Special Projects Coordinator
Tin Town residents help celebrate Earth
Day funding for new wastewater system
The Bisbee Fire Station #81 was brimming with “officials”—the Mayor of Bisbee, City Council members, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ staff person, the State Director for USDA Rural Development---but the attention was all on the rest of the crowd. Most of the residents of Tin Town, a small Colonia within Bisbee, Arizona, were sitting in the audience among the officials and they rocked!
Tin Town residents had been waiting a long time for this day. USDA Rural Development (RD) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) jointly funded a $1.4 million wastewater collection system to connect the people of Tin Town to the Bisbee wastewater facility. Currently, the residents rely on failing septic systems and cesspools, a health risk for the residents and the environment they share with the rest of the area.
Tin Town was settled in the 1920s by Mexican workers who came to work in the mines near Bisbee. Some say the town got its name from the scrap metal and tin the residents used to build and roof their homes. Others say it’s from the tin cans they used to catch the drips from leaking roofs. At any rate, it grew into a strong, stable neighborhood of hard working families.
One famous resident of the area was renowned artist Ted DeGrazia who lived in the Bisbee area and painted a picture of Tin Town in 1941 that is still part of the DeGrazia Foundation’s permanent collection.
Tin Town hasn’t changed much over the years…which for the most part is a good thing. Many of the families have been there for generations. They watch out for each other. They help each other. They have organized regular clean up days, hauling, clearing and cleaning to keep the area neat and appealing. Their charming town, with many homes painted in bright colors, retains a rustic character—meandering unpaved streets and hand built homes—many built by the current owners’ parents or grandparents. That’s the good part. But, although most of the rest of the areas of Bisbee has been connected to the modern wastewater plant, the residents of Tin Town have not and have had to continue to deal with the failing septic and cesspool problems. That will change now thanks to the collaborative efforts of USDA RD and EPA…and a community full of advocates!
Councilman Benny Scott has been one of those tireless advocates for the Tin Town project. He told the following story at the Earth Day event:
“Benny was a Bisbee policeman in 1977 when a guy being pursued by an officer ditched his car and took off on foot headed toward the Tin Town area. Running in the dark, the guy fell into one of the open cesspools. Figuring that was a fate worse than jail, the guy began to call for help. He was found, rescued…and since the jail didn’t have a shower facility at the time…hosed off before being put into his cell for the night. The following morning Benny took the accused man to the judge. The judge hadn’t read the report yet and listened to the description of how the man had ditched his car and taken off on foot to get away from the police. The Judge looked sternly at the accused and said “Don’t you ever do anything like this again…and don’t EVER run away from the Police or you’ll be in deep doo-doo!” Benny started to laugh. The Judge turned to Benny and said “This is a courtroom. You do NOT laugh in a courtroom. It’s disrespectful. I’ll see you here in front of me as soon as this proceeding is done.”
After the arraignment for the accused man, Benny went back before the Judge. He asked the Judge to read the report. When the Judge got to the part where the guy fell into the cesspool, he understood why Benny had laughed and Benny was off the hook.”
Tin Town is a community with character and full of characters. Its citizens have been good neighbors and good stewards…and now they will have a safer, more sanitary town for the next generations.