Payson Ranger Rides To The Town’S Rescue


We might have to launch a “Citizen of the Year” award just to give a prize to Payson Ranger District boss Angie Elam.

We suspect Elam must have been feeling like a smoke jumper ever since she landed in Payson several weeks ago, transferred up from the Coronado National Forest near Tucson. She took over just as all the Payson Ranger District’s long-simmering pots boiled over at once. But this week she preformed heroic service, not only for the Forest Service, but for this community.

To be specific, Elam cut through a year of confusion and delay on two projects absolutely crucial to the future of this community: the Blue Ridge pipeline and Payson’s Arizona State University campus.

She pushed through a report and slated a Sept. 24 public meeting on the sale of 240 acres of Forest Service land for a college campus. That report made it clear how much the Forest Service has to gain from moving quickly to sell the land to the Rim Country Educational Alliance, set up by Payson and Star Valley.

That report underscored the argument frustrated college campus backers have been making for a year. The Payson Ranger District has lots of land, but only a scattering of inefficient, cluttered, aging buildings. The district will never get money from the Forest Service to build the visitor center, administrative offices and firefighting operations it needs. However, the community’s urgent need for the ideally placed 240-acre parcel offers the Forest Service a golden opportunity to meet its needs — while serving the community.

The plan calls for using the money raised by selling off the 240 acres to build a new visitor and administrative center on 40 acres near the existing 30-acre site. In addition, the sale should provide enough money to consolidate the district’s crucial, scattered firefighting operations on a single 40-acre site next to the Gila County Maintenance yards. That will include landing space for firefighting helicopters, which will save the Forest Service $40,000 in lease payments on land near the Payson Airport.

But that’s not all Elam accomplished, in between house hunting and learning her way around a new town, she also intervened to finally get the Tonto National Forest to forward its environmental assessment of the Blue Ridge pipeline to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for comment.

The frustrating year-long delay in approving that biological assessment threatened to unhinge the timeline for both the pipeline and the college.

Granted, we’re still composing long prayers for good sense and alacrity at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — but Elam’s work to clear the logjam provided a huge service to this community.

Of course, our hopes have soared prematurely before — only to crumple and crash like whoever came before the Wright brothers. Still, no matter what happens next — we’ve become big fans of Angie Elam.

SV clarifies role of councilors

The Star Valley Town Council this week made some welcome changes in a policy that seemed to give the town manager far too much control over council members.

Back on Aug. 16, the council supported a policy that made it sound like council members had to get the approval of the town manager before they could have conversations with outsiders — especially people who worked for other government agencies like Gila County, Payson or the state. We thought that policy went too far and could give council members the impression that they worked for the town manager — rather than vice versa.

The changes in the policy advise town council members to let the town manager know when they have such conversations, just to keep everyone in the loop.

That makes a lot more sense.

Certainly, council members must make sure that they don’t speak for the town as a whole, unless they’re acting at the express direction of the town council. Although they do represent the voters, town council members can easily complicate critical relationships and negotiations when they blur the line between their own opinions and town policy.

We understand the intent of the policy was to make sure council members understood that crucial distinction.

That’s why we’re glad the revised wording stressed the need to keep the town manager informed, rather than seeking the town manager’s approval for those conversations.

That’s important because no town policy should undercut the role of the council members in researching vital issues, gathering ideas from the public and seeking solutions to town problems. Town councilors can only fulfill that vital responsibility if they seek information and feedback constantly — and broadly.

The change in the wording of the policy appears to more fully respect the proper role and authority of the residents’ elected representatives.


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