we know their work ethic, we know the good and the bad about them, the strengths and the weaknesses ...

• They're required to work 48 hours a calendar quarter, or 192 hours a year for the Police Department. And they have to do quarterly hours. That way, we have access to them year round.

• They would carry out duties assigned to them by our program coordinator, who at this time would be Lt. (Scott) Sjerven. They must conform to all our uniform and appearance standards of our department. They're required to meet the training requirements applicable to a full-time sworn officer and these training hours do not count towards their 48 hours that they have to give to the city.

• The compensation is minimal. It's a voluntary assignment. We will provide them with some uniform items as needed. For instance, our first one that is interested in this program is currently as sergeant and there's not going to be a rank structure in our reserve program, so obviously he would need a shirt without rank insignia.

• Reserves will use the weapons provided them at the time of retirement.

• The expected costs to the city are very minimal. Reserves will have to qualify annually (with weapon) so there will be a slight increase in some ammo costs, but it's not like we're going to have a hundred reserve officers. It's going to be incremental and it will be minimal.

• It's not an automatic just because you retire with us we're going to take you. And removal of the program, if someone does not fulfill their quarterly hours the first time they will be forbidden to work any extra jobs or anything using any of our retired equipment or anything like that or under the heading of a retired police officer and if they fail to do it a second time they're automatically removed from the program.

• I think it's important to note that we're going to continue to evaluate this program quarterly to make sure it fulfills the needs of our department and the city and remains cost effective for everybody.

Overall benefits

As McCrory sees it, "The benefits, just a couple easy benefits to the department and to our city: it's a minimal expense to keep years of experience and knowledge connected with our department and our younger officers. We'll be able to use reserve officers for special events, which would limit the number of current on-duty officers or officers we'd be paying overtime to. And these reserve officers would be able to assist in tasks and free up current members of our department and allow them to complete other requirements.

"For instance, we currently have detectives and Professional Standards officers and even our PIO that are doing background investigations on new hires for us as well as Dispatch, and with the amount of people we're losing in the (delayed retirement program) we're very busy doing background investigations and this would be a perfect job that could be fulfilled by a reserve officer to meet their hours."

Council comments

Donna McBride

McBride asked if there would be additional costs for specific outside training. "Are we going to be responsible for that or is it more in-house training?" she asked.

McCrory responded that, "It's all in-house training that they'll have to do. The only costs that I can foresee is for the ammunition for the qualifications. We will not be doing specialized training for the reserve officers. They will train alongside our officers when we have regularly scheduled mandated in-service training."

McBride asked if there will be any evaluation process.

McCrory answered, "Yes. Basically a pass-fail, where the coordinator will write a memo to me stating that this officer has met all the requirements that were put out, that their AZ POST training has been done and how many events they worked for the city in that year.  And it will be basically a pass-fail at that time."

Dick Powell

Powell asked if the reserve officers program will help with the shortages in personnel the department has experienced from time to time.

"No," McCrory responded, "and thank you Councilman Powell for bringing that up because that is one important thing I want to bring up.  

"This is not going to be used to keep us from coming to City Council and asking for more people. They will not be answering calls in the street, they won't be in a car by themselves answering calls for service. Their job will be in-house, assisting and relieving some of our people from the tasks that they're given right now that keeps them away from what I would consider their primary function."

Matt Herman

Herman asked if the reserve officers would be riding along with new officers from time to time, sharing their knowledge.

McCrory answered, "I think they'll be exposed to some of the younger officers but we don't plan on using them for anything like a field training program. We're developing our (regular) officers as field training officers as the first step toward their ability to be supervisors in the upcoming years, so we don't have any plans of using the reserve officers on the street at all unless it would be for like a city event like a parade, Fourth of July or something, where we currently might use our volunteers or use a current member of our Police Department."

Bob Huddleston

Huddleston, a former city police chief, commented, "Just an observation on reserve programs. The general public doesn't recognize a new officer, an old officer, an experienced one, a part-time one. They see a uniformed officer and they assume they're fully trained, fully equipped. And that's always one of the challenges with the reserve program. I appreciate you guys squaring that up right off the bat, in taking retiring officers that we know what their capabilities are. I love it, sounds great."

Lisa Fitzgibbons

"It is so nice to take advantage," Fitzgibbons said. "We have people who have this background and I mean it's great.

"I wanted to see if you have feelers out there to see how many people you think you'll get right off the bat. Have you been talking to some people to know what you're going to start with?"

McCrory responded, "They're actually talking to me.There is a strong interest in this. I do know that four out of the first five that are scheduled to retire I know will be in this program. And the only reason the other won't is she's moving out of state. There is a very strong interest in this program."

Western Manor, Caspita Y Grande street work slated

(Posted Jan. 24, 2020)

The staff report is HERE

The Western Manor street work map is HERE

The Caspita Y Grande street work map is HERE

The city request with bids specs is HERE

The construction contract is HERE

Scroll down this page for earlier major report — ROAD WORK AHEAD — on all major street and road projects planned for this year

Initial approval has been given for major street reconstruction work in both Western Manor and Caspita Y Grande.

Final approval for the contract of up to $1.127 million contract is expected during the next City Council meeting.

According the the bids request put out by the city, the Western Manor project is around the northeast corner of North Burris Road and West Gila Bend Highway. The Caspita Y Grande work is in the residential subdivision at the northeast corner of Pinal Avenue and East Viola Street. Both projects are for full reconstruction of existing pavement and are expected to be completed by the end of July.

The work is similar to that done last year in Rancho Grande.

In an explanation to the council during the last meeting, Public Works Director Kevin Louis pointed out that although the bid from Cactus Asphalt for both projects was $838,403, the city wants to have added spending authority in case soil stabilization is needed, bringing the total to $1,127,269.

At the time the contract was put out to bid, Louis said, the subgrade soil condition report had not been received, leading to asking for the alternative spending if needed.

When that report was received, he continued, “we did not find that we have the soil conditions, so we are not awarding the alternatives. However, we do ask for that extra spending authority so that if we do have to do any sporadic soil stabilization or any other additional work associated with this pavement replacement we’ll have the budget capacity to complete it without having to return to City Council for additional authorization.”

As Councilman Dick Powell asked, what does soil stabilization mean?

Louis responded, “The best way to describe it is they grind into the subgrade a portland cement mix and when they wet that down it basically creates a very hard base structure. Once you’ve compacted it and then you put the blade on it it’s almost like your scarifying raw asphalt. It gets very, very hard, it provides that subgrade that natural material would not provide.”

If no soil stabilization is needed, Councilman Matt Herman asked, what will be done with that extra money?

“Would you use it expand the project or would you just save it, put it in pavement maintenance around town?” he asked. “I’m not advocating spending all the money we have, but one of our biggest needs is the streets.”

Louis answered, “We do have many projects on our list, smaller projects, very similar to the ones that we’ve done in the downtown area in past years where we’ve been able to take that extra pavement money that we didn’t spend on projects and do some of those in-house projects.

“Last year, for instance, we could complete that section of Rodeo and added that additional lane. That was actually under the contract done as a change order with the contractor who did Rancho Grande, they were able to do that within that budget amount and we did not even have to come back for council approval on that.”

If Public Works ends up spending the full $1.127 million, Powell asked if that would leave enough money in other funds to do projected sidewalk improvements and other work on the South Side.

Louis responded, “The budget money (Western Manor/Caspita) that I’ve talked about are separate from that (South Side) project, so that is a separate capital improvement project request and it’s not part of this project.

“We’re not finished with (South Side) design but we believe we have budget authority to complete that project, yes.”

Powell continued, “The South Side, we looked at doing sidewalks of Main Avenue and of Florence Street. As I say, is there sufficient money? We basically promised the South Side we’re going to do it this year and I’m just wanting to make sure that we’re at it and prepared financially to do that.”

City Manager Larry Rains then said, “As Mr. Louis was indicating earlier, the South Side work is in design now and we do have a plan for this spring. It’s identified in our CIP and we anticipate having that done once we have the design completed.”

The vote on initial approval for Western Manor/Caspita work was unanimous.

Initial approval for CG road work contracts

(Posted Dec. 18, 2019)

The list of bids for specific work is HERE

Scroll down this page for previous story (Road Work Ahead) detailing what maintenance work will be done and in which city locations

Initial approval has been given for contracts with four companies to do specific Casa Grande streets maintenance projects.

Approval during Monday night’s City Council meeting was unanimous, with final action expected during the next meeting.

The work to be done will be asphalt chip seal, microsurfacing, slurry seal coat, 

fog seal coat and crack sealing.

The proposed one-year contracts, with an option for two renewal years, are with Cactus Asphalt of Tolleson and three Phoenix companies: Southwest Slurry Seal, Inc., Ace Asphalt and Regional Pavement Maintenance.

According to the staff report, the proposed contracts call for:

• Asphalt chip seal by Cactus Asphalt.

• Microsurfacing and slurry seal coat by Southwest Slurry Seal.

• Fog seal coat by Ace Asphalt.

• Crack sealing by Regional Pavement Maintenance.

The action is to have companies ready to go when projects come up, potentially lowering the costs of the work.

“A good example of that,” Public Works Director Kevin Louis told the council, “is two years ago, maybe three years ago, is the VIP Boulevard was up for a capital improvements program and we were going to be doing a major reconstruct of that roadway. Instead, we moved forward with a cape seal, which is a chip seal and a slurry seal. 

“Had we had these contracts in place, we would have been able to move forward with that project much quicker and spent those funds and it was much lower than what we had budgeted.”

The city has budgeted $1.8 million for its pavement maintenance program. Of that, $200,000 is for street striping and $100,000 for material for crack sealing streets.

“The remainder of that money would be used for these types of contracts, and then any capital improvements that we’re able to use these contracts for, as well,” Louis said. “We would not exceed any budget authority that council’s already given us.”

During questioning, Councilman Dick Powell said, “I think that’s so imperative that we have that ability to do that. If you have damage or stuff you don’t have to wait. Doesn’t go over the capital budget at all.”

Mayor Craig McFarland commented, “When I travel around the county, I’ve traveled to a lot of other communities, our city has some of the best streets in the county and I want to commend your department.

“I know we have our issues, there’s always hot spots and places that pop up and we have some rough spots, but in general our streets are by far above any of these in the rest of the county. So thank you to your team, they really do a great job.”

The widening of I-10
Progress being made, ADOT tells City Council

(Posted Nov. 23, 2019)

The Powerpoint presentation, including internet address, email and telephone number for information or comments, is HERE

For years, the vision of widening I-10 to three lanes in each direction from Casa Grande to the Phoenix area has been like a desert mirage: flickering in the eye brightly at first, raising hopes, then dimming and disappearing into the dust.

The issue is back again and the Arizona Department of Transportation says it is making progress.

Gregory Byres, director of ADOT’s Multimodal Planning Division, told the City Council during Monday night’s study session that the proposal is for a 26-miles stretch of I-10, beginning on the north at the 202 running down to the area of the Pinal Avenue interchange.

The planning involves ADOT, the Maricopa Association of Government and the Gila River Indian Community.

The entire stretch, he said, lies within GRIC tribal land, “so that’s why they’re an integral partner in trying to put this project together.”

Overall, Byres said, “This is the last 20 miles of I-10 between Tucson and Phoenix that’s two lanes (in each direction). So the whole idea where is to get three lanes all the way through from Tucson. MAG has plans for improving that most northern six miles so they can put that as an extension of the existing freeway system coming all the way down to Riggs Road.”

After holding some community meetings, ADOT is now working on the design concept report, Byres added, with the projection of more community meetings next June to review progress, answer questions or take suggestions.

“Now, this is very conceptual,” he added, “so don’t hold us to it. But it’s the best that we’ve got right now. 

“The good thing is everybody is very positive and everybody wants it. We’ve got wheels on, we’re not going to let it stop.”

City Council questions

Dick Powell

Powell pointed out that there have been complaints for years about the present I-10 through GRIC because of no frontage roads and no crossovers.

“One of the things that people didn’t realize is that’s like a fence for them because they need more flyovers as a way to get from one side of the road to the other and they want frontage roads very badly,” he said. “Are frontage roads part of the equation on what we’re looking at building?”

Byres responded that, “What we’re doing right now is we’re scoping that out, so that’s part of exactly what we’re putting together.

“Like I said, the initial part of what we have to get done is those three lanes in each direction, so that’s what we’re doing.

“There are some traffic interchange improvements that have to be done, they no longer are in compliance with current standards, so we will have to do that.

“But the big thing is trying to keep this project within the current easement that we have and trying not to get outside that easement. To do some of the interchange improvements we will probably need additional easements in that.

“But, again, this is why we’re trying to maintain a cooperative effort here with Gila River Indian Community to be able to do just that.”

Powell again asked about frontage roads.

Byres answered, “The only frontage roads that I’m aware of at this point in time would be in that first six-mile section (far north) with the extension of the freeway system, and that configuration has not been finalized. That’s kind of the next step to where we’re going. But that’s the extent of any kind of frontage roads that’s been discussed.”

Powell pointed out that I-10 leading out of Tucson has many frontage roads.

“That’s really a high priority for (GRIC), a really high priority,” he said, “because they hate for all that traffic when there’s a wreck or something to come through Sacaton. It goes on for an hour, two hours, they hate it.

“Without frontage roads and my farm is divided by the freeway I’ve got to go over this way and drive on dirt roads up a ways and find a flyover and go over and come back. If they could go up and down on frontage roads I think they’d be really happy with that. It’d really help their transportation and really help keep people out of the city of Sacaton. When I talk with them, those are two things: flyovers and the frontage roads.

“And my understanding was, and you can sure correct me, was they own every piece of whatever the pavement’s on, every piece of dirt in between still belongs to the tribe.”

Actually, Byres responded, “The entire I-10 through the GRIC lies on GRIC property. We don’t own any of that, we strictly have an easement.

“In fact, one of the issues that we have is we also don’t have operational management within that section of I-10, so that is a little bit of an issue.

“As far as the frontage roads go, you’re absolutely right. As an ultimate roadway, it would have frontage roads the entire length. But at this point in time, that’s not our priority. And so far, the GRIC have not indicated that it’s their highest priority.

“Those crossovers you’re talking about, we have had several discussions because it makes sense. They have a lot of farm equipment that needs to cross through that, a lot of those bridges are fairly narrow. It makes sense to start looking at some of those, which we are.”

Mayor Craig McFarland

“I offer my assistance to talk to any of our contingent to try to twist arms to make sure we find as much money as possible to make this project happen as soon as possible,” McFarland said. “I’m willing to do that, so I’m offering you my services.”

Byres responded, “Greatly appreciate that and we will probably call you on that.”

McFarland said, “I hope so.”

Lisa Fitzgibbons

Fitzgibbons noted that there are many accidents on that stretch of I-10 and some residents think that the stretch of freeway is controlled by Casa Grande, “so we have to remind them (that ADOT is responsible)

“The mayor does a good job of keeping the council updated on what’s been happening,” she continued, “so I just add that in the future to try to keep the community, the citizens, just updated on what the status is. We (council) get reports, but for the people that don’t. They want it (the widening) tomorrow, of course, but just the updates are really helpful.

“There’s so many rumors out there that Gila River is holding this up, there’s so much going on out there, so I appreciate just a report and update.

“We’re excited, (the widening) can’t come soon enough.”

Byres responded, “”We would like to go this on a regular basis as we go through so as we get through some of these milestones in the process we can come and do this same thing. I think the better informed all the stakeholders are, the better off this is going to be.”

Matt Herman

“As a community it’s been one of our goals to get that done,” Herman said, “and I’m glad you guys are all working together, all of us are working together to get this done, so thank you.

“An important thing about communication, like Lisa said, is the hearings that you’re going to have. Are you planning to have them in all the cities, like Casa Grande, Coolidge, in the Pinal County area, too?”

Byres answered that the National Environmental Policy Action defines where those public hearings occur.

“If that’s not sufficient,” he continued, “we can certainly be able to come back before this council and give either updates or whatever and certainly make sure that you have the ability to make any comments on them.”

Herman responded, “That would be great.”

Gila River bridge will be upgraded, widened

(Posted Nov. 23, 2019)

Upgrading and widening the Gila River bridge is part of the I-10 proposal but has been broken out as a separate project.

“One of the reasons that we broke out that I-10 bridge at Gila River is because that bridge is already, it’s past its life cycle,” Gregory Byres, director of ADOT’s Multimodal Planning Division, told the City Council during Monday night’s study session. “It needs some major work. 

“So this was the prime opportunity for us to get it done. It has to get done as part of our system improvements.

“We really didn’t want to hold that bridge up with this project, so we broke it out so we could have it as an independent project and go forward with the bridge itself.”

Byres added that, “It’s a safe bridge, there’s nothing structurally wrong with the bridge, but it’s showing its age and we need to improve it.

“We fully intend to widen it out to three lanes in each direction. No matter what happens with I-10, the bridge itself will actually get widened out so that we’ve got a full-width bridge for anything in the future."


(Posted Nov. 6, 2019)

The presentation is HERE

Scroll to next story for explanation of how decisions are made and what materials are used

The Casa Grande Public Works Department’s regular streets maintenance program alternatives between residential and arterial streets.

This project year it’s residential, with some separate capital improvement projects already scheduled.

Those capital projects, Public Works Director Kevin Louis told the City Council during Monday’s streets session “are bigger projects and they’re outside of our $1.5 million that we use for maintenance of our roadway system.

Louis outlined these regular projects for the new year:

The main areas

“These are different project areas that we’re going to be focusing on,” Louis said, “and they’re all rubberized chip seals. 

“If you start at the north you’ll see Copper Vista, dropping down to Coyote ranch. Then you’ll see The Greens, which are just past the rodeo grounds out there just north of our golf course. We’ve got The Links, which is just south of our golf course. Desert Sky Ranch, which is south of Kortsen. Then we have the west side area south of Cottonwood Lane, west of Pinal, north of Florence and east of Shultz. That entire area we’re looking at rubberized seal. 

“The last area we have is Laurel, Brenda and Manor are the three main streets in that area. It’s kind of three subdivisions that aren’t really one formal subdivision but that area just south of Cottonwood Lane and north of McMurray. And then we have Parkview down in the southeast corner of town, actually Parkview Three.

“Those are the areas that we are currently looking at. 

“Obviously, we have to go through our bid process and we’ll look at how those prices some in, but based on the industry numbers that we’re looking at right now with similar bids around the state we think we can get this project done with the amount we have budgeted, which is the $1.5 million.”

Adams, Jefferson, Ninth Street

“We had one area that was actually identified for a partial reconstruction and that’s out in our industrial area and that was Adams, Jefferson and Ninth Street,” Louis said.

“Obviously, we’re starting to see a lot of infill activity in our industrial area.

“On this map, if you look at Adams Street just to the west, that entire site is now the Southwest Gas new facility, so we’ve added that since this aerial photo was taken.

