Arguments over the definition of the term "new water" and whether any of it exists in the ground beneath Payson took center stage Thursday at the Payson Town Council meeting. The council, with a 6-1 vote, officially eased its commercial water requirements to improve the town's event center and stimulate commercial development on the south side of town.
The request from Town Manager Richard Underkofler sought to allocate and reserve up to 100 Equivalent Residential Units about 50 gallons per minute from the next "new water" source found and developed by the Payson Water Department for any commercial development on the rodeo area land.
In Underkofler's document, the word "new" in "new water" was printed in bold italics, as if to ease the concerns of anyone worried that the town's existing, limited water supply would be pillaged.
That didn't happen.
"I was shocked when this came up," Payson resident Carol Michaelis told the council. "... I've been studying Payson water for about six years ... The groundwater supply in Payson is limited. During normal times, it can just provide a sufficient supply for Payson's projected demands ... Groundwater by itself cannot be relied upon as a sufficient supply of Payson's water.
"Before you give away our water," Michaelis said, "I urge you to please take an action to bring this vote to the people of Payson."
Councilmember Hoby Herron, who cast the sole opposing vote, agreed with Michaelis.
"The wells we have in Payson are sucking the same aquifer," he said, "so the only 'new water' would be out-of-town water."
Buzz Walker, the town's public works director, disagreed.
"The groundwater reserves and the reports do not indicate that fact," he said.
Asked for his definition of "new water, " Walker, said, "Water which we would be able to acquire, develop or produce that we cannot produce at this time."
Such water does exist within town limits, Walker added.
The basis for the proposal is Underkofler's desire to lease the event center to a single developer. The problem, he said, is that potential investors are being scared off because the town's current water requirements would make it difficult for them to achieve investment returns.
The solution, he said, is a "contribution-in-aid-of-construction" for a myriad of event center improvements in exchange for a long-term lease that would enable a developer to construct, operate or sublease commercial facilities on the premises.
But okaying his proposal would not commit the town to any such arrangement, Underkofler said, adding that the land could also be sold.
"The motion is appropriate regardless of what we're going to do" with the land, he said. "No matter if we sell it or lease it, it's got to have water."
With that the council voted 6-1 to approve the proposal.
Other items on Thursday's agenda included:
Unanimous passage of a resolution authorizing approval of a Payson Airport business lease with Cavu Aviation, LLC, which will provide scenic flights, flight training, and aircraft leasing and rentals, among other services.
Consent approval of a request from Town Engineer LaRon Garrett to award the bid for excess rock removal from the Payson Airport to Intermountain West Civil Constructors for a minimum of $3,625 for the first 2,500 pounds, and $1.45 per additional ton.
A somewhat heated debate between Payson Realtor Carolyn Stanley, the council and Town Assistant Attorney Jeff Blilie ended with a threat of litigation.
The discussion regarded problems relating to a portion of Gold Nugget Lane in the Rodeo Ranches Phase 1 subdivision, which was built on private property rather than the Town of Payson right-of-way.
Because a "visual easement" had been claimed for the roadway, Stanley speaking for the owners requested that the town purchase the north 20 feet of the lot for $12,800, or $2 per square foot, to make the road town property.
The councilmembers chose another option: to acquire the road right-of-way at no cost to the town, in accordance with an Arizona Revised Statute.
Stanley said the property's owners would respond with litigation.