The election for two seats on the Maricopa Flood Control District Board is Oct. 7. The three candidates – incumbent Bruce Neely and newcomers Dan Frank and Brad Hinton – off their insight on the importance of the district and how they see its future.
See Previous: Election to determine path of flood control district
Education: B.S. Engineering, Arizona State University
Occupation: Civil Engineering
Years in Maricopa: 10
Education: B.S. Construction Management, Arizona State University
Occupation: Planning & Entitlements Manager, El Dorado Holdings
Years in Maricopa: 8
Education: University of Arizona
Occupation: Farmer/Business Owner
Years in Maricopa: 29
Question: Why is this election important to Maricopa?
Frank: This three-person board is responsible for the maintenance and oversight of significant waterways within the city and controls a portion of your tax dollars, which go toward funding the Maricopa Flood Control District. We need to make sure we have representation on the Board that will look out for the best interest of the citizens of Maricopa and bring progressive, forward-thinking leadership.
Hinton: There needs to be representation on the board for all interest groups, which has been lacking in the past, in order for Maricopa to thrive and be a place families want to live in and employers want to locate to.
Neely: In its 2040 Vision Statement, which was recently passed unanimously by the city council, Maricopa blatantly stated a goal to “Take Control of Maricopa Flood Control District.” Since it cannot do so legally, is this an attempt to “take control” of the board by placing people who will take orders from the mayor and a few council members? MFCD has taxing authority, which it has exercised judiciously over the years. Is the council thinking it can raise funds for projects it considers important by way of the district? I am an independent voice, willing to disagree with city leaders when I think they are wrong. If MFCD trades its independence for dependence on the city council, the residents of Maricopa will be the losers.
Question: Why do you want to be on the Maricopa Flood Control District Board?
Frank: As the area continues to grow and we look into the future of Maricopa, more and more residents could be impacted by flooding. The Santa Cruz watershed is one of the largest watersheds in the state and it cuts right through Maricopa. You don’t have to look too far back in Maricopa’s history to see impacts of flooding. We need to make sure we are ready for the next one, and having qualified people in place on the board is a necessity.
Hinton: I like to be involved in the success of the city and see a need for improvement in the operations of the district.
Neely: I personally witnessed the damage caused by the floods of 1983 and 1993. I want to see Maricopa develop and prosper, but I want to make sure we are wise about our approach. I’ve seen what happens when governments get in too big a hurry and either waste taxpayer money or create problems for future generations, or both.
Question: What is the biggest challenge facing the district, and how would you help overcome it?
Frank: The district faces many challenges. However the paramount challenge facing the district today is the reaccreditation of the Santa Rosa Levee. Failure to obtain the reaccreditation could have the impact of placing hundreds of residents in the mapped flood hazard area. Aside from the obvious risk due to flooding, this could also cause an undue financial burden of requiring flood insurance for those residents.
While I understand the district has limited funds, I believe through collaboration with other governmental agencies and strategic partnerships we can reduce the impacts of flooding on the city. For Example, FEMA has a Hazard Mitigation Grant program that is administered by each state. A project like this would likely make a good candidate for this funding mechanism.
Hinton: Effectively managing the flood control challenges of the city while protecting the interest of all property types; homes, agriculture/farming, other businesses and future developments. Most importantly, protecting the existing residences through maintenance and upkeep of existing flood control improvements; and second, flood plain mitigation for economic development.
I feel I can be an asset because of the relationships I’ve built with government officials, landowners, business owners, developers and residences from my tenure working for the City and involvement in the community. Coordination with the City and County is crucial, so using those relationships and my experience in local government and development will help overcome those challenges.
Neely: There are two, one of which MFCD is already addressing. Pinal County Flood Control District became concerned the Santa Rosa levee might not pass FEMA accreditation. This is important, because if it does not, the flood maps will change and more of our current residents might be forced to purchase flood insurance. MFCD hired an engineering firm to evaluate the levee to determine whether it is sound. The cost of evaluation, which is underway, is more than $100,000. If it needs repair, the cost could go into the millions of dollars, easily.
