Rim Country On Track For Stimulus Pot

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The tenacious efforts of Rim Country officials paid off this week, with the tentative award of some $13 million in federal stimulus funding for water projects.

Payson proved the big winner, with $10.6 million as a down payment on the Blue Ridge pipeline and another $1.8 million to finish a sewage treatment plant on the Tonto Apache reservation and create a new lake and park at the event center.

Those two projects will produce tremendous benefits to the entire region. The pipeline will provide an assured, sustainable water supply and the sanitation money will not only salvage the Tonto Apache’s investment in a treatment plant, it could provide a major new amenity for the Payson Event Center.

Payson Mayor Kenny Evans did residents an enormous service, in mobilizing a quick and expert effort by the town staff to come up with a first draft and adroit revisions tailored to the evolving criteria. That effort accounts for Payson’s big win in the federal stimulus sweepstakes — seeing as how the town got about 20 percent of the water infrastructure money allotted to the whole state.

In the meantime, Supervisor Tommie Martin and water consultant Harry Jones tracked the ever-changing details of the 1,000-page stimulus bill to move several projects benefiting small water companies up the priority list.

As a result, the homeowners in the Pine Canyon Domestic Water Improvement District will have their own version of a deep K2 well and Rim Trails will get a new filtration system.

Mayor Evans played a crucial role throughout the arduous fast-moving process. He knew the right people down at the Capitol and by driving constantly back and forth from Phoenix, he learned the system and fed that information back to town staffers. He also shared that knowledge with the county and the Tonto Apache Tribe to also boost those successful applications.

Unfortunately, other agencies proved less adept. We couldn’t help but sigh at the irony of an agency serving 83 homeowners getting money to drill precisely the same sort of deep well that the Pine Strawberry Water Improvement District and the Pine Water Company have been arguing about for nearly two years now. Meanwhile, Star Valley’s one-time ruminations about buying a water company and providing sewage treatment capacity to support commercial growth along the highway remain just talk.

Of course, we also had to uncomfortably squirm in our seats at the paltry job creation numbers those projects generated. For instance, the grant for the Blue Ridge pipeline will produce perhaps one job per $100,000 spent, which includes a debatable multiplier effect.

Still, these projects will provide real economic and environmental benefits — as opposed to some make-work bridge to nowhere.

And no matter what you think of deficits and stimulus plans in general, Rim residents owe a particular debt to Evans, Martin, Jones and the staff members who worked so effectively and tirelessly on our behalf.

Home run of the heart

Gotta love baseball — the All-American sport, as evidenced by all those late summer movies dominated by the crack of the bat and the glow of sportsmanship.

So we had to cheer, to see that great American pastime merged so perfectly with the devotion to others so prominent in the American character.

To be specific, 15 high school softball teams this weekend paid $300 each to compete in the Gracie Haught Classic to select an all-star team and raise money for kids with cancer and other health problems.

The winners?

That would be the Benson girls team — which lost their game and didn’t place a single player on the prestigious all-star team.

Now, mind you, we’re also proud of the teams that ran up the high score and those athletes who wound up on the all-star team. And every one of those teams contributed money to the cause — and showed where their hearts lie. And Lord knows, Payson senior Skye McNeeley’s perfectly timed grand slam home run lifted up our hearts.

But from what we heard, the girls on the Benson team spent weeks doing bake sales, washing cars and raising money. They presented a check for $1,000 to help other kids they’d never met.

That makes them winners. Every one. Champions, in fact — for in life a loving spirit always hits the home runs.

Makes us proud. Way to go, girls.

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