Supervisor Smith talks county economy, development

Supervisor Anthony Smith talks with Hidden Valley residents. Photo by Jim Headley

Pinal County Supervisor Anthony Smith had a public meeting for residents of the Hidden Valley/Thunderbird Farms area Thursday afternoon at the Raceway Bar and Grill.

Topics of discussion included the flood in the area when Hurricane Rosa parked over the region for about 18 hours in October. Also discussed were roads, taxes, the Thunderbird Fire Department and the local economy.

Smith brought several Pinal County managers and department supervisors with him to Thursday’s Hidden Valley meeting.

During the Hurricane Rosa flood of 2018, the Hidden Valley area was heavily impacted with lots of water, particularly Vekol Wash.

“There was about an 18-hour period where it just dumped a lot of rain and a lot of water in that area,” said Chris Wanamaker, Pinal County Flood Control section chief. “In that storm, we got almost what we would normally get in a whole year. In one area, we measured near the county yard, it was close to eight inches over the full three months. During the storm it was closer to three-and-a-half inches.”

Wanamaker said Rosa was a 10-year storm event and it cause a serious damage to private and public property.

“We identified 48 damage sites, private property and damage in homes. Some reports had 20 homes with water in them,” Wanamaker said.

In the coming fiscal year, a study of the Hidden Valley area is being launched to determine its vulnerability to flooding.

“This is an area that has not been studied before. That is the first step to moving into construction projects to negate flooding in the future,” he said, adding the study will look at existing data, damage estimates, talking to residents, typography and drainage patterns.

“We are identifying where are the projects needs and what sort of projects can we do,” Wanamaker said. “There are channels and basins, combinations of those, bridges and such. The goal of the study is to get a list of projects that we can actually build to reduce flooding on private property and reduce damage to public infrastructure.”

Wanamaker said he already knew there was extensive damage to the Hidden Valley area from Rosa, but after talking to residents at Thursday’s meeting, he said, “We probably have more flooding damage out there than we were aware of.  Not everybody calls us.”

Pinal County Emergency Manager Charles Kmet said there was about $700,000 damage to the county’s infrastructure during the Rosa event.

“After the event is over part of what our role is, is the recovery of that community or jurisdiction,” Kmet said. “What we did specifically with Rosa is we gathered all the information from public works road crews as to how much it was costing them to repave roads, fix roads and clear debris. We were able to put a dollar figure to that.”

He said that figure of almost $700,000 was submitted to the state department of emergency military affairs and to the governor’s office. With a state gubernatorial emergency declaration, funding is opened from the governor’s emergency fund for 75 percent reimbursement.

“Each year the governor’s office has a pot of $4 million to handle disasters around the state,” Kmet said, adding the county applied for and was approved for the emergency declaration by the governor.

The matter is before the department of emergency military affairs for their analysis of the flood damage.

Meanwhile, Smith updated residents on the county’s financial status.

“Pinal County was the first county to come out of and recover from the recession,” said Smith. “We have tremendously reduced our poverty level and hauled in a lot of jobs. Our population keeps growing at a brisk pace and our growth rate is around three percent. We have some great projects that are happening in the county. There is going to be more happening in the Hidden Valley area once the overpass is completed because a lot of development interest are looking to the south.”

He said there is a lot of industrial expansion coming to the county. He said there is a coming factory for Lucent Motors going to be built in the county as well as an Attesa race and test track that will be four times larger than the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The huge facility will be used as research and development for the auto industry.

“Lucent is going to be breaking ground in the spring. The Attesa track will be breaking ground in the fall. So those are just two of the big projects that will be coming to the area,” Smith said. “We have a lot of good stuff happening in the county. We continue to find additional revenue that we are able to use to lower the tax rate.”

He said five years ago, Pinal County had the second highest tax rate in the state. Today, Pinal is fourth highest on the list of 15 counties in Arizona. Smith said the supervisors’ goal is to be in the middle of the pack.

“This year we will probably reduce our tax rate and the next year we will probably reduce our tax rate again. It helps a lot of the small businesses because they are not protected by what is called the 1-percent cap,” Smith said.

Photo by Jim Headley

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