On March 8, Marana voters will determine who will fill two open seats on the Marana Town Council. Incumbents Roxanne Ziegler and Russell Clanagan are being challenged by newcomers David Bowen and Jeffrey Gray. Mayor Ed Honea is running unopposed.
The candidates were asked their opinions about the Marana Regional Landfill. In November, the council voted for a zoning change that would allow the commercial landfill on 480 acres of land newly annexed into the town limits. Their responses to landfill questions are compiled from two candidate forums, held on Jan. 26 at Heritage Highlands at Dove Mountain and on Feb. 3 at the Wheeler Taft Abbett, Sr., Branch Library.
Candidate Jeffrey Gray was not present at the forums. He has been invited to respond to the question; his answer will appear in the Feb. 16 edition of The Explorer.
“It was a good decision,” incumbent councilwoman Ziegler said, “and not one any of us really wanted to make.… We didn’t want another landfill in the Town of Marana. It’s not what we wanted, but we have to provide services to our town. You have to have a landfill.”
Ziegler criticized the county for its handling of the landfill subject, to include the Tangerine Landfill. (see related story on page 9) She made specific reference to a two-year-old letter from Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, “telling us they were going to close the Tangerine Landfill.”
“The county says they’re going to shut it, and they gave us no option,” she said. “They don’t have a plan for us.”
Everyone “has garbage,” Ziegler said. “We have to provide our constituents a place to put their garbage. I stand behind that vote. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve made. Unfortunately, we had to go the direction we did.”
“I think it was a good decision,” the incumbent mayor said. “We cannot rely on Pima County to provide those services to our people.”
The Tangerine, Marana Regional, proposed Durham and existing Cactus landfills are “all in the same aquifer,” Honea said. His family has lived downstream from the Tangerine Landfill for years, and the Honea family’s water company has drawn resources from the aquifer beneath it.
“That landfill was built with 40-year-old technology, and we never had any tainted water from that landfill, ever,” he said.
And, Honea noted, tipping fees paid by landfill developer DKL Holdings to local government should average $1 million a year — adding to more than $67 million over the landfill’s 50-year lifetime. That money can help support police, senior services, parks, roads and other town services.
“We need a landfill,” Honea said. “We might as well get a few dollars out of the deal, and have control.”
Council candidate Bowen began attending council meetings during the 11-month landfill debate in 2010. “I sat through one of the more contentious times,” he said. Opponents began with “well-reasoned, thought-out arguments, calmly arguing against the landfill,” and he appreciated their tone and thinking.
“I was in great sympathy,” Bowen said. “But it became apparent the town did need this. Had I been on the council, yes, I would have voted for it. I could see this was not an easy decision. I stand with them, and would have voted the same way.”
The Marana Regional Landfill is “not a dump, in the old sense of the word,” Bowen said. It must meet rigorous standards and gain multiple permissions before it can proceed, he said.
Bowen saw no evidence of impropriety regarding the involvement of Vice Mayor Herb Kai, who owns the ground that was annexed by the town, and upon which the landfill would sit. Bowen has known Kai for years and believes “he’s a man of integrity and honor, and I believe there was no cronyism involved.” Kai recused himself from any landfill discussions, Bowen said.
“I thought the landfill was good for Marana, and I still do think that,” incumbent councilman Clanagan said. “Pima County put up a moving target. They were not reliable; they were not giving us accurate information.”
Experts said the risk to health was “minimal to non-existent,” and “there was no scientific data contrary to that information presented to us,” Clanagan said. Property values in Gladden Farms, closer to the Tangerine Landfill than the Silverbell West subdivision is to the planned Marana Regional Landfill, appear unaffected by the presence of that facility, he said.
People in the Silverbell West development “took the same position” when the project was first announced, “as they did at the end of the process” more than 10 months later. “They refused really to be educated by all the information available to us.
“I was making the decision based on fact,” Clanagan said. The developer must meet high standards, and “significant hurdles are still in place and must be overcome” before the project can proceed.
Early ballots will be distributed starting Feb. 10. For more election information, visit www.marana.com and click on the Elections button under Town Clerk.