Council Oks $300,000 For Hydrology Study

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Wednesday's special meeting of the Payson Town Council was held primarily to accept the results of the Sept. 9 election, yet a few other expense items made their way onto the agenda.

To bid or not to bid

The council was asked to take action to clean up language in the town code that contradicts state law regarding taking bids for professional services costing more than $25,000.

Deputy Town Attorney Tim Wright explained the dilemma.

"This ordinance is before you because of the next two resolutions," Wright said. "Under state law you cannot bid professional services. Our code says you can't hire professional services unless you bid it. We put ourselves in the position where we really can't obtain professional services over $25,000," he said.

"We don't have much choice but to do this," Mayor Ken Murphy said.

The emergency clause was required due to time constraints, according to Town Manager Fred Carpenter.

"And if we don't pass it with the emergency clause, there could possibly be a referendum and we could be out of any type of professional services for as long as that takes," Councilor Bryan Siverson said.

"That is a possible consequence," Carpenter said.

The ordinance was unanimously approved 6-0. Councilor Robert Henley was not present at the meeting.

Searching for water

The next items on the agenda involved hiring two companies for water exploration, which is why the bidding issue of the prior ordinance had to be accomplished on an emergency basis.

While the town waits for authorization from the Forest Service to drill wells, Public Works Director Buzz Walker wants to get started on gathering information.

HydroSystems, Inc. and Zonge Engineering will be hired by the town for more than $300,000 from the water department budget.

"What the water department wants to do is continue with our efforts to obtain permits from the federal government to drill exploratory wells in the forest," Walker said. "But, in order to do a better job of that and reduce the number of exploratory holes to be drilled, and to develop information in the very near future, we would like to utilize non-invasive technology that has no effect on the forest, can be done quickly and can help us with our efforts to characterize the sub-surface geology. This is a way for us to move forward quickly and develop information without sticking holes in the ground."

The town's hydrogeologist Mike Ploughe explained the process.

"We can get the information without doing any drilling, and in the future, you take the information that you've gathered with this non-invasive method and you calibrate it with actual holes that go in the ground," Ploughe said.

The two companies do the field work and then interpret the results.

As to when the Forest Service will permit the actual drilling, if sources of water are found, is still unknown. Continual delays due to environmental impact studies have lasted more than two years and there appears to be no end in sight.

"As succeeding issues come up -- plants and species and animals that may be listed someday are being incorporated into the process today, even though maybe they shouldn't be there," Walker said. "It keeps getting rolled back and there's nothing we can do about it. Now they are looking for a Chiricahua leopard frog from southern Arizona."

"I want us writing letters and our congressional delegation to start putting pressure on this ... we are tired of waiting around. They can make us wait forever for every gnat they find," Murphy said.

The council unanimously approved both resolutions pertaining to the hiring of the two companies that will begin their investigation.

Zane Grey cabin replica

Council unanimously approved, with full support, executing a quit-claim deed to transfer title of property in Green Valley Park to the Northern Gila County Historical Society for the construction of a replica of the Zane Grey cabin. The original cabin burned down 13 years ago, and the replica will be part of the Rim Country Museum.

Coming in November -- open town hall meetings

After the meeting, council adjourned for an executive session on two issues. The first relating to the Payson Pines subdivision, which no one could comment on.

The second issue was a desire by the council to hold open town hall meetings on a quarterly basis.

"After considerable discussion, the general consensus was that we would be conducting, probably on a quarterly basis, an open public forum on a Saturday morning at the council chambers," Carpenter said. "It would be an opportunity for everyone to come down and talk about anything they want in relation to a particular topic."

Topics being considered are streets, water, and other pertinent town issues.

"We are thinking that we would do the first one on streets," Carpenter said. "We want to find out why they don't think the street bond passed and tell us what we can do to make it work next time. But we would also set up the agenda so that they could come down and ask questions about anything from snow removal to pothole patching, sidewalks, traffic signals, street sweeping -- anything about streets."

Carpenter said the open town hall meetings will probably start in November.

Election results accepted

Council members thanked Town Clerk Silvia Smith for her hard work on the special bond election.

"I just want to thank Silvia and her staff for the incredible job they did -- it was a huge undertaking to go from one system to another," Councilor Dick Wolfe said.

"It's a different process than in the past and maybe we will try things a little different in the future," Murphy said, "maybe break things out a little bit more and allow the voters the opportunity to pick and choose the items that they want to spend their tax money on."

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