Mayor addresses transportation, water, housing prices, public safety

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In the second of a three-installment exclusive interview with Mayor Kelly Anderson, the mayor addresses several key issues facing the city. Friday’s initial installment marked the first anniversary of the date the City of Maricopa assumed all operational duties from Pinal County.

inmaricopa.com: Population projections are as high as 500,000 in the planning area and upwards of 100,000 people within the city limits. How are all these people going to get in and out of town?
Mayor Anderon: (laughing) One way in and one way out! And that’s why our monthly meetings with Gila River are very very crucial. We’re talking about a possible extension of White and Parker Road north. There’s discussion about another exit out of here off of SR 238 on the west side around the mountain to the Laveen area.

I have a meeting today in Coolidge to form a committee to attend ADOT meetings to plead our case. We’re no different than any other community. The East Valley has the same problem. I go out there every so often and every section line road has a stop sign, not even a stop light. Of course they have the 202 and other things coming on line, but we just want to get our own consideration.

One thing that came from the General Plan forums was light rail. That’s really a neat idea. I’d like to see the developers put in a Park & Ride area with 25-30 parking spots. We need to think of those types of multi-modal transportation.

85239: What is the future of Maricopa Road / SR 347?
Mayor: We can do six to eight lanes here to Queen Creek and I-10, but that’s really a bad intersection. I’ve heard it can take 20 minutes to get on the freeway. But that’s in Maricopa County. Bob Jackson has already had discussions with the Maricopa Association of Governments on that intersection, but it’s just not us. The East Valley is coming west to that area as well. I really see that as the bottleneck.

And then I-10 needs to be expanded where it’s two lanes from Casa Grande to Firebird Lake. Again, we’re working with Gila River on right-of-way issues. We’re creating issues, the East Valley is and Casa Grande is with all these cars converging at one point. I see that as a number one priority.

The East Valley, West Valley, look at Anthem, they have one way in and out too. Every community is screaming for dollars for feasibility studies and road repairs. It’s a long process. It’s been in the paper that we’re not on (ADOT’s) five year plan yet, but we don’t have five years to wait.

85239: What’s the status of a railroad overpass or underpass?
Mayor: Part of the Small Area Transportation Study addresses that and I believe we’ve allocated $100,000 to $150,000 in this year’s budget to do the engineering study to come up with proposed designs, cost figures and funding mechanisms.

There is another track being added from Tucson to L.A. that could lead to a potential 100 trains a day coming through Maricopa. We’ll need another under or overpass at White and Parker, possibly at Porter and may need one at Anderson.

85239: Much like not having five years to wait for ADOT, this could be a decade-long project. How long do you think it will be before this process is complete?
Mayor: In my personal opinion, as development occurs to the south of us, those guys need to come to the plate too. The developers to the south are creating the problem; they need to help solve it. The railroad tracks cut the city in half. They cut the county in half.

(Southern developments) are creating the problem, it’s not just Maricopa Meadows. Mike Ingram has some huge developments going on in Stanfield, Fulton Homes is down there, Engle Homes is there – we’re looking at 100,000 people south of Maricopa.

I certainly hope it happens sooner rather than later. We’re spending a hundred grand on a study, but why are we the ones having to fix the problem? The County’s got to come to the plate too.

85239: What’s the future Maricopa’s sewer and water?
Mayor:
At this point, it’s Global Water. Our city manager is working on a memorandum of understanding for a public-private partnership with Global Water. Rick (Buss) has a way of looking at things for the public good and I think Global Water recognizes that a good partnership with the City only benefits them.

We want to ensure we have the capacity to serve the homes, but also to the potential industrial and commercial we are working to bring to the city.

85239: Will the City ultimately invest in its own water / sewage treatment plant?
Mayor: There are a lot of things we wish we could have and a water / sewage plant is one of them. But that requires a humungous financial investment and obligating the city’s future residents to a bond or huge liability. We’ll make due with what we have in the near future to avoid that.

85239: Incredibly, there are now half million dollar homes being sold in Maricopa. Are the sky-rocketing home prices a concern?
Mayor: Yes, it’s a concern, but when you look at where Chandler, Gilbert and Tempe are at… last month, Gilbert was down 40% on their building permits because they’re running out of land and are almost at build-out. Prices in Maricopa are still $20,000 to $30,000 less than the Valley. The many people who come here from other parts of the country can’t believe how affordable this is!

85239: Public Safety is always a hot topic. What is being done to ensure Maricopa residents’ safety?
Mayor: I think with the new budget and the matrix the Sheriff’s has proposed, we’ll be right at the national average for officers. I think Sergeant Dickson has done a really good job of providing quality service.

We’re experiencing the issues that growth brings. I’m excited about a motorcycle cop, a K-9 unit and our own full time detective. Roger Kolman has thrown in extra money if we need to ramp up even more.

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In Tuesday’s concluding chapter, Mayor Anderson speaks on life as mayor, the impact of the City Council and his hope for continued citizen involvement.