County Encourages Payson, Diamond Star Collaboration

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District 1 County Supervisor Tommie Martin said Gila County's stance on the incorporation of Diamond Star is neutral, but she said she believes other alternatives need to be considered.

"I don't think it would make a bit of difference to the county," Martin said. "(Diamond Star Fire Chief) Gary Hatch was saying if we incorporate, we would just contract with the county to do our planning and zoning, our law enforcement. They don't want to have to have a cop shop, and the roads for the most part are paved."

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Tommie Martin

But Martin also suggested that the Diamond Star Water Coalition consider less-radical alternative solutions than a full-blown incorporation, including the formation of a water conservation district or other special districts.

"I've asked them, ‘Are you sure you want to incorporate; are you sure you don't want to do something halfway between here and incorporation?'" she said. "A special district is not full-blown incorporation, but (it) gives you all the protections."

Martin also encouraged the town of Payson and Diamond Star to work together on a solution.

"I'm not sure Payson managing that water is the worst thing in the world for them," she said. "We could put in test wells to make damn sure none of the bad things happen. We can test to see if the water is coming out of the same pot or not and if it is, I just think they might want to be in a position of cutting a deal with Payson."

Chris Benjamin, a member of the coalition steering committee, said the group is looking into the options Martin suggested, but added that incorporation affords the most protection. Karen Benjamin, coalition secretary-treasurer, said she hoped the two entities could collaborate.

"It would be good for us to incorporate because then maybe Payson and Star Valley can work together," she said. "There would be a lot of positive (things to) come out of that for northern Gila County, and we'll have more voice in what's going on in this area."

Meanwhile, the county moved a step closer to hiring a special water consultant at a meeting of the board of supervisors Tuesday.

"(The agreement with the consultant) was specific for Blue Ridge and Star Valley and they decided Tuesday they wanted to have it more general than that," Martin said. "They'd like to be able to use him for water issues in general for Gila County, so we sent it back to the consultant to have him make it broader in scope and we'll vote on it next Tuesday."

The consultant, David Kennedy, is a water attorney who grew up in the Blue Ridge area and has worked for the Arizona Corporation Commission and the Arizona Department of Water Resources.

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