Keeping the Sun Cities walls clean, standing

By Rusty Bradshaw
and Roger Ball
Independent Newsmedia

The common walls in the Sun Cities can, and have, come crumbling down and there is a long-standing argument about who has responsibility to fund the repair.

During the summer of 2008, the Sun City PRIDES were busy trying to find someone who would repair a portion of a common wall at the intersection of 107th and Olive avenues. The wall, which included a decorative entry sign into the community, had been struck by a vehicle and debris from the wall laid on the ground for several months.

Volunteers work to clean and paint a portion of exterior common walls along Olive Avenue in Sun City early in the wall project in that community. While walls have been painted in both communities, repair is a more complicated issue.

When it was discovered the driver was uninsured, the search began to see who else might be responsible. The search came to nothing as Recreation Centers of Sun City, Maricopa County and Sun City Home Owners officials all said the responsibility was not theirs.

Julie Syrmopoulos, a county planner at the time, said assigning responsibility for the wall maintenance was tricky because it depended on how the lot was deeded and platted. County officials considered wall damage a civil matter.

Damage to a wall fronting 99th Avenue near Thunderbird Boulevard was also damaged by a falling tree also in summer 2008 and that damage was paid for by the insurance company of the property owner on the other side of the wall.

Sun City resident Ben Roloff, then a SCHOA board member, said wall ownership had never been determined. However, that is a bit different for walls in condo associations, according to Sam Estok, Condo Owners Association of Sun City. He said any walls in a condo association is the responsibility of the association.

The same is true in Sun City West and no wall ownership is determined to this day.

But in both communities, in what seems a contradiction, some organizations have taken responsibility for keeping the walls clean and painted.

Recreation Centers of Sun City West officials have exterior common walls painted on a regular basis, according to Larry Woods.

“Thank goodness, I have never seen any graffiti on the walls since we arrived in February 2011,” said Ralph Johnson, Sun City West PRIDES and PORA president.

Sun City has experienced some graffiti on common walls. At one time the Sun City PRIDES had one volunteer who handled painting over graffiti on the walls. But no uniform color scheme was used and painted areas appeared to be patchwork. That changed when a group of residents, backed by SCHOA, formed the Sun City residents Action Program, with its first task to paint the common walls. All the painted walls are now one color, with the primary walls in a color called Patience from Sherman Williams (SW7555) with the inserts painted Whole Wheat from Dunn Edwards (DE6124), according to Lloyd Maple, SCRAP president.

“Previously there were six different insert colors,” he stated.

There seems to be very few graffiti issues in Sun City West.

The Sheriff’s Posse of Sun City West, the Property Owners and Residents Association and the PRIDES do not have jurisdiction, but also their leaders don’t know of any recent incidents of paintings on the walls. Though the PRIDES volunteers work hard to clean the areas along the roadways, Mr. Johnson points out they don’t have the equipment or expertise to deal with a graffiti problem on a wall.

Katy O’Grady, Recreation Centers of Sun City West general services officer, said that organization gets notification of small bits of graffiti.

“As soon we see it or it is reported to us, we cover it up quickly, usually within hours. We haven’t had a big problem with it,” she added.

Ms. O’Grady said the last big tag was about five years ago, on an external wall near Bell Road and Grand Avenue. It was about 300 feet long, she said, and it was covered by the next afternoon.

When Del Webb was developing the Sun Cities, he never thought about future wall maintenance,. according to Mr. Maple.

There are about 35 miles of wall in Sun City and 17 miles were painted during the SCRAP project. In Sun City West there are an estimated 17.3 miles of common walls.

The SCRAP project was initially estimated to cost $250,000 over 10 years. But the work was completed in three years for a cost of about $157,000, according to Ritchie Miller, SCRAP treasurer. The effort was completed sooner and under budget because of the hard work of the committee, particularly Mr. Maple, he added.

There is a small amount of funding left over, which will be held by SCRAP under its new name and designation, the SCHOA Foundation, for the next time the walls need painted, according to Mr. Maple.

He said in the 32 months it took to paint the walls there were 10 caulking and painting parties with 55 people participating. Of the 55 volunteers who did some painting over the length of the project, 23 were Sun City residents and 28 were from outside the community within the West Valley, according to Mr. Maple. There were also four international volunteers — two from Guam and one each from Japan and the Solomon Islands, he added. The project took 3,667 gallons of sealer and paint to cover more than 17 miles of walls.

“I lost track of the number of tubes of caulk we used,” Mr. Maple stated.

Some of the challenges volunteers faced during the project included water coming under the walls in some places, mostly from plants inside the walls that needed or received a lot of watering.

“This is bad the for long-term integrity of the walls,” Mr. Maple stated.

That creates an ongoing concern about the stability and need for future repairs of some wall sections. The same issues exist with Sun City West walls.

There were also some Sun City sections where falling trees and vehicles damaged the walls. Some were repaired by owners or other entities with the same blocks and others with different blocks, which left them with color and continuity that was not the same as surrounding walls, according to Mr. Maple. SCHOA has contact information for a retailer that can match, or closely match, bricks used in Sun Cities walls. Call 623-974-4718 for the retailer’s contact information.

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