TRUSTED NEWS LEADER FOR COTTONWOOD, CAMP VERDE & THE VERDE VALLEY
Sun, Jan. 19

No use locking gate after horse is gone

Editor:

Yes, let's carefully think through the highest and best use for the Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) land acquired by the property owners and residents within the Sanitary District. [Bugle letter to the editor of 9-16-2007]

First and foremost, the seated Sanitary Board is moving dirt on an upgrade and expansion that has been in the works since 1990. They are to be congratulated on getting this much-needed improvement and expansion started. The initial cost at groundbreaking in 1998 was to be $4,894,500; in 2004 was $6,089,000; in 2006 was $10,589,000 with a voter approved $4,500,000 WIFA loan; and finally started by this Board seated in January 2007 at a cost of $16,624,000 after a Herculean effort that achieved very creative financing when bids came in too high.

Now to the land. This 161-acre site was acquired from the USFS after a four-year process at a cost of approximately $6,800 per acre. The plant built in 1982 had a lease on 57 acres, but encompassed and utilized 71 acres. In 2002 the District would have paid rent at 5 percent of the fair market value per year, adjusted annually for a continued lease. The land acquisition was in progress and accomplished, otherwise to date the property owners and residents would have paid rent in excess of $532,500.

The 161 acres acquired is to allow for the current expansion from .28MGPD to .65MGPD and enable a doubling of capacity in a future project to 1.3MGPD believed to be adequate for the next 30 years. The Aquifer Protection Permit (APP) and the capacity necessary to cross the Verde River are in place for this.

The highest and best use of this land is for a sewer plant, in existence since 1982, because sewer responsibility by whatever entity, District or Town is cradle-to-grave.

There is enough land to enable storm water management, to provide adequate setbacks for odor and noise control as development may occur around the plant site, to expand as growth occurs.

The 161 acres additionally enables future cost effective processes: processes that can have the added advantage of sunlight and air to aid in treatment reducing operations costs, can support sludge reduction on site with an approved ADEQ Biosolids Permit avoiding the cost of transport; provides retention ponds and storage for treated effluent until flows and treatment become adequate for a user or for inclusion in a water portfolio. For the cost of treatment, possible uses include B+ - water for construction; or enable a user to build a distribution system to water parklands or development - for the cost of treatment to A+.

These are all benefits to the property owners and rate-payers (users) within the District, but not if incompatible uses are added to the site making it impossible for the WWTP to meet its APP and continue to protect ground and surface water. Questionable uses include an asphalt-mixing table; a biomass plant to generate electricity by burning slash from USFS or a composting site for recyclables. All of these have components that leach into the soils and may contaminate ground or surface water and/or violate clean air designations.

The 161 acres will add to the town's parkland acreage, but not as a cost to the District. Parkland is known to be deficient since the BRW Study done by the Town in 1990. The retention ponds that are still approved in the current APP are duck ponds, not wetlands. The maintenance of these ponds is critical to the storage of future treated effluent. There can be no vegetation within the ponds.

Former boards had a Coop agreement with Arizona Game and Fish and the USFS for maintenance and management which was to be renewed after the land acquisition because these ponds since 1982 have become a wildlife refuge, a bird sanctuary, an alternate to the habitat that is disappearing as infill occurs in our valley along traditional locations.

A tremendous source of grant money for the District is available for any costs. Quails Unlimited is also interested in participating. These are uses near and dear to all of us and in keeping with our desire to remain rural western.

The WWTP is located on the boundary of the Town and County with more than half of the site acquired situated in the County. The USFS land to the west is in the base for trade because it is within the incorporated limits of the Town, but the land to the east is not. The land to the northwest is State Trust Land [the old CV Hill] and needs to be sold per the Arizona State Constitution for the benefit of our schools and incompatible uses can devalue this land. As approved in the Town's General Plan, the acquisition provided for a common use trail access to continue through the plant site to the White Hills linking equestrian riders to the Bull Pen and Lake Montezuma, so that these accesses would not be lost.

These are the extent of any parkland uses discussed by any Board until January of 2007. "Parkland" has many definitions and this site could support a trailhead, but not an equestrian center and is definitely not a place for ball fields.

Turning acreage into industrial uses would definitely be a problem with the voter adopted General Plan because the land is low density residential, Pioneer Acres is in close proximity and our Quarterhorse area down the draw. It is currently open space, county land zoned RCU2A, a buffer and would require a major amendment.

Additionally, we all forget because of our prolonged drought that ADOT built the "Swap Meet Drainage" on the current Verde Ranger District site for a reason. We have former operators of the plant within our community who will remember the volume of water that comes off of the White Hills. They also know the evolution of the duck ponds and will perhaps speak to the importance of these issues for our whole community.

As Jack Webb said "Just the facts."

Reporting the "rest of the story" leaves only you the taxpayers, the property owners and residents to tell the council or the sewer board what you would like to see done on many issues. Please remember, as we all know, it's useless to lock the gate after the horse has disappeared.

Suzy Burnside

Former Chairperson

Camp Verde Sanitary District Board

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