$9 Million In Bonds On September Ballot Issue


September's municipal election was the major focus of Thursday's meeting of the town council. Through a series of "emergency" ordinances, the council approved the issues that will come before the voters.

The "emergency" clause was applied mainly because of legal issues related and time requirements. Without the designation of the emergency clause, the public has 30 days to start a referendum forcing the issue to public vote.

A member of the public contested the use of the clause.

"No one would file a referendum regarding the right to vote," Town Manager Fred Carpenter said.

"You will not have an election on September 9 without an emergency clause," Town Attorney Sam Streichman responded.

The council first considered the recommendations by the 15 members of the Citizen's Committee on Capital Improvement Projects. The committee spent several weeks sifting through nearly $40 million dollars worth of projects for potential bond issues in the fall election. After the weeks of close inspection and debate, the committee came up with a list of projects totaling just over $9 million.

"We looked for (the projects) that had the greatest impact and benefit to the entire town," Chairman Bruce Whiting said. "We tried to only approve those things that had a high likelihood of passing."

Whiting described the three project packages that voters would consider. The first is a public works package consisting of 12 street projects, totaling $4.4 million.

"Of those 12 projects, two ... are new streets, two ... are intersections, three ... are sidewalk projects and five are rebuilds of existing streets," Whiting said.

A second bond issue for voters to consider is a Parks and Recreation package that includes a roof structure over the Payson Event Center and synthetic turf on Rumsey Park ballfields. The cost of the combined projects is just over $1 million.

The final bond issue recommendation was a public safety package consisting of a communications overhaul of the police and fire departments, a remodel of the fire station on Main Street and construction of a new station in the area of Tyler Parkway and Highway 260.

"Once we found out that our dispatchers were using DOS based computers for all of our emergencies, we felt very strongly that we had to take a look at this," Whiting said.

The committee also recommended how the bonds be repaid.

"It's our recommendation that we pay for the street projects through property tax and that the public safety and parks and rec be paid for through an additional sales tax," Whiting said. "For an average family it might cost about $35 to $40 a year."

When it came time for the council to approve the committee's recommendations, the only point of disagreement was whether the public safety package should be divided into two separate issues on the ballot -- one for the communications overhaul, and the second for the fire station issues.

"I would like to see public safety split into two separate bond issues," Mayor Ken Murphy said.

Except for Councilor Robert Henley, who agreed with Murphy, the council preferred the recommendation of the committee that there be three bond issues on the ballot rather than splitting public safety, thereby creating four issues for voters to consider.

Seeing they were in the minority, Murphy and Henley conceded to the majority opinion, both saying they would not stand in the way of approving the recommendations. The council unanimously approved the committee's suggestions for bond initiatives. It will now be up to the voters to decide if the projects will come to fruition.

General Plan checked

The town's General Plan, which serves as a 10 year policy guideline for growth and development, was also on the agenda.

The document has been in a revision process for nearly two years and Thursday was the last public hearing before council approved the draft.

Some members of the public expressed concern about potential zoning changes called for in the plan allowed. The confusion ended when Murphy emphasized that the plan was merely a framework and that it did not change current zoning.

"It is a land use plan," Murphy said. "Zoning does not change. To apply for a zoning change, you still have to go through the process. It doesn't make it easier, it just doesn't restrict it."

Community Development Director Bob Gould also clarified the plan's effect on zoning.

"This plan does not rezone anything," Gould said. "We have not changed any zoning. It allows people to come in and change it, but they still have to go through all the processes."

The council found no problem with the plan and unanimously approved it. It will now go before the voters for ratification in September.

As Town Manager Fred Carpenter said, "A plan is a plan that can always be amended."

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