How Did Early Payson Build Its Police Department?

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As the Town of Payson discusses the cost of providing police coverage to Star Valley, a few veteran police department employees remember what it was like when Payson became a new town, more than 30 years ago.

Police Chief Gordon Gartner moved to Payson in 1979 when there were seven to nine officers on the force, with several reserves, for a town with a population of about 5,000.

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The Payson Police Department in 1979. Back row, left to right, Eric Johnson, Bill Brandt, Todd Bramlet, Adam Shepherd, Rob Coles; middle row, David Wilson, George Ratliff, Laura DeLuna, Jim Smith, Della Bradley, Forey Hinderliter, Pauline Ingram, Ken Auger; bottom row, Bill Clark, Paul Stearns, Chris Haack and Steve Craig.

Gartner said there was one traffic light and Highway 87 and Highway 260 were both two-lane roadways.

Many of the main roads in and around town were not paved.

While the town was smaller than it is today, Gartner said it was still bigger than Star Valley.

In order to build its police force, the Town of Payson started doing what Star Valley is now doing -- contracting with another law enforcement agency.

When Payson first incorporated in 1973, it contracted with the Gila County Sheriff's Office.

In 1978, the town decided to form its own police force, beginning with a town marshal's office.

Dispatcher Della Bradley, who started working for the Payson Police Department in 1976, said the marshal's office consisted of the town marshal, two deputy town marshals and three reserve officers.

Bradley said the marshal's office was located in a trailer near where the current police department now sits.

Gartner said by the time he arrived in Payson to be an officer, the town had a full-fledged, albeit small, police department.

Gartner, who is retiring at the end of June, said if Star Valley wants to have its own police department, it would need to have a building as well as all of the equipment other departments have at their disposal.

Gartner said a building would cost between $850,000 to $1 million. Computer software would add another $250,000 to that expense.

When Payson was in Star Valley's shoes, it had a lot of dirt roads, similar to its neighbor to the east.

"It was a whole different environment," Gartner said.

While Payson was able to form its own police force in the 1970s, the question for Star Valley is whether it can afford to do the same.

Police department budgets often exceed $1 million, and Star Valley's overall budget is $1.7 million.

"You can afford to do anything as long as you are willing to pay for it," Gartner said, mentioning taxes would likely be incurred by the residents of the town to pay for the expense.

Gartner said the decision of whether to provide Star Valley with police service again is a council decision.

"Whatever the council decides to do, the police department will step up to the plate and do whatever is necessary," Gartner said.

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