Friday, October 22, 2021

Bits and Pieces

Pima County has a "solution" to lost dogs
We are astounded by the number of pets that are lost almost daily in Oro Valley.  "Attaching a tag to your pet's collar might seem like a small thing, but it makes a big difference! Lost pets wearing tags return home faster." When you register your pet with the County, as you should annually, your pet becomes part of the "HomeSafe" program. Your pet gets a tag with their name on it and a unique code. When someone finds your pet, all they need to do is go to docupet.com to find you. If you lose your pet, you can go to the same site to let the world know your "baby" is missing. The service comes when you pay your annual fee.

Oro Valley wins 27th consecutive annual finance award
Oro Valley, Arizona (October 19, 2021) –– 
For the 27th year in a row, the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting has been awarded to the Town of Oro Valley by the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) for its comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR). The Certificate of Achievement is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting, and its attainment represents a significant accomplishment for the Town. (Source: Town of Oro Valley Press Release)

Jim Williams is writing "Oro Valley History"
Oro Valley resident Jim Williams, author of "Claiming the Desert" is in the process of creating a history of the Town of Oro Valley, from incorporation in 1974 to present. "I got bored during covid and I already researched some early parts of life in the sixties and seventies, I thought: 'Well, I'll keep going." Williams is in the process of interviewing and gathering information. If you have and interesting story you would like to share with Jim please send it to us a letorovalleyexcel@yahoo.com. We will forward it to him.

Next town council meeting will be November 3
This week's council meeting had a consent agenda item that would have cancelled the November 3 meeting. This cancellation would have followed two consecutive council meetings in which there were no regular agenda items. That is: Nothing of any substance discussed.  After much confusion about what no vote would me, the council decided to not approve the cancellation. In other words, there will be a November 3 town council meeting. 

Speaking in favor of holding the meeting, Council Member Bohen said he had identified five items that ought to have regular meeting session attention. For some very odd and unknown reason, Bohen was not allowed to mention the five because the outside legal council said it would be a violation of the "open meeting laws." We believe that mentioning what the five were would not be a violation. Discussing and deciding upon them would have been because there would have been no public notice that such a discussion would take place.

Mural unveiling Monday at Kreigh Park
"The Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance, the Town of Oro Valley, Visit Tucson, and the Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce will officially debut a new vibrant mural by local artist Ashley White at the James D. Kriegh Park at 23 W Calle Concordia, Oro Valley, AZ 85704. The celebration marks the first ever community mural project in Oro Valley, AZ." (Source: SAACA)

Thursday, October 21, 2021

George Pusch – A Mountain of a Man

 

Oro Valley is bordered to the east by the Santa Catalina Mountains/ Coronado National Forest. The well-known landmark that we pass when driving on Oracle is Pusch Ridge. What do you know about George Pusch, the namesake of the ridge?

In past articles we highlighted George’s career as a politician and his involvement as a member of the Constitutional Convention in 1910. This month at the Pusch House Museum, our new exhibit highlights German-American Heritage and the Legacy of George Pusch.

George Pusch emigrated to the United States from Germany in 1865 at the age of 18
George was born in Echzell, in Hesse Germany in 1847 and travelled to the United States on the ship the Tireland. He arrived in New York on October 28, 1865. According to records, his trade was “butcher.” After a circuitous route of travel throughout the United States, George found his permanent home in Tucson in 1874. George established Steam Pump Ranch with Johann Zellweger sometime around 1876.

I
n 1881, George married Mathilda Feldman who was also a German immigrant

George and Mathilda and their seven children (twin girls survived only a few days after their birth) lived full-time in Tucson since much of the business operation was there. The family frequently visited Steam Pump ranch and used it as a stopover on the way to a property they also owned further north.

George and Zellweger were partners in a variety of businesses
First was the Pioneer Meat Market at 34 East Congress. They then established the Tucson Ice and Cold Storage company on Toole Avenue. This operation included the sale of ice, coal, and even beer. Little by little their real estate, businesses, and ranching endeavors expanded fulfilling their hopes of finding prosperity in America a reality.

