CITY PROJECTS UPDATE
by Robert “Bob” Jackson, Mayor, Casa Grande
As we close out the city’s fiscal year I thought I would take the opportunity to update everyone on several of our ongoing projects.
The Council earlier in the year approved a new Computer Aided Dispatch/Record Management System for the police and fire departments. The old system was more than 20 years old and simply could not accommodate many of the newer requirements. Think about your personal computer needs today and think about what you were doing 20 years ago and you can see how obsolete the system had become. The upgrade costs about $1.5 million and will take about a year to fully implement. It will have many new features to streamline our dispatch operations and the records system.
A second program we are undertaking for the police department is body cameras for our officers. As the Council looked at different alternatives, we felt that with everyone having smart phones today, we needed to be sure that the officers were protected from recordings which fail to show the officer perspective in crucial situations. After looking at all available technologies and camera locations, we have elected to move forward with cameras mounted on the officer’s chest. While we recognize there is no perfect system, we felt this would best serve our officers. We will be outfitting our officers over the next few years.
You will soon start seeing new police vehicles on the road, as well. After several years of looking at different makes and models, we will be switching to Chevy Tahoe SUVs. Police vehicles are typically only manufactured by one or two of the big auto manufacturers. They require many special features that are not on civilian vehicles. Over the years, we have used Ford Crown Victorias (no longer being manufactured with the police package), Chevy Caprices and Dodge Chargers. Each has positives and negatives, but in the end, the Tahoes are best suited for our use.
In the public works arena, we are working on a couple of projects that will help us achieve a more sustainable community. The first is a company called Waste Empowered. We are working on a long-term agreement with them to take all of our Municipal Solid Waste, process it and reduce its volume by more than 75 percent. This will allow us to extend the life of our landfill decades into the future. At its current pace we feel we have less than 20 years remaining before we need to look at a new site. This agreement with Waste Empowered is intended to keep our rates low and provide a long-term solution to our waste disposal.
We recently approved a contract with a company called NFlux. The proposal will generate electricity and grow food crops for sale using effluent from our treatment plant. The electrical generation will be used to offset the current cost of electricity at our plant and be a good outlet for effluent reuse. We currently use a portion of our effluent for irrigation of the golf course and a portion is used by the SRP Desert Basin Power Plant.
One final update involves the proposed new community center. At a recent Council meeting, we approved moving forward with the final design of the center. It was voter-approved about ten years ago and is the last of the bond projects that were proposed. The design is expected to take about six months with construction starting shortly thereafter. With luck we should break ground by the end of 2016.
We are constantly looking at ways to upgrade and improve our service delivery to our citizens. There are lots of other projects being examined by the Council and staff with the goal of improving the quality of life in Casa Grande.