Town Officials, Diamond Star Representatives Agree To Talk

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The Payson Town Council opted out of a decision on annexation Thursday evening in hopes an Aug. 8 meeting with the Diamond Star Water Coalition will produce a compromise.

Town Public Works Director Buzz Walker, who has maintained a low profile through much of the debate over piping water out of Star Valley for Payson subdivisions, was an engaged participant at the special meeting last night. Walker spoke up to clarify what he characterized as "fundamental misunderstandings."

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Public Works Director Buzz Walker

Walker said the coalition's estimate that the town will take 3,000 gallons of water a minute from Star Valley is erroneous.

"Our own publicly available water study says that the maximum flux that could support the well that the developers propose and, we think, that part of Star Valley, is 649 gallons a minute," he said.

In January, the town agreed to accept water from a well in Star Valley drilled by developer G. Michael Horton to meet water credit requirements for three developments his Terra Capital Group is planning in Payson. In addition to a large contingent from Diamond Star, Horton also made a rare appearance at the special meeting Thursday evening.

But when Town Manager Fred Carpenter told the council that the coalition had agreed to meet with him and Walker at 1:30 p.m. Monday, the council decided not to vote on annexation. Several councilors expressed the hope that the Monday meeting would produce a compromise on which Payson and Diamond Star could agree.

"I'm expectant about that meeting," Councilor Dick Reese said. "I'm hopeful that the truth will be brought to that meeting by all the participants and shared openly."

Coalition members expressed their willingness to sit down and talk, but were not overly optimistic. "What we're hoping for is some assurances on the water issue," Diamond Star Fire Chief Gary Hatch said. "But more important is the issue of self incorporation.

"We want to show them this is not just a water issue. This is way beyond water; this is self determination."

Randy Roberson, spokesperson for the coalition, told the council last night that the petition drive to incorporate Diamond Star has so far generated more than 400 signatures, well over half of what the coalition needs to achieve incorporation without holding an election.

In his report to the council recommending annexation, Town Manager Fred Carpenter weighed the cost of providing services to the Diamond Star area against the estimated additional revenue.

If fire protection continues to be provided by the Diamond Star Fire Department, the town would net $246,073 per year. But if the Payson Fire Department takes over fire protection, the town would see a projected deficit of $413,961.

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