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Water harvesting & RTA top Tucson Council business; school districts in 'time out' with tardy meeting plans

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The Tucson agenda

Water harvesting & RTA top Tucson Council business; school districts in 'time out' with tardy meeting plans

A quick look at what's planned for local government meetings

  • The Tucson City Council is reviewing its water harvesting ordinance because enforcing it has proved problematic.
    city of TucsonThe Tucson City Council is reviewing its water harvesting ordinance because enforcing it has proved problematic.

So water harvesting seemed like a good idea back in 2010.

It still might be, but an overhaul of Tucson's commercial water harvesting ordinance is up for review during the City Council's Tuesday study session.

Enforcement and compliance with the law has apparently become a mess.

Water harvesting is a way for properties to capture rainfall and turn it into irrigation. City staff ensure compliance with the commercial requirements during construction, after complaints and through monitoring with meters after the fact.

But it turns out, spot inspections showed nine of 12 projects departed greatly from their grading plans after the projects were completed and 40 percent weren’t complying even during construction. That may be because the current permitting process is extra-hard to track across multiple plans.

Very few commercial properties are using Tucson Water metering but they are allowed to use private meters the city doesn’t track.

Plus, required annual reports showing compliance with the ordinance just aren’t being done – a mere five reports were completed by property owners during 2021.

So, the city staff will ask the City Council during a Tuesday afternoon study session to bring revisions of the Commercial Water Harvesting Ordinance back for a vote.

The Council will also address its plans for transportation planning, which likely includes the city’s continued participation in the Regional Transportation Authority’s program after the current 20-year work order expires in 2026.

The city has a number of problems with how the plan has unfolded and wants changes smaller jurisdictions are refusing to make, in part because the city wants more power and flexibility within the RTA management cadre.

At the same time, the Council wants to re-up the city’s five-year, half-cent road tax with a May election. To get a ballot item on that ballot, the council would have to do that by Feb. 1.

The sales tax vote will figure into the RTA trash-talking.

During the study session, the Council will also get an update on the water supply’s contamination with polyfluoroalkyl substances, aka PFAS.

This industrial chemical’s contamination in Tucson’s ground water has forced the city to shut down 25 wells as clean-up efforts are underway.

Time has also been set aside to get an update on Tucson’s “electric car roadmap.”

Most of the Council's agenda action this week will happen during theafternoon study session, save one item slated for the Council’s regular meeting agenda: Increasing the living wage ordinance.

This isn't the minimum wage law. That applies to how much city employers pay their workers. The living wage affects wages of contractors. The current livable wage requirement demands contractors pay $10.39 per hour if they offer sufficient health insurance and $11.62 per hour without health insurance provided.

Both of these amounts are below the current city minimum wage. So the city staff is asking that the figures be raised to $15 per hour with health insurance and $16.50 without health insurance. The rate of pay would be adjusted for inflation after that.

The Council will also promote from within to replace Roger Randolph as City Clerk. Randolph served in the position for more than 13 years, replacing Kathy Dietrich, who was at the post for 17 years before that.

Deputy Clerk Suzanne Mesich is poised to take the job on Feb. 2 and she will make $155,000 a year. OK, my eyeballs popped at the salary. However, I've always found Mesich to be wildly accessible, knowledgeable and helpful, so hizzah , y'all.

Amphi and the 'Rona

One thing that catches the trained eye when looking at the Amphitheater Unified School District Governing Board board agenda is an executive session item on coronavirus policy.

The board will get legal advice about the pandemic’s conditions and mitigation measures. Now this could be anything, including a lawsuit involving the districts’ coronavirus protocols. It’s confidential. So the public doesn’t know.

But it could also be a change in policy that would no doubt light up the Northwest Side’s animal spirits. The district currently requires masks for students, teachers and staff.

Could that be changing? Maybe. There may be a hint in the superintendent’s update on COVID-19’s effects on the school district as the Omicron variant hits.

The board will also vote to approve more than $200,000 in out-of-state travel for district employees and student travel for an unspecified mount. Business trips can get people fired up but a lot of it seems to be for professional development.

The board will also vote to continue a pilot program to buy back up to 10 days of teacher leave time each academic year. The teacher would then be able to roll over the remaining three days into future years.

Rancho Sahuarita bonds

The Sahuarita Town Council will vote on how to proceed on a new round of bonds to pay for work to be done within the Rancho Sahuarita Community Facilities District.

The council (sitting as the facilities district governing board) will decide whether to spend $18 million on these improvements to be repaid by property owners moving into the district once built out.

The CFD was created in 2012 so the town could steer growth and get that growth to pay for itself.

The council will also vote on replacing Councilmember Melissa Hicks, who is retiring. Hicks was first elected to the council in 2011. She retired as a captain on the Green Valley Fire Department in 2016.

Dark agendas

The Tanque Verde School District Governing Board will meet Wednesday and no agenda has been posted.

The Marana Unified School District Governing Board will meet Thursday but no agenda has been released yet.

Those meetings are mid-week, so check back.

The Tucson and Vail school district governing boards will hold meetings on Tuesday but no agendas were posted as of 5 p.m. Friday, when the last straggling office workers went home for the weekend. So, they'll end up posting them Monday and giving district residents just one day to read the agenda and make arrangements to attend virtually.

So long as the agendas are posted by Monday afternoon, they would comply with state law requiring 24 hours notice about what board members will discuss during a public meeting.

How come you can't be like the other jurisdictions are giving their constituents a full weekend with their agenda? There’s long been (using passive voice intentionally) some boards/councils who put off posting their agendas to limit the fuss and muss of people showing up.

Just saying ... you'll never get into Harvard this way and it will go on your permanent record.

The Tucson agenda

Public meetings this week:

Sahuarita Town Council (also sitting as Rancho Sahuarita Community Facilities District board)

5:30 p.m. Monday: Regular meeting

Tucson City Council

3:30 p.m. Tuesday: Study session.

5:30 p.m. Tuesday: Regular meeting.

Amphitheater Unified School District Governing Board

5:30 p.m. Special meeting.

Tucson Unified School District:

4:30 pm. Tuesday: Special meeting

Vail Unified School District

7 p.m. Tuesday: Regular meeting

Tanque Verde School District

6 p.m. Wednesday: Regular meeting.

Marana Unified School District

5 p.m. Thursday: Special meeting

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