The Payson Town Council voted Monday to move forward with plans to sell town-owned land west of the Payson Municipal Airport to a Chandler cabinet manufacturing firm.
The council voted to proceed with bid preparation for the 7.9-acre parcel, which is currently occupied by a town maintenance yard, a police impound yard, a retention basin and a town-owned well.
Initially the council planned to sell the company a five-acre parcel south of the airport that had been purchased by the town with a grant from the Arizona Department of Transportation.
But town officials felt obligated to negotiate the sale of the original parcel with ADOT because its new use would not be aeronautical, a process that would have delayed the relocation of the Chandler cabinet door company, The Door Stop.
Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Kaleta who, along with Vice Mayor Dick Wolfe, was instrumental in convincing James and Sioux Hill, owners of The Door Stop, to relocate to Payson, said the Hills came back Saturday to look at the land again and are eager to move.
"They are still enthusiastic, and they said if everything goes according to plan, they would be ready to go in 60 days," Kaleta said.
During the 14 years the Hills have owned The Door Stop, it has averaged 20 percent annual growth. It is the largest manufacturer of cabinet doors in Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah and ships its products throughout the western United States.
The move will bring up to 75 new jobs to the Rim country with an average salary of $28,000 plus benefits. The Hills plan to build a new, 40,000-square-foot manufacturing facility that can be expanded to 80,000 square feet within three years.
The owners said the impetus for the relocation is twofold: difficulty in hiring the employees the company needs to continue to grow, and the need to expand already cramped production facilities. Hill is currently unable to fill eight positions.
According to Payson Mayor Ray Schum, Town Attorney Sam Streichman deserves the credit for "discovering" the second site. "We were sitting around last Wednesday working on the agenda for this Thursday's council meeting," the mayor said. "One item on the agenda was upgrading the town maintenance yard. Sam said, 'What about that site for the new company?' The more we talked about it, the more sense it made."
Asked by Councilmember Ken Murphy to delineate the downside of the second site, Public Works Engineer LaRon Garrett said the town had been working on the maintenance yard for five years, and it will cost even more money to move it. He also pointed out that a significant amount of fill will have to be removed to make the site suitable for building.
Ted Anderson, the new airport manager, told the council that he had talked to Gary Adams, director of ADOT's Aeronautics Division, and Adams was "quite pleased" that the second site was being considered. Selling the first site, Adams told Anderson, would have taken "a long time."
The council voted 5-0 to proceed with bid preparation. Councilmember Hoby Herron abstained and Wolfe was absent.