Guest Column: Union Pacific rail yard would provide significant economic boost to entire region
Douglas J. Wolf Special To The Arizona Daily Star
Monday, May 20, 2013 12:00 am

I was very disappointed to read Tim Steller's May 12th story on the Union Pacific Classification Yard near Red Rock.

Mr. Steller repeats several falsehoods throughout his story, and he should have done a better job of checking the facts.

As the assessor of Pinal County, the primary task of my office is to determine property values. It is a clear that the completion of the Union Pacific Red Rock facility would actually increase the value of adjacent land, including the remaining state trust land in the area. If this land were privately held, the owner would surely jump at the chance to have one of the most stable and well-respected companies in America develop this beneficial project.

The other myths repeated in the story are that the project would somehow create issues for access to surrounding property and impact drainage patterns. Park Link Road lies on the east side of the proposed site and would provide ample access to the remaining trust land in the area. Since most of the rail yard would be built on land already leveled for agriculture, it is hard to imagine how the development could possibly impact drainage.

The real mandate for the State Land Department is not simply to get the best price for the sale of land but to seek the highest return for the trustees, the main beneficiary being K-12 education. Letting state land sit idle for over a century with little or no return is hardly a benefit to the trustees.

The sooner the property is sold, the sooner the sale proceeds can start earning interest and benefiting our schools. State Trust Land is also exempt from taxation. Property taxes paid by the purchasers of trust land provide a crucial second income stream for education in Arizona. The longer the Land Department delays this project, the more our schools will suffer.

The story also left out existing developments already in close proximity to Picacho Peak. There is a helicopter training facility just to the west, a cattle feedlot to the south, and a power plant to the southeast.

Since the Union Pacific rail yard would be built on existing farmland, there is a very real possibility that it will even reduce the amount of dust and particulates in the surrounding air.

The rail facility will provide a significant economic boost to the whole region and will be a great benefit to public education in Arizona.

After a long delay of seven years, it is time for the Land Department to move forward on this great opportunity.

Douglas J. Wolf is the Pinal County assessor.