Mayoral Candidates Tackle Payson's Hot-Potato Issues

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Following is Part Two of the Roundup's interviews with Payson's three mayoral candidates. The questions reflect what our readers have suggested they most want asked of each candidate. In most cases, each candidate was asked the same questions. Some of those questions, however, were tailored to variations between the candidates.

KEN MURPHY

Q: How do you feel about the Main Street project?

A: In the 17 years I've been here, we have looked at the area down there and actually have less businesses, in some cases, than more. We've seen the development of the private-sector investment of the Sawmill Crossing. Other companies have put in money down there to establish businesses.

I think that government has a role to play down there in regard to identifying areas that can be developed for government and private sector operations. I voted the other night for the purchase of the Garcia property for several reasons ...

If there (are) historic buildings down there, we need to salvage those we can. We can assist in converting some of the flood plain to private development. If we can channel the water or channel the area, we can convert some of the area from flood plain into private development. Some of the property can be sold off to other private, adjacent businesses ...

The downside right now, in my opinion, is we have already spent quite a bit of money down there and we really don't have a long-range plan on how we are going to acquire all the other properties ... whether the government or the private sector is going to do it.

We haven't quantified the total cost of this project and what the time frame is going to be over ten or fifteen years.

Until we have a better plan about that and what the cost is going to be and how we are going to fund it I have some real heartburn about us spending any more money ... down there.

I think all the businesses down there need to be together in wanting to help themselves, and, in so doing, then maybe we can come in and assist them in ways that are important.

Q: What do you think about moving the county seat to Payson?

A: I think that is one answer to whatever the problem is. However, I don't think we have really analyzed what the true problem is.

Once again, it's an issue of equity. Are we getting equitable services? I have heard a lot of things about inequitable services. I don't necessarily know that it's true, or to what extent ...

If it is true, what can be done differently? One service we don't have up here is a duplicate of the recorder's office. Maybe with some software we can address that so we can do simultaneous filings of the filings that need to be done through that office.

We can look at the court and request that we get more comparable services up here.

The demand is what dictates it, and I've heard a lot of erroneous information ... like why the juvenile detention center was put in Globe when we have over half the juvenile crime in the northern half of the county. I'm not so sure we have over half the juvenile crime in the northern part ... and if so, then we need to be doing something different. I'm not so sure we have that many more kids than they do down in the southern part ... to justify that argument.

Once again I think we need to do the data collection and really identify things, and then let's look at the simple solutions to correct the inequities.

In other words, why don't we look at the redistricting and see if we can get additional supervisors north of (Roosevelt) Lake.

Why don't we run candidates from the northern part of the county for the offices where they have run (unopposed) in the southern part.

There's a lot of emotion in this without really having the facts to support it. That's what concerns me, and I think right now it's the worst time to be (considering) it. We really do need to work with the county on several issues.

Q: If there was a magic fund to move the county seat to Payson, would you be in favor of it?

A: Everybody wants control. What do we do with the 600 county employees? Do we take 300 to 400 jobs out of an already economically-depressed area of our county?

We are still going to end up funding the problems that are associated with that ... Now they are going to be on the health care system; now they are going to have an increase in crime because they are going to be out of work.

What are we going to do to mitigate the impact we are having on the southern part of the county by taking all of the jobs out of there? It just hasn't been well thought out. It's based a lot more on emotion than facts.

Q: You said that we need to work with our neighboring communities on solving our water problems. How do you plan to approach that?

A: First off, we really don't have a dialog officially with any of our neighbors, and I think that's where you start. I think we need to be sitting down with the county and its water group and working out ways where we can work together.

Not being at the table officially certainly doesn't make us look very good to the rest of the world. We need to work with the forest service. We need to work with the federal agencies that are out there. We need to work with the Tonto Apache Tribe.

They are developing their tribal land. They have 139 acre feet of Central Arizona Project water that they can exchange with somebody for water rights. They are actually in a little better position than we are in some cases.

Quite frankly, any water that we are getting in the forest is not going to satisfy our needs for water ... We sold 4,000 plus acre feet of water in the CAP. To get that amount of water, we need a regional reservoir. We need somewhere, around Payson, above the Doll Baby or somewhere else, a regional reservoir of three to 6,000 acre feet of water.

To do that, shouldn't we look at solving that regionally so that we can help solve the problem for everybody? Have everybody share in the cost of it? It may mean forming a northern Gila County water district. It may be in figuring out other ways of funding it.

But should the town find all the water and then sell it to our neighbors? I don't think that's a fair way of looking at it. Should we go out and find every available drop of water we can to the detriment of our surrounding neighbors? I don't think that's proper.

We need to stop fighting with each other over the problem. That's the first (step toward) solving how we are going to get water. We need our goals to simply be ... to get every drop of water we can for our region ... exactly like the city of Phoenix and all the downstream water users did 100 years ago. They secured the water for their future growth.

We need the federal government to do these things (for us). The problem is simply that they look at us and say, "You guys don't even get along." Why are they going to touch us and help us if we are not helping ourselves?

