FLORENCE — COVID-19 infections continue to rise locally and statewide but at a slower rate, the head of the local hospital told the Town Council on Monday.

“We are starting to see a reduction in the rise of new cases day over day and week over week statewide,” Dr. Derrick Glum, chief operating officer for Mountain Vista Medical Center in Mesa and the hospital’s Florence campus, told the council. “Pinal County is also seeing the same trajectory. The total amount of new cases is starting to taper day over day.”

He said there were no new reported cases or deaths Sunday in Pinal County. However, the next day there were 223 cases reported in Pinal County, along with five deaths.

“We’re not going to call it a plateau yet, but the increase in cases is starting to slow,” Glum said, adding the duration and severity of the illness also appear to be declining in the local region.

He said the Florence hospital had treated 30 COVID-19 cases in the last six weeks and provides tests to people who’ve received a doctor’s order to be tested. Glum said the Florence hospital tests 20 to 30 people for COVID-19 from 9 to 11 a.m. on a typical day. The Mesa hospital offers drive-thru testing from 9 a.m. to noon, Glum said.

He said the Florence hospital has been reasonably well stocked with testing kits while it performs employee testing for the Gila River Indian Community and its casino employees.

In other business Monday, the council gave final approval to local tax levies for the new fiscal year. A levy for the Streetlight Improvement Districts passed over the no vote of Vice Mayor John Anderson.

In a SLID, property owners in a defined area agree to pay the costs to operate and maintain their streetlights through a property tax.

Anderson said he still opposes the concept of some parts of town being taxed for their streetlights while other parts of town are not. Councilwoman Kristen Larsen agreed and asked why the town wasn’t at least paying for the standard lighting provided in other parts of town.

Town Finance Director Becki Jimenez said the town’s general fund can’t support streetlights. But Anderson said he didn’t believe $90,000 per year to pay for Anthem’s streetlights would break the budget.

Councilwoman Michelle Cordes said the issue had been discussed “a couple of times” and the council was never “given a good solution,” yet it’s being asked to approve SLIDs again.

Town Manager Brent Billingsley replied that the issue had actually been discussed at multiple council meetings and town staff had provided a lot of information. He said the town’s own development code requires SLIDs. He said without them, the town would have an “inverse financial relationship with growth,” as the town grows, “the less money we have,” Billingsley said.

Town Engineer Chris Salas told the council in March that relying on more of the town’s gas tax funding, known as HURF, to pay for more streetlights would mean less money for streets at a time when the town is also facing the prospect of cuts to HURF following the potential closure of Arizona State Prison-Florence Complex.

He said public works departments across the nation have been asked to do the same with less for a long time, and HURF is needed for actual pavement and transportation.

The town’s SLIDs 1 and 2 have adequate financial reserves and will levy no tax in the new fiscal year.

SLID 3, however, will charge $0.1433 per $100 of net assessed valuation. This means the owner of a $100,000 home in SLID 3 will pay $14.33 this year.

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Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at mcowling@pinalcentral.com.

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