Star Valley Man Says Council Acted Immorally

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A Star Valley resident who has assumed a leadership role in opposition to the town's decision to accept water from a developer's well in his community, tried to ask the town council to reconsider Thursday evening.

Speaking during the public comment portion at the beginning of the meeting, Derek Pratt was about 20 percent into his prepared statement when Mayor Barbara Brewer cut him off.

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Derek Pratt

"OK, your time is up," the mayor told Pratt, invoking a three-minute limitation on public comments that is not uniformly enforced.

"My time is up?" Pratt responded.

"Yes, already," the mayor said.

During the portion of the statement he was allowed to read, Pratt thanked Brewer, Councilor Judy Buettner and Town Manager Fred Carpenter for speaking to him on the telephone and acknowledged that all had told him they meant "no harm to the residents of Star Valley by their approval of the development of well sites ..."

But he also said, "It is difficult to see how such a means of bringing new water to Payson, which, of course is old water to Star Valley, can do anything but bring grief to the people of both communities."

What he was not able to tell the council was why he believed accepting Star Valley water for town use was a "no-win" situation.

"The 2,300 residents of Star Valley use the town's shops, the town's services, and the town's facilities," he wrote in his statement. "Payson needs the respect and the goodwill of (its) neighbors to function."

Pratt even suggested annexation of Star Valley by Payson might be one eventuality, and an expensive one for the town. But his primary argument was based on the ethics of the issue.

"If I had a large garden and my neighbor had a small one, I couldn't see myself using his well water (to make) my garden more plentiful and beautiful," he wrote. "I am sure none of you would consider such a practice either ethically or morally the right thing to do."

The town recently approved a letter of assurance that water obtained from a well site at the northeast end of Star Valley will be accepted for the development of a 37-acre parcel behind Payson Town Hall and other properties within town limits.

While the town might have the law on its side, Pratt said the actions of the council are unethical and he urged them to reconsider.

Brewer said most town councils limit public comments to three minutes. She also said her previous encounters with Pratt were not all pleasant, including one where he came to Brewer's beauty shop and "hollered" at her.

"By the time it was over, I told him he owed my customer an apology for taking up her time," the mayor said. "He did apologize to her."

Brewer insists, the council's intentions are honorable.

"I told him we're not going to do anything that's unethical or immoral for us to do," she said. "We're going to do the right thing and there will be a meeting of the minds, I'm sure, by the time this is all over.

In other action Thursday evening, the council:

  • Approved a resolution authorizing subdivision improvements for Cedar Ridge Phase 2 Subdivision, 14 lots located on the north side of Chennault Parkway north and south of W. Gina Circle.
  • Approved a council decision request filed by Police Chief Gordon Gartner to authorize purchase of a $65,000 computerized firearms training system. The expenditure was part of a public safety package approved by the voters on Sept. 9, 2003. The money will come from the town sales tax increase from 2 percent to 2.12 that took effect Jan. 1.
  • Moved the July 15 council meeting to July 7 to accommodate a meeting of the state transportation board in Payson.

Public transit meeting

Public transit is the subject of a special meeting scheduled for 8 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 2.

According to Carpenter, a second consultant requested by the Arizona Department of Transportation will be on hand to answer questions in a discussion/study format.

"They want to validate what the first one did," Carpenter said. "She's going to make a presentation on her findings."

The original study, conducted by Rob Bohannan, transportation planner for Phoenix-based Lima & Associates, recommends that the town adopt a "deviated fixed route" system -- a hybrid that combines features of fixed route and dial-a-ride systems. Sometimes referred to as a "checkpoint" system, buses stop at scheduled "time points" or checkpoints as fixed route systems do, but the route taken can vary from trip to trip.

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