A genial forum Wednesday for Star Valley Council candidates offered a tour of daunting problems, but precious few solutions, as three of the four candidates for three open seats took questions from 40 residents at a forum sponsored by the Rim Country Chamber of Commerce.
The candidates all praised the young town's strong start and rural lifestyle and vowed to put their public spirit and local roots to work protecting the water supply and the laid-back ambiance of the tiny mountain town.
"I'm not a politician -- in fact I don't even like politics," said Gary Coon, a former auto worker and tool-and-die manufacturer who served on water study groups and the incorporation drive.
"It's been an interesting ride, but not always an easy one. I'm not running for change: I'm satisfied with the direction Mayor Heron and the council have taken. I've studied the issues, like the enormous amount of water being pumped to keep golf courses green."
Longtime resident Nathalie Stroup said she joined the race to protect the rural lifestyle she has always loved. "I just want all of you to know that us folks who are running are friends and neighbors. We're all good people. I'm not a politician. I just want to hear what you want."
Barbara Hartwell, a local business owner active in the incorporation drive, said, "as a council member I'm very interested in the development of Star Valley. I have worked hard to make the town a town" having served on the board of adjustment and the budget committee. "I'm one to research anything I'm not familiar with. I want to be the ears of the council and the voice of the people."
George Binney did not attend the forum. He has run such a low-key campaign that he has not responded to requests from the Roundup for a statement on his key issues.
The three candidates who did attend fielded a rotating list of prepared questions, followed by a scattering of questions from the audience. The candidates all answered different questions, so it was often hard to determine whether they disagreed on any of the issues at hand.
Building county court and jail facilities:
Coon mostly hailed the recent ballot measure that defeated the county's efforts to put those facilities in Payson on Main Street.
"I can't imagine wanting to build a prison in the middle of Star Valley. So far I haven't seen Payson or Gila County knocking on our door and asking for input."
Highway bypass around Payson and Star Valley: Coon called it "long overdue." He noted that "the business community has long fought the bypass" for fear of losing customers, "but they'll be the big losers" if congestion continues to worsen.
Three top challenges: 1) Preventing water table overdrafts by Payson's Tower well that showed "not everyone is moral and honest," 2) improving police protection and 3) improving sewage treatment.
Providing sewage treatment: "I fall back on that statement -- at some point in time we'll have public services. Water is sacred...to grow in that rural, rustic manner, something will have to be done."
Policing illegal drugs: She generally praised the efforts of the police to control the use of illegal drugs and said much of the responsibility lies with the community.
"It takes the people. I would be the first one to pick up the phone and let the police know there's a lot of traffic in and out of a certain house."
Blue Ridge Reservoir water versus drilling more wells: Stoup admitted she hadn't kept track of recent developments.
"I'm kind of out of the loop," she said. "Doing an agreement with Salt River Project is always a good thing." She said she had doubts about drilling more wells in the forest. "It's bad enough to be dealing with bark beetles, without sucking the water out of the forest and killing the trees. (Blue Ridge) has to come -- we all know that -- so let's work together to bring it here."
How will the town change by 2018? Hartwell envisioned few significant changes in the character of the town in the next decade. "I see growth that will fit the area. I see some tourism, but I think we will maintain the atmosphere we have at this time."
Preventing Payson's Tower Well from doing harm: Hartwell observed, "do not take the water from our Valley. I think we can prevent that from happening as your council."
How can the town provide affordable housing? Hartwell observed, "every community needs affordable housing. We need it to bring people in to work. It's going to be one of the major issues we're going to have to work through in our future."