Water Bumps Library As Top Town Priority

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If there could be two No. 1 priorities on the town's proposed strategic plan, it would be water development and the construction of a new library building, Mayor Vern Stiffler said.


"But that's like putting two trains on the same track," he said.


So, to avoid derailing the council's plans for the future, it shuffled its priorities Tuesday during a meeting on Payson's corporate strategic plan.


Since 1993, the council has developed a strategic plan each year to prioritize town projects and earmark funding. This year, library construction topped each of the councilmembers' individual wish lists.


"I'd say just from general awareness of the public and how they feel about the water, there's just no way we can not put that as our top priority," Stiffler said.


In ranking priorities, Councilmember Barbara Brewer initially ranked water resource management and development as a lower priority than building a new library.


"The reason I did that is that I think water is a moot issue," she said. "It's always No. 1, no matter what. If we're looking at where we're going to spend more money, the water department has its own fund that we work out of or do water research out of. I was looking at general fund money."


The mayor said switching the top two priorities does not mean library funding will be jeopardized.

"It's not like we're talking about taking money out of the general operating fund to put into water," he said. "All of our water exploration, that money is coming out of the CAP fund."


That fund was established in 1994, when the Town of Payson sold its Central Arizona Project water allocations to the City of Scottsdale for $4.5 million.


"Whether it's No. 1 or No. 2, the library is on track for construction," Stiffler said. "If I were to guess, I'd say we'll be awarding a contract on that sometime in August or September."


Council member Jack Monschein said he argued to move employee compensation higher up on the priority list.


"If you've got a good employee, they're your most important asset," Monschein said. "They'll either make things work for you or they'll get you killed.


"As for our police officers, I think we're starting our police at a fair wage," he said. "It's the guy that's down there digging ditches -- the one that's only making $7 an hour -- that's the guy I'm worried about."


The council will hold two more public input meetings on the town's strategic plan on March 6 and March 23 at Payson Town Hall. The plan is scheduled for final adoption April 13.

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