Mar 8, 2013 8:00 PM by Danielle Lerner

Voters set to decide fate of Marana wastewater system

MARANA- On Tuesday, March 12, voters in Marana could bring years of fighting over their town's wastewater treatment system to an end. For the past six years, Marana and Pima County have been battling to own the small Rillito Vista facility. Right now the County owns it but Senate Bill 1171 gave operating rights to the town back in January 2012.

The wastewater treatment plant treats about 300,000 gallons of water every day. Marana officials say the outcome of this election will affect the town for years to come.

"We think we can do it better than it's currently being done," said Marana Utilities Director John Kmiec.

By owning the rights to the pipes the town says it will have a reliable water resource for the future, and with several vacant plots of land in the northwest part of town, officials say growth is inevitable.

"Having local control of business services is the best way for a local government to operate," Kmiec said.

The system currently serves about 2100 customers. If voters approve the ballot measures and transfer ownership, those residents could see a small bump in fees to help cover the $18 million debt on the facility. However the town says future residents and businesses will cover most of that cost through impact fees.

News 4 Tucson reached out to Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry about the issue, we were told, "it is Mr. Huckelberry's policy not to comment on elections to avoid the appearance that he may be attempting to influence the outcome of an election."

The County extended two settlement offers back in December so if the measures don't pass, both parties will continue talks. Still, Kmiec says Marana will have to look at acquiring water from outside the area.

"That can be costly and that has a lot of risk associated with it because those water supplies don't become available that often," Kmiec said.


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