“This was identified as a partial reconstruct, very similar to VIP Boulevard two years ago where we looked at that and said that’s a lot of money, it’s going to take about $1 million to do this particular project, can we get away with a cape seal (overlay) like we did on VIP. 

“We are very pleased with how VIP is performing. It’s holding up well and we think we’re going to have the same success on this roadway with a cape seal. Cape seal is going to cost us right around $170,000. If we were to do a partial reconstruct we’re looking in that $1 million range for these roads.”

Previously approved capital improvement projects

“The first two are very similar to the Rancho Grande project (see chart in next story)” Louis said. “We have Western Manor, the subdivision north of Gila Bend Highway just west of VIP Boulevard. So kind of our west edge of town if you don’t take into consideration that Francisco Grande is our actual west edge of town. We’ll be doing very similar projects as we did in Rancho Grande. We’ll be removing all the asphalt, evaluating the subgrades. If we need to incorporate a stabilization of that subgrade we’ll be doing that similar to Rancho Grande. However, we did dig some test sites in that west area and we’re hoping that we find better conditions than we did in Rancho Grande and maybe save some money there.

“We’re also going to be doing the Caspita y Grande. That area is just off Pinal Avenue and it’s off of West Viola Street just north of there. That’s the other subdivision we’re working on.”

       (Western Manor is at lower left of map, Caspita y Grande at upper right)

CG-Maricopa Highway

“We also have in the process the CG/Maricopa Highway,” Louis said. “The council did approve the design of that project and it is under design right now. However, it’s probably not going to go out to bid and be ready to forward until next fiscal year. We have some right of way acquisition we have to go through, we’ve got to fix that piece before we go to final design and then put that out to bid for construction. 

“It’s that section of Maricopa Highway from Russell Road over to Bianco. And that’s going to be most likely a slurry seal, micro seal, something like that. And we’re doing some pavements and some additional turn lanes there at the Val Vista intersection to improve the safety. That’s really what drove that project.”

West Main Avenue/South Florence Street

“We’re also doing West Main Avenue and Florence Street,” Louis told the council. 

“The piece that is left off of there (the map), we did add late to this project Third Street, which is just east of Florence Street. That was the section of pavement that was left out of our former pavement improvement project. And we did that for a reason. That site had been identified as a potential site for the splash pad (near the main library) at one point, so we didn’t want to do any improvements in there in case we did move forward with that development. Not having that development move forward there and actually moving forward where it did (McNatt Park) very successfully we’re now going to be doing that section of pavement.”

Hacienda Road

“The last road on our program this year is Hacienda,” Louis said. We budget $1.5 million for our PM 10 (particulate air quality) response and we try to get one mile of road taken care of. Hacienda is a very heavily travelled road that runs from Selma Highway up to Early Road, so we’ll be doing a double chip seal there.”

Councilman Dick Powell asked if this means the road will be paved all the way to Selma Highway.

“Yes,” Louis responded.

“We actually were going to move forward with that project quite a few years back when Selma Highway was going to be the (I-10) interchange and they were going to have to create that bypass around that interchange,” he continued, “So we kind of put that off. Now we’ve programmed that.”

In progress

“All of these projects are somewhere in the process,” Louis said. “Our pavement maintenance is out to bid right now, we’ll be getting those bids back.

“We’re really hoping that next year we’re able to put together what we consider a very solid five-year plan to share with council as well as the community, and really talk about how we get to those points.”

Comments from the council

Mayor Craig McFarland

Mayor Craig McFarland asked if the projects are funded by Highway User Revenue Fund from the state gasoline tax and shared with cities, towns and counties.

Louis responded, “We currently use HURF dollars and half-cent sales tax. I don’t have the specific breakdown of where it falls, but our phased maintenance program is, I believe, 100 percent HURF.

Lisa Fitzgibbons

“It’s always interesting as you bring up the method to the madness,” Fitzgibbons told Louis, “because so many times we get people that ask why not my neighborhood. So this is always education. Every year you bring it up and every year we learn something new. 

“I’m not sure how this fits in, but when you purchase a piece of equipment for some small project, how does that fit in? I know we did it because we did Drylake and Second Street, some of the smaller projects. So how does that fit into your schedule? Are you able to do things in addition to this budgeted amount?”

Louis responded, “We have a line item in our budget that covers maintenance operations and we do that within our operating budget. We go through the year and we respond to whatever happens that year and then as we get closer to that June 30 (end of fiscal year) date we start to program some of those projects, like we did Drylake and I think Third Street and several others in the area. 

“And we’ve done that again for this year, we have our wish list, we’ve identified some of those. And actually a lot of those were driven by residents calling in and having those conversations and we do out there and, yeah, we need to do something, but it’s not part of a big program. 

“And a lot of that effort is in our downtown area. Those are the areas where we’re going to have to make some major drainage improvements in the future in that area. So the last thing I want to do is rebuild all the roads down there and then have to tear them up. 

“That’s one of those things that if development picks up and we start to see an infusion of construction sales tax and those types of things where we can start to generate those fund balances and somebody sends that money my way we can start to do some of those bigger projects, get those forward.”

Answering Fitzgibbons’ equipment question, Louis said, “We have two pieces of equipment that we take advantage of. One is our Zipper, and that’s a small mill machine where they’re actually able to grind down the asphalt and the subgrade and kind of reconstitute it, compact it and then we remove what’s left and then we repave. And then we use our paver. We have a 12-foot paver that we’re able to use and do that asphalt paving. 

“We have to be very careful, because there’s only so much of those types of projects that we can do before we start to violate state statutes. There are laws out there that govern how much work we can do in-house versus going out to a contractor. So there’s a fine line there and we try to bump up to the maximum as often as possible. 

“Again, it really comes down to what did we have to respond to this year and how much extra money do we have.”

Donna McBride

Louis had earlier in the presentation said that Public Works has for the past few years been holding open house for residents to talk about streets or other problems.

“We had one last week,” he said, “It was not very well attended, but it was also the last game of the World Series, so that may have had an impact, or we’re doing such a great job nobody cases — and I don’t think that’s the case.”

McBride said, “I know it’s disappointing when the community demands some help but then they don’t show up. Is there an opportunity for us to videotape those and have them available on-line so folks that are not there have the opportunity to hear what’s going on?”

Louis responded, “I think it’s a great opportunity. We could do one of those videos with our new public information officer and put something together and get that out on our website and that might generate some more interest.”

Matt Herman

Herman said residents can also go to the city website and download the SeeClickFix app for Android or iPhone to report problems.

“It’s a good way to get your pothole taken care of and any issues on your street,” he said.

Bob Huddleston

Huddleston said, “I want to thank all three of you (Louis, Streets Supervisor Chris Lawson and Streets Superintendent Pedro Apodaca) for the condition and the maintenance of our public streets. 

“I often drive in other communities in the immediate area, sometimes further out. And there are times I’m shocked to see neighborhoods that have no curb and gutter, they have what’s left of what was once asphalt. 

“And I don’t see that in Casa Grande, so my thanks to you for that. 

“I read in a report, I’m not sure if it was from you, Kevin, but it was in the area for pavement grades or classifications of our neighboring communities and I don’t know if there were any that were in the mid to low 70s. It seems like we were always a couple of steps ahead of everybody. 

(Casa Grande’s street condition index is 72 out of a possible 100).

“So thank you for the job you’re doing, it shows.”

 Louis responded, “I have to give credit to Chris Lawson and Pedro Apodaca. Them and their team and our Streets Department really do a great job. They are passionate about what they do, they care about the roads and they are not afraid to walk into my office and say here’s what we need to do.”

How streets work and methods are determined

(Posted Nov. 6, 2019)

See companion story above

As Public Works Director Kevin Louis pointed out to the City Council during Monday night’s report on city streets, the process of determining what work needs to be done is more complicated than just looking at a street.

The Public Works Department purchased a computerized program that helps determine conditions and their rank of projects that need to be done.

“Our Lucity system puts out a lot of information and we’re able to go through and take those spread sheets and it will populate our GIS system and actually map out what its recommendations are calling for,” Louis said. “And there’s a lot of back and forth between our staff as we move through that project. 

“We can manipulate the data, change the parameters, base it just off of what our budget is, base it off of what we want the pavement condition index to be. There’s a lot of different ways to manipulate the system. And it’ll output a lot of different options for us. We take this type of information and then we refine the program.

“Obviously, if there’s only two streets in the subdivision and the rest of them are not being called up we’re probably not going to go in and repair those two streets. We’re going to look at that subdivision as a whole. We may put that off for two years and focus on a different subdivision.”

Last year, Louis said, Public Works contracted with the company Infrastructure Management Services for a complete update.

“IMS came out and did a full evaluation of our streets network and basically recalibrated our model to make sure that the information that we’re getting out was good information based on what we were putting in (to the computerized program) on an annual basis.

“Not a lot of change. We did drop a Pavement Condition Index average of 75 down to 72. I really felt like that was going to happen.”

Pavement Condition Index comparisons

“This was our PCI back in 2010 when we rolled out the first pavement index with Lucity and the next one is our current PCI, our last update this past year,” Louis said.

“When you look at the two graphs, what I want you to see is the bars are starting to get depressed in the recent year, so our good and excellent are starting to get a little bit smaller in percentage and our fair-moderate-to-poor are starting to increase. So we’re starting to see a trend that obviously we’re concerned with, but when you look at the finances that we have to work with, we still have to make those tough decisions on where can we cut corners and kind of push that asphalt life out. And we’re going to continue to do that until we see different revenue streams we’re able to take advantage of.”

Louis continued, “Each pavement section throughout the city is given a PCI, a pavement condition index, and it’s based on a rating from zero to 100, 100 being a perfect pavement, 0 being really nothing there, nothing to drive on.

“We had had an average of 75 percent in our pavement index throughout the city and it dropped to 72.  My gut feeling all along was that it was right around 70, based on looking at other municipalities’ model and just looking at industry standards out there and based on our pavement conditions.

“We dropped a little, but I think it’s accurate and we feel pretty good about that because if you look at the average across the U.S. it’s 65, and less that 1 percent of agencies that IMS looks at have a score that’s greater than 75 PCI.

“So I think we’re right in the good ballpark, I think we’ve got a healthy system. We’ve got a ways to go and we just need to continue to monitor it and make good decisions.”

Louis told the council that in general Public Works likes to see a minimum of 15 percent of the city’s streets classed as excellent.

“We’re currently sitting at around 18 percent,” he continued, “so we’re looking very good there.”

Public Works also maintains a backlog list, Louis said, “the things that we need to start working on. 

“Obviously, anything above 85 percent you’re really not going to have to do much to that pavement. Maybe a fog seal every once in awhile, some crack sealing, maybe some pothole repairs.

“As you get down to the lesser, or lower, PCIs, you start to generate what’s called a backlog, and that’s the work that needs to be done to maintain that pavement.

“Obviously, the lower the PCI, the more work it’s going to take to get that road, to maintain it at a safe level. Our target is anywhere between 70 and 75 percent.

“You don’t want that backlot to exceed 20 percent (of needed work). We’re currently sitting right around 6 percent. So I think we’re still doing pretty good.”

Money needed

“The bottom line,” Louis said, “is our target revenues to be able to spend on pavement maintenance programs should be around $5.5 million a year. Now we’re less than that. As revenue generation increases, if increases in HURF (Highway User Revenue Fund from state gasoline tax) dollars, (half-cent roads) sales tax, we’ll obviously being putting that toward pavement maintenance. But right now, we come short of what we feel we need to maintain that 75 PCI.”

Types of treatments

Several treatments are used for maintaining streets, Louis said, ranging from fog seal on those with a 75-85 PCI to full reconstruction on those in the 0-35 PCI range.

Full reconstruction, he said, means “there’s really nothing you can do, it’s gone beyond what you can do without replacing it.”

Louis showed a variety of photos during his presentation, explaining what each treatment means and what it costs:

“Fog seal is basically a paint job for asphalt,” Louis said. “It adds the asphalt oils to the top of that pavement to rejuvenate that wearing surface and hopefully slow down that oxidation process that happens with the Arizona sun — and quit frankly with all asphalts throughout the United States. And, of course, weather conditions, the more moisture, the dirtier the streets the quicker that surface is going to deteriorate.”

“Slurry seal is actually a smaller aggregate mixed in with an asphalt Portland cement,” Louis explained. “That gives you about a three-quarter inch wearing surface, maybe just a little less than that.”

“Rubber chip seal, probably what I consider our most cost-effective treatment,” Louis said. “It’s not the smoothest to drive on but it definitely has the longest lasting benefit to pavement.”

“Mill and overlay is where you remove the top portion of the asphalt, grind that away, and then put down a new wearing surface of asphalt,” Louis said. “The picture you’re looking at is actually Cottonwood Lane when we did that paving five, six years ago.”

“If you had a change to get out to Rancho Grande this last year, that was what we consider a partial reconstruction,” Louis continued. “That’s where you go in and actually remove the asphalt, you do some work to the subgrade. We went in and we amended the subgrade in Rancho Grande. We actually incorporate with a  machine a Portland cement material, which helps harden that subgrade and we were able to really bridge some of the issue we were having with the poor soil conditions in that area. And then we come in with a new layer of asphalt. Really a good project. We felt that it was a very successful project and we’re going to be incorporating that with several other subdivisions this year.”

“Here’s a picture of Main Street and actually a photo of our used-to-be train station,” Louis said. “That was a full reconstruct where we had to go down to the subgrade and start from there. If it’s a full reconstruction, you’re removing all 12 inches of your subgrade, adding new subgrade and starting basically from scratch.”

No cop body cams ... for now
As an alternative, PD will begin buying in-car cameras

(Posted Oct. 13, 2019)

The City Council staff report is HERE

The cameras cost breakdown is HERE

The brochure describing the camera is HERE

The link on the seller’s website is:

You see it constantly on television news shows: video from police body cameras shot during an incident or street footage from a police car dash cam.

For the past few years, Casa Grande has discussed buying body cameras for police officers, but has held off because of changing technology, price fluctuations and, most important to city finances, the cost of handling all of that video.

As a rule, video isn’t released to the public until certain sections are taken out, such as juveniles or innocent persons who are bystanders.

The redactions take a lot of time, to the point that the city would probably have to hire at least one full-time person just to do that work.

Added to that is the volume of work, such as pulling video for attorneys or for public records requests filed by curiosity seekers who just want to watch.

During the conversation at last Monday night’s council meeting City Manager Larry Rains said, “When we did the evaluation on the body cameras, we were looking at roughly $600,000-plus a year from an operation perspective.”

That means body cams were out of the picture.

As an interim step, the Police Department is now recommending spending $89,105 for 10 Watch Guard in-car cameras and a server for video storage. (See above link to staff report for details)

At present, the Police Department does not have in-car cameras other than Watch Guard demo, the staff report says, “due to their aging out and no longer being able to be serviced.”

The proposed cameras allow a panoramic front view and a back-facing camera to monitor individuals in the back of the patrol car.

Questions remain

The council still had questions.

“Are we going to abandon any type of body-worn cameras?” Councilwoman Mary Kortsen asked Police Chief Mark McCrory.

The chief responded, “We would gladly get them if you could find the money. This is the most economical way for us to have a recording at all.

“I wouldn’t say we’ve abandoned it … I think originally that when we looked at body-worn cameras they were not economical for a our city, for our financing and for our department’s budget.

“We feel that these cameras will provide us some video evidence for prosecution and for helping in the way of complaints and protecting an officer against false reporting. It’s a lot cheaper than body cameras, the amount of video that’s collected is a lot less than the body camera would collect, admittedly.

“But for our needs and our finances and the city’s finances, we feel like this is the most efficient way to go for our department right now.”

But, only in 10 cars? Kortsen asked.

To begin with, McCrory answered.

“The cameras itself is part of a three-year project,” he said, “and at the end of this capital improvements program project our hope is that every car in Patrol Division will have one of these cameras.”

Fitzgibbons view

“I know we’ve talked about body cams many times, every year it seems like this crops up,” Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons said.

“I do understand how important it is to have cameras, it’s best for the officers, it’s best for the citizens, the community.”

The question, she continued, is, “If we implement these 10 vehicles, how does this affect as we move forward? “I know in the request for council action, it … made purchasing the body worn cameras impossible and impractical.

“I still don’t believe it’s impossible or impractical.

“I know we’ve talked budget on this, so I know you’re trying to come up with a solution so we could have some type of camera, which is important.”

However, “The cameras that are installed in the vehicles are video only, there’s no audio. If officers go on foot, going into buildings, I just don’t see cities going away from them.

“I know there’s been discussions, but I’ve seen cities like Phoenix increasing because it only helps the officer.

“So my question actually is, if we install these in 10 vehicles are we still able to consider buying the body cameras if we can come up with the funding or are you just going to move forward with the new stuff now.”

McCrory responded, “We are not against body cameras. When my son wanted a brand new truck and I bought him a 2005 instead I told him if you could come up with the money I’ll gladly buy him a new truck. And I feel that’s the same way with body cams.

“We are not against them. We operate off your direction, the mayor’s direction and if the city would say that’s where they want to go, they’re able to fund it, then we could start looking at body cams, too.

“I don’t think getting the in-car cameras prohibits that at all. It’s not necessarily even a stopgap, but for the reasons we brought up prior to this on the redaction, on the amount of footage and the costs and everything, this was our most efficient and cost effective alternative to having nothing, right?

“Phoenix and large departments, they have the budgets, they have made the commitment and they pretty much write a blank check.

“I think nationally departments our size and cities our size are beginning to see that there’s more and more of them going away from them, because at some point they just become cumbersome on the budget.

“I’m sitting here with eight officers short and we have the same amount of manpower, staffing, I should say, that we had 10 years ago and the city has grown.

“Obviously, personally I’d rather see more boots on the ground and go with the in-car camera, because we get more out of it. They’re a benefit to the officer, they make the citizens feel better, there’s no doubt about it, but for right now, financially and for budgetary reasons for us and still trying to grow our department a little bit, at least keep up … this is a very viable alternative to body cams.

“At the time when we talked about body cams it wasn’t practical. Now in the future, maybe not. But at the time that we talked about, because so many people were for it at the council, it had to be impossible or impractical or I’d be wearing one today, we would have wrote the checks.

“A year from now, if you want to come back and say, Mark, I want you to get body cameras we’ll dedicate nothing but our time to get body cameras, as long as you write the checks.”

Fitzgibbons responded, “And that was my point. With cameras for the vehicles, it is a waste of money if in a year we might a way to come up with body cams. It sound like you would still use them.”

McCrory answered, “I think people would expect video and we don’t have video. This is a very good start down the road, and again I’m going to reiterate this to you: Lisa, this does not mean we’re against them, because we’re not, as an organization we’re not against.

“This is just our first step in trying to get something that a benefit for the citizens and the officers and the courts.”

