April 27, 2005 - Tucson Electric Power Co. and Marana still haven't come to an agreement on the dollar amount owed for a portion of land the town needs for construction on Cortaro Farms Road.

A condemnation lawsuit filed by the town more than two years ago to acquire right-of-way and other property rights needed for the realignment of Cortaro is still pending in Pima County Superior Court.

An appraisal conducted on behalf of the town by Southwest Appraisal Associates determined the land worth $287,303. But that apparently isn't enough for the power company, which wants more and says the town's recent actions to acquire another drainage easement only complicate matters further.

The Town Council voted April 19 to approve filing an amended complaint because the town still needs to acquire an additional drainage easement owned by TEP for the widening of Cortaro from the railroad tracks to Star Grass Drive, which is expected to start in June or July, town officials say.

While TEP has allowed the town to use the property needed, and town officials say the lawsuit isn't slowing the project, the disagreement persists over how much compensation TEP should receive for the town's taking of its property.

"We're willing to work with the town to make sure they get the land use they need," said Joe Salkowski, a company spokesman. "It's really just an attempt to arrive at fair value for (Marana's) use of this land. We've been working with the (town) amicably and we expect it to remain fairly cordial as legal relationships like this go."

The power company owns a small strip of land next to the railroad that the town needs to access. Utility relocations haven't been an issue, town officials say, and TEP is letting the town have access to the property in the meantime.

Town Attorney Frank Cassidy admitted there might be a slight hang-up with the project's timing because he's having town engineers design the property to make it harder for TEP lawyers to argue any damage is caused by the construction.

"We have just recently been talking about a slight redesign of some drainage improvements near the TEP property and that, theoretically, could create a little bit of a delay," he said, adding that the property will be enhanced because the town will be delivering more water to the area in a more efficient way by putting in a concrete drainage channel.

The town is having appraiser Baker Peterson conduct a new assessment of the land that includes all TEP property taken by Marana, Cassidy said.

Salkowski said there have been a couple of differing appraisals done on the land and "ultimately the value could be determined in court." But he couldn't give a current estimate of how much TEP thinks the land is worth, he said.

TEP attorney Marcus Jerden said the issue could have been settled out of court, "but that's not the way the town chose to do it."

Assistant Town Manager Jaret Barr said bids for the Cortaro project will be back in the town's hands May 18. The road eventually will be four lanes with a center turn lane, landscaping, curbs, storm drains, and a traffic signal at Hartman Lane that's being installed now.

In other action at the Apri 19 council meeting, council members approved abandoning Sandario Road south of Moore Road and north of the Santa Cruz River.

Cassidy said abandonment was discussed a couple of years ago in dealings with developers of Gladden Farms, who were going to create a block plat that accommodated access leading to the Heritage House, the first building in a new park being developed in northwest Marana.

"We're hoping that there will not be very much traffic down until after Gladden Farms Drive and Heritage Park Road are in, and that's going to be done in a month," Cassidy said. "But we're really not encouraging a lot of public traffic down to the Heritage House until after those roads are done."

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