Friday, March 24, 2023

Bits and Pieces

Hardy Road to close for Carmack Wash improvement project March 27-31 
"ORO VALLEY, Ariz. (March 22, 2023) – The Town of Oro Valley is announcing road construction on Hardy Road between the Northern Avenue roundabout to Calle Loma Linda from March 27 – 31 to address erosion within the shoulder areas at the low flow water crossing of Carmack Wash. The section of road will be closed from 6:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. during construction." Hardy Road between the Northern Avenue roundabout to Calle Loma Linda will be closed. (Source: Town of Oro Valley Media Release)

Winfield asks: "Does Sun City really need street lights?"
Town staff is budgeting to replace circuit three street lights in Sun City. Mayor Winfield, however, wonders why the town should continue to provide a street light service to Sun City. It is, after all, the only place in town that has street lights. Winfield asked this question at the CIP study session last week. The answer: Maintaining those lights was part of the agreement when the town annexed Sun City 45+ years ago. Perhaps, though, time to re-examine that.

Asphalt costs skyrocket...increasing road costs... and we will pay more for roads
The cost of asphalt, like the cost of everything else has skyrocketed, according to Oro Valley Director of Public Works, Paul Keesler. More costly asphalt comes at a bad time, as several Oro Valley major roads will need replacing over the next few year.
One of these Rancho Vistoso Blvd.  (Source: Keesler remarks to council at CIP study session of May 15, 2023).

Roads are paid from the Highway Fund. The gas tax which town gets from the State funds that fund.  When the highway fund is short of money, funds are transferred from the Capital Fund. That fund get its money from the General Fund. Thus, we may all be paying for at least some portion of road costs in the future.

Crooks can be very creative
"On Feb. 20, OVPD Detectives arrested a suspect involved in organized retail theft. The case originated from the Oro Valley Neighborhood Walmart in January 2023 when the suspect would scan items, use a credit card that gets declined and then leave with the merchandise. There were 10 cases with five different agencies and about $2,445 in total losses. The suspect is facing charges of organized retail theft/burglary/aggravated shoplifting/ fraud/trafficking in stolen property, and computer tampering."
(Source: Town of Oro Valley Town Manger Report, March 2023, p2)

Pusch Ridge Golf rounds ahead of plan
Pusch Ridge Golf rounds are pacing ahead of last year, according to Tony D'Angelo, President of Pusch Ridge Golf speaking to the Council in the Call To Audience section f last week's Council meeting.

 "We are confident that rounds will exceed the Town budget for total rounds for the season before the end of this month." This, as Tony noted, despite the area's uncharacteristic cold and rainy winter. 

Tony attempted to remind the Council that the town is committed to maintaining the land in a manner commensurate with a resort regardless of whether it is a golf course.. As a result,  the town needs to include some investment in the land even if the Council chooses to close the court in two years. No such costs are included in the Town Managers tentative 2023-2033 Capital Improvement Program.(Source: D'Angelo remarks to Council on May 15, 2023 and email to LOVE).

Tony's group created an advertisement that runs on the Golf Channel.  You can watch it at left.
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Thursday, March 23, 2023

Courageous, Resilient, Determined Women of Oro Valley and Beyond

Betty was born in El Paso, Texas to John (Jack) and Elizabeth Procter. The family moved to Eastland, Texas and then Pasadena, California. In 1932 Jack took a job as the manager of the prestigious Pioneer Hotel and the family relocated to Tucson.

Betty attended the University of Arizona and was a Kappa Kappa Gamma. She was quite a beauty and was crowned the Queen of the Harvest Festival Dance in 1938. While attending the university, Betty often modeled for the elegant Cele Peterson clothing shop in Tucson. Betty lit up the Tucson social scene on many occasions including the Baile de los Flores Charity Ball (the event’s proceeds were dedicated to St. Luke’s in the Desert).

Due to her father’s position at the Pioneer Hotel, Betty worked in the gift shop. Her expertise was Native American pottery and jewelry. She also featured art work from the DeGrazia Gallery. She worked at the Pioneer while in college through marriage and motherhood.

