No decisions on annex, landfill, but people talk - The Explorer: Pima Pinal

No decisions on annex, landfill, but people talk

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Posted: Tuesday, April 27, 2010 11:00 pm | Updated: 8:19 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

Proponents of a Marana annexation that is part of the proposal to build a commercial landfill have yet to file signatures and necessary paperwork to move their request ahead, the Town of Marana confirmed Tuesday morning.

That lack of a decision to make has not kept landfill foes from approaching the town council regularly, expressing their opposition during the council's "call to the audience."

They came again last Tuesday. Each speaker is respectful. Some nearly quiver with nerves. Yet they are direct in challenging the council, and in particular Vice Mayor Herb Kai, who owns a part of the land that would be annexed, and upon which a landfill would sit. Kai listens intently to each speaker, but does not respond.

"It is not about disappointing a fellow member of the council," said Dan Rogers, speaking on behalf of Silverbell West resident Steve Storzer, who could not attend the April 20 meeting.

"It's about doing the right thing. It's not too late to say 'no' to the vice mayor. It would be wrong for you to remain silent just for political gain."

"The irresponsibility of the location of this landfill just overwhelms us," said Silverbell West resident Donna Swartz.

"You are elected to the office by voters that trust you," Swartz said. "They believe you have high morals and high integrity. If you allow … you will be letting down all the people who depend on you to make this the best place to live and raise their families."

The landfill process has "made me think a lot about politics, and I'm just not sure I like what I'm finding," said resident Elaine Ramirez. "As long as you have money, anything can be accomplished and paid for."

She challenged Kai's decision last year regarding a land use near Breakers Water Park. The vice mayor raised concerns about a rezoning next to the Tangerine Road recreational business, claiming an industrial designation might allow a waste transfer station that would be "detrimental regarding odor." In fact, the rezone did not allow a waste transfer station.

Still, said Ramirez, "anything goes with Mr. Kai as long as it stays out of his backyard.

"What do you stand for? Please think about what you're doing."

Ramirez submitted more signatures from people opposed to the landfill use.

Landfill foe Robin Meissner wants the council "to go public with how you stand on this matter." Meissner got no response.

"Please be brave, speak up," Meissner said. "It's acceptable, and arguably your duty to get answers."

Meissner believes Mayor Ed Honea "insulted" Chuck Huckelberry, Pima County administrator, and his staff with remarks about the county needing to allow Marana to determine its own future. She urged an apology from Honea. He did not offer one.

"I have to support the mayor and his comments about Mr. Huckelberry," Councilwoman Roxanne Zeigler said. "Mr. Huckelberry, for at least the three years I've been on council, has done everything, and I mean everything, in his power to ensure the Town of Marana does not move forward on anything. When it comes to Mr. Huckelberry, you may want to do a little digging yourself, and find out why he is so opposed to this landfill. We are dealing with somebody who has shown over and over again that he's not willing to work with us."

In a Friday interview, Huckelberry reiterated his problems with the Marana landfill site.

The county has concerns with location of a landfill near the Brawley Wash, a "major water course."

Area groundwater is "relatively shallow, compared to everywhere else to locate such a facility," Huckelberry said. "Being close to the bottom of a landfill is not good. You would ideally like to locate a landfill where the depth is not 150, 100, 50 feet below the bottom of a landfill. You'd like to locate it 500 feet or 1,000 feet, so you don't have this potential of groundwater contamination. I think it's a valid concern."

And Huckelberry is concerned with "how big the site is. It's very large. There's two components, the waste volumes they anticipate taking at that facility, and a big concern about importation of out-of-state waste." Height is a factor, too, he said.

"The landfill is a land use decision we don't believe is proper nor appropriate for the very specific reasons we've given," he said.

That said, developing a landfill is "their choice," Huckelberry said. "But they have to live with their choices. Once it's decided, it's permanent. There are decisions being made that have very long-term consequences. That's why everybody says, 'be careful.'"

Huckelberry acknowledges strain in the relationships between the two governments on several topics.

"The whole issue associated with the sewer litigation" was a trigger in differences between the county and Marana, Huckelberry said. "The problem is Marana filed litigation, and there's nothing we can do. We're obligated to defend a lawsuit, particularly one where we're going to lose assets of our ratepayers without compensation. We've appropriately responded there.

"I am absolutely certain the board as well as myself would like to have good relations (with Marana) in the future," he said. "That doesn't come at the expense of selling our ratepayers down the sewer, so to speak. I am willing and open to any reasonable discussions, but they can't be made at the expense of others."

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