Marana voters OK sewer-plant takeover

Dispute with county nears end; S. Tucson, Sahuarita pick councils
2013-03-13T00:00:00Z 2014-10-10T13:26:43Z Marana voters OK sewer-plant takeoverPhil Villarreal Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 13, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Marana voters overwhelmingly approved letting the town run its own sewer system Tuesday by about 3 to 1.

The all-mail vote helps end a years-long dispute between the town and Pima County. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, a pair of ballot items required for the town to run its own sewer facility had received nearly 75 percent approval. A small number of provisional ballots remain, but the number is too small to change the outcome.

Sahuarita and South Tucson also picked new councils in voting Tuesday.

"The town is proud and humbled that Marana voters have confidence in us to continue running this vital public utility," Marana Town Manager Gilbert Davidson, said by email.

"This authorization also enables the town to control the development process in a high-growth area of Marana."

After fights in the Legislature and multiple court cases, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled last year the town lacked necessary legal authority from voters to own or operate the plant.

Voting was conducted in Marana and Sahuarita by mail only. South Tucson had one polling place open Tuesday. Pima County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez said at least 150 ballots - but not significantly more than that - remained to be counted and that there will be another update Thursday.

Marana and Pima County have been negotiating a settlement that would turn a disputed wastewater-treatment plant in Marana over to the town, 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, despite the county's objections.

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 in the primary election, eliminating the need for a runoff election. They held off challengers Kent Crotts and David Morales.

According to state law, candidates who earn a majority of votes in primary nonpartisan elections are elected to office. Remaining seats are decided during general elections scheduled to end May 21.

Sahuarita

No one got the required 50 percent of the vote for one contested seat to avoid a runoff. Two incumbents - Gil Lusk and Joshua Matthews - will move on to the general election to compete for that seat. Newcomer Don Woolley has apparently been eliminated.

Duane Blumberg, Kara Egbert and Tom Murphy ran unopposed for their seats and were re-elected.

SOUTH TUCSON

Change was in the air in South Tucson.

Six candidates contended for three open seats on the City Council, with newcomers Vanessa Mendoza and Oscar Patino securing two of the seats by garnering more than 50 percent of the vote.

Fellow newcomer Ildefonso Green appears to have moved on to the general election for the third seat. He was easily the leading vote-getter among those who fell short of the 50 percent mark. He will be joined on the general election ballot by one of three incumbents - John Felix, who is acting mayor; Carlos Salaz; and Vice Mayor Pete Tadeo. All three were within five votes of one another for the second slot on the ballot, with a small number of votes remaining to be counted.

On StarNet: View election results at azstarnet.com/elections

Reporter Becky Pallack contributed to this report. Contact reporter Phil Villarreal at 573-4130 or pvillarreal@azstarnet.com

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

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