Petition Would Place Tax Code On Ballot

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Diamond Star registered voters are being asked to sign yet another referendum petition, but this time the Diamond Star Water Coalition is asking them not to.

The petition seeks to place the decision by the Diamond Star Town Council to establish a tax code on the ballot. It is being circulated by a group called CART -- Citizens Against Runaway Taxes.

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Diamond Star Mayor Ronnie O. McDaniel and Councilor Mary Ann Kotelnicki confer during a recent town council meeting. Kotelnicki was appointed interim finance officer and will serve as the town's contact with the Arizona State Department of Treasury.

The coalition, the nonprofit organization that has been fighting the town of Payson's attempt to use Star Valley water to build new subdivisions, says the petition is simply an attempt to block the new town's ability to protect its water. In a radio ad scheduled to begin running on local radio stations in the next few days, the coalition explains its position:

"It is important to realize that this is just a standard tax code which almost all Arizona communities have. CART's primary objective is just to slow us down so they can hurry up and get their water pipeline running. The entire issue revolves around the greed of a few which -- left unchecked -- can have a devastating impact on our community."

But developer G. Michael Horton, who says he is "indirectly" involved in CART, gave this explanation:

"What I know about it is basically when they did the incorporation they swore up and down there wouldn't be any new taxes, and the first thing they do is pass a sales tax. So that's what I think people are reacting to."

Councilor Chuck Heron says the town is just doing what it has to do.

"In discussing it with the town attorney, I don't even know why (they're concerned)," he said. "We used the (League of Arizona Cities and Towns) tax code. It's the same as all Arizona towns. It's exactly the same as Payson's with a couple of exceptions -- one, we don't have a bed tax, and second, our sales tax is only 2 percent."

Horton said the petition has been filed with the Gila County Clerk, but he doesn't know how CART plans to collect signatures. If 10 percent of the registered voters sign the petition within 30 days, it could go before the voters, but probably not until next fall, which, the coalition says, would give Horton time to complete his pipeline and get the water flowing to Payson.

The CART officers listed on the statement of organization supplied to Diamond Star Town Clerk Diane McDaniel are George Randall, president; Roy Haught, vice president; and Scott Crabdree, secretary-treasurer. Randall and Haught declined to talk to the Roundup about the referendum, while Crabdree did not return phone calls.

"There's enough people talking," Haught said.

Diamond Star Town Council meeting

At the regular meeting of the Diamond Star Town Council Tuesday evening, the council unanimously passed a resolution authorizing Councilor Art Lloyd to open a banking account in the town's name and to establish a line of credit not to exceed $200,000.

The council also voted to authorize Town Attorney Fredda Bisman to finalize a contract with LFR Levine Fricke, an environmental management and consulting engineering company with offices nationwide, to monitor Diamond Star wells. Bisman told the council some contract details remain to be resolved.

But Horton questioned the town's selection of the firm in the first place.

"This is the same company that (coalition member Chris) Benjamin hired to try and debunk our water tests," he said. "If they want an objective test, and I think it's a good idea, they really ought to put it out to bid; there's a fundamental conflict there."

Heron disagreed.

"First of all, the company is reputed around the world," he said. "They don't get into politics; they just do their job."

The council also adopted job descriptions for the positions of town manager and town clerk. The positions will probably be officially posted at the Feb. 7 council meeting.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Bisman explained that Gila County is responsible for street maintenance and other services until the end of the fiscal year on June 30, at which time the town will assume those duties.

Coalition President Bill Rappaport closed the meeting with a statement about the recent vandalism of pipeline equipment.

"(The Payson Roundup) seemed to imply that this was done by somebody in Star Valley, and I firmly believe it wasn't," he said.

After the meeting, Rappaport elaborated.

"We've been keeping a very close rein on our people, and we all know that anything like that would do us no good," he said.

Heron also doubts that the vandalism was committed by Diamond Star residents.

"Somebody could be a loose cannon -- you never know that -- but the last thing people out here would do is to cast Star Valley in a bad light," he said.

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