Council To Appoint Interim Town Manager

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The Payson Town Council will consider appointing Administrative Services Director Kelly Udall interim town manager at 6 p.m. Thursday at Town Hall.

Councilmember Hoby Herron has requested that the matter be taken up in executive session so council members do not have to "express their concerns in public." Herron says he is concerned that somebody "made the decision to announce that the interim town manager had been chosen."

"Although I dislike executive sessions, this is one time I would strongly suggest that we ... go into a special executive session and discuss how we feel ... This is a very important matter and should not be done hastily nor as a routine item."

Udall, who has the right to request public discussion and consideration of his appointment, said he does not intend to do so.

"I'm just going to let them do their thing. If they want to appoint me, they can," he said. While Udall claims to have no idea why Herron is requesting an executive session, he doesn't think it's aimed specifically at him.

"I suspect it has something to do with the process rather than the person," Udall said. "One thing I've learned is that as town manager, you have to have a thick skin."

The position will become vacant Jan. 5 when current town manager Rich Underkofler begins a new job as town manager of Mattoon, Ill.

Udall, 39, has been with the Town of Payson since February 1995. He previously served as resources director for Routt County in Colorado. He has a bachelor's degree in sociology from Arizona State University and a master's in public administration from the University of Colorado.

If he is appointed, Udall says he will use the interim period to consider whether to seek the position permanently.

"I'll use it as a time to evaluate how I like the job how it fits," he said.

In a related issue, the council will also consider a request for an executive search consultant to help recruit and select a new town manager. Mayor Ray Schum, who submitted the request, says a delay in filling the position would hurt the town.

"It could take up to six months to recruit, select and have a new town manager at work," Schum said. "If the incumbent council does not initiate the recruitment now, the new council that assumes office in June would need to function with an interim manager for quite a while."

If Udall is appointed he will receive a stipend of $500 per month for the additional duties and responsibilities. His human resources management responsibilities would be assumed by Tracy Schmidt, who would receive a $200 per month stipend.

"There is a sufficient appropriation for these stipends in the budget for the town manager's function," Schum said.

The council meeting, the only one in December because of the holidays, promises to be a marathon. The agenda is 17 pages long, and the packet of briefing and background documents is over an inch thick.

Other items of interest on the agenda:

A public hearing on a request to increase water rates by 15 percent for consumption greater than 5,000 gallons per month. The increase, which would take effect in February, is part of an attempt to provide more incentive to conserve water.

During peak use months, the increase would affect about half of the town's water customers, according to Public Works Director Buzz Walker. In winter months, Walker estimates less than one-third would be affected. Underkofler proposed the increase based on recommendations contained in the Water Department's Groundwater Management Status Report and the Payson Strategic Plan for the current fiscal year. Noting recent increases in water usage, both documents call for consumption-related increases to encourage year-round conservation.

A first reading and public hearing on the issue of moving the public comments portion of town council meetings to the end of the agenda. In requesting the action at the November meeting of the council, Schum said, "It's becoming a public forum for advocates to promote and secure support for special interests and personal agendas."

Since that meeting, councilmembers and the public have debated the issue. The measure passed 4-3, with councilmembers Ken Murphy, Bryan Siverson and Hoby Herron dissenting. Murphy called the decision "just a way of shutting people up."

A first reading and public hearing on the proposal to abolish the Airport Advisory Board. Schum, who also submitted this council decision request, said,

A presentation on the Main Street project by Lisa Henderson of the Arizona Department of Commerce. She will cover recommendations made by the state resource team contained in the Payson Resource Team Report. Recommendations include establishing an annual festival downtown that celebrates our heritage, diversity and optimism; promoting Payson as the hub for day trips to numerous attractions like the Tonto Natural Bridge and Roosevelt Lake; and focusing on the area between the Beeline and McLane Road to make it more pedestrian friendly.

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