By a vote of 4-3, the Oro Valley Town Council has retained a $410,000 transfer of money from its general fund reserves to pay for emergency stabilization work at historic Steam Pump Ranch.
Councilman Kenneth "KC" Carter wanted to keep $250,000 of the $410,000 proposed for withdrawal from the town's $13.5 million general fund reserve. "That's far more than we transferred out to save jobs" the previous week, Carter said Wednesday.
Councilman Bill Garner said the one-time transfer from reserves for Steam Pump Ranch was agreed by the council in May.
"Last Wednesday, we robbed our contingency fund for re-occurring costs," Garner said. "Steam Pump is a one-time use, which is what it's for. We made a commitment as a community."
"The plan was approved," Councilwoman Salette Latas said. "These are the measures the consultants felt like were needed as emergency preservation measures so we don't lose this treasure forever. It's not negotiable not to do the restoration work on that icon along Oracle Road."
Councilman Barry Gillaspie said the expense is a one-time investment in "a part of our heritage. … We'll be kicking ourselves in our graves if we let this fail." Other government partners "are expecting us to step up to the plate and do our part. At the 11th hour, we want to go backwards, and I won't vote for that, that's crazy."
"I don't think you're losing anything at the site right now," said Councilman Al Kunisch, who wondered if a roof and a fence on the pump house, accompanied by interpretive displays and a working model, would preserve the facility until "at some point in time, we can rebuild and restore the pump house."
"This money does take care of some of the rehabilitation of structures," planning director Sarah More said. "It is not a patch job."
Using Pima County bond funds, "we are doing emergency work now to protect structures ahead of the monsoons," including tarping, wall-bracing and temporary roofing, More said. "You're right, this is one step." The total Steam Pump Ranch rehabilitation and restoration project is estimated near $8 million.
Carter suggested the council ask Wal-Mart, which had committed $250,000 toward the voter-disapproved Naranja Townsite Park, if it would agree to transfer those dollars toward Steam Pump.
The vote on general fund transfer for Steam Pump was 4-3, with Gillaspie, Latas, Mayor Paul Loomis and Garner voting to keep the funds in place, Kunisch, Paula Abbott and Carter voting against.
Earlier Wednesday, Bob Baughman, chairman of the Oro Valley Historical Commission, thanked the council for its support of Steam Pump Ranch stabilization work.
"Steam Pump Ranch is a piece of our past that can be preserved as a teaching tool" for generations ahead. "The monsoon could do irreparable damage." By investing in it, "you're serving not only us, but our children and grandchildren."
"I'm concerned about Steam Pump," Carter said later. "It got voted down, I accept that."