Saturday's Town Hall meeting on the topic of streets brought members of the community to council chambers to give input and ask questions of town staff and council members about what we are going to do about our deteriorating roadways.
One conclusion of the meeting was that our residential streets are literally falling through the cracks and the failure of the bond issue is something we may soon regret.
It was an eye-opener to realize that the budget for street maintenance is $160,000 for this fiscal year. This is to maintain 105 miles of roadway with a crew of 15 people. The Pavement Preservation program which provides for chip and slurry seal of certain dirt and paved roads is about $400,000. According to Town Engineer LaRon Garrett, this program lengthens the life of good streets, but won't help the streets that are in shambles.
In the bond issue, we had an opportunity with two street projects, to have an ample portion of it paid for by ADOT. If the town could come up with $505,000 for repairing North McLane, they would chip in $500,000. If we could come up with a mere $50,000, ADOT would come up with $400,000 for Bonita Street.
We still have a crack at that money, but if the town cannot find the matching amount required, we lose it.
Garrett said it costs between $1 million and $2 million to put in a street that will last for some time. The general fund in the town's budget is where that money comes from to match grants for street projects. $10 million is in the general fund that money also goes to running the Police and Fire Departments as well as other town departments.
So, how will those residential streets get an overhaul? As Town Manager Fred Carpenter said, people will probably have to form their own improvement districts.
The street crews can do their best at triage, but to really salvage a street takes serious money. That money is where bond initiatives come in.
For those who think the town is going to miraculously find the money to do the 12 street projects included in the bond issue, the money is not there.
There may come a time when ADOT demands that we make an improvement, like putting a stoplight at Airport Road and Highway 87. They will expect the town to come up with some money and unlike the bond election, Payson residents won't have a choice in the matter.
The Town Hall meeting brought to light many facts about the budget, the cost of streets and the necessity of bond initiatives. It was an informal atmosphere unlike the somewhat intimidating environment of a council meeting. The councilors who chose to give their time and attend for the entirety of the three-hour meeting -- Robert Henley, Judy Buettner, Bryan Siverson and Barbara Brewer -- probably helped alleviate some of the mistrust of town officials.
We urge the council and town manager to continue the Town Hall meetings. The town will benefit from making this sort of effort to get in touch with residents and encouraging the open dialog that occurred Saturday.
As was evident at the meeting, there are many intelligent people living in Payson. They may have ideas that the council and town staff haven't thought of and the Town Hall meeting is the perfect vehicle for those to be expressed.
The councilors were sitting at the same level as the audience. People were enjoying baked goods and hot coffee and talking about the issues. It was a good move by town staff and we hope there will be more Town Hall meetings to come.