Federal funding boosts Superior projects

David Sowders/Arizona Silver Belt The suspension bridge over Queen Creek, Superior

SUPERIOR – Just off this small town’s Main Street, a short suspension bridge crosses Queen Creek. On a recent visit to town, the creekbed below was dry – but, thanks to recent federal funding, this important waterway could start flowing through Superior again.

In March, the Town received $4.25 million in appropriations as part of the omnibus budget bill. Those funds will not only boost the restoration of Queen Creek, but also the conversion of a historic school into a multi-generational center envisioned as “a hub for all things Superior.”

The appropriations included $2 million for the Superior Multi-Generational Center and $2.25 million for the creek project.

The finished center, a key goal set by Superior’s Town Council in 2016, will incorporate Town Hall operations, the town library, the senior center, a workout facility, a dance studio and the Superior Enterprise Center, which will offer job training and space for entrepreneurs to develop (including a commercial kitchen) – all without constructing new buildings, as the Town purchased the original Superior High School from owner Elijah Cardon in January.

“We wanted to recession-proof community services like the library and the senior center, and a facility where we could share staff and save on utilities,” Superior Mayor Mila Besich told the Silver Belt. “In order to keep young people in our community, we had to have some skilled job training opportunities. The Multi-Generational Center will be a very state of the art job training and maker space.”

Helping the town secure the $2 million were Congressman Tom O’Halleran and Senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema, whom Besich thanked in a March 26 press release. Due to their efforts, she said, “we will be able to grow good, high-paying jobs that will enable our Town to build a stronger, more diverse and sustainable economy.”

Site rehabilitation is anticipated to begin in a few months, and Town Hall functions could start moving into the center in early 2023. The federal funds will help with ADA accessibility, including a modern elevator, and installing air conditioning in rooms that currently lack it. The project has also received $2 million from Resolution Copper, and the town plans to apply for additional grants. “We’re very proud to be able to bring this historical building back into public use again. Our goal is to make it functional, flexible and usable,” said Besich.

With the $2.25 million, set aside from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act-Army Corps of Engineers with the aid of Congressman Greg Stanton, the Town will install a reclaimed water pipeline and rehabilitate existing infiltration at the Queen Creek Restoration Project. “Our goal is to put water back in Queen Creek,” said Besich.

The project began with a study commissioned in the late 1990s, which identified fissures in the creek that had allowed flows to fall into the Magma mine; the mine released some water back into the aquifer, and water was also pumped to farmers in the town of Queen Creek. “We’re looking to remediate and mitigate those losses,” said Besich. The endeavor suffered a setback in 2001, when grant funds awarded for an effluent pipeline became unavailable in the wake of 9/11. Superior got better news this January, when the project made the Army Corps of Engineers’ top 12.

Construction will start this summer, after which water can be re-released past the fissure points in the creek. The project will include a pipeline to pump effluent up to the discharge points, rehabilitating some historic wells and invasive species removal. “The creek from the original US Highway 60 bridge down to the US 60 park will benefit the most, but this will eventually improve the health of the entire aquifer,” said Besich. “This is one piece of a larger project for a healthy and sustainable environment for Superior. Our Town staff and our lobbying team helped us understand where these grants are, but we’ve also worked closely with federal agencies to accomplish our goals."