By GSN News Staff
Gilbert will ask voters to approve over $60 million in funding for the town’s future public safety training facility in a bond election on Nov. 6.
In a 5-2 vote, the Town Council approved a motion to call for the election last month. The town will ask voters to approve $65.35 million in bonds to cover the bulk of construction costs for the facility, which has a total projected cost of $84.6 million.
The town will find additional funding for the project using cash from the general fund, internal loans and the proceeds from the sale of a 37-acre plot of town-owned land that originally was slated to house a public safety training facility.
The town first looked at the possibility of building a public safety training facility in 2005, though progress on those plans was delayed a few years later due to the effects of the recession.
In recent years, the town has explored other options to meet its public safety training needs.
At the June 21 meeting, Councilmen Eddie Cook said he was part of a group that approached other cities that currently provide training to services to Gilbert – Mesa, Chandler and Glendale – and offered them up to $6 million in an investment in their facilities in exchange for perpetual using them.
According to Cook, those other cities declined the offer due to limited availability of space and resources, making the construction of a dedicated facility in Gilbert the most viable option.
Voters also will have to approve the sale of that land, which was purchased by Gilbert for $14 million in 2008, under an Arizona law because it is valued at over $1.5 million.
To pay back the bonds, Gilbert would raise its secondary property tax from $0.99 to $1 per $100 of assessed value. That increase would result in a homeowner with a $250,000 home paying an additional $3 per year, Town Manager Patrick Banger said.
In a presentation to the Council, Gilbert Police Chief Michael Soelberg pointed out that the town’s secondary property tax rate has decreased over the past decade, from $1.15 in 2010 to its current rate.
The council recently approved the $0.99 rate, which is a decrease from last year’s $1.07 rate.
Twenty-eight members of the public attended the meeting in support of the proposal, including Benjamin Lovein, who moved to Gilbert with his wife about a year ago from a neighboring community.
“The main we reason we came is my wife mentioned what a safe place she believed Gilbert to be,” he told the Council. “When we heard about the proposed initiative to create this facility, (we) were both thrilled to know that the public safety officials would have the training they need here close to them.”
Councilmen Victor Petersen and Jared Taylor both voted against the bond election, arguing that a need exists but the costs of the current proposal are too high for Gilbert.
They both cited recent reports from outlets like Law Street Media proclaiming Gilbert as one of the safest cities in the country, based on FBI crime statistics.
In an exchange of automobile metaphors, Taylor referred to the facility as a luxury vehicle while Soelberg called it a reasonably priced car that includes only necessities.
Taylor expressed a desire to decrease the estimated costs so that the town could pay for the facility’s construction without a bond election.
“Do we need one? Yes, absolutely. There’s no question about it,” Taylor said. “Do we need one straight away? Yes, I believe we need one straight away.”
“I don’t think we need one at this cost, because if this goes to the ballot it will lose,” he added. “I believe it will be sticker shock to the community and it will go down and it will only delay things further.”
Councilman Scott Anderson disagreed with Taylor, stating he believed the bond would pass in November.
Petersen argued that some of the facility’s classroom components duplicated existing classroom space already built in Gilbert and made a motion to revise the bond amount down to $47 million. That motion failed with only Petersen and Taylor’s support.