Growth Not 'Explosive,' Incumbent Says

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Besides the mayor, Robert Henley is the only member of the current town council running for re-election, and he doesn't have a problem defending that body's track record.

"There has been an indication by a lot of the candidates that they feel the current council hasn't listened to the citizens, and I take exception to that," he said. "I feel that actually this current council has been very receptive to input from the citizens."

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Robert Henley

Henley is also proud of his individual accomplishments during his four-year term on the council.

"What I want (the voters) to understand is that in the three-and-a-half years I've been on the council, I've put a lot of effort into understanding the issues, and I've focused on areas I thought were important to the community, and that's water, streets, our relations with the Tonto Apache Tribe, and also the planning and zoning area," he said. "There's a lot of work I have done and a lot of knowledge that I have and I've shown that I've been a proven leader."

Henley agrees with other candidates who say this election is about growth, and like the others he doesn't mind explaining his position.

"People are using the term ‘explosive growth' and that type of thing, but if we actually look at what's transpired from the 2,000 census, both in population and houses added, we had a little over 7,000 same-family dwellings in 2,000 and we've been adding somewhere in the area of 175 to 200 homes a year," he explained. "That's not explosive growth."

Henley also believes that growth will not have a long shelf life as the major issue facing the town.

"I think it's a short term thing," he said. "Those who have lived here and studied the problem and participated in the General Plan process know that we have a solid planning process and a solid plan in place to manage our growth."

And that plan, Henley adds, includes water.

"Probably one of the reasons we've had the fewer number of housing starts is because the town some years ago instituted the 20 ERU thing -- if you want to build a subdivision that's bigger than 20 units, you'll have to bring your own new source of water," he said.

"There were certainly cases where that took place over the past five years or so -- Stone Creek is probably one of those examples, Payson Pines is another, the Highlands. Those all brought new sources of water, (although) those sources happened to have been within the town limits.

"I think we have had water and growth tied pretty well in letting the subdivision developer underwrite that cost and do that for us."

Henley defends his position on taking water from a Star Valley well to support growth within the Payson town limits.

"I think this idea of whose water it is has been blown out of proportion," he said. "Certainly we want to make sure as a community that we don't have a negative impact on the surrounding neighbors.

"There hasn't been any impact. Geological studies have shown that there won't be any impact from the well that we're going to be (getting water from) if that comes to fruition."

And he does not believe taking Star Valley water is a moral issue.

"I went and looked up the definition of moral, and it's really right vs. wrong," he said. "Do I feel that this is a moral issue as far as the town of Payson accepting this water as new water? No, I don't feel that that's a moral issue.

"Where the moral issue would come in is if we had impact on the neighbors, and I think that is something we need to be vigilant (about), and I think we've (taken) a couple of steps toward trying to give people a comfort level that we're sincere."

Unfinished business that Henley hopes to address in a second term includes the completion of Mogollon Rim Water Resources Study being conducted under the auspices of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

"I've been involved since the first meeting, and we're still working on producing the final report," he said. "There are federal, state and county agencies involved, as well as the town of Payson.

"We're making really good progress and a lot of good information has been brought together to look at what our options are here in northern Gila County for new water. Blue Ridge is certainly part of that and that's what I want to see happen is completing this study and getting Blue Ridge water into Payson."

But Henley is less optimistic about how soon that can happen:

"Is it on track? Yes. Is it on schedule? Probably not. Now I'm using the term of seven to 14 years."

Henley would also like to see the Payson Event Center project completed, which involves enclosing the rodeo arena and building a 150-room hotel and 500-seat conference center.

"I think the concept is good," he said. "It's just getting the money people together to actually move ahead."

Among his first term accomplishments, Henley cites leading the losing battle against increasing town staff salaries to ‘market' using a survey that included several towns that were larger, more affluent and more urban than Payson. He also takes credit for an increase in spending on streets.

"I was a big advocate in my first campaign to increase our budget for street maintenance, and I was able to accomplish that," he said.

Henley defines the role of the town council thus:

"What we want to do is build our community to support the folks who are here and the folks who will eventually move here and to have an appearance that is attractive and makes us a unique community to live in."

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