In the words of Star Valley’s Mayor Chuck Heron, it has been an eventful year for the budding town. The council was forced to make tough decisions, including dropping plans to buy a portion of Brooke Utilities, combining the town manager and attorney positions and scratching plans to build a permanent town hall. But at the end of the year, the council could proudly report they were ahead in their finances.
Heron gave his second State of the Town address Tuesday night at the Star Valley Baptist Church. He focused on the events of the past year and praised the town’s residents and staff.
“This is a new council that doesn’t always agree, but understands the value of debate and that while seven may not always be in concert, at the end of the day, the value of the sum of their opinions make Star Valley a better, stronger community,” Heron said.
The town also added two new staff members — town manager Tim Grier and executive assistant Josie Castillo. Grier, the town’s attorney, was appointed interim town manager for a few months, and then officially took the position in December. Combining the two positions, will reportedly save the town nearly $100,000 in salary costs.
Heron said the council was hopeful, in the beginning of the year, that it would finally acquire a water company. An appraiser valued the Payson Water Company, a division of Brooke Utilities, at $400,000, and condemnation plans were made. But just before going to court, Brooke reportedly released documents that put a value on the system at nearly $1.5 million. Realizing that the cost to buy the company and maintain it would be too high, the council withdrew all plans to buy the company.
“I have always said that we didn’t have the infrastructure to support it,” Heron said. “We would have to have people to collect bills and fix a broken pipe, and we have none of those positions in place.”
Three legal briefings also pointed out that even if the town owned the water company, this would not give them court standing to protest withdrawals from the town’s aquifer.
A sustainable yield study by LFR hydrology firm will be released later this month.
Heron reiterated that water is still the focus of the council.
“This council continues to meet the challenge of providing water to its citizens. To help meet that challenge, the council found its way to put a water and sewer commission in place that is rich with talent, knowledge and expertise,” Heron said. “With the resource of that commission, this council will continue to work hard to ensure Star Valley has a reliable and safe supply of water.”
The town is still working on renewing a police contract with the Payson Police Department. Funds from photo enforcement tickets are being earmarked in a law enforcement fund.
Heron said the town would continue to make good financial choices to deal with the challenging economic times and keep the town financially solvent.
“Our staff will continue to work hard to keep Star Valley a user-friendly town — eager, ready and committed to smart growth,” Heron said.