Candidates Face Tough Questions At Forum

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Candidates vying for the office of mayor and a seat on the town council lobbied voters at a forum sponsored by the Mogollon Republican Women's organization last week.

Payson Mayor Ken Murphy was scheduled to attend, but was working out of town.

While Don Castleman acted as moderator, candidates fielded questions from the public on issues such as streets, water, economic development and affordable housing.

Streets

How the town will find money to repair its decaying street was an issue all the candidates felt strongly about.

"We have to continue going after the grants that are available," vice mayor and mayoral candidate Barbara Brewer said, referring to the ADOT grants that would pay a substantial portion of repair costs for McLane Road.

"A bond issue as well as federal funding are two ways," mayoral candidate Jim Chase said. "As far as the town budget is concerned, until I can go over the numbers, I can't say where I might transfer money from."

"We are not getting a good deal for our money because special interests are getting good roads," mayoral candidate Diana Sexton said. "As far as how we fix the roads, it's like eating an elephant -- you do it one bite at a time."

Council candidates were asked if they would reduce the fire and police budgets to put money toward street repair.

While candidates discussed ways to take care of the streets, only council candidate John Wilson answered the part of the question referring to transferring money from public safety.

"Cutting police and fire would be difficult," Wilson said. "That's public safety."

Council candidate Vernon Randall said the town could have used some of the money from parks projects for street repair.

"That new park at Main and McLane," Randall said, "that money could have been spent on roads."

Council candidates Tim Fruth and George Barriger said they thought a bond election was the most promising way of funding street projects.

Economic development

"We've got to grow," Chase said. "I think getting high-tech industries to relocate to Payson is the right idea."

Wilson said Payson needs to have a more diverse economy to safeguard against future slumps.

"Construction is limited," Wilson said. "If the economy is down in one area, it may be up in others. I would encourage tourism and to continue the Main Street redevelopment."

"We want to draw business, yet we don't," Randall said. "We want to remain a small town, but we need the money."

Fruth praised Payson Regional Economic Development Director Scott Flake on his efforts to bring businesses to Payson.

Barriger said retirees are a valuable infusion of money into Payson's economy.

"Retirees have discretionary income," Barriger said. "They bring outside money into Payson. They have money to spend and they spend it here."

Candidates for mayor were asked how they felt about affordable housing.

Sexton said it was a nice idea for everyone to be able to own their own home, but took no stand on the issue.

"That development behind Wal-Mart -- they made the homes more expensive so that the developers and everyone could make more money," Sexton said, "so people like me can't have an average home."

Water

How to solve the town's ongoing water problem was a question for the council candidates.

"We are in the desert and in a drought," Randall said. "If we are going to pay people to drill on private land, we need to have a contract with them that says if they hit water, we get some of it."

"We have to be good stewards of our water," Fruth said. "The town has done an excellent job of reducing water consumption. Last year, we reduced consumption by nine percent. We are getting the waterless urinals at the schools -- think how much water that will save."

Barriger said he would encourage a full-time liaison to the Forest Service.

"Our relationship with the Forest Service is very important," Barriger said. "You need someone who is always there, working with them."

Wilson said he thought town staff should be accessible to give homeowners options for water conservation devises, such as low-flow toilets.

Recycling

Mayoral candidates were asked about instituting recycling in the town.

"I am a strong advocate of recycling," Brewer said. "Something the town of Prescott did was they divided the town into quarters and trash companies bid for each area. Recycling was part of that plan."

"Recycling is too expensive," Chase said. "We should look into what Canada is doing. They burn trash to generate energy with steam."

"Recycling is too expensive," Sexton said. "But I like the idea that (Brewer) had and that would cut down on the wear and tear on our streets."

Payson's drug problem

"Law enforcement has done a phenomenal job of driving meth labs out of town," Fruth said. "Bringing more jobs to Payson would help with that because I feel drugs are tied to poverty and by raising people out of poverty, we would reduce the drug problem."

"We have a really good police department," Barriger said. "They have done a great job in the schools as well."

"I, too, commend the police department," Wilson said. "Another way to keep our youth away from drugs is by providing them with healthy activities like sports."

Randall also praised the work of the school resource officers and the police department's DARE program.

Town's biggest challenge

All candidates were asked to give their opinion on what they feel is the biggest challenge facing the town.

"Being smart with our budget and communicating with the people so we can build trust." --ohn Wilson.

"Spending money the way we say we are. Separating our needs versus our wants." --ernon Randall

"Restoring faith and trust in elected officials. We won't move forward until we do that." --im Fruth

"Do more to reduce fire danger. If the town burns down, it won't matter who works well together or what happens with the streets." --eorge Barriger

"We do need faith restored. And we need to find a way to fund the repair of our infrastructure." --arbara Brewer

"Having a cohesive council that is on the same page. And reducing the fire danger." --im Chase

"They (pointing to Brewer and Chase), haven't followed through with what they said they would do. I want Payson to be the best it can be." --iana Sexton

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