Betty and Henry E. “Hank” Leiber met in Arizona during the frequent visits Hank made to the area. Hank was a notable University of Arizona athlete and a professional baseball player for the Chicago Cubs and New York Giants between 1933 and 1942. Betty was a competitive golfer and held several amateur titles.

The couple was engaged on November 18, 1940 during Hank’s career with the Chicago Cubs. On their way back from the Rose Bowl in 1940, Hank and Betty stopped in Yuma and got married. They followed up their elopement with a reception at the Steam Pump Ranch property.

Hank’s career in baseball ended in 1942 after a head injury. The couple then made their full time residence in Tucson. They moved into the Pusch House at Steam Pump Ranch for a time. (Note: The Pusch Family, original owners of the Pusch House used the house only on an occasional basis . Their primary home was in Tucson.) With baseball behind him, Hank became a successful real estate developer in the Tucson area. In 1963 Betty and Hank moved into the 49er Golf Club development.

On February 17, 1978 Betty passed away in Tucson at the age of 59 from an aneurism. She is buried at East Lawn Palms Cemetery and Mortuary.

*Cheryl Leiber, Betty’s daughter-in-law (wife of John Leiber), has graciously provided us with an oral history of the Leiber family’s time at Steam Pump Ranch. She is a volunteer docent of the Oro Valley Historical Society.

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The Oro Valley Historical Society is celebrating Women’s History Month with an exhibit featuring “Courageous, Resilient, Determined Women of Oro Valley and Beyond. You can discover the lives of other prominent women of our area including, Ina Gittings and The Countess of Suffolk. The Pusch House Museum at Steam Pump Ranch is open on Saturdays from 9 to Noon, March 11, 18, and 25. (10901 N. Oracle Rd, Oro Valley)

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

One Word Sums Up Last Week's Town Council Capital Budget Study Session: "Laughable"

Last week, we reported on the latest staff recommendations on the Town of Oro Valley Ten Year Capital Improvement Program (CIP). The town council held a study session on the program last Wednesday. In our minds, the study session was laughable. The session left more questions than it answered.  Here are our takeaways:

Study session occurred too late at night
There’s really no way to have a productive study session late into the evening, especially after the Council has already discussed pressing matters. In addition, just before this study session, the Council had already sat through a study session on the Vistoso Trails Nature Preserve Master Plan.

The CIP study session was so late in the evening that, by the time Council Member Joyce Jones-Ivey was asked if she had any questions, she was literally giddy. After all, she had been in that room for almost six hours.  Jones-Ivey started laughing and couldn’t stop. We don’t blame her because having a session on something as important as capital spending so late at night is ridiculous. That topic requires a "clear, fresh mind."  In addition, Joyce pointed out that the tiny font used on the schedules that staff provided was way too small to be read by a human being! She is right!

A $3.2 million magistrate court project...
Next year, the Town will start remodeling the Magistrate Court.  The estimated cost for that is $1.5 million each of the next two years. We have no idea why staff proposes this project or why it is proposed for next year because...

...With no detail provided on that or on any proposed project
We cannot tell you more about the Magistrate Court Project, or any other project really, because the packet provided to the Council does not include a detailed description of the project, a description of exactly what is to be done, the reason or justification for doing that project, the return or benefit from doing the project and the basis for the estimated cost of the project. All of of this is best practice in capital budgeting. All of this is missing from the council packet. It is no wonder that Jones-Ivey was laughing because what the Council received last week was laughable.

Thus requiring Council to get "down in the weeds"
Town staff is budgeting replacing "circuit three" street lights in Sun City. Barrett wants that circuit replaced sooner rather than later. Winfield asked why the town should continue to provide street lights in Sun City. After all, Sun City is the only place in town that has street lights. He was informed by staff that the street lights are there for historical reasons. Owning and maintaining those lights was part of the agreement when the town annexed Sun City 45+ years ago. Winfield suggested that is is time to re-examine that situation.

Finding discrepancies accounting among funds
It is necessary for the Council to "get down in the weeds."  Some members of this Council, Tim Bohen in particular, are good at doing that. His tracking of fund transfers, for example, reveals confusing accounting between the Community Center Fund (CCF) and the CIP.

