The drip, drip, drip of cooperation once more pitter-pattered through a Payson Town Council meeting last week.
The Payson council unanimously approved an agreement to provide after-hours emergency service of neighboring Star Valley’s recently acquired water system.
Payson will bill Star Valley for the emergency service should the 400-customer water system spring a leak, lose a pump or suffer some other mishap outside of normal business hours, but the arrangement with its neighbor allows Star Valley to avoid keeping employees on the job around the clock.
Earlier, Payson and Star Valley struck a deal so that Payson building and planning officials can provide building inspections and plan review for its neighbor.
“This is an example of our fine cooperation with the town of Star Valley,” said Councilor Fred Carpenter.
The agreement provides the latest evidence of the transformation in the relationship between the neighboring communities since Payson’s acquisition of the Tower Well tapped into such controversy that it spurred the incorporation of Star Valley more than five years ago.
The two communities for several years remained at dagger’s point, with Star Valley officials repeatedly expressing fears that Payson would pump the town dry.
However, water politics changed dramatically after Payson nailed down rights to some 3,000 acre-feet annually from the Blue Ridge pipeline, more than doubling the town’s long-term, assured water supply. Moreover, several studies showed that the Tower Well hasn’t lowered Star Valley’s water table.
In addition, studies of Star Valley’s long-term water needs and supply proved so reassuring that Star Valley ultimately decided not to seek a share of the Blue Ridge water.
In the new climate, Payson sold Star Valley several wells to supply the water company Star Valley bought from Brooke Utilities. The water company supplies about 10 to 20 percent of the town’s water users; most residents rely on shallow, private wells.
The latest agreement ensures that Star Valley can tap into the expertise of managers and emergency crews running Payson’s much larger and complex water system.
Star Valley has adroitly struck contracts with other agencies to avoid hiring its own employees. The community contracts with the Gila County Sheriff’s Office for police services at about a third of the per-capita cost of Payson’s police department. Its arrangement with Payson for planning and building inspection services has also proved a major savings for Star Valley, while providing extra work for Payson’s planning department, where staffing levels did not decline dramatically even when building came to an almost complete halt in the past three years.
Star Valley has reaped the rewards of its frugal approach to public services, maintaining a large surplus throughout the downturn — thanks in substantial measure to income from speeding tickets generated by speed cameras on the highway.