Apache Junction school officials may be unable to attend May 9 joint meeting proposed by city council

The Apache Junction Aquatic Center and Skate Park at Superstition Shadows Park are at 1091 W. Southern Ave. Other facilities at the park include tennis courts, ball fields and play equipment. (Independent Newspapers/Melissa Fittro)

The Apache Junction Aquatic Center and Skate Park at Superstition Shadows Park are at 1091 W. Southern Ave. Other facilities at the park include tennis courts, ball fields and play equipment. (Independent Newspapers/Melissa Fittro)

The utilities at the Superstition Shadows Park aquatic center and adjacent skate park, 1091 W. Southern Ave. and the ball fields at Superstition Mountain Elementary School, 550 S. Ironwood Drive will remain on, for now.

During the Apache Junction Unified School District Governing Board meeting on Tuesday, April 28, the governing board voted to not turn off utilities at the recreational facilities. They also proposed to continue paying for them until July 1, with the hopes that an agreement will be reached soon with the city of Apache Junction.

“They voted 5-0 not to turn off utilities,” said Dana Hawman, public relations coordinator for the AJUSD. “They made an alternate proposal that the utilities be paid by the district until July 1 at the latest with the expectation that the city council and board would meet within the next two weeks and they would come to an agreement before then.”

However, it may take longer than two weeks to get the five-member governing board and seven-member Apache Junction City Council together.

During their May 5 regular meeting, council members scheduled a special joint meeting for 10 a.m. Saturday, May 9, at the City Conference Center, 1001 N. Idaho Road.

The agenda includes discussion between the city council and governing board about a proposed intergovernmental agreement regarding utilities costs; use and maintenance of Superstition Shadows Park’s swimming pool, skate park and tennis courts; the ballfields at Superstition Mountain Elementary School, 550 S. Ironwood Drive; and the resurfacing of San Marcos Drive alignment on the school district property south of Southern Avenue and east of Cactus Canyon Junior High School, 801 W. Southern Ave.

The agenda may be viewed online at www.ajcity.net. For more information, call 480-982-8002.

Superintendent Dr. Chad Wilson was not sure a quorum of governing board members would be able to attend.

“Several are looking at their calendars but unfortunately the date established may not be one they can attend,” Dr. Wilson wrote May 6 in an e-mailed response to questions.

Board member Mike Weaver will not attend due to a prior commitment as a volunteer for the Community Alliance Against Family Abuse 5K fundraising run that day, he said during a phone interview May 6.

Mr. Weaver said he did not believe the meeting would be productive.

“We’re not prepared to have the discussion (the council) wants to have,” he said by phone. “There’s a process that has to take place for things to operate in an orderly fashion.”

Mr. Weaver said the governing board will hold its regular meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 12, at the district office, 1575 W. Southern Ave. in Apache Junction.

“I believe things are progressing productively and I look forward to progressing on a timeline working on an agreement to fairly share the costs beyond July 1.”

The city council will meet May 9 regardless of the school board’s attendance, Constance Halonen-Wilson, the city’s spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed response to questions May 7.

“We hope they are able to attend,” she said. “We will proceed with the outlined agenda that is available online. Item No. 4 is in the district’s hands. There will be no need to reschedule.”

Item No. 4 on the agenda allows members of the governing board to vote on the proposed agreement regarding utility costs, use and maintenance of the facilities, according to the agenda.

In 1991 the two parties first entered the IGA involving the construction, development and operation and use of the pool, skate park and ball fields. A subsequent IGA was signed in 2001.

As Dr. Wilson explained during the April 28 meeting, the IGA in its original conception was a 50-year agreement that had potential for opt out or renegotiation at any time by either party, with a two-year notice.

“The governing board back six years ago, sent a two-year notice to the city to opt out of the IGA with the city,” said Dr. Wilson. “Time went by and discussions were had and ideas were shared and unfortunately there was not any solution that seemed to be palpable to both entities.”

When the IGA ended in 2010 the two groups continued maintaining the public places.

“We took on several of the responsibilities the school was supposed to be doing before,” said Councilman Chip Wilson. “They still maintain water and we took on some of the electric responsibilities but overall basically continued on with majority of agreement.”

The school district since then has been paying $150,000 annually for utilities for those venues, while the city has paid $300,000 annually for those venues’ personnel, services and supplies, Jeff Bell, parks and recreation director for the city, said in an e-mailed response to questions.

Five years later, the Apache Junction City Council and the school district governing board are still struggling to come to an agreement about the agreement to determine who will continue to operate, maintain and pay the utility bills for these recreation venues.

“Over the course of time, the discussion was how the cost can be lessened on the part of the district,” said Dr. Wilson. “Not because there wasn’t a desire for partnership, but because there wasn’t any money.”

The city council has been trying to hold a joint meeting with the governing board to work out an agreement. At its April 21 meeting, the council voted on four dates in May to propose to the governing board for a joint meeting,

“They all are on Saturdays to make sure they are available and we want to include the public as well,” said Councilman Wilson. “I told them that if those four dates don’t work give us some other dates.”

Councilman Wilson, who was a public speaker during the April 28 school board meeting, said Dr. Wilson called Assistant City Manager Bryant Powell after the meeting.

“Now they want to start something within two weeks,” said Councilman Wilson. “After the meeting I was with Bryant Powell and he got a phone call from Dr. Wilson. I think we were successful in getting something started.”

Mr. Powell said he had called Dr. Wilson after the board meeting, and Dr. Wilson was returning his phone call. The two met with other council and staff members for about an hour on Wednesday, April 29.

“No agreement was met; the purpose of the meeting was to continue dialog,” said Mr. Powell in an e-mailed response to questions. “Final agreement will be made by the governing bodies.”

Dr. Wilson also said in an e-mail after the meeting that he thought the meeting went well.

“Both the district and the city want financially viable solutions that support our students and our community,” said Dr. Wilson.

Dr. Wilson said members from the city council and school board met numerous times about a year and a half ago, to see if there could be a solution reached.

“I think both sides walked away feeling frustrated because both sides felt what was described in those meetings was not what the other side interpreted or thought those issues to be,” said Dr. Wilson.

However, Councilman Wilson said the city sent four proposals but the school board shot them all down.

“The only thing we heard was that they were not acceptable,” said Councilman Wilson. “Now we are offering to lease it from them, giving them a small amount of money and remove them from paying for utilities but they would have to pay for certain uses of it, but that was not acceptable to them at all.”

 

Reach staff writer Melissa Fittro at mfittro@newszap.com

Reach staff writer Wendy Miller at wmiller@newszap.com

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