Feds Interested In Rim Country Water Study

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The Bureau of Reclamation will propose an areawide water resources study to the Payson Town Council at its regular meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday.

"For the first time, the town has received some interest from the Bureau of Reclamation to enter into an agreement to do a study to determine our water needs," Interim Town Manager Kelly Udall said.

Thursday's presentation is the result of several years of behind-the-scenes efforts by the town to put such a group together, Public Works Director Buzz Walker said.

"The presentation is simply to get the information out to the public and in front of the council," Walker said. "Then, we'll go ahead and firm up the document for the study."

Both the Pine-Strawberry Water Improvement District and Gila County have tentatively agreed to be part of the new endeavor, Walker said.

In a written description of the project, the bureau explains its scope and structure: "The purpose of this study is for Reclamation and the Cooperating Partners to ... carry out a general investigation study of the water resource management issues to meet the future water demand of the Payson-Stawberry-Pine region in Northern Gila County, Arizona."

If the study is undertaken, the bureau will provide a study manager who will report to a project management team comprised of one representative from each of the partnering entities. Cost of the study is estimated to be $600,000, with the federal government paying half and the three participating government entities the remainder.

The advantage to involving the Bureau of Reclamation, Walker said, is that federal funds will be more readily available to accomplish any projects the study identifies.

"At the end of the process, we can go with the bureau to ask for the money," he said. "Because we have involved the federal government from the start we have a much better chance of fulfilling their process requirements."

Meth enforcement program

Also on Thursday's council agenda is a request submitted by Police Chief Gordon Gartner to authorize $51,000 to create a methamphetamine enforcement program.

"It is the opinion of the police department's staff that Payson is at a critical crossroads regarding the issue of methamphetamine use and sale," Gartner said in a position paper presented to the council.

Components of the project would include a repeat offender program, extra money to pay informants, additional overtime for special enforcement officers, and additional drug recognition training for field officers.

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