Pima County has changed its position on the future of its Tangerine Landfill, prompting strong response from Marana Town Manager Gilbert Davidson.

In October 2008, county officials told the Marana Town Council that the Tangerine Landfill, located within the town just west of I-10, would be closed, and there was not a possibility to build a trash transfer station at the site.

Last Tuesday, Aug. 17, opponents of the proposed Marana Regional Landfill shared with the town an Aug. 17 memo from Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry to County Supervisor Sharon Bronson. In it, Huckelberry said the county plans to develop a commercial and residential waste transfer station at Tangerine, with further use of the Tangerine site as a green waste disposal and waste tire-piling location.

Use of the Tangerine Landfill as a solid waste facility "will continue for the indefinite future," Huckelberry writes.

"They've completely reversed course," Davidson said last week, adding he was "shocked a memo would be prepared by Mr. Huckelberry, and given to members of the audience and not the town."

According to town council minutes from Oct. 18, 2008, Ursula Kramer, director of the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality, said the Tangerine Landfill would be closed between January and June 2009. She told the council it was "not possible" to build a transfer station at Tangerine "because the area has less than two acres of undeveloped land that has not been used for the landfill and a transfer station would take up five or more acres," the minutes read.

"In no uncertain terms," Kramer "made it crystal clear, it was going to be shut down, that there was no opportunity to discuss a transfer station," Davidson said last week.

As distributed by Marana Regional Landfill opponents on Aug. 17, Huckelberry's letter to Bronson included a Feb. 5 attachment from Huckelberry to Kramer in which the administrator directed her "to proceed with plans for the construction of a transfer station" at the Tangerine site.

"This is a reversal of your prior public position regarding a transfer station for which you have provided no communication about to any town official …" Davidson writes in a Monday, Aug. 23, response to Huckelberry.

"The landfill business is always changing," Kramer said Tuesday. "New information becomes available, financial situations change as well. Decisions keep getting made, and then modified. You're seeing an evolution over time of issues."

In October 2008, the town council voted 5-1 to direct staff to look at options and "pursue other opportunities for solid waste management for Marana residents," its minutes indicate.

At that time, the town "asked Mr. Huckelberry and the county to work with the town on the impending closure of the Tangerine landfill," Davidson said.

In the Aug. 17 memo to Bronson, Huckelberry said green waste and waste tire disposal has been diverted from the county's Ina Road Landfill to Tangerine. Pima County temporarily closed its Ina Road Landfill on July 1 "because of the financial situation," Kramer said.

"In addition, we have continued to accept an amount of municipal waste at the Tangerine Landfill until its final closure, which may be several years in the future," Huckelberry wrote. "Finally, I have authorized, and staff is pursuing, development of a transfer station at Tangerine …"

"Building the facility and leasing its operation allows the county to retain absolute control over future operation of the facility," Huckelberry writes. "In addition, the facility will continue to function as it does today for large appliance disposal and recycling, and other construction material recycling."

In the Aug. 23 response to Huckelberry, Davidson traces back the conversation between Marana and Pima County over the Tangerine Landfill to 2004, culminating with the 2008 town council study session. Davidson's response is accompanied by a number of attached and highlighted pieces of correspondence regarding the Tangerine site.

Now, Marana is requesting "full disclosure" of the county's most recent comprehensive solid waste plan, as well as all items specifically related to the Tangerine Landfill and / or a transfer station.

Because the county had previously said a transfer station at Tangerine was not feasible, Marana now wants "a full analysis and response from the county for why it is now feasible." It asks about permitting issues related to the Santa Cruz River floodplain; the source of the waste stream coming into the proposed transfer station; where the trash would be transported; and impacts to the Marana Regional Airport.

"In addition, since the county continues to operate the Tangerine Landfill at near capacity, the town requests a meeting to discuss the closure plan that was to be initiated in 2008," Davidson writes. "This discussion would include but not be limited to the need for landscaping, fencing/security, methane gas collection, future use and development."

On at least two occasions, Huckelberry has submitted comments to the town regarding the proposed Marana Regional Landfill. He has urged a taller perimeter berm, more fencing, greater flood control improvements and other specifications as Marana negotiates a development agreement with DKL Holdings, the company that wants to build the Marana Regional Landfill.

Marana has "sought a partnership with the county" on solid waste management, and other Arizona governments have developed partnerships for such management.

"This latest reversal undermines our ability to move forward using such a collaborative model, but we remain open to finding a path forward," Davidson concludes.

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