An agreement that ensures the Town of Marana would pipe Cortaro-Marana Irrigation District canals adjacent to two new quasi-public developments in Marana generated awkward moments – and strong remarks – at the May 4 town council meeting.

The agreement regarding "undergrounding" of irrigation canals adjacent to the new Marana Health Center and the new Marana Mortuary and Cemetery originally failed council approval on a 2-2 vote. Vice Mayor Herb Kai and Councilwoman Carol McGorray abstained because of perceived conflicts of interest; Kai is a water user within the CMID, and McGorray chairs the board of Marana Health Center. Councilman Jon Post was absent.

"I'm a nay," said Councilwoman Patti Comerford, who then said she'd change her vote, "but only to the benefit of those two organizations.

"I want a very clear message to go to CMID," Comerford said. "They're not to dictate to this town who issues permits, and who doesn't. Those days are done."

The issue came up because the mortuary / cemetery and MHC are proceeding with work. Each has an irrigation line on or adjacent to its property. The agreement "commits the town to go ahead and underground those two segments," Town Attorney Frank Cassidy said.

CMID and the Cortaro Water Users Association wanted written assurance the undergrounding would be done at no cost to them before they would issue permits authorizing development work near their canals.

Town Manager Gilbert Davidson said the mortuary and cemetery project needs temporary access across an irrigation canal to build. He said the Marana Health Center has "a tiny piece" of canal on its property.

In the future, irrigation lines on both properties would be undergrounded as part of Marana's larger Barnett Channel and Linear Park project. Marana believes "the public's interests are best advanced by minimizing development costs of quasi-public uses (such as a health center and a cemetery) and by avoiding possible duplication of costs" if the canals are piped now, then piped again as part of the Barnett Channel plan.

"We'll put it all into our project," Davidson said.

Cassidy has previously said Kai's position is "not a conflict of interest" in this type of decision.

In the end, the agreement was approved on a 3-2 vote. Kai, Mayor Ed Honea and Councilman Russell Clanagan voted for it. Councilwoman Roxanne Ziegler and Comerford, who went back to her original stance, voted against it. McGorray abstained.

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