As part of its most extensive agenda to date, the new Diamond Star Town Council approved negotiating a formal agreement with the Star Valley Southern Baptist Church to use its building as an interim town hall.
"The Baptist Church in Star Valley made us an offer to let us use their facility and give us office space," Vice Mayor Randy White, who chairs that committee, said. "I took a couple of the committee members and went over and looked at it and it looks like it will work."
The church, which has served as an election polling place for years, has a public address system and more than adequate parking.
"They can't rent it to us because of their nonprofit status," White said, "so the town will probably make some kind of a donation just to offset the use of the building."
Gila County has also offered the new town land and/or office space.
"We'll put that on the back burner and think of it as a more permanent-temporary town hall," White said. "The church knows this is something we're just looking at for six months to a year."
White said the next cheapest facility would have cost the town about $750 per month, and he anticipates donating about $300 per month to the Baptist Church.
"We don't have to do any remodeling," he said. "The other places would have required some remodeling.
"It's very quick. I would say we could be in there in a couple of weeks."
The council also authorized two ballot questions for the March 14 election:
- To authorize the town to construct or acquire a public utility.
"It would allow us to form a water department, which would allow us to buy or condemn a water company," White said. "It gives us almost complete control (of water) at some point."
Town attorney Fredda Bisman agreed.
"Potentially it does," she said.
However local developer G. Michael Horton, who attended the meeting, said voters need to ask some questions.
"One is what is the public utility?" he said. "It's a carte blanche and that strikes me as odd.
"They have no source of revenue. What is their bonding capacity?
"How are they going to pay for it? Bonds? Property taxes? Some type of assessment?"
- To change the name of the town to Star Valley.
"We sent it over to Gila County and their position was that they didn't have any authority, so we thought, ‘Let's take it to the voters to be sure we get this done right,'" Bisman said.
White said the voters' decision would be final.
"We're covering ground that has never been covered in the state, so we think the most legal thing to do is to put it on the ballot and let the people vote on it," White said. "However that turns out, we're going to drive on it."
The council also agreed to hire LFR Consultants to begin monitoring private wells in Diamond Star "to determine if water exportation is having an effect on existing ground water."
The Payson Town Council had previously authorized a safe yield study of the area as well.
"We told them, ‘Yes, go right ahead and do it,'" White said.
Horton, whose pipeline would take Star Valley water to Payson, questioned why the town is spending money to hire LFR when the town of Payson will perform the same study for free.
"Really, by us putting in a monitoring system, if the people from Payson say this is what's happening, we should look at our records and it should mirror theirs," White said. "That's all we want to do."
Although council members wouldn't call it a direct response to several mailings by an anonymous organization called CART (Citizens Against Raising Taxes), the council voted to send a letter to residents apprising them of the new town's progress to date.
"The CART letter was not brought up, as such," White said. "It was more of an informative thing.
"People come into the business (Phil White Ford) to talk to me wanting to get information. A lot of people don't get to our meetings.
"(Councilors) Chuck Heron and Art (Lloyd) are just going to go back through the minutes and say, ‘This is what we did here and this is what we did there.' Also they'll touch on the future things that need to be done."
Town Clerk Diane McDaniel said she is meeting with Horton because he wants to circulate petitions calling for a referendum on the town's recent decision to impose a 2 percent sales tax.
"That means he doesn't think we should have a 2 percent sales tax or even a tax code," she said. "That is my understanding."
Bisman said it doesn't matter that Horton doesn't live in Diamond Star, although he does have to get the signatures of registered Diamond Star voters.
Horton said he would put out a press release when his initiative is ready.