Jochim: Ahwatukee residents deserve ADOT’s response to questions regarding Loop 202 - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Opinion

Jochim: Ahwatukee residents deserve ADOT’s response to questions regarding Loop 202

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Posted: Saturday, May 17, 2014 8:45 am | Updated: 10:39 pm, Sat Jul 19, 2014.

Why has the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) ended the communications road on questions raised about how monies were spent on vacant lot acquisitions in the Calabera subdivision for the proposed South Mountain Freeway Loop 202?

I wrote a letter (see below) that was sent via certified mail on March 6. The letter was accepted at ADOT on March 10 and it has been in their possession for over 60 days. Surely that is enough time to respond!

This letter was not addressed generically to any “To Whom It May Concern,” but it was sent directly to a person who has a high ranking position with ADOT — Matt Burdick, division director, communications. He has been part of the agency’s communication efforts since 1996 (so this is not his first rodeo) and he reports directly to the director of ADOT, John S. Halikowski. In turn, Halikowski is accountable to our governor, Janice K. Brewer.

So that leaves the $64 question on the table: Why not any response from ADOT as they had the time (60 days) and money isn’t the issue — based on how they freely spend it — so WHY?

What happened to the concept of “straight talk” that Sen. John McCain utilized several years ago in his election campaign?

Is ADOT’s lack of response implying it must be their way or hit-the-road taxpayer?

I feel the taxpayers in the Ahwatukee Foothills Village deserve “straight talk” from ADOT!

Here is the letter I submitted:

Dear Mr. Burdick,

Attached is a copy of the letter I received from your direct report, Mr. Timothy Tait, dated Feb. 27, 2014 that was based on my letter to him (in which you were also copied) dated Feb. 3, 2014.

I find it disappointing that your subordinate would opt-out of a detailed professional reply by using the “not-on-my-watch” position, but with that being his call I will move on and escalate the issue to your level. Based on my academic understanding of process management you represent the process owner for communications at ADOT — which means in field terms — “the buck stops here,” or academically you are the point of end-to-end responsibility.

Moreover, you have been in a communication leadership role with ADOT since 1996 so the issues that I addressed to Mr. Tait should be answerable with your background and experience at ADOT.

Detailed below are the questions I need your support for clarity and they are related to the article in Ahwatukee Foothills News dated Jan. 15, 2014, which was also sent to you on Feb. 3, 2014.

Did ADOT have conversations with Calabera Development, L.L.C to buy the land needed for the proposed freeway before it was subdivided? My records show Calabera bought the undeveloped land in January of 2004 and the public report was issued in April of 2004. It is obvious that the Department of Real Estate was in contact with ADOT because on page 5 of the public report, on section No. 13, it identifies the actual lots that are “within the proposed freeway corridor.” Why didn’t ADOT buy the lots at that point? The investor that I referenced in my letter purchased his four lots in August of 2004 — so ADOT had that additional window of time (four months) to purchase the lots but did not act. Why?

The investor bought all four lots for $769,000 and then in April of 2006 ADOT purchased them for $1,953,900. Why was it OK to buy the lots at that point in time but not some 20 months earlier? That delay cost the taxpayers over $1 million.

As I noted in my “Opinion” letter to the AFN on Jan. 15, 2014 this was a very profitable transaction for the investor — a gain of 154 percent in 20 months. What did ADOT use for “comps” as that level of appreciation is substantially outside of the normal range?

As a matter of record I am focusing just on these four lots, 27, 29, 57 and 58, because they were the first lots bought in the Calabera subdivision (all by the same investor) and also the first ones sold. As you and I both know there have been other transactions recorded to ADOT from the Calabera subdivision for the proposed South Mountain Freeway Loop 202.

In closing, this transaction cost the taxpayers nearly $2 million and the four lots could have been purchased for substantially less — had ADOT acted like time was of the essence. I shutter to project what is going to transpire when ADOT has access to nearly $2 billion to build the proposed 22-mile length of the freeway when this cost overrun occurred in just a two-block segment of the route.

• Jim Jochim has lived in Ahwatukee for more than 18 years, has an MBA from Arizona State University, a real estate license, and is retired from AT&T. He is the treasurer of PARC, or Protecting Arizona Resources and Children (www.protectazchildren.org).

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