On Nov. 4, the Payson Town Council held a non-televised special meeting to consider the acceptance of a five-year Capital Improvement Program (CIP) for Payson Municipal Airport, totaling $10.5 million.
On Aug. 10, the Airport Advisory Committee (AAC) had reviewed a different five-year plan totaling $8 million.
Between Aug. 10 and the AAC meeting of Oct. 17, the CIP was revised with an increase of $2.5 million. The airport manager called these "minor changes." These changes were not voted on by the AAC: they wanted more information. At the Nov. 4 the Town Council returned from an executive session and voted to approve the CIP without public discussion.
Increasing the planned spending from $1.4 million to more than $10.5 million without detailed public discussion is bordering on criminal.
Although a few projects are important and have been in the CIP for a number of years, most of the new proposals are not justified and waste money.
What does purchasing more property, blast pads, environmental planning and extending the runway on one end and shortening it on the other have to do with safety?
None of the recent accidents at the airport would have been stopped by these improvements. Each of these proposed projects should be evaluated for a return on revenue investment.
The runway extension will cost $4 million. Two existing businesses, four hangars and three or four houses will need to be condemned at an additional cost of up to $6 million, plus all the legal fees. This project is being proposed as economic development.
Another example is the purchase of 51 acres to provide the U.S. Forest Service room for a single engine area tanker base. Before we spend the $1.2 million for the land and another $612,527 for roads, utilities, and fencing (buildings not included) the Town should insist on a long-term lease from the Forest Service.
We cannot even get a contract with the Forest Service for the past use of the airport during the Willow Fire. If contracts for previous fires are any example, we will not recover the costs or have repairs made to the damaged infrastructure at the airport as promised.
We cannot afford to waste the town's money on questionable airport projects when we have more important issues to fund, such as roads, water and a senior center. These kinds of expenditures need public deliberations, not secret meetings.
James Garner, Payson