Each candidate was asked to provide approximately 125 words on the issue of water:
Jon Barber: When Star Valley residents were told if their wells went dry from the town pumping water it wasn't the town's problem, that's when the fireworks started. The rights we have as citizens also bring responsibilities with them. I believe the town does have a responsibility, even though maybe not legally bound, to be prepared for the possibility of affecting neighboring wells and provide a solution if it occurs. We are still one community even though now separated by two town limits. We must be aggressive in acquiring new water sources. Blue Ridge seems to be the most viable. We can't wait for other government agencies to take their own time to work through the system. This is a priority for the town and myself.
Barbara Brewer: We have drilled in the forest and then not been allowed to bring it into town. The key is getting the Blue Ridge water through the proper channels and the suits with the Navajos and environmentalists satisfied so that we can expedite the water delivery here. In 2005 I signed a letter for Congress to approve the transfer of Blue Ridge from Phelps Dodge to Salt River Project. In 1999 the Town Council said that if developers wanted to build a subdivision requiring more than 20 ERUs (Equivalent Residential Units) they must bring their own water. The Star Valley Pipeline is a business deal between a property owner and an investment group. It has not been accepted or delivered to Payson and is not in our pipelines.
Bob Edwards: We have a serious water problem. Well levels have declined four of the past five years. Last year, a record recharge year, average well water levels went up, but still a number of wells went down. We are clearly at or exceeding safe yield. This is without taking into account apartments on Tyler Parkway and Main Street, the proposed event center and the existing vacant lots. We need to determine and publish our current status, ask the citizens what type of town they want, determine future needs and work with all neighbors to establish a clear and workable plan for the future. In the interim we need to look very hard at the event center proposal and zoning density increases. For additional information go to www.wethepeopleofpayson.com.
Ed Blair: Foremost, the town of Payson should help the neighboring town of Star Valley to keep its water! If that well were turned over to Payson, would it make sense for our town to own a well in their town? I think water restrictions among other factors tell us we have a problem. We need to solve a regional water shortage. We need a definitive assessment beyond the town's assurance that we have plenty. We need to harvest rain water on our own property. We need to seek additional sources, like forest lands and Blue Ridge Reservoir. One forest official said water could be flowing as soon as three years. We need progress updates on water each month instead of having to wait for an annual report.
Su Connell: Water is, and always will be, one of the major issues facing any desert/mountain community, but it should not be the divisive issue that it has become in our town. The solution is before us, and we know what it is. We must focus a double portion of our energies and resources on this issue until the Blue Ridge water is flowing in Payson's pipelines. I have met with the Forest Service, as well as town staff and others knowledgeable about the water situation. I am beginning to understand the steps that must be taken to get the process going. As your town council person, I will not rest with that process lagging behind!
Rick Croy: The town should be responsible for securing adequate water resources. I do not agree with the current philosophy of using the developer to do the job for the public works (water) department. People might be more open to working directly with the town on this process if there were not the appearance and potential opportunity for the developer to take advantage of them. I believe the pumping of water from Star Valley is wrong and is going to create an ongoing conflict with our neighbors and friends who live there. Blue Ridge should be expedited ASAP. Current water ERU policy needs to be reviewed for accuracy and clarification.
Robert Henley: Managing our current water supply, infrastructure, and finding new sources of water on public and private lands is this town's most important issue. I support our safe yield concept of managing our water supply. Any new groundwater sources of water will be managed using this same concept. In addition to pursuing Blue Ridge Water aggressively, I support the effort to have developers that wish to plat more than 20 lots to find a new source of water, complete the infrastructure, and turn that all over to the town at no cost to the town. We have done that for years, with many major subdivisions in town getting their water because that policy existed. Of course, we should also take steps to ensure that it does not have a negative impact on nearby private wells.
Diane Sexton: Water is, and most likely will always be, a high priority to the people not only in Payson but throughout Arizona. I advocate creating a local committee of experts to aggressively locate new sources of water such as Blue Ridge without jeopardizing private sources of water.
Charlie Smith: This is the one issue that has caused many heated discussions throughout Payson and the surrounding communities. Everything from Blue Ridge to Star Valley to drilling in the forest has been beat into the ground by everyone. I firmly believe that the current ordinance needs to be amended to include the identification of the water source that a developer will utilize when seeking approval of a project. That water source shall be identified prior to approval of the project. The issue in Star Valley and the piping of that town's water to serve Payson is wrong. I would make my first order of business a resolution whereby the town recognize the town of Star Valley and that the town further resolves that it will work together with the town of Star Valley to provide for the needs of both communities' residents. This would include an agreement between the two towns on water sources as well as projects that can benefit everyone in the Rim Country.
Barbara Underwood: Growth and water go hand-in-hand. Essential to any community is a long-term, sustainable water source. Rather than waiting for Blue Ridge water to arrive, I believe we must continue to explore other water sources. At the same time, I do not feel that any water that comes to Payson should be at the expense of our neighbors. Payson has a moral responsibility to ensure that if the pumping of the RH2 well adversely impacts any individuals, they are provided an acceptable solution to their problem. Not only do we need to be good stewards of our land but good neighbors too. Communication with our neighbors is key to a healthy working relationship.
Mike Vogel: Water will always be a problem in Arizona. It is also a regional problem. We must continue to look for sources of water. We must also continue to conserve our water, as we do live in high desert. At this point, the Star Valley water issue is going into court and we must wait for a judge's decision. If the judgment is such that water from Star Valley to Payson does, in fact, result in dry wells, the town should provide water to these individuals.