Pima County's bond panel will begin picking public-works projects for 2014 ballot

Bond panel will re-select projects for a possible public vote in 2014
2013-02-25T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T11:20:00Z Pima County's bond panel will begin picking public-works projects for 2014 ballotBecky Pallack Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 25, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Seven years of meetings, hearings and hard choices have led them to this point.

Members of Pima County's Bond Advisory Committee may not be exactly back at square one, but they're about to embark on a process that sure has the feeling of starting over.

It soon will begin a one-year planning process to be ready for a 2014 bond election.

Over several years, the group whittled $3 billion of proposed projects down to 93 projects in a $650 million package to be submitted to voters.

But year after year, bond- election plans were stalled, mostly due to the poor economy. In that time, 11 projects sat on the list so long they've been built using other funding sources.

Other projects are no longer priorities now that the economy has been reshaped by the recession, and there's a new and urgent need for jobs. And the cost or scope of some projects has changed drastically since they were originally approved. County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry wants some projects to be re-justified, he told the committee.

All of which means the committee, which is responsible for selecting projects for the bond package, is dusting off a draft list it started in 2006 and putting almost everything back on the table, along with a host of new projects expected to come from cities, towns and citizen groups.

The committee has gone through an extensive and difficult process, Chairman Larry Hecker said of the nearly seven years of planning thus far, requiring "a great deal of meticulous attention to each project."

"And this wasn't just a wish list," he said. "These were all very important and essential capital projects" submitted by governments and private groups alike.

At a meeting this month the committee agreed to a one-year work plan, beginning in May, to carve out a final list of bond projects worth about $500 million.

The group has asked local governments to update their project proposals and submit new projects by mid-April.

"We're not starting from scratch. We're going to pick up where we left off," Hecker said. "But times have changed; circumstances have changed."

Pima County had proposed a $50 million court building that it is now funding internally, and a $9 million sports park project that's getting built through public-private partnerships.

Huckelberry wants to add two projects to stimulate the economic recovery of the aerospace and tourism industries.

Marana wants to drop two requests for drainage project money and instead request money for a community center.

The committee expects to hear similar changes from the city of Tucson and other governments.

It's frustrating, but it's no one's fault, said committee member Ted Prezelski. The economic downturn hit, and the time hasn't been right to ask voters to approve bond spending.

When property values dropped, so did the county's bonding capacity, so that put a bond election on hold, Hecker said.

Now the committee must beware of perceptions that previously approved projects could get cut to make room for new projects, Prezelski said.

"People have been coming to us literally for years explaining the needs of their communities, and we've said no, and now we have this new package coming in. I don't think that's going to sit well with people," he said.

The final package should be broad, giving everyone a reason to vote for it, he said, noting that's the philosophy that has made the last few bond packages winners.

how process will unfold

March - Bond Advisory Committee hears the results of a performance audit of past bond projects.

April and May - Governments update old project lists, and the committee examines new project proposals.

Summer and fall - Committee holds 10 to 15 public meetings and hearings to finalize a list of bond projects, asks local governments to endorse the package, and sends the package to the Board of Supervisors.

November 2014 - Pima County holds a bond election.

Late 2015 - First bond money available to spend.

Contact reporter Becky Pallack at bpallack@azstarnet.com or 573-4346. On Twitter @BeckyPallack.

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

Activate

Latest Election 2014 video

More

3rd congressional district representative Raul Grijalva

Grijalva explains his position on voting, education, immigration reform, and minimum wage.

Most Popular

Follow the Arizona Daily Star

Featured businesses

View more...

Deals, offers & events

View more...
Get weekly ads via e-mail