In a recent update to the Pima County Board of Supervisors, Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said another lawsuit will be filed against the Town of Marana if they don’t pay the more than $18 million owed for the wastewater treatment facility.
Through Senate Bill 1171 last year, Pima County was forced to turn over one of its five wastewater treatment facilities to the Town of Marana. Marana took control of the north side facility in January.
As part of the law, the Town of Marana has to pay the county for the assessed value of the facility. While Huckelberry argues the Town should be paying upwards of $27 million, he said Marana still has to pay the $18 million that was set.
In the May 15 memo, Huckelberry updated the Board of Supervisors on the ongoing litigation that dates back to 2007, and said there is a possibility the county will file another lawsuit by the end of June.
“We anticipate that if Marana does not make the full debt payment required by SB 1171 in the last week of June 2012, the county will once again be forced to file legal action against the Town in the form of mandamus to require form of mandamus to require they conform with the law unless or until it is declared unconstitutional,” Huckelberry said.
Besides the lawsuit being threatened, the county has already filed a lawsuit against the law approved by the Arizona Legislature, citing it’s unconstitutional because it singles out Pima County, and that the Town of Marana is bound by the Southern Arizona Water Rights Settlement Act, which settled Indian water claims by allocating effluent to the Bureau of Reclamation.
“Marana, as a successor to Pima County in the operation of a wastewater treatment facility, and, therefore, is bound by the terms of the 1979 IGA with the City, which requires pro rata effluent contributions to the SAWRSA settlement amount,” Huckelberry said.
Marana Town Manager Gilbert Davidson said the Town fully plans to comply with the guidelines set forth in SB 1171, but stressed the county hasn’t done its part in completely turning over the wastewater treatment facility to the Town.
Davidson said the Town is still fighting the county to get the permits that come with the facility, and there is some unfinished business regarding the deed the county provided to the Town.
In order to operate a wastewater treatment facility, an entity is required to have the necessary permits, which are currently in the county’s name.
In his update to the supervisors, Huckelberry said the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has issued the Arizona Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit renewal to Pima County.
“There is no provision in federal law allowing ADEQ or the United States Environmental Protection Agency to take the permit away from the county,” Huckelberry said. “The permit, which has been newly issued, is valid for five years from the date of issuance.”
With the state lawmakers siding with Marana, Huckelberry said a paragraph in the state budget instructs ADEQ to issue Marana with the permits.
“These would include the Aquifer Protection Permit, as well as the discharge permit,” he said. “There are no precedents, no rules, and no standards by which this action is to take place. The county will closely monitor the actions of ADEQ and take necessary legal steps to prevent an unlawful transfer or issuance of these permits to Marana.”
Davidson said the deed the county signed over allows for nine acres of land, which is unacceptable. The Town feels they should get a deed that includes the county’s expansion plans, which included up to 13 acres of land.
“The document they gave us reduced the size,” Davidson said. “The size doesn’t allow for future growth, constricting us to this specified area.”
Besides litigation over the constitutionality of the SB 1171, and the threat of a new lawsuit, the Town of Marana and the county also have other unsettled cases pertaining to this issue going through the courts.