A bond package approved by voters will help the City of Mesa improve its service to the public and make it a more attractive location for potential businesses, says one member of the Mesa City Council.
The most recent round of unofficial results from the Nov. 5 election show both bond items — one for public safety and one for street projects —passing with at least 56 percent of voters approving them and a more than 5,000 vote disparity between approval and rejection.
“It was a pretty good margin for no campaign,” said District 3 Councilmember Dennis Kavanaugh.
Kavanaugh credited the approval to several factors that range from a lack of strong and organized opposition to the votes to the city’s ability to provide a solid explanation to projects he said were chosen carefully. On a similar vein to the latter reason was past precedent, as he said the city has completed the projects listed on previous bond votes on time and under budget.
This was the first time voters approved a request for public safety and infrastructure projects since 2008, although residents did vote in favor of a $70 million packet to fund parks, open space and aquatic facility projects and approved a utility bond package in 2010 for $201.7 million.
“Since 2008, we’ve really been on a roll,” Kavanaugh said.
This time around, voters opted to invest a total of $130.8 million in several projects for public safety and infrastructure purposes. The public safety and streets projects are planned to begin in the second half of the current fiscal year and will conclude in the first half of the 2016-17 fiscal year.
Of the public safety list, the items on the $51.7 million bond list include the purchase of a new helicopter for the police — City Manager Chris Brady said in a prior interview the current one has more than 19,000 flight hours on it — replacements at Fire Station 203, and the purchase of a new evidence freezer for the police, among other projects.
The most pressing item on the list is the construction of a communications building for the Mesa Fire Department. Currently, the department shares a facility and power grid with the Mesa Police Department, but an issue with the power grid like an electrical outage could shutdown emergency communication for both departments. Brady said having that second facility offers the public safety departments a backup in case something goes wrong, which is important given the approximately 450,000 people the fire and police departments serve.
The infrastructure package totaling $79.1 million features a series of street improvement projects and projects for neighborhood safety like streetlight improvements and even the replacement of rusted streetlamps Brady said weren’t installed properly in the first place.
Those items don’t have the cachet of the public safety ones, but Kavanaugh said they will have a dramatic effect on one aspect of the city’s growth.
“They’re really critical for economic projects big and small,” he said.
Companies, he said, prefer to move into locations that have infrastructure in place, especially in areas like Gateway — one of the projects on the list involves Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport — that are still developing. That area has already drawn in Grand Canyon University, the Eastmark development and most recently Apple in recent years.
“That (infrastructure) can make deals come together more quickly,” he said.
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