Should Payson Subsidize Police For Star Valley ... Again?

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On July 11, 2006, we wrote these words in an editorial, "We believe helping Star Valley was the right thing to do, but over the next year, we would like to see the Star Valley Council change its thinking about police services."

The Payson Town Council had just voted, during its June 22 meeting, to provide police services to the fledgling town of Star Valley for one year. Star Valley was only asked to pay $100,000 for the service.

A year later, Star Valley is no closer to having its own police department and they have again approached Payson for help.

In a memorandum to the Payson Town Council, Payson Police Chief Gordon Gartner itemized the cost of providing law enforcement to Star Valley, based on his experience in the past year. The total cost came to $564,716.

When that price was presented to Star Valley, their response was, "We can't afford it." And the bartering began.

At the April 5 council meeting, the Star Valley Town Council proposed the price of $210,000 -- a figure they can afford.

In essence, they are asking the Town of Payson and its residents to subsidize their police services.

We do not see this as an acceptable compromise. The Town of Payson already extended the hand of friendship one year ago, offering to help Star Valley on an interim basis with police services at an extremely discounted rate -- $100,000 for one year.

But at that time, there was no discussion on the table about what the Town of Star Valley would do over the next year to create a police department or to raise the funds needed to pay for proper law enforcement services.

At this point, it is not the responsibility of Payson taxpayers to subsidize Star Valley police services.

During this second go-round, the onus is on Star Valley. They need police services, and they need to pay for those services or use what money they have in their budget to start their own police department.

The residents of Star Valley wanted the independence that came with becoming an incorporated town, but that independence comes with responsibility. Police and fire protection are among the basic services every town should provide its residents.

Payson should reach out its hand to Star Valley and provide police services, but that cannot come at a cost to Payson residents -- not a second time, for a second year.

At its April 19 meeting, the Payson Town Council will listen to possible solutions from police commander Don Engler.

According to the agenda for that meeting, Engler has offered four options:

1. To not provide law enforcement to the Town of Star Valley.

2. Provide law enforcement to the Town of Star Valley in exchange for reimbursement of $564,716 -- the true cost of services.

3. Payson provides an alternative amount of coverage for a compromised figure of $387,450.

4. Subsidize police services to Star Valley by providing law enforcement at the figure they can afford -- $210,000.

(If an agreement cannot be reached between the two towns, Star Valley is also in negotiations with the Gila County Sheriff's Office.)

Whatever the Payson council decides at its next meeting, we want them to remember one thing -- they represent the people of Payson.

Star Valley must fulfill its own obligation, regarding police services required for its citizens. As Star Valley assumes the power that comes with being a town, it must also assume the duties.

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