Town council meetings are a place where emotions usually run teapot-hot or iceberg-cold.
Last night's meeting, however, opened with a unanimous, wholly apolitical sense of warmth for Payson Police Officer Allen Dyer, who is still recovering from two gunshot wounds he received while on duty at Wal-Mart Oct. 30.
Dyer was presented with a national law enforcement citation and plaque from the local chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart "in recognition of the resolute action and wounds received in the performance of his duties ... during the pursuit and attempted apprehension of an armed criminal."
Dyer appeared to be deeply moved by both the citation and the standing ovation which followed its presentation.
Once the council got down to business, the issue which seemed to create the most division between council members and the citizenry was a request filed by Town of Payson Public Works Engineer LaRon Garrett concerning Phase 2 of the Airport Road reconstruction.
Phase 1, which ran from Highway 87 to McLane Road, has been completed. Phase 2 is set to run from McLane Road to approximately 400 feet west of Falconcrest Drive, with a construction cost currently estimated at $750,000.
This segment was scheduled to receive HURF exchange funds in the amount of $370,454 from ADOT in fiscal year 2003. The remaining $379,546 will come from a local cash match which Garrett says needs to be appropriated for in next year's budget.
"There is a possibility we could get (receipt of the ADOT money) moved up to 2000 or 2001, depending on how the ADOT meetings go next week," Garrett said before the meeting. "The purpose of going to council ... is to get authorization to get it moved up, and have the council commit the matching funds that we'd have to put with it to do the construction. There's no guarantee that we'll actually get it moved up, but there's a good possibility."
The opposition included James Owen, the only area resident with a driveway leading to the section of Airport Road in question. His driveway would have to be closed in order to accommodate the plan, Owen said, "and that would be a hardship on us."
In public comment, other Payson residents expressed concern that so much money is spent on Airport Road and other major collector routes, but so little is spent on other roads more in need of attention.
The last word, however, was proffered by Vice Mayor Ken Murphy, who said, "If we can tap into that (grant) money, we should do it." The request passed unanimously.
Given consent approval prior to the meeting was another recommendation by Garrett, suggesting that the speed limit on the "steep and curvy" section of McLane Road from Rim View Road to Cherry Street be officially lowered from 25 MPH to 15 MPH as soon as possible. At the Jan. 27 council meeting, it had been decided to reduce the speed limit at the start of that section's upcoming reconstruction.
Garrett was also given consent to authorize the street department to erect the new speed limit signs.
Members of the Payson Disability Awareness Committee sought to amend a town ordinance, which states that any nonhandicapped person convicted of illegally parking in a handicapped space be punished by a fine of not less than $25 or more than $300.
It was the consensus of the committee that the current fines are insufficient to cover the cost of issuing a citation, and that the town's fines be increased to $75 for a first offense, $150 for a second offense, and $300 for a third in order to deter such illegal parking.
Other towns and cities, said the organization's chairperson, Lee Pretsch, have much higher fines than Payson, such as Mesa ($50), Chandler ($90), Kingman ($95) and Phoenix ($140).
With a unanimous vote, the council opted to send the request to the town attorney, who would draft a change for incorporation into the town code.
On behalf of the Payson Youth Organization, president Sheelah J. Golligee requested permission for the sale of alcohol at a July 1 Rumsey Park fund-raising event to support the nonprofit group's sporting activities for young members.
After some debate, during which council member Hoby Herron's concern that the fund-raiser would be populated by many young people, a PYO spokesperson said the alcohol sales would be handled in much the same way they are at the rodeo, with a police officer and security guards present and in a fenced area with only one entrance/exit. The application passed by a four to three vote.