Council Has Taken Leadership Role In Fire Prevention

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I read with interest the Payson Roundup editorial "Clear Lesson Emerges from Fire's Smoke." I have attended three versions of the presentation given by Ms. Vosick, including one given by her boss, Dr. Wally Covington. One very important point in these presentations is that it has taken us 100 plus years to get to this current state of forest "health". It will take us decades to totally return our forests to the health level Ms. Vosick suggests and only if the funding, commitment and consensus is achieved.

The Payson Town Council has allocated funds to remove hazardous trees from town-owned land and to assist private property owners in their efforts to do the same. Under the direction of the former and current fire chiefs, we have been very active in the Regional Payson Area Project. Chief Marty deMasi has led the efforts to create defensible space around Rumsey Park and other areas within our town using a work crew from the county jail.

The town council recently approved almost $30,000 from our contingency fund to pay for a fire department-led Neighborhood Wildland Fire Risk Assessment program to help property owners develop defensible space around their homes. We have also included in our Corporate Strategic Plan for 2004-05 several new initiatives addressing forest health issues.

All these steps have been publicized in the local media. Therefore, I personally believe your Payson Town Council has taken a leadership role and has been doing so for some time. It is time for private property owners to step forward in this effort. Many of you have already removed vegetation and dead trees from your property, but there is much more to be done.

I challenge Roundup to outline what they think the town council initiatives should be. Make recommendations that are legal, doable and fundable. If public funds are to be used, state where these funds would come from and what should be cut to meet budget requirements.

I personally do not think the "clean & lien" ordinance is workable, given our budget constraints. It can easily cost $3,000 to $6,000 to properly thin vegetation around houses here in Payson. The town's budget cannot provide that level of financial commitment with no assurances of reasonably prompt payment. However, I am willing to listen to any idea that addresses the problem in a constructive way.

This problem will not go away overnight and it will take effort from federal, state and local governments and their elected officials, private property owners and interested third parties to implement a comprehensive solution. If we all work together, we can be successful.

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