Fed up with the Payson Town Council's refusal to take action after promising otherwise, the Diamond Star Water Coalition has decided to move ahead with its plans to incorporate.
"This is not about water, anymore," coalition president Bill Rappaport said. "It's about self-determination."
A petition drive to incorporate Star Valley and Diamond Point Shadows as the town of Diamond Star will soon be under way, according to Rappaport and other coalition leaders.
"We heard from Gila County," Rappaport said. "Our petitions are being printed; they're moving right ahead on this."
At the Payson Town Council meeting June 9, town attorney Sam Streichman questioned the legality of a petition drive to incorporate. Rappaport said the county disagreed.
The Diamond Star Water Coalition was initially formed to keep Payson from allowing developers to pipe water from their communities into the town's system. If two-thirds of the registered voters sign the incorporation petitions, the town of Diamond Star will be a reality, although that doesn't guarantee the developers will be stopped.
If the coalition fails to secure the necessary signatures, it will ask for a special election. A simple majority of the voters in that election will determine whether the community can incorporate.
Coalition leaders said working with the town of Payson is no longer productive because of the council's refusal to allow the residents of Star Valley and Diamond Point Shadows to form their own town.
"My suspicion is there is some kind of a deal going on between (developer G. Michael) Horton and (Public Works Director Buzz) Walker and some of the people on the council, because they gave us instructions at the very first meeting on what to do to go about incorporation and we followed those almost to the letter," Rappaport said. "We talked to a number of people on the council; we talked to the vice mayor and the mayor and they basically gave us their blessing. We thought we were coming in (at last Thursday's council meeting) to get rubber stamped."
Coalition officials are predicting they will be able to secure the necessary signatures without resorting to a special election.
"Buzz Walker has said so much to galvanize our community that I think everybody is going to sign up for this," Rappaport said. "I really don't think anybody wants to be annexed into the town of Payson.
"The people who live out here are pretty independent and we want to keep our community small. We don't want to turn into another Scottsdale."
Before moving to the Rim country 10 years ago, Rappaport lived in Scottsdale where he served for 10 years as head of a homeowners association.
The coalition and the town also disagree over the number of signatures needed on the incorporation petition.
"Payson claims there are almost 1,300 registered voters who live here, but according to the county recorder, there's only 900," Rappaport said. "So all we need is two-thirds of that."
The coalition is still working on a timetable for the petition drive. Rappaport said the drive will begin with a community meeting and rally.
"We have 120 days (to turn in the petitions), so we're planning this very carefully," Rappaport said. "We're going to hold a town meeting for the folks in Diamond Point Shadows and Star Valley; we're going to set up tents and have voter registration."
Payson Mayor Barbara Brewer defended the council's decision to take no action last Thursday, and said coalition members are acting without the facts.
"(We've been accused of) looking like a bunch of idiots, but how can we look like idiots when we don't do anything," the mayor said. "And the reason we don't do anything is because they haven't had the accurate facts.
"(Walker) says these people are not educated about water. They're not educated about the process. They think they know a little bit and they ... comment on things they know nothing about."
Rappaport took offense at the mayor's characterization.
"We're not a bunch of country boobs," he said, "and we don't like being characterized as second-class citizens. That's what got most of us involved in this thing from the get-go."
Brewer also questioned the amount of support that the coalition has from the Star Valley business community, and said she intended to survey them to prove her point.
Rappaport, disagreed, and said many businesses have already donated money to the coalition, and added that it doesn't really matter what Payson officials think anymore.
"The deal with Payson was over yesterday," he said. "They've washed their hands of us. They can shout and posture and do all they want, but we're moving ahead right now."