The Payson Town Council continues to treat the urgent need to protect this community from wildfire with an inexplicable indifference.
Unfortunately, the challengers in the upcoming election seem so intent on chasing phantoms, they’ve failed to focus on the real threat to this town’s future.
All the candidates solemnly insist they think people ought to clean up their lots and we ought to do, well, something about the ongoing threat that a Rodeo-Chediski type fire could take out the whole town.
Problem is, they’re not addressing the question with any urgency. Instead, they seem content to sit on the porch and fiddle, as they watch the approaching pillar of smoke.
After sorting through the positions of the nine council candidates, we felt pretty discouraged.
Please note, more than a year ago the Building Advisory Board deadlocked on whether to accept a version of the International Building Code that included tough regulations for building in the Wildland-Urban Interface. The revisions include things like fire-resistant roofing materials, covered ventilation openings, porches that won’t catch embers and other essential requirements. Prescott and Flagstaff have already adopted their own versions, so we’re not inventing the wheel here.
The council waited for nearly a year before finally taking up the issue publicly back in March. Several councilors made dismissive comments about the need for a tough, wildfire building code.
Then they set up a committee to take the heat on Firewise brush and tree clearing and put off making any decisions on the fire code until, well, after the election.
We know some council members have worked on the revisions, making many useful changes. Moreover, the people who developed the international code urged cities to customize the boilerplate recommendations. But two years into the process, Payson’s had plenty of time to do that.
Unfortunately, the council challengers don’t seem to have any greater sense of urgency than the incumbents. Only two took clear positions. Lew Levenson said without equivocation that he would adopt the WUI code, as amended by the fire department. Former Payson fire marshal Bob Lockhart seemed to also favor adoption — with the addition of additional standards on Firewise lot clearing.
The rest seemed to think we ought to continue studying the whole thing to death.
Meanwhile, everyone seems obsessed about the town’s water supply — the one major problem we’ve actually solved.
Ah, well: That’s politics for you.
Fight the last war — and lead from behind.