According to Town Finance Director Gephart: “The one that I will highlight is the elevator and the ADA improvements to the Community Center.” These are included in the CIP Fund at the moment. According to Vice Mayor Barrett, these costs are supposed to be in the Community Center Fund. Barrett noted that “The motion for the elevator said that the additional funding would come from the Community Center Fund, so what would happen if we end up paying for all that from the Capital Fund? Would there be a transfer from the Community Center Fund?”. Gephart responded: “Yes. There would be a transfer as long as funds are available.”

Then, there are capital costs related to the creation of the Vistoso Trails Nature Preserve. These are included in the CCF capital budget. They belong in the CIP budget.

No basis provided by staff to Council for prioritizing projects
The staff did not provide nor does the Council have a method for prioritizing projects. Having such is best practice of a capital budgeting process. Council Member Solomon noted that the Town Council needs to separate projects as to whether they are essential, “a must or need”, or something it would be nice to have, “A want”. Then, the Council should agree upon and then apply a "screen" for prioritizing projects within those categories.

Our conclusion
Staff had been requested by Council to hold this session. They conducted the session as if they had been requested to do something that they did not want to do. They were "going through the motion."
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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Guest View-Tim Tarris: Facts are Hard To Ignore

Oro Valley resident Tim Tarris presented the following to the Oro Valley Town Council last Wednesday. It regards the pending request by the Oro Valley Church of the Nazarene to build a sports facility next to the property. You can read more about here.
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I would like to begin with a quote from John Adams:

"Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."

I would like to present some facts and end with a quote.
  • The property the applicant wishes to expand into is currently residential and would require a zoning change for them to proceed.
  • 100% of the adjoining neighbors are opposed to the rezone and have protested in writing. Almost 150 residents of the neighborhood are also opposed.
  • Those predominately in favor attend the church but do not live nearby.
  • The Planning & Zoning Commission has ruled against the rezone.
  • The church has threatened legal action against the town if not approved.
  • The Concordia/Buena Vista Group resolve remains constant
  • A rezone from residential to commercial would set precedent and open a Pandora's box of disturbing possibilities in our town
These facts confirm what we all know. 

This is absolutely the wrong project for a residential neighborhood. And everyone knows it, including the applicant.

There are however, promising alternatives. The church, working together with the town and/or third parties can achieve success by finding a different, far more appropriate location. It is a win for the town, the church, the neighborhood and all of Oro Valley.

And finally, Abraham Lincoln was credited with saying:

"If I'd had more time, the Gettysburg Address would have been shorter."
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Monday, March 20, 2023

Council Guides Staff on Vistoso Trails Nature Preserve Master Plan: "Keep It Simple... Revegetation Is The Priority"

The Oro Valley Town Council provided direction last Wednesday regarding the Vistoso Trails Nature Preserve Master Plan.  The direction was provided during a study session with town staff and with consultant to the project. 

Keep it simple
The council wants the Preserve to be a place for relaxation, nature, and reasonable exercise. They don't want it to be a park that attracts a large volume of traffic. The council agreed that they need to know the traffic impact of each option in order to provide further guidance.

Get revegetation started sooner rather than later
The most important aspect of creating the Preserve is to return the greens and fairways to their natural state. This means planting native plants and eliminating the invasive species that are taking over the area. This is called "revegetation." Removing as much of the Bermuda grass as possible is a challenge as that grass is much like a weed. It's hard to kill. The longer the town waits to revegetate, the more difficult and the more costly it will be to do so. The proposed plan is to rip out the greens and fairways and to apply a seed mix of grass and straw. Revegetation is part of Phases 1 and 2 of the consultant's implementation plan.

Do something about the pond
...but don't make it too complicated. The simplest alternative seems to be what the consultant noted as Option C (see panel right). This is a smaller pond with sloped sides to allow leisurely access. The pond would use reclaimed water. 

Note: There is a simpler option that neither the consultant, town staff, nor the council discussed. That option is to fill in the area and revegetate it. That would return that area to its natural state.

