Former State Treasurer Dean Martin is the latest, most surprising member of the independent board that will oversee construction and operations of a college campus in Payson and its assorted spinoff businesses.
The Payson Town Council voted unanimously Thursday to make the appointment to the Rim Country Education Alliance Board, which will have authority over the Separate Legal Entity that runs the special district.
Payson Mayor Kenny Evans said that Martin agreed to take on the volunteer post and the former candidate for governor’s political connections will help the Rim Country Educational Alliance build support.
“The SLE is a political subdivision of the state of Arizona,” said Evans. “One of the challenging things was to make sure we had a balance.Martin will be the only non-local resident on the six-member board. Other board members already appointed include Payson economic development coordinator Mike Vogel, former corporate marketing executive Mary Kastner, University of Arizona professor Suzanne Cummins and retired judge Ronnie McDaniel. That leaves one slot controlled by the Star Valley council not yet filled.
The Educational Alliance Board will supervise the construction and operation of a 6,000-student college campus, a 500-room conference hotel, dorms, a $50 million solar and geothermal power generating facility and an industrial research park that will likely include a solar cell assembly plant.
“Dean is the only member (of the Alliance board) that has political experience,” said Evans. “He has great acumen in dealing with public entities.”
As state treasurer, Martin managed some $32 billion in state revenue and assets. He made more stops in Rim Country than any other state official — especially as he geared up for a run against Gov. Jan Brewer in the Republican primary. Martin initially polled well against the faltering governor, but Brewer’s position improved quickly after she supported SB 1070, which required local police to enforce immigration laws.
Martin dropped out early in the primary and Brewer handily defeated Democrat Terry Goddard in the ensuing general election.
Martin’s appointment firms up the membership on the board as the plans for a college campus here head into a critical month.
Evans said negotiations continue to start work on a $50 million solar power system for the eventual campus, which will likely start with about 1,000 students and build toward an eventual maximum of 6,000 students.
A variety of federal incentives could reduce the cost of the solar power system by more than half if construction starts by the end of August and the system is delivering power by December. The campus obviously won’t be built by December, but backers for the solar facility are casting about to find another buyer for the power — perhaps Gila Community College.
Meanwhile, negotiations continue with the U.S. Forest Service to free up for sale a 300-acre parcel that Congress earmarked for sale more than five years ago. Payson officials had hoped that the Forest Service would waive various environmental studies, but that now appears increasingly unlikely.
As a result, phase one of the campus will most likely start on a 67-acre parcel backers have already moved to buy north of Highway 260 right next door to Gila Community College.
In addition, backers have an option to buy another 80-acre parcel fronting on Tyler Parkway opposite the gravel pit. That parcel would likely harbor the industrial and research park.
Arizona State University officials have repeatedly said they’re committed to building the campus. However, ASU has not yet signed a binding Intergovernmental Agreement spelling out the responsibilities of the various entities and a timetable for building the campus.