The Town of Star Valley has taken quite a few big steps in the past 14 months, Mayor Chuck Heron said. "We have built a community we can all be proud of."
Heron gave Star Valley's inaugural State of the Town address Tuesday night at the Star Valley Baptist Church. It was a 25-minute speech reflecting on where Star Valley has been and where the town is going.
Heron began his address discussing the events surrounding Star Valley's incorporation in November 2005, including the disputes over water that led to the town's incorporation request.
"We were a town brought to being amidst controversy," he said. "As has been historic in the rural West, the quest for water was the catalyst."
Heron also touched on other issues the town has faced including water disputes with the Town of Payson, new town developments and expanding town services.
Heron said, that his biggest frustration as mayor has been water negotiations with the Town of Payson.
"I'd like to see a better relationship in the area of water between the Town of Star Valley and the Town of Payson," he said.
He said that water negotiations with the Town of Payson will resume as soon as both town councils have had the opportunity to review the safe-yield study Payson is conducting.
Heron said the study is due within days.
"We hope we can get together and hammer it out," Heron said of the upcoming water negotiations with Payson. "There is no bridge that is broken between us."
Heron personally acknowledged and thanked those who contributed to the success of Star Valley over the past 14 months, including town manager Vito Tedeschi, town clerk Sarah Luckie and Diamond Star Fire Department Chief Gary Hatch.
"We represent the very spirit of the rural West," he said.
Heron gave an overview of the selection of the first town government from 14 applicants to a seven-member council, including Star Valley's first mayor, Ronnie McDaniel, vice-mayor Randy White and council members Bill Heath, Mary Ann Kotelnicki, Art Lloyd, Ted Pettet and himself.
The first primary election on March 16, 2006, brought many changes to the town, Heron said. He was elected as mayor and Bill Rappaport and Del Newland replaced McDaniel and Pettet on the town council.
The town officially underwent a name change from "Diamond Star" to "Star Valley" in the same election.
Heron mentioned upcoming changes for the town, including the construction of the Windmill Villagio on the Freegard property, which will consist of a town hall building, restaurants, a hotel and office and retail spaces.
He said that road and street maintenance and improvement planning is already under way and that a neighborhood watch program will be implemented.
Negotiations to establish law enforcement services beginning in July are in progress -- an estimated $500,000 is being set aside in the next budget, an amount that Heron said is one of the costliest of town expenses.
"This is probably the most expensive obligation that we will have to deal with," he said.
Heron said that he didn't anticipate a property tax as a means to pay for law enforcement services because there is plenty of revenue from sales tax.
"One reason we're so excited about the Windmill Villagio -- it will be a major input into our sales tax basis," he said.
Heron envisions the Town of Star Valley will grow to a population of about 3,500 by 2012.
The current population of the town, according to the most recent census, is 2,006.
"We're going to grow smart, wise and within our water budget," he said. "Our job and our future will require both effort and patience."