FLORENCE — Anthem still lacks town parks and recreation amenities and there are no plans to remedy that in the year ahead, a Town Council member complained Monday.

“An entire half of the city is not provided services,” and neither are there trails for ease of access to facilities downtown, Councilwoman Kristen Rodriguez said. “I don’t feel like the majority of our citizens are being represented.”

She made her comments Monday as the council approved a tentative annual budget and five-year capital improvement plan. She noted the town still lacks a skate park in the Anthem area up north, and it’s nowhere to be seen in the CIP.

“We pay taxes, we want parks and recreation services north of the Gila (River), and the town has not stepped up to the plate,” Rodriguez said. “I feel like we’re missing the boat for another year.”

Town Manager Brent Billingsley told the council in an April budget discussion that he had approached Pulte Homes about a skate park a couple of years ago and was told the company wasn’t interested. But when development moves east of Felix Road, that new area will need amenities, he said.

The town may be able to talk with Pulte and another developer, Southwest Value Partners, about buying 2.5 acres for a skate park. Billingsley said in April companies are likely to begin building houses east of Felix Road in the next couple of years.

Florence Finance Director Rebecca Jimenez said the CIP is a “changing, fluctuating document” and can change beyond the current year. Deputy Town Manager/Town Clerk Lisa Garcia noted the coming budget year will be tight.

Garcia reminded the council this is the first year for Florence to operate under its new Permanent Base Adjustment, which local voters approved in 2018. Town spending will be capped at $31,691,433, which is slightly less than in the current year.

“We don’t have the (ability for) big expenditures to put our dreams in this year,” Garcia told the council. She further noted the town has yet to acquire land for a skate park.

Council members also noted the CIP again includes $200,000 for “Main Street Revitalization” in each of the next five years, but it’s never spent. “Who comes up with a plan to execute?” Councilman John Anderson asked.

Billingsley said town staff will have a suggestion at the council’s next regular meeting.

Vice Mayor Michelle Cordes said, “I’ve tried several times to spend that money” and challenged her fellow council members to come up with a plan. She said town staff works for the council, and the council needs to insist staff are doing what the council wants. “Let’s start doing our job.”

The CIP for the coming year includes $300,000 for the rodeo grounds, in case safety improvements are needed, and $140,000 for the expansion of the Territory Square development north of Heritage Park. The plan also includes $50,000 for the study and feasibility of a “Community Cultural Center.”

In all, the CIP projects for the new fiscal year total $11,653,400. If grants are applied for and received, the total could be more than $24 million. More than $12 million in projects will be funded by the state’s Water Infrastructure Finance Authority.

The 2021-22 total budget for all town funds is $65,792,740, which is the expenditure limitation plus allowable exclusions of $34,101,307. The council will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. June 21 to receive comments on the budget, followed by a special meeting to adopt it.

In other business Monday, the council:

  • Approved five new subdivisions in Anthem.
  • Recommended in favor of a Series 6 liquor license for Meghann Wright at 727 E. Gressinger St. Wright told the council she plans to serve small plates and quality drinks and is working toward an August opening.
  • Presented certificates of appreciation to University of Arizona architecture students Grace Miller and Allyssa Chiarello for their work on assessing the conditions of four historic buildings downtown.
  • Proclaimed May as Historic Preservation Month and presented the proclamation to Lynn Smith. Smith and her late husband, Tom, have been active in preserving the town’s history and historic buildings for 20 years.

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.