The Chino Valley Town Council will have two new faces on its roster following the March 12 primary election after voters elected Pat McKee and Don Wojcik to the seat being vacated in June by outgoing members Dean Echols and Carl Tenney, both whom chose not to seek re-election.
Incumbent Linda Hatch was re-elected to her council seat in the primary, as was town mayor Chris Marley.
Of the 6,027 registered voters in Chino Valley, only 2,092 cast ballots for the council seat race, with Marley, who was running unopposed, receiving 1,612 of the 1,653 votes cast for mayor. Forty-one votes were cast for write in mayoral candidates.
Terms for current council members Darryl Croft, Mike Best, and Lon Turner expire in 2015.
Also passing in the March 12 primary was Proposition 424, the Home Rule option, with 66.61 percent of the vote.
Of the major issues the town faces in the coming years, all three of the newly elected council members and Mayor Marley agree, town finances tops the list.
"The major priority is to get the town on its feet financially," said Marley. "We're going to have to learn to work together with our new council members and get to know each other. I'm hoping we can get the Old Home Manor industrial park established and I hope that we can find some financing to get our sewer and water system on Highway 89 so we can begin to build infrastructure."
Marley said with the expansion of the Highway 89 system, the town will be able to attract new businesses, which will help the local economy.
"If we can have shovel ready lots with water and sewer on them, we can get some retail up and down 89," said Marley. "It will provide jobs and it will provide sales tax."
Hatch says there is a fine balance to be found between attracting business's and meeting the needs of the public.
"We still have a budget to meet and that's pretty significant, the most significant thing at this point," said Hatch. "We have to be concerned about it. It's one thing to bring business in, but you still have to be concerned about the people who live here. The town is the people and if you ignore what the people want nobody is going to want to live here. Budget is very important, but you can't go too far with business because you'll discount the needs of the people and then the people wont want to be here."
Hatch said the sewer issue is also very important, and new customers are needed for the system to work.
"Those sewer rates are really, really high," said Hatch. "Unless we get more people (on the system), the people who are currently on it shouldn't be penalized and shouldn't be paying the way for other people. That's a significant issue."
Hatch said she was disappointed in the voter turnout, which overall on March 12 was less than 35 percent of registered voters.
"It's kind of a low percentage," said Hatch. "I guess the one thing we all need to do is try and encourage people to get out there and vote. Now, 34 percent of the people are making the decisions for the whole town. We need voter participation to let us know what they think."
Of the 2,092 votes cast for council seats, McKee received the most votes, 1,315 (26.57 percent).
"I am very surprised I received the most votes," said McKee. "I'm not very well known but I did get out to see people, going to as many public meetings as I can, and really talking to people face to face."
McKee agreed finances are key to the towns success, but also said she was surprised at the low turnout for the primary.
"If (the people) don't vote they really have no room to complain about what's going on," said McKee. "If they care about what's going on in the community, they need to get out to vote."
Wojcik said he thinks the budget issue can be fixed by stopping unnecessary purchases once he takes office.
"We've got to stop spending," said Wojcik. Referencing a purchase approval made during the March 12 council meeting for a $105,000 chip spreader, Wojcik says this and other equipment is unnecessary. "We buy big machines, then we have the maintenance cost, we have to pay the people to run them, we have to pay their medical insurance, pay their retirement insurance. It just doesn't make sense for a small town like us to have this kind of equipment. Some counties don't have machines like that, they rely on contractors to do their work for them."
Wojcik said that the fault lies with the council.
"If you sit in on some of these council meetings a lot of these things are a rubber stamp," said Wojcik. "They approve stuff seven to nothing. How do you get seven adults to agree on any particular point? They obviously are taking the word of whomever it is from the town that's coming up and requesting the funds. You can't go out and spend $105,000 when you don't have the money. They just keep figuring ways to spend it and then when they run short of money they increase taxes, increase sewer and water rates. Sooner or later people are going to leave this town and forget about it."
The new council will be sworn in during a June council meeting.
Visit www.chinoaz.net for information on all public meetings, including council minutes and agendas.