'Give Us Our Own Town,' Star Valley, Diamond Point Residents Say

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If all goes as planned, Payson could have a neighboring town to the east by the end of the year.

The Diamond Star Water Coalition, a group formed to protect the water rights of Star Valley and Diamond Point from being exploited by the town of Payson and developers, presented a petition for incorporation to the town bearing the names of 358 registered voters from Star Valley and Diamond Point.

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Members of the Diamond Star Water Coalition steering committee toast the decision to incorporate using the water they hope to protect from Payson. They include Bill Rappaport, Karen Benjamin, Chris Benjamin, Matt Benjamin, Greg Mulligan and Gary Hatch.

Chris Benjamin, owner of Sky Run RV Resort and a member of the coalition steering committee, explained the latest move.

"This petition is basically from the citizens of (Star Valley and Diamond Point) saying to the council, ‘Please do your resolution to allow us to incorporate,'" Benjamin said.

The coalition formed after the town of Payson agreed to accept water from a developer who is drilling wells inside the Star Valley community.

Fearing their own wells might run dry, the coalition submitted petitions bearing 95 signatures asking the town to annex the Diamond Star Fire District.

Arizona law requires the town of Payson to deny annexation before the Diamond Star area can incorporate, and the coalition believes that once incorporated, such water transfers can be quashed.

"At one of their prior meetings they kind of alluded to us being just a handful of people, that we really don't have the populace behind us," Benjamin said. "So this is to tell the town that it's a bunch of us."

When the original annexation petition was taken up by the council in early January, Benjamin and his group were told to get a consensus from residents in the district.

If the town of Diamond Star becomes a reality it will be the third largest municipality in Gila County -- smaller than Payson and Globe, but larger than Hayden and Winkelman. The Diamond Star Fire District has about 2,500 residents.

If the Payson town council passes the resolution allowing the coalition to proceed, and several councilors indicated at the March meeting they were willing to do so, the next step would be to work with Gila County to prepare a new petition asking registered voters to approve the incorporation. If two-thirds of the 970 registered voters sign that petition, a vote won't be necessary.

Benjamin said that's exactly what will happen.

"I believe we have the people behind us -- finally," he said.

Diamond Star Fire Chief Gary Hatch, also a member of the coalition steering committee, agreed.

"So far we have only had less than six (residents), who didn't want to sign, and most of them said it was because they wanted more information before they signed," Hatch said.

The coalition intends to provide that information and educate the public on the issues.

"After the petition is ready, we're going to have a Star Valley rally -- a little day fair -- so everybody can get information and sign the petitions," Benjamin said. "We're going to get all this going to where sometime this summer we're incorporated as the town of Diamond Star."

Town Manager Fred Carpenter said the request by the coalition will be on the agenda of the June 9 meeting.

In its effort to keep Star Valley water from being piped to Payson, the coalition is also working with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, according to Benjamin.

See related story:

County encourages Payson, Diamond Star collaboration

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