High-pressure development


The city of Maricopa, in conjunction with the Maricopa Domestic Water Improvement District, is working on two projects that will raise water pressure south of the Union Pacific railroad tracks and make it possible for big-box retailers to locate in the downtown area.

The projects, which were approved for grant funding by the city council last month, call for installation of a 160,000-gallon water tank, replacement of 2,248 feet of 8-inch water main with 12-inch pipe and the addition of four fire hydrants.

“These projects would essentially transform an old water company that was formed to serve a small community into one that could support commercial development,” said Maricopa Fire
Division Chief Mark Boys.

The water district provides service to about 350 customers in an area that stretches along both sides of the tracks for approximately 3½ miles, including two miles of the commercial strip along John Wayne Parkway.

In addition to serving its existing residential and commercial customers, the water district is on deck to provide water for any new development in the area, which is why an upgrade is needed.

Currently, limited water duration severely restricts the size of buildings that can be built in the area. Water duration is defined as the amount of time a fire hydrant can sustain a certain flow and pressure level. If the duration is insufficient, firefighters might run out of high pressure water while battling a blaze in a large building such as Home Depot or Lowe’s.

MDWID’s existing 308,000-gallon tank provides a duration capacity of about 3½ hours, according to Boys. A duration of four hours is required before buildings larger than 20,000 square-feet or higher than a single story can be built.

“The addition of the new tank and the improvements south of the tracks will bring the duration above four hours and allow almost any size building to be constructed in our service area,” said MDWID Board Member Joe Hoover.

One person who is touting the benefits of the planned changes is developer Michael Koslow, owner of Sonoran Creek Marketplace, a 25-acre parcel on the west side of John Wayne Parkway between Edison Road and Hathaway Avenue.

When he originally planned the Marketplace, Koslow hoped to construct a 42,000-square-foot big-box store, but had to change his plans because of water-flow limitations.

“It is very restricted in terms of what can be developed in the area now,” Koslow said. “If these projects get completed, it will open a lot of possibilities.”

Besides making larger buildings feasible, Boys said that the water projects will help ensure the safety of people and buildings currently in the area.

“Much of the development in this area was constructed prior to the adoption of the current fire codes, so the buildings are not required to have the same level of protection,” he said. “Completing these projects will make available the flow the fire department needs to protect these businesses.”

Funding to complete the two projects is slated to come from Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and State Special Project (SSP) funds. The primary CDBG program is a
noncompetitive federal funding program enacted by President Gerald Ford through the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974.

Maricopa takes part in the program through the state-administered Small Cities CDBG Program. The Arizona Department of Housing distributes federal money to the Central Arizona Association of Governments, which in turn allocates funds to Maricopa.

The city council’s approval of the south side water improvements for CDBG money means that the project will be funded to some degree, but the amount of money received by the city for the program is dependent upon the total allocated by the federal government. City grants manager Mary Witofski predicts the funding will be around $283,000.

The water district is seeking funding for the new water tank in the form of an SSP grant, a competitive component of the CDBG program meant to address the needs of low- and moderate income citizens. Funding available in this program is expected to be around $300,000, but it is not certain the money will be awarded.

The funding for both programs is typically allocated in October, at the start of the federal fiscal year. However, due to the necessity to meet environmental clearances and issue public notices on projects, the funds are not usually released until January, according to Witofski.

Once the water district receives funding for the southside improvements, Hoover predicts they will be completed within a year. If the new tank is funded, installation will take about the same length of time.