Jul 15, 2014 12:01 AM by Matthew Schwartz
Tucson - Everyone who's driven in Pima County knows how bad the roads are. Cracks and potholes are all over the place.
"Sixty-percent of our roads are in poor or failed conditions. So we recognize that," says Priscilla Cornelio, County Transportation Director.
If the County's top transportation official says that, you can imagine how a lot of taxpayers felt when the Board of Supervisors pproved spending $8,750,000 tax dollars to build soccer fields, 19 soccer fields in all. They will be built across from Kino Stadium, south of I-10.
Voting for spending county tax dollars on the167 acres for the soccer fields: Supervisors Sharon Bronson, Richard Elias and Ramon Valadez.
Valadez, in whose district the fields will be built, said, "This is about investment. This is about whether or or we want to have our kids and our families doing something productive, something that is fun. Something that they can grow from."
Voting against the measure: Supervisors Ray Carroll and Ally Miller.
Miller said, "It's just that with the current situation that we're in and that we cannot even afford to fix our roads."
Since the July 1 vote, the News 4 Tucson Investigators have heard from many viewers who say the county should not spend nearly $9 million to build soccer fields while so many roads need repair.
However, Supervisor Bronson said, "This proposal has nothing to do with road money. It is excess, it is fund balance money."
The first installment payment for the soccer field property, of $1,750,000, is coming from a projected general fund excess of between $2-$3 million. Supporters and county administrators say this won't affect the Department of Transportation budget.
County Finance Director Tom Burke said, "The five million dollars that they set aside from the general fund money for roads is still going to be used for roads."
Transportation Director Cornelio said, "I have my five-million and the soccer fields has their money."
Still, the question remains: Why not use the excess general fund money to fix roads?
We asked Burke, "If there were no soccer fields involved here, could this money be spent on road repairs?" He answered, "Well, the money is general fund money, which does not have any restriction. The dilemma the county has is it has a limited amount of general fund money that isn't already committed."
Burke says the general fund money already committed is primarily for law enforcement and the courts. He says the county can shift general fund money, but then another
service would have to be reduced, and taxes would probably have to be raised. The closing on the land purchase for the soccer fields is scheduled for the first week in August.
You can report a pothole by calling the Department of Transportation pothole hotline at (520) 740-2639.
If you have a story you'd like us to investigate, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call our tip line at (520) 955-4444.
(The original version of this story cited a 51 foot-long pothole on S. Draper Rd. That is a private road, not county maintained.)