After removing one major project from the list of options, the Mesa City Council approved a motion to call for a more than $130 million bond election in November.
The bonds, totaling $130.8 million, are split into projects related to infrastructure improvements and public safety upgrades. The former encompasses $79.1 million worth of street upgrades in downtown Mesa — one project includes the addition of bike lanes along Mesa Drive between 8th Avenue and Main Street — and in areas like the Fiesta Mall and around Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.
The public safety projects, which add up to $51.7 million, listed on the ballot include the purchase of a $3.1 million helicopter for the Mesa Police Department and a $16 million communications center for the Mesa Fire Department. During a July 1 study session, Mesa fire chief Harry Beck said the second communications center would operate in tandem with the one the department currently uses and would act as a backup in case a problem arose at the current center.
If approved, some projects tied to the bond funding would receive funding for the last half of the 2013-14 fiscal year, and the funding for the final projects would conclude after the 2016-17 fiscal year.
Missing from the bond the council approved is the Arizona Spring Training Experience, Museum and Community Center operated by the Mesa Historical Museum. Formerly known as the Cactus League Experience, the center would host approximately 4,000 pieces of baseball memorabilia and had a bond figure of $17 million.
At the council’s July 8 study session, however, Mesa Historical Museum CEO Lisa Anderson requested the council remove that item from the bond list, as she said the organization had new opportunities it wants to explore.
“We’ve determined there is a tremendous potential to develop this project beyond even the scope we’ve presented to you thus far,” she said.
Voters could have a shot to vote on the issue next year, as Anderson said the organization might ask the council to put it up for a vote in 2014.
Mayor Scott Smith said it was better to wait for at least a year to compensate for what he called a short timeframe to get the project organized and tie up loose ends, and he said the delay could result in a better final product.
“I appreciate your willingness to step up and do something that’s better for Mesa in the long run because I think we’re going to have a killer project,” he said.
The council approved the motion to put the other two bond packages on the ballot with a 6-0 vote, as vice-mayor Alex Finter was absent from the meeting.
This will mark the second year in a row Mesa residents will have an opportunity to vote on at least one bond issue; in 2012, voters approved $70 million in city bonds for projects related to parks, open space, recreational and aquatics facility improvements, as well as a $230 million bond for the Mesa Unified School District. City chief financial officer Michael Kennington wrote in an email Mesa has a general obligation bond debt of $326 million.
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