The Star Valley Town Council got a double dose of bad news Wednesday night when it decided not to go ahead with plans to ask for possession of the Payson Water Company and discovered it may be six months without a town manager.
The town had planned to ask for immediate acquisition of the water company at a Sept. 24 court hearing. This decision halts a two-year effort by the town to purchase the water company.
"There is nothing happening now in terms of negotiations," said town attorney Tim Grier.
On Aug. 5, the council approved a resolution that allowed the town's water attorney, Marvin Cohen, to file for immediate possession of the water company. Wednesday's decision reverses that decision.
Mayor Chuck Heron said recent documents released from Brooke Utilities on the value of the water company show the price was too high for the town.
"We don't want it for that price," Heron said. He would not say what the new price was.
Former Town Manager Vito Tedeschi said the price may have been raised to $800,000-$900,000.
The town originally offered Brooke Utilities $475,000 for the water company -- the original appraisal value plus the estimated $75,000 it would cost to go through condemnation and a forced sale. Brooks rejected that offer.
Brooke Utilities spokeswoman Myndi Brogdon said the company was not aware of the council's decision as of Thursday.
In August, three days before a scheduled condemnation court date, Brooke released an appraisal of the water company to the town.
"We had been asking for those numbers since the beginning," Grier said. "The numbers were only recently provided, making it difficult for us to put any real value on it."
Asked what the town is going to do now, Heron said the council is "taking a wait and see attitude."
"When the time is right, we will get it," he said.
Grier said it is not decided if the town will go forward with purchasing the water company.
The town originally began planning to buy the water company soon after its incorporation in late 2005.
"We originally wanted to buy it for our standing as a municipal community," Heron said.
"Even if we got the water company, we do not have anything in place to run it," Heron said. "We don't have someone to read the meters or operate it."
The current water facilities serve some 300 customers. If the town had purchased the water company, it planned to install fire hydrants, extend water lines to homes and upgrade the system.
Town manager search
At Wednesday's meeting, the council discussed appointing a temporary town manager and creating a 3-person committee to find a permanent manager.
On Aug. 12, Vito Tedeschi put in his resignation as town manager. The town accepted his resignation the next day, and has been without a manager since.
Tedeschi had offered to extend his contract to December, so the council had time to find a new manager. Tedeschi's original two-year contract was for $70,720 annually.
Town Attorney Tim Grier was appointed acting town manager.
"I am excited about it," Grier said. "I hope I do a good enough job to give the committee time to find a replacement."
Grier said he could sign invoices and meet with office staff, but could do little else because of his busy schedule.
Grier stressed the importance of finding a new manager as quickly as possible.
"Without an acting town manager, the town does not have someone steering the ship," Grier said.
Heron agreed the town could not go on without a manager forever, but finding a replacement, "is not an easy process."
The council decided to find a manager without the services of the League of Cities and Towns, which it had used to find Tedeschi.
"In the past, we used them to get a manager and had unsatisfactory results," Councilmember George Binney said.
The new manager should know why the town incorporated, understand water issues and the general plan and be a permanent resident, Binney said.
Someone local should be recruited, he said.
Heron said he did not know if they could find someone from the area.
"If they don't want to live here, then they should not be considered," Binney said. Tedeschi had lived in Casa Grande.
Heron said it was important not to narrow the field to only locals, or a good candidate may be left out.
Vice Mayor Bill Rappaport said he did not think it would be hard to get recruits.
"I think we can get someone within six months," Heron said.
A three-member committee of Gary Coon, Bill Rappaport and Barbara Hartwell is responsible for recruiting a new manager.