Friday, May 14, 2021

Bits and Pieces

Council Member Greene identifies potential major corporate member for Oro Valley Municipal Golf 
Oro Valley Municipal Golf has four corporate members. It needs more. During last week’s council study session on the budget, Council Member Mo Greene told town park’s director Kristy Dias Trahan that the owner of Westward Look told him that he was looking for a place for the resort’s guest to play golf. After along pause (she was dumbfounded) she said that she would follow up. Here’s a “shoutout” to Council Member Greene. 

Oro Valley experiencing exceptional drought conditions…Tucson area is 10% drier
The 20 year drought continues. “The Southwest US has experienced some of the greatest changes with the decadal shift more than 10% drier” according to the national weather service. During this same time period its hotter by about 1/2 degree annually during the past thirty years. We’ve included a panel with map showing the changes in both precipitation and temperature. 

Oro Vista apartment architecture approved 
The expansion of the Oro Vista apartment complex was an administrative approval and not a zoning approval. The property was zoned long ago for apartment use, according to Town Planning and Zoning head Bayer Vella. That is why the item was on the consent agenda. 

Council Member Jones-Ivey made sure that council publicly discussed the item at last weeks’ council meeting. As it turns out, this is item is on the agenda for the approval of the architecture of the property. Council discussed the Planning and Zoning Commission’s request that the stone front of the building as it faces Lambert Lane be increased. The council rejected this. 

Mayor Winfield noted: “I think it is incredibly unfortunate that the view of the Catalinas [from Noble Hops] will be lost” once the facility is built, but the town can not do anything about that since the project was approved by a previous council. Also, the property manager, Beztak, said they would continue to investigate what may be a lack of adequate parking for the commercial property that houses Noble Hops and other establishments once the apartments are built. 

 Council approved the measures 6-0 (Council Member Solomon Absent)

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Above and Beyond: “Hanging With Officer Greg”

SRO’s three-pronged job
The job of Oro Valley’s “School Resource Officers (SRO)” is indeed challenging. Police officers are there to protect the children. They guide and counsel students as needed. They also teach in the classroom. 

What happens when there are few students in the classroom because of the pandemic? 
Most Oro Valley SRO’s returned to patrol duty, bolstering street presence during the early days of the pandemic. SRO Greg Chmara stayed on duty for the students in our community. Chmara is the SRO at Painted Sky Elementary School. He also serves at three other schools. He became an SRO after the pandemic started, after completing three years as an Oro Valley patrol officer. 

Chmara faced the challenge of engaging kids virtually over the past year.
He developed a video concept on that has become wildly successful.

The concept: “Hanging with Officer Greg”
Chmara created a video channel exclusively for the school’s students. On it, he broadcasts a video series called: “Hanging with Officer Greg”.  We’ve included the “trailer” for that series in the panel below.

A tip from a colleague started it all
“As the newest SRO, I was tasked to cover all of the schools in the area. I was going to all the schools trying to figure out what the students needed. I was having a hard time trying to figure out how to do this. SRO Vivian Lopez mentioned that, at one time, she had read a book to her students and then put it on youtube so her students could access it. A light bulb went off in my head. What a great way. I know how youth today really connect online. A lot of them will sit there watching youtube and TikTok videos for hours and hours. What better way to reach out to those youths than through a media they love to use to get across positive messages.”

So, he created what is now a 21-episode (and growing) series.
Greg does every phase of production, from conceiving the topic to posting the videos such that student privacy is maintained.  He usually has one or two ready to go a week before publishing date. The videos are from 3-12 minutes. 

“Some of the longest are the most favorite videos.”
The topic of one of the longest videos is: “Reading Dog Body Language”. It has had more viewers than most. We understand why after watching it. Greg developed it by involving Pima Animal Control. The video is entertaining. The video shows different dog behaviors. The video tells you how to interpret the behavior (Did you know that a wagging tail does not always mean the dog is friendly?) The video provides advice on what to do. We learned a lot!! The video should be posted on the town’s website!

Teachers in control
Greg releases the video links weekly through the teachers. They decide how and when to integrate it with their curriculum. “It allows them to have another tool to teach their students.”