George Pusch’s great-grandson is the President of the Oro Valley Historical Society
Henry Zipf, the great-grandson of George (his grandmother was Gertrude, one of George and Mathilda’s daughters) is the current President of the Oro Valley Historical Society. Henry’s cousin, Barbara MacIntyre, (a great-granddaughter) is an active member and docent of the Historical Society. Both have been invaluable sharing stories and artifacts with the Society.

If you would like to learn more about other German immigrants settling in Tucson and more about George Pusch, stop by the Pusch House Museum at Steam Pump Ranch on Saturday, October 23 from nine to noon and visit the exhibit. We hope to see you!
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Source for article: Claiming the Desert; Settlers, Homesteaders, and Ranchers in Oro Valley, Arizona 1865-1965 by James A. Williams. The book can be purchased at the Pusch House Museum or at the Oro Valley Historical Society tent at the Heirloom Farmer’s Market on Saturday October 23 or on Amazon.

The Oro Valley is a 501c3 volunteer organization whose mission is to “promote research, preservation, education and dissemination of history related to the greater Oro Valley area. For more information visit: www.ovhistory.org

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Friends of Pusch Ridge Golf Address Potable Water Use Challenge

The Pusch Ridge Golf Course uses drinking water for irrigation
In reopening the Pusch Ridge Golf Course, the The Oro Valley Town Council committed to use drinking water to irrigate the course; enough drinking water to supply 400 plus single family homes. The commitment was made at a time when the Western US is facing a long-term drought, so severe that CAP water is now under a Level 1 restriction with a higher level restriction expected in the near future.

What to do is complicated
To date, we know of no action the council has taken to reduce the total drinking water use on this course. The council summarily dismissed the idea of bringing reclaimed water to the Pusch Ridge Golf Course. That would cost $4 million. The council has mentioned the idea of turf reduction. However, there are no announced plans.

Friends of Pusch Ridge Golf recognize the challenge
Enter into this situation, "Friends of Pusch Ridge Golf".  As we wrote yesterday, they are working with the town to create an economically viable entity. The also understand the need to do something about the drinking water used.

Here are their thoughts, as presented by spokesperson Tony D'Angelo. 

To some extent, they are waiting to see what the town wants to do 
"Friends of Pusch Ridge Golf is very mindful of this challenge and the fact Pusch Ridge Golf currently uses potable water. At this point Oro Valley Water has offered no challenge to the golf course’s water use plan for this season. If and when more restrictive water limitations are imposed, our group will support whatever actions the town water authority believes are necessary to protect the town’s water supply."

Focusing, at the moment, of getting the most economic return from the course
"We do recognize that this use of water today may impact what is required sometime in the future to sustain resident families. Therefore, all we can do is work as hard as we can to get the most benefit from the water used to green the golf course and produce income. We believe we are doing this by working to make sure the amount of play and revenues generated provide a reasonable return on investment. The town council authorized three years of operation to see if it can be a true value to the town. We know the pressure is on. This first year is all about proving the course can be a net benefit to the town."

Sees turf reduction in non playable areas
"Assuming we are successful this season, we hope to work with the town before it reopens next year on plans to reduce turf in non-playable areas and therefore reduce water requirements. We hope to continue to grow the numbers of Friends of Pusch Ridge and offer financial support to the town beyond what the three HOA’s surrounding the course have committed to provide to tackle this challenge."

Ultimately, we have to find a way to get off potable water. 
"It is unfortunate that when the state, years ago required golf courses to use reclaimed water, Oro Valley sought and received a waiver from the requirement for Pusch Ridge. Now the costs to do so are greater. Everyone in town has to be more creative in solving this challenge. The easy answer seems to be to just close down golf courses. The impact on the quality of life and the economics of such a decision seem to deserve we explore other options first.

We believe there are solutions out there
We just hope people and circumstances with the drought give us time to find a good one. Oro Valley is a great community that does deserve to excel. Friends of Pusch Ridge Golf sincerely wants to contribute to the town’s continued growth and sustainability."

