Fire district annexation to go forward - The Explorer: Pima Pinal

Fire district annexation to go forward

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Posted: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 11:00 pm | Updated: 1:27 pm, Mon Apr 18, 2011.

With one vote opposed, the Oro Valley Town Council on April 1, voted to allow the Mountain Vista Fire District the right to annex property in the town.

Councilman Al Kunisch voted against the move.

The move comes in the wake of an effort by Oro Valley resident Phil Richardson, who mailed out hundreds of letters to people in the southern portion of the town asking for their support in letting Mountain Vista enter the town.

More than 500 people responded in support of Richardson.

Fire districts need the approval of towns before they can petition for annexation. Once local leaders offer their approval, the fire district can petition for homeowner support of annexation.

For the annexation to go forward, more than 50 percent of property owners must support the effort.

The portion of town in question, all areas south of Hardy Drive, falls under the protection of Rural/Metro Fire Company.

The remainder of Oro Valley falls under the jurisdiction of Golder Ranch Fire Department. Golder Ranch has a similar agreement with the town that allows it to annex.

One person spoke out against the move to allow Mountain Vista the chance to annex the town’s southern edge.

COUNCIL POSTPONES AGREEMNENT WITH POLICE

The council voted to delay acceptance of an agreement with police employees regarding salaries and benefits.

The council plans to take up the issue again at a meeting in June.

Councilmen Barry Gillaspie and Al Kunisch voted against the move.

Changing their previous request for annual pay increases, police negotiators told the council that officers would not seek raises or a cost of living adjustment in the coming fiscal year that begins July 1.

Police officers and their union representatives have been at odds with the council and Town Manager David Andrews over the issue of pay and a proposal to lay off six officers before the start of the next fiscal year.

The six officers are part of a townwide layoff plan that tops 30 Oro Valley employees in all.

The police union recently launched a radio-advertisement campaign aimed at saving the six officers' jobs.

In the radio spots, a police union spokesperson takes aim at Andrews, as numerous officers have done at recent council meetings, and criticized the more than $20,000 raise the town manager received last year.

The pay hike brought Andrews' pay up to more than $165,000 per year, making him the town’s highest paid employee.

Police Chief Danny Sharp was paid $140,082, making him the town’s second-highest paid employee.

(NOTE: This story was changed from the print version.)

LITTLE ACTION ON NARANJA PARK

The proposed park at the Naranja Town Site made the agenda again, this time for council members to discuss what to do next with the 213-acre town-owned parcel on Naranja Drive between La Cañada Drive and First Avenue.

The council decided, with Councilwoman Paula Abbott opposed, to wait another six months before discussing the property further.

A proposal to levy a property tax and issue municipal bonds to fund construction of the estimated $48-million project failed at the ballot box at November.

Since then, at least two council members, K.C. Carter and Bill Garner have suggested the town scrap the plan for an extensive park and sell a portion of the land — as much as half — to a biomedical research firm.

The councilmen proposed that the remainder of the property be used for the park.

At last Wednesday's meeting, Garner suggested the town conduct a "needs assessment" of the lingering park plan to ascertain what recreational amenities the town could benefit from.

The town bought the property more than 10 years ago. In that time, a Naranja Town Site Task Force — a committee made up of dozens of community members — met at least 26 times over the course of a year and a half to write a plan for the property.

The town also hired several consultants to design the park itself, conduct market research and pay lawyers to advise the town on the legal issues of the bond election.

In 2003 and 2004, the town paid Webb Management Services $36,000 to conduct a needs assessment and write a business plan.

The firm later estimated park operations would cost $936,096 annually and would earn $578,773 in rental and user fees.

In the nearly 10 years the town has been discussing the park, it has cost taxpayers more than $3.2 million. At least $2.5 million was spent to buy the property.

Since 2001, the town's population has grown by more than 15,000 people.

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