The Duncan Town Council covered a wide range of issues during a marathon workshop session Friday from roads and water systems to mud bogs and finances.

For the last seven months engineering and energy services company Veregy has been working on a plan to improve the town’s wastewater and water systems while simultaneously applying for grants to pay for those improvements along with building upgrades. Knowing the council is expected to vote Dec. 9 on whether it should move forward with the plan, Veregy representatives gave council members an update.

Veregy grant writers have applied for nearly $1.8 million in grants for the $5.7 million project, but thus far has only received $352,000, said Justin Rundle.

Although United Way has agreed to an $82,000 engineering grant, they’ve not yet given an answer about a $650,000 installation grant, Rundle said. There’s also been no word from Blue Cross, Blue Shield or the USDA, among others.

Edward Farrell, another Veregy representative, said calls have been made, but it’s unknown at this point if the town has been eliminated from the competitive process or if the decisions are merely pending.

Dick Williams, a representative of Midstate Energy, which falls under the Veregy umbrella, tried to calm the council’s concerns. He pointed out the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority of Arizona, which the town was already planning on asking to pick up some of the cost of the project, could take on more of the cost. WIFA also has a loan forgiveness program.

Rundle also provided the council with financial documents showing the town can expect to break even on the project about 18 years from now, although it might be earlier if additional grant funding is awarded.

Council member Jill Wearne and Vice Mayor Valerie Smith both expressed worries about the long time frame. They don’t want to make mistakes like those on the council 20 years ago.

The town took out $800,000 in USDA loans to install water infrastructure on the south side of the river and town still owes $585,000 in principal alone because the town council at the time never sought voter approval for a secondary tax rate increase to cover the payments.

The council also heard from Joe Lacey, a town public works employee who gave a presentation on roads. Lacey asked the council to consider purchasing a motor grader, road chip machine and street sweeper so staff can begin a comprehensive and long overdue road project. The equipment would run about $150,000, but he suggested an ADEQ grant would cover much of the cost along with the proceeds from an upcoming auction of surplus town equipment and property.

Lacey said he’d like to start with the roads leading to the schools in Hunter Estates, followed by the streets in town, “which haven’t been touched since the ‘70s.”

Interim Town Manager Philip Cushman said he gets “beat up” about the roads two or three times a week, prompting Mayor Anne Thurman to reply, “I’m surprised it’s not per day.”

All of the council members agreed priority should be given to the roads nearest the schools.

In other matters, the council also heard from local resident Jeff Harnish, who wants to bring mud racing back to the Duncan area. He’s been meeting with Cushman recently and the two have identified a 10-acre town-owned piece of land near Duncan Elementary as a possible location. The two have also discussed the possibility of the town sponsoring the event.

Cushman said the council needs to determine if mud racing should be brought back, who should assume liability for the event and how much support the town should give the event. He reached out to Arizona Municipal Risk Retention Pool and learned the town’s insurance will not cover any such events. If the town wanted to take it on, the cost would be $2,500-$5,000 per event.

If the council expresses interest in helping them, Harnish said he and fellow racers will form a limited liability company next month and if necessary they will pay for the insurance themselves.

The topic is on the council’s Dec. 9 agenda as well and council members suggested Harnish speak with residents near the proposed site to get their thoughts.

Duncan resident Jesse Stillman also asked the council to consider giving him and his mother, Jaimee Zischke-Tate, permission to fertilize and trim trees at Centennial Park. He’d like to see improvements at the park, including a new fountain, because he and his daughter, Rebecca James Stillman, 4, spend a lot of time there.

The council also listened to a presentation from Patricia Walker, a former chief financial officer for the City of Chandler. Walker spent considerable time describing the many ways to create a municipal budget and how to effectively monitor the town’s revenue and expenditures.

She recalled one town overestimating its revenue by $43 million and noted that just because you can move numbers around on paper doesn’t change reality. Under state law, revenue must match expenditures.

A town manager may put together a budget, but at the end of the day the budget is the town council’s responsibility, Walker said.

Load comments