Gila County supervisors, two of them anyway, seem to have their head in the sand when it comes to Rim Country issues.
After two lengthy meetings with Mayor Kenny Evans, county supervisors reluctantly agreed that forming a separate legal entity (SLE) to help bring a college campus to Payson was a good idea — but only maybe and with reservations.
The supervisors’ vote indicates they intend to join the towns of Payson and Star Valley in forming the SLE, but for Evans, the vote is too little too late.
“They couldn’t get by what our motives were,” Evans said referring to Supervisors Shirley Dawson and Mike Pastor. “They didn’t understand we didn’t want anything.”
So, Evans and Star Valley Mayor Bill Rappaport correctly moved forward without any county participation in forming the SLE — at least for now.
The county could join the district down the road.
Tuesday’s county meeting left Rappaport, Evans, Vivian Burdette, a member of the Tonto Apache Tribal Council, and residents frustrated. After Evans explained the idea behind the four-year campus repeatedly, Dawson and Pastor still appeared confused. Supervisor Tommie Martin, who lives in the Rim Country, grasped the purpose of the college and the opportunity it brings Gila County.
Pastor said it was a good project, but did not understand how it would work and asked to meet with ASU.
ASU is, by law, not part of the SLE so we can’t understand why it would meet with the county.
It is obvious from Tuesday’s meeting that there is a great divide between Pastor, Dawson and the voters they represent in northern Gila County.
It would behoove our elected county officials, and perhaps some of their staff, to spend time in northern Gila County.
“If you spent more time (here) and saw what (a four-year university) would do,” Rappaport said.
Burdette also criticized Pastor for only meeting with her when he was seeking election.
With the redistricting process under way, residents have the opportunity to make major changes in the way the county is structured (See story on page 2A).
It is more important than ever for residents to express their position at redistricting meetings.
We do not support a north vs. south agenda, but we want our elected officials to recognize they serve all of Gila County, not just one area.
Actions like those of Dawson and Pastor, who appear to have no knowledge and little interest in the happenings of northern Gila County, are unacceptable.
Be careful in the forest
The Wallow Fire, and fires in Flagstaff and southern Arizona, should again remind those of us who live in the high country of Arizona how fragile our surroundings can be.
In Flagstaff a person, now in jail, is accused of setting nine to 10 fires because he had a fight with his girlfriend. The Wallow Fire in the White Mountains is also thought to have been man-made — either by an unattended campfire or one report said a spark from an ATV.
Careless people are creating the firestorms that are causing so much damage. If it was not for the fast response of firefighters, there could be many more damaging wildfires. All it takes is one cigarette being tossed out of a vehicle’s window to set off some serious problems as anyone who drives back and forth to the Valley on Highway 87 can plainly see.
We are so dry, almost any spark is the beginning of a wildfire. We need rain desperately, but none is in sight. All of the forests in the state have fire restrictions in place. It is up to us to follow and respect these restrictions — if we don’t, it could spell disaster. What is happening in the White Mountains is only a spark or two away from the Rim Country, as we have found out in the past.
Gila County has these suggestions for creating a defensible space around homes; clean gutters and roofs of tree debris, leaves, pods and branches; stack firewood away from a house; thin out tree and shrub cover around structures and remove unhealthy vegetation; thin trees to achieve a 10- to 12-foot crown spacing; dispose of all slash and debris left from thinning.
When adequately prepared, a house can withstand a wildland fire without the intervention of firefighters, Gila County said in a press release. This does not mean, however, that your landscape must be barren.
Rim Country residents must be prepared to defeat a wildfire with defensible spaces around their homes and most importantly, we need to make sure a fire just does not get started.