Star Valley Will Consider Disaster Plan Over The ‘Cracker Barrel’ On Tuesday

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Star Valley’s mayor is looking for public input on a disaster mitigation plan in the works at the first-ever cracker barrel forum Tuesday night.

Hosting the “meet with the mayor,” Chuck Heron says it is a time for residents to sit down and talk about town issues, no holds barred.

Work on the disaster plan started Sept. 23, when Heron, along with council member George Binney, Gila County flood control engineer Darde Deroulhac, Gila County Supervisor Shirley Dawson, Hazard Mitigation Planner Dwight Nield and a Hellsgate Fire District representative got together to start the plan, which could take until December to complete. Four more three-hour meetings are planned, the next in mid-October.

A disaster plan identifies the areas of town that could be affected by a fire, flooding or other disaster, and how to plan for them.

The finished plan will be sent to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which provides pre-disaster grants.

Once the plan is complete, FEMA has 30-60 days to approve it. According to FEMA, as of July 2008 all 50 states have approved mitigation plans and more than 17,000 local jurisdictions currently have approved mitigation plans that cover approximately 73 percent of the nation’s population.

Heron said Star Valley is one of three towns in Arizona without a disaster plan.

“It is important to have this get approved by FEMA so we can start getting mitigation disaster funds,” Heron said. “If they don’t have one, you don’t get any recovery funds.”

The main disasters in Star Valley are flooding, thunderstorms, wind and wildfires, Heron said.

One disaster not identified, that Heron would like to see addressed, is if the Phoenix area had a disaster, how would Rim Country deal with the influx of evacuees and traffic?

“To me, that is one of the heavier disasters,” Heron said.

To complete the plan, the town needs to catalog all of the disasters going back to 1975. If residents witnessed a disaster, they can come share their experiences.

The term “cracker barrel” comes from the days when people would meet in the general store or saloon and talk around a cracker barrel.

There is no agenda or structure for the meeting, so anyone is welcome to attend and voice their opinions and concerns. However, Heron said he would ban the news media.

“I want the public to feel very free, it is just like me inviting everyone over for dinner,” Heron said. “I want people to argue back and forth. All the comments do not have to be addressed to me.”

No more than one councilmember will be present. The public forum starts at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 30, at Diamond Point Shadows Restaurant, Highway 260 near milepost 258. It will continue each month on the last Tuesday at the restaurant.

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