For many years, dust pollution has been increasing because of continuing approval of development in areas with unimproved road conditions. These are not subdivisions, but individually built homes.
Many of these roads have been legally dedicated to the public for use as public roads, but the town has only accepted seven. They have labeled the others private roads, though they have been in public use since their beginnings, and are in the same condition as the accepted ones.
Doesn't this mean that all these roads should be considered to be in the same category and be recognized as the public roads they are? The town has been blading some dirt roads for up to 20 years so maintenance isn't a problem.
The ever-increasing road traffic exacerbates the dust pollution and health hazards for far more people than those who live on the roads. Inconsiderate speeds create more of a problem, and outsiders are not the total cause as some of those who live on these roads are also very thoughtless when they cause unnecessary clouds of dust.
The dust visible to the naked eye rises as high as the electrical lines, then becomes invisible but travels for miles in the air currents. Therefore, many people are unaware that they are breathing this unnecessary air pollution, especially in the far eastern areas of town.
In 1995, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality found Payson to be in a non-attainment area for PM-10 pollution. At this time, Payson filed a state implementation plan with this agency. Up until now, more than five years later, very little, if anything, has been done to reduce this ever-increasing pollution.
They are now promoting a type of road improvement plan where area residents pay half the cost of the improvements. This includes paved roads that have failed as well as dirt roads. On the surface, this might appear somewhat acceptable, but one must look further. It appears that the first two projects were to be Alpine Heights roads, which are failed paved roads, and Doll Baby Road, from the south area of Payson Golf Course to the water treatment plant. But now another dirt road area seems to be asking for paving, too. A problem surfaces here because the town only budgeted money for the original two in this fiscal year's budget.
The proposed plan to pave all the dirt roads in town is on the same slow freight it has been on for well over a decade. Words don't accomplish deeds, but actions do.
A fair political system would at least share revenues equally with existing citizens to correct such long prevailing deficiencies instead of delaying much needed projects in favor of future growth wants.
Editor's note: A few points of clarification are in order here. According to Payson Town Engineer LaRon Garrett, the first road the town plans to pave under its latest street-improvement plan is Doll Baby Road because the funding is already in place. The town will fund half the cost and the Northern Gila County Sanitary District will fund the other half. Alpine Heights is next in line, but residents are still working to secure their half of the funding.
Residents from the Canyon/Graham Ranch Road, Hermosillo and Ridge Lane areas also have expressed interest in partnering with the town to pave roads in their subdivisions, Garrett said, but additional town funding won't be available until next fiscal year.
"But a lot of preliminary work can be done before the money is approved," he said. "By the time the plans are done and we're ready to go, it will be next fiscal year anyhow."