The Town of Oro Valley likely will have an official new town manager as of Wednesday, July 21.

An item on the town council agenda for that date seeks to extend a contract offer to current interim Town Manager Jerene Watson, who was hired in a temporary position in September 2009.

Her offered salary as town manager would be $155,648 annually, not including $14,000 in yearly deferred compensation into a retirement savings account. Watson also would receive a $1,832 annual vehicle stipend.

The contract offer also includes an agreement that the town would pay for any professional association membership fees, travel to annual conferences and professional development courses.

Watson has worked for the town since January 2007, when she was hired as assistant town manager. She later was hired to fill in as town manager after the abrupt resignation of former Town Manager David Andrews last September.

Part of her contract in filling the vacated manager's post was a guarantee that she could remain on as assistant town manager once a full-time replacement was found. The council has since made the job title assistant town manager part of the permanent roster of municipal positions.

The previous town council had initially intended to conduct a nationwide search for candidates to fill the job of town manager. The council planned to set aside as much as $30,000 to pay an outside firm to conduct the search.

With the fiscal 2010-'11 budget approval in June, the council stopped the planned search and opted not to fund it. That left Watson the only named candidate for the full-time position, having notified the council earlier this year of her intention to apply for the job.

The contract would be good for one year from the date of acceptance. The council has the right to terminate the employment agreement at any time with or without cause. If the council elects to terminate Watson without cause during the contract period, she would receive six months of severance pay with benefits.

Land trade on track

The council also plans to make a decision on a proposal to accept a 1.75-acre parcel in lieu of development impact and permitting fees due from the owners of a charter school who are building a new facility.

BASIS Charter School's owners purchased a section of the Steam Pump Village shopping center for $1 million earlier this year, and have begun construction of a new school.

As with all residential and commercial construction in Oro Valley, the building project was subject to fees, in this case totaling $157,000.

The owners of Steam Pump Village, Evergreen Devco, proposed that the town accept the open-space parcel in exchange for waiving the fees. An appraisal found the property to carry a $375,000 value, about $5 per square foot.

At least one Oro Valley resident has questioned the proposed trade, suggesting the appraisal overvalued the property because of its zoning restrictions. The trade parcel carries an open-space zoning designation as outlined in the planned area development stipulation the town approved for the entire commercial property. Evergreen agreed not to build upon the parcel, which sits at the northern end of the development.

The trade also met with delays because Evergreen had concerns over what the town intended to do with the trade parcel.

Town officials have said the property fits well into Oro Valley's cache of open space parcels and provides connectivity to existing hiking and bicycle paths. The property sits adjacent to a newly installed bicycle and foot bridge that traverses the Cañada del Oro Wash.

There was some suggestion of installing some primitive facilities like ramadas and tables.

Evergreen officials wanted assurances that the town would not build out the property or use it for storage of municipal equipment.

The Oro Valley Town Council usually meets on the first and third Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m. Council chambers are located at Oro Valley Town Hall at 11000 N. La Cañada Drive.

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