Town Backs Down On Private Well Restrictions

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A controversial request from Public Works Director Buzz Walker to apply the town conservation ordinance to private wells had new mayor Barbara Brewer wondering when was the best time for the town council to hear it.

Walker's council decision request was originally placed on the June 10 agenda. Early in the week, Brewer said she was going to move the request to the June 24 agenda. Following a Wednesday afternoon meeting between Brewer and town manager Fred Carpenter, the mayor changed her mind and opted to keep Walker's request on the June 10 agenda.

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New members of the Payson Town Council were sworn into office Tuesday by Justice of the Peace Ronnie McDaniel. New councilors are (left to right) Tim Fruth, Mayor Barbara Brewer, George Barriger and John Wilson.

According to Carpenter, the decision to hear the request at last night's meeting was made partly because the Payson Roundup featured a story about Walker's request in its June 8 edition. Brewer and the council didn't want residents to show up at the meeting expecting to hear Walker's request only to find out it had been removed from the agenda, Carpenter said.

Although the council heard Walker's request, town attorney Sam Streichman's recommendation was the council take no immediate action.

"We need to do some exploring (of the ordinance request)," Streichman said.

The council complied with Streichman and took no action.

Streichman also said his study would take some time to complete and he did not have a hard and fast timeline on when it would be submitted to the council.

Walker said he believes the current ordinance includes private wells but needs more powerful wording.

Local private well owners contend town government should not have the authority to regulate their water consumption.

"I believe private well owners have to right to use their water on their own property," local resident Pat Randall said. "That little water czar should stay the hell off well owners' property."

Walker has said he anticipated his request would generate controversy.

Whose water?

Walker contends that all groundwater in Arizona belongs to the state and using it is a privilege, rather than a right, of those who have wells on their property.

Part of the current water conservation compliance ordinance contradicts Walker's claim that the town has jurisdiction over private wells.

It reads, "It shall be unlawful for any customer of the town of Payson Water Department to ... knowingly make, cause, use or permit the use of water from the town for residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural or any other purpose in a manner contrary to a provision of this subchapter."

Another portion of the provision reads, "This subchapter shall apply to all water whether potable or effluent and all citizens, business and government entities within the corporate limits of the town ..."

When asked if those two provisions contradicted one another, Streichman said they did not.

"One is an enforcement provision and the other is a purpose provision," he said.

New council seated

Also at last evening's council meeting, departing members Dick Wolfe and Bryan Siverson were presented cashier's checks as parting gifts and given the opportunity to address the audience. The ceremonial swearing in the of the members was done by Justice of the Peace Ronnie McDaniel.

The three new councilors and Brewer, who replaces Ken Murphy as mayor, were officially sworn in Tuesday afternoon in McDaniel's chambers.

The Tuesday swearing-in had to take place because state law requires new council and a mayor to be in office for 24 hours before they can make an official act.

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