Huddleston view

Councilman Bob Huddleston, a former Casa Grande police chief and 33-year veteran of the Police Department, said, “With what has come up tonight, I can tell you that my history is I thought this department was headed towards body cams. I’ve heard the argument that the money is just not there for that, but the chief also pointed out the department’s not against body cams.

“As an officer, I think I would prefer the body cam over the in-car cam, for the reason that a lot of the incidents don’t happen right in front of the cars. They happen in the house, down the alley, wherever. And I think as an officer I would feel like I was better protected liability wise by having that body cam.

“With what I know tonight, I feel like I’m going to be making an uneducated decision, voting yes or no on this, and I would like to pose the possibility of tabling the item and asking for a study session — a short study session — where the chief and Information Technology can fully explain this to us about why we can and should do one but we can’t necessarily do the other. That’s just my thought.”

Tabling defeated

As the council session was winding down, Councilwoman Kortsen moved to table the item, with Fitzgibbons seconding.

That was defeated, 4-3, with Kortsen, Fitzgibbons and Huddleston voting yes and council member Matt Herman, Donna McBride, Dick Powell and Mayor Craig McFarland.

Powell said he was voting no because, “Now’s the time to decide.”

McBride questions

Councilwoman Donna McBride asked if handling the in-car video “is going to be staff intensive or is it something that will be rolled into somebody’s responsibility and/or could it be something that experienced volunteers could help handle some of that?

“The reason I ask that is … the last thing we want to do is if we have storage capability and all of a sudden the video is lost, we don’t want to do that. That’s why I’m asking if there’s going to be some training or something involved so that there is accountability of what happened to that video.”

McCrory answered, “This system allows for our people at our station that’s employed by the Police Department to handle all that. We don’t need IT to pull video for us, we don’t need a full-time employee to do any of the redaction, we can do all that ourselves. That’s one thing about the Watch Guard system, we felt like we could handle everything internally. The fact that we’re storing this server in our building, it decreases the download time and our people can be trained to pull things and redact things and require nobody else in the building.”

Herman questions

Councilman Matt Herman asked, “Do they automatically upload or does the officer have to do it, upload everything or just selective, can the officer erase anything or would show that our upload is working so you don’t miss anything inadvertently. Basically is it automatic?”

He was told that, “When come in range of our building it automatically begins downloading. We’ll have it set up to notify a supervisor that they had an uploading within 24 or 48 hours.”

On the body cam versus in-car cam, Herman said, “I have concerns about that as well, but I can see that the body worn-camera when you’re driving you’re not going to see everything but the car one will allow you to catch the stop, maybe not being chased down the alley.

“I know these body cam discussions we’ve had is about the time it takes a person to redact. And we’re still going to have that issue with these cameras. I know you said there’s someone doing that and we’re doing one (test in-car camera) now but how much time have they allotted for this person to go over the video, is it a trained person?”

McCrory responded, “We have a couple of people that are trained, with the idea that more training could come from the vendor. The redaction would be if someone requested. Not redacting everything. But we can do it in-house.

“The body camera footage, if I’m in your house for 45 minutes I’ve got 45 minutes of body camera footage. 

Then I have to figure out, go through that, whatever. That’s time consuming.

“As far as having a panoramic view (in-car cams) it gives us a lot of stuff. Even though a lot of things that happen inside a residence, most of the complaints that we get from the citizens of Casa Grande take place on the streets.

“I didn’t run that stop sign, I wasn’t rude to that officer but the officer was rude to me. Most of our complaints that we get are minor complaints that deal with the traffic stops and stuff.

“Right now, I’ll admit, it’s not the best way to handle things, but every officer has a recorder and if they come into your house they’ll probably tape it because they’re smart enough to take care of themselves, in that sense.”

Herman said he wanted to bring out that the redaction, not the cost of the body cams, that becomes costly.

McCrory responded, “The body cameras are just like buying a cell phone. I’ll give it to you for a dollar … we own your data. So if you want to go away from our carrier, then you’re going to have to buy your own data from us. Well, we own all this, the car cams.”

Herman asked how will the Police Department decide which units get the first 10 cameras.

“Are they the take-home cars or are they rover cars, the most-used cars?” he asked.

McCoy answered that they would be in the most-used cars.

Powell’s view

“I think the majority of the times if it’s in a patrol car you’re going to be pulling somebody or pulling up behind an accident or pulling up beside somebody,” Councilman Dick Powell said, “so the focus is probably going to be where that camera is going to be, most of the time, not all of it.

“As I say, if we can’t buy, if we can’t figure a way to make it work where we can cover almost everybody in the department with body cameras, then this is probably the best way to do it that we can afford to do.

“I think this is what we should do now and when the time comes where we can do it right like you guys would like, that would be the time to change.”

Councilwoman Kortsen responded that in-car cams versus body came is comparing apples to oranges “and I want an orange not an apple at this point, preferable the body cams,” perhaps applying the $89,000 for in-car cams toward buying body cams.

McCrory responded that, “Obviously, we’ll do whatever council wants, but I remind that this is a CIP project that was approved by this very council last year for three years. It was put back one year because of technical problems …”

Mayor’s view

Mayor McFarland said, “I think we should move forward with the in-car cameras because otherwise we’re going to be sitting here talking about body cams and won’t have any protection in the vehicles whatsoever, so I think we should move forward with it. To the chief’s point, it’s already been approved in the CIP budget.

“We looked into the body cams. It’s expensive for the cameras, expensive for the storage, the redactions, the management of the storage. Having two people’s full time jobs just managing that data, it’s going to be costly to buy the body cameras. And all that data has to be stored in the clouds, we don’t have the facilities to handle it and the data, so there’s a lot more information needs to be gotten on the body cam side of the equation, the total cost of the project.

“So I think in the meantime this is a good project, I think we should move forward with it.”

Fitzgibbons responded, “I do believe in these in-car video, I’m huge supporter of it. But I feel we have a lot of unanswered questions. That’s why when council member Huddleston brought it up and all the questions Matt Herman had, we all had questions, and it’s all about being transparent, answer the questions.

“Even though it’s $90,000, it’s still $90,000, and even though we approved in the CIP it’s not like we have to do it. There’s flexibility, isn’t there”

At that point Councilman Powell asked that a vote be taken.

That vote for initial approval was:

Huddleston: “It may seem counterintuitive that I brought up the tabling idea, I’m now going to vote yes for this, for the in-car cams. I’m not against those, I just simply wanted more information, but nonetheless, yes.”

Fitzgibbons: I’m going to reiterate what you said, Councilman Huddleston. I’m not against these at all. For the record, I just want to make sure that we still look at body cams. I just think it’s something that important to constantly. Yes.

Herman: Yes.

Kortsen: “I like the idea of these cameras over the old in-car cameras, I think it a much improvement. I think they are needed. I would have liked to have seen a little more information, but I will vote yes.”

Powell: Yes.

McBride: Yes

Mayor: Yes.

A final vote is expected during the next council meeting.

The future

City Manger Rains said that, “What staff can do is bring back to mayor and council that information (on body cams and costs), we can distribute it once again, move it into the budget for your evaluation, for consideration as a component of our upcoming budget.”


Making growth planning easier

(Posted Sept. 2, 2019)

The staff report is HERE

The vendor’s website is HERE

The vendor’s description of the software is HERE

With an eye to the development that will be coming to Casa Grande in the future, the city is spending a maximum of $241,856 for new computer software that will make it easier for both developers and city staff, including planners and the Fire Department, to review and process plans.

It has taken some doing, given that the city’s present system is 15 years old and will probably have to be replaced in the near future, Planning and Development Director Paul Tice told the City Council. 


According to the staff report, “Staff sought to find an electronic plan review software that would successfully integrate with our existing Harris ComDev permit/project management system, as well as our WebPermits inspection system. Staff contacted all of the primary vendors offering electronic plan review systems to determine if their systems had successfully integrated with ComDev and WebPermit systems in other communities.

“Avolve Software Corp., a Scottsdale based company, was the only vendor who provided evidence that they have successfully integrated their ProjectDox Electronic Plan Review system with the Harris ComDev permit/project management system in two cities (Kissimmee and Gainesville. Fla.). Additionally, Avolve provided information that they could easily integrate with the Selectron WebPermit software which we are about to launch as a separate but related project. Based upon the fact that the Avolve ProjectDox-Electronic Plan Review Software is the only system that has a proven ability to integrate with our current technology systems staff recommends that we contract with them as a sole source vendor.”

The staff report indicates that Avolve could provide the service either on-premise or as a cloud-based subscription service, or SaaS.

“The on-premise system would have a much higher initial cost ($310,000) than the SaaS approach ($219,869),” the report continues. “However, the on-premise system would also have lower annual subscription and maintenance costs ($40,000) than the SaaS approach ($114,000). The on-premise solution would involve the purchase of additional servers and a significant IT staff resource to operate/maintain. After careful review by our IT and business integration staff it was recommended that the SaaS cloud-based approach would be the most cost-effective in the long-run as well as be able to be fully implemented within our desired six to eight  month timeframe.”

The cost for the Avolve system will be $219,869, plus a 10 percent contingency for a total of $241,856.

There would also be some associated costs, the report says, including $5,000 to Harris for ComDev modifications necessary to allow the ProjectDox integration and $1,100 for upgrading computers that will be used for the electronic plans reviews.

And, while the internet speed before the Building B annex (fronting Florence Boulevard) and other offices would be sufficient, the external internet, the staff report says, “the connection to the external internet is insufficient for the requirements of uploading and downloading electronic plans. 

“This connectivity will be important to resolve as some of the staff utilizing the ProjectDox-Electronic Plan Review software will be located at the North Operations Center (at the airport) and Public Safety Building (on Val Vista Boulevard).

“To resolve this, the city will negotiate for additional capacity from the two internet providers (Century Link and Cox) who service the city. Initial conversations with these companies indicates that the internet speed will be able to be increased from 100 Mbps to 200 Mbps with no increase from our existing cost due to new pricing structure in their service contracts. This improved internet speed will be beneficial to other staff in those buildings as well for activities unrelated to electronic plan review.”


A question from the City Council was whether this will streamline the process.

“Yes,” Tice responded, “especially allowing staff to review and redline the plans electronically, communicate back to the applicant with the redlines and then allow the applicant to resubmit in a way that staff can clearly see all the changes that were made with their resubmitted and just approve it.

“So, yes, we believe that there will be efficiency and effectiveness.”

Another question was whether the city will have to hire additional personnel to operate the program.

“We will have some training for all the staff members that are going to use this system,” Tice answered. “The contract does include training for all of our staff that will be using it. It actually even includes training for outside consultants that will be using it, so there will be several training components embedded into this contract.

“We don’t envision any additional staff. We did choose to select the cloud-based system because (having it set up completely in-house) was going to require significant IT sources internally and may have stressed our IT sources. So we are recommending that we go with the cloud-based.”

Tice was asked if the training would be one-time or require followups.

“In my review of their software,” he replied, “it’s fairly intuitive to use. There is some training needed but we believe that the training we’re going to receive will be adequate for us to train any new employee ourselves.”

“This firm has excellent customer service, excellent customer relations, so they will provide any training that we need for future employees, but I’m confident we can do most of it ourselves.”

Given that the present system is old, Tice was asked, will integrating with the new system be able to carry the city into the future?

Tice responded, “Well, I think the first part of your statement is true, that the current permit management system we have, ComDev, is probably 15 years old and it is kind of outdated and needs replacement in the somewhat near future.

“Avolve, who works nationally, happened to work with the two Florida communities I mentioned that had ComDev for a long time, so they’ve worked with them for a number of years.

“However, there’s Avolve ProjectDox system that works with  number of permit management systems, so in the future when we replace ComDev, which we’ll probably be doing once we get this electronic plan review operational, the ProjectDox will work with any new project management systems that we might elect to go with in the future.

“ProjectDox is very state of the art, but it will work with our old-school ComDev system.”

Casa Grande boosts cyber security 
Move comes as cities are being hit with ransomware

(Posted Aug. 29, 2019)

New York Times newspaper story about cities hit with ransomware:

Computer security staff report is HERE

Casa Grande is upgrading several of its computer systems, including cyber security.

It’s part of a five-year update program, but is important now because of cities across the country being hit by ransomware demands where criminals shut down a municipal system until money is paid.

The city is constantly hit with internet security risks, Finance Director Celina Morris told the City Council.

A typical month, she said, the Check Point security software detects and prevents:

• 18,639 “critical” security events. 

• 15,282 “high” security events.

• 4,405 “medium” security events.

“It’s just something that keeps hitting with today’s technology,” Morris continued.

To help battle the problem, the city will spend $46,300 to buy the latest Check Point firewall security system, going from the 4800 product to the 6500.

“The existing Check Point solution has been reliable but it is beginning to lag behind malicious internet software threats (e.g. malware, ransomware and “destructiveware”) that are a constant danger to the City of Casa Grande’s electronic infrastructure and associated data,” the staff report accompanying the council presentation says.

The city’s computer system is not just agendas and reports, but also utility accounts, City Court and Police Department records and other departmental data.

Upgrading to the 6500 system, the staff report says, “will contribute to cyber security-related statutes that mandate the safeguard of electronic data stored or maintained by the city of Casa Grande. 

“Casa Grande Information Technology (IT) is aware of multiple databases and other stored electronic data that contains sensitive information such as Social Security numbers, driver’s licenses, criminal histories and engineering-grade diagrams that could expose restricted infrastructure schematics.”

It’s also important to upgrade, Morris said, because each generation of the security software lasts about five years, “so we’re starting to lag behind the technology that can prevent different malicious internet and software threats as far as malware, ransomware and destructiveware.

“The product that we are looking at (6500) will actually provide content security, will protect the computers, the operating systems, the files. They’ll help us disarm and reconstruct any data that may have been compromised, protect our applications, provide data incident tampering and also integrate with our other tools, whether those are our terminal servers and things like that.”

Councilman Dick Powell said, “Ransomware is attacking a lot of smaller communities now, especially in Texas. And one of the groups that does this has accumulated like $3 billion and decided that crime does pay. And I think they’re leading the country. Are we protected, do we patch these things?”

Morris replied, “The version that we’re requesting, the 6500, they consider that the solution for what they call mega, or multifaceted attacks. And so this is kind of the highest level that’s out there and available. As new technology keeps coming up, that’s where the patches come into place, because they’re trying to outrun the thieves. But we believe it provides the best protection.

“What’s great is we do regular testing as well as far as vulnerabilities with people and systems. And if (the provider) comes to do professional services they’ll actually test it, and then we have the piece where we actually test our  own in place to see if they’re picking on bad things.”

In addition to the security firewall program, the city is also continuing to update its computers and programs at a cost of $126,000 (staff report is HERE) and mobile equipment at a cost of $78,000 (staff report is HERE), part of a five-year replacement program.

Among other reasons for upgrading, Morris said, are “the anticipated end of extended support for Windows 7. That happens in 2020. When that happens, we won’t have any more security patches for Windows 7, which creates a significant security and data integrity risk.”

Windows 7 is being replaced by Windows 10, the current version of the software. 

Taller industrial buildings proposed

(Posted Aug. 25, 2019)

Descriptions of the two zoning districts in question are HERE

A list of all zoning districts is at

The presentation, with proposed changes and examples of building heights, is HERE

The staff report is HERE

The current city land use map is HERE

Casa Grande city planners are working on increasing the allowable height of buildings in two of the west side industrial areas.

It’s a move to make the city more appealing to future businesses that would want the extra space.

According to the staff report, the code amendment “is also intended to ensure that the city of Casa Grande is pursuing the best planning practices, hence providing the city with an advantage when competing with communities in the region and throughout the country, potentially adding to and enhancing the strong economic base the city has already created.”

The City Council was briefed on the proposal during the last meeting.

“Within the I-1 zone district, which is our garden and light industrial district, we’re proposing to bring the maximum height from 35 feet up to 45 feet,” Joe Horn, a city planner, said.

“And when looking at the I-2, which is our general industrial district, we’re proposing a change from 55 feet up to 60 feet, with an additional building height up to 75 feet, meeting certain development standards.”

In the past, Horn said, building height limits were partly because the Fire Department equipment was limited in reach and partly because of impact on neighboring areas.

“Casa Grande now has the ability to go up to 100 feet with their new aerial equipment,” he continued. “And also the building code and fire code now requires any building over 5,000 square feet to provide sprinkler systems and alarm systems.”

To help taller buildings blend in better, Horn said, “part of the reason we added additional building and site design requirements to the I-2 height was to counteract those negative effects.

“The first one we added was the increased building setbacks, an additional three feet for every one foot of height exceeding that 60 feet.

“Second one, is we increased that street frontage landscape to increase that buffer. We’re also doubling the landscape that required within that buffer current setbacks.

“The third one is the building and appurtenances shall be designed, constructed and/or colored in order to correspond with the aesthetic viewshed and other characteristics of the area so they won’t look out of place.”

All of that will also be a part of the updating of the city’s 10-year General Plan.

“We’ve done a really good job and we’re going to increase to do this job with our General Plan that we’re working on now, creating that industrial corridor,” Horn said, “so all all our industrial grouped into one area so we’re really not burdening other zone districts or other uses.”

Councilman Dick Powell asked whether an industry asking for a taller building is to allow for more work area there or if it is just to stand out in the neighborhood.

Horn responded that, “Our goal is to practice the best planning practice that we can. 

“A lot of industrial users will come in and ask for their building heights. We’re anticipating that it would all be useable space, add floors, extra uses, extra ability to do more with that space. So that’s our real goal, and going up to 75 feet and then pulling it back farther away from other property lines gives us the ability to go a little bit higher.

“We do think it will provide a good advantage when looking for industrial development to come to the city.”

Compatibility concerns

Addressing Planning and Development Director Paul Tice, Powell said, “We’ve been through some of that already with the ones that we had the homes and the industry too close together. The same type of plan was used then on having them set back so far. 

“I guess one of the things that concerns me, and we’re talking about ambiance and whatever, hopefully these will be grouped in an organized manner instead of just popping up in different places around town. You’ve got certain districts that are zoned for that and some that aren’t.”

Tice responded, “From a compatibility of land use aspect, we don’t really have a lot of concerns because much of our industrial area is very much grouped together. 

“Obviously, there are points where it’s going to bump up against some residential or other uses, but in general most of these building will be internal and adjacent to other industrial uses.

“But given if they are up against other properties that might be residential, we do have increased setbacks and increased landscape standards here and we can impose additional standards to the site plan review process if those are really necessary to ensure compatibility.

“Remember, each of these buildings goes through a separate Planning Commission public hearing process with public outreach and stakeholder review. So none of this is done in a vacuum, it’s all public process.”

Other views

Councilman Bob Huddleston said, “I want to compliment you for being proactive and looking for these issues that intimidate or slow down our industrial prospects. If you know going into this the building heights is an issue, I think it’s great that you’re reaching out and increasing those numbers. 

