By David Stander

Wickenburg Town Council

Last year, as approved by the U.S. Treasury Department, the Arizona governor nominated a portion of Wickenburg as an Opportunity Zone, in addition to other designated areas throughout the state. Designated zones act as an incentive for investors to reinvest money into these communities on qualified projects. One recent Opportunity Zone fund project was driven by a developer that had the potential to pump millions of renovation and development dollars (not destroy as some have intimated) into our downtown.  

There were a handful of individuals that were exclusively instrumental in quashing this development deal. Those same individuals are now vehemently speaking out against the purchase of the empty Bank of America building for the new police station.  One of the main reasons they’ve indicated is the possibility that at some future date someone may purchase that building which (now sitting empty for nearly five years) then may or may not generate tax revenue for Wickenburg.  

If you’re suddenly concerned about tax revenue for the Town, please reimburse or replace the lost tax revenue resultant solely from you chasing away a developer that was willing to invest in and bend over backwards to work with our town. How much tax revenue does a bank or service-oriented business bring to a town? Very little. There is no sales tax on their product.  

How much tax revenue do you think a hotel, a high-end steak house, a microbrewery, and additional retail stores would’ve brought to Wickenburg? Oh, you had better believe we (the citizens and taxpayers) are missing out. It also adds revitalization to our downtown attracting additional tourism.

Also, how beneficial would it have been to have a developer that was interested in investing in workforce housing for our community? Again,we are now missing out.

I have a background in law enforcement and am extra-vigilant when it comes to the safety and conditions faced by our first responders. Requesting a recent tour of the current police station I was disgusted to find, due to inadequate space, they have been cataloging evidence on their break room table. Not something I would want to eat on after who-knows-what has been sorted on it.  

Wickenburg has grown by 23 percent in the last five years. It is imperative that our measures for public safety keep up with that continuing growth. An independent advisory committee initiated three years ago recommended that we needed to start planning very near term for a new police station. The Town of Wickenburg could look at buying land and then building a new facility at the tune of an estimated $8-12 million. We would take out a bond issuance for that amount and then pay that back (with interest) over the next 20 years with taxpayer dollars.

Or, as the Town Council thought was prudent (6-0 approval), buy the empty BofA building for half of its recently appraised value at $1 million dollars with available reserve funds and renovate it to serve the community for years to come. I’m sure most of WPD would rather opt for a brand new, state-of-the-art facility, but I think this is a much more affordable and fiscally-responsible compromise. That savings permits additional funding to go towards (we hear you loud and clear and agree) much-needed repairs improvements to our streets, future renovations to our Community Center, etc.

I’ve been honored to serve this last year with them and I’ve seen very specifically that each of us strive to be good stewards of your tax dollars and do what we believe is in the Town’s best interest. We don’t always agree on those measures, but it opens up discourse and further consideration. We are doing our best to preserve Historic Wickenburg, but balance that with bringing commerce to Town and ensuring that businesses can thrive here and that Wickenburg doesn’t dry up and blow away with the tumbleweeds.

There are however a handful of citizens that have shot down nearly every positive prospect that this diverse Council has been trying to implement. If they want to personally fork out $10-12 million to explore a different course of action, then that’s an avenue we can pursue. Or if they want to bring other investors to the table for development ideas that would enhance our downtown and/or Wickenburg as a whole --- great. Happy to entertain.

But creating a void, without any sense of direction or constructive substitutes only weakens Wickenburg’s future.

Please step forward and continue to make your voices heard.

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