Oro Valley is required by the county to charge county rates because the ranch was acquired using $4.5 million of Pima County bond funds. Town staff needs to negotiate the council fee schedule with the county. The county is under no obligation to do so.
Council Member Joe Hornat motioned for tripling the fees: 'I looked at the schedule and it concerned me that it is so cheap. I don't think that the community... is ready to turn Steam Pump Ranch over to somebody who can afford a birthday [party] for 50 children for $100." He continued: "I would move... to triple these and hopefully stymie some of these folks from doing what I consider to be inconsequential items in a facility... that has a lot to offer but I don't think it was ever meant to offer at this level."
Steam Pump Ranch has not been completed. The Town Of Oro Valley has spent some funds on it. For example, a few years ago, the town did spend about $440,000 doing emergency work to keep the property from crumbling. This year it spent $150,000.
The staff report on the fees summarized the vision of Steam Pump Ranch, a vision that was presented in the 2008 Steam Pump Ranch Master Plan, one the would cost upwards of $10 million:
It is a vision to "...renovate existing buildings, construct new buildings, install interpretive elements and exhibits, and install required infrastructure and landscaping." (Source: Town Of Oro Valley Staff Report).Steam Pump Ranch was to have been completed by 2012 using county bond funds.
Today, however, Oro Valley does not have that. Instead, Oro Valley has a dusty, dilapidated Steam Pump Ranch with one restored building, a parking area, electrical, a shade structure and a bathroom. The site is hardly suitable for even the birthday party that Council Member Hornat dreads. The boarding stable has a growing hole in the roof. There's a back structure that is collapsing. The pump house has crumbled. There is very little landscaping. There is no museum. There is no pump. There is no cultural center. There is no recreation center.
Add to this the impact of state archeological regulations that limit what can not be done on the site. For example, the town will not be allowed to rebuild the pump house.
It is unfortunate that Steam Pump Ranch is not an attraction worthy of a birthday party.
What should Oro Valley do with Steam Pump Ranch? Should Oro Valley continue to implement the 2008 master plan in the hope of getting county bond funds in, maybe, 2016? Should Oro Valley craft a different vision of Steam Pump Ranch? Should Oro Valley attempt to finance Steam Pump Ranch as it has the $5.3 million aquatic center and the new Naranja ball fields?