The petition drive to incorporate Diamond Star kicked off Monday evening, and organizers said they hope to wrap it up quickly -- maybe as soon as the end of the week.
The Diamond Star Water Coalition, the group that formed to stop developers from taking water from their community to Payson, also began a one-week radio blitz on KRIM-FM and KMOG-AM. Five different spots will be running 10 times a day for a week.
Coalition President Bill Rappaport expected most residents to sign the petition.
"The main reason people moved to this area was not to be under the control of the town of Payson," Rappaport explained. "They don't want to be involved in that type of government."
Rappaport said the decision to begin the petition drive was made at a strategy meeting Friday evening.
"We had a huge turnout -- the biggest since we started this," Rappaport said. "We had a majority of the business owners there, and everybody agreed we didn't want to wait."
Teams were formed and assigned areas Monday evening, and the petition drive began immediately. The goal is to collect 1,400 signatures, representing well over two-thirds of the residents of Star Valley and Diamond Point Shadows, the two communities that comprise the Diamond Star Fire District.
If the petition drive fails to gather signatures of two-thirds of the residents, incorporation can still be accomplished through a special election.
The radio spots are narrated by coalition spokesman and former radio personality, Randy Roberson. One spot said the council hides behind smoke and mirrors.
"Perhaps before you tell others to become educated, you yourself should look into one of those mirrors," Roberson said.
Another encourages town residents to call their councilors and tell them to leave Diamond Star water alone.
"If you can't find the water you need to build your developments in our backyard, we shouldn't try stealing it from our neighbors," Roberson said.
Town delays annexation meeting
Meanwhile, the town of Payson postponed the special work-study meeting on annexation scheduled for Thursday evening until 5 p.m. on Aug. 4.
"We've been asked to collect some more information and it's going to take some time to get it," Town Manager Fred Carpenter said.
Carpenter is working on a detailed report for that meeting that so far indicates annexation might be the preferred option for the town.
"Incorporation would create another, often-competing unit of local government in northern Gila County which would tend to work against unity in the solution of common problems," the town manager wrote in a preliminary draft of that report.
The town has given one of the developers, G. Michael Horton representing Scottsdale-based Terra-Payson 40 LLC, a letter of assurance that it will accept water pumped from Star Valley to meet water credit requirements for a number of new developments. Other developers requests for similar assurances are reportedly under consideration by the town council.
Wind up in court
Rappaport said he expected the issue of annexation versus incorporation to eventually wind up in court.
"The reality of this whole thing is that it's going to boil down to a lawsuit between Gila County and Payson, and it's going to be over verbiage in the original petition that was handed in," he said.
Coalition attorneys who were present at the Friday meeting said the group could follow one of two courses, according to Rappaport.
"We can take a conservative approach and basically re-file everything from the get-go, but we probably wouldn't be able to get anything done until May of next year," he said. "Or, we could take the approach of just going ahead and doing what we planned on and let Gila County fight it out in court."
Rappaport said the coalition chose the latter course in part because one of its attorney's, Art Lloyd, actually wrote the original petition with Town Attorney Sam Streichman.
Despite Streichman's involvement, the town claims the original petition is illegal for several reasons and recently ran a full-page ad in the Payson Roundup explaining those reasons.