Members of a neighborhood road repair committee in northwest Tucson who say their streets haven’t been revamped since 1980 are hoping to get the attention of the Pima County Board of Supervisors.
After six years of sending letters to the county requesting help, the committee is now hosting official meetings to exchange ideas on how best to get results, according to member Jean Johnson.
The first meeting, which took place this week, comes shortly after the board’s decision to sweep $872,000 in District 1 road maintenance funds that applied to Supervisor Ally Miller’s north side district, made up of 196,000 residents and 245 square miles. The funds were reallocated to District 4, which is represented by Ray Carroll.
The decision came after Miller questioned in a public meeting whether the county was properly managing road funds. In what Miller thinks was out of spite, and what the other supervisors claim was an economic decision. Despite Miller’s objections, all of that money will now be used toward fixing Colossal Cave Road in Vail after a 4-1 board vote.
The District 1 road maintenance fund was approved as part of the fiscal year budget, allotting approximately $5 million to be divided between the districts.
With several road projects planned in District 1, only one had been completed at the time of the Feb. 18 vote, leaving the district’s remaining balance at $872,000.
The fund shift was enough to cause more concern for those northwest residents who have been waiting for repairs for years – or decades in some cases.
“I was thinking ‘we’re screwed,” said Johnson.
Johnson’s neighborhood, Moondance Patio Homes, borders Cortaro Farms Road between Thornydale and Magee roads, and consists of about 89 homes. The neighborhood also also shares inlet and outlet points with an adjacent neighborhood of about 300 homes, meaning substantial wear and tear on the roads.
The board’s recent vote may only mean longer delays before funding is available to address such issues.
Johnson said at least some of that responsibility falls on Miller.
“If Ms. Miller can’t play well with friends, then we don’t have much of a chance of doing much of anything with her,” said Johnson. “We have to now be the squeaky wheel with everyone on the board.”
Other area residents, like Geri Ottoboni, have gone on record directing their criticism at other members of the board, saying "they need to go."
The lone project completed in Miller’s north side district using road maintenance funds was on Oasis Road, from just outside the Marana town limits to Camino De Oeste Road.
According to the Pima County Department of Transportation Program Manager Annabelle Valenzuela, Oasis Road received a two-inch pavement asphalt overlay, the total of which was $184,225. The project itself created a stir, with some supervisors saying Miller chose to fix the road because it was in proximity to some of her campaign donors’ homes.
Miller denied any correlation, saying the area was in dire need of repair.
“Elderly people were telling me that they were falling while taking walks because of the road conditions,” said Miller.
Miller is in the process of investigating ways to have the funds returned, saying her district deserves its share.
Even if the funds are returned, they are supposed to be designated for arterial roads, meaning neighborhoods like that of the road repair committee may still have a long wait ahead of them.
According to Joseph Cuffari, a member of Miller's staff, Moondance Patio Homes was marked as a high priority before the year's road maintenance funds were swept.
He said Miller's staff has and will continue to keep in close contact with a neighborhood spokesperson.