“I think we need to be known as a positive community for industrial prospects and if these little movements help that, as long as we stay within the realm of best practices, I think it’s great. My compliments.”

In the past, Councilman Matt Herman said, an issue “was where they’re going to be, because we did have that issue before and you guys did a great job of that with the increased setbacks, that’s the key to the whole thing.”

Councilwoman Mary Kortsen said, “I want to echo the idea that this is very forward thinking. We need to be doing this.”

Powell added, “I think we’ve done a really good job thus far with industry coming in.

“The one question that looms is water, as far as the ones that come in. I know Chandler right now does not have enough water for all the new ones and they tell you we can give you this much water, but you have to bring the rest with you to be in Chandler. And if we start getting the high demand for water, we may have to look at something like that.”

Tice responded, “That is certainly something we’re going to look at with our new General Plan update, that very issue.”

Next steps

Horn told the council that the proposals go before the Planning and Zoning Commission on Sept. 5 and then back to the council for a vote on Sept. 16.

Horizontal apartments? A concept
that could come to Casa Grande

(Posted Aug. 18, 2019)

The City Council presentation PowerPoint, with project concepts, is HERE

The zoning issues are HERE

The Planning and Zoning presentation is HERE

The Planning and Zoning minutes are HERE

Planning and Zoning comments, in brief, are HERE

It’s a concept that has caught on in the Tucson and Phoenix areas and might be coming to Casa Grande.

It’s called detached apartments, or in developer-speak “horizontal apartments.”

Both the Planning and Zoning Commission and the City Council have heard briefings on what the concept is and what pitfalls could arise.

“The reason this is being brought to you this evening is because planning staff has had a number of visits with developers who have inquired about the potential of introducing an emerging trend of new housing product type that is seen in the Tucson area as well as the Phoenix area and its known as single-family rental products,” City Planner James Gagliardi told the City Council.

“To give you kind of an insight as to what exactly it is, is it’s like apartments in that it’s an entire project under one ownership and management. It would never be individually sold off, the different units are never individually owned.

“And it’s like apartments in that you do see multiple dwelling units offered for rent on a single lot. Each building does tend to look similar to one another, similar to an apartment complex. Often it’s gated access. You would find community amenities on common ground. You’d usually find a clubhouse, a shared parking lot. Though some of the units are provided garages, carports are available.”

Often the project is detached single-family apartments, Gagliardi continued, “but sometimes you do see them in the form of duplexes and in some case maybe even maybe triples, but often it’s a smattering of a single- and two-family dwellings.”

In the Phoenix area, he said, rents are about $1,000 to $1,200 a month.

Overall, Gagliardi said, “If this was going to be  proposed infill, typically surrounded by established residential neighborhoods, this would be a great opportunity to develop a site that’s been somewhat problematic, where there is surrounding development and it hasn’t been a perfect fit for single-family homes. And what’s nice is it could utilize existing infrastructure, existing roadway.”

At present, Casa Grande does not have a specific zoning code for such projects, leaving the City Council and Planning Commission to think about what could be changed or instituted. 

(See these explanations about trying to use existing zoning)

City planners visited the Chandler, Gilbert, Queen Creek areas and looked on-line at other places to see both the good and the potential problems.

Council reactions

Councilman Dick Powell said he would have problems with putting such detached apartment complexes in an established residential area.

“I don’t think I like shoehorning it in with existing communities, I think you’re doing them a disservice if you try to do this beside some existing development,” Powell continued. “They didn’t sign up for this and this is not going to be particularly pretty.”

Powell asked how many such detached apartments would be in such a development.

Gagliardi responded that, “The typical ones we observed had between eight to 14 dwelling units per acre. It’s hard to say exactly how many total units. Most sites were between eight to 12 acres in size.”

Powell said that some less developed areas in the south of Casa Grande might be workable for such projects.

“At first blush, the density scares me to death,” he continued. “But I would certainly be willing to go take a look at some of them.”

Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons said such projects are different than like a Section 8 type housing of years ago.

Her sister lived in such a detached-apartments project in Gilbert, she continued, which “was clean, there were professionals that lived there, had people that didn’t want to worry about the maintenance in their yard, they had an animal so they didn’t want to live in apartments with a million other people. So this was a great option.

“I think that it’s important to offer our community these options. Times are changing and people are living differently. This is not affordable housing, though. The place that they rented, it wasn’t a cheap product, it was just an alternative.

“I love the idea of infilling in areas where maybe we’re not quite sure what we can put in there. I’m really hoping you go take a look because you’ll be impressed. It’s a nice option and I think it’s important to have that diversity in our community to have options.”

As Councilman Matt Herman sees it, “It’s an interesting concept, I would like to see them. I really like infill, too. And I kind of equate, we have a little project behind Casa Grande Mall off of Pueblo Drive. I haven’t looked at that closely in awhile to see how that holds up.”

The downside photos in the presentation, he said, are things that the city Code Enforcement division to handle.

“That looks kind of bad, but when I drive around Casa Grande even some of my own stuff that I own probably doesn’t look as good as this, I’ll be quite honest. I think we’re kind of picking here but we need to have some standards. It goes back to a strong management company and I think that’s where we come in.”

Questions to be considered, Herman said are, “Is there ever any opportunity it would ever be sold, like condominiums, or written into the zoning that it would always be rentals. Stuff changes along time.”

Overall, he continued, “I’d really like to learn a little more about it, but the problem is going to be the location. Infill would be great. I know they probably have their sights set on something and we’d have to talk to the neighbors like any other new project we get into Casa Grande to see what the neighbors think about it. That would be my biggest concern, abutting current neighbors.”

Councilwoman Donna McBride said the city does have to looking into the question of zoning for such a project.

“I do agree,” she continued, “that we need to have opportunities for young adults, tell them to stay here. In order for them to stay here and live here and be involved here, they have to have affordable (housing) and people are going away from the apartments.

“I just really think this is a guide here and I think if we do our homework and we strategically place ourselves in a position where we can be supportive and do that, that it’s not just affordable housing  but is something that we can really have people who want to stay here.”

In Councilman Bob Huddleston’s view, “,I really like this it would give the same security level and positive appearance as many of our newer apartment complexes have done.

“I have to believe that they would present a gated community, with is secured, that they would have positive amenities that people would be attracted to.”

Mayor Craig McFarland said, “It’s really a nice product. I know there’s one that’s trying to come here to Casa Grande, as well. It’s nicer than an apartment complex.

“I’d rather have one of these next to my house than an apartment complex with a three-story that’s looking down in the back of my yard. I like the product. 

“I think it’s appropriate, I think it’s needed, because we need housing, 96 percent of all of our apartments are occupied, which means there’s a waiting list, so we need to be creative.”

The idea remains open to discussion. It was on the agenda for the last Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, but that session was cancelled. 

The twisting path to new
Casa Grande property tax rates

Video of the 43-minute discussion is Item K-1 HERE

The presentation charts and explanations are HERE

The staff report is HERE

Property tax alternative one (accepted) is HERE

Property tax alternative two (defeated) is HERE

Casa Grande’s plan to raise the primary property tax and reduce the secondary tax is wrapped up in state regulations, paying down existing debt and finding money for the police and fire retirement funds, estimated at $48.4 million, broken down as $30.7 million for police and $17.7 million for fire.

(NOTE: The retirement funds are operated and managed by the state of Arizona, not Casa Grande, although the city is required to participate. The shortfalls affect most cities in the state.)

After a 43-minute presentation and discussion during the last City Council meeting, the council gave initial approval to option 3 of the four presented (see chart above), which would set the primary rate at $1.0606 per thousand dollars of valuation, up from the current $.9905, while lowering the secondary rate from $.6010 to $.2752.

That brings the total tax rate down to $113.58 on $100,000 valuation versus the present rate of $159.15.

The staff report said city staff “fully supports a maximum levy of $4,389,245, which results in a tax rate of $1.1244, staff’s recommendation tonight is to establish a primary tax levy of $4,140,000, which results in a tax rate of $1.0606.”

The maximum levy would have required a unanimous vote of the council. Option 3 required only a majority vote.

Final approval is expected during the next council meeting.

The finance presentation

Finance Director Celina Morris outlined the major points of discussion to the council.

“There are two main drivers behind the property tax levy that’s being presented,” she said.

The first is that we did have a decrease in the secondary property tax rate and you’ll probably recall that we did that in conjunction with planning for future debt, making sure that our fund balance that we maintain in our debt service fund was within the 10 percent that is regulated by the new state statutes.”

The staff report given to the council says:

“In FY20, the secondary property tax levy must be reduced to comply with new state statutes related to establishing limits on the maximum fund balance in these debt service funds. The anticipated decrease to the secondary tax levy in FY20 would allow the city to levy the maximum primary property tax rate and generate new revenues. 

“Staff is proposing to apply the new revenues to the unfunded liability of the public safety pensions. Both can be achieved while our residents and businesses recognize an overall net decrease in the city’s portion of the property owner’s tax bills. 

“The new revenue generated over the baseline primary property tax income of $3,601,101, which is currently used to provide General Fund services and programs, could be directed toward the unfunded liability (in the retirement plans.)”

The option chosen by the council would bring in $5,214,261, which is $489,235 more than the baseline $3,601,101. The increase would go toward the retirement funds debt.

“The other piece,” Morris continued, “is that because we’re able to decrease our secondary property tax, that does give us the opportunity to have an increase in the primary this year but still afford each resident and commercial business a lower rate overall.”

That, though, will probably change next year.

“This is just a one-year reduction in the secondary property tax rate,” Morris said. “We do anticipate that the secondary rate would got back to planned amount of around 60 cents, which is what we’ve structured most of our debt around.”

The council reactions

Mayor Craig McFarland pointed out that a long haul is ahead to pay down the retirement funds debt.

“If we were to take the increases, like the highest one, it would net $782,000 to put toward retirements. Even if we do that, it’ll take us 62 years to pay off that $48 million. If we took #2 option, that’s $534,00 and then it’ll take us 91 years to pay off the retirements bill.

“It’s gone up. It was $40 million when I started (as mayor) three years ago and now it’s $48 million.”

Councilman Matt Herman pointed out that under state law the city is required to participate in the Arizona Pubic Safety Retirement System. 

“We do not manage it as a city,” he continued. “We are stuck with what we have. It has not been managed the best, as you can see by the debt, and it changes every year. We do prepay each year what we can to help that. 

“The only way that I would support any increases in the taxes is if we put that extra towards that pension system, because we are saddle with that debt, we are obligated to pay it. We’re obligated to our employees, because that’s the deal we made with them. It’s not their fault, it’s not our fault, it’s just the pension system that we’re obligated to pay, so we have to pay it one way or another. The longer we take to pay it, the more that debts going to be by compounding interest.”

Herman noting that the secondary rate decrease is only for one year, asked what would happen to the primary rate when the secondary goes up.

“One thing we’ve always prided ourselves in Casa Grande is it being a dollar on our primary tax rate,” he continued. Next year when that secondary rate is expected to back up, then what does that look like for whoever the council is next year?”

That’s something that is hard to predict, Morris responded.

“I did try to do a scenario analysis on that,” she said. “With the property tax value increasing year over year, and it’s been kind of heading up that 5 percent, there’s a lot of valuation that we can use to offset that to calculate the primary property tax. Being conservative, I was a little bit hesitant to throw any numbers out there, but I think that one of the things that we’ve always tried to focus on is keeping a consistent level of property tax, so I think that we can adjust the primary to account for the increase again in the secondary.

“We are always looking a refunding opportunities to make sure that our debt profile and our debt payments match the rate and the strategy that we have going forward.

“I know that’s a non answer answer, but it is difficult with the property tax rates and then also the new building and the construction. I’m confident about it, I just wasn’t confident enough to give you an estimate.”

City Manager Larry Rains said there has been “a fair amount of discussion about trying to develop a future rate. It’s somewhat difficult because of the ever-changing environment that we’re living in here in Casa Grande with some of the excitement.

“But I will say that what I want the mayor and council to remember is that every year we have the same process that we have to go through, so you’ll be able to evaluate this in a year from now.

“And if I can go back and address one point that Councilman Herman brought up regarding the public safety pensions and the application of any new revenue, you’ll see that the ordinances were crafted that would ultimately designate any new revenue over the $3.601101 million baseline toward the public safety retirement debt.

“So ultimately continuing to find a mechanism for this new revenue to pay toward debt.”

Mayor McFarland pointed out that Casa Grande has the lowest property tax of all Pinal County cities.

Councilman Bob Huddleston said, “I took a long time trying to understand this. There are so many moving parts in this. And I think I have a grasp on it now and I think we’re in a very seemingly unique situation that we’re required to lower that secondary tax and really any of these options that we choose for this year, the homeowner’s tax bill is going to go down, at least as far as for the city of Casa Grande. So I feel very confident in this.

“I’ve looked at these options on here (one through four), I’m reassured in one way, in that we visit this every year, so if we feel like we’ve raised it too much, the rate, we can always correct that next year.

“I respect past councils for trying to keep a lid on the primary rate, but my personal view is that that one-dollar limit is a glass ceiling. I think it sound good, it looks good, but it really doesn’t mean a whole lot. And I think it’s inevitable that this council or the next one at some point is going to have to break that ceiling.

I think this is a good opportunity to do that.

“My personal preference is Option 4,” Huddleston continued. “We’re still keeping the dollar amount at $1.3996 for an owner of a $100,000 home, so they’re not going to see any kind of an increase and we have the opportunity to revisit that next year.

“My one concern is that it does, I believe, I was told, it does require a unanimous decision by the council. I don’t know if we’re there, but if we’re not I’m certainly good with Option 3. I’m comfortable with that and think that’s where we ought to go.”

As Councilman Dick Powell saw it, “It’s a real problem, as Matt said, for every community in Arizona, just about, with public safety and we can’t wait a hundred years to get it paid off.

“If we start seeing more development and more coming in, would that be a time, Larry, that we could put some of that money back toward the debt?”

Rains replied, “We obviously as a city have to develop some type of a longer range plan out of this, as has been pointed out by staff as well as the council this evening.

“This is a one-time option with this particular revenue stream. Under state statute, we are now required to begin to develop a plan to address the public safety pension. We’re in the process of crafting that document that will be coming before council, likely in the next 30 to 60 days.

“It’s going to require us to essentially identify the term in which we’re wanting to address this, either 20 or 30 years. I think everyone understands my preference will likely be a 20. I’m not making that in form of a recommendation this evening.

“Our plan is to ultimately look at other revenue streams, either one-time revenue streams, the potential of any fund balance carryover that could begin to be applied to this.

“As I’ve explained to several of you as you’ve called me and discussed the issue of public safety pensions and the unfunded liability, it’s very difficult to put. It’s somewhat like a mortgage in the fact that we have that debt, but it’s unlike a mortgage in that it’s going to change every year, depending on the participants that we have in our police and fire departments. So it’s going to vary. We’ve seen a bit of a reduction in the Fire Department from the fire pension perspective this year.

“It’s going to be very interesting from my perspective to see if the council is supportive of adopting one of these options that would a generate a revenue that we can apply to this and take those mechanism that we’ve been using the last couple of years that have somewhat preserved the (primary) rate. 

“I think it’s going to be an important year for us as we’re developing that plan and developing some alternatives.

“That was a long way of saying, yes, Mr. Powell.”

Powell responded, “Nirvana is when it’s paid, right?”

Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons said, “Unfortunately, it’s something that we have to tackle. We’ve been just, as you said, Larry, kicking the can down the road and it’s something that we really have to address. It’s not going away.

“When I looked at this, and I’m with you, Councilman Huddleston, it can be overwhelming. We’ve been doing this for years and we go to seminars every year, every year there’s a seminar on this. So many cities are in the same situation, so what are we going to do?

“What makes me feel good about this if we chose to increase it is that we do have a plan of where it’s going to go. We’re not going to just raise it and put it toward whatever. We know we have this unfunded liability and this might be a good time to raise it.

“I’m struggling with going to the maximum levy. I think next year we’re going to really see where the numbers are going to have to really be, but this year I’m a little more comfortable to go with Option 3 just because it would be nice for the homeowners to see a little bit of that benefit, too, a little lower for them, but then we’re going to get some of that increase to go toward something that’s really important.

“But I do think it’s important that this plan that you talked about over the next 20 to 30 years, how else are we going to attack it besides just this.

“And I think it’s going to be important to whatever decision we make is to get some communication out to the city (residents) what it means to them. They’re going to (see) an increase in taxes, the top is the primary tax, but they’re not looking at the whole picture. So it is going to be important how we send this message to the community.”

Councilwoman Mary Kortsen said, Anybody that receives a credit card statement always sees that little thing that’s now mandatory that says if you pay the minimum rate it’s going to take you 50 years to pay off your credit card, if you pay a little more or over and above it’s going to take you a heck of a lot less.

“And that’s how I’m seeing this. I feel like I don’t want to saddle our future generations

“I know exactly what Lisa’s saying and I totally understand it, but I just think that because we can review it again next year that Option 4 gives us that, hopefully that chance just to bring (in) that much more so that we can reduce it.”

Councilwoman Donna McBride said, “Our community outreach and our message and how we do that is going to be very important. Ninety years from now none of us are going to be here, we know that. But we have a responsibility now and if we have the opportunity now to bring that debt down a little bit then I think this is an opportunity for us to do that.

“And options 3 and 4 is not that much different but I think I’m more inclined to go with Option 4 … to bring that debt down.”

Powell said he preferred Option 3.

“Councilman Huddleston you’re absolutely right about that glass ceiling,” he continued. “For years, it was a matter of pride that we kept it (around a dollar) but we’re going to figure it out every year now. Because of some of the debt we have it’s not going to be we set this and we’re going to do it every year. It’s just going to depend on what we can do each year as we look at it.

“And think this year I would favor 3 because I think it also rewards, (homeowners) they’re going to pay less, whatever, but it’s not the highest, we didn’t jump to the very highest one. So that would be my preference.”

Mayor McFarland said, “I believe that we should go to Number 4. To Donna’s point, there’s not that much difference in terms of the rate, but in terms of the difference that we can put toward the PSPRS it’s almost $250,000 more that we can buy down our PSPRS indebtedness.”

Both options 3 and 4 were presented to the council.

In explaining, City Attorney Brett Wallace said, The one thing I will add is that this is a little bit of unique situation. We don’t normally present council with two separate ordinances. We did so because, obviously, we had no way of knowing how council would vote and if the maximum levy of $1.12 ordinance was moved and didn’t receive a unanimous vote I’d be in a position of saying that it did not pass, essentially cutting off our suspenders and we didn’t have a belt. We’d have no property tax ordinance to pass tonight, have to have a special meeting.”

The votes

McFarland called for a vote on Option 4, setting the primary rate at $1.1244.

Voting yes were Huddleston, Kortsen, McBride and McFarland. Against were Fitzgibbons, Herman and Powell.

Because a unanimous vote was required, the motion failed.

