Covered Bleachers, Community Center On Wish List

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Town department heads continue their presentations before the Citizen's Ad Hoc Capital Improvements Project Committee in the hopes of securing funds for high-dollar projects.

Parks and Recreation Director Bill Schwind endured a particularly grueling session at Wednesday night's meeting of the committee.

Chairman Bruce Whiting was one of three members who criticized Schwind for not providing adequate information for the four projects he proposed for consideration as potential bond initiatives.

"This is a lot of money that the people will be voting on," Whiting said. "and you've given us a paragraph of information."

Except for the two-page presentation on the community center, Schwind gave the committee a paragraph with cost estimates on the other projects: laying synthetic turf on three ballfields at Rumsey Park; putting a metal covering over the Payson Event Center; and purchasing the Payson Golf Course to turn it into a municipal course.

"I apologize to the committee," Schwind said. "I was never instructed to get into the kind of detail you are asking for."

Town Manager Fred Carpenter stepped in to take the blame. "I take responsibility," Carpenter said. "I told Bill to provide an outline of the projects."

The committee appeared lukewarm if not skeptical about all four of the projects. When the event center was brought up, Schwind admitted that the center was not drawing the kind of income that was originally hoped for.

"We are losing about $10,000 a year on the event center the way it is now," Schwind said.

Complaints about the event center have been that it is dusty and hot due to the lack of cover and shading. There was almost a comedic atmosphere at the meeting during discussions pertaining to the event center.

"It's brutal out there," Schwind said, referring to flying dust and searing metal bleachers.

The $500,000 bond would provide a metal covering over the arena with the hope of making the center more inviting to event organizers.

Former Mayor Ray Schum came to the meeting to support Schwind in the proposed Community Center. The $6.5 million center that would be located at Rumsey Park, would have multi-purpose rooms, a gym, lap and recreation pools, a senior activity center and kitchen.

"We are needing a facility," Schwind said.

Schwind said a feasibility study is in progress, but will not be completed in time for the committee to review before deciding what projects would become bond initiatives.

"The timing is brutal for us on this," Schwind said. "We just won't have the feasibility study done in time."

Besides their desire to have the study in hand, committee members questioned the use, logistics and profitability of the center.

The multi-generational component of the center was a point of discussion because the senior center on Main Street, which is suffering a financial shortfall, would relocate to a portion of the proposed community center.

After hearing committee members' comments, Schum suggested the idea of selling the event center property to fund part of the community center and raise the remaining funds through a bond issue.

Schwind, who said this was his first meeting of this kind, appeared to be caught off guard by the grilling he received. The committee requested that he provide more in depth information for their next meeting.

Public safety

The police and fire department received a slightly warmer reception by the committee in the earlier part of what turned into a three-hour meeting.

Sgt. Rod Mamero provided the committee a breakdown of costs on the communications overhaul the departments would like the public to approve through the debt issue.

The computer system currently used by the police department is an outdated system that frequently goes down, but so far the shut downs are temporary.

"The other day the computers were down and the dispatchers were hand writing things on sticky notes," Mamero said. "It's not a question of if the system will crash, it's when."

The public safety communications overhaul that would include state-of-the-art equipment, software and 55 laptop computers for police and fire vehicles, has a projected cost of $4.5 million for the two departments. The new equipment is designed to streamline communications, cut down response times, and thereby enhance public safety.

"We feel strongly about this," Fire Chief John Ross said. "It is the highest priority."

In fact, this was such a necessity, Ross said, that his department would be willing to eliminate other expenses included in the proposal such as a new station and another station remodel in order to have the communications overhaul become a bond issue.

The committee appeared receptive to an apparent need, but questioned the cost, among other things and asked if a portion of the system could be improved without the acceptance of the entire multi-million dollar package, which would include 55 laptop computers.

The committee will have its sixth meeting Wednesday, April 16 at 5:30 p.m. at town hall and is scheduled to make recommendations to the town council next month on which capital improvement projects should become bond initiatives in the next election.

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