Gila County A Burden On Our Towns

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Why are there cities and towns? The village, town or city evolved from people congregating for protection. These same people also found that not everyone could bake bread or build a cottage. They helped each other. The Town of Payson is no different. It came a little later than Globe or Miami, but as people came, sooner or later they needed a government.


The Arizona Constitution created counties. Back in territorial days towns and cities were few and far between - so county law, order and services evolved. As communities grew they incorporated into cities and towns to provide services that were way beyond the time and distance of large Arizona counties.


Guess what? Nothing has changed. Gila County is an albatross on the back of the communities it claims to serve. Their weapon is property tax and their battle cry is self survival.


Does the northern part of this county benefit proportionally from the taxes we currently pay? No! Will we in the future? No! So why are we still part of a county that has a county seat nearly 90 God-forsaken miles away? Because when the time came to split the county, everyone got scared and voted it down.


So here we are. Once again in the long painful history of Gila County, copper prices are down. In addition, cattle and logging are in the economic toilet, thanks to the friends of the planet who don't eat beef (in front of their friends) or live in houses without wood products (fat chance).


The pitifully poor planning, errant statistical data, and good-ole-boy back-room style of government has gotten the county in fiscal hot water again. Did they not realize that copper prices might again someday drop? Guess not. So then they look to the bottom of the government food chain - cities and towns - to help them balance their budget. First they bill Payson, Globe, Miami, Hayden and Winkelman for the "health services" they provide - by law. Payson's bill was $280,000 for two years. Our town attorney gleefully said, "That ain't legal."


They backed down and came up with, "Let's cut the libraries!" What they failed to do first was look at the law that created the County Free Library District. In their feeble attempt to avoid criticism, they are pitting municipalities against the unincorporated areas by saying, "If the cities don't pay more, then you folks will lose your library." When was it the cities' job to balance the counties' budget?


I was elected to represent Payson citizens. But I also believe that we have a duty to serve our neighbors. The Town of Payson provides police backup (to the one deputy that is on duty for northern Gila County), we provide fire service on contract for fire districts that can't afford a department like ours, and our parks and libraries are used nearly 50 percent by non-Payson residents. I say "Good" to all that, because they pay our sales tax and I believe that as a regional community, Payson can and will provide these services. So where are the county services in the north? When you find them, let me know.


Until then, my only solutions are these: 1. Move the county seat to Payson. 2. Divide the county and absorb the northern part into Coconino County. The southern part could become part of Pinal County. 3. Change the gerrymandered supervisor districts so that there will not always be two votes in southern Gila County and a third vote (you, Mr. Christensen) that sells out its constituents, and its cities and towns, because you can't seem to admit that you have mismanaged the county's operations and finances. I don't blame you. I'd find a scapegoat, too, if I could. But I don't think you will find it here.


I am proud of the cities of Globe, Miami, Hayden and Winkelman -- they have stood together. It's too bad that all of these cities and the county are not together to battle the state and federal government for their unfunded mandates. Oh well, that is life at the bottom of the government food chain.


Kenneth Murphy

Vice Mayor of Payson

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