The Payson council will have one of its own seated on the Rim Country Educational Alliance board.
On a 6 to 1 vote at the March 25 council meeting, the council placed Scott Nossek as its representative on the RCEA board. Councilor Jim Ferris voted against Nossek because he believes the council should have more say as to who it can vote onto the board.
The RCEA owns the 243-acre parcel of land across from the community college off of Highway 260. The RCEA was formed as a separate legal entity with the same rights as a government to buy and develop the land.
For years, the RCEA has sought to entice a university to the area with no luck. Now the organization has shifted its focus to create a park with a community center, soccer/football fields, a lake and hiking trails along with everything needed for a family to enjoy a day in the park.
The move by the council allows outgoing member Jennifer Smith to resign after remaining on the board 14 months past her tenure. She had replaced former town council member Su Connell in July 2019, after the council woman lost her fight with brain cancer.
But it took more than a year to accomplish because the council disagreed over how to proceed with the terms required to replace Smith.
According to the governance agreement, the towns of Payson and Star Valley each have three seats on the RCEA board. The agreement encourages each town to fill their slots with council members so those representatives can keep the councils apprised of activities.
Connell had been the last Payson council member on the board. Currently, the other two slots are filled by Rich Ritchy and Larry Sugarman, citizens of Payson.
Ferris and Mayor Tom Morrissey have long asked for the town to have the ability to submit its own names for consideration to the RCEA board. Instead, the agreement allows only the RCEA to provide a list of up to three names to fill one slot. The council then votes on one name.
“How that governance agreement and the initial creating of the (RCEA) there was a huge conflict of interest,” said Ferris.
He believes Kenny Evans, who was both mayor and president of the MHA Foundation at the time of the founding of the RCEA, received a financial benefit from the arrangement. Ferris believes the tight control the MHA Foundation has over the nominees, as the primary funder for the RCEA, proves his point.
“No offense, Scott, but who they are going to nominate is totally in line with what they want to do with what MHA wants to do,” said Ferris. “The MHA controls it. The (RCEA) has no money. The only money they have is what the MHA provides them.”
Contract town attorney Justin Pierce explained the governing agreement encourages town council members to fill board slots.
“It is anticipated that the three of you will be on the board, or the designees. To me the best way for you to have influence over that board is, don’t put a designee on it, you be on it,” he said.
Which prompted Morrissey to ask, “Why can’t (those citizens) be replaced by Councilman Ferris?”
Pierce agreed, “the next time there is a vacancy we can have a discussion with the appropriate people.”