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

“Friends of Pusch Ridge Golf” Address Economic Challenge of Operating The Nine Hole Course

The two challenges to operating the town's Pusch Ridge Golf Course
The continuing operation of the the Town of Oro Valley’s 9-hole Pusch Ridge course presents two challenges. One is economic. The other is its use of drinking water for irrigation. We discussed both of these with Tony D’Angelo of the group “Friends of Pusch Ridge Golf”, the group that saved this course from closure.

The Organization: "Friends of Pusch Ridge Golf"
Friends of Pusch Ridge Golf is a five hundred member organization that was created last year “…with the common goal of protecting, sustaining and optimizing its value to the town of Oro Valley.” Generally, members are residents who live adjacent to or near the course. They became active after the town stopped watering the 9-hole golf course. The course turned brown. It was becoming overgrown. It was destined for eventual closure after the course’s previous owner, HSL Properties, declined to lease it back. (You can read previous LOVE reports on that here.)

The course has such a history of poor financial results that the prior owner doesn't even want it back on a "cheap lease basis"
The course has been so severely underused over the years that the town, at one time, turned it into a frisbee course. They also tried bigger holes. Nothing worked. The course was economically unworkable regardless of scenario. It was only after the current town council was considering closing the course that those directly impacted rose up to fight for it.

"Friends of Pusch Ridge Golf" hope to turn the course around
The result has been a resurgence in their interest in the course. According to Tony D’Angelo, the group has focused this year on helping the town market the course and substantially increasing awareness and play. October 30 they are hosting a pre-opening event with two golf scrambles and a luncheon celebration. “These events sold out within 27 hours. That’s 104 golfers and over 150 total supporters attending. We are receiving strong support from local businesses providing prizes and prize money. Once the course opens to the public we will continue to promote these businesses to golfers using the course.”

This will be a continuing challenge
The challenge for the group and the town will be to continue to generate interest and use of the course for the long run so that the course sustains itself economically and generates added tourism dollars to the community.

According the D’Angelo, “Once open, Friends of Pusch Ridge Golf will continue to support fun golf leagues to establish a strong base of play. We have created three leagues – a men’s league, women’s league and a couple’s league. We will also host special events throughout the year with local businesses. All of these efforts are targeted to the new and casual golfer - we want the course to be accessible to all. The town has budgeted 6,600 rounds of play, we hope to help drive more than that assuming the renewed interest remains high.”

When we are successful, we believe the subsidy required by the town in support of operations to be well below expectations. When we factor in incremental tax revenues from surrounding businesses we believe Pusch Ridge Golf will be one of the town’s best performing assets.”

Even if economically successful, one huge challenge remains
If D’Angelo is right, the course will remain open, leaving the second major challenge, one that has yet to be addressed: Use of drinking water for irrigation. 

More on that tomorrow.

Monday, October 18, 2021

New Police Facility: Time To Start The Conversation

New Police Facility: Time To Start The Conversation
At a council session in September, Council Member Solomon said that the town needs a new police facility. He guesstimated a cost of $30 million. We had not heard of this. So we asked Oro Valley Police Chief Kara Riley.

A new facility is on the horizon. 
During the town council’s February Strategic Planning Session, Chief Riley discussed a new facility in relation to the changing landscape of public safety: Aligning staff to deal more with mental health calls and bolstering the town’s criminal investigations unit to name two. “In doing this, we began to realize our space needs.” 

The conversation needs to start regarding a new police facility
According to Chief Riley, having a new facility within five to six years is a clear need. Getting there is a “heavy lift” as Chief Riley noted in our conversation last week. 

Today there is 42,500 square feet spread over four facilities
Oro Valley is far bigger than the town it was in 1994, when the town built the current 15,000 square foot police headquarters on La Canada. Since that time the town has added two substations. One is the 3,500 square foot leased facility (“Tangerine SubStation”) located in the Oro Valley Market Place that opened in 2010. The other is the 22,000 square foot “Daniel G Sharp Substation and Evidence Facility” [“Magee”] opened in 2019.

