Wastewater plant control looms after judge's sewer decision - Tucson Local Media: Pima Pinal

Wastewater plant control looms after judge's sewer decision

Marana wins right to pipes, but lawsuit with county isn’t fully resolved

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Posted: Tuesday, June 17, 2008 11:00 pm

A Maricopa Superior Court Judge ruled last week that Marana, and not Pima County, owns 181 miles of disputed sewer pipes.

The June 11 ruling sided with the town on three different points in the case, after hearing oral arguments from town and county attorneys six days prior.

“Marana owns the non flow-through portion of the sewer system within the town, finding that Marana has the right to operate a sewer system within the town, and finding that Pima County has no authority to provide sewer services in Marana without Marana’s permission,” wrote Judge Kristin Hoffmann in the ruling.

Town officials were pleased at the ruling, with Mayor Ed Honea commenting that the decision was just as monumental as the town’s incorporation and series of annexations. Thus far, the town has spent $297,840 litigating the wastewater case.

“The heart of the lawsuit has now been won,” said Marana Town Attorney Frank Cassidy.

One matter has yet to be settle: who controls the wastewater treatment plant?

The Oct. 17 lawsuit arose from Marana’s termination last year of a 1979 agreement with Pima County over sewer services.

Under the agreement, the county acts as the sewer utility for the town, but Marana could construct and maintain sewer facilities while the county ran operations.

Each party believes the Marana Wastewater Treatment Plant is theirs. The treatment plant, located near Marana and Luckett roads near the Pima-Pinal county line, can process 700,000 gallons of wastewater a day and serves residents living on the northwest side of town.

If Marana were to gain the facility, it would only be used temporarily until the town can build a new treatment plant, said Town Manager Mike Reuwsaat.

“If at the end of the day we don’t end up with the Luckett facility, we would simply build another wastewater treatment plant to serve the northwest residents,” attorney Cassidy said.

Town officials will discuss behind closed doors how vigorously they want to pursue ownership of the treatment plant.

Having a wastewater treatment plant is crucial to Marana owning the effluent water the town produces.

“By Arizona law, you have to own the wastewater plant itself to own the effluent,” Reuwsaat said.

In a July 23, 2007 letter to Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, Reuwsaat wrote that because the wastewater collection system that flows to the plant is in Marana, the plant is not part of the flow-through system that is to remain under county control.

“Thus, the Marana WWTF and its collection system comes to Marana upon termination (of the agreement),” Reuwsaat wrote.

Reuwsaat went on to say that to avoid confusion over this, Marana would move to annex the facility into the town.

The day after the letter, the Pima County Board of Supervisors designated the plant and surrounding areas as a park in an effort to protect it from annexation.

The Marana Town Council voted to annex the area on Dec. 4, 2007.

The county filed a lawsuit against the annexation the next day.

The two suits were eventually combined and moved to Maricopa County to avoid conflicts of interest.

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