Airport Road is far from the worst street in town, but the Payson Town Council decided a $1.7-million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration to realign it was an offer too good to pass up Thursday evening during its regular meeting.
"It will open up more of the airport land for economic development, which we're trying to do to make the airport more self-sustaining," Mayor Barbara Brewer said.
The new Airport Road will generally run south of the existing road from Crosswinds Restaurant to Earnhardt Parkway west of the airport campground. The purpose is to make more land available contiguous to the airport rather than across Airport Road.
Under the realignment plan, the current Airport Road will become a service road for the aviation-related businesses that may locate there.
The town has received a tentative allocation letter for $1.7 million from the FAA for its share of the project. A 5-percent match is required, with the Arizona Department of Transportation's Aeronautics Division and the town, splitting the balance at $42,500 each.
"It's a very good deal," Brewer said. "We're paying 2.5 cents on the dollar for that road improvement, which is really, really reasonable."
The mayor said the FAA mandated that the involved property be used for airport-related purposes and that all money generated from it goes to the airport fund.
"The reason we were able to put the town yard up there on that 25 acres was because it helps maintain that airport, and the (money from the) lease of the grounds has to go back into the airport fund," she said.
Payson Municipal Airport comes closer to breaking even than most, according to the mayor.
"The airport is one of the only draws off the general fund that actually pays back into the general fund," Brewer said.
Besides more hangars and parking, another eventual use for some of the land is a third fire station for Payson.
"It would support not only the residences, but the airport, and that would make it an approved use by the FAA," Brewer said.
Councilor George Barriger, while supporting the realignment, expressed concern that the town's top street priority remains unfunded.
"If that's something that needs to be done for the future of the airport, then I tend to go along with it, especially since there is a huge grant involved," Barriger said. "But to be very honest with you, we still haven't addressed the number one priority as far as streets are concerned -- South Mud Springs Road.
"There's a lot of congestion in the south part of town and there is no way to relieve that without that road going in. I was looking at the preliminary budget figures and there's nothing in there for (South Mud Springs Road), so during the budget process I'm certainly going to be campaigning to get some funds set aside for that effort."
Water fees increased
The council also approved an increase in the fees charged for many of the services performed by the water department.
Public Works Director Buzz Walker requested the fee restructuring so developers and others who actually use the services pay for them.
"It keeps the cost away from the vast majority of customers who don't benefit from the special services," Walker said.
But some of the fee increases are intended to reduce late or nonpayment of bills, illegal turn-ons and vandalism. The water service reinstatement fee, for example, will double from $10 to $20 when water service has been terminated for failure to pay water bills.
The fee for an illegal turn-on will increase from $25 to $200 plus payment for water used, and the charge for damaging town property increases from the cost of the repair to cost plus $100. In both cases, prosecution by the town is also a possibility.
Other increases include a $15 charge for service calls, which were previously free. Meter re-reads, also previously free, will now cost $15, unless the meter is found to be reading in excess of industry standards
The increases are also designed to better reflect current costs of providing services, and to bring the entire fee structure together in one place for the first time.
"Existing fees are found in numerous ordinances and resolutions that have been enacted throughout the past 25 years since the founding of the Payson Water Department on Aug. 1, 1980," Walker wrote in a memo on the subject to the council.