Mesa Councilman Alex Finter is criticizing how the city conducted a public meeting about a police substation after he had questioned whether the city is spending too much for it.
Finter said on Tuesday that a Saturday gathering at Fiesta Mall didn't address his concerns that the city plans to spend $925,000 an acre for a vacant strip mall that would have to be demolished for the new station.
A presentation was a "one-sided version of the facts" Finter wrote to City Manager Chris Brady.
"In fact, I felt like the presentation was in part, to repudiate my concerns," Finter wrote. "My sense of the situation is that some are taking it personal that I would dare ask tough questions about the cost of getting this site."
Finter attended the meeting but said the public did not seem to recognize him even as they mentioned his name and concerns he raised a week ago when the forum was announced. Finter said the city presenters should have called on him at that point.
"That didn't happen, and it reflects poorly on how this meeting was handled," Finter wrote. "For the sake of decorum and to maintain the most professional view to the citizens, I did not stand and interrupt someone else's response to the questions referencing me. I wanted to stand and say, 'You do realize I am in the room and can hear you.'"
City officials at the meeting described plans for a substation at the northwest corner of Longmore and Southern Avenue, which would replace a smaller facility in Dobson Ranch. The station would replace one of several struggling shopping centers and be a high-profile redevelopment effort in the area.
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Finter has questioned the appraisal on that site for several reasons and called on the city to get a new one. The existing appraisal is from six months ago, which he considers outdated - especially in such a rocky real estate market. The appraisal found the land alone is worth $3.7 million, while the vacant building boosts the value to $7.6 million. Finter argues that the city is destroying a $3.8 million building that may have other uses, and that the city would save money buying a vacant lot.
Also, Finter objected to the comparison properties, which included a hotel site at Mesa Riverview, the land where the Gaylord resort is planned, and SanTan Village in Gilbert. Those aren't close comparisons, he said, especially when the values used are for sales conducted when the real estate market was at a frenzied high in 2005 and 2006. The appraisal used formulas to adjust for the differences, but Finter questioned those. He named a specific appraiser for a new estimate, saying he has never met the person but that the appraiser was highly recommended by several commercial real estate brokers.
Brady said he doesn't plan to seek a new appraisal because the city hasn't committed to buying the land. The city has known that site would be more expensive than other potential locations but is weighing that against benefits such as how surrounding businesses might view this corner. They could see a police station here as a stabilizing force, he said.
The City Council is set to review the station location in January. Brady downplayed the appraisal issue, saying those are mere guides that do not dictate price. If the market continues to go down, Brady said, the city would work toward paying less to reflect that.