County asks state for help protecting D-M

County asks state for help protecting D-M

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Keeping Davis-Monthan out of the line of fire has been difficult over the years but local leaders believe it's worth it.

The base is estimated to generate $1.5 billion in revenue in Pima County annually.

The Defense Department is threatening to shut down the A-10 mission at DM which could threaten the entire base.

That's a lot to lose.

So helping the Air Force has become a mission unto itself.

Last fall, the Air Force let it be known it is paying $381,000 in lease payments to protect the base from encroachment on 233 acres on the East side of Kolb Road and Valencia.

It's been making payments since 1952 but just recently made it public. Those leases come up for renewal in 2016 and the Air Force has let it be known it would like to end those payments.

It's not a lot of money by Defense Department standards but with sequester budget cuts, the Air Force is looking at all of its contracts.

There are options. 133 acres is state land so a swap could be in order but that could take a lot of time, something that, like money, is in short supply here.

There's state money but even after promises it would take care of the base's encroachment issues ten years ago, the fund is dry and lawmakers have let it be known there will not be any in the near future.

Even so, the county board will ask to submit a grant application to the state for whatever it can get.

"It's not much and it would only buy one or two parcels," said John Moffatt, the director of the county's strategic planning office.

Without state help, that leaves the taxpayer in Pima County to do the heavy lifting. That is, protect the investment.

Now, it appears it may go before voters in a bond package in November. The county will be asking for about $5 million in bond money to buy the property to protect DM.

Apparently, according to Moffatt, the owners of the real estate have been making top dollar off the leases.

He says some of the lease payments are half the properties assessed value.

Moffatt says "everything we can to from an economic standpoint to minimize the expenses and insure their sustainability is an important thing that we're shooting for."

Moffatt says the county goal is to buy the property and then lease it back to DM "for a nominal amount".

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