Easy enough to lose track of the forest for the trees around here. So we sincerely hope that the residents of Mesa del Caballo and Payson can just work things out.
Specifically, we hope Payson has managed to soothe most of the concerns some residents of Mesa del have expressed about the placement of the Blue Ridge pipeline water treatment plant.
That unincorporated, 400-home subdivision has more at stake in the discussion than almost any community along the pipeline. Make no mistake, Mesa del Caballo stands to gain a cheap, high-quality, assured water supply that will significantly increase the value of every home and vacant lot in that development.
Payson’s back-of-the-envelope figures suggest that if Brooke Utilities hooks up to the Blue Ridge water after it leaves Payson’s $7 million filtration plant, Mesa del residents can get water for between $1 and $1.50 per thousand gallons — perhaps half as much as Payson residents pay for water from their current well field. By contrast, Brooke has been hauling water from Rye and Star Valley for the past two years to get Mesa del through the summer.
We certainly understand the concerns expressed by residents with a Forest Service ranking that makes a 10-acre parcel just over their back fences the most likely site for the treatment plant. The Forest Service prefers that site because it will not create a new, private in-holding surrounded by public land.
We hope the Forest Service will reconsider and approve Payson’s first choice — on the other side of Houston Mesa Road.
But the ways of the Forest Service are mysterious — so who knows what they’ll do?
We just hope the wary residents of Mesa del will accept Payson’s good faith effort to find a site that will work for everyone concerned — even if in the end some property owners lose direct access to the national forest and must perhaps glimpse the edge of a building or a water tank.
In the end, those property owners will also reap the huge advantage of securing a cheap, long-term water supply, which will most certainly boost their home values.
More than that, we hope Payson and the homeowners end up linking arms and singing songs around the campfire.
Board, teachers need a compromise
Listen to your teachers. Now, that’s usually pretty good advice. So we think the Payson Unified School District Board should take it.
We hope the school board will adopt a compromise on sick time payouts offered by a group of teachers.
The board has spent a big chunk of three public meetings, wrestling with whether to cap or eliminate one of the more cost-effective perks the district offers its employees. Right now, teachers each year accumulate up to 12 days of sick leave and personal time. If they leave after 10 years, the district pays them at substitute teacher rates for half those accumulated days. After 20 years, the district pays 100 percent. For longtime teachers with near-flawless attendance records, that can result in a $10,000 to $18,000 retirement bonus when they leave.
Some board members want to sharply limit the payouts. Board member Rory Huff suggested capping payments at 40 days ($3,200).
The proposal provoked a strong response from the district’s long-suffering teachers. They packed the board chambers to present an alternative. The teachers want to let everyone keep the time they’ve already earned, but cap the payout at 150 days ($12,000) for current employees and 100 days ($8,000) for any new employees.
Not many salaried workers in the private sector enjoy such a benefit, but the question here remains how the district can recruit and retain the teachers we need and keep faith with people who have dedicated their lives to our children in these awful times.
For starters, the policy probably serves students well in the long run by encouraging a very low absentee rate among teachers, which saves the district the cost of substitutes and minimizes lost time in the classroom.
Perhaps more importantly, many of the district’s teachers feel they have already suffered through layoffs and public criticism. Now they face another round of layoffs, an increase in class size that will increase their workload and state repeal of stipends that will cut pay by 10 percent to 20 percent for most teachers here.
We urge the board to accept this compromise or at least sit down with teachers and find some common ground.
Next, we hope the board will refocus on the classroom when making cuts. Already, teachers comprise fewer than half of the district’s employees. That makes no sense. The board should look for other cuts and avoid teacher layoffs that will force an increase in class sizes. Cut the administration, cut the support staff, cut spending across the board. It’s time the district started listening to the teachers.