It has been 10 years since Star Valley water customers have seen a rate increase under Brooke Utilities. But when the town takes over the system in January, customers could see their bills increase 20 percent or more and the local fire district could face new fees. That is because the town says it plans to upgrade and maintain the system, something it claims Brooke has not done in years. In addition, the town says new taxes are increasing water costs everywhere. The town has not set a final rate structure and the public still has time to comment at several upcoming public readings. The rates could go into effect as early as mid-January 2012 if the sale is finalized by that time.
On the heels of purchasing the Payson Water Company from Brooke Utilities, the Star Valley council will address how it will fund the $775,000 expenditure at a Tuesday council meeting. The deal is one of the most important purchases the town has made since incorporating in 2007. With the water company comes 360 local customers, but more importantly, water rights that let the town pursue a sustainable water source. The town is already considering acquiring a share of Blue Ridge water and hooking new wells into the system.
The Arizona Corporation Commission continues to investigate five complaints against Brooke Utilities filed by residents of Mesa del Caballo, commission spokeswoman Rebecca Wilder said this week. However, the commission has settled the bulk of complaints against the private water company, which focused on whether the company had properly assessed a water hauling charge this summer.
While some residents view elk walking through their yard as a natural wonder, one family says it has become a living nightmare. The McNeeleys of Star Valley report one of their dogs was gorged to death two weeks ago after a herd of elk trampled through their back yard. The culprit for the flood of elk: nearby residents feeding them. After living off Moonlight Drive for nearly 40 years, Melani McNeeley said she has never seen such an influx of elk in the area and never had a problem with them coming through her fenced back yard. While she enjoys viewing them in the forest and even hearing their calls echoing through the forest at night, she does not appreciate when they kill her pets. McNeeley worries another dog will be injured or worse, a person, if residents do not start treating the elk like wild animals instead of pets.
The Town of Star Valley won’t be making any new neighbors, but it has made a few new friends after it rejected the idea of setting up an offsite water department office in the midst of a sleepy neighborhood. After neighbors protested setting up a town office at 145 Springdale Drive, the council backed away from the proposal at a Nov. 15 council meeting, saying it would look elsewhere. A bank offered to give the town the property free after it was abandoned and left to rot.
A neighborly dispute turned violent Friday afternoon when a man reportedly threw an ax through a neighbor’s window and then a can of burning stove fuel. Sheriff’s deputies arrested Daniel Denuzzi, 45, of Star Valley, on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, attempted homicide, arson of an occupied structure, criminal damage, disorderly conduct and threats and intimidation.
Saying it would look into every water supply option, the Star Valley council moved forward in pursuing a share of water from the Blue Ridge pipeline. With the deadline for making an allocation request approaching, the council instructed water attorney Karen Nalley at a Nov. 15 council meeting to look into cost, need and return with answers quickly.
Although ballots will not go out for another five months, the Star Valley Town Council is already asking residents for their vote. A yes on “home rule” would allow Star Valley to spend $7.55 million of projected revenue next year, money staff said is necessary to continue offering town services.
Acting hardheaded? End up like Quartzsite, Star Valley council learns
When town councils don’t get along, animosity leads to feuding, which can in time turn a whole community upside down. Look no further than the small western Arizona town of Quartzsite, which has been snarled in political feuding for months. After death threats against the council, citizen arrests during open public meetings and the eventual recall of the mayor, the town is still reeling. How can Star Valley prevent a similar melt down?
Handicap accessibility improvements and work on an office addition will soon start at Star Valley’s town hall after the council selected a contractor Tuesday.
Mayor Rappaport calls moment ‘spectacular’
The Star Valley Town Council approved the purchase of the local water company Tuesday night, fulfilling a promise made six years ago at incorporation, councilors said. “Next to founding our town, this is probably the most important moment that this town has made as far as determining our future,” said Councilor Gary Coon. The council hopes to close on the $775,000 deal with Brooke Utilities in January after going through “friendly” condemnation proceedings.
Despite the recession, Star Valley has managed to bank nearly $3 million in cash reserves in just six years. Town staff credits smart spending and a trim budget for the positive balance sheet. “Though we have been dealing with decreases in state shared revenue, we have still been able to increase a monthly surplus due to good management, wise purchasing and spending habits,” said Chancy Nutt, finance administrator.
The Town of Star Valley is wading into the unknown with the potential purchase of the local water company and the sale has some councilors and community members concerned. Will the town have to raise rates to fix the infrastructure? Who will run it and maintain the system? Will the town expand it? How much will it cost to buy and what impact will it have on other town projects? Town councilors, commission members and several residents dived into these issues at the council’s annual retreat held Friday at Tonto Natural Bridge. The group agreed it is crucial the town buy the system to secure sustainable water for residents. “That’s why this town incorporated and we are taking that first step” with the purchase of the system, said town manager and attorney Tim Grier.
The Star Valley Town Council will get an update on the budget and possibly initiate the purchase of the Payson Water Company at Tuesday’s council meeting.
Star Valley officials won’t say how negotiations with Brooke Utilities for the Payson Water Company are coming along, but hinted things are going well. Town Manager/Attorney Tim Grier is acting as the town’s chief negotiator along with Councilor Vern Leis. The two have met with Brooke President Robert Hardcastle several times in the last months after Hardcastle asked the town if it was still interested in purchasing the 300-customer water company.