Town, Tribe Reach New Water Deal

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Instead of the usual water disagreements, the Payson Town Council will consider a water agreement when it convenes at 6 p.m. Thursday at Town Hall.

Heading the agenda is a new water agreement with the Tonto Apache Tribe that would replace a previous agreement made in 1994 that expired in 1999. The town has continued to provide water to the tribe in the interim, although it was not legally obligated to do so.

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Fred Carpenter, Town manager

"(Town Attorney) Sam Streichman and Joe Sparks, attorney for the tribe, had been working on a draft -- back and forth -- for several years," Town Manager Fred Carpenter said. "They finally sat down and had a six-hour marathon and worked out all the issues."

The tribal council has already approved the new agreement, and town staff is recommending the council do the same. If approved, it will provide for both present and future water needs of the tribe at the same rates that other retail customers pay.

"Essentially it gives them the amount of water they need to run what they've got on the reservation and what they've planned," Carpenter said.

The Tonto Apache Tribe is currently building a new casino and a 40-guestroom all-suites hotel. The current casino, which is 10 years old, will be converted into an event, convention and meeting center that will seat 500 for meetings and banquets and 1,000 theater style.

The new water agreement also notes that the casino expansion project will include a new restaurant, food court, lounge and arcade, and that the tribe plans to add 22 new "residential units."

The agreement calls for maximum delivery of 32,000 gallons a day for "existing water uses" and 33,847 gallons a day for future water uses "in addition to those amounts delivered for existing water uses."

The new five-year agreement (which is renewable on a year-to-year basis) requires the tribe to follow the same water conservation practices required of other water customers, Carpenter noted.

"The old agreement was before water conservation became a rule here," he said.

It also allows the tribe to explore for its own sources of water.

Other items on the Thursday evening agenda include:

  • A resolution requiring town department heads and officers (not police officers) to reside within town limits because "persons who influence and are responsible for the implementation of town policy should be members of the community." The resolution would only apply to new hires.

"We've got a couple who live outside of town limits right now," Carpenter said.

The resolution would also require all police personnel and firefighters to live within a 10-mile radius of highways 260 and 87, unless current departmental policy is more restrictive. Fire Chief Marty deMasi said theirs is.

"We've been requiring them to live in our service area, which includes Round Valley, Ox Bow, East Verde Park, theoretically on the reservation, and we've also included Star Valley in there," deMasi said.

Police Chief Gordy Gartner said he would rather see it based on response time than physical distance. Another issue he raised was housing affordability.

"Some of these guys may be able to find more affordable housing just outside the town," Gartner said.

  • A second reading of the ordinance to raise the bed tax from 3 to 5 percent to fund a police academy.
  • Increases, adjustments and changes to the Payson Municipal Airport fee schedule.

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