Two citizens groups opposed to piping water from the Diamond Star area to Payson say they'll show up in force at the town council meeting Thursday at 6 p.m.
They object to a resolution before the council to pay more than $1 million to developers for costs associated with developing a well in Star Valley and building a pipeline down Highway 260 to the town's water system.
A previous agreement in April between the town and one of the developers, G. Michael Horton, had specified that all costs were to be borne by the developer.
"They're going to reimburse Horton $300,000 for all his past efforts that he's failed on, but the town has said they're not involved in getting water out of Star Valley," Chris Benjamin, Diamond Star Water Coalition board member, said. "When (they say) they're not coming out to get our water, how can they justify reimbursing him a nickel for anything?"
Bill Rappaport, coalition president, said the answer to Benjamin's question lies in the town council's inability to tell the truth.
"They're basically lying to the people of Payson," he said.
If approved by the council, the resolution would also authorize payment of $750,000 to R & H Boulder and Granite, owned by George Randall and Roy Haught, for development of another well in Star Valley and delivery of 530 gallons of water per minute into the town's water system via Horton's pipeline.
New opposition group
The coalition, formed to stop developers from taking Star Valley water, has joined forces with a group of 95 Payson homeowners. They are concerned about the town allowing Horton to build more houses in his Forest Edge subdivision than original zoning allowed. Bob Edwards, a retired state legislator from Michigan who heads the group (currently called the Phoenix Street Extension Team), said the idea of taking water from the Diamond Star area is more than a moral issue.
"It speaks to the mentality of the town," he said. "What really concerns me is that a lot of the councilmen don't even respond to e-mails, and those who do basically have the ‘we know better than you do' mentality.
"They're controlled. They're voicing the party line. To turn the control of government over to the staff is a very scary thing."
Buzz Walker, town public works director, said there was no money involved in the April agreement, but said the $300,000 will reimburse Horton for the additional cost to make the pipeline 12 inches instead of 8.
"If you remember," Walker said, "they only needed an 8-inch pipeline to pump water out of there, and I said, ‘It's silly in a municipal setting to ever run an 8-inch water line. You should always run a 12, because of fire-flow issues and future water service issues. That $300,000 was just to pay our share of an oversized water line."
Horton switching wells
Walker said the payment to R & H Boulder and Granite is necessary because Horton is switching to a new well in Star Valley.
"He wants to develop a well other than the two wells he was going to develop in the initial agreement," Walker said. "Because the well he found that he wants to develop is greater capacity than what he needs for his subdivision, the owners of the well want to be compensated before they sell it to him, so the town said, ‘OK, we'll buy the additional capacity out of the well.'"
Walker added that the coalition should be happy about the well change.
"It has less effect (on neighboring wells) than the minimal effect the original wells had, so it should be good for everybody," he said.
The coalition ran a large advertisement in today's Roundup, and is airing a new radio spot calling on all Rim Country residents to attend the Thursday meeting to show their opposition to the town's actions.
Edwards said his group is considering several ballot initiatives.
"One would be a resolution to stop the action they're going to do on Thursday night, which I'm sure they'll pass," he said. "We would then do an initiative to put a restriction on taking water from outside the city unless the people there approve it. Another would be a zoning one that would require a vote of the people if they were to go down more than one notch."
Other agenda items
Other items on the Thursday council agenda:
- Request to conduct all future town elections using mail ballots.
- Request to increase the bed tax rate from 3 percent to 5 percent to fund a police reserve academy.
- Request to approve construction of two wells for Chaparral Pines Phase 3 and Wildflower Ridge subdivisions.
- A 5 p.m. executive session, possibly to discuss the legal ramifications of the water pay out and other matters related to taking water from the Diamond Star area.
- An executive session following the regular meeting to discuss the town manager's annual evaluation.
See related stories:
Diamond Star rallies behind coalition
Diamond Star says, 'no deal, they still want our water'
Town officials, Diamond Star representatives agree to talk
Developer says taking water 'not a moral issue'
Neighbors question proposed subdivision