If the separate legal entity formed to bring and build a four-year university campus in Payson were a town, Mike Vogel would surely be its mayor.
Vogel serves as the Rim Country Educational Alliance SLE board chair and in a “town” that does not yet have any residents, he is one of the only contact points for “town” updates.
And right now, the town is working to buy land, work through a mountain of legal paperwork and start designs on a state-of-the-art campus that could one day have more than 6,000 in-town students and another 60,000 online.
Vogel explained at Tuesday’s Star Valley council meeting that the SLE is just like any other public entity in Arizona and must file a budget, post notice of its board meetings, buy insurance and once the campus is built, hire everything from police protection to trash service. “We have to set up an identical government to what you have,” he said, referring to Star Valley’s incorporation in 2005.
The alliance is in the process of buying land from Gila County, the U.S. Forest Service and Payson. The land, on both the north and south side of Highway 260 will eventually house a 6,000-student campus.
Vogel said there has been confusion on the definition of the alliance. Some citizens don’t understand that although Payson and Star Valley came together to create it several months ago, neither has control over what it does now, no more than Payson has say of what the Star Valley council does.
“It is not a Payson and a Star Valley deal — we are our own town,” he said. “We are going to have to contract for police, fire, you name it, to sweeping the streets. The laws we have to follow are identical to the ones you have to follow, and boy, are they a pain.”
Star Valley’s and Payson’s councils do have a say in appointing members to the alliance board.
On Tuesday, Vogel asked the Star Valley council to fill the seat of former alliance member Suzanne Cummins with James Scheidt. Scheidt currently serves on Payson’s Planning and Zoning Commission and at one time worked with Vogel in Michigan.
Cummins stepped down from the board after Vogel reportedly asked her to leave. Cummins said in her resignation notice that she was concerned Arizona State University had yet to sign a lease agreement for a campus in Payson.
Star Valley Councilor Gary Coon asked Vogel what Scheidt has that Cummins did not.
“I have told them that this is the only comment I will make, and I will say it one time, it didn’t work out,” Vogel said with Cummins.
Vogel encouraged the board to consider Scheidt above any other candidates because of his work as a building inspector and fire chief.
“With Jim, his expertise is in two fields — one, is he is a former building inspector in California and two, he was a fire marshal in Michigan and eventually a fire chief in Lansing, Michigan,” Vogel said. “Our next phase is going to be portions of building and I don’t have to look at everything, I can say, “Jimmy I want you to look that over.”
The alliance has been selectively filled with varying areas of expertise, he said.
From former state treasurer Dean Martin, who is experienced in high finance bonding; Steve Drury, who helped build hospitals; Mary Kastner, a former marketing executive; to Ronnie McDaniel, a retired judge — each board member offers a different skill set. Scheidt is needed to help with building, Vogel said.
Coon said he did not know Scheidt, but had heard bad things about him. Coon, and much of the Star Valley council, said they felt comfortable putting Dr. Peter Zonakis on the board.
Zonakis was another recommendation Vogel had offered the Star Valley council.
Vogel said while Zonakis could help the alliance with health care, he was not needed now.
When another spot opens on the board, Zonakis, who is also Vogel’s doctor, is next in line. Until then, Scheidt is the No. 1 choice, he said.
Councilor Vern Leis said he felt uncomfortable with Scheidt because he also works on Payson’s planning and zoning and this could be a conflict of interest. Vogel said it is not a conflict because Payson cannot tell the alliance what to do or impose its zoning onto the SLE.
Still, Leis asked Vogel if Scheidt would step down from planning and zoning.
Vogel said he did not know, but would ask Scheidt.
That answer seemed to swing Leis vote.
“If we are trying to build a professional management team and this particular individual has all the qualities and has the ability to separate himself from Payson to the SLE without question then I will support him” Leis said.