This report has been updated to reflect the correct district for Supervisor Tim Humphrey.
January was a busy month on the local sewage front, as multiple agencies prepare for the possibility the Tri-City Regional Sanitary District (TRSD) will get the first phase of its project started in the near future.
The project continues to be on hold though, as the deadlock within the TRSD board continued into its second calendar month, after two new board members voted at a special Jan. 15 meeting not to accept the results of a property owner protest vote held last November.
At that meeting, longtime board member John Chism was not present due to health reasons, which led to a 2-2 tie. At the regular Jan. 29 meeting, Chism was back but it was Board President Malissa Buzan who was away, tending to a family emergency.
As the project gets closer to becoming a reality — at least on paper — the district, the Town of Miami, the City of Globe and Gila County have all begun to get involved in order to help streamline the project, although the majority of the streamlining would take place after the first phase gets underway.
To that end, the Gila County Board of Supervisors held a meeting several hours prior to the TRSD, with the expectation that the project will move forward if the district gets funding from U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development (USDA-RD) in the amount of $28 million for the first of three phases.
The funding would be in the form of a loan/grant, with taxpayers in the district paying a 40-year, low-interest $12 million loan. The remaining $16 million would be in the form of a grant.
In early December, the county announced its intention to fund and execute a regional wastewater study, independent of all other local agencies as well as USDA-RD.
Gila County Manager James Menlove said that although USDA-RD offered to defer some of the $40,000 cost of the study, he turned down the offer to ensure Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc. (K-H) “is not beholden to anyone,” for the results of the study.
“We wanted to look at it from a 30,000-foot perspective,” Menlove said.
While the county has no jurisdiction over the TRSD, or either municipality, officials have deemed the wastewater issue to be one of the biggest challenges facing the region, affecting water quality, home values and blight, particularly in the unincorporated area between Globe and Miami.
“We’ve heard a lot of things,” District 2 Supervisor Tim Humphrey said. “It would be nice to take these questions out of the air.”
Humphrey said there needs to be an “honest and professional assessment,” and suggested future agreements might help reduce costs, such as shared operations management should there be three treatment plants to run with the addition of the one proposed by TRSD.
The study will be done by K-H, which has worked with the county on other infrastructure issues in the past.
K-H representative Ray Montoya P.E. (professional engineer) was on hand to outline the scope of the study and answer questions. Montoya has also been on the board of Water Infrastructure Finance Authority Arizona (WIFA), which provides public funding for water quality improvement projects throughout the state and said he has more than 20-year’s experience with wastewater projects.
“TRSD has a way forward and there is excess capacity in Globe-Miami,” he said. “Full cooperation of those three entities is available. The work Gila County is doing is to keep it all a cooperative endeavor.”
Montoya added that all three agencies have agreed to open their records and allow K-H to interview staff to find out “what’s working and what’s not working at the three specific entities.”
“From our perspective this project only works with the full cooperation of the three groups,” he said. “There is capacity, but no viable way to get it there.”
The study will also encompass growth projections to estimate the amount of capacity that might be necessary in the future.
The study will take 10-12 weeks and Menlove said it should get underway sometime this week.
Several hours after the county met to talk about regional wastewater needs, a stalemate between two new TRSD board members and the long-serving members continued, as the vote to accept the sufficiency of the protest vote was tabled once again.
Mary Ann Moreno took over the terse, businesslike meeting that clocked in at less than 40 minutes.
But when it came time to take the item off the table for a vote, no one on the board made a motion for a vote that likely would have been a wash anyway.
The item will come up again at the next TRSD meeting, scheduled for Monday, Feb. 11 at 5:15 p.m. at the IBEW, located at 1383 N. Hwy. 188 in Globe.
While the community waits for the TRSD board to move forward and the county begins its study, Globe and Miami are preparing for the future by redrawing designated management area (DMA) maps and publicly declaring support for the TRSD.
At its regular meeting on Jan. 14, Miami Town Council voted unanimously to approve a proposal clarifying the DMA for sewer service for the Town of Miami. The new map will include Miami Gardens, which is currently on the TRSD map.
The council also voted unanimously to approve a letter of support “for the proposed sewer collection project [of TRSD].”
At its regular meeting on Jan. 22, the Globe City Council voted unanimously to allow city staff to move forward with its negotiations with TRSD for a new DMA and the Town of Miami, including intergovernmental agreements (IGA) for customer services and infrastructure and to draft a letter of support for TRSD projects once negotiations have concluded.
In the ensuing days, all three agencies — TRSD, Globe and Miami — submitted the redrawn DMA maps to Central Arizona Governments (CAG), for approval.
CAG works directly with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) and is responsible for administering Section 208 of the Clean Water Act for Gila and Pinal counties.
Globe Mayor Al Gameros is currently chair of the CAG board and reported that CAG expects to take up the issue within the next 60 days.
The majority of Phase I of the project will be devoted to infrastructure: treatment plant, lift stations and “pipes in the ground.” Collaboration is expected to take place in Phases II and III.
Once the go-ahead for the TRSD project begins, it should take about one and a half years to build. The full project is expected to take four years to complete.
Carol Broeder contributed to this report.