The Gila County Board of Supervisors has decided to hold its Nov. 1 meeting -- at which time it will consider the incorporation of Diamond Star -- in Payson.
The meeting is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. and will be held at the Best Western Inn of Payson. At the board's meeting today (Tuesday) in Globe, the supervisors adjourned to executive session to get legal advice regarding the incorporation.
On Friday, the county notified the Diamond Star Water Coalition -- the group behind the incorporation drive -- that enough signatures have been certified to accomplish incorporation without holding an election.
"They had enough signatures, and now I've notified them and I've notified the board, and so they will petition the board to incorporate them and the board will have to make a decision," County Recorder Linda Haught-Ortega said.
"It would be foolish to make them have an election. It's expensive, and what would it accomplish."
The signatures of a majority of the registered voters in the area would have put the question on the ballot, but the coalition's goal was two-thirds of the registered voters, which negates the need for an election.
"We got our blessing from the county today," the coalition's Chris Benjamin said Friday. "We needed 818 (valid signatures) and we got 843."
Haught-Ortega confirmed the numbers. She said Diamond Star has 1,227 active voters, and 980 signatures were submitted.
"Of that number, 843 were found to be qualified," she said.
Informed that Diamond Star is the first community in Arizona to reach the two-thirds total, Haught-Ortega said, "That's really something. That's pretty definite, then."
The incorporation drive was initiated by the coalition after the town council agreed to accept Diamond Star water from a developer who wants to build three new subdivisions in Payson.
County Attorney Daisy Flores explained the legal process facing the supervisors.
"Basically (the coalition) presents their incorporation petitions, and if they've met the statute, the board accepts their petition," Flores said. "If the county accepts incorporation, the new town is formed. Actually they could then go ahead and appoint the first town council."
District 1 Supervisor Tommie Martin agreed.
"It doesn't matter whether I support it or not," Martin said. "It's did they follow the law? We are ratifying whether the county attorney says they followed the law."
Flores explained that if the town of Payson wants to take legal action to block incorporation, it would have to take on both the new town and the county. Payson Town Manager Fred Carpenter said he has no current plans to oppose the incorporation.
"At this point, I'm planning to do nothing," Carpenter said. "That's the short answer."
But Carpenter, who was the first town manager for Prescott Valley when that community incorporated in 1978, said a challenge could be mounted at some later date.
"I've been through that process," he said. "It's an interesting process to build a new town."
The coalition and the Committee for Community-Based Growth, a Payson group that also opposes the town taking the water, held a joint strategy session Monday evening. An effort to recall members of the town council who continue to support using Diamond Star water to fuel town growth was to be considered at that meeting, according to Bill Rappaport, coalition president.
Only councilors Dick Reese and George Barriger have so far opposed the move.
The two hydrologists who conducted the independent hydrology report commissioned by the coalition recently responded in detail to criticism of their report by the Payson Water Department.
Among their points:
- To the town's charge that a lot of available information was ignored:
"Our client actually went to the town of Payson and did a freedom of information request and asked for all the information they had, and what we reviewed is what the town of Payson represented as everything they had," Bradley Cross, vice president and principal hydro geologist for Levine-Fricke, said.
- Of the town's claim that the shallower water is "a bubble of younger water that leaks into the deeper regional system":
"I have no idea what they mean by ‘a bubble of water,'" Cross said. "That's certainly not a technical term, and it doesn't make any sense. In fact, it is one aquifer system. There is nothing separating the shallow from the deep."
Referendum decision challenged
The Committee for Community-Based Growth has filed the necessary documents to legally challenge the town's decision not to hold a referendum on Resolution 2098. The committee has retained Prescott attorney Gil Shaw to assist in the effort.
More than 1,900 Payson residents signed a petition requesting the referendum, but a Valley attorney who specializes in election law advised the council not to allow it. The council did so without taking a formal vote.
Resolution 2098 authorizes paying $750,000 for excess water from a well in Star Valley. The water, over and above that which developer G. Michael Horton plans to use to build three new subdivisions in Payson, would be sold to developers.
See related stories:
Councilor explains switch in opinion (Oct. 21)
Town Council cancels water referendum (Oct. 18)
County gets Diamond Star petitions (Oct. 18)
Hydrology report disputes town's claims (Oct. 14)
Legislators decline to join local water fight (Oct. 7)
McDaniel to serve on Diamond Star council (Sept. 27)
Pipe on site, ready to go (Sept. 23)
Developer creates $100,000 fund to assist Star Valley well conversions (Sept. 16)
Council's executive session includes Haught-Randall deal (Sept. 13)
'Closed council' prompts referendum (Sept. 2)
Diamond Star water polarizes Rim Country (Aug. 30)
Diamond Star water to cost town $750K (Aug. 26)
Citizens groups to protest at town council meeting (Aug. 23)
Diamond Star rallies behind coalition
Diamond Star says, 'no deal, they still want our water'
Town officials, Diamond Star representatives agree to talk
Developer says taking water 'not a moral issue'
Neighbors question proposed subdivision