This week, we received news that our Town continues to grow at the fastest rate in the region, and, in fact, has received 41 percent more new home permits as of this November compared to this time last year.
We continue to be growing strong as a destination for new families, which is why I want to focus this update on our Infrastructure Strategic Initiative. This strategic initiative goes to the heart of our history as a community that has made forward-thinking and smart planning a priority. That focus allowed our Town to stay ahead of the needs of a community that during the prior decade was one of the fastest growing in the nation, as we also created a beautiful and recognized character that we all now enjoy. Infrastructure, which includes the focus on green and sustainable practices, remains a key priority as we look to build out the final third of our community and maintain our current quality.
Intersection Master Plan
Our staff recently launched the Intersection and Circulation Improvement Master Plan, which is an important strategic effort that will use our traffic retiming modeling software to prioritize our future intersection needs. Using this software, we will review the traffic flow, any changes in flow, safety factors and the General Plan for upcoming and real changes in use. What that means, is that you can expect your intersections to be maintained, and upgraded, as needs arise based on real-time data that has a direct impact on your lifestyle and the safety in intersections. This is an important project that you will see continue on a five-year basis, and will include a look ahead to the next year, as well as a look out to 20 years. The software we are using for this master plan was funded largely by grant money, and was originally used in a traffic retiming project that we completed earlier this year, and which has dramatically improved our traffic flow.
Gilbert’s Strategic Initiative which promotes a strong infrastructure makes clear that we also want to focus on green, sustainable practices. That is why I wanted to highlight a few big projects that stand out, and have even received national attention.
Gilbert is building Fire Station 10, which will be the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified building in Gilbert. That is a big step for us, and demonstrates our commitment to sustainability. This project takes creative steps including using solar panels that will reduce utility consumption by 40 percent, as parking lot shade structures. The building will be complete next summer, and was largely funded from the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act. Its primary function is to maintain our important life-saving response times, which goes to our Livability Strategic Initiative. As we build, we remain committed to sustainability, and hope to set an example by committing to recycling at least 95 percent of all the products that would normally be waste on a construction site – including concrete, metal and wood that is now still used. We will keep you posted as this structure, near Guadalupe and McQueen roads, breaks new ground in our Town.
The Town was visited in November by elected officials from across the nation, who toured the Neely Wastewater Reclamation Facility Solar Power System as part of a National League of Cities’ Congress of Cities mobile workshop tour featuring sustainable infrastructure and forward-thinking solutions. Through the use of more than 8,000 photovoltaic tracking solar panels installed above water recharge beds at the facility, this solar power system will off-set more than 86 million pounds of carbon dioxide over the life of the system and will generate over 4 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity annually. The energy generated will offset approximately 40 percent of the Neely Wastewater Plant’s electrical power needs, and the agreement locks in predictable utility costs for the next 20 years, for an estimated $2 million in savings. Gilbert is dedicated to continuing to seek green initiatives such as this nationally recognized model, which provides cost-savings thanks to a smart public-private partnership involving SPG Solar, Arizona Public Service, Integrys and Severn Trent. These projects also maintain our commitment to be good stewards of the environment.
Partnerships, like that at Neely, are an important piece to successful and smart management of a community. Another partnership currently underway in the Town is our grease drive with REV Biodiesel, a Gilbert company that is the largest biodiesel producer in Arizona. We have partnered to collect grease at all of our fire stations, which REV Biodiesel has the capacity to manufacture into biodiesel. We also collect cooking grease year-round at our Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility, so please help us turn your cooking grease into a healthy, environmental friendly commodity.
As we prepare to celebrate our New Year, it will be the second holiday since Gilbert allowed some forms of ‘fireworks’ on the days of December 31 & January 1. Fireworks allowed in Town on these days, on private property with the property owner’s permission, include hand-held sparklers, snakes, wheels and pinwheels.
Fireworks are not allowed in public parks, for safety reasons. We are very fortunate to be able to celebrate in this traditional manner in our community, so let’s enjoy the provisions we do have and come together to make sure we are doing so in a safe and considerate manner, something that should come easy in a community know for its family-friendly nature.
Please don’t try to use fireworks that are not legal. Fireworks that are unsafe and are not legal at any time include bottle rockets, fire crackers, roman candles and M-80s, or any others that rise into the air and explode. The user of fireworks are liable for any damages they cause.
Happy New Year
That takes me to the meaning behind this upcoming holiday itself. This year has been one of new starts for the Town of Gilbert, as we move in a positive new direction, strategically focused on our goal of being a premier community in the nation, and growing our recognition as efficient, low cost and high quality. I am very grateful for this community, including both the Town residents and the Town staff. I thank you for your engagement and support of the Town. We could not operate as we should without an informed and interested community.
Due to the holidays, Friday, January 6 will be our next Manager’s Update. In the meantime, I wish you a very happy and prosperous new year.
~ Patrick Banger, Town Manager