Questions Outweigh Answers At Town Hall

Advertisement

Payson Town Manager Fred Carpenter and his staff want to know why the street bond issue failed in September's special election.

This was one of the reasons for Saturday's Town Hall meeting, the first in a series of open forum meetings to educate the public and get feedback about town issues.

Public comments and questions were fielded by Carpenter, Town Engineer LaRon Garrett and Councilors Barbara Brewer, Judy Buettner, Robert Henley, Bryan Siverson and Dick Reese.

Long-time resident Jack Jasper was the first of several members of the public to ask staff what the town is going to do about the rapidly deteriorating condition of residential streets.

"By not improving the deplorable conditions of the streets for the past several years, you have lost the confidence of the public," Jasper said. "It's time to revise the budget and stop putting money into economic development and put $5 million into road improvements."

Jasper referred to the town's $30 million dollar budget, of which $160,000 is for street maintenance.

Henley was quick to clarify that, in actuality, only $10 million of the budget was available and the other $20 million is restricted in its use.

"We are really looking at $10 million to run the fire department, the police department and the other town departments," Henley said. "I agree, though, that we need to put more money in streets."

"There really isn't as much discretionary income as you may think," Carpenter said.

Henley encouraged audience members to attend the budget meetings and voice their opinions about what should be a priority.

One member of the audience, Al Lyons, later reminded Henley that he was one of several council members who made improving streets part of their platform at election time.

Carpenter said residents were under the assumption that if the bonds failed, the council would somehow come up with the money anyway.

"There is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow," Carpenter said.

When bonds for the new police department and the library failed, the two projects were eventually built. Residents like Jasper remember that some money was taken from the McLane Road project to finish the library.

"That's a fallacy about the library and the police department," Siverson said. "We decided to save money for those projects. We saved money and the cost went up faster than we could save."

Don Crowley, co-chairman of the organization Citizens for Better Payson Government gave his thoughts on how a future bond issue could be more successful.

"There does seem to be a credibility problem with regard to building projects -- the notion that ‘they'll do it anyway'," Crowley said. "We need a lot more transparency with the money committed to transportation. If we have 105 miles of roadway, then according to Mr. Garrett, we have approximately $105 million invested in our infrastructure."

Crowley referred to two street projects on the bond initiative that involved matching funds.

Garrett said that the McLane improvement from Forest to Airport was one such project.

"If we could come up with $505,000, ADOT would put $500,000," Garrett said. "If we can't come up with the money by 2006, we lose it."

The Bonita Street to St. Phillips improvement only required the town to put up $50,000 with ADOT paying $400,000.

"If we had divided the streets into separate bond issues and put those projects that were being matched into a separate issue, it might have been more compelling to voters," Crowley said.

Citizens for Better Payson Government, The Chamber of Commerce and Citizens to Improve Payson held two educational forums on the bond issues. Attendance was low.

"Between the two forums, we had about 60 people attend," Crowley said, "which tells me either voters had already made up their minds or they are apathetic.

"I think staff could have been more directly involved and council could have had more of a push communication rather than waiting for people to come to you for answers."

One member of the public said she voted against the bond issue because her street, West Frontier, was dropped off the list.

"I don't know what we will do about Frontier Street," Garrett said. "If we want to bring it up to at least a sub-standard level, it will cost in the neighborhood of $1.2 million from Colcord to McLane and $1.8 million to Oak."

"You just chip sealed Tyler Parkway and my road is turning into a dirt trail," Al Lyons said. "If we can't take care of the roads we do have, why are we building new roads?"

Garrett explained that the chip seal on Tyler Parkway would extend the life of the road, but it won't help a road that is already in poor shape.

Former Mayor Cliff Potts addressed the $160,000 budgeted for street maintenance which pays for road repair and salaries for a staff of 15 people who take care of 105 miles of roadway. "We had more in the budget for street maintenance 10 years ago than we have now," Potts said.

"$160,000 doesn't go very far. That's why we need bond issues to pass," Carpenter said.

"How do we take this down to a residential level?" Henley asked.

"It's a bitter pill to swallow, but people will have to come together and form an improvement district," Carpenter said.

"We are faced with some mega-challenges," Barbara Brewer said.

Potts and others agreed that one idea would be to form a standing committee to study transportation issues.

"I recommend forming a citizens committee that has a long-term outlook on transportation."

Carpenter and Crowley also brought up the fact that the Capital Improvement Committee had limited time to study and choose the projects.

"We probably did this too quickly," Carpenter said. "The committee needed more time to flush out the issues."

Commenting has been disabled for this item.