Town Council To Tackle Teen Voting Issue

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Vice Mayor Dick Wolfe, who wants to amend the town code so he can nominate Payson High School student Rose Galhotra to the Debt Financing Committee as a full voting member, has his work cut out for him.

"Dick Wolfe asked (Town Attorney) Sam Streichman to introduce an ordinance to enable her to vote, and the whole matter has had unintended consequences," Town Manager Rich Underkofler said.

Several town board and commission members object to giving full voting rights to teenagers, and the council will discuss the issue Thursday during its regular 6 p.m. meeting at Town Hall.

One of those who objects is Don Harmon, a member of the Payson Planning and Zoning Commission. Harmon, who emphasized he was speaking for himself and not the commission, said he thinks teens are too easily influenced and are too inexperienced to be making decisions on multi-million dollar projects.

"I also think it's a legal issue," Harmon said. "There are legal voting ages in each individual state and I don't think those should be violated."

Underkofler said Streichman is looking into those statutes, and that they could, indeed, quash the initiative.

The town manager said he thinks the issue has been overblown.

"All the changes would do is allow the mayor to appoint a high school or home-schooled student who is a town resident to a regular position on a town board, committee or commission with full voting privileges," Underkofler said. "There has been some confusion about it raising the number of people on the commission, which it doesn't do."

Wording in the town code allowing appointment of two "non-voting youth" members to boards, committees and commissions would remain unchanged.

Among the other items on the relatively short council agenda is consideration of a consulting firm to work with town officials in updating the town's general plan a state requirement under the new Growing Smarter statutes. "Every municipality in the state is required to update their general plan and add new elements," Underkofler said.

The company selected will be primarily used to manage the citizen participation portion of the process. The final document must be ratified by the voters.

Town Development Director Robert Gould will ask the council for permission to negotiate with Partners for Strategic Action, Inc., the top-ranked firm among the five companies that submitted qualifications for the project. PSA, which has provided extensive organizational strategic planning for the town over the past decade, is experienced in land-use planning, public involvement, economic and demographic analysis, water resources, and parks and open spaces planning.

Once negotiations are complete, the council will vote on entering into a contract. If negotiations are not successful, Gould wants to negotiate successively by ranking with the other firms who submitted qualifications.

"The council needs to complete its work on the plan by the end of this calendar year, and then it will probably appear on the primary election ballot next March," Underkofler said.

Also under consideration Thursday will be a new one-year agreement with the Payson Humane Society, under which the town would pay the shelter $2,791 a month for providing "rabies control facilities, spaying, neutering, adoption, care and any disposal of animals" placed in its control in accordance with town and state laws.

Under the agreement, which would begin July 1, the town would collect all licensing and impound fees.

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