For several years, Marana has been fighting for the right to operate and manage its own portion of the public sewer utility. Pima County has been allowed to hold a near-monopoly on the operation and management of the public sewer utility throughout the county since 1979. All development with a density higher than one residence per acre requires a sewer hookup, so Pima County’s control of the public sewer utility has effectively allowed it to dictate land use decisions throughout the county.
Outside Pima County, every city and town in Arizona has a right to operate and manage its own public sewer utility and has final decision-making authority over its own land uses. Allowing Marana to operate and manage the public sewers in Marana will give it this same right and responsibilities.
Like streets, sewers are owned by the public. The state decides which government entity is entrusted to operate and manage the public sewers. For more than three decades, this right has been entrusted to Pima County. Marana now wants this right. Marana wants the chance to prove that it can do a better job for its own citizens, to whom it is ultimately answerable.
Marana deserves an opportunity to operate and manage the public sewer utility within its boundaries so that it can stimulate economic development, bring important land use decisions truly under town control, and make the most beneficial use of all of its available water resources.
I have sponsored Senate Bill 1171, which has passed the Senate and is going forward to the House of Representatives, to establish fair and reasonable rules to entrust each local government, if it chooses, to operate and manage its own portion of the public sewer utility. The bill requires Marana to assume all Pima County debt associated with public sewers and facilities that are transferred into its operation and control. The bill also protects the integrity of the public sewer system. The Marana portion would not be physically separated from the remainder of the system and county sewage would still flow through normal channels to be treated at area wastewater plants.
Senate Bill 1171 creates a spirit of competition in local government. Under the careful watch of its citizens, Marana will be better equipped to achieve its well-documented economic development and water resource goals. Competition among governments is healthy because it brings down costs for residents and businesses and makes our region more attractive for economic development. Just as Marana will seek maximum efficiency in operating its wastewater system because that’s good for its community, Pima County should likewise be motivated to re-examine its own processes and costs to make it easier for businesses to create jobs in the region.
No doubt the better run and more efficient operation will thrive. The public — the owner of the entire public sewer system — would be the ultimate beneficiary of this spirit of local government competition.
Frank Antenori is the state senator for Legislative District 30.