McFarland then called for a vote on setting the rate at $1.0606.

The vote was unanimous for initial approval.

Because no recycle contractor is available for picking up, items are being baled and stored at the landfill. (city of Casa Grande photo)

CG's recycling problem

The view from the city manager

(Posted June 6, 2019)

Scroll down for story on main City Council discussion

Final action on suspending Casa Grande’s recycling program July 1 will be part of the new budget be considered during the next City Council meeting, City Manager Larry Rains told the council during Monday night’s study session.

Because the session was for study and discussion only, no council decision was made.

“Currently, there’s not a specific recommendation that mayor and council would like us to the a vote on that,” Rains said.

“Our current proposal within our budget the mayor and council will be taking action on at the next council meeting essentially will implement the recommendation we’ve talked about. And it ties in directly with the decision not to raise the rates in the sanitation fund.”

If the recycling program was continued, it was estimated there would have to be a $2-$3 increase in monthly city garbage collection fees.

Rains said that suspending the program would mean up to a $2 decrease.

“This has been a very difficult topic,” Rains told the council. “Obviously, we’ve been studying it for about a year and a half now and we want to be as environmental friendly as we possibly can.

“I want to make known to those individual citizens that may be watching tonight for the first time and trying to get their head around the dialogue that we’ve been having for months now is that we can continue recycling but it’s going to cost everybody approximately $3 more a month. A $3 increase would, could, in essence, create a program where we were loading a truck and taking it up to Phoenix and paying somebody to process our recyclable goods at about $135 on average per ton versus the cost of us to essentially put it in the landfill at $38. “That’s the economic component of it.”

Rains said that “for years, we’ve really advocated our recycling program because we felt like it was extending the useful life of our landfill, which was going to cost us money to ultimately close it at some point in time. And when we did the analysis — and we did so with the intent to specifically look at our recyclable goods — we were surprised, quite frankly, to find that we would extend the useful life by only three to six months” if present recycled items were then put into regular trash dumpsters to be taken to the landfill.

“If you’re looking at it purely from a financial perspective, you could begin to make some sense as to why this (suspension) is actually being recommended to the mayor and council.”

Rains made other points:

“Number one,” he said, “is that we envision that there would be a rate reduction for all of our residents, all of our customers, effective July 1 when we move out of the recycling, we suspend it.”

Present recycling employees would be moved into other areas of the Public Works Department, he said.

Rains added, “But one other comment that I’ve heard tonight, and I think it’s well noted, that as we move down this path we really begin to not necessarily educate our citizens and our customers on recycling, we need to essentially begin to focus on what ultimately would be a successful program.

“And I know Councilwoman Kortsen is constantly about these plastic water bottles. Every meeting we go to, they’re out there. We need to do a better job of educating, bring a cup. Plastic bags, begin to bring some kind of cloth bag.

“I don’t want to belabor the topics. Councilwoman Fitzgibbons is accurate when she says we need to do a better job of communicating all this to our citizens. We’re hoping that the plan we’ll be putting out is ultimately going to achieve that.

“It’s been something that we’ve considered very seriously from staff perspective, it’s not just something we’ve said we just want to do away with it There are potential alternatives.”

However, Rains continued, “One of the obstacles is the fact that it’s a sizable capital investment, about a million dollars is what we quantified about a year ago to actually go into purchasing the (larger blue bins for automated pickup), other equipment at that point for deploying that kind of alternative.

“Again, all of that, every one of those decisions has some impact on our rate structure and we’ve been essentially trying to manage that rate structure for all of our people.”

Councilman Dick Powell added, “The sad part is, it’s an economic issue. It’s not about recycling, there’s no market. Once China quit taking it there’s really no market and no vendors out there that want to come in and do it, there’s no money in it. And that’s where we sit right now. 

“I think the decision is about the only one we can make.”

Council discussion about recycling

(Posted June 6, 2019)

New York Times story on China refusal to take recycle material

The recycling presentation is HERE

The basics of the discussion are HERE

There has never been much money brought in from Casa Grande’s recycling program.

Now there is nothing and the program will be suspended on July 1, with no firm promise that it will ever come back.

It’s been a long series of frustrations, triggered by China’s refusal beginning Jan. 1, 2018, to take 24 kinds of solid waste, including unsorted paper and the low-grade polyethylene terephthalate used in plastic bottles, as part of a broad cleanup effort and a campaign against “foreign garbage.” China also set new limits on the levels of impurities in other recyclables.

According to a New York Times newspaper story at the time, “China had been processing at least half of the world’s exports of waste paper, metals and used plastic — 7.3 million tons in 2016, according to recent industry data. Last July (2017), China notified the World Trade Organization that it intended to ban some imports of trash, saying the action was needed to protect the environment and improve public health.

“Large amounts of dirty wastes or even hazardous wastes are mixed in the solid waste that can be used as raw materials,” China wrote to the World Trade Organization “This polluted China’s environment seriously.”

“Chinese officials also complained that much of the recyclable material the country received from overseas had not been properly cleaned or was mixed with non-recyclable materials.”

All of that eventually trickled down to Casa Grande.

The city’s recycling contract with a collection firm ended last September, Deputy Public Works Director Terry McKeon told the City Council during Monday night’s study session.

The council was given a memo from Public Works Director Kevin Louis outlining the problems.

“In FY17-18, we were able to negotiate a one-year contract extension for our recyclables, which gave the city $18 per ton for our co-mingled material,” the memo said. “Those materials were collected from curb-side pickup program along with our commercial recycling routes. 

“As part of this contract, the city was allowed the use of the vendor’s equipment to compact the recyclables at no cost, the vendor also covered the transportation costs associated with the material. The contract expired on Sept. 30, 2018.

“In July of 2018 we began requesting quotes for our recycling program informally. At that time we were informed by several vendors that we would now need to pay per ton to dispose our recyclables. Formal requests for proposals were then sent out and United Fibers was the lowest cost submitted to the city of $67 per ton, plus transportation costs associated with the delivery of material. The agreement also contained an extra cost of $50 per ton for any load that is contaminated.

“A vendor was found that would take our bales, this vendor is located in Logan, Utah, and it would cost the city $135 per ton ($60 per ton plus $75 per ton transportation fee) to dispose of the recyclable material. This vendor also has the same fee of $50 extra per ton that is contaminated. 

“At this point we are able to dispose of our material for $38.50 per ton in our landfill. 

“In order to cover this costs, it was reported during a study session with council that we would need to increase fees $2-$3 for all residential customers to cover the additional costs associated with the program. 

“At that point, we had no contract and no clear direction on what we were going to do with our program, at which point we began to bale our recycling materials and store them at the landfill.”

McKeon told the council that, “At that time, we put out a new request for proposals for vendors. We were dreaming, we knew it.”

“When we looked at all those numbers and started doing the cost analyses, particularly with transportation, what we would have to do is either buy an extremely expensive compactor or, most feasible, load a truck and drive it up to the Valley,” McKeon told the council. “None were extremely palatable.”

Materials hauled to the Valley would have to be delivered loose, not baled.

“The current operation puts the material into a machine that compacts it and then bales it, not too much unlike a hay bale,” he continued. “But recyclers don’t want that material, breaking up the bales is very difficult for them to separate items. They have to put it through a process where they can separate that into more valuable commodities or reusable and a significant amount of trash, as well.”

The bales keep stacking up.

“We’re definitely running out of space,” McKeon said.

Suspend program

“Until a sustainable recycling program can be developed and implemented at a reasonable cost, we recommend that July 1 we suspend the current residential recycling program,” McKeon continued.

“Our intent is that before the last pickup we would tape a small flyer to bins when emptied, letting people know this is going to be your last collection date and provide a website link where could have information about the loss and to also include in there here are some other options, here are some other places that might be available for you to take your materials, that sort of thing.

“We haven’t completely finished that list, because quite honestly I want to make sure we have as many local vendors as we can. And we don’t have enough on there, I know there are more out there.

“For commercial vendors it’s a little more difficult to say we’re not picking your stuff up any more. So we want to work with those users to help them transition, to find somebody that might be able to take their recyclable materials. 

“The last part of this will be to continue to evaluate all of our options as these markets evolve.

“The markets are expected to evolve. People are seeing need for it, so private industry through partnerships has started working toward new markets, finding better avenues to connect recycling programs with commodities end users, those sort of things.”

When the program suspends, the Louis memo said, people may keep their blue recycle bins or bring them to a drop off point.

Council reactions

Councilwoman Donna McBride asked what would be included in information for the public.

McKeon responded, “In terms of finding vendors or people who will take materials we intend to have that up and ready and on-line on the website by July 1. I believe there already have been some discussions with some vendors about privatization and I’m sure we will continue to have more of those.

“This is something that is honestly likely to take, I would not even hesitate to say, possibly two years to find an alternative.”

Councilman Dick Powell asked if Public Works would have to break apart the stored bales before they are put into the city landfill.

McKeon answered, “Those would simply go into the landfill, get run over by the compactor a few times.”

When the program is suspended, all previously recyclable items would be put into regular trash bins and then dumped into the city landfill.

That led Powell to ask what that means for the useable life of the landfill.

McKeon responded, “The analysis that was done, I think back in 2018, is it would shorten landfill life maybe six months over the whole lifespan.”

Dumping into the landfill would save money, McKeon said, adding, “Basically, we can landfill the material for $38.50 a ton versus possibly at least $135 if not more” for one outside contract bid.

Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons said, “I don’t know that we’ve done a great job in educating people, I really don’t. I’m really struggling with it, because we over how many years educated our young people and all of us, but I understand. I’ve done some research, there is an issue. I don’t want to be the first to want to get rid of recycle. I do believe we’ve done a lot of research but I’m really hoping that if we decide that we are going to suspend in July, I would really hope that we actively continue to look into our options. I do believe it is important.” 

McKeon responded, “Quite honestly, our intent was to not just bale the stuff and eventually throw it. We had hoped that we would be able to find a vendor who would take it and have some solution long before this point.” 

Fitzgibbons said, “We need to do something about, we need to education the community, we need to change our habits, instead of saying we’re going to get rid of it. What are we going to do to save the entire landfill. I just really struggle, I worry that we’re just taking the easy way out. I know you guys have worked hard to try to come up with a solution but I would really like to see some followup.”

McKeon answered, “We fully intend to follow up on that. Our director, as you know, comes from an area where recycling is a high priority, if anything he’d like a more robust program, but the way that the systems work right now, there’s nothing you can do. 

“At this point, quite honestly, it’s not tenable.

“As technology improves, as education is improved I think that we’re going to have a better shot at seeing a sustainable, valuable program at some point in the future.”

Councilwoman Mary Kortsen asked what it might take to eventually restart recycling in the city.

McKeon answered, “It would depend on what kind of solution we end up with. If it would be a side load type of thing we would have to invest a lot in the new containers, vehicles, say if we did go to the side load program,  used side load vehicles. If we were to just go back to the current blue bins system or multi bins for multi separated materials, perhaps, hat wouldn’t be quite as difficult to roll them out. Well, the separated ones would be, but generally that program would’t be too hard to start back up.”

Councilman Bob Huddleston agreed that it’s a difficult situation.

“Anybody that’s been in school for the last 30 years knows the three R’s of recycle, reuse, repurpose,” he said. “That’s supposed to be our goal and I hope we continue down that path.

“The other thing that I think we need to very much consider is the cost of whatever we end up doing. I don’t know that the recycle program has ever been a break-even project, it’s always been subsidized to some extend to the city. Just to throw it out, I think all options ought to be on the table that we’re looking at.

“Right now, my preferred is going to the side-load privatized, contract that out and let somebody else pick up those recycles and deal with them.

“And the other thing is consideration of once a week pickup. I think that’s more up in the Valley, I don’t know that, but I would absolutely look at that and see what other communities are doing, because that would afford us an opportunity to not only pay to have recycles picked up and taken away but may save us enough money to afford all of that.”

McKeon responded, “We have explored that several times in the time that I’ve been here. You have to have a robust recycling program to be able to support that. That’s why we’ve not yet been able to pull that through. That, again, is still something we would look at and can we work that into the mix. But, again, it comes down to a vendor who is willing to take.”

Huddleston said, “I’m certainly not giving anybody directions. I think those options are out there and I think we ought to look hard at them before we commit to doing something that may cost us a lot of money that we can’t afford. It feels like that right thing to do to recycle. I recycle and I enjoy setting those blue bins out every week, but at what cost?”

Body cams delayed for a year
Changing technology, high storage costs cited

(Posted July 21, 2017)

Scroll down this page for January story about Police Department briefing City Council on the body cams program and how it would work.

You won’t be seeing Casa Grande police officers wearing video body cameras for at least a year.

The delay is a situation of rapidly changing technology and hefty storage prices set by suppliers, the City Council was told during Monday’s night review of the city budget for this fiscal year.

“We would need 60 of those cameras and we would want to deploy those at one time rather than trying to do a phased system, which is what we had talked to council about prior,” City Manager Larry Rains told the council.

“Just to give everybody a context of what that would cost, or the approximate cost, to the city to deploy those cameras would be roughly $383,000 to $425,000 a year.

“What I want to make clear is it’s not the technology that you’re paying for today, it’s not the cameras our officers would be wearing.

“It’s actually the cost for data storage and a variety of other costs associated with the technology component of the network and whatnot to be able to put into the data storage.

“While economics drove some component of the decision to not fund it this particular year, what ultimately was driving, the primary driver, is the fact that we’re finding that the technology continues to change — it’s pretty new — and we’re finding that there appears to be more vendors in the market and appears to be more and better technology that is coming on the horizon.”

As an example, Rains said the Police Department did a test program of cameras “and within a short period of nine months, that camera wasn’t even available, they’re going to another one. And ultimately, the price continued to be reduced, practically down to zero today”

Lower camera prices doesn’t always mean a savings, Rains added.

“When we first started the quotes, for lack of a better word, it was we’ll sell you a camera for $600 and that’ll cover storage and within a short amount of time it went went the cameras are free and we’re going to charge you for storage.

“What we’re finding in the market today is that the companies that are in the business are ultimately buying very cheap storage space out on the market and then they’re tripling their fees as part of these packages.”

The data and storage cost estimate is about $400,000, Rains said.

Added personnel

“Included in that are the costs of personnel,” he continued. “We had anticipated that we would need at least one, at a minimum, new personnel to be working in the attorney’s office. And, quite frankly, we envisioned that as we did our five-year model we would need someone in the Police Department to deal with the number of public records requests and that amount of work that gets done before any of that video could ever be released.”

Councilman Matt Herman said that during an earlier discussion he was told that it was estimated that it would take 10 hours of staff time to prepare each hour of video that was requested.

That is mostly that because of privacy issues, some sections would have to be removed, faces of bystanders not involved in the incident would have to be blurred, their names removed, along with other sensitive information.

Rains said that Deputy City Manager Steven Weaver has done research nationally, finding that other police departments are spending about 10 hours on each hour of video.

“The second component,” Rains continued, “is there appear to nationwide be a debate, from a legislative perspective, about whether or not these videos would be subject to public records requests, the length of time the cities would have to store that, and in Arizona I think we’re just now starting to get familiar with that …”

Thus, it was a combination of reasons for deferring the cameras for a year, Rains said, adding that, “But what I want to make the council fully aware of is that this is something that is not going to be put on the back burner, we’re going to continue to evaluate it, we’re going to continue to look for the changes in the technology that would best suit our department here in Casa Grande, we’re going to look at costs, we’re going to look at a variety of things and it will definitely be a topic that we have as we move into next budget year.

“And I think it’s important to note one additional component — and certainly just my perspective, everyone likely has their own — at least from my chair it appears that our relationship with our community, between the Police Department and the community, appears to be fairly strong at this point. Internally it feels like it’s very strong, as well.

“I’ve talked to Chief (Mark) McCrory about this, he obviously has protocols within the department and a fair amount of practices to look into citizens’ complaints and the like. Regardless of whether we have body cameras or not, we stand ready to be fully transparent in that operation for that department.”

Council reactions

Councilman Ralph Varela said there are two important items to the discussion.

“One is the relationship of the Police Department to the community and the relationship of the community to the city and it’s council, so I think you’re absolutely right.

“I think the other point that’s really important is the internal integrity of the Police Department and how it’s assessed by the community itself. I think in regards to that, we’re in very good standing.”

Varela said one thing about deferring the cameras for a year is that by that time they may not be a priority.

“Maybe it’s more important in relationship to drug-related crimes or domestic violence crimes,” he continued. 

“Then I think we can step back and say where would we want to put $450,000 if we’re going to invest in one or the other. But we’ve got a year to kind of mull that one over, as well.”

Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons said it was initially “very concerning” to her when she learned that the cameras would be deferred, given that other police departments are using them.

“I had discussions with the chief and, again, I was very concerned about why we weren’t going to do it,” she continued.

“But it did ease my mind a little bit and I get that our community, we don’t have these problems, but all it takes is one incident, one incident that we don’t have, but then he explained to me that in that one incident the camera might not be on where it needs to be, so I get all that. I get that if we had unlimited funds and we were able to fund it, absolutely we would.

“I’m comfortable holding out a year but I really do want to keep it on as a priority and because we’ve had discussions on communities that are going away from it, I really would, chief, like for you to do a little research on that and provide me that information on the communities that are going away from it and why they’re going away, because I know that has come up in discussions.

“I really do hope we keep this on the top of the priority list moving forward.”

Rains responded that, “I’m certainly not advocating that it isn’t important for us to continue to study. We certainly want to make sure that we’re providing the mayor and council with accurate information and will assure every one of you it will continue to stay on the front burner and that ultimately if we find the resources, sometimes there’s grants that will assist us in making that transition. I think it’s something that no one’s opposed to from a staff perspective. It just seems to be a bit of a changing environment today.”

Councilman Dick Powell said that when camera discussions started, he felt it was something that the city really wanted to do.

“And I was really enlightened when the chief said. OK, there’s two sides to this. There’s the expense and trying to find things that go way back and someone pull them out and make them available and who gets them and how much does it cost and what do they have to go through to get them, and also the angle of camera, because if you’re looking the wrong way it can also skew a picture, it can make someone look guilty although they’re not, the perspective of the camera might put someone close or whatever.

“So, I’m glad that we’re going to have a least this year to try to learn more about them and learn more about the expense of trying to manage them.”

S&P 500 company coming to city
Average of salaries listed at $45,455

(Posted May 5, 2017)

The staff report is HERE

The development agreement is HERE

The LKQ website is HERE

The City Council has approved a development agreement that will bring a S&P 500 company to the city’s west side industrial area.

The agreement, approved Monday night, calls for Nelson Commercial Properties to acquire 140 acres at the northwest corner of Thornton and Peters roads (across from the Walmart Distribution Center) for LKQ Corp., described in the staff report as “a leading provider of alternative and specialty parts to repair and accessorize automobiles and other vehicles. They are the leading distributor and marketer of specialty aftermarket equipment, accessories, mechanical and collision alternative parts. 

