Oro Valley residents head to court in El Conquistador referendum case

arizona 400 (345)On Tuesday, February 3, 2015 at 10 a.m., Pima County Superior Court Judge Gus Aragon will consider a request for an “Order to Show Cause” by Oro Valley residents, who sought to put the purchase of the El Conquistador Country Club before the voters.

The hearing will be held in Courtroom 814 at 110 W. Congress.

The plaintiffs, Debra Jarrett, and Shirley Lamonna filed for Statutory Special Action, through their attorney Bill Risner. The defendant Julie K Bower, Oro Valley Town Clerk, rejected over 3000 signatures due to a small clerical error.

Aside from being sued, calls are going to out begin a recall effort of the Town’s Mayor Satish Hiremath. Hiremath has recently inflamed the otherwise volatile situation by using Town resources, and news outlets to offer a justification for the purchase of the El Conquistador property from one of his campaign donors.

It isn’t just the residents who are outraged by the Town’s apparent use of resources to promote the scheme while denying residents a vote on the matter.

Popular Town Councilman Mike Zinkin, who had opposed the Hiremath property grab, contacted Greg Caton, Town Manager by letter, expressing his surprise “that the Town would spend public resources to “enlighten” the community about the community center currently being proposed at the El Con. If the Town was behind the wonderful purchase, why would you feel it necessary to spend public resources to “sell” the people on this 1980, outdated, non- ADA compliant building, Zinkin wrote the Town Manager.

On Wednesday, January 28, 2015 Hiremath penned an op-ed for The Northwest Explorer, in which he claimed that opposition to the scheme consisted of only a “few people, who were engaging in hype and rhetoric.”

Opponents, from across Oro Valley questioned Hiremath’s characterization of 3000 people as a mere handful. More significantly, to those discussing recall, was his statement that “opposition for the sake of opposition is not productive.” Opponents say that they made their case to over 3000 petition signers who agreed that the purchase is based on the Town’s faulty assumptions, the last appraisal of the property, and the huge long term costs that will be funded by a tax increase.

Unlike residents, who hope to begin a recall, Councilman Zinkin is focusing his efforts on stopping the purchase and fighting the Town’s apparent misinformation campaign. To that end, in his letter to Canton, Councilman Zinkin noted: “In the recent (June 2014) statistically valid survey, the Community expressed little desire for tennis courts, racquetball courts, and additional swimming pools.” Zinkin added that “public funds went to establish this survey,” and asked, “so why not listen to the Community desires?”

Zinkin advised Caton that the Town’s media release was “loaded with misleading information.” He pointed out that the numbers utilized by the Town in its comparison to the development the Northwest YMCA were specious:

“Based on an analysis of the Northwest YMCA’s unit construction costs, a new facility, comparable to the country club, could cost approximately $20 million.” It goes further to state that with the interest on a $20 million bond, the costs escalate to $27 million. Your $20 million figure is off by about $13 million. The Northwest YMCA is about 32,000 sq. ft. (fifty percent bigger than the El Con community center) and cost $7.1 million, including the swimming pools. Deduct $2 million for the pools and the YMCA cost $5.1 million, or $160/sq. ft. Including the interest from a bond would still be a far cry from the $27 million you state. Based on your Power Point on 12/3, the facility at the El Con will cost $7,056,300 in capital improvements. (Interestingly enough your Power Point on 12/17 showed there was a “future” column missing that contained $4,475,000..where did that disappear to?) The facts are that a 40,000 sq. ft. Community Center costing $200/sq. ft. would cost $8,000,000. Even with the additional interest, this is a far cry from your $27 million figure. This Center, based at Naranja, would include the amenities the People desire, NOT the amenities they don’t. Stop trying to manipulate the numbers to meet your agenda.

Zinkin urged Caton to stop marketing the purchase. “It is wrong and I strongly object to it. I also object to you publishing misleading numbers thinking that the Citizens believe that they must be gospel, when, in fact, they are not,” concluded Zinkin.

Art Segal, co-founder of the popular website, Let Oro Valley Excel, wrote on the site last week , “hopefully, we the people will “take the bull by the horns,” and initiate a recall petition to rid ourselves of these four,” referring to Hiremath, and Council members Lou Waters, Mary Snider, and Joe Hornat.

About ADI Staff Reporter 15972 Articles
Under the leadership of Editor-in -Chief Huey Freeman, our team of staff reporters bring accurate,timely, and complete news coverage.