As the Tri-City Regional Sanitary District (TRSD) works out the final details to get the long-awaited sewer project underway, support for the project is coming in from a sector of the community that has previously maintained silence.
Members of the Globe-Miami multiple listing service (MLS), a group of local realtors, came out in support of the project at the recent TRSD board meeting, lending heft to economic arguments in favor of a new sewer system and the changes that could come as a result of improved infrastructure for the area.
“If they pass it, it will open the door immediately,” Stacey Herrera Murry, a Miami native and owner of Kachina Properties in Globe, said. “It would be light at the end of the tunnel.”
The door that could potentially be opened, according to Herrera Murry and several realtors in the area, is economic activity that could result in increased home values and investment in the community.
“It would change everyone’s perspective on the area,” Eric DuFriend, a longtime area realtor and associate broker with Oak Realty, said. “Some of those neighborhoods would do a total 180-degree turnaround. It would be totally different.”
Both DuFriend and Herrera Murry believe that a functioning sewer system would increase the values of the homes throughout Globe-Miami and make it more attractive to people wanting to move to the area. Additionally, the county would see increased revenues through higher home values and have an easier time addressing blight.
As it stands now, even if an interested homebuyer wants to purchase property in a neighborhood in the TRSD designated management area (DMA), it is often a waiting game to see if the deal will go through.
“When we have a property in escrow, it can be a 50/50 chance the deal won’t go through once we get the report,” DuFriend said. “The issue for us is not knowing: We go into it blind.”
Many homeowners in the unincorporated area between Miami and Globe do not even know what type of wastewater treatment they have until it fails or the housing report on a potential sale comes in. If a home has a failing septic system or a cesspool on the property, it can be virtually impossible to get financing.
Many homes sit abandoned and vacant lots cannot be developed due to a lack of basic infrastructure.
“People who want to move to our community can’t find adequate housing because of the sewer situation,” Herrera Murry said. “We’re turning people away because there is no sewer system.”
She said the potential for USDA home and housing improvement loans would open up as well.
“There’s USDA financing available for home purchase, but they’ll look at these situations and see cesspools and there will be no loan,” she said. “These are zero-down loans. We’re losing the potential for these people to own the homes that could be available.”
Many home improvements done in the area are unpermitted as well and some add-ons to houses were even built over existing septic and cesspool systems. Often, the county “has looked the other way,” regarding inspection and permitting.
According to Herrera Murry and DuFriend, there was a brief period of increased enforcement around 2006, but the pendulum has swung the other way in recent years.
“If they enforced the rules, they would have to condemn whole neighborhoods,” DuFriend said.
Not only is the sewer seen as an economic necessity, but it can also be seen as addressing potential health issues.
At a Nov. 5 TRSD outreach meeting, Jake Garrett, manager of the Gila County wastewater department, painted a stark picture of the health impacts the current situation has on the entire county.
There have not been specific studies of untreated waste going into the environment in the TRSD DMA, while Garrett said it is possibly “multiple-millions of pounds a year of pollutants” countywide.
“If you would take the number of pounds [of biological waste] a day that each of us produce and divide that into total pounds, and put two-and-one-half of us into every home … that would be the equivalent of 46 percent of this county having no facilities whatsoever,” he said. “In other words, using outhouses to put stuff right in the ground.”
Garrett said that the estimates “are his opinion” after doing extensive research and testing over the years.
“It’s as good as what I think, but it’s what I think,” he concluded.
The recent entry of local realtors into the conversation highlights the trepidation many in the area have to promises of the sewer system being built. TRSD President Bob Zache and Board Member Mary Anne Moreno have both worked to get a sewer system built for nearly 40 years.
“We’ve been told it’s going to happen so many times,” Herrera Murry said. “But it seems different this time.”
So now, TRSD is in a position to fix a problem that has existed for decades if it can survive the final hurdle of the upcoming protest.
That will take place over the course of the next few weeks or months, as the Assessment District Process takes place, giving every property owner in the district an opportunity to protest the project.
To reach as many residents as possible, TRSD must advertise in the local newspaper of record and send mailings to each landowner in the district.
About 700 signs announcing the project will be posted every 300 feet apart along the pipeline’s route.
The vote will be based on the frontage of each property. If the property has 50 feet of frontage, that will equal 50 votes. If it has 100 feet of frontage, 100 votes.
All the footage will be added up and if the protestors come up one foot above 50 percent, the project will not go forward, and the funding will go back to the USDA.
“The money is going to go away,” Hererra Murry said. “If we don’t do something now it’s going to be a long time before we have another chance.”
The next meeting of the TRSD will take place at the IBEW building, located at 1383 N. Hwy. 188, in Globe on Tuesday, Dec. 4 at 5:15 p.m. There will be two outreach meetings the following day, Wednesday, Dec. 5, at the same location, the first from 1:30-3:30 p.m. and the second from 5:30-7:30 p.m.
New board to be seated at the beginning of 2019
The recent general election will change the make-up of the TRSD board.
Former board member Robin Bradford (Horta) stepped down from her position and the seats of Bob Zache and board member John Chism were up for grabs.
The most up-to-date results available on the Gila County website show Chism as the highest total vote-getter with 682 votes, or 26.67 percent, followed by Bill Tower with 692 votes, or 27.06 percent of the vote.
Taking third place was Stephen Palmer with 629 votes, or 24.60 percent of the vote.
“My stance is not to go forward with the sewer system,” Palmer said. “I ran on that platform and it’s why my constituents voted for me. It’s not always easy.”
Palmer ultimately wants to see Claypool incorporate into Miami.”
Zache received 543 votes, or 21.24 percent. On not being re-elected, Zache said, “I’m not going to stay involved. I’m relieved that I was not re-elected. I was going to resign two years ago, but I was talked out of it.
“The biggest fight is yet to come. The biggest hurdle is convincing people with cesspools to agree to it,” he told the Silver Belt. “The new board has its work cut out for them. There will be a big learning curve.”
For past coverage of the TRSD, go to www.silverbelt.com/search/trsd.