Topics that matter
Some of the topics in the series are equally informative. They include:
•. What happens at a traffic stop
•. When should you call 911 
•. “Tattling v Telling” 
•  Backpack Safety

This week he released one on “self esteem.” “Something I’m really excited for. Its really affected our youth…. a lot of kids a facing difficult times [because of the isolation caused by the pandemic]. My hope is for them to see the good things and to change their thought process to positive.”

Above and beyond
SRO Greg Chmara has gone “above and beyond” in protecting and lovingly guiding the youngest in our community. We are indeed fortunate that he is an integral member of our public safety force.
Click this link to learn more about Office Greg.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Colorado River Water Reduction: “State of Certainty”

Arizona faces Colorado River water cuts in 2022
Arizona will face an 30% reduction in Colorado River Water allocation starting in 2022. This will happen when the US Bureau of  Reclamation, the federal authority charged with managing the supply, declares a Tier1 emergency in August. 

That declaration is a certainty
Lake Mead, the state’s primary source of Colorado River Water, is at 38% of capacity. That is five feet over the trigger shortage level. The declaration will allow Arizona take no more than 70% of its allowable water supply.
Cities should prepare
According to State Water Director Tom Buschatzke, users should be preparing for drought water reductions even though most of the water cuts will impact agricultural users first. “Despite mitigation efforts for those farmers, ag entities in impacted areas ultimately may have to reduce acreage by 30% to 40%.” Under Tier1, water banking and replenishment would also be eliminated.(source)

According to Buschatzke, there may be some locales that may want to start preparing. The drought may well last another 20 years. “It’s up to cities to put in homeowner restrictions.”

Oro Valley residents conserve
The town of Oro Valley has a very successful resident-centric water saving program. Residents can follow their water consumption daily if they wish. They can ask for and participate in water audits provide by the the town. They plant desert appropriate flora. Use water efficient drip systems. 

…Town needs to follow suit
At the same time the Town of Oro Valley advocates for growth which results in the need for even more total drinking water consumption. Recently, the town reopened a golf course that uses far more drinking water than all the water residents save each year.

The town’s water director has stated on repeated occasions that Oro Valley has enough water for the next 100 years, that the town can accommodate growth, and that it costs too much ($4million) to bring reclaimed water to the Pusch Ridge reopened golf course.  

…Could extend the reclaimed water system to save millions of gallons of drinking water
What he has failed to mention is that the Oro Valley Country Club currently used drinking water for its course. Thus, extending the reclaimed water system to Pusch Ridge would then bring this water close to the OVCC so it could also switch over. Imagine the millions of acre feet of drinking water that would save.

We wonder: Isn’t his position better suited for climates where this is plenty of water and not one facing a 20-year drought with no end in sight?
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Monday, May 10, 2021

Council Planning To Add $43Million In Debt To Oro Valley In 2022

Two measures: $43 million
The Oro Valley Town Council has passed two measures in the past month that, if approved in the 202-22 budget, will add $43 million in debt to the town. One is the previously reported issuance of $17million in debt to pay down the town's police pension (“PSPRS”) unfunded liability. The other is the incurrence of up to $25million in debt to finance what was to be a ten-year parks and recreation master plan.This is a plan that council has not publicly heard or approved.

“Pay as you go” is out… debt is in
Approval of bonding for the parks plan will abandon this council’s stated position to use “pay as you go” for parks and recreation facilities. This is the position the council affirmed last year when it approved a five year plan to reduce the annual subsidy of municipal golf to no more than $750,000 within five years. Currently, improvements to that facility as to all facilities was to be paid from current fund proceeds. This has been the town’s practice since its inception in 1974.

Cheap interest rates drive both debt decisions
One stated justification for doing this measure is the same was used for supporting the PSPRS debt: “Interest rates are cheap.” The town has estimated that it will be able to issue bonds with a less than 3% interest rate. They may well be able to do so as there is currently a dearth of new municipal bond issues in the market. But, this level of borrowing is a lot for a town of our size. It could reduce the town’s credit rating unless it pledges the sales tax money as collateral on the loan.