“LKQ was initially formed in 1998 through the combination of a number of wholesale recycled products businesses located in Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. They subsequently expanded through internal development and over 220 acquisitions of aftermarket, recycled, refurbished, and remanufactured product suppliers and manufacturers; self service retail businesses; and specialty vehicle aftermarket equipment and accessories suppliers. 

“They have now selected Casa Grande as one of their key southwestern locations.”

City Manager Larry Rains told the council that, “What they do is they’ll bring in these vehicles into this warehouse, they’ll strip them down and ultimately reuse, as I understand, practically every part of the vehicle. That’s becoming a very common practice.”

The LKQ website describes company operations as providing an extensive selection of high-quality replacement parts for just about any vehicle, including:

• Recycled original equipment auto and truck parts.

• New Keystone Automotive aftermarket and specialty parts.

• Reconditioned OE replacement parts.

• Remanufactured engines and transmissions.

• Rebuilt OE replacement parts.

• Heavy truck and equipment parts and used trucks.

• Paint and body shop supplies and equipment.

• Salvage vehicle disposal, national part purchase programs and insurer services. 

• Bulk sales.

• Nationwide network that offers any type of replacement part for any vehicle.

According to the report, Nelson will construct a 100,000-square foot-building, with an approximate capital investment of $25 million, for LKQ, which will “hire about 55 full­time employees at start­up with an average wage of at least $45,455 each, with the intent to expand to 80 full time employees with estimated annual wages of nearly $3.6 million.”

It was pointed out during the council discussion that the $45,455 figure is an average of all salaries to be paid, not individual compensation.

The report says Nelson will start construction within a year of closing the land deal, “however, they are estimating a completion date on Sept. 1, 2018.”

Rains said, “So, it’s a really good economic development project coming to Casa Grande.”

The development agreement also requires Nelson to construct, at its own expense, the offsite improvements necessary to serve the development, with the exception of the future expansion of Thornton and Peters roads.

“Really, that goes along with what we’ve been talking about from a city perspective in this industrial corridor, is that it’s somewhat difficult to really plan for the expansion of Thornton Road. It’s obviously been something that we have talked about as a city for our future infrastructure. 

“So ultimately what you find in the development agreements that we’ve negotiated in the past, as well as the ones that we are in negotiation now, it becomes, in my mind, more practical for the city ultimately to construct these roadway improvements in this corridor.”

It was also pointed out that in the future, part of the San Carlos Irrigation and Drainage District canal in the area might be relocated or abandoned.

“We do have a provision in the agreement that Nelson Corp. has agreed to set aside $200,000 for the relocation of the SCIID canal should it need to transpire as part of the expansion of Thornton Road,” Rains said.

“Staff’s perspective is that we’d like to get that Thornton canal abandoned. It serves just a handful of users. That would be our primary objective.

“We continue to work with the irrigation district, but we do not have a formal update to give at this point in time.”

Mayor Craig McFarland said, “Hopefully, we can get it abandoned, because that’ll actually improve that entire Thornton corridor, not just LKQ’s property.”

Approval of the agreement was unanimous, with Councilman Dick Powell on excused absence.

Major change in PhoenixMart sewer agreement

(Posted May 4, 2017)

The complete staff report is HERE

The complete new agreement is HERE

You can watch video of the complete discussion by clicking on Item 13 at

In the ever-changing world of the PhoenixMart project, the City Council has given initial approval to a new agreement on who will construct a major sewer line to the east side and the project itself.

Final approval is expected during the next council meeting.

The original agreement from 2014 called for the city to build the entire line, with PhoenixMart paying a share.

Under the new agreement, the city will build the line to just east of Interstate 10, boring under the highway, and PhoenixMart’s parent company, AZ Sourcing, will construct the remaining line to its site north of Florence Boulevard between Overfield and Toltec Buttes roads

The original estimate was that it would cost the city $10 million for the complete line, with PhoenixMart paying $4.8 million as its share. The new estimate is $2.5 million for the city’s share to just east of I-10, with PhoenixMart picking up the rest. The city’s share will be paid from development impact fees and construction sales tax funds.

The line will still be upsized to allow for capacity for future other development on the east side. The initial part of the line will be 36 inches, narrowing to 21 inches at PhoenixMart.

There has been concern about PhoenixMart’s ability to pay for its share, given the slowness of the project and other problems.

The new agreement calls for PhoenixMart to post financial assurances that the city could take to complete the line if PhoenixMart backs out or fails.

During Monday night’s council meeting, City Manager Larry Rains outlined the new agreement and some background.

“As the community knows,” he said, “the city has been working very diligently with AZ Sourcing for several years, 2014, on actually siting an alignment of a sewer line to the east side that would not only serve AZ Sourcing and PhoenixMart development but also be a primary sewer main for the east side for future development.

“Since 2014 when we entered into a mutual agreement, AZ Sourcing has worked diligently to actually procure engineers that would engineer the segments. We’ve worked very closely with them and both of the engineering firms that we’ve worked with have finalized their design for the sewer line.

“Some months ago, we were approached by the representatives of that organization (AZ Sourcing), asking the city if we would be interested in making some modifications, potentially an amendment to the agreement we entered into in 2014.

“Ultimately, as we began the discussions we found that it would be just probably more practical, given some of the changes that would come before the council in a new agreement.”

Under the 2014 agreement, Rains continued, the city would have built the entire line after AZ Sourcing had paid the design costs.

“We had estimated the project cost to be roughly $10 million,” he said. “AZ Sourcing was going to be responsible for roughly $4.8 million of that $10 million line in three incremental payments of $1.6 million that would be paid under a phasing plan as the growth of their development occurred.”

The new agreement has the line following the same alignment, Rains said, “a 36-inch that starts where our current line terminates on Kortsen, it runs under the interstate and then ultimately will move along Kleck Road, which is is also Kortsen, down Hacienda and then east to the PhoenixMart site. “Then as we get closer to the site it actually goes from a 36 to a 30 to a 27 to a 21-inch line.

“Again, it is engineered sufficient to provide sufficient capacity for the east side.

“When we began to have communications with the AZ Sourcing team, our intent from a city staff perspective to was always ensure that we would continue to build a line that would meet the growth of the region and not just for the PhoenixMart project itself.

“We also were very concerned with the workmanship. We wanted to ensure that it would meet the standards that we had designed the plans to.

“And so ultimately as we began to discuss the incremental upsizing of the lines, we found that was going to become more practical and probably a lot more easy to account for and to administer if we simply took on that first segment of line which, in fact, was designed separately in concert with the potential traffic interchange (at I-10) improvements on Kortsen itself.

“That particular segment of line has been designed by a different engineering firm. There’s a distinct start and stopping point, but obviously a key component to the AZ Sourcing team continuing from that point to there.”

Other provisions

“We would be waiving the plan review fees and the costs associated with permitting,” Rains said. “Again, that was a cost that we would have borne if we would have actually constructed the line ourselves, and so ultimately we’ve elected to waive that cost, primarily given the fact that they have been gracious enough to pay for the engineering.

“We have also asked them to install what we would consider to be a higher quality of sewer manhole in this line. We refer to it as a polymer sewer manhole. We are anxious to test these particular manholes against some of the byproducts of our wastewater stream. 

“We would ultimately credit the development impact fees that they would be responsible for by that same amount. 

“Keep in mind, that is not an offset, at least for the city. We’ll be having to come up with funds from another fund to reimburse our development impact fee funds, but ultimately a reduction to them because of the incremental upsize and to the standard we’re asking for.”

Outside help

“They’ve also agreed to hire a consultant that we agreed to, as well, which is Sunrise Engineering, to do what I would consider to maintain the quality of work to ensure the workmanship that is transpiring throughout this entire line,” Rains said.

“So ultimately what this means for us … is that we would bring back through our construction manager at risk procurement process we’d be bringing back a guaranteed maximum price to the mayor and council in the next couple of weeks.

“We believe that that GMP, along with the other costs, is approximately $2.5 million. So we move from a $10-million outlay to a $2.5-million outlay under this particular agreement.”

Property owners

“We’re also working with the various property owners on the alignment,” Rains said. “They’ve agreed to dedicate the right of way in order to have stubs from the sewer line and water line perceptive. There’s been some provisions that have been included in this agreement to ensure that that would happen, but from a stub perspective for the property owners as well as for financial assurances. Should they (AZ Sourcing) not be able to complete their projects we can ultimately pull the financial assurances and ensure that the sewer line, and potentially, the water line would be completed.

“We envision that we will be starting the process on the dedication and the right of way necessary for this project in the next couple of weeks, as well.”

Questions from the City Council

Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons asked for more details about the financial assurances from AZ Sourcing.

Rains responded that, “Ultimately, there will be a cost estimate that will be done by an engineer for AZ Sourcing and they’ll meet with our technical team to evaluate whether or not our technical team agrees or disagrees with that.

“Essentially, what will transpire is that once the cost for their segment of line has been agreed upon they will have to post a financial assurance acceptable  to the city. It’s very similar to any other development that takes place in the city.

“We haven’t come to what I would consider to be complete terms about the mechanisms behind that or what mechanism they’re going to use in their financial assurances but ultimately the money would be secure so that if AZ Sourcing could not complete their component of the line, we ultimately would be able to pull that financial assurance and ensure that the line was built.”

During the City Council discussion when the original agreement was approved in 2014, questions arose about AZ Sourcing wanting to use a land deed as security rather than post monetary assurances.

"Specifically, AZ Sourcing had requested that the city consider accepting a deed trust on property," City Attorney Wallace told the council during that meeting. "That is obviously something that city has generally not done, for a number of reasons.

"We were able to share those myriad reasons with AZ Sourcing and fortunately they have now agreed to withdraw their request to use a deed of trust. They have agreed to post a surety bond, irrevocable letter of credit, cash deposit or cash equivalent as security.

"There's also language in the agreement that would allow them to do other similar means, but our intent in doing that is that they be similar to those cash items. They need to be a substantial equivalent of the cash-based securities.

"The agreement I think made clear that land would not be acceptable as security …”

Councilman Matt Herman reminded that the project is actually multipurpose.

“It’s really to open up development on the east side, not specifically for one project,” he said.

“We’ve been talking about this for a long time. I’m glad to see it’s finally done. It really gives me a lot of confidence. Number one, that the engineer to our liking, to their liking, will make sure that it is done right, and also now we’re outlaying $2.5 million as opposed to $10 million as a city, so that really helps a lot.

“Good job. I’m really happy with how it came out.”

Initial approval of the revised agreement was unanimous, with Councilman Dick Powell on excused absence.

Final approval for CG Commons site changes

(Posted Feb. 6, 2017)

First, contrary to postings and speculation on social media, it doesn’t affect the present Promenade shopping mall.

Second, it’s far, far in the future — hinging on future growth and the proposed Kortsen Road interchange, which the city does not have the money to build — and could be changed again.

It’s the request to change land uses in what is now known as Casa Grande Commons, the acreage running north from the mall.

And it’s a request that brought some sparring on the City Council when it was first discussed on Jan. 17.

Final approval for the changes was given Monday night by the City Council.

As Planning and Development Director Paul Tice told the council during first consideration, “Another way to think about it is essentially a zone change request.

“It originally was part of the Casa Grande Regional Shopping Center planned area development where our mall has been built. The vacant property has been purchased by the Walton Group and it’s being rebranded as a new PAD known as the Casa Grande Commons PAD.”

Tice said a General Plan amendment a year and a half to two years ago took much of the property out of the residential land use category, changing to commerce and business.

The latest change, he said, shows four areas of Casa Grande Commons, three of which are commercial and one residential, broken down as 414 acres of regional business and 50 acres of residential.

(The areas are shown in the PAD guide, link above.)

Building height

What caught the attention of Councilman Dick Powell was building heights and separations from the residential area.

In general, Tice said, commercial buildings are limited to 45 feet high, with a 30-foot limit in transitional commercial, such as the small piece in the lower right of the above land map.

But, there is a proposed exemption in both areas to allow 100 feet for hospitals, office campuses and hotels. 

complimentary commercial areas the max building height there is 45 feet.

“As we looked at that, staff became a little concerned about 100-foot building heights close to the boundary of this PAD, especially where it might abut an existing or future residential area,” Tice told the council. “We thought putting 100-foot-tall buildings, basically 20, 25 feet from the boundary, from the perimeter, was going to be too close in those areas and we needed to push those buildings further back to achieve land use compatibility.

“We developed a compatibility standard — which the applicant has agreed to — which is that all buildings within 200 feet of any part of the boundary that is adjacent to residential, future or existing, would be limited to 30-foot height. So, these 100-foot buildings would have to be 200 feet back from the boundary in those cases.

“The other compatibility standard was to introduce what we call a landscape buffer at those same locations. The buffer was a 30-foot landscape buffer and in that buffer the trees would have to be increased from our normal size of 24-inch box to 36-inch and half of them would have to be evergreen so we have a year-round screen and spaced at a maximum of 30 feet apart.”

The developer had asked for exceptions for multifamily buildings such as apartments next to single-family homes.

“What they’ve asked is that they be allowed to have multifamily structures adjacent to single-family up to 50 feet tall as long as they provide a 75-foot setback from the single-family site and they provide a landscape buffer that is 25 feet wide and the minimum number of trees at one per 30 feet, 50 percent of which shall be evergreen.

“In the PAD, that eastern boundary is adjacent to Hacienda Road. Hacienda will have 110-foot right of way, so the single family in this case is going to be on the east side of Hacienda. So, you would have the intervening street of 110 feet, an additional 75-foot setback and in that 75 foot a 25-foot landscape setback with the wall and the trees, so actually you’re going to get more than 75, a lot further than 75 feet from the back yards of those singe-family homes.

“On the south area there’s planned to be a collector street that would have a 60-feet right of way. And again, any single-family homes built to the south of here will have the intervening street, then the 25-foot landscape and then a building setback of 75 feet.

“Really, the only location in this PAD that multifamily can be built is around along the eastern border of that yellow area, and that’s because the General Plan requires that multifamily housing have primary direct access onto an arterial or collector street. 

“For this reason, staff believes that it would be appropriate to grant the exception. We think that actually with the exception, which requires the increased building setback, the landscape buffer, we’ll get a better outcome than our current code which allows two-story buildings can be put 20 feet away from the property without the landscape setback.”

Tice said a close example is Tierra Pointe, adding that, “The buildings are 43 feet tall, not 50, and you can see how that is adjacent to McCartney Center of single-family, increased building setback and the landscape buffer, as well, from that single-family home.”

Powell objections

Councilman Powell said, “It seems like we’ve changed our standards pretty much by letting other places use it and have it in other PADs and plans. And the two-story for apartment can be done pretty much, if you want to do it now in Casa Grande.”

That’s not the case, Tice responded.

“We haven’t changed things across the board,,” he said, “but the code does allow for council to consider and grant exceptions if you think they are appropriate. So, any exception that’s granted, it’s only granted through council action by request.”

It’s probably too early to be making such decisions, Powell said.

“This is going to be a project that’s five, six years, at least, down the road,” he continued. “Before you get onto Kortsen Road you have to have an interchange, you have to know who’s putting up the money to build the interchange.

“When you give people approval ahead of time, you really don’t know, a future council you kind of tie their hands. I would rather see us go three story, which is a story more than we normally grant, and at the time they’re ready they can come back to council if they can make a case to get the 50 foot.

“I don’t see why anybody that wants to do it now can’t come in and say we want to build all the apartments 50 feet tall, because you’ve let some others do it and if they’ve done it, everybody should be able to do it.

“The thing about a 50-foot apartment that makes it a little bit different than a hospital or something else, this is where people live and have all their belongings. They’ve got kids, everybody’s in there. In a hotel, people check in, it’s pretty empty during the daytime, they sleep overnight, they leave in the morning.”

Fire safety is also an issue, Powell said.

“When you talk about a 50-foot height and try to fight a fire on that tall of an apartment building there’s some real danger. I talked to our fire chief today about what could happen.

“One of the things that’s interesting is a 50-foot ladder won’t reach the top of a 50-foot building because you have to have the lean effect to get up it. If those started to catch on fire or whatever, it would be problematic to guarantee the safety of the citizens.”

Tice pointed out that major water lines have to be extended to the proposed PhoenixMart to the east, coming through the Kortsen corridor and providing enough water for firefighting in the Casa Grande Commons area.

Fire Chief Scott Miller said, “Sprinkler systems will be built into the system, so you’re going to have it where if something did happen — and not saying it’s catastrophic — such as a room content fire, one or two heads usually will control it and put it out unless there was some catastrophic failure of that. So I don’t see a concern with that.

“Regarding 10 stories, we have the two ladder trucks. One’s a hundred foot, one’s a hundred and 14 feet. If you average 10 feet per floor, I would say you could get up to about a eight-story to be able to get to a window. It just depends on the setback, as Councilman Powell has alluded to, because that does lower reach. And that’s where the fire marshal comes in and looks at roadway access around the building, so we always have some kind of an access.

“As far as the sprinkler system in there, that’s the best protection and we’d be going up and inside and hooking up to the standpipes in the stairwells and then extending on in from there, so it’s designed with those safety features in mind.”

Other council views

Councilman Ralph Varela asked if coming back later for changes could cause obstacles for the developer.

Tice responded that, “What would have to happen with that procedure is they would have to come through with another amendment to request for the PAD to amend that, create the new standard. So, it would be the process just like we’re going through now.”

Mayor Craig McFarland asked if that would cost a lot of money.

Tice answered, “It would cost. I think the short answer is, yes, it would be in the neighborhood of processing fees of over $2,000 plus whatever legal fees or consulting fee they would be paid.”

Powell said, “But they probably wouldn’t have any money in construction at the point they ask for that so they could built at 50 feet.”

That is correct, Tice said.

Councilwoman Mary Kortsen wanted to know if fire safety would be considered before anything is built. 

“We would never, would we, build something that is not fire safe, we wouldn’t allow it?” she asked.

Tice answered that, “No, we would not build it if it was unsafe. There are a couple of opportunities in the process for review of fire safety. One is at the site plan level, where we just start putting our paper together, citing the building, the parking, the access ways. And the fire marshal’s in that review process to make sure that there’s adequate provision for fire access. And at the building permit stage, the building stage, all of these would be sprinkled buildings, and there’s an additional review for fire apparatus access. So, yes, there is opportunity for fire review at different points in the review process.”

If problems are found, the developer would have to alter plans.

Powell was still not happy.

“I’m disappointed, I guess, to see us make deals with almost every developer that comes along, special accommodations,” he said. “Basically what it does, it waters down the effectiveness of our code. And when we make an exception, I can guarantee you that people if they put in apartments they’re going to want it to be 50 foot.

“This is going to be a really busy road on Kortsen. They said it was designed to be on the section lines where it would be the busiest on the arterial roads, but you can’t keep people and commercial away from a busy highway and that’s going to be an extremely busy road.

