Mayor Forms Task Forces For Water, Housing

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Two weeks after taking his seat as Payson's new mayor, Bob Edwards begins to look at town staff from the inside out with a series of task forces.

Edwards said these groups will explore organizational efficiency and department data, and determine whether physical infrastructure and future projects support the needs of the town.

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Bob Edwards

"(Now), it's basically the staff who develops policy, and that's contrary to my way of thinking," Edwards said. "I'm a firm believer that the citizens dictate the policy."

Mayor's task forces thrive in most communities where, with varying degrees of success, they address a variety of social issues.

There's the Task Force on Littering and Dumping in Gastonia, N.C.; the Mayor's Cruise Ship Task Force of Maui and the Torrington, Conn. Mayor's Task Force on Blight.

But in the middle of Arizona, we have three fundamental concerns: thirst, shelter and safety.

Two task forces -- water and affordable housing -- have already formed.

Edwards appointed former chemical engineer Lynn Godfrey as chair of the Mayor's Task Force on Water.

"Their first task is to assess where we're really at, what is our picture right now and communicate that to the public," Edwards said. "And then that confusion can be put to rest."

Godfrey said, though the group hasn't formally met, he's identified between 15 to 20 community members he'll enlist to evaluate water department analyses and corporate structure.

"The problem right now is nobody knows what the facts are," Godfrey said. "Most often you have three pieces of data that conflict with each other and you have to identify why they don't match."

The process works like this: Godfrey hands out assignments to members of the task force. They research the issue and report back to Godfrey. If the mission produces auxiliary questions, Godfrey will seek the input of other experts.

"This will at least be the start -- a number of individuals with assignments to dig up what the truth is," he said.

Information gathered through Godfrey's efforts, Edwards said, will give him the ability to implement long-term water planning.

"What is this town going to look like when it grows up?" the mayor said. "We'll come up with a game plan on how we answer future needs. We will have to look at all potential sources -- see if Blue Ridge is real, if drilling in the forest is real. How do we pay for future needs?"

As Payson moves toward that future, Edwards said he'll capitalize on the talent and experience of Payson's citizenry, and when it comes to affordable housing, nobody tops Rick Croy, president of Payson Regional Housing Development Corporation.

That's the kind of knowledge Edwards wants on his Affordable Housing Task Force.

"Their first charge is to define the true needs of the town," Edwards said. "We've talked about it, but do we really know the need?"

And Croy does.

Croy, whose run for council ended in May, oversaw the development of Payson's two low-income housing complexes: Green Valley Apartments and Canal Senior Apartments.

Government funding, land trusts, the accomplishments of other towns and community collaboration -- Croy said his group will look at it all.

"The key in being successful with this is coming up with partnerships with private entities and the town," he said. "Ultimately, it's got to come from somewhere."

Croy, with the help of Councilor Su Connell, has already selected community members to serve on his task force, but, he wouldn't disclose their identities until he made a yet-determined public announcement.

In addition to water and affordable housing, public safety and economic development top the list of Edwards' other community concerns.

The mayor's public safety task force will evaluate the effectiveness of fire and police departments, especially drug enforcement.

"I think we can address the drug scene a lot better," he said. "Drugs are our cancer. If you let that cancer get going, it'll tear the town apart."

And the antidote to that decay is the economic development task force -- creating more than just an RV gateway to the east.

"I think we can become the fun center of Arizona," Edwards said. "When people come here for an event, they spend their money and go home. Commercial gives us more than it takes. If you put up a subdivision, it takes more than it gives."

Meanwhile, other council members are answering the mayor's call.

"It's not bad having citizens' input," Vogel said. "If nothing else, it'll let the public know what's going on with their peers."

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