On Dec. 12, the Pima County Board of Supervisors approved a nearly $16 million list of pavement repair projects in unincorporated Pima County over the next two years that left many residents of Green Valley and other parts of District 4 frustrated.
On Tuesday, however, the board reversed course, approving changes to how proceeds from the road property tax will be spent in the district. Substitutions requested for District 1 projects were not considered by the board, meaning the projects originally recommended by county transportation staff and approved by an advisory committee will move forward.
The previously approved list of projects largely bypassed Green Valley, which was slated to see just $51,437 of work in the first year and will now get around $600,000 in road repair work. That’s because the criteria used to come up with the original list prioritized roads with higher traffic volumes and a PASER rating of 5, meaning they are in poor condition but not yet failed and thus cheaper to fix. Few roads in Green Valley meet that criteria.
“The community was unfairly caught up in a formula that may have made sense countywide, but held unintended negative consequences for the repair of roads in Green Valley,” District 4 Supervisor Steve Christy said before voting for the substitutions.
Don Weaver, president of the Green Valley Council, which had been pushing for the modifications to the project list, said “we followed the guidelines and we got it approved, which is great.”
Christy was joined by supervisors Ramón Valadez and Sharon Bronson, who said she was “reluctantly” supporting the District 4 modifications. District 1 and District 4 were the only two districts where substitutions of projects were requested.
That reluctance, Bronson explained, was due to concerns she had about the criteria used for picking projects, which she felt neglected the many rural residents of her district. She said she’d like to “revisit how we decide as a community which roads are going to get priority” before the next year of road property tax-funded projects.
Supervisors Richard Elías and Ally Miller voted against the changes in the projects.
Elías said he thought the board made a “fair” decision last week, and that it was based on the well-being of the entirety of Pima County, as opposed to the specifics of one individual district.”
Miller said it was “sad” modifications for her district were not reconsidered by the supervisors.
“I feel terrible that Supervisor Christy chooses to make a motion today that leaves out District 1,” she said.
She said the proposed substitutions for her district, which replaced most of the staff-recommended projects for the first year, were the result of substantial public outreach and consideration of hundreds of repair requests.
Miller’s office submitted a summary of the methodology used by her two appointees to the Pima County Transportation Advisory Committee to decide which substitutions to make. Among other things, they considered projects that “would make the greatest impact for safety, especially as it relates to the elderly and disabled persons, and equitable distribution.”
Several residents of Sabino Town and Country Estates, a District 1 subdivision that would have gotten over $200,000 worth of work if the modifications had been approved, said they were disappointed in the board’s vote not to approve changes to the list of projects. Now they aren’t slated for any road repair work.
“It doesn’t speak well for citizen advocacy,” said resident Linda Leedberg, referencing the numerous requests made by her neighbors, many of whom also spoke at advisory committee meetings.
Norie Nelson, president of the Hidden Valley homeowners association, was similarly disappointed after the meeting. The five subdivisions that make up her neighborhood near Sabino Creek weren’t included in the project list approved last week, but would have gotten over $1 million in road repair with the requested substitutions, nearly 40 percent of the entire District 1 allocation.
“We thought there might be reconsideration when they heard from the citizens,” she said.
Nelson was less certain about why Miller’s advisory committee appointees had recommended that her neighborhood get such a sizable portion of the road property tax proceeds destined for District 1. She said she had contacted Miller’s office, and several neighbors told her they had made requests for repairs as well.
Records provided to the Star by Miller’s office show that a handful of Hidden Valley residents contacted their supervisor regarding road conditions in the neighborhood. A database of requests for road property tax repairs maintained by the department of transportation and obtained by the Star contains no entries from Hidden Valley residents.
By contrast, Sabino Town and Country Estates residents accounted for over 17 percent of the 566 submissions. Residents of Orangewood Estates submitted over 40 percent of those requests, but the neighborhood was not proposed as a substitution and was not included in the original list for funding.
“It’s a mystery to me,” Nelson said when asked why her neighborhood would have benefited so greatly from the District 1 funding substitutions.
She said her neighborhood’s roads are in terrible shape and was looking forward to the repairs, but added: “I don’t think we should have any more priority than anybody else … I know ours aren’t worse. It’s bizarre.”
Miller and Christopher DeSimone, one the supervisor’s advisory committee appointees, did not respond to requests for comment.