*Submitted by Fred Barcon, Gila County IDA
Two years ago, the Tri-City Regional Sanitary District (TCRSD) Board came before the Gila County IDA Board, of which I am president, to request the IDA’s assistance in moving the TCRSD project forward.
Numerous problems with the TCRSD project were immediately identified. I have had multiple meetings with TCRSD and USDA to attempt to value engineer the project and solve the issues. The TCRSD Board insists on moving the project forward despite having several multi-million-dollar problems with their plan.
If you’re wondering what gives me the expertise to speak about this topic: I have been a federal contractor for over 30 years and have worked on numerous projects similar in scope and size. Plus, it was Alfredo Gutierrez and me who worked with former USDA State Director, Alan Stephens, the former ADEQ State Director, and Steve Owens, to bring the Town of Miami wastewater project to fruition. It’s not arrogance nor exaggeration to state that without myself and Alfredo Gutierrez, the Town of Miami wastewater project wouldn’t have been funded, but that’s a story for another day. Suffice it to say that I know how to read engineering plans, I’m a federal contractor, and I know how to value engineer and manage large-scale projects.
There are numerous issues with the TCRSD project, starting with the fact that USDA is under the assumption that TCRSD is representing the collective voice of the residents of the Tri-City District. USDA believes that the taxpayers in the district are WILLING to be taxed for a $92-million-dollar project.
And for those of you who have heard TCRSD say I’ve pulled the $92-million price tag out of the sky—no I have not, I got that number from USDA (the funding agency) and Congressman O’Halleran. The question is why hasn’t TCRSD admitted to the $92-million price tag?
Here are a few of the cold, hard facts that taxpayers should be aware of:
- The Globe-Miami area DOES NOT need a third wastewater treatment plant (with a $20+million price tag). Both Globe and Miami have enough capacity to service the entire Tri-City area, and both have expressed their willingness to partner with Tri-City. TCRSD refuses to negotiate.
- The project DOES NOT have to cost $92-million. If partnered with Globe and Miami, the entire project could be accomplished for approximately $30-million.
- Municipalities (Globe and Miami) receive 80% grant and 20% loan rates. A Sanitary District is 50% grant (at best) and 50% loan. By refusing to partner with Globe and Miami, residents will pay millions more than they should (for a plant they don’t need).
- TCRSD is duplicating miles of infrastructure that is already in the ground– millions in wasteful spending.
- Locating the wastewater treatment plant uphill—again, millions in wasteful spending plus ongoing electrical charges to pump waste uphill on a daily basis.
- TCRSD claims it’s cheaper to pump waste uphill. If that’s not a red flag, I don’t know what is. One hundred percent of contractors, engineers, and civilians would agree gravity flow is cheaper.
- USDA has told TCRSD that funding for Phase II and III are NOT guaranteed. USDA does not have a crystal ball; they do not know how much funding they will receive in upcoming fiscal budgets. There’s a chance that Phases II and III will never happen or could be decades away.
- USDA has informed TCRSD that, if funded, Phases II and III could be 100% LOAN. That’s 64-million dollars in addition to the $13-million loan from Phase I. Add the annual maintenance and operation expenses for the wastewater treatment plant $100,000-$200,000 (or more) and the TCRSD administrative expenses.
- The recent 41% tax increase is only to pay for TCRSD administrative expenses (attorneys, secretary, financial advisor). Not a penny goes toward the construction of the project.
- TCRSD claims that there are still a lot of unanswered questions, such as “Will residents have the option to decline service and avoid being taxed?” The answer is NO. To service the debt every resident of the district will have to pay taxes, if they receive service or not. It’s a small population base to begin with (much too small to have their own wastewater treatment plant).
- Residents WILL NOT have an opportunity to vote on this project. TCRSD was set-up to decide for residents. You will be taxed if you like it or not, and if you receive service or not.
Sadly, I could go on and on….
Just about the only thing I agree with TCRSD on is the fact that there is a wastewater infrastructure issue in Tri-City.
The solution would be using the $28-million that USDA has earmarked for Phase I to partner with Globe and Miami to complete the ENTIRE project. That project would be eligible for 80% grant funding right off the bat.
Why burden taxpayers will tens of millions of dollars of debt for project that might not ever be completed? Residents will either move out to avoid taxes or lose their homes to tax liens. Tri-City will become a ghost town, or worse, a drug and crime infested neighborhood.
Tri-City Residents, please attend the TCRSD meeting on September 4th at 5:15 pm at the Tri-City Fire Department and tell the TCRSD Board to stop the insanity and value engineer this project, or resign from the Board immediately. They are not bad people; they just don’t know what they’re doing. The TCRSD Board is not representing the best interest of taxpayers of their district.