Marana voters decide wastewater issue, retain incumbents in Town Council

2013-03-12T21:15:00Z 2013-03-12T21:53:37Z Marana voters decide wastewater issue, retain incumbents in Town CouncilPhil Villarreal Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Marana voters overwhelmingly appeared to approve letting the town run its own sewer system Tuesday by about a 3-to-1 margin. The all-mail vote helps end a years-long dispute between the town and Pima County.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, voters passed the two questions on the ballot on the issue by votes of 74.87 percent to 25.13 percent and 73.54 percent to 26.46 percent.

"The Town is proud and humbled that Marana voters have confidence in us to continue running this vital public utility,” said Marana Town Manager Gilbert Davidson, via email. “This authorization also enables the Town to control the development process in a high growth area of Marana.”

After fights in the State Legislature and courts, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled last year the town lacked legal authority to own or operate the plant. Voters decided Tuesday the town may own and operate the wastewater system. Voting was conducted in Marana and Sahuarita was by mail only. South Tucson had one polling place open Tuesday. Pima County record F. Ann Rodriguez said that at least 150 ballots — but not significantly more than that — remained to be counted and that there would be another update Thursday.

Marana and Pima County have been negotiating a settlement in recent months, and one of the conditions was for Marana to get voters’ authorization. Now the two governments can move forward with a settlement agreement that allows Marana to continue operating the Marana Wastewater Reclamation Facility at 14393 N. Luckett Road, where about 250,000 gallons of sewage a day are treated and discharged into the Santa Cruz River. The town will buy the plant and surrounding land for about $14.5 million, which is the remaining debt, and annex it.

The plant cost Pima County ratepayers $23 million to build and another $4 million to finance. The town plans to pay for the plant using impact fees charged to new developments. The county will also give the Rillito Vista Wastewater Reclamation Facility to the town. The settlement also depends on the state Senate repealing two laws that allowed Marana to take over the plant in January 2012. Also in Marana, voters appeared to have re-elected incumbents Patti Comerford, Herb Kai, Carol McGorray and Jon Post to the Town Council. All received more than 50 percent of the votes and will hang on to their seats, holding off efforts from challengers Kent Crotts and David Morales.

Now the two governments can move forward with a settlement agreement that allows Marana to continue operating the Marana Wastewater Reclamation Facility at 14393 N. Luckett Road, where about 250,000 gallons of sewage a day are treated and discharged into the Santa Cruz River.

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