Town has many new faces - The Explorer: Pima Pinal

Town has many new faces

Town bids farewell to community leaders, improves its infrastructure

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Posted: Wednesday, December 31, 2008 12:00 am | Updated: 8:03 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

It’s been a busy year for Marana.

The town said good-bye to a handful of community leaders, one of whom landed in a new job at the Northwest YMCA and another of whom fought to get her job back.

Marana saw progress on its upcoming Ritz-Carlton resort, on several road construction projects and in its long-standing quest to take over sewage service in town.

The town also confirmed with a study what many people have suspected all along — that most of Marana isn’t just one big flood plain.

PERSONNEL CHANGES

The months of April, May and June saw the loss in Marana of several high-profile town employees.

Police Chief Richard Vidaurri announced in April that he would retire, not long after surveys of Marana’s police department revealed low morale and questions about the chief’s leadership.

Vidaurri, who had been with the department since 1994 and had served as its top official since 2003, left the department in June and accepted a job in August as deputy chief in the South Tucson Police Department.

Terry Tometich, a retired state policeman, replaced him.

Also in April, Dennis Dearden announced his resignation as superintendent of Marana Unified School District, which includes 17 schools. He cited personal reasons for his decision to leave after three years.

The governing board selected Doug Wilson, a school administrator from Colorado, to take his place.

In June, Assistant Police Chief Barbara Harris was fired from the Marana Police Department, three months after being suspended from duty. The day of the firing, she filed a gender discrimination complaint against the town, alleging a hostile work environment.

A personnel action review board overturned her firing this month, and she’s set to return to her post in early 2009, according to town spokesman Rodney Campbell.

Also in June, the Marana Town Council approved a separation agreement with former Town Manager Mike Reuwsaat after calling for his removal. His contract was to end June 1, 2009.

Reuwsaat now works as executive director of the Northwest YMCA Pima Community Center.

RITZ-CARLTON

Signs that Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain is really happening kept showing up throughout 2008.

The high-end development, the largest of the chain’s continental U.S. properties, is to consist of a hotel resort and spa, a golf club and a set of designer houses.

In May, Jeff McCormick was named the head golf professional, and a director of sales and marketing was also hired. In July, Michael McMahon was named the general manager of the hotel. By the middle of August, construction and grass work were completed on the Jack Nicklaus Signature golf courses.

In November, the development put out a call for applicants for jobs in its golf, food, beverage and service departments and announced the hiring of its group sales manager. In December, it hired its sales executive.

As the year comes to an end, those at the golf club look to Jan. 18, when 27 holes will be open to the public for a limited time before the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship brings the pros to town.

WASTEWATER

Marana won a partial victory this past year regarding treatment of its sewage.

In June, a judge ruled that the town owns the non-flow-through portion of Marana Wastewater Treatment Facility’s 181.66 miles of sewer pipes. It has not been determined, yet, who owns the

treatment plant.

The legal battle between the town and Pima County, currently wending its way through Maricopa Superior Court, is important to the town because by Arizona law a jurisdiction have to own a wastewater plant to own the effluent. Processed effluent can be used to water golf courses and parks or be recharged as groundwater for future use.

The June ruling also gave Marana the right to operate a sewer system and stated that Pima County has no right to provide sewer service within Marana without the town’s permission.

Because it was decided Marana owns sewer lines, the town started to work, after the ruling, to establish wastewater service rates.

FEMA

Marana completed a study this past summer that concluded what many felt was common sense — that very little of Marana lies in a flood plain.

The $350,000 study took exception with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s claim that the town has a 19-square-mile area of flood plains and said instead there are only 3 square miles. Instead of 2,000 Marana structures in a high-risk flood zone requiring flood insurance, Marana’s study found 250.

This study, which was commissioned by the town in November 2007, was a response to new flood maps that FEMA distributed two months earlier that included new areas not there before.

The original floodplain stretched from Pinal County line down to Massingale Road in an area covering the Marana town hall, the Gladden Farms development and Arizona Pavilions. Town officials and residents worried that the new maps would require flood insurance for houses that would have otherwise been protected by the levee-like structures of the Central Arizona Project canal, Union Pacific Railroad and Interstate 10, which would stop or disperse water running from the Tortolita Fan.

After receiving a letter from Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords asking it to reconsider, FEMA officials agreed to give the town time to conduct a drainage study.

The town submitted the study to FEMA in August. FEMA, which gave itself an October deadline to finalize its maps, has yet to do so.

ROADWORK

In 2008, Marana saw several major improvements to its infrastructure.

In June, hundreds celebrated the opening of a major roadway linking the Gladden Farms housing development with Interstate 10. The Tangerine Farms Road project features a 3.8-mile connection between the Tangerine Road interchange and Moore Road.

The $30 million project was funded by bonds, improvement district property assessments, impact fees and town funds.

Another construction project widened a section of Silverbell Road between Cortaro and Ina Roads to four lanes plus a turning lane.

All that is left is the paving, which is set to happen the week of Jan. 5, and landscaping, which is set for completion before the end of January.

In December, the town began taking bids for its Twin Peaks Interchange-Camino de Manana straightening, which would provide an easier way to get from Interstate 10 to Dove Mountain. Total construction costs is estimated at $80 million.

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