Municipal governments in Tucson and Marana are close to ending an impasse over water service, allowing Tucson Water to extend new connections to commercial and residential properties within some portions of Marana's town limits.
An intergovernmental agreement, approved by the Marana Town Council last week and due before the Tucson City Council this week and next, "blows through the stalemate we currently have with Tucson Water," which for several years has not extended water service to new customers within its service area that are also inside Marana, according to Marana Town Attorney Frank Cassidy.
Nicole Ewing Gavin, assistant to the Tucson city manager, said the agreement is being recommended for adoption to the Tucson City Council. It was on the council's agenda as a study session item Tuesday. Formal action may occur May 18.
"We are looking forward to it getting approved as well, and being able to add new customers in Marana," Ewing Gavin said.
When the agreements are mutually approved, "we'll be back in a position where we can help," said Chris Avery, water counsel for Tucson Water. "The town will be responsible for the assured water supply, and we'll use our infrastructure to provide service."
The agreement is proposed "as an extension of the 2000 intergovernmental agreement with the city of Tucson," Marana attorney Cassidy said. That accord was a five-year document that ended in 2005.
After the deal expired, Tucson Water staff "thought the agreement would be renewed, and we proceeded as if it would be renewed," Avery said. "When it became apparent it was not to be renewed, Tucson Water ceased providing additional service in the town."
"Until we have a new water IGA in place," the Tucson City Council has been reluctant to "add any customers," Ewing Gavin said.
"Right now, they are refusing to hook up any consumers within the town limits," Cassidy said. Tucson Water has denied "several dozen requests" for new water connections in Marana since the previous agreement expired, Avery confirmed.
Among them are a proposed regional training facility for Northwest Fire that is north of Ina Road, within Marana's town limits.
"They needed water," said Town Manager Gilbert Davidson. "Their parcel is completely surrounded by Tucson Water. A pipe runs through their property that has a stub-out."
The policy has affected other possible hookups within the town limits, such as Regency Plaza, a commercial development south of Ina off Thornydale, and a church along Tangerine Road near Dove Mountain.
For years, Tucson Water extended its lines and service into new developments within Marana town limits, while continuing to serve areas annexed by the town. Tucson Water serves all of the Continental Ranch residential development, businesses along Ina, Orange Grove and Thornydale, Dove Mountain and Tangerine Road. The Town of Marana provides water service to the Continental Reserve residential development, and to North Marana.
Tucson Water serves 8,300 commercial and residential connections within the Town of Marana. The town has approximately 4,900 residential and commercial connections on its own water system, Avery said.
"It is a pretty unusual situation where we're providing in another jurisdiction," Ewing Gavin said.
"We have a very complicated water utility system," Davidson said.
This agreement "identifies more clearly the areas" within Marana that would continue to be served by Tucson Water," Davidson said, and it "allows the Town of Marana to develop areas without water lines."
As an overriding policy, the city of Tucson wants water service it provides in other jurisdictions to be "neutral to Tucson's water supply," Ewing Gavin said. If Tucson Water extends service to new Marana customers, it would be "Marana's water resource that goes to the customer," with some form of credit issued to Tucson Water.
"We would cooperate with the town, take advantage of existing resources and infrastructure, and make sure that the burden of growth in Marana is borne by the town of Marana, rather than the city of Tucson," Avery said. "Hopefully, it will be a situation that works well for both parties."
The new proposal would "retroactively extend that IGA" from 2006 through the end of 2012.
During that time, according to a town council resolution, the two governments could "negotiate one or more new long-term intergovernmental agreements" on a number of subjects.
"The long-term goal is Marana being the provider in Marana," Ewing Gavin said. "We see the (agreement) as a step in that direction."
"It's not the end of our discussions," Davidson said. "It's the beginning of some new discussions we need to have.
"Hopefully, this is a transition to where we could eventually purchase the Tucson system lines within the town limits," Davidson said.