Council Oks Star Valley Police Pact

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Despite some pleas from residents, the Payson Town Council unanimously voted to provide law enforcement to the town of Star Valley for the 2006-2007 fiscal year.

Star Valley still must sign off on the contract, which would cost it $100,000 a year.

The Gila County Sheriff's Office would have charged Star Valley $112,000 for law enforcement services.

A few residents implored the town council to not approve this.

Former councilman Robert Henley said Payson is already down three officers, and the response time for Priority I and Priority II calls are already down. He added that the problem would be compounded if the Payson Police Department were responsible for the 2,000 residents of Star Valley, which is about five miles east of Payson on Highway 260.

He cited a study done by the Town of Payson examining the possibility of annexing Star Valley before it incorporated. The study of the law enforcement cost to Star Valley showed that $100,000 will not cover the police department's expenses.

Henley said the ratio in Payson is one officer for every 500 residents, and adding another 2,000 residents should mean four more officers.

"That is four new officers we (should) have for that contract," Henley said, adding that Star Valley has had instances of serious crimes. "It's not Star Valley you represent, you represent the citizens of Payson."

Joe Bayless agreed with Henley.

"To me, our police department's (primary responsibility) is for Payson residents," Bayless said, adding that picking up Star Valley would mean an additional 6.5 miles that would need to be patrolled.

Police Chief Gordon Gartner said the sheriff's office has told Star Valley that its response time could be many minutes as an officer responding could be as far away as Roosevelt when a call was received.

"I have mixed emotions," Gartner said, adding his officers do go over to this community now to back up the sheriff's office. He said last week, officers were in Star Valley three to four times.

"It will stretch our resources," he said. Gartner also said response times could double in Payson if an officer was busy in the neighboring town. "At $100,000, Star Valley is getting a great deal."

Town Manager Fred Carpenter said the initial annexation study looked at stationing a few officers in Star Valley.

"For $100,000, they are not going to get that kind of service," he said.

Councilor Mike Vogel said he would like to receive something because right now the police department gets nothing for going over to Star Valley.

Responding to a question from Councilor Ed Blair, Gartner said it could be possible that all of his officers on a particular shift could be in Star Valley if there were a significant issue that required a lot of manpower.

The contract would only be for one year, and Carpenter said the Town of Payson would keep a close eye on its impacts.

Mayor Bob Edwards said the council is looking at the budget to see if it can get additional help for the police department.

Councilor Andy Romance said he struggled with this, but determined that if there is an issue in Star Valley, the town should help them out. Carpenter said the Department of Public Safety has agreed to handle all traffic accidents in Star Valley.

In other news, the Payson Town Council:

  • Heard a first reading of a proposal to move regular council meetings from 6 p.m. on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month to 5:30 p.m. on the first and third Thursdays.
  • Tabled a proposed resolution to the town's 2003 general plan amending the land use designation for a 51.6-acre parcel north of the airport.

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