Dirt Roads Getting Town Council's Attention

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A number of Payson residents have asked town officials, "Why doesn't the town maintain my road?"

The simple answer is contained in a Feb. 19 memo from Town Manager Rich Underkofler:

"The Town Council has not accepted your road for maintenance."

Those who are seeking answers to their letters and inquiries will be able to discuss the matter in more detail when the Town Council holds a work study session today (Tuesday) at 4 p.m.

Underkofler said Town Engineer LaRon Garrett will seek funding in next year's budget for a preliminary engineering study to initiate local improvement districts and levy assessments for costs to upgrade dirt roads in order to maintain them.

The town has approximately 8.5 miles of unimproved or dirt roads in two general categories: roadways that have been dedicated and accepted into the town's maintenance system in their present, unimproved condition, and roadways that may or may not have been dedicated to the town, but have not been accepted into the maintenance system.

The following six roads are now in the town's maintenance system: Ridge Lane, Willow Lane, East Glade Lane, Country Club Lane, Anasazi Road and Karen Way.

Garrett will recommend that the town initiate treating the accepted roadways with a temporary dust inhibitor to comply with the state's plan to reduce air contaminants.

The roads that have not been accepted into the maintenance system include seven in the Graham Ranch area, five in the Cedar-Sutton area, 10 roads in the northeast part of town, and another 10 in the southeast area of town.

Other roads in this category are West Randall Lane and West Annie's Alley in the southwest area of town and West Bridle Path Lane, West Four Pines Road, West Locust Road and West Rancho Road in the northwest area of town.

One thing that all the roads in the second category have in common is that they were never officially accepted as public roadways, according to town officials.

Garrett wrote in a memo to Underkofler that state law makes it illegal for the town to expend tax money on roadways not owned and accepted by the town.

"Therefore," Garrett said, "we should stop all maintenance on Category 2 roads immediately."

Garrett proposes to send out a mass mailing to all owners of property on the roads that have not been accepted into the maintenance system advising them that continued maintenance on the roads accessing their property is not in accordance with the law.

He is recommending that the town initiate improvement districts to bring these roads up to standards so they can be accepted for legal maintenance.

Part of the plan includes giving the property owner the opportunity to dedicate the right of way for the improved roadway to the town, which would lower the owner's property tax liability.

Garrett is recommending that the town continue to provide routine maintenance as long as the one- to three-year process toward an improvement district is "proceeding in a timely manner and there is a good faith effort to bring the road into legal maintenance compliance."

A recommended list for the order of the improvement districts is Graham Ranch, Cedar-Sutton area, northeast, southeast, northwest and southwest.

Garrett's plan states that the town would be responsible for fronting all costs of the district up to the sale of the bonds.

When the town has been reimbursed for its costs, it will use the available funds to move on to the next district. The up-front costs for setting up a district could range from $100,000 to $200,000, depending on the size of the district.

If the property owners reject the idea of an improvement district, the town would no longer provide roadway maintenance to the area.

The plan includes making the improvement district process more attractive to property owners in a number of different ways, including accepting the right-of-way in the form of a public roadway easement and offsetting the costs of the improvement district by paying a percentage.

The Town Council will discuss the matter at 4 p.m. in the Town Hall Council Chambers and will recommend actions regarding the dirt roadways.

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