Members of the Gilbert Town Council passed a vote to add a 65.35-million-dollar bond to 2018 the special bond election for voters to approve a facility for Gilbert Public Safety training on June 18, 2018.
Gilbert Chief of Police Michael Soelberg said, “We have the vision to be the best in class in all areas including public safety.” The public safety departments currently must share training facilities with other cities which has resulted in a lack of available training space and unprepared employees. Soelberg added that the nearby facilities are not built to accommodate the training needs of an additional full-sized city like Gilbert. The population has grown to make the town the 5th largest municipality in Arizona and 85th largest in the United States.
As the Town of Gilbert grows, it is also losing experienced public safety staff to retirement. Soelberg said that 42 percent of public safety personnel would be eligible to retire in less and two years and 85 percent will be available for retirement in less than seven years.” The new induvial replacing the loss of personnel with years of experience must be properly trained to make up for lack of experience making a designated facility “even more critical.”
The Police Department needs to hire and trainer 180 to 259 recruits in the next five years. Additionally, the Fire Department needs to hire and train 100-70 recruits in the next ten years. Soelberg stated that, “Lack of training is a common contributing factor in Public Safety personal deaths and injuries.”
After looking at various options, Gilbert Town Manager Patrick Banger said that the department concluded that building a new facility would be the most efficient, and least expensive, adding, “This solution enables us to meet out training need.\” Banger asked for this project to added to the fall 2018 bond election,\” requesting voter authorization for $65,350,00 million in funding. “The remainder of the project cost will come from other sources such as the sale of the original land parcel off Germann road between Lindsay and Gilbert road.
The impact of the bond would cost $3 per household annually property tax. If the bond request is passed, the design will be complete in Dec 2018 and construction last between spring 2019 through the winter of 20210. Councilman Victor Petersen asked if there was a guarantee in the estimated property tax rate and voiced his concern about factors that could change the price, adding, “it’s a little bit misleading to assume that rate.” Banger said that “Based on historical and projected growth in the community” the purposed rate is where the staff think it will fall.
The council voiced concerns about the projects price and how the public will react. Councilman Jared Taylor noted that the project hadn’t been designed yet and the price may go up once it has been created. Taylor continued to voice his concerns, adding, “If this goes to ballot I think it will lose, it will be sticker shock.”
Regardless of the price, the council agreed the town needs the training facility and that the voters must be the ones to make the final decision. Mayor Jenn Daniels said, “This is a generational type of decision.”