Water Rate Hike Set For Ok

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A pair of long-standing items are slated to be put to rest once and for all at the Payson Town Council meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday at Town Hall.

Topping the list is final approval of a $5-a-month across-the-board water-rate increase to defray the water department's appreciating operating deficit. If approved, the new minimum monthly service charge will increase from $13.65 to $18.65 for zero to 2,000 gallons a month.

According to Public Works Director Buzz Walker, the increase also will be used to fund water conservation programs and unfunded state and federal mandates for "measures such as water disinfection treatment, sampling and reports." Walker said the increase "will allow for at least two years before we need to adjust the rates again."

Also scheduled for final approval are the long-debated changes to the town code allowing use of the gazebo at Green Valley Park for religious services, political activities and other events that were previously banned.

If approved by the council, the changes also will ban amplification equipment at Green Valley Park, including portable stereos and car radios; ban the use of bicycles and motorized vehicles in the Rumsey Park skatepark; and allow the practice arena at the Payson Event Center to remain open to the public except when the entire facility has been reserved. The ban on amplification equipment, which does not include the town-sponsored Summer Concert Series or the use of the public address system during town-sponsored events, was added after residents in the Green Valley Park area requested stronger wording of the noise abatement restrictions in the code at the Sept. 14 council meeting.

Another item on the agenda Thursday evening involves recovery of $192,450 in vehicle license taxes that town officials say are due to Payson but were improperly distributed to Globe, Hayden, Winkelman and Miami by Gila County.

According to Deputy County Attorney Mark Gunning, Gila County Treasurer Priscilla Knuckey-Ralls "was unaware of the 1995 special census" which increased the population of the Town of Payson from 8,377 in 1990 to 11,004 and therefore decreased the percentage of taxes due to the other communities.

In recent correspondence, the town attorney for Hayden and Miami said that based on a technicality the fact that "neither Globe nor Payson certified the census" Payson isn't due any reimbursement.

Payson Town Attorney Sam Streichman is asking the council for authorization to accept an offer of assistance from Deputy County Attorney Mark Gunning to enter into negotiations with those municipalities in an attempt to "correct and recalculate vehicle license taxes."

The council also is expected to accept a $195,000 Heritage Grant from the Arizona State Parks Board for Rumsey Park athletic field development.

The grant, which requires the town to provide matching funds, will be used for synthetic turf, field lights, safety fencing, goals, base material and grading.

Finally, the council is expected to proclaim Tuesday, Nov. 14 Groundwater Awareness Day. On that date, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality will hold an open house for Payson residents at its Expanded Groundwater Treatment System facility at 204 West Aero Drive.

Tours of that facility will be offered from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. with a presentation by consultants on the two PCE groundwater contamination plumes within the town limits from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

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