Prior to 1994, town opened a sub station in Rancho Vistoso. That substation was agreed upon as a condition of the annexation of Rancho Vistoso in 1987. 

Today, then, there are four facilities used by the department, comprising 42,500 square feet.
 
The town has grown considerably over the years.
The footprint of the town was  24 square miles in 1994 . Half of that was Rancho Vistoso. Today, the footprint of the town is 36 square miles. The population of the town was 9,000.  Now Oro Valley has 47,000 people. The town’s population continues to grow daily as construction fills existing areas. Add to this the town’s annexation plans. Annexations will further expand Oro Valley’s geography and population. 

The number of people working for the department has more than doubled since 1994. “We had 53 people when we moved in in 1994. Now I currently manage 135. Our substations are filling up.”

And it is a very different community
In 1994, people from Tucson referred to Oro Valley as "way out in Oro Valley." The town was more rural than suburban. The were no traffic lights on Oracle Road. In fact, there was not Rooney Ranch shopping center. No gas stations. Oracle was two lanes each way and then one lane past Tangerine. The Oro Valley Marketplace was farmland. Policing in 1994 was far different than policing today.

Need to look at the next twenty plus years
According to Chief Riley, “We’re at capacity” with the facilities in place today. Thus, it's time to look at future needs. She believes that a new facility must be able to accommodate growth the twenty years. Police facilities are vey unique. “You also have to keep in mind that we have the public answering service for 911. You not only have holding cells and training needs but you also have the 911 center and records so its big, large and intricate.” In addition, there are training facilities and wellness areas.” And K-9 areas! 

“When you think you have built it big enough it almost has to be bigger because you just don’t know what the future will hold with regards to any growth.” 

At the moment There are no plans for a future station.

It is time to start the conversation.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Bits and Pieces

Lots Happening At Pusch Ridge Golf
The town’s Pusch View 9-hole golf course opens November 1. Prior to that, on October 30, the town is hosting a pre-opening golf event. It’s a sold out event! The group, “Friends of Pusch Ridge Golf” is also sponsoring the event. They have also announced three new golf leagues. You can learn more about that here.

Oro Valley average population is aging
This information just for the record. Based on the town’s 2020 Parks and Recreation Master Plan, 32% of residents are over 64. This population segment is expected to increase by about 1 percentage point each year through 2034.  During the same time period, the population of kids under 18 is expected to decrease from 16% to 12%. The vast majority of Oro Valley homes are situated on small lots, are smaller homes and have no place for kids to play. It may well be that the town’s housing stock simply is not attractive for younger families. (Source: 2021 Parks and Recreation Master Plan, section 3.4.1)

Pima County no longer in severe drought
The monsoon rains have significantly changed the state’s official drought designations. Pima County has moved rom sever drought to abnormally dry to moderate drought conditions. This is a huge change from just one year ago. Learn more here.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

The Conservation Fund: Preserving Open Space Is Par For The Course In Oro Valley

Par for the course 
Mike Ford of The Conservation Fund has penned a lovely article on the saga of preserving the former Vistoso Golf Course as a nature preserve in perpetuity. In it, Ford extols the beauty of the former course. He notes that it is looking especially beautiful after our unusual monsoon season.

Thanks to those who helped
Ford  acknowledges the hard work of Oro Valley Resident Rosa Dailey. “I was first contacted by local leader Rosa Dailey in April 2020, who told me about the property and the groundswell of community support to see this open space preserved and not developed." Dailey had been working on finding a solution long before that. 

Ford also acknowledges the support of the group Preserve Vistoso as well as the support of Takebackov and LOVE.  And, the support of Mayor Winfield and Vice Mayor Barrett. 

The journey continues: From fundraising to a conservation easement
“Once the fundraising is complete and the 202-acre former Vistoso Golf Course is officially purchased, The Conservation Fund will protect the property with a conservation easement, which will legally protect this land for conservation indefinitely. After that, the property will be transferred to the Town of Oro Valley, and a qualified land trust will be named as the long-term property steward who will ensure it adheres to the terms of the conservation easement.”
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