Odd Votes, Dark Plots

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You know why peace is symbolized by a white dove? So darn fragile — so easy to wring the little bird’s neck, leaving you with a sad flutter of feathers. Don’t take our word for it — just read the latest report out of the Star Valley Town Council, where a spasm of second thoughts underscores how easy it would be to destroy the fragile truce in the Rim Country water wars.

Of course, could be we’re reading too much into Star Valley’s decision to reconsider its contract with Tetra Tech to monitor its water supply. We sure hope so, otherwise it looks like the start of dove hunting season.

It went something like this.

Couple of weeks ago, Payson and Star Valley announced détente. Payson would turn over two deep-water wells, let Star Valley hook into an existing water main and agree to limit its own pumping from Star Valley’s water table. Of course, the two towns must still work out the financial details. But Star Valley could end up with a backup water supply, rights to claim a portion of the Blue Ridge water, fire hydrants along the highway and limits on Payson’s pumping from its aquifer — the very issue that has embittered relations between neighbors for three years.

After announcing the deal, the Star Valley council agreed to use Tetra Tech for its hydrology studies and well monitoring. The decision made sense since Tetra Tech offered to do the job for roughly half the cost of Star Valley’s existing hydrology firm.

But beyond the money, the contract seemed like a step away from the paranoia that has dominated relations in recent years. Tetra Tech has deep roots in Rim Country and an engineering contract for the Blue Ridge pipeline. Clearly, working out a deal will depend on both sides agreeing to the same clear, realistic measurements. Tetra Tech could provide that foundation.

Only problem — Star Valley apparently ignored the provisions of the open meeting law by voting on a contract that wasn’t on the agenda.

No problem: Do a properly noticed do-over.

Except this time, several council members suggested that using Tetra Tech might make it harder to sue Payson someday. Suppose Tetra Tech engineers faked the numbers to please moneybucks Payson? Who knows what dark schemes those water hogs over in Payson will hatch?

My goodness. Really? Are you serious? Do you really want to think up an excuse for a lawsuit? Do you honestly think Payson would pressure independent engineers to phony up the numbers, right after essentially offering Star Valley everything it has ever asked for?

Maybe, with an election coming on, it’s just too hard to give up Star Valley’s own version of the Mogollon Monster?

The dove flies — so bright and hopeful. In the bushes, we hear the racking of shotguns. Fly little dove, fly.

Roundabout is wrong priority

It is the wrong time for the wrong reason for the Payson Town Council to spend $400,000 on a Highway 87 and Airport Road roundabout, given the woeful condition of many key streets and the never-ending budget crisis.

We suspect the council would agree — despite the 7-0 vote approving the project last night. However, councilors felt trapped by the terms of the deal: ADOT agreed to pay roughly twice its normal share — limiting the town’s contribution to $400,000.

Only the dangling ADOT money moved the roundabout to the top of a threadbare list of priorities. Clearly, taxpayers would far rather see that money spent on rebuilding Manzanita Street or any of the other increasingly potholed major roads in town.

ADOT says traffic gets slowed through that area and a roundabout will help traffic move quicker. Perhaps. But the delays caused right now seem tolerable. The project really looks years down the road, when new development up Airport Road might well require traffic control at that intersection. For the moment, we already have a roundabout just down the roadway to slow drivers entering town and ease congestion at the intersection. Adding a second roundabout at this moment seems like overkill.

Payson had to cancel most of its road maintenance and rebuilding projects as sales tax and gas tax revenues declined. We suspect many residents will object to making an exception for a premature project.

ADOT should also revisit its need list, too. We can think of any number of more urgent highway projects.

We understand the trap in which the council found itself. We wish they could have found a way to defer the decision until April, when the town hopes to land a grant to cover its cost. As it is, we’ll just hope for the best.

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