Greetings to all of my District 1 residents and all the residents in this great city we all have the privilege of living in. I hope this newsletter finds you well.
I can’t believe it is already May and this year is almost half way over! Before I go into the ongoings of our city from last month, let me first thank all of you who responded to my request regarding your opinion about the possibility of a tax increase for fiscal year 2017 to fund 23 Public Safety positions. The City Council has been discussing various tax increases for a couple of months; however, a final decision has not been made as of yet. I have a firm position – I am not in support of instituting a food tax. It is regressive. For example, it would make a family of 4 spend a disproportional part of their income on food. Not one of my constituents who responded to my request supported the food tax either which also reinforces my position. No one wants a tax increase of any kind, I understand that. I don’t like to see my taxes increase either but we need to find $2.4 million to fund the positions and continue to keep our city safe. For a city of our size, approximately 125,000, we are understaffed in these areas and we must make sure our first responders can help the citizens of the city when needed.
Bell Road at Grand Avenue closed on April 1. Overall, the detour route has been smooth, and as time progresses, the route continues to run smoothly. The city, in partnership with the Surprise Regional Chamber of Commerce, kicked off the ShopSurprise campaign earlier this month to help the businesses affected by the construction. I encourage you to please patronize those businesses surrounding the construction corridor. Despite the construction, access to the businesses has been open and will continue to be open throughout the project. There is a sacrifice to prepare for the future and this bridge is needed for the future of our city. We are no longer a small town so we need to be ready as our population grows.
On Saturday, April 2, I attended the 2016 Luke Air Force Base Air Show – 75 Years of Airpower – and what a show it was! Those intelligent men and women, the pilots and the support team, put their lives on the line every day. The show was very well attended, and I know many of you were present as well and also enjoyed the air acrobatics. I would like to thank Brigadier General Scott Pleus for his hospitality.
Another fantastic concert was put on by the Surprise POPS band at Valley Vista Performing Arts Center on Sunday, April 3. If you have not seen a performance by the band, I recommend you do so at the first chance you can. The concerts are free with the donation of a canned food item for the Valley View Community Food Bank.
The Human Service and Community Vitality Department hosted an HOA Summit on Wednesday, April 6. Council Members Skip Hall, Todd Tande and I attended. The summit has been held every year for the last few years for the benefit of residents and homeowner associations in Surprise. We strongly encourage the Community Managers and Board Members to attend so they can absorb all the information we relay pertaining to the operation of our city government. At this particular summit, we had several of our Directors speak about their respective departments, what they are responsible for and what they do on a daily basis. These summits are for anyone who would like to learn more about the city. I was on the Board of my HOA for three years before I ran for City Council, and I learned so much when I attended these meetings!
To my friends at Surprise Farms III, I was delighted to spend time with you on Saturday, April 9 at your fantastic picnic. It was a beautiful day! Thank you so much for your hospitality. My wife and I had a great time, and it gave me a chance to speak to many residents and meet many new families.
I was invited to attend the Surprise Farms II HOA meeting on Wednesday, April 13. I was able to answer questions and introduce key staff – Surprise Police Chief Terry Young, Officer Grayling Jordan, Sergeant Tim Klarkowski, Assistant Public Works Director Karl Zook, Assistant Director of Community Recreation Services Donna Miller, Campus and Parks Maintenance Division Manager Joey Brazil and ADOT Assistant Communications Director Brock Barnhart – who were also there to present on topics such as transportation and the Bell Road closure. I want to take a moment to thank those dedicated employees of Surprise and Mr. Barnhart for attending. We also discussed Surprise Farms Park. I am well aware of the alleged problems at the park, especially the skate park, so I am advocating for cameras to help bring vandalism and other problems to a halt! I am really disappointed that we face some of these issues, and I recognize that we cannot tolerate them!
Earlier this year, City Manager Bob Wingenroth formed an Audit Committee whose goal is to provide advice to the City Council with respect to fulfilling its oversight responsibilities regarding the integrity of the financial statements of the city. The Committee will also assist and advise the Internal Auditor and City Council on matters relating to the city’s compliance with legal and regulatory requirements, systems of internal controls, management of city-wide risk environment and the performance of internal and external auditors. The Committee consists of 7 members appointed by the City Manager. In addition to the City Manager, the Committee members are Councilman Skip Hall and me, Finance Director Lindsey Duncan, IT Director Tammie Hollowell and Surprise citizens Sharon Ward, Melissa Holdaway and Arden Edgmark. I was honored to be selected! The Committee met on April 14, and we will hold our first official meeting on Thursday, May 19 at 2 pm in the Overflow Room of City Hall. The public is welcome to attend!
The Surprise Police Appreciation Bonanza was held on Friday, April 15 at the Surprise Stadium. This event is an opportunity for us to recognize the great men and women who keep our city safe. It was so good to see the department and their families enjoy themselves. After the event, I hosted my monthly chat at the Community Center in the Retreat of Arizona Traditions. I was pleased with the attendance.
As a reminder, I do hold my meetings the third Friday of each month at this location at 7 pm. I will not have a meeting in June or July.
We visited the folks at the Surprise Swap Meet that was held at the Aquatic Center on Saturday, April 16. There were many vendors present. The money earned from selling these spaces is utilized by the city to sponsor a Christmas party for the senior citizens each year.
Several Council Members and I attended the Surprise Fire-Medical Department’s 11th Annual Awards Ceremony on Thursday, April 21 at the Surprise Stadium. The ceremony recognizes members and their achievements over the last year. This year, the award recipients included: Firefighter Mike Meadors (Firefighter of the Year); Firefighter Steven James (EMT of the Year); Captain Forrest Koontz, Engineer Nathan Perkins, Firefighter James Ruff and Firefighter Jeff Thomas (Company of the Year); Firefighter Louis D’Angelo (Paramedic of the Year); Battalion Chief Scott Smith and Senior Financial Analyst Kim Drabik (Chief’s Award); Battalion Chief Autry Cheatham (Perry Award – for epitomizing the department’s values). Several individual citations were also given to deserving staff, and several volunteers were recognized for the valuable time.
For the third time over the last year, several members of City Council congregated to network and discuss the West Valley at the third West Valley Council to Council Mixer in Avondale on April 21. This event began last year and was initiated by our very own Councilwoman Rachel Villanueva. Attending from Surprise were Council Members Rachel Villanueva, Skip Hall, Todd Tande and me. Overall, six cities were represented. The City of Buckeye is scheduled to host the next event.
The next day, I attended the Northwest Valley Connect Advisory Board meeting. As a member of this Board, we try to make sure everyone who needs transportation has a ride since we don’t have an adequate transit system in Surprise. The lack of transit is a problem for many residents which directly relates to my attendance at the Maricopa Association of Government (MAG) hearing on transit in the Valley on Wednesday, April 27. I testified before the Committee in Phoenix as to the disappointing fact that the West Valley has virtually no transit system, and we are long overdue. The taxpayers in the Valley voted on Proposition 400 for transportation; however, the funds from Prop 400 were never invested in transit for the West Valley. It is very frustrating for me that a city of our size has no transit system!
April was a very busy month, as is May. I look forward to speaking to you next month. In the meantime, be good to yourself and be good to each other!
My best to you,
Councilman Roland F. Winters Jr.