Incorporation Starts Money Shuffle For Services

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The incorporation of Star Valley will have a positive economic impact on Gila County, which has historically provided services such as law enforcement to the area while it was part of the county.

Before Star Valley incorporated, the county was responsible for providing services to the community.

For those same services the town must now pay the county or some other agency for them.

Town Manager Lanny Sloan said all of the services that the town has always had will now cost about $500,000 annually.

Gila County Deputy County Manager John Nelson said when a community incorporates some services have to be provided at the town's cost.

He said the county does lose some revenue from property taxes, but that is more than made up by charging for services.

"It's always a financial advantage to the county," he said. "As more places become incorporated, additional money comes into the county to provide governmental services. It is more beneficial that more state money is used for this area."

Nelson said he had not looked at exact financial impact to the county of Star Valley's incorporation, but added he has no reason to doubt Sloan's estimated $500,000 figure.

Sloan said Star Valley, beginning July 1, is responsible to provide its citizens with law enforcement, streets and road work, building and safety inspections, planning and zoning, animal control enforcement, court services and utilities.

These services must now all be contracted out through Intergovernmental Agreements (IGAs).

The animal control officer, which is proving to be a contentious issue with the Town Council, will cost close to $21,000 a year.

The memorandum of understanding for the Intergovernmental Agreement reads that prior to incorporation, the county enforced dogs running at large and barking dog ordinances in what is now the Town of Star Valley.

Under this agreement, the town would adopt Gila County's existing animal control ordinance numbers -- 01-3 and 01-4 -- and contact the animal control department with citizen contact information when the town receives a complaint related to a dog at large, barking dog or animal bite.

Star Valley is also hoping to contract out for planning and zoning support staff services through an IGA with the county.

The county would be compensated by the applicant, would pay all fees associated with process planning and zoning requests. In addition, the town would pay to the county actual staff time devoted to the request.

The county would also, through its community development division, agree to provide building safety-related expertise and assistance at the rate of $50 an hour.

The town would be required to follow two provisions:

  • Adopt the zoning ordinance, subdivision regulations and minor land division of the county.
  • Refer all planning and zoning related questions, requests for information and/or complaints to the county.

In the IGA, the town wants to utilize the services of the road and sign departments of Gila County.

Routine road maintenance and sign maintenance would be performed on unpaved roads. Only snow removal and maintenance of signs would be covered on the paved roads.

Road maintenance could cost up to $200,000 a year, four times annually.

The county would charge the town an hourly rate that is based on the type of equipment needed. For example, the hourly rate for a grader is $112.60.

The town, through a memorandum of understanding, is also working with the county to get technical assistance to ensure compliance with building safety statutes and regulations.

The town would adopt the building codes of the county and refer all questions and requests for information to the county.

The town under the MOU agrees that the cost would be charged to the person applying for the permit in addition to the adopted permit fees, which is a 32 percent surcharge.

Another MOU the town is pursuing with the county is police service through the sheriff's office at $112,000 a year.

And the town, Sloan said, is currently working on a franchise agreement with APS, which is usually for 25 years.

Sloan said there have been no real surprises on what the town will end up paying the county for services.

"It's what we expected," he said, adding the county would not make any money by doing this. "It (covers) their cost to provide the services."

Before the town can move forward on the IGA, the council would have to approve the recommendations that are made to them by a committee that consists of three council members.

-- To reach Michael Maresh call 474-5251 ext. 112 or e-mail mmaresh@payson.com.

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