With Star Valley in on a deal to build a four-year college campus in Payson, ground could break on the half billion dollar project as soon as late December.
Payson Mayor Kenny Evans delivered the news Tuesday night at Star Valley’s council meeting shortly after the council voted to enter into an agreement with Payson and Gila County to build the alternative campus sandwiched between the two towns.
The announcement is in stark contrast to just a few weeks ago when Evans thought plans to build an Arizona State University campus might have suffered a fatal blow when Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a critical piece of legislation.
“I have never been on a roller coaster ride like this,” Evans said. “There is one up and one down.”
The vetoed law would have allowed the Board of Regents to collaborate with Payson and Gila County to create a Separate Legal Entity (SLE) and build the college facilities.
An SLE is similar to a Limited Liability Company (LLC), where a business owner’s or enterprise’s assets are protected from being sued.
“So if the campus goes belly up, (investors) have no recourse to come back on the towns,” Evans said.
With the Board of Regents out of the SLE, Payson needed a third party. Several agencies came forward, but Payson wanted the help of its neighbor.
“We feel it would be best accomplished with Star Valley and the county,” Evans said.
What does Star Valley get out of the deal? The town will reap the benefits of new businesses and homes built to support the campus, Evans said.
All Star Valley needs to provide is someone to serve on the SLE’s board of directors and one resident at the meeting immediately stepped forward to fill the seat.
“We all want this college to go,” said Star Valley Councilor Gary Coon. “Anything we can do to help is to our advantage.”
Evans has collected enough money through private investors to fund the campus, which should occupy 380 acres of private and Forest Service land near Tyler Parkway, straddling both sides of Highway 260.
The Forest Service anticipates deeding over land on the south side of the highway as early as next February or March.
Construction could start on the private land in December if everything goes as planned, Evans said.