DIANE SEXTON

Q: What's your stand on moving the county seat to Payson?

A: I'm doing a lot of checking on that. My personal opinion is I'd like to see it up here, because I live here. I think we have more going for us at this time than growth.

Change is good sometimes. I'm not saying that it's the best thing that we need to do now ... I don't know, I don't know. That's why I'm getting my feelers out. I met with (District One Supervisor Ron) Christensen, I'm meeting with other people. Personally, I think I'd like to see it up here. Politically, I'm doing more checking with lots of people.

Q: Would it change how local government operates if the county seat were moved up here?

A: It would make it more confusing probably. Anytime you have more people in office you get a lot of different ideas.

I believe that we are not united in this community right now. I think there are a lot of unhappy people, whether it's just or not ...

Unity is one of the biggest things that I think needs to be worked on in whatever we are doing ... it doesn't matter what. Personally, I think we need to really focus on unity, because we don't feel as a people or a taxpayer we are respected in this community.

We get tickled. I've been on too many committees (where) the decision has already been made as to what they are doing ... They are trying to tickle a few of us ... it's not going to happen... I don't like that. I like honesty ... even if I don't want to hear it. I would rather have honesty.

Q: How do you feel about the Main Street project?

A: I have two sides on that also; one as a community and one as a person running for office in my town. I'm very much for my community and the people. But I also believe we pay our way. I don't think (that even if it were) my project (it) should be the tax burden on any community to appease certain businesses or people on Main Street ... Not that it is ... I'm checking it out. I believe that the community is very (highly) taxed. I'd like to see that lowered.

I would love to see Main Street revived. I would love, as I told you, to see my library on Main Street. I would love to see the courthouse ... stay on Main Street. They are talking about moving it to Tyler Parkway.

They are taking everything from Main Street. I would like to see a courthouse like they have in Prescott on Main Street.

JIM WHITE

Q: You've lived in Payson for such a short time. How do you feel you are qualified to lead this town?

A: I've been here a little over two-and-a-half years; that may or may not be a problem. About 37 percent of the people that live here have lived here less than five years.

I understand that people would have some anticipation of people being here longer. I was asked to run ... and I decided I would run. In fact, my first choice, the first time I was asked, I agreed to run for the council.

When Ray Schum called me and said he was not going to run for mayor, he asked me if I would consider it. I said I would.

I think I have the background. I don't see the issue of how long I've been here as a problem...I don't think it makes a difference.

Q: Do you think in two years you've familiarized yourself with the nuances of the town government well enough to lead it?

A: Ask me the questions, I will answer them honestly. I will answer them qualified, so that you can check on everything that I tell you. I have the answers, or I have been here long enough to know what the problems are and how to solve them.

Q: During which years did you serve on the Phoenix City Council?

A: I served three terms on the council, from 1978 through 1984. I also served in the legislature from 1986 to 1988.

Q: To what committees were you appointed by President Ronald Reagan?

A: The National Manufactured Housing Commission and the Community Services Commission.

Q: How do you feel about the possibility of moving the county seat to Payson?

A: I think it would be good for the residents of Payson. We have the majority of the people here now. I don't think it would cost what people think it would; there are solutions to that. The town has offered its buildings until the county can move up here. You don't have to immediately move everything up here; I think you have a couple of years before you have to.

It would give the people up here an opportunity to elect people from this area, and also it would give the people up here some of the benefits of (living in the county seat), instead of everything being in Globe.

Q: What are your views on the Main Street project?

A: I am in favor of the Main Street project ... as long as we start using commercial developers and real estate people instead of the town's money. I think you can put too much of the town's money into it; then it becomes a town project rather than what it was intended to be and that is a commercial project.

That's not going to happen unless you get commercial people to develop on Main Street.

Q: Where do we find the water to support the town's continued growth?

A: The water is here; you can verify this with Buzz Walker.

If we do not get rain or snow over the next seven years no rain, no snow we have enough water now to supply the people. Not only the people who are here, but the growth that we anticipate for the next seven years.

That's based on the Southwest Groundwater Report, and (Walker) will verify what I just said to you.

Now, what about the next 10 to 20 years? Well, as soon as the U.S. Forest Service gives the town approval, which they will do within the next 30 days, we are going to drill another well out at the Goat Camp near Tyler Parkway.

We are expecting (to find a water source which will produce) 100 gallons per minute. Right now ... we are pumping 1,000 gallons per minute more than we were in 1998 (when the Southwest Groundwater report was completed).

I can also tell you that 2001 was the first year in the last 10 when we did not use as much water as we pumped. In other words, consumption was down for the first time in about 10 years.

The third prong of that is, I am working with Salt River Project now. They have already told the town that if you find a water farm for example, in Mesa and we pay $200,000 for it, and it's pumping 500 gallons per minute, they will give us 500 gallons. All we have to do is retire the water rights (in Mesa) and give it to them so they can use the water, and they give us their water from here. We get the water here no ten million dollars for a delivery system.

I worked with SRP when I was on the Phoenix City Council. I am now working to do something for Payson. I can help solve the water problem.

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