Cave Creek reviews topics, discusses future

At the Cave Creek Town Council’s final meeting of the year, multiple topics were discussed, signifying the end of both the calendar year and the fiscal year in June.

A comprehensive report on the town’s financial responsibilities was given by its auditing firm, in addition to an ending “Year in Review” presented by city staff.

During the meeting, traffic — a citywide issue that has affected pedestrians and motorists — was discussed and options explored to further curb this problem.

The way in which the council looks to move forward with the plan is at the discretion of further governmental agencies who will decide whether or not the town is to receive grant funds.

Cave Creek’s comprehensive financial report

Newly appointed Cave Creek Finance Director Mitzi Callow introduced Brian Hemmerle of Bakertilly, the town’s auditing firm. He produced the audit results required by state statute for the 2022 fiscal year. In a presentation to council, Hemmerle described how the audit didn’t go beyond what the state requires, and rather that the accounting firm provided a “reasonable opinion” that the results were “materially correct.” Reasoning behind this was provided as Hemmerle described that in order to provide exact assurance, the firm would have to test every transaction of the town.

“The reasonable assurance provides a basis on statistical examples such as walkthroughs, observations and samples of expenses, revenues and balance sheets,” Hemmerle said.

According to the audit, the accounting firm did not find any inconsistencies that needed to be reported to council, and issued a “clean opinion” on the town’s financial statements for this fiscal year. There were also no issues when performing the audit and no uncorrected misstatements, meaning that the council did not have to shop further auditing companies for this “clean opinion.”

There was one verbal recommendation related to software, regarding a specific information technology arrangement, in which a new government accounting standard for next year would require the accounting firm to implement this new IT arrangement for the town.

Voter-approved expenditure limitation for Cave Creek was $40 million, and by Bakertilly’s calculations, the town’s expenditures were around $33 million and change, bringing the town’s total expenditures under their limit by around $6 million.

A federal single audit will be required for Cave Creek next year for the funds received during the coronavirus state and local fiscal recovery funds. According to Hemmerle, with knowledge of the high restrictions placed on these funds, a specific warning was given about an audit that will be transcribed for the next fiscal year.

Bar graphs were presented to the town council’s audience that displayed the growing number of assets, equity and expenses. Upon viewing this, council then questioned why proprietary funds had risen from $21 million to $39 million throughout the year. The accounting firm represented by Hemmerle could not give a straightforward answer when asked about this, citing that they would have to “take another look at why the proprietary funds were up this year.”

Town traffic and pedestrian safety

update

Town traffic and pedestrian safety was another topic that was discussed at the meeting. In a report by town staff, the adoption of the town core implementation program in 2000 — projects such as the roundabout at School House Road, the acquisition of land for public parking, streetscapes, street lighting, as well as right-of-way design and improvement of emergency access North and South of Cave Creek Road — was described as “essentially a capital improvement program.”

Discussions have been had on other improvements, such as reducing Cave Creek Road to one lane at certain blocks to improve on street parking, a different roundabout at Rancho Manana Boulevard, and the signalization at the intersection of School House Road and Cave Creek Road.

Upon partnering with Maricopa Association of Governments, Cave Creek has funded additional studies to identify safe modes of travel through the town core. Several grant applications during the 2000s were submitted and, although not funded, they would have further accommodated pedestrians.

Making evident that the town has an issue with pedestrian safety in its core, town staff recommended further grant applications that would allow for the improvement of pedestrian safety by targeting high vehicle speeds, areas with low lighting, and unsignalized and unmarked crossing locations.

The town staff reported it wanted to go forward with three grants. One grant would present the city with funds to create three locations for crossing Cave Creek Road. These locations would be the Hidden Valley West End, Hilltop by the Dairy Queen, and near the Roadhouse.

According to staff, these three locations would be designed with raised crosswalks to provide a designated location to cross, set with warning devices letting motorists know when pedestrians are present.

With no commitment to complete these projects as of yet, the town looks to be responsible for the design of the projects if the funding is approved. As of now, $100,000 of the budget has been set aside for this. Contract for the design would be brought back to council for approval, pending the acceptance of the grant funds.

Year in review

The final item on the Cave Creek Town Council’s agenda for its last meeting of the year, fittingly, was its year in review presented by Town Manager Carrie A. Dyrek. Dyrek went through expense reports including financial viability reports, enterprise funds and development services.

She said expenses for the year had remained under budget and water utility rates and capacity fee increases that were adopted by the council. For the third consecutive year, Cave Creek received the “Excellence in Financial Reporting.”

Through November, the town of Cave Creek issued 534 permits while also conducting 6,700 building and fire inspections and issued 47 “new home” permits. Dozens of “hot work” inspections were also conducted, a plan new to this year that works to properly plan and prevent fires during the dry seasons of the year.

Several infrastructure improvements were made, but the Ridgeway Drive cleanup and road fixture was one of the most important improvements throughout the year. The widening of Spur Cross Road was “one of the biggest and really important road projects,” according to Dyrek. About 650 feet of road was widened, and an area that originally only 18 feet wide was pushed to 25 feet. Calling it a “safety issue,” Dyrek further explained that it “really had an impact on traffic.”

Before a final “Year in Review” video was played for both the public and the council, it was clarified that in the beginning of 2022, a lot was done to add to public safety of Cave Creek including the purchase of the Town Fire Station 1. A future public brush drop-off will be coming in February and March, just as it was done earlier this year. This drop-off allows for the public to clear out brush and hopefully motivates residents to clean and clear the brush from their properties.

In November, the Cave Creek emergency plan was updated to incorporate all of the changes and updates that go along with that plan.

Calling on a “community collaboration,” Dyrek explained that the 2022 rodeo was successful and cited the Cave Creek Tourism Bureau, run by volunteers, for providing concierge bus tours and dinners throughout the year. Finally, it was announced how a new resident packet has started to be given to new Cave Creek residents upon officially entering the town as a resident.