Get a handle on cost of creating and maintaining the Preserve
Council wants to know the cost of building and of maintaining all options so that they can make an informed decision. "We need some reasonable estimates for the construction and maintenance," noted Council Member Solomon. "Is this going to be something that is going to start taking a big percentage of the Parks and Recreation budget?" Parks and Recreation Director Diaz-Trahan replied that it would be less costly than maintaining similar acreage at Naranja Park. Regarding cost of implementing, staff consistently mentioned getting grants but has provided no details.

Allow both walking and biking
The cart paths on the Preserve are not sufficiently wide for both foot and bike traffic. Also, they are not wide enough to meet ADA compliance. Town staff does not think it can enforce a "no bike" policy. Most on Council don't want to keep bikers out anyway. Some path widening will need to occur in the future. In addition, the town will need to add special ADA paths to allow all to enjoy the Preserve experience.

Involve the entire community
Residents of Rancho Vistoso donated $1.8million to The Conservation Fund for the purchase of the property. Some council members suggested that the opinion of these people should be weighed more heavily that the opinion of those who live outside the area. Mayor Winfield did not agree. He expressed the view of a majority: The investment that the town will make in this property will vastly exceed the amount contributed. Therefore, the town should weigh the thoughts of all residents equally. Diaz-Trahan noted that most resident input has come from those who do live in the area.

Diaz-Trahan: All plans  have been vetted with the easement holder, The Conservation Fund
The Conservation Fund holds the conservation easement on the property. The easement limits defines the activities the town can allow on the property and what it can do with it. Diaz-Trahan presented this to the Council. She stated that she has vetted all pieces of the Master Plan with The Conservation Fund.

There are three key areas of conservation easement requirements:
  • Preserving land for outdoor recreation by or for the the education of the general public
  • Protecting a relatively natural habitat of fish, wildlife plants, and ecosystem, and 
  • Preserving open space for the scenic enjoyment of the general public 
Permitted uses of the property are:
  • Low impact recreation activities that include but are not limited to:
    Walking, hiking, jogging, cycling, birdwatching, stargazing, archaeological efforts, education programs, nature photography, picnicking, and on-leash dog walking
  • Construction of:
    Ramada’s, benches, picnic tables, water stations, bird blinds, exercise stations, ADA and non ADA trails and paths, and additional restrooms and parking areas that provide access to the area 
Remember: This is a Master Plan that will take many years to implement. The plan will be subject to review and funding by future councils as it becomes part of future annual budgets
The consultant has recommended four phases of the project. They did not define the timetable of each. Our guess is that it will be a decade before the master plan would be implemented completely. That time frame would span the terms of several Councils. No council is obligated to implement the plans of a prior council. Annually, the Council will decide if it want to do what is being suggested at that time in the Master Plan and if they want to fund it.  In essence, then, the Master Plan is guideline that may well change over time.  

Creating the Preserve is a long-term game
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Friday, March 17, 2023

Bits and Pieces

Town Council votes to continue approval of Naranja-LaCanada Project 
The Oro Valley Town Council voted unanimously to continue a request for exceptions for a proposed commercial development on the northwest corner of LaCanada and Naranja Drive. Last month, council had approved a conditional use permit for the property. Council voiced considerable concern regarding the impact of the project on the traffic at that intersection. That intersection is currently rated an "E or F" (Low performance...longer delays) during some hours of the day. The project crams three buildings and a drive thru facility on a dry small lot. There is significant resident opposition to this project.  In our opinion, the project does not benefit Oro Valley but it will benefit the developer.

Town Manager selection process continues.. timetable released
We have not been reporting about the process of selecting a new town manager. There has not been anything to report. Yesterday, the Council met in special session the status of the process and next steps. The recruiter, Ralph Andersen & Associates, has identified 40 resumes.  The next step are structured panel interviews. 

The schedule is:
  • Town Council has access to the resumes today. The resumes are classified in three tiers: Top Tier; Alternates and All Others.  
  • Council meets in executive session next Wednesday to discuss candidates
  • Council will interview candidates the following week. 
  • The town will release the names of an submitted materials regarding 2-3 finalists the week of April 3.
  • Council will make a selection mid April
(Source: March 13, 2023 Recruiter Memo to Council)
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