A big shout out to all the residents in District 1 and to all the residents in Surprise! I hope you are staying cool during the remaining month of summer. Thankfully, fall is right around the corner and so are cooler temperatures!
The month of August began immediately with a City Council Work Session and City Council Meeting since we host these meetings the first and third Tuesday of the month. We returned from a recess in July and started business!
Monday, August 7 found me in a meeting with staff to try and work through this disaster called paratransit offered by Valley Metro and delivered by TransDev which is headquartered in Mesa. I continue to receive emails and phone calls from residents – some not even in my District, but that’s ok. I will continue to help anyone who contacts me. I have talked to residents who can’t get a ride to a doctor’s appointment, physical therapy or medical procedures because they are told by TransDev that there aren’t any rides left, and that is ridiculous! When someone calls for a ride on August 28 requesting transportation to a doctor’s appointment in September, and is told by the people at TransDev â€œall of September is bookedâ€, there is something wrong with the system (that’s no surprise). Upon further investigation, we found many riders on TransDev are starting their ride and ending their ride in Surprise, so if that is the case, they should be using Ride Choice with Discount Cab or Yellow Cab. TransDev Paratransit rides are for regional trips (outside of the Surprise area) only for medical and work trips. We are directing TransDev to tell riders who travel within Surprise to use Ride Choice which they should have been doing all along. Paratransit rides were set-up at 34 rides a day for Surprise residents, so the city has added 21 more rides a day for the next two weeks to try to help the overflow for a total of 46 rides a day for the next two weeks. I am asking all of my Surprise residents to use Ride Choice for your rides within Surprise, making these changes should get TransDev back on an acceptable schedule, maybe. The new contract started on July 1, and we were promised it would be a better system and on time, so much for that prophecy. This system is costing the taxpayer $800,000 each Fiscal Year. I want to thank David Kohlbeck and Mike Gent for all of their help trying to resolve this issue.
I had my monthly meeting on Friday, August 11 at 7 pm and I had a good crowd. A few residents expressed their disgust on the paratransit system.
I attended the summer employee appreciation event in the City Council Chamber on Thursday, August 17. This event was started years ago by city management as an opportunity to show appreciation to our employees. Some are recognized for going above and beyond while they have lunch with their fellow peers and friends. It also provides me with an opportunity to get to know our staff. The taxpayers should be proud of the people who work for the city – from the people working in the ditches, to those on the roads, to the folks in City Hall, from the Directors to all the office workers and more.
Of course one of the big surprises in August was the resignation of District 3 Councilman John Williams who served this city tirelessly for almost ten years. I had a meeting with John on Monday, August 14, and he submitted his resignation letter the following morning. He never said a word about it. John will be missed.
On the afternoon of August 17, the Committee on Community Outreach, Partnerships and Grants met. As a member of this Committee, we make the funding recommendations to the full City Council from the presentations of the grant seekers. This particular meeting concerned the Surprise Community Outreach Grant Program which is offered to local 501(c)3 non-profits that serve Surprise residents. There were 32 applicants requesting total funding of more than $261,000. The Committee listened to 32 presentations – one for each non-profit organization – to arrive at our decision as to which non-profits to fund and at what dollar amount. My hat (cowboy) is off to Jodi Tas for all of her hard work preparing the applications and books required for this meeting. We met for over four hours then made the difficult decisions regarding funding.
On Friday, August 18, I took part in the Boards and Commissions Selection Committee which is another committee I sit on. It is the Committee’s duty to appoint residents to various boards and commissions that help the City Council. On this particular day, we had to choose two folks from six to serve on the Arts & Cultural Advisory Commission. It was a difficult decision because everyone was so qualified.
On Tuesday, August 22, most of the City Council arrived in Oro Valley for the Annual League of Arizona Cities and Towns Conference. This conference provides break-out sessions and networking opportunities with our fellow elected colleagues. I also joined a bus tour to see the public art in Oro Valley to determine how they manage that program. Our public arts program is in its infancy but our Arts & Cultural Advisory Commission is doing a great job placing public art around City Hall. I encourage you to visit and view some of the pieces on our campus if you get a chance.
I attended Ottawa University’s (OUAZ) convocation for their first class on Wednesday, August 30 at Christ Church of the Valley (CCV) in Surprise. The ceremony, led by President of Ottawa Dr. Kevin Eichner and Vice President and Provost Dr. Dennis Tyner, was very inspirational with some powerful speeches. Mayor Sharon Wolcott made a good speech and welcomed the students to Surprise. Approximately 450 students attended, and they were all very polite and respectful. Every Wednesday, their curriculum at OUAZ will consist of a personal character building day. It looks like Ottawa has the cream of the crop for their first class. When I left, I felt that the city, State and the nation is in good hands after all for the future of mankind.
On Thursday, August 31, I attended the groundbreaking of Ottawa University Surprise competition fields. The fields will be utilized for football and soccer. There was a good crowd and, of course, more speeches. Just think of that, Surprise will now have college football and soccer teams to cheer on. How cool is that!
I have been honored with an appointment to the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) Economic Development Council. This seat was formerly occupied by Mayor Wolcott and after she resigned, she wrote the Council a letter of recommendation for me. I was chosen from a number of applicants. Surprise needs to have a seat at the table when decisions are made, not only for Surprise, but for the entire West Valley as well.
Just a few things before I close for this month, and maybe most of you are already aware we are getting the #1 requested restaurant from our Economic Development Survey, In-N-Out Burger, on the corner of Bell Road and Civic Center Drive in addition to a Raising Cane and Starbucks. Surprise is also getting a Hilton hotel with a full service restaurant near Surprise Stadium.
Mark your calendars! Following City Council’s direction to honor the city’s longest-tenured City Manager Dick McComb (1990 – 2000), the city will officially rename Surprise Farms Community Park, to Dick McComb City Park, at a public ceremony, Saturday, September 30, at 9 a.m. The event takes place at the southeast corner of 175th Avenue and Surprise Farms Loop South. Mr. McComb began his city government career in 1976 and became City Manager for the City of Surprise in 1990. During McComb’s tenure, the city’s population grew from 7,122 people to nearly 31,000. This was a period of commercial growth for Surprise with Surprise Towne Center then under development and the Target opened at Surprise Marketplace. In addition, Mr. McComb served in the United States Marine Corps during the Korean War. Following his retirement, McComb remained an engaged Surprise resident and then became the community manager for Sun Village. He passed away in 2016 at the age of 81.
City Council also approved an additional 10 acres of open space park area at the aforementioned park, which is now turfed. Once the green fence is removed, after the turf has been established, we will be having another celebratory event. We anticipate this event will occur in early October. For more information on these events, please call Community and Recreation Services at 623.222.2000.
In other recreation news, 8 Acre Park fencing is under construction. Construction began last month and should conclude by the end of this month. This project includes 2300 feet of 8 foot tall decorative fencing with pillars to match the aesthetics of our Surprise Stadium fencing.
Eight new pickle ball courts with LED lighting are also under construction. Construction began on August 23, and the anticipated completion, pending weather delays, is the end of November. This project also includes the relocation of our volleyball courts.
Well, be good to yourself and be good to each other!
Roland F. Winters Jr.