The second is the North Santa Cruz Wash, which seems to be the City’s main interest. It is proposed to take thousands of acres out of the floodplain. I voted with other board members in 2012 to support the project, as long as all the stakeholders receive fair treatment and the taxpayers do not carry an unfair amount of the construction expense.
Question: How does your background qualify you to be a board member?
Frank: I am a graduate of Arizona State University with a B.S. in Civil Engineering and most of my professional career has been in the specialty field of Drainage and Flood Control. I worked for one of the most reputable firms in the state where I managed projects throughout Arizona ranging in size from small single-lot drainage plans to Drainage Master Plans for Maricopa County, which covered areas of hundreds of square miles and floodplain mapping projects in multiple counties. In 2008 I was appointed chairman of the Legislative Issues Committee for the Arizona Floodplain Managers Association. Today, I continue to work in private practice on large development scale projects in several states.
Hinton: I have had extensive involvement in the flood control and development of the city through my eight years of working for the City Development Services Department along with my continuing employment in land development.
Neely: As a resident and survivor of two flood events, I understand where the waters flow. I also appreciate the concerns of our Ak-Chin and Gila River Indian Community neighbors. I know the problems MFCD has to face as a result of poor decisions made by other government agencies in the past.
Question Describe the ideal relationship between the Flood Control District and the City of Maricopa?
Frank: I look at the Flood Control District of Maricopa County as a good example of how they work with local municipalities. While they do have a significantly larger taxing base to draw from, they have developed a program where they partner with the cities to help fund, manage and construct projects. I would seek ways to foster a collaboration relationship with all the parties involved.
Hinton: Having consistent goals and objectives on flood control and using each other’s resources to manage and overcome the challenges the area faces today and in the future.
Neely: I would like to see the city finally accept the fact that MFCD is a legitimate entity, sanctioned by Pinal County and the State of Arizona. MFCD had a good working relationship with past administrations, so we know the district has a role to play and can be an asset to Maricopa. I think differences of opinion can drive good solutions, if both parties are willing to talk. In my experience, bad decisions result from one party dominating an issue or trying to force its will on everyone else. Lately, this seems to be the way the city wants to do business. Ideally, the two organizations would collaborate and solve flood control issues together, for the benefit of the taxpayers.
Question: Describe the ideal relationship between the Flood Control District and the Gila River Indian Community?
Frank: We must work in collaboration with our neighbors to the north to find mutually beneficial solutions. I understand there is some disagreement on the flow rate reaching Gila River. By working together, we can come up with a plan that will work to the benefit of both parties to control flooding and reclaim developable land.
Hinton: Open communication at both the staff level and board/tribal council level on ongoing maintenance of the washes and new improvement projects.
Neely: I respect their concerns and have always made a solid effort to work with them. The waters flowing through Maricopa end up on their land. As the city develops, it has to be careful not to cause them harm. Their planning department is staffed with professionals and, if they have concern with a plan as it is being offered, as is the case with the proposed North Santa Cruz Wash Improvements, the members of the Community deserve to be heard and their opinions given full consideration.
Question: How do you envision the operation of the Flood Control District in the year 2040?
Frank: As the area develops, the tax base for the district will increase. This will help fund projects and minimize the impacts of floodplains. If done properly, watercourses can be safely designed and managed to incorporate multi-use components like hiking, biking and equestrian trails. This approach takes the problem and turns it into an amenity for the City by providing alternate transportation links and recreation opportunities.
Hinton: Having a cohesive relationship and business plan with the City of Maricopa and Pinal County Flood Control District.
Neely: Within the next few years, after we know the outcome of the levee situation, I would like to see the District relieve the homeowners associations of some of their duties in maintaining the washes. It is the city that delegates those maintenance functions, even though the HOAs have proven they are not equipped to handle more than routine landscaping. I don’t think it is fair that they have to pay for that service through HOA fees, when they already pay taxes for the same purpose. I would like to see the city end that policy. By 2040, we should have the big flood prevention issues resolved on both the east and the west sides of the city. I hope we are primarily maintaining the structures by then.