Mayor's Task Forces Share Progress

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More than two dozen chairs of the mayor's task forces met with the Town of Payson department heads Monday to discuss the progress of the committees and set goals for the future. The first theme that emerged was the fact that some of the groups were either duplicating efforts of town staff or were unaware of town policies.

This was the first meeting of all the task force heads with town staff since Mayor Bob Edwards introduced his citizen participation plan for government shortly after taking office this summer.

Lew Levenson, facilitator of the task force progress meeting Monday, said the mayor's task forces are a public-friendly, information-producing group of committees.

"The point of this is to enable better and earlier citizen input," he said. "This (kind of meeting) needs to be more routine."

Each task force presented its progress Monday. Most groups had set goals and were still in the early research phase of meeting those goals.

Administrative Policies Task Force

The administrative policies task force has undertaken several ambitions, including an analysis of town payroll and the review of the personnel policy.

Lucy Briggs, a representative of the task force, said her committee is in the process of reviewing the town's human resources policy.

Community members, according to Briggs, perceive that the salary of town employees is based on those of larger towns and don't take productivity into account. One resident, she said, suggested that the town do away with the town manager position.

HR Director Bob Smith said he was frustrated with that misconception.

"Employees are being paid on performance," Smith said.

Town Manager Fred Carpenter said a town the size of Payson has to offer competitive wages if it wants to retain and attract quality employees.

"You have to compare with larger towns, because that's where the employees are going," he said.

Over the next few months, Briggs and her committee, chaired by Penny Dorgan, will find ways to clarify the existing HR manual.

Affordable Housing Task Force

Before any projects are implemented, the affordable housing task force, headed by Rick Croy, must find funding sources. The group -- joined by Owen and Councilor Su Connell -- meet every other week.

Housing dollars are limited, hindering past work force housing projects.

"Hopefully, this year's group will come up with some resources to fund these projects," Owen said.

"There will be a lot of heavy thinking," Croy added. "Without the funding, we could have the best plan in the world, but it doesn't matter."

The task force is looking into partnerships with private homebuilders or nonprofit agencies, such as Habitat for Humanity, as well as public subsidies.

The task force will present a draft of its findings to the council in the coming weeks.

Airport Task Force

Airport Manager Ted Anderson said he and his advisory committee meet about once a month to propose updates to the existing airport master plan. The conservation focused on self-sufficiency and federal dollars. Local designer Ken Volz proposed the involvement of private businesses and airport users to design creative financing options.

Community Development Director Jerry Owen said he agreed, and instead of turning down grants, as the council did earlier this summer, it should accept Federal Aviation Administration money.

"When we turn down these grants, the FAA official makes a call and the grants go away in a day," Owen said.

The town and the Arizona Department of Transportation contribute a small percentage to airport projects.

Alternate Route Task Force

For a committee working on a project potentially 25 years away, the bypass group is making progress. Its biggest supporter, said Chair Chris Tilley, is state representative Jake Flake. He sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic during Labor Day. Tilley said she's also contacted the Forest Service, County Supervisor Shirley Dawson and representatives from the trucking industry and the business community. In the coming weeks, Tilley and her task force plan to circulate a petition among local residents and traffic-bound drivers.

The alternate route bypass task force hosts a presentation by a transportation engineer at 6 p.m., Oct. 4, in the Payson Town Council chambers.

Economic Development Task Force

When Mayor Bob Edwards defined his economic development task force, he included image/identity and design review subcommittees.

Leon Keddington, who oversees the committee, said his group is weighing the education, employment and economic needs of the town.

"What are we going to look like when we grow up?" Keddington said.

The task force will collaborate with local organizations such as the Payson Regional Economic Development Corporation.

In his work, Keddington discouraged big-box retailers and malls, looking toward the hospitality industry to provide jobs, and the local high school and college to fill the personnel needs.

Image Task Force

Carol McCauley, director of the Main Street Program, said the town could do a better job of promoting itself, especially when recruiting new businesses into the area. Instead, Payson is known, in some tourist's minds, as a pit stop.

When it comes to plugging Payson, Keddington added, it's all about the town's unique neighborhood and events, such as the rodeo.

"Keep the image very broad," he said.

Design Review Task Force

When the town implemented its design review guidelines in 2005, Jeanie Langham was in the middle of it. The town created the rules to maintain a mountain-like setting, but beyond that, she said, the town has a duty to enforce its own rules, and ask existing businesses to conform to its standards.

"We need to work with the town and figure out what its deficiencies are," Langham said. "It can be done, perhaps our committee can help them."

Ethics Committee

Al Poskanzer and his group of five task force members will recommend to the Payson Town Council a three-point ethics policy to govern elected officials and town employees, and design a set of voluntary conduct guidelines for candidates.

The new policy, Poskanzer said, is 80 percent complete.

When finished, the ethics procedures will cover conflicts of interest, whistle-blowing, and the misappropriation of public funds for private uses. The policy also establishes employee training and an ethics review board to process allegations within state law.

"It'll be our job to make the idea work procedurally," Carpenter said.

Finance Task Force

Joanie King, head of the finance task force, said she and her committee are working with the town's finance department to distill and simplify budget numbers, creating a more user-friendly environment for the community.

In doing so, Volz asked King to analyze the economic feasibility of the task forces' economic goals and not waste time pursuing efforts that won't meet financial criteria.

King said the group will establish a preliminary auditing model for the town's new accounting software. The plan will help the town determine the strengths and limitations of the incoming computer system.

Water Task Force

The water task force isn't really a committee, said Chair Lynn Godfrey. Instead, it's a group of people who seek answers to questions. Godfrey has gathered experts -- engineers, accountants and statisticians -- not only to analyze the cost-benefit of the town's water options, but to find out just how much water pools underneath Payson. Since early summer, Godfrey's group has met a handful of times.

"I don't think the water task force will come up with recommendations," Godfrey said. "Our output will come up with findings. This task force is not the one making the decisions. We are just the data developers."

To participate in a task force, contact Leon Keddington at emk@cbiwireless.com.

-- To reach Felicia Megdal call 474-5251 ext. 116 or e-mail fmegdal@payson.com.

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