Councilor Explains Switch In Opinion

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When the Payson Town Council approved Resolution 2098 on Aug. 25, it set in motion a chain reaction of events that continues to this day, including a citizens' referendum that will probably end in court.

The meeting also provided the most dramatic moments of one of the most divisive issues the Rim Country has ever faced, complete with pickets, a standing-room-only crowd, and a parking lot of overflow attendees that took on the atmosphere of a carnival.

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Dick Reese

Almost lost in it all was the fact that two councilors -- Dick Reese and George Barriger -- broke ranks with a previously united council and voted against Resolution 2098.

The issue was the town's decision to pipe water from the Diamond Star area to build new subdivisions within the town limits. Resolution 2098 authorized paying George Randall and Roy Haught $750,000 for water over and above that which developer G. Michael Horton needs to meet the town's water requirements for his new subdivisions.

Reese, who has not yet decided whether he will stand for re-election in March, recently talked with the Roundup about his decision.

"When there are 1,900 registered voters in the town limits (who signed the referendum petition) joined by approximately 900 residents of the Diamond Star-Star Valley area (who signed the incorporation petition) who are saying, ‘Don't do this,' Dick Reese's view is we shouldn't."

Reese said he has reconciled an earlier concern that in seeking Diamond Star water, town staff was merely carrying out the council's marching orders as expressed in the Corporate Strategic Plan.

"Yes, there is a charge to the water department in the Corporate Strategic Plan to seek sources of water on private property," he said. "That doesn't say that the town will indeed exercise its police power -- which it has -- to enter Dick and Betty Reese's property and take water.

"The town has the right to do that, but that directive to the water department doesn't say, ‘Go for it, no matter what.'"

Reese believes the two sides must agree on an equitable solution:

"We, the town, shouldn't participate in a public-private partnership to extract water from beneath the citizens in that area, unless and until the parties can come together as a unified team, conquering the concerns these people have -- whether founded in supportable, factual data, or emotion. It makes no difference."

Otherwise, Reese believes the town is sending the wrong message:

"I sincerely believe people are thinking this is an example not of government ‘for, of and by the people,' but government ‘to the people,' and it troubles me greatly that my neighbors feel that way. And the citizens of Payson -- a great many of them -- agree."

Some of the motives of those involved, Reese suspects, could be less than honorable.

"I start to cry thinking about somebody trying to accomplish some political game -- if that's occurring. I think of somebody trying to suggest that a segment of our industry and commerce in Payson will be so drastically affected, i.e. people will be forced out of business. I think that is very shallow. It's not fair. It's not accurate.

"I've heard from no one who has said, ‘Dick, your vote concerns me because if this guy can't go ahead with the construction of these homes I'm going to be forced out of business.' Nobody has said that, and that's important to me."

And he offered another way for the town to grow, and possibly secure a new water source:

"Three hundred acres just behind the (Payson Ranger District office) will be coming on the market some day if the Forest Service is successful in accomplishing an exchange, a trade. We should be fast-tracking efforts to work through elected representatives on all levels to drill in the forest.

"Maybe isolate that 300 acres which the Forest Service has publicly declared will be, indeed, coming on the market. We should say, ‘Hey, guys, let's talk about that and not the forest in general and not the Diamond Star area or the other areas we've been trying to tap."

Reese believes it may be time to utilize some new players:

"We've accused (the Forest Service), and there's been a lot of back and forth stuff that I've overheard -- I haven't participated in any of it, personally -- but what I've been told is that people are intractable and unreasonable and so on.

"We need to get others involved who can communicate differently and more effectively, perhaps."

Reese would like to see a new era of cooperation among the communities that inhabit the Rim Country:

"We made a (new water) agreement with the tribe. Their projected growth has been quantified and the contract we have with the tribe supports their plans for growth.

"There's a reference to developing a source of water for the tribe independent of reliance on the town of Payson. Can we collaborate with the tribe to achieve that kind of goal?

Maybe we contribute our help gratis in an effort to help our neighbor, the tribe, just as we should be helping our neighbors in Star Valley. That attitude does not exist in these transactions and it must."

In fact, Reese concludes, something very different is happening.

"What is occurring is someone wanting to accomplish the objective of earning profit from the development of real estate at the expense of ignoring, or sweeping under the rug, issues that are far more fundamentally important, such as the impact on your neighbors -- hundreds and hundreds of them.

"‘Don't treat me that way,' somebody said. That means a lot to me."

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