For the first time in years, incumbent members of the Northern Gila County Sanitary District face spirited opposition.
Incumbents LaRon Garrett, Guy Pfister and Patrick Underwood have all filed for another term on the board that provides sewage treatment services for communities throughout Rim Country.
For the past several election cycles, incumbents have been routinely re-elected – often without opposition – to the crucial but low-key board.
But this year, Gary Bedsworth; Shirley Dye; Gregory Freistad; and Frank La Spisa all filed on Aug. 8 to challenge the incumbents.
At press time, the Gila County Elections office staff was still verifying signatures on the nominating petitions submitted for the NGCSD board contests.
The Northern Gila County Sanitary District provides sewage treatment services for Payson and other, smaller communities, although many of the smaller, unincorporated subdivisions rely on individual septic tanks and aren’t within the district boundaries. That includes Star Valley, where residents rely almost entirely on individual septic systems.
That makes the sanitary district crucial for the region’s future growth plans, particularly the development of commercial and industrial uses.
The district has sometimes spurred controversy in the development community as a result of steep impact fees on new construction, especially commercial construction like new restaurants.
The district charges homeowners an impact fee of about $5,500 to hook up to the system. The fee for commercial users can often run to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
However, the district has reportedly accumulated more than $10 million in its infrastructure fund from the imposition of those impact fees. Some of the challengers have argued that the district ought to lower the impact fee or reconsider the amount to help restart the nearly dead construction industry in Rim Country.