Payson Mayor Kenny Evans didn’t go to Globe with his hat in hand. However, with the reception he was given by Gila County Supervisors Shirley Dawson and Mike Pastor, one would think he was begging for big bucks.
Evans attended the supervisors’ May 31 work session to discuss Gila County becoming part of the Separate Legal Entity to get a four-year university in Payson.
Partners in the SLE, which include the towns of Payson and Star Valley, are not putting up any money. Evans was not requesting money from the county and said, “Even if it were offered it would be refused.” It was something he had to repeat several times.
“Why approach Gila County for this?” Dawson asked.
“There are a couple of reasons,” Evans said. He went on to explain he hoped by coming to the county to partner with Payson and Star Valley it would be a step toward reducing the perpetual tension between the southern and northern parts of the county.
Additionally, with one of the financial backers of the plan, Winters Energy Group, interested in building solar panel units over the Payson Event Center arena and parking lot, there would be a tax revenue benefit to the county.
Dawson also said she didn’t like the draft intergovernmental agreement giving the SLE a 50-year life span. Evans said the IGA was just a draft that could be changed by the staffs of the county, Star Valley and Payson to reflect their wishes.
A question on the governance of the SLE was raised as well, and Evans said that would be determined through negotiation.
The issue of the SLE acquiring property was raised by Pastor, who wanted to know where the money would come from to buy land.
Evans said all money would be from private funding sources.
Pastor then asked if the county became part of it, would it be told the funding sources. Evans said the sources are not a secret.
“One of my concerns is with Gila Community College, of which I am a strong supporter. How will the two exist together?” Pastor asked.
“Anything a university would do will enhance what GCC does and the product it produces,” Evans said.
Despite Evans’ assurances that the SLE partners will have an opportunity to create an IGA with which they are comfortable and no municipal or county funds would be involved, Dawson and Pastor gave no positive feedback to the mayor.
“I have lots of questions. Too much is unknown to see why Gila County would be involved in this or why you’d want Gila County involved.
“I have a lot of questions regarding the IGA, which will be in the hands of attorneys. I’m concerned that the feasibility study is still unknown. And the 50-year period (life span of SLE) is a concern,” Pastor said.
District One Supervisor Tommie Martin, who represents Payson and most of northern Gila County, was the only positive voice responding to Evans’ presentation.
“I don’t see a downside to take the next step. The liability appears nil,” she said.
Evans and the SLE were on the agenda for the supervisors’ regular board meeting today, Tuesday, June 7.