Costs presented in a study commissioned by Marana officials to evaluate what residents would pay for wastewater service if the town operated its own sewer system differs from similar research conducted by Pima County.
The study represents the latest volley in the ongoing dispute between Marana and Pima County over a small wastewater treatment facility in the town and whether a locally operated system would be possible.
“It basically shows Pima County’s hype that it’s going to be dramatically different than what they charge is false,” said Marana Town Manager Gilbert Davidson about the February study the town commissioned from economists.com.
The study predicts that Marana residents would pay the same rate as they pay under the current county-operated wastewater treatment system — an average of $36.18 a month for residential customers by 2013.
The current average for county customers stands at $26 per month, according to county estimates.
“As we started doing our research on taking back our part of the wastewater treatment system, a big concern was making sure our rates would be competitive,” Davidson said.
The study would appear to directly contradict an analysis the county recently conducted of the costs associated with Marana’s bid to take over a county-run treatment facility in the town and provide sewer service on its own.
Last month, in a presentation to the Marana Chamber of Commerce, Pima County Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department Director Jackson Jenkins said a Marana-run system would cost ratepayers about 13 percent more for treatment.
The analysis doesn’t place a specific dollar figure on average monthly bills for customers under a breakaway Marana system. Instead, the county presented figures that show the costs to treat an acre-foot of water at the contested facility in north Marana far exceed those at other regional facilities.
The county bases rates for sewage treatment on a regional average of $664 per acre-foot. It estimates the north Marana facility costs closer to $4,100 to treat the same amount of water.
The dispute over wastewater goes back to 2007, when Marana attempted to annex the wastewater facility and break an agreement with the county to provide treatment services for the town. The town asserted the right to take over the facility once the agreement ended.
A lawsuit ensued in which a Maricopa County Superior Court judge said the county could retain ownership but gave Marana the right to the infrastructure that feeds into the facility.
Marana has since successfully lobbied for legislation in the statehouse that would allow a town to take a portion of a county-administered treatment system if certain conditions are met.
Pima County is the only county in the state that operates a wastewater treatment system.
The town seems poised to act on its effort to claim the Marana facility once the bill passes the full legislature.