Diamond Star Reaches Out To Make Peace With Payson

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On the eve of what he hopes will be the birth of a new town, the leader of the coalition that made it all possible offered the town of Payson an olive branch.

Bill Rappaport, president of the Diamond Star Water Coalition, told the Roundup he looks forward to a new spirit of cooperation between Payson and Diamond Star.

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Bill Rappaport, Diamond Star Water Coalition president

"You're going to see an era of cooperation that has never been seen in this area before," Rappaport said. "We are definitely looking forward to it."

The Gila County Board of Supervisors met at 10 a.m. today in Payson to consider the incorporation of the area that makes up the Diamond Star Fire District, primarily the communities of Star Valley and Diamond Point Shadows. The coalition led the incorporation effort in hopes of stopping the town of Payson from taking water from Star Valley to build new subdivisions.

Water is just one of the issues Rappaport hopes to see Payson and Diamond Star work together to address.

"You're going to see all these problems go away -- problems like the water situation and rampant development," he said. "We will be able to do good things for both communities.

"We can work together to blend the look of the two communities. It's not going to be them and us anymore."

Rappaport even talked of turning Blue Ridge into a local reservoir for the enjoyment of locals and tourists alike.

"It would make a lake here that would be a huge recreational draw for people, and that's really the future of Payson," he said. "This is basically a retirement community and the thing you need to do is bring people here in the summer to enjoy it; to have this turn into a suburb of Scottsdale or Fountain Hills is not what the people around here want."

If the supervisors approve the incorporation, they are also expected to appoint the first Diamond Star town council. As of Friday, more than 15 people had submitted resumes or letters asking to be considered. They include former judge Ronnie McDaniel, KRIM-FM co-owner Steve Bingham, Phil White Ford co-owner Randy White, and longtime local activist Chuck Heron.

District 1 Supervisor Tommie Martin said the issue would probably be decided on legal grounds.

"If it's legal, we do it; if it's not, we don't," Martin said. "No amount of pressure is going to change that.

"(County Recorder) Linda Haught-Ortega has already said they have enough names. If the county attorney says they've met the process, we're going to pass it."

Representatives of the town of Payson were quiet Monday, preferring to wait and see what the supervisors decide today.

"I don't really have anything to say at this point," Town Manager Fred Carpenter said. "We have to see what happens."

Mayor Barbara Brewer was also noncommittal.

"I'm not going to the meeting tomorrow," she said. "Whatever happens happens."

Brewer did not sound optimistic about a new era of cooperation.

"They haven't been real friendly with us, so I choose not to say anything," she said.

Town Attorney Sam Streichman would not comment on whether the town plans to challenge the incorporation if the county supervisors approve it. He previously indicated that the coalition did not follow the procedure prescribed by law in petitioning for incorporation.

"That is something that is not appropriate for me to comment on," he said.

Rappaport cautions the town council to think twice about raising a challenge.

"If they do fight the incorporation, the ill will it's going to create among the people -- the residents of Payson -- is going to be unbelievable," he said. "Why would they want to overturn the desires of more than 900 people?"

Rappaport offered another rationale for Payson to allow the new town to be -- it would give Payson a perfect way out of its obligation to let G. Michael Horton meet new subdivision requirements with Star Valley water.

"Once we are incorporated, that water becomes encumbered, so it basically gets the town off the hook," Rappaport said. "So I don't understand why they'd fight this."

Rappaport indicated that he planned to keep the coalition intact, even if Payson opts not to challenge incorporation.

"(The coalition) is basically the voice of the people," he said. "I don't know if people really realize it, but every person who lives in Star Valley and Diamond Point Shadows is a member of the coalition. They were all part of this.

"We got the final count and we had 990 people sign the (incorporation) petition. That's almost 90 percent of the people that live out here. That's unbelievable."

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