PHOENIX — It looks like residents of Patagonia, Sonoita and Elgin are going to remain in Santa Cruz County, at least for the foreseeable future.
On a 16-13 vote, the Senate on Tuesday killed a plan that would have created a committee to study realigning the boundary between Santa Cruz and Cochise counties.
The vote is a setback for Rep. Gail Griffin, R-Sierra Vista, who has pushed HB 2486 following what she said were complaints from area residents that their taxes are too high and the level of service they are getting is too low.
Griffin managed to shepherd the legislation through the House on the premise that it didn’t actually do anything. Instead, she said, it would simply look at the issues between those residents and the county government based in Nogales, as well as explore what it would take to move the county line.
But on Tuesday, Sen. Andrea Dalessandro, D-Green Valley, who represents the area in question, told colleagues the whole premise is a bad idea — especially for those residents who would remain in what was left of Santa Cruz County.
“The fixed costs of the county will remain the same,” she said.
And she put a political spin on that to get the attention of the Republicans who control the Senate.
“The remaining ranchers in the rest of the county, who are mostly Republicans, will be paying more property tax,” Dalessandro argued. Ditto, she said, of the produce industry that is centered in Nogales and Rio Rico.
“To vote for the study committee is anti-Republican ranchers and anti-produce industry,” Dalessandro said.
Griffin, in promoting the measure in the House, said her focus was more on those in the eastern section of Santa Cruz County, the part that would be split off.
“They seem to think that they have more in common with the adjoining county,” Griffin said of the residents who are complaining.
Griffin said area residents are unhappy over several issues, including that the justice of the peace court, formerly located in Sonoita, was moved to Nogales in what county officials said was a money-saving move. Griffin said roads and rising taxes are also issues.
“And not being able to communicate,” she said.
Griffin said support among area residents for a divorce from Santa Cruz County is strong, saying she attended a standing-room-only meeting where everyone apparently agreed with the idea that the area should be split off from Santa Cruz County.
Dalessandro brushed that aside, calling those who support the split “some misinformed people down there who I represent.”