By Cecilia Chan GSN Managing Editor
Gilbert voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a $65 million bond to fund a public safety facility, according to unofficial Maricopa County elections results.
The “yes” votes commanded 66 percent of the vote to 34 percent against.
If the numbers hold, construction is expected to begin in the spring. Completion of the facility on 50 acres near Power and Pecos road is anticipated in spring 2021.
It was unclear how many thousands of votes in Maricopa County remain to be counted and how many of those ballots were even cast by Gilbert residents.
Meanwhile, unofficial returns indicated that the “year of the Teacher” was a bust statewide and locally as all three Democratic candidates in Legislative District 12 went down to defeat. Those three candidates all have backgrounds in education.
One of the efw exceptions to that losing trend came in LD 17, which covers a small part of western Gilbert and much of south Chandler. There. Democrat Jennifer Pawlik, a former teacher, appeared to be edging out Republican Nora Ellen, the mother of House Speaker J.D. Mesnard.
Mesnard, who was termed out of his House seat, appeared to have won his race, as did fellow Republican Jeff Weninger.
The total estimated cost for the project is $84.6 million. Town voters in the August primary gave their approval for Gilbert to sell off 36 acres to help pay for the facility that will train current and future police and firefighters.
The bond’s debt to town taxpayers would be an increase in the secondary property tax raised to $1 from 99 cents of assessed value. That would mean a homeowner with a $250,000 home would pay $3 more a year, according to town officials.
The public safety facility also includes a driving training track and areas for K-9 training, hazardous materials training, classroom space and a five-story apartment tower for firefighters to practice simulated burns and police to practice rappelling skills.
Gilbert identified a need for the facility years ago but the recession put a stop to that plan.
Town officials say such as facility is needed because a majority of Gilbert’s public safety force will retire in seven years and more than 200 recruits are expected to join its police rank in the next five years.
When Gilbert reaches anticipated buildout in 2030, the population is expected to be a little over 300,000.
Gilbert has been sending its public safety personnel to train at other Valley facilities – some charged for usage, others did not but the town incurred costs for travel fuel and overtime nonetheless.
The town was finding guaranteed training space increasingly hard to secure as other municipalities also are looking to replenish their public safety personnel. Opposition to the measure came from a political action committee formed by Gilbert resident Mike Webb.
Rally Arizona PAC campaigned against the bond via social media and political signs throughout town.
The group claimed the bond if passed will “ultimately cost Gilbert taxpayers $132 million” and that there were less costly options the town can choose from.
Mayor Jenn Daniels also formed a political action group – Gilbert Citizens for Public Safety – that pushed for the bond’s passage.
There was no surprises in the races in state Legislative District 12, which encompasses Gilbert.
Republican handily beat back their Democratic challengers at the ballot box.
Republican Eddie Farnsworth garnered 40,734 votes, winning a two-year term at the state Senate. His Democratic challenger Elizabeth Brown got 28,645 votes, according to the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office.
Voters also picked Republicans Warren Petersen and Travis Grantham for the two open state House seats. Petersen received 39,398 votes and Grantham received 39,111 votes, according to unofficial returns. The Democrats Lynsey Robinson and Joe Bisaccia got 25,765 and 24,474 votes, respectively.