Bill Hawkins

FLORENCE — Town Council members held a moment of silence Monday for three-term Councilman Bill Hawkins, who died March 12 after a long battle with cancer at the age of 69.

“He devoted his life to Florence, caring deeply about this town and our citizens,” Mayor Tara Walter said. Vice Mayor John Anderson said he would miss Hawkins’ friendship and Councilwoman Michelle Cordes offered condolences to Hawkins’ family and friends.

There was no discussion about filling Hawkins’ seat Monday night.

Also in the meeting, the U.S. census is now underway, and the town is hoping for a high response rate.

“We’d really like to see 90%,” Jennifer Evans, town management analyst, told the council. The town’s response was only about 60% for the last census 10 years ago, Evans said. Census information determines congressional and legislative representation, federal and state funding for local needs and economic development.

Households should have already received mailers inviting residents to participate. This is the first U.S. census which will take online responses, and responses may also be made by phone or by mail. Reminder letters were scheduled to go out this week to households that haven’t responded. Census enumerators will attempt to contact households that haven’t responded around mid-May, Evans told the council.

More information is available at www.icount2020.info, www.2020census.gov or writing to Evans at Jennifer.evans@florenceaz.gov.

SLIDs

The council also continued its discussion of Streetlight Improvement Districts, in which property owners in a defined area agree to pay the costs to operate and maintain their streetlights through a property tax.

Town Manager Brent Billingsley said town code requires an SLID for all new development. But some council members have questioned the fairness, with Anthem residents taxed for their lights while downtown streetlights are paid for out of the town’s share of state gas tax for street funding.

Town Engineer Chris Salas researched how other Arizona cities pay for streetlights. Some without SLIDs mingle HURF and general fund dollars to cover streetlights, Salas said, but added he was told to be careful in comparing their practices to Florence in one budget item. Mesa actually has a separate tax for maintaining roads, Salas said.

A Florence council member previously asked if it was possible to determine how many Anthem streetlights could be paid for with HURF. This would mean less money for Florence streets at a time when the town is also facing the prospect of cuts to HURF following the closure of Arizona State Prison-Florence Complex, Salas said.

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.

Councilwoman Kristen Larsen said she still didn’t like the fact that residents are paying for something that should be paid by the general fund or HURF. Although she considers it “a fight worth fighting,” with the prison closing, “I don’t feel the timing is right,” Larsen said. The council took no action.

In other business, the council:

  • Heard the first reading of an ordinance amending its code pertaining to food trucks. Last year the town adopted the state’s model ordinance, but later determined that requiring trucks to be 250 feet from residential areas severely limits their ability to conduct business.
  • Authorized town staff to proceed with negotiations with the Five Parks retirement communities for a special use agreement for future development of a town parcel for s a community dog park.
  • Held a public hearing and first reading on a text amendment to the town’s land development code. The amendment is intended to correct discrepancies and conflicts created over the years, clarify and “clean-up” the code and update terminology to be consistent, planning consultant Dana Burkhart told the council.

A paper copy is on file at the Town Clerk’s office and is also on the town website, florenceaz.gov. On the Community Development page, under Documents, select Ordinance 689-20. Proposed Text Amendment. The ordinance will return to the council for possible action on April 6.

Gave final approval to an ordinance that dissolves the Library Advisory Board, Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and Arts and Culture Commission in favor of a new Community Services Advisory Board.

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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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