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Future Library Operations and Helping Preserve an “Iconic” Piece of the Sonoran Desert to be Discussed by Council on May 17

There are a couple agenda items being discussed at the Council work session and meeting on Tuesday, May 17 that I want to make you aware of. They are:

Future Operation of the Northwest Regional and Hollyhock Branch Libraries

During the 4 p.m. work session, the council members and I will learn about the city’s plan to conduct a feasibility study on our two libraries. The study will help identify future library needs in Surprise as well as analyze the impacts of bringing library operations “in house” in the future.

There will also be a discussion on the city entering into a new one-year intergovernmental agreement with Maricopa County to have the county continue staffing and operating our two libraries for at least another year while the feasibility study is being completed.

Surprise and Maricopa County entered into an agreement in 2001 that called for the city to build and the county to operate the Northwest Regional Library, which opened one year later.

The term of the agreement was for 10 years with an option to renew an additional five years, which the city opted to do. Under the agreement, the county funded library operations for the first 10 years.

After the initial 10-year period, Surprise began funding a portion of the annual operating costs until the city became responsible for 100% of library costs beginning this current year (FY16). As a result, the city is paying Maricopa County $1.8 million this year to staff, operate and program both libraries.

The current agreement expires next month, which is why there is a need for this presentation and discussion on our libraries. I know that many of you love our library and would like to see our library system expanded, so this will be an important discussion.

Preservation of the White Tank Mountains

Near the conclusion of our evening meeting, which begins at 6 p.m., the City Council will discuss an item that I know is extremely important to many of you: preservation of our desert and open space.

Without a doubt, the White Tank Mountains are among the best conserved natural areas in the entire Phoenix metro area. The nearly 30,000 thousand acres of open space, desert landscape and rocky peaks, which rise steeply to 4,000 feet, are a tremendous asset to our residents, our community and the region.

According to an article on azcentral.com, the land around the mountains is scheduled for enough development to support more than one million people.

Thus, one of the keys in managing future growth in the area is preserving the mountain range in a responsible manner by involving a myriad of key stakeholders. This important task is the mission of the recently established White Tank Mountain Conservancy (WTMC).

At Tuesday’s meeting, city staff will make a presentation to the Council on the WTMC, which will be followed by a discussion on Surprise joining the conservancy at a one-time fee of $25,000. The money is included in the City Manager’s recommended FY17 budget.

It’s important that we strike a balance of being good stewards of the environment and preserve wildlife corridors, while working with developers on compatible land uses that will enhance this magnificent piece of the Sonoran Desert in the West Valley.

To view the work session and meeting agendas, please visit http://agenda.surpriseaz.gov/.