The 8-acre patch of ground that has stood empty on the south edge of town for so long is finally starting to look like a rodeo arena. Fencing has been installed, bleachers have been erected, light poles have been put into place and a modest brick entranceway is being built.
It took countless volunteers and a number of town employees nearly two years to lay the less obvious groundwork for the project. They cleared the town-owned lot, developed drainage improvements and helped install underground electric, water and sewer lines. Dozens of other local benefactors donated money and services to get the job done.
Relocating the town's rodeo arena from its cramped quarters in the residential Rumsey Park neighborhood to the town's spacious 36-acre site in south Payson has been a community effort of the highest order.
One of the key players in the effort has been arena relocation director Barry Cardinael. Mr.
Cardinael's second contract extension in 18 months expired Jan. 8, and on Thursday, the Payson Town Council will consider extending it a third time.
Mr. Cardinael told the Roundup two weeks ago that he spends 13 hours a day on the relocation project, digging fence holes, operating earthmoving machinery, taking doughnuts to volunteers.
When the council hired Mr. Cardinael for the project and agreed to pay him $500 a week, and later doubled his pay to $1,000 a week, he promised to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for the project and to rally volunteers to move the arena to the new site by last March.
He told us that a top town official assured him that even though he signed a contract to that effect, he didn't really have to accomplish those goals.
And he didn't -- not by a long shot.
As taxpayers who helped pay for this project, we feel like homeowners who hired someone to paint our house, and after the contract was signed, we got our yard landscaped instead. The yard may look nice, but the fund-raising didn't get done and the arena relocation is 10 months, two rodeos and a summer recreation season overdue.
In a commentary on this page, Mr. Cardinael implies that those who have been critical of his job performance didn't support the relocation effort. But he is mistaken. Many of his critics have invested a great deal in the relocation project. The Roundup and many other businesses have heartily supported Mr. Cardinael's relocation and fund-raising efforts because we believe the project, which will modernize the rodeo arena and free up ball field space, is good for the community.
But we also believe it's our responsibility to scrutinize how the community's tax dollars are spent.
At $1,000 a week, we're paying Mr. Cardinael the equivalent of $52,000 a year without benefits, making him the most expensive ditch digger on the town's books. We're paying Mr. Cardinael $25 an hour. That's the mid-range wage, excluding benefits, that we pay skilled, experienced department heads who do have to meet performance standards.
And now Mr. Cardinael's friends on the council want to extend his contract for a third time, pay him another $20,500 and keep him on the town gravy train until May.
Town Engineer LaRon Garrett, who proposes paying Cardinael a flat $4,000 fee to see the arena entrance to completion, says his staff can finish the job without Mr. Cardinael's help, and that $20,500 will go a long way toward buying a new set of bleachers or an announcer's stand.
The seating for the arena was reduced by half, from 3,200 permanent and portable bleacher seats to 1,680 portable ones, in the move. The chamber will be hard-pressed in August to keep ticket prices down, attract sponsors and handle the throngs of rodeo fans who'll come to town to see the World's Oldest Continuous Rodeo with just 1,600 seats.
Mr. Cardinael has helped the relocation effort, and he still may be able to help, but his salary should be based on what he's really done and what he's actually capable of doing instead of the unfulfilled promises that made him an easy sell to the public a year and a half ago.