Fellow residents, you and I are paying for the biggest source of light pollution in the Payson-Star Valley area. The recipient of this dubious distinction is our own Gila County. Specifically, the Gila County Maintenance Yard and sheriff’s impound storage yard on Highway 260 on the east side of Star Valley.
All buildings in this complex have multiple high intensity security lights. Their combined electricity usage is tens of thousands of watts per hour. They come on automatically prior to dusk and remain on until dawn. This happens 365 days a year. There are two problems with this situation.
Problem One: The light pollutes our night sky.
I’ve talked with Payson old-timers about all the stars that were visible in the dark night sky before this area grew up. Heck, our own Gila County Supervisor, Tommie Cline Martin, told me that’s how Main Street in Payson was when she was a girl. When we met last year about these lights, she agreed that light pollution was a very important issue for the county. Unfortunately, nothing has happened.
Well, Ms. Martin, you guys win the medal as the biggest light polluter in our area.
Unfortunately, this affects hundreds — if not thousands — of residents in Payson and Star Valley. I happen to be a stargazer. This major Star Valley light pollution source is a real PITA. Try looking up at the night sky with a dozen flood lamps blazing in your direction. Tough, isn’t it?
Problem Two: It takes dollars out of our pockets.
We all know that electricity isn’t cheap. Gila County spends thousands of dollars each month to keep the lights burning. And we’re the taxpayers that give Gila County the money. So actually, we’re the ones anteing up to pay these bills.
Times are tough. A lot of us are having a hard time paying our own personal bills. And Gila County is having a tough time finding enough revenue to cover all its bills. If revenue declines and the county can’t pay its bills, you and I both know the drill. They’ll come to us asking for more dollars in the form of higher taxes.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Inasmuch as Gila County is financially strapped and can use any and all savings in their monthly operating expenses, I propose the following light pollution solution:
Put the lights on a motion sensor. They’re security lights after all. If anyone were to trespass and was met with an eyeful of blinding light, they’d quickly decide to go somewhere else. Will elk and other critters set off false alarms? Of course. But don’t worry — there’s a solution.
Send a video feed of the area to the proper authorities each time the lights are activated. Video security systems are cheap. The infrastructure is already in place. That’ll minimize the necessity of a physical dispatch and provide this facility with a much higher level of security than it presently has.
Might there be insurance issues? Of course. Work with them on implementing a light pollution solution.
There will be many beneficiaries once this situation is resolved.
Gila County will cut thousands of dollars off of its utility bills. Its monthly operating expense will go down. As a bonus, it will have a more effective level of security at the Gila County yard than exists today.
Our benefit — residents and taxpayers — is twofold. It’ll indirectly help each of us financially because our tax dollars might stretch a little bit further. And it’ll be a lot more enjoyable and easier to look up at the heavens — to marvel at the millions of stars and distant galaxies — and track the occasional satellite and the International Space Station as they speed across the night sky.
After all, our trees, fresh air and dark night sky are what drew us here in the first place. It’s important to protect all that we are blessed with.
Now, if we could only do something about that doggone county yard.