Star Valley residents will soon receive police protection from the Gila County Sheriff’s Office and animal control services from the county as well — two services residents used to receive for free before the town incorporated, but for which they now must pay almost $400,000 a year.
The council Tuesday night unanimously agreed to switch from the Payson Police Department to the sheriff’s office in July, when the current contract expires, because the county’s bid for law enforcement services was almost $40,000 less than Payson’s, and it extended for five years.
“We have been serviced by both, and they both did great jobs,” Councilor Gary Coon said. But ultimately, because the sheriff’s office contract was for five years and cheaper than Payson’s two-year contract, Coon said he went with the sheriff’s department.
“We are strapped for money, like everyone,” he said. “And I doubt we would be able to have a police department after two years, and the Payson council has not endorsed this idea, which is a question for me.”
Other council members echoed Coon’s sentiment that five years was a better contract length for the town, which has struggled to piece together its own law enforcement department.
The council had played with the idea of buying property to house a police department before former town manager Vito Tedeschi resigned.
When those plans fell through due to budget concerns, the council aspired to hire its own officer — the first step in creating a police force. Plans to hire an officer also vanished several months ago; leaving the town with a new, $26,000 Ford Explorer, it had planned to give to the officer, but now sits mostly unused behind town hall.
Animal control services
The town council hired the Gila County’s division of health and community services to provide rabies and animal control services.
Neither the Payson police nor sheriff’s office would provide animal control services under their contracts. The only time they would respond is if the animal was a danger to people.
The new intergovernmental agreement with the county establishes an animal control ordinance for the town, which the county will enforce. The town will pay the county $50 per call Monday through Friday and $100 for calls on the weekends and after 5 p.m.
“We don’t usually do areas that are incorporated,” said the Director of Health and Community Services for Gila County David Fletcher. The division’s two workers normally only patrol unincorporated areas in Northern Gila County, like Pine and Strawberry.
“We are looking forward to doing it because it helps them out,” Fletcher said.
Also at the meeting, the council decided to make Bill Rappaport the town’s acting mayor until March 2010 after former mayor Chuck Heron resigned March 13 to spend more time with his family.
Councilor Nathalie Stroup surprised everyone when she nominated herself to fill the mayoral position.
“I know this is just short term, but when I originally wanted to run I went door to door to see what the people wanted,” she said in a brief speech to the council before they voted on a mayor.
“I will always back Star Valley residents for what they want and I believe in having everything done out in the open.”
Councilor George Binney said he was concerned with Stroup’s absentees, but she told the council she would decrease her work hours to make meetings.
“I would like to see her get more experience,” Councilor Barbara Hartwell said.
Councilor Gary Coon told Stroup he was happy to see her run. “I am very encouraged that you want to do it, because we need that,” Coon said. “If you don’t win, don’t give up.”
Rappaport, former Chief Executive Officer of the Rim Country Gazette, told the council he has the experience to do the job and has been with the town since it incorporated.
Ultimately, the council voted to make Rappaport mayor and Del Newland vice mayor.
The Roundup asked Rappaport after the meeting for comment, but he refused to speak with the reporter, saying all inquiries must go through the town manager. When the Roundup asked to meet with Rappaport to discuss future lines of communication, he told Grier he was not interested in meeting with the Roundup ever, because Grier is the town’s official spokesperson.
Council applications sought
The town is currently accepting applications from anyone interested in becoming a council member and filling the vacancy left by Newland. Anyone interested can stop by town hall to pick up an application.