County to audit Colossal Cave finances

2013-09-11T17:00:00Z 2013-09-11T18:48:10Z County to audit Colossal Cave financesBy Joe Ferguson Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The Pima County Board of Supervisors has green-lighted a financial audit of the private management company running Colossal Cave Mountain Park.

Supervisor Ray Carroll, whose district includes the county-owned park, has been pushing for the audit for weeks, saying publicly that he had a number of concerns about the management of the park.

The audit follows a criminal investigation into the June 10 shooting of a female mountain lion at the park.

Three Tucson men face several misdemeanor charges in connection with shooting, and two of them have ties to the management company.

Martie Maierhauser, the head of Escabrosa Inc., the nonprofit management company contracted with the county to run the park, said Tuesday morning that she is aware of the decision but declined to discuss it.

A memo issued by Maierhauser and distributed to the board last week opposed an audit.

“It is a shame to spend taxpayer money on a committee to conduct a performance audit of the management of Colossal Cave Mountain Park,” she wrote. “I would ask the board to consider instead creating a steering committee to help us identify items that may aid us in increasing park revenue.”

The memo addressed at least one of Carroll’s concerns, the apparent drop in visitors in 2012.

A report initially suggested 37,000 people visited the park in 2012.

“A drop of more than 24 percent is certainly worrying,” Carroll wrote two weeks ago.

The company, according to the memo, actually had 44,677 visitors last year — a 7 percent drop compared with previous years.

Maierhauser said she could not determine what caused the report to omit two months of visitation figures .

Escabrosa Inc. still lost $42,371 last year despite a $100-a-year lease with the county.

The park has not made a profit since 2006, county records show.

Gross income has fallen from $842,561 in 2007 to $726,112 in 2012, Carroll wrote in a memo to his colleagues two weeks ago.

Carroll was not the only supervisor unhappy with the reports coming from the management company.

Supervisor Ally Miller said she found serious issues with the financial statements sent to county officials by Escabrosa.

The board voted 4-0 supporting Carroll’s motion, with Supervisor Sharon Bronson not attending the meeting.

The five-year contract the county has with Escabrosa expires in 18 months.

The audit is expected to come back before the Board of Supervisors early next year.

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at jferguson@azstarnet.com or 573-4346. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFerguson.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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