The Payson Town Council is scheduled to take up the Star Valley annexation issue at its regular meeting Thursday, March 10.
In preparation for their deliberation, Town Attorney Sam Streichman drafted an "annexation process overview" for the council, and has also provided the council with copies of Arizona Revised Statutes 9-471, the applicable state statute. The overview details the steps between the time the issue is raised and when the annexation becomes final.
Representatives of the Diamond Star Water Coalition delivered petitions to Payson deputy town clerk, Marci Huffman Monday afternoon, asking the town to annex Star Valley. They contained the signatures of 95 residents who live in the Diamond Star Fire District, the area the town is being asked to annex.
The signees are requesting annexation to counter an attempt by the town and a developer to pump millions of gallons of water from at least one well in Star Valley up Highway 260 to the town's water system. The coalition is concerned that the town's acceptance of water from one or more Star Valley wells will deplete their community's already marginal water supply, and leading to the possible contamination of both Star Valley and town water.
The issue arose when the town council recently approved a letter of assurance to a developer that water obtained from a well site at the northeast end of Star Valley would be accepted for the development of a 37-acre parcel behind Payson Town Hall and other properties within town limits.
While the council placed a number of restrictions and conditions in the letter, members of the coalition believed the town is using the developer to get at water it has long coveted.
Local attorney Art Lloyd, a Star Valley resident, drew up the petition. He said the motive for annexation is simple -- an assured water supply.
"Here's the problem," he said. "If they're able to pump the water out of Star Valley, then where do we go for water if we're not part of a municipality. We have no recourse; the town has no obligation to supply us with water. The only reason we're doing it is to provide us protection. They can pump us dry, and when it goes dry we're going to be standing there saying, ‘By god, hook us up to the water system.'"
Payson Mayor Barbara Brewer said she would not rule out annexation.
"It would be good," she said. "It would give us some extra revenues. But we have to satisfy everybody, and there's a whole lot more than just the 95 people that signed the petition."
Brewer also said the town doesn't deserve to be called a bully.
"Enough is enough," she said. "They're saying we came out there to steal their water and we came out there for annexation. We haven't done any of it.
"The developers weren't sent out there by us either; they're going to go where people are going to sell them land that they know they can get water off. They have to go get water wherever they can, and we're not telling them where to go drill; they're doing it on their own. How does it make us a bully?"
With Streichman out of town and Tim Wright, deputy town attorney, unavailable for comment, Lloyd explained the process.
"The town has 120 days to say yes or no," he said. "If the council decides they want to annex, they would pass a resolution approving the process, and then it starts all over.
"Then the town has to prepare petitions and publish them, and there's a big bunch of hoops. Then they would have to circulate it and they would have to get 51 percent of the landholders in the area (to be annexed) to agree to it before it would pass."