Water Works

Town whittles away at water projects and other top priorities

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Rich Underkofler, who has been Payson town manager for five years, thinks the town has come a long way in the past 12 months. And, he said, he's looking forward to another year of steady progress.

He gives much of the credit for the town's advancements to the strategic planning process the council uses to set town priorities.

As in years past, water management and development topped the council's list of initiatives in 2000. Under that heading, the council made a number of water-related goals such as:

Finding the funding to tap new water sources

Preserving the town's current water supply for existing customers

And developing a plan for finding and using new water.

During the past year, the town found one new well in the Tonto National Forest northeast of town.

"It was a real deep well, and the pump tests indicated 100 gallons per minute," Underkofler said. "We had 14 wells permitted, and only one proved to be economical ... and now we've applied to the U.S. Forest Service to do some more exploration on the northeast side of town to trace out this groundwater area to see where it's going so we might be able to get into something better.

"We also test-pumped two existing wells, and determined that by enhancing them we could come up with another 142 gallons a minute. One well is over by Frontier Elementary School and one is by Payson Elementary. That's a total of another 250 gallons a minute, and that's enough for another 250 houses."

While 2000 wasn't a banner year for water witching, the town boosted water production by 1,500 gallons a minute, Underkofler said, by bringing new wells on line and developing reclaimed wastewater treatment projects.

The council's No. 2 priority was building a bigger public library, which is now under construction at Rumsey Park. It took nearly 15 years to raise enough money and political support for the $2 million project, but on Jan. 12, 2001, Amon Builders broke ground on the 15,765-square-foot building. The library is expected to open in late 2001.

The town has completed a number of important building projects in the past year or two, Underkofler said. With the help of a crowd of community volunteers, the town finished the Payson Event Center on the south edge of town in time for the spring 2000 rodeo.

The town also built a new police station at Town Hall and a new fire substation on Rancho Road.

Street improvements rounded out the council's top three priorities. To that end, the town widened Airport Road from McLane Road to the top of the hill, and installed sidewalks, curbs and gutters on Bonita Street from Highway 87 to the Rim Country Middle School.

Among the town's other accomplishments this fiscal year, Underkofler said, Payson secured a grant to build a multi-purpose athletic field in Rumsey Park, hired three new firefighter/EMTs and recruited 40 new police station volunteers.

The town's challenge for the future, he said, will be addressing Payson's affordable housing problem and attracting businesses that offer better-than-minimum-wage jobs.

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