Recent reduced golf losses and increased sales tax revenues also drove decision to borrow to fund parks and recreation facilities
In addition to cheap interest rates, there was added rationale given for borrowing to fund the parks: Losses on municipal golf are down because the new golf operator has done a better job of operating the course than the last golf operator; and half-percent sales tax receipts are up. The council expects that both of these events will continue indefinitely.

Measure “shares the wealth” generated by the half-percent sales tax 
The measure was proposed by Mayor Winfield and Vice Mayor Barrett. One of their stated objectives is to bring unity to the town by “sharing the wealth” through use of the half-percent golf sales tax. Barrett observed in her remarks during the meeting that the sales tax is paid by everyone and that, therefore, it should be used for the benefit of everyone. The language of the resolution (included in the panel above) does just that, proposing that bond funds be used to complete Naranja Park and improving other key parks facilities.  You can watch the Vice Mayor’s comments here.

Pending 2021-22 Budget Adoption
The bonding and the use of bond proceeds are included in the town’s tentative budget. Town residents will have the opportunity to opine on any item in the tentative budget in two upcoming town hearings. The bondings will happen in the late summer if they are included in the final budget.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Oro Valley Historical Society Heritage Guide: History and Art on the Wall ~ Part 2.

Part 1 was published yesterday. If you missed it, you can find it by scrolling down below today’s article.
The Steam Pump Ranch Ledger Book
Records were kept at Steam Pump Ranch and a ledger book listing transactions remained with the Pusch family. George Pusch's grandson, Henry Zipf, donated the book to the Oro Valley Historical Society. The ledger book, entitled “Ranch Provisions and Cattle,” includes entries from 1898 until 1921.

All of the brands registered by George Pusch appear in the Ranch ledger. The “PZ” brand is the best known of his brands. John Zellweger, sold his interest in the brand to Pusch in 1883 and the Pusch family continued to use it for over 40 years.

Pusch’s son, George Jr., owned a similar brand, the "PZ connected". This brand remained in the family until 2010 when Pusch’s grandson sold it to the Oro Valley Historical Society to preserve as part of the historical record of Steam Pump Ranch and the Pusch family. 

The brand images depicted on the Oracle Road sound walls were obtained from the Steam Pump Ranch ledger book. The brands are listed in sales records for George Pusch. They all represent brands registered by the early 1900s.

Reading brands
Reading brands involves a special system. Brands are read from left to right, top to bottom, and outside to inside. Capital letters, numbers and characters are among the combinations used to create brands. Letters can be vertical, sideways, reversed, or hanging.

Other notable brands
One brand illustrated on the roadway walls was owned by Henry Feldman, brother of Pusch’s wife, Mathilda. He managed some of the Pusch holdings in the San Pedro Valley near its junction with Aravaipa Creek. The Pusch family reportedly grazed cattle throughout the open range between Steam Pump Ranch and the San Pedro Ranch.

The "JE" brand was owned by Noah Bernard and John Bogan who ran cattle in the Arivaca area southwest of Tucson. Pusch was a partner with them in the Arivaca Land and Cattle Company.

Another brand illustrated on the Oracle walls is the "7-6". It was owned by W.O. Ramsey who lived in Tombstone, Arizona.

The story of livestock brands and their uses is much more complicated than a single ranch and a single owner. There are stories still to be uncovered that will help tell the history of cattle ranching associated with the historic Steam Pump Ranch.

Text and photographs by Patricia Spoerl, 2019. Along with Jim Kriegh and Dick Eggerding, Pat is a founder of the Oro Valley Historical Society.

WE WANT YOU! The Oro Valley Historical Society is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit volunteer organization, whose mission is “To promote research, preservation, education, and dissemination of historical information related to the greater Oro Valley area.” We invite you to become a member or volunteer. Visit us at and help keep Oro Valley history alive!

We are currently looking for enthusiastic volunteers who are interested in becoming docents at the Pusch House museum and for Steam Pump Ranch tours. Training sessions are being scheduled for the fall season. We hope to hear from you. Contact: Teri at