The Pima County Board of Supervisors will release $5 million from the general fund to fix roads in unincorporated parts of the county.
The board approved the release Tuesday, following a series of supportive public comments.
Speakers ranged from residents displeased with the roads in their neighborhoods to business leaders who link quality roads to better economic opportunity. The universal consensus was that Pima County needs to do more to repair roads.
“In the face of the the $300-plus million problem we have, that’s like handing out Band-Aids to Ebola victims,” Steve Huffman, a spokesman for the Tucson Association of Realtors, said of the county’s current road-fixing efforts.
The $5 million was already part of the 2013-2014 budget as a supplemental funding package, but the board had to approve its release. The Transportation Department and County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry recommended the money be used to repair larger, frequently used roadways such as First Avenue, and River and Thornydale roads.
Several residents from Sabino Town and Country Estates in District 1 used the public comment period to make the case for their neighborhood roads.
Linda Leedberg said the roads haven’t been repaved since 1986. The northwest-side neighborhood was targeted for rehabilitation earlier in the year, until District 1 road repair funds were swept in favor of fixing Colossal Cave Road.
“To date there is no definite plan to repave our neighborhood roads,” Leedberg said.
In a memo to the board in August, Huckelberry made several suggestions for boosting funding for transportation, including increasing the property tax and adding a half-cent sales tax.
Speakers stopped short of endorsing any new taxes, but insisted there has to be more money somewhere to help fix the roads.
“One of the facts of life we are going to have to get used to is there is not enough money for transportation funding,” Huckelberry said.
Colossal Cave plans
The board unanimously approved several recommended measures to begin remedying problems at Colossal Cave Mountain Park in Vail.
Over the last 10 years, there’s been a steady decline in attendance, and the park broke even financially just once, in 2013.
The county will keep the park open, but it will not renew the operating agreement it has with Escabrosa Inc., the organization headed by Martie Maierhauser, who has worked at the park for the last 52 years.
County employees will begin preparing a request for proposals for the park’s operating agreement, create a short-term plan to stabilize the park’s aging infrastructure and start drafting a long-term plan to ensure the cave’s future.
After-hours meetings rejected
The board also discussed an option to move one meeting a month to the evening.
The idea is that the after-hours meeting would give those with a traditional work schedule a new opportunity to participate, said Supervisor Ally Miller, who placed the item on the agenda.
Supervisor Sharon Bronson said the county holds evening meetings when there are agenda items with high public interest, but that they generally are not any more well-attended than daytime meetings.
The idea was voted down, but several board members were receptive to holding more town-hall meetings to engage with the public.