Bond vote considered this November for Mesa police, fire, roads - East Valley Tribune: Mesa

Bond vote considered this November for Mesa police, fire, roads

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Posted: Thursday, March 29, 2012 11:24 am

Mesa Mayor Scott Smith said voters will likely be asked to approve a modest bond package in November for critical public safety needs, but not for any of the ambitious projects identified in the iMesa initiative.

The bonds would fund immediate issues like replacing an aging public safety radio system, repaving streets and perhaps constructing a regional pool at Mesa High School.

Smith said the city won’t ask voters to approve anything on the scale of a nearly $170 million package in 2008 that funded streets, police and fire.

“We recognize that we are in challenging financial times,” Smith said.

City officials have previously indicated they’re hesitant to ask voters for much because residents are already likely to face a $250 million bond package being discussed by the Mesa Unified School District.

The city bond election would take place in November.

The City Council still needs to evaluate what items would appear on the ballot, Smith said. A list would likely be developed by May. The council would have to call the election by July.

Smith said the public safety communication system is critical. He said the city needs more advanced equipment because some public safety employees can’t communicate with each other, as was the case in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Closer to home, an inadequate radio system was a problem as law enforcement officers tried to coordinate when arresting a shooting suspect at Chandler Fashion Center in January 2011, he said.

“We’ve been playing catch-up,” Smith said. “That’s OK if you only have an iPad vs. an iPad 3. It’s not OK if your police and fire departments are operating under 10-year-old technology and you have the capabilities of updating and of bringing systems together. We still have sections and segments that can’t talk to each other.”

Another bond project could fund a regional pool at Mesa High to replace the aging Taylor Pool. The city has kept that pool running by cannibalizing parts from other facilities that have closed in recent years, Smith said. The city can only continue to do that for a limited time, he said.

He wouldn’t ask for some of the big projects in the iMesa initiative, which has been asking residents to identify transformative community improvements. The ideas include small projects like a community garden. But more expansive projects will need to wait for future elections, Smith said.

The city could ask voters for some money this year to develop plans for the more ambitious projects, such as a revamped Pioneer Park or new downtown plaza.

“I don’t anticipate a broad-based, full-blown iMesa bond issue this time,” Smith said. “I think what you’ll see is maybe a phasing.”

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