It was a relatively quiet council meeting on Tuesday, but we had a number of updates during study session on some important issues.
We got an update from Environmental Services about the city’s solar power initiative. I’ve written here numerous times about last year’s rate case involving Tucson Electric Power and how frustrated I am with their getting rid of net metering and thus the ability of many home and business owners to install solar power.
Because of the way these rate cases work, there was still an opportunity for customers to install systems before the new rules went into effect. As a city, we made the decision in December to pursue service agreements (basically, the contract with TEP for a solar hook up on the power grid) on as many new city sites as possible.
We only had a few staff members that we could devote to the task, but they were able to get agreements for 36 sites, which was more than we expected to be able to do. We still may be able to get agreements on an additional eight sites pending a review. When we get solar at all of these sites (11 are ready for construction now), 25% of all power used by your city government would be from solar.
We also had a report on the water harvesting low income grant program. Some of you may remember some talk about how our water harvesting program was being used chiefly by people in the foothills, but had very little benefit going to lower income neighborhoods. We wanted to make sure that this program could be used by folks who would stand most to benefit from lower water bills, so councilmember Romero and I took the lead in changing the city’s approach. We got our first official feedback on this on Tuesday. We’ve enlisted local non-profit SERI to do outreach, and now 107 families have taken advantage of the low income program.
We also had an item on the Census. Many cities and localities in Southern Arizona have been setting up “complete count” committees. Tucson and surrounding communities have chosen to run our program through the Pima Association of Governments. I understand the need to pool our resources, but PAG has responsibilities to other smaller communities in the area (each of whom have an equal vote). Not all of these communities have the same challenges as Tucson in ensuring a complete count. I hope that whatever PAG decides to do, Tucson will be prepared to ensure that our count is complete independent of them.
I put in a previous newsletter that work on East Broadway was set to start on the 17th. I have heard from many of you because you aren’t seeing trucks and hard hats. To be frank, that’s what I expected too.
I spoke to Robin Raine, the interim transportation director, who had an on-site meeting with Tucson Water and the construction contractors Friday morning. Here is what she told me:
The contractor is currently prepping the north side of the shoulder on the east half of the project for temporary paving so they can do their first big traffic shift and start the water main replacement. Much of what happens at the beginning of a roadway project is difficult for people to see.
The contractor's current schedule is to install temporary pavement next week and shift traffic the week after that. After the traffic is shifted, they will begin the water main replacement. Remember that this schedule can be impacted by weather and there is a forecast of rain for next week.
My staff and I will continue to monitor the project and I hope to get you more information over the coming week.