“We don’t know yet when it will happen. It’s going to be well into our future unless something pops and somebody comes up and says we’ll pay for that interchange.

“I just hate to set a precedent right now with this sitting council, because we don’t know what it looks like in five or six years when this thing may be ready to be built. Maybe it’s a good idea, maybe it’s not a good idea. I’d rather set it at three stories and then let them come back. You can always come back and ask for a plan exception, it’s done all the time, if you have a good reason for it.

“I’m not going to commit civil war or anything about this, but I’m disappointed to see us not enforcing the rules that we have and making, in my mind, too many exceptions to the bigger developers and some of the small people that need something are not necessarily going to get it. It’s usually somebody that’s got a big development going. That does trouble me, but whatever the council’s pleasure is I’ll accept.”

That riled Councilwoman Kortsen.

“Personally, as each of these were brought up over the nine and a half, 10 years I’ve been doing this (on council) I can’t recall a time, truly, where I have voted one way or the other based on the need of a person that was on the proposal. If it’s small proposal, if it’s another proposal.

“I don’t care for the inference that I have participated in the idea that the developers come to town and we give them what they want. I can’t recall a time since I’ve been on council that we haven’t actively discussed, had different opinions. There’s been times where I thought of one thing and I thought, wow, that’s good point to whatever someone said.

“And so I just want that to be said, that as we’re looking at this piece, this piece is a future part. I believe that as we do each one, we considered each one, there’s been  discussion on buffers, on fire prevention, and that sort of thing and there there’s been consideration It isn’t as if we sat down and we rolled over on it.”

Powell answered, “Mary, I’m not talking about what you vote on, what I’m talking about it what has been presented to council. If you have somebody that wants to build a five-story hotel in other places, we haven’t seen that kind of thing come from the small people. It’s almost always the big one.

“If you go back and look, almost invariably, and a lot of times they deserve it. They’re putting in a lot of infrastructure, they have some innovation that makes things different that we will change for if it is an improvement or something that embellishes the result we’re going to get.

“But it’s not always the case and it’s always basically the bigger ones that that happens with.”

Kortsen responded, “I’m not going to get into that argument.”

Councilwoman Lisa Fitzgibbons said, “I’m not looking at it on who is bringing it, either.

“I understand your point, Dick, and I think over the years I’ve been on council we’re all pretty conservative on making sure that we’re setting a precedent. And I get that.

“We have so many exciting things going on in this community and I think when you look at the future these people aren’t buying homes, they’re buying apartments because it more affordable, it’s convenient.

“So I get your point but we have the flexibility here. They’re not guaranteeing they’re building a five-story building, but at least we have the flexibility to be progressive and competitive with cities that we compete with, Phoenix, Tucson, whatever. 

“I get your point, I do respect that, Dick, but I’m looking at the future and I think this is something we could use here.”

The vote that night for initial approval was unanimous, with Powell adding an explanation of his yes vote.

“I have a competent that I don’t like,” he said, “but I’m not going to vote against the plan, it’s good plan overall.”

Monday night’s final approval was under the consent agenda, with no discussion.

Police body, dash cams projects moving ahead

(Posted Jan. 17,  2017)

The presentation PowerPoint is HERE

You'll find video of the study session at

Scroll to next story for the report on the initial body cams presentation in January 2016

It’s been a year since the Casa Grande Police Department held a study session with the City Council to outline progress on equipping officers with body cameras and updated dash cams.

Much has changed since then, the council was told during an  update study session this Jan. 3.

The equipment is better, a cheaper way has been found and the department wants to equip all officers at once rather than the piecemeal initial idea.

No date for implementation has yet been given, working out further details.

“Each body camera costs $399 and then the data plan,” Lt. Frank Alanis, commander of the Special Operations Division and lead officer on the project, said. “The data storage is unlimited for $79 per officer per month.

“You can compare it to a cell phone. Going into the product, you have to buy the cameras, but once you get that it’s just dealing with subscriptions.

“One of the things, by waiting it’s actually worked to our advantage because when we first started this process it was 100 gigabytes per officer, now it’s $79 per officer per month but we have unlimited data, so they can capture as much video as they want. That’s a set price and it’s the same thing with the dash cams.

The first-year cost would be $66,240 for 60 body cams, 10 docking stations, a five-year warranty and the storage fee. Each year thereafter would be a total of $59,040 for the storage and warranty.

When cables and other equipment is installed at the Police Department, implementation will be in four phases, each about a week long, Alanis said. 

“The first group of people we want to get outfitted would be the day shift and the traffic unit,” he continued. “The second group would be the swing shift and the grave squads, the third group would be day relief and grave relief and our final group would be the Community Response Team and K-9s.”

Overall, 58 cameras will be needed for officers, and another two being kept in reserve in case of problems with other cameras.

At the end of shift, the body cameras would be placed in a docking station which transmits the camera contents to electronic storage.

Councilman Dick Powell asked how long it would take to retrieve any information.

Alanis responded, “I found it very simple, and I’m not a computer guy by any means. The video is right there As soon as it’s tagged, you can just go in and do search by officer, search by incident and it’ll come right up. They do have longterm storage for videos that have been in 20 years. That’s going to take a little longer. But anything we’ve sent within the last year you’re looking at minutes, that fast.”

Councilwoman Donna McBride asked if any officers are now using body cams they have purchased on their own.

Police Chief Mark McCrory responded, “We did. We found out about it and we’ve issued a general order for them to stop, for the simple purpose is that creates a lot more hassle and a lot more legal problems than it does help anybody.

“Right now, as we sit here today, there should not be one man or woman on our Police Department wearing their own camera.”

Dash cams

A story in the Casa Grande Dispatch newspaper said that each dash cam would cost $4,500 and that the department needed to ask the council for the money.

That is not the case.

“Currently we will have 16 new Tahoes that do not have (updated) dash cams in them,” McCrory told the council. We did not (originally) when we came to council ask for the dash cams because they were about $5,000 to $6,000 per dash cam and at the time our own internal feeling was we would be body-worn cameras first and then we’d come along with the dash cams. That got slowed up a little bit through no fault of anybody. 

“Frank has talked to Taser and their dash cams are $500 apiece. That saves $4,500 right off the top per vehicle and they integrate better with where we want to be in the future. We have that money available right now in line items, so when that product comes out (the target date is March) we’re planning on getting the 16 vehicles that we have outfitted with the Taser dash cam.”

Councilman Dick Powell asked if the dash cams would go on automatically when a body cam is being used.

McCrory replied, “We’re looking to go toward the Taser dash cam and the body-worn camera, they will sync.”

When on?

The leading question about use of body cams is, when will they be turned on?

“Basically, it comes under the discretion of the officer,” Lt. Frank Alanis, commander of the Special Operations Division and the lead person on the project, said. “If they feel they need to turn it on, they will turn it on.”

However, there will be some rules, McCrory told the council.

“We have developed a draft policy for our agency should we go to the Body One camera,” he continued. “What we have done collectively as command staff is set down and reviewed some policies of agencies that have existing policies on Body One cameras and taken out some items from those that … we’ve mixed and matched to cover our needs here and lay out the criteria for how those body-worn cameras will be used, when it must be used, who has access to it.

“And we feel like we have a pretty strong draft policy for this right now that would enable us, if this project is approved, eventually to move into a deployment stage with the idea that our body-worn camera policy as we have it written we think is very solid, but it would be a fluid policy because it will be something that when this implemented that we will see it needs tweaked or needs changed.

“The initial body-worn camera policy probably realistically, I guess, would look differently after a year because we would find some things that needed tweaked to better fit our department and to cover areas that maybe we have missed.”

Who sees the camera videos?

Councilman Ralph Varela said, “On the policy part, I think a lot of issues come up in terms of the release of information that comes from an incident. Will that be part of the policy in terms of who that information is released to? Is it public domain, is it investigative (individuals) only? How is that going to happen?”

McCrory responded, “It’s not really the who, but it’s the how.

“We’ve talked with (City Attorney Brett Wallace) on open records requests and there’s things that he will be required to do through release to the defense counsels and things like that. He’s provided us with a lot of insight as to some of those questions that maybe we wouldn’t have really thought of on our side of the justice system that he brought up as to what needs released, when he has no choice to release it, how we’re going to handle open records requests, how we’re going to do redaction of certain things in those requests, because obviously we just can’t take the footage and just hand it out as is because we could have juveniles in it, we have people giving Social Security numbers, things along that line.

“There may be a need … of possibly an additional position, and most likely in the City Attorney’s Office, at some point to handle open records requests, redaction, preparing cases for prosecution and providing items for the defense. We’ve discussed initially for us having temporary help at the Police Department for open records requests that we can handle to alleviate some of the issues off of Brett.

“And, again, this is all guesswork on this part. We don’t know what to anticipate as far as requests. We do anticipate initially there’s going to be a lot of interest in this and people are just going to be hitting us with open records requests just to see what’s going on. We also anticipate that there’s going to be some, maybe, news media sources that will be looking for this as a way to generate stories or think they’ll maybe uncover something or just to see what we’re doing on a day-to-day basis.”

City Attorney Wallace added, “Especially when you first implement the cameras you can anticipate a lot of people just wanting to see the information. And the jurisdictions I’ve talked to, they’ve seen that, people who will mass request, if they’re going to go to trial they’ll mass request videos from the officer that’s going to be there just to fish and see if there’s anything in there.

“And then the upticks you see is if you have a critical incident, if you have an incident of newsworthy coverage,  you will see people making requests for that, as well.

“So we do anticipate at least initially to have more public records requests, but that would go down sometime after that.

“From the prosecution standpoint there’s going to be a lot more evidence available to us. It’s going to be a very useful tool for us. From a prosecution standpoint it’s going to help us dispense justice in a better way overall because we’re going to be able to see a lot of things.

“Some of these jurisdictions have seen slight increases in the number of pleas taken, slight increases in the number of charges that the prosecutors were able to sustain.

“But with that comes, obviously, a substantial amount of time watching the videos and reviewing the footage, because for every hour they take tape if it’s our case we’re watching an hour of it, as well.”

Varela told the chief, “ I think part of the national discussion is some police departments have been more accommodating in releasing information as opposed to others that others that withheld it for a year and that created a lot of community dissension, so I’m sure that that’s part of the policy process that you’ll be going through.”

Yes, the chief replied.

Powell said, “I would think this (cameras) would really be beneficial to the Police Department. When you have two parties that realize they’re being videoed, they’ll probably be more civil than they might be if they didn’t realize, OK, if I get in trouble with my mouth it’s going to be on record, I need to handle it.

“This has been a really tough past year for policemen and there’s so many people that are rallying around the blue line, but I think this really helps a lot of times to refute false claims that an officer did this or did that when you have video proof that that was not the case. It really vindicates him and the Police Department both.

McCrory responded, “Along those lines, we are very fortunate here in our community that we have an unbelievable amount of support from the public. What I think this does for us is showing them that their support is warranted and that we really have nothing to hide. The word transparent or transparency gets used to many times, but it is important, especially in our profession today. And I think what this shows the public is that their support is warranted and that their Police Department really is able to be transparent and we are who they think we are.”

City manager’s view

City Manager Larry Rains said that night’s presentation was primarily twofold: “1) to bring the newest council members up to speed with what we’re doing on this project, but 2) there’s been some question as to why we’ve waited this long to get to this point.

“Part of it has been that we’ve seen the industry really changing, from a camera that cost a lot of money and without a storage plan into more of what I will say, very simplistically, is something that almost models your cellphone plan, where you’re getting a device and the instrument that’s pretty affordable, but you’re paying for the data and for the storage thereafter.”

Using the previous piecemeal plan of adding 15 cameras a year would be manageable, Rain said, but would cause difficulties in trying to determine which officers had cameras during an incident, “so fully deploying this will be better on the police side, there’s no doubt. 

“But it’s going to drive some indirect costs that the chief pointed out that we are trying to quantify now. And as we bring the items back before council for your consideration of the procurement piece of this project, we are certainly going to be outlining, we’re going to better study the staffing component that we think we’re going need and outline that to the council so that you’re fully aware of that when we make our decision.”

First body cams presentation, January 2016

(Originally posted Jan. 14, 2016)

Casa Grande is inching closer to begin outfitting police Patrol Division officers with body cameras.

As outlined during a City Council study session, it will be a multiyear process, buying 10 Taser AXON Body 2 cameras to start and more in future years as the budgets allow.

The timeline for approval is still uncertain, depending upon further review and completion of a department policy, but could be back before the council in a month or so.

" A body camera is basically a video/audio recording device worn by officers," Interim Police Services Manager Chris Vasquez told the council.

"It basically gives a perspective of how we (the officer) see it, not (people on sidelines) It's to give our viewpoint of what we see as an officer is out there conducting a traffic stop or a crime or a simple stop.

"We believe it will further enhance public trust. With everything going on in the country, Ferguson, St. Louis, the issues that departments are facing, we believe a good sound program, a good sound policy in how we do this will go to improve, or the maintain, the public trust that we currently have."

The body cams would be registered to individual officers, not shared during different shifts. That is to be able to accurately track use by an officer.

As Lt. Frank Alanis, commander of the Special Operations Division, outlined it, the video storage will automatically link to the City Prosecutor's Office and the Pinal County Attorney's Office through a web program known as, a free service that comes with the body cam purchases. As explained, that allows those offices to review the videos, selecting what evidence is needed, rather than have a Police Department employee having to answer all requests.

It was later explained that the City Attorney's Office would have to review the videos if a public records request from a citizen is made, determining what could or could not be included.

Council questions

Council members had several questions about the cams and their use.

• When the officer rolls up on a call, is he required to activate the camera himself or is it activated automatically?

"It has a feature where if you turn on your emergency lights and siren it automatically turns on camera," Vasquez responded. Otherwise, it is the officer's responsibility after analyzing the situation.

• When does it know to shut off?

"It's a little bit of common sense and little bit of what's going on," Vasquez said.

• If the camera has recorded, say, some kind of a mob incident is there the ability to blur out the faces of the innocent bystanders that are watching?

"Either blur out the entire thing, where you can still tell what's going on, or individual faces in it," Vasquez responded. "That capability is there."

• Could body cam footage be used for training classes, for disciplinary action or for performance evaluations?

"If an incident occurs and the training sergeant feels that training is relevant, they make a formal request to the chief," Alanis said. "They'll discuss the video, the value in that video, create a file within where we can keep that video and training officers can view that video for training purposes."

• What if the video shows something that is against department policy, an action that could be used for disciplining the officer?

"It's one of the conversations we've had with the department as it goes," City Attorney Brett Wallace said. "We're constantly, I think, evaluating that and asking them from a managerial perspective what do you want to do. 

"I think it's a very important question, because the officers are going to want to know and need to know if they're going to be disciplined because of something that was seen on the camera. That can be a tricky situation. 

"Certainly I think they will hold the officer accountable, they're going to have to deal with that, if they're not turning the camera on when they should, if they're not tagging videos. 

"Tagging videos is, frankly, my biggest concern and from a prosecutor's standpoint our biggest worries, one area that I think we're going to have to certainly focus on. I know the department will be focusing on it. 

"If they don't tag the videos we can't identify them, the evidence is potentially lost and that's chargeable against the prosecutor's office. So there's a lot of those policies I think will need to be evaluated. 

"I also frankly think that you're going to come out with the best policy that you can to start, and it'll be version 1.0, and if we're not on version 3.4 in a year I would be surprised, because it's such an area where you have to learn how the officers are using them, how the public is responding to them, any particular technology issues that you have. The policies, I think, are going to be changed a few times until you really figure out how they work in the city."

• What will it take to properly staff the type of records keeping involved?

"I think the with staff we currently have at the Police Department we're OK," Vasquez said. "Where it may become an issue will be Mr. Wallace, his office, when it comes to having to handle public records requests, having to redact these videos for release. He may need additional personnel. As far as us, at this point in time I don't see that as an issue. With the links allowing access for the county attorney, city attorney and city prosecutor, we don't need a PD person  to dig out video.

• The chain of use

Each time anyone accesses the videos, the log will tell who and what videos they called up.

• Will there be the ability to track whether an officer has turned on the camera, or has failed to turn it on, say, 12 out of 20 times?

"The only thing in the policy will be supervisory responsibility," Vasquez said. "Their responsibility will be to go through, not to view the video, but to make sure that all videos for that officer are there."

• What has been the reaction from police officers about the concept of body cams?

"It's very positive," Alanis said. 

Protecting officers

"The thing we really haven't talked much about, and I think everybody up here knows that," Mayor Bob Jackson said, "is the reasons we're looking at body cams right now is because of all the things that have happened where everybody has a cell phone with video camera in it and you don't see it from the officer's perspective.

"I think that more than any other reason, really, has driven this whole body cam concept.

"Who knows with the problems they've had in Chicago and Baltimore and Ferguson if body cams would have made it different? You've got a third party's perspective on a cell phone video that certainly it's like Monday morning quarterbacking. We all know what we should have done three days later, but when you're in the head of the incident it looks different.

"I think really that when we first started talking about body cams that's what drove the decision to at least start looking is that. We've been lucky here, we've not had any of those kinds of incidents, but if you have one it's too late."

As Councilman Dick Powell sees it, "I think probably 90 percent of the reason to do this is to protect the officers and our own Police Department and community and show in an incident what precedes and precipitates what actually happens, have the full footage on it.

"I think it's essential for their protection, also, to be able to record that. Someone says they did this, no I didn't, look at the video, I never did that. When you have three or four cohorts of a person standing around and they're the witnesses, you don't have the same validity that you would with that video. 

"It would certainly show up if we have misconduct of police officers and, of course, you'd want to know for sure.

"But I think in 90 percent of the cases it's going to be basically the fact that it protects. And it's a moot thing after someone looks at the footage and they walk away from it because they don't have a case."

Jackson added, "I think that's exactly the point. We had kind of a similar issue when we went to the cameras in the patrol cars, but I think it's very much about protecting an officer. It is easy to have a person's buddies take a picture of you as you're swinging at a suspect and don't see the 25 times he swung at you first."

The public's right to know

• Is there a policy that dictates how long before videos can be released? In a Chicago incident, it took nine or 10 months.

"That will be in that policy that we're developing," Vasquez said. "It goes to the city attorney and his office and  once he gives us the OK, yes, we will; if not, we won't." 

City Attorney Brett Wallace continued that, "Obviously we have to take a look, and the public record requests and the disclosure are going to be an interesting challenge as we go through. We're going to have to review, we have to redact. But with every public records request we do essentially fall under the public records laws and they favor disclosure.

"There are times if it would impede an investigation, if there's some other reason, but generally we try to release it very quickly. We do need to review the footage, though, in order to redact things. Sometimes personal identifiable information, addresses, other things that you're going to need to redact prior to releasing any of that information. That's what's going to take time."

