Council Diverts Cash To Rec Center Project

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The Payson Town Council rearranged the town's spending priorities and juggled its funding plan last week to draft plans for a community recreation center.

The council opted to delay the North McLane Road improvement project so the town could pay cash for the construction of Payson's new library building in Rumsey Park.

With that move, the town saved $240,000 in debt service on the library, and that money has now been earmarked for a recreation center that would include a gym, a lap pool, an indoor walking track and basketball courts.

"The council decided it made more sense to pay for the library with cash and get started on the community center instead," Town Manager Rich Underkofler said.

In addition to rechanneling town funding, the council re-arranged its list of 13 priority council initiatives Thursday during a Corporate Strategic Plan meeting at Town Hall.

"The council elevated the new community center to No. 3 (from No. 7) on the list right after (water resource management and development and collector and minor arterial) streets, and decided to get started with architectural design plans for that facility," the town manager said.

Mayor Ray Schum, who proposed the reordering, was the primary mover behind the change, Councilmember Barbara Brewer said. "I commend him for his vision," she said.

In deciding to place a community recreation center high on its list of priorities, the council reversed a previous decision to finance the library so North McLane Road could be widened and improved, a job that proved difficult.

The council struggled with options for improving and widening the road because while it is one of the town's major arterial collector streets, it also runs through a residential neighborhood.

The prioritized list of council initiatives was derived from input provided by participants in the Payson 2020 Town Hall Meeting held Oct. 20 and by business community members who attended a Focused Futures Plan for Economic Development meeting Nov. 17.

The only other change to the list of initiatives was to lower a plan to improve the Payson Event Center by adding an all-weather arena roof, paving the parking lot and adding public restrooms and a concession area. Previously ranked No. 8, that item was moved to the No. 13 position at the end of the list.

According to Brewer, the town could raise enough money to improve the event center through a proposed change in the hospitality tax that will be considered by the council during a special 5 p.m. meeting Thursday before the council's regular 6 p.m. meeting.

That change to drop the town's bed tax from 3 percent to 2 percent and add a town bar and restaurant tax of 2 percent is No. 4 on the list of priority council initiatives.

In tentative discussions about a community recreation center, the site most frequently mentioned for such a facility has been Rumsey Park, where the new public library is being built. Underkofler said, however, that there is still some debate among councilmembers regarding a final location.

"Some councilmembers want the community center in the (Green Valley) redevelopment area, and some want it in Rumsey Park. They decided to leave that debate for another day," he said.

Council priorities

The Payson Town Council approved 13 priority initiatives Thursday, which are ranked below in order of importance:

1. Water resource management and development Preserve water supply within the town's production areas for existing customers; formulate a drought management plan; develop new water sources, methods to finance them, and plans for apportioning them.

2. Collector and minor arterial streets Update improvement priorities to those with highest traffic counts and projects for which grants and other financing assistance is available.

3. Community recreation center

4. Tourism tax Implement a uniform 2-percent tax on hotels, restaurants and bars for tourism development and community amenities.

5. Affordable housing Update strategies for assisting with affordable housing projects.

6. Main Street and Green Valley Area Redevelopment Increase funding to implement strategies in the Redevelopment Plan.

7. Economic development Implement the Economic Development Plan that evolved out of the November Focused Futures Meeting.

8. Drainage Provide a plan for carrying water from the watersheds that come together east of Main Street to the Kaibab Drainage Channel.

9. Local streets Continue to offer a 50-percent town share for upgrading subdivision streets.

10. Communications Improve communications between council and staff.

11. Improve customer service Especially with zoning and building code enforcement functions.

12. Improve employee benefits Including improved tuition reimbursement, sick leave transfer and earlier retirement.

13. Improve event center Including all-weather arena roof, paved parking, public rest rooms and concession area.

The council will hold a special meeting at 4 p.m. Thursday, March 22 to authorize a final draft of Payson's Corporate Strategic Plan for public review. A public hearing regarding the plan will be held during the council's regular 6 p.m. meeting Thursday, April 26, at which time the 2001 Corporate Strategic Plan could be adopted.

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