Star Valley To Sit New Council Tuesday

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Star Valley will swear in three new council members tonight, then adopt a $5.5-million budget swollen with revenue from highway traffic tickets.

George Binney, Gary Coon and Barbara Hartwell, all won election in March -- along with Mayor Chuck Heron, who defeated then-councilor Randy White in his bid for re-election.

In the meantime, the council appointed Nathalie Stroup -- who came in fourth in the March election to a council vacancy.

Binney, Coon and Hartwell will take the oath at the start of the 6:30 Tuesday meeting in the Star Valley Baptist Church.

They'll face a distinctly more pleasant first meeting than their newly elected counterparts in Payson did last week.

The Payson council last Tuesday at a study session discovered that due to a sharp drop in sales tax and income from building permits, they'll have to somehow cut the overall budget by 15 percent. The options presented included a drastic cut in capital improvements, a hiring and overtime freeze and a 10 percent cut in each department including police and fire.

By contrast, the Star Valley council will vote on Tuesday on a $5.5-million budget that represents a nearly three-fold increase in actual spending over the current year.

Star Valley substantially under-spent the current budget mostly by putting off capital projects, including the proposed purchase of water and sewage treatment companies operating in town.

The big jump in town revenues includes nearly $1 million in revenue from speeding tickets issued by the new photo radar stations on Highway 260, which have generated far more revenue than projected. Town Manager Vito Tedeschi estimates that the tickets will bring in a net profit of about $100,000, after the town pays the court and staff costs associated with the program.

The big budget increase over the amount actually spent in the current fiscal year reflects both those ticket processing costs and money allocated for the purchase of the Payson Water Company, the Brooke Utilities-owned company that supplies domestic water to the minority of Star Valley residents who don't rely on their own wells.

Star Valley offered Brooke $470,000 for its facilities in the town and went to court to condemn the utility and force the sale.

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