• Can anyone request to see the footage or is it only those involved in the incident?

"With public records requests, people can ask for any information that they think is within the scope of the public's business," Wallace said. "They don't have to be personally involved. 

"Really, the only request we ask when we get requests is, is it for a commercial purpose. We ask that because it's different from what we can charge them. But ordinarily if someone asks for that information we may have to redact a good number of things that were a part of that (sensitive information), but we would make it available.

"The requests can be cumbersome, but the public records laws usually don't favor us saying, hey, it's just cumbersome. 

"But sometimes the public may have to understand that it could take a good deal of time to go through that, because when you do something like redact, let's say they have to review 20 hours of footage, you've got to review all of that footage and then you have to do the necessary redaction. So if someone makes a request for 20 hours of footage it's probably going to take someone an actual week's worth of work time in order to complete that.

"When videos first come online, people tend to be a little bit more curious and then I think most people's experience is that unless there's a incident, the further that you get on and you get used to the body cameras, there's fewer requests you're going to see. 

"You'll still see certain requests, especially if there's an incident or event going on in the city, people will go ask for those because they'll be interested in it. But as, I think, people get more used to the cameras and they see the data is not all that much information they can really get out of it, the requests would probably die down.

"The biggest issue, though, really is the redaction pieces, because body cameras are way different than the normal paper file we have, reading a police report or anything else."

Redaction is needed in some cases, Wallace said, because without it, "the video may show the layout of someone's home, may show where the security system is or the data, wireless phone, now I know what kind of phone they have. 

"People could pick up on those kinds of things, so redaction tends to be very, very important to try to protect the rights of the individuals, as well as certain aspects of the event that maybe involve the officers, as well."

What next?

"In this case," City Manager Jim Thompson said, "we're just trying to find that perfect mix, to also have policies in place. That's been the challenge, ensuring that we're all on the same page. There's an impact of Brett's office that's probably as great, if not greater, than on the department, because all the information's going to come from Brett any time there is a request. 

"Not a definite date for finish, but hopefully within a month."

A computer analysis of crime and other reports was laid over a city map to show hot spot areas

This is the area to be covered under the DDACTS effort

Police Department to roll out data driven effort against crime, crashes

(Posted Dec. 7, 2016)

Video of the chief’s presentation is HERE

A National Institute of Justice report on DDACTS is HERE

It’s called DDACTS, short for Data Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety. 

The Casa Grande Police Department will be implementing it fully beginning in January.

As the department sees it, “It is a policing crime model used to effectively and efficiently reduce crime, vehicle crashes and social harm in communities, with a strong emphasis on improving the quality of life in the city of Casa Grande.

“The goal is to achieve long term change that encourages law enforcement leaders (and local leaders) to take a data driven approach to the deployment of personnel and resources to reduce crime and crashes.”

Police Chief Mark McCrory presented the program to the City Council during Monday night’s study session.

“Basically, what this program does is it innovates location-based traffic crash, crime and calls for services and enforcement data to establish a more efficient method to deploy our resources within the city,” McCrory said.

“This is a nationally known model, it’s been incorporated in many cities.” 

The Police Department analyzed four years of crime and traffic accident reports, overlaying the information on a city map. The targeted area was centered near Cottonwood Lane and Trekell Road. It runs from Trekell to Pinal Avenue on the west and from McMurray Boulevard north to the Viola and Vekol streets area.

The four years of crime and traffic data consisting of accidents, violent crimes, narcotics, weapons and shopliftings. 

“We’re not saying that this is a bad area to live,” McCrory told the council, “and we really want to make that known. We’re going to try to make more contacts with the people that live in that area.

“All we’re saying is that we feel that in a year’s time we can make that square mile a better place for people to live, work or play based on our efforts there.

“And the combination of the statistics that we pulled over the four years it really highlighted that area as one that fit the criteria with various crimes, from some serious crimes to minor quality of life crimes, as well as our traffic collisions in that area.

“So I really do need to stress that to council and anybody else that we’re not saying this area is the worst area in Casa Grande. We’re just saying by data this is an area we feel we can improve the quality of life for people who live in that area in the next year.”

(McCrory’s full presentation on the program, along with his comments on various sections, is found below on this page.)

McCrory said his full presentation “was a very dry academic presentation, but the nuts and bolts of this is just looking for traffic issues and crime issues overlap and you try to put as much high visibility in that area as you possible can to combat both the accidents as well as the crime.

“We don’t have to invent the wheel. It’s been done in other cities to where they found that if you take high crime areas, high accident areas, there’s a place where they overlap. 

“And since all the traffic accidents, or most of them, are on the thoroughfares and most of the crimes take part in the neighborhoods or the business areas, they found that there was a correlation there that if you put your resources in that area that you cannot only have an impact on the vehicle crashes but you can also have an impact on the crime in that area.

“And by upping the enforcement effort for traffic, you run into a lot more of the people that have committed the crimes off the roadway.”

As envisioned, the program will not add costs to the Police Department.

“One of the things we’re hoping in the way the DDACTS program is set up,” McCrory said, “is that it really shouldn’t have an impact on increasing your budget or increasing your staff. It’s just really looking at ways to try to make what you have more efficient and more effective, strategically go after a problem in an area.”

The plan is expected to fully roll out in January and will be evaluated after a year.

“What we’re hoping and what our plan is that at the end of the year if this is successful, then when we do our math again this area should not be the one that stands out for us and then we will move to another,” McCrory said.

By moving to another area, he added, “this is not looking to displace crime. This isn’t looking to chase a bad guy from your neighborhood to my neighborhood. What this is doing is it’s looking at problem solving and long term solutions to some of the crime and some of the problems that we have.

“So it’s not a crime displacement, as much as a problem fixer.

“And at the end of that first year, we’ll reevaluate and do our surveys and hopefully the success in this area will show that this current area of DDACTS is no longer the one that the data tells us meets the problem and if it was that successful in that area, we’ll move it to another area and try to take place.

“But at the same time, we’re smart enough to know that even though we leave an area after a year and things go better we can’t forget about that area.

“Hopefully through our increased contacts with apartment owners, apartment managers, business owners that’ll just help us go back and stay in touch with individuals in that area so it can grow.”

At the end of that first year, the department will do a community survey to ask residents how they feel about it, McCrory said. Initially, there was also to be a survey at the beginning to act as a baseline, but that idea was discarded.

Councilman Matt Herman, noting that the target are includes apartments and two schools — “which would be a good place to have meetings and get to the youth of the community to help them take that home with them — asked how the community outreach will be handled.

McCrory responded that, “With the Police Advisory Board, we have already talked to one church in that area that has plenty of room for us to hold a meeting at. That’s one of the concrete deals.

“We also have a flyer that we’re going to put out to give people information on the DDACTS program and we’ll have information put out on neighborhood meetings.

“We’re going to welcome any kind of invitations we get from any of the business associations, business owners.

“And really when we’re getting this idea out, obviously it’s best for us to be in that area. 

“What we’d like to do and that we’ll be talking about in any kind of community meeting that we have, we’d like to get this idea out no matter what section of the city it is, because the more people that know about it, then if we move our locations next year we’ll already have that many more people educated.”


Below is the text from the presentation by Chief Mark McCrory to the City Council.

The chief’s comments on particular sections are in quotes.

What is DDACTS? 

• DDACTS is short for Data Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety. 

• It is a "Policing Crime Model" used to effectively and efficiently reduce crime, vehicle crashes and social harm in communities, with a strong emphasis on improving the quality of life in the city of Casa Grande 

• The goal is to achieve long term change that encourages law enforcement leaders (and local leaders) to take a data driven approach to the deployment of personnel and resources to reduce crime and crashes. 

CHIEF: “Basically what this program does is it innovates location-based traffic crash, crime and calls for services and enforcement data to establish a more efficient method to deploy our resources within the city.

This is a nationally known model, it’s been incorporated in many cities.” 

• The model was developed with the assistance of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, federal Department of Justice and the National Institute of Justice and relies on seven guiding principles. 

• A policing concept with a strong emphasis on community/problem oriented policing, and high visibility.

What is the DDACTS Policing Crime Model?

• Location-based policing using analytical data for specific crimes, collisions and calls for service within a one-mile city grid that was selected based on four years of data. 

• Identify crime impacted areas (high incidence locations) that are impacted by crime, crashes, and community issues related to calls for service. 

• A collaborative effort with police, citizens, businesses, community organizations and civic leaders to effectively incorporate the DDACTS model as a permanent policing model. "Everyone has a voice in the process."

DDACTS Relies on Seven Guiding Principles

1. Partners and Stakeholders Participation 

• Are essential and provide opportunity and support.

CHIEF: “Everyone has a voice in this process. It’s not something that we just dictate, but we need cooperation.

“There’s a big difference with us when we say partners and stakeholders. The idea of a stakeholder is just a person or a group that has an interest in their community and traffic safety. We do need them.

“But what we really need is we need some partners in this, and that’s people or groups that not only have a stake in it but also willing to take some sort of action.”

2. Data Collections 

• Quality and timeliness of complete data must be a priority and is critical to the supporting foundation of DDACTS. 

• Data is essentially the building blocks of DDACTS.

CHIEF: “As we move into our new computer-aided dispatch system and all our information is centralized we’ll be able to extract it easier.

“It’s going to be very important for us to use that new CAD system to get out very complete and timely data. This is almost a daily update so we have an ability to see what changes we need to make.

“Without good data this system’s not going to work. And without us using the data and analyzing the data it’s not going to work.”

• Important to know the factors and causations of crime and crashes.

3. Data Analysis 

CHIEF: “The crime analysts that we have right now really come into play because the data is really only data until the analysis process turns it into some sort of actionable information that our officers can use and our supervisors can use in making decisions on staffing or deployment.”

• Crime mapping can provide information to ID problem areas.

4. Strategic Operations 

• Unbiased basis for making strategic deployment decisions. 

• Analysis of problem locations to provide data for high enforcement locations that need additional policing intervention.

CHIEF: “Under this, we would need to identify strategies and tactics to use the data. We’ve already started that. We’re not going to push this out, roll this out, yet but we’ve made trial runs in this area and we’ve tried out different strategies and stuff right now that we already have started that we think is really going to help us get through this.

“We actually have already completed an operation plan, and the only thing that is left for us to do right now is to implement that plan. We’d like to really officially launch it some time right after the first of the year.”

5. Information sharing and outreach 

• Promote community partnership/participation. 

• Document accomplishments. 

• Progress reports. 

• Report to civic leaders. 

• Gain feedback from the community and the people that live in that area. 

• Establish open lines of communication or improve on the ones that we already have in place.

6. Monitoring, evaluating and adjusting 

• Adjust strategic operations and evaluate enforcement activity. 

• Relies on constant data changes as directed. 

• Define measurements of our success. 

• If a tactic doesn't work try another. 

• Review non-traditional data provided by officers and other sources.

7. Outcomes 

• Goals and objectives. 

• Measurements used to assess effectiveness relating to reductions. 

• Use of specific operational techniques personnel deployment.

CHIEF: “Basically, we’re looking for a reduction in calls for service, although we expect it to spike initially. We’re looking for a drop in crime rates, although they may also spike initially because we’ll have more reported crime, we hope. 

“But overall, we’re going to see how our effectiveness is by the end of that year for reduction in those.

“Use of specific operational techniques and personnel deployment basically is just to keep our personnel fluid to a point that if something is not working see how we can assign those officers to have a better impact, a greater impact, in the DDACS area.”

Purpose of DDACTS

• To effectively employ policing strategies and intervention methods, with a emphasis on crime/crash reduction without creating additional expenditures or allocating additional staff. 

• Incorporate community based crimefighting concepts that include community meetings, school presentations, Police Advisory Board meetings in the area, press releases, informational flyers and education campaigns, Neighborhood Watch meetings, speed display signs, retail merchant education, social media, etc.

CHIEF: “Some of this has already started in our initial trial run phase to where we have had officers in there reporting some types of nuisance that maybe when we get it reported as quality of life stuff like trash pickups that we’ve been working with other city departments to help clean up and just really try to make an overall impact in that area, not just on crime and traffic, but quality of life.” 

• Directs a stable target zone for police activities. 

CHIEF: A lot of times we try to give our officers a mission at the beginning of their shift to try to accomplish. And we do have such a large area that we have to patrol that sometimes there’s not a cohesive move in either direction, everybody’s out taking care of their own area.

“What this does is gives us a department area to centralize some of our police activities on available times, see if we can make an impact.”

• Uses data based policing.

CHIEF: “What that would do is that would give us a means to back up our ideas on our strategic plans or the way we deploy people, because it’s going to be all based on the data that comes out, not on our own individual bias or thoughts on that.”

How did we select the zone? 

• We allowed the data from four years of crime and traffic data consisting of accidents, violent crimes, narcotics, weapons and shoplifting to select our zone. 

• This data was overlaid on a city map as a density map. 

• Then the area with the highest heat density and volume in number of reports was selected as our target zone.

CHIEF: “What we did with the heat maps is we didn’t pick our zone as a group. Our crime analyst put out the heat maps and showed all the command staff and some of our supervisors what the maps looked like. And to a person, every one of us picked the exact same zone, based on the data in the four-year comparison of data.

“So when I say we picked the zone, really the statistics and the data that we had available picked our zone for us.”

Selected DDACTS Zone 

• The target area identified was near Cottonwood and Trekell. 

• A closer look at the data showed a target zone of one square mile (city grids C17, C18, C21 & C22). 

• Bordering streets for the square mile are Pinal to Trekell and McMurray to Viola/Vekol.

CHIEF: “We’re not saying that this is a bad area to live. And we really want to make that known. And that’s what we’re going to try to make more contacts with the people that live in that area.

“All we’re saying is that we feel that in a year’s time we can make that square mile a better place for people to live, work or play based on our efforts there.

“And the combination of the statistics that we pulled over the four years it really highlighted that area as one that fit the criteria with various crimes, from some serious crimes to minor quality of life crimes, as well as our traffic collisions in that area.

“So I really do need to stress that to council and anybody else that we’re not saying this area is the worst area in Casa Grande. We’re just saying by data this is an area we feel we can improve the quality of life for people who live in that area in the next year."

Implementation of DDACTS

• Development of an operational plan that incorporates implementation in phases. 

CHIEF: “We have already started that. We have our plan already laid out and it’s been given to our officers so they can be familiar with it already. We have them going through the DDACTS area and reporting on DDACTS, citizen contacts, crimes, report calls and things like that just to familiarize them before we actually roll this out so that we’re really not starting from scratch. When we roll this out, we want to be able to run with it.”

• Ability to utilize high visibility enforcement with a strong emphasis on supporting community engagement by gaining support from officers, stakeholders, partners, and other entities such as Public Works, Sanitation, other public utilities such as Arizona Water, APS and other governmental agencies.

CHIEF: “Really, for this to be successful for us there’s got to be a team effort and utilize other city resources and other county resources to help us really have the impact on this area that we want.”

• The operational phases began with weekly planning meetings that started on Aug. 18, 2016, including a "trial run" in the area, with a projected start date of January 2017 to fully integrate DDACTS into the city's daily operations plans. 

CHIEF: “So far inside our department we’ve gotten great buy-in on this program. Officers are really getting familiar with reporting their activity in that area and they seem really eager to see if our joint efforts can really improve the quality of life in that square mile in the next year.”

• Positive community interaction. 

CHIEF:  “We are going to move our Police Advisory Board meetings to that area and invite as many people as we can. We’ve already had some officers attend neighborhood meetings in that area and trying to get a feel for what they want and really trying to up our community interaction.”

• Good quality contacts/meaningful field interviews. 

• Immediate dissemination of information. 

• Commitment from all personnel


• Patrol officers spending 30 minutes each as a minimum during the course of their shift in the DDACTS zone.

CHIEF: “What we’ve asked our officers to do in relation to that is spend as much time in there as you can but still service the rest of our city. We’ve asked them if you have to go from point A to point B somewhere in our city and you have a way to drive through the DDACTS zone to get there that doesn’t take you any longer at least drive through the DDACTS zone and report to us when you’re entering and when you’re exiting so that we can keep track of how much visibility we actually have in that area.”


• Reports taken in the DDACTS zone will be written in the zone. 

CHIEF: “If we have a call in that area of the city, to maximize our time in there officers are not to leave that area, obviously unless there’s a high priority call or somebody needs assistance. We’re asking them if you take a report in that area, finish your report in that area. That’ll maximize our time in that area.”

• Crime reports taken in DDACTS zones will be completed within 24 hours. 

CHIEF: “Currently, some reports, officers are allowed to hold them until the end of their week, just so they have them in that week.

“To have up-to-the-minute data for our analysts to put out information to our officers we need information that’s new and fresh information. Officers would be required to complete their reports on shifts that take place in that area.”

• Proactive policing activities by detectives/sworn support staff/civilian personnel/volunteers.

CHIEF: “This is not just a Patrol function. The fact is, we’ve had some our detectives already out talking to some of the businesses and explaining to them what we’re doing a little bit and trying to get some buy-in from them. So it’s going to be an entire department operation.”

Flow of information

CHIEF: “When a police officer does something and reports are due within that 24 hours, that report will go to their supervisors and will also go to the crime analyst. The crime analyst will do a weekly summary and quarterly report on the information that we gather.

“Each sergeant is currently tasked with an area of interest and every week they put out a report for Capt. (Reginald) Winston and the rest of us about this is what we did last week, this is what we’re planning on doing this week. What they’re going to include in that now is also a DDACTS summary, so not only their area of responsibility within the city but they’ll also a summary of what actions that they took in the DDACTS zone as a squad.

“And that information will all be funneled down to the command staff and we’ll be able to evaluate any kind of effectiveness on the DDACTS zone and will be able to implement changes or reallocate some resources or adjust our plans as need be.”

How will it impact the rest of the community? 

• The department will not be changing how we do business. We will still conduct normal department operations to include increased patrol activities in areas of interest, biweekly crime suppression meetings and normal department response to major crimes and issues.

CHIEF: “It seems like we’re focusing quite a bit on just one little part of our city, so the question I would have is how it would it impact the rest of the community.

“We will not be changing how we do business. 

“And that’s a point that I really need to stress, is this will not take away from any other area of the city. What this is doing is really trying to take some of the officers’ free time and focus it on one mission to see if we can have an impact in an area of our city.

“Business will be normal for the rest of the city.”


The initial plan is to do the operation for a year using the following evaluation tools to decide on continuance or the need to change the zone:


• Surveys/feedback from citizens of Casa Grande. 

CHIEF: “Obviously, that’s going to have a lot. For us to be really effective we can’t think that we did a good job, we really need the people in that area to be able to tell us that they have noticed a difference in their quality of life or crimes and things like that for this to be worthwhile for the effort.”

• Periodic DDACTS briefings both in the department and public. 

• Feedback from partners and stakeholders. 

• Periodic impact meetings and evaluation of strategies that work.

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