Controversial Items Crowd Payson Agenda

Roundabouts, appointments, water rules all lurk on town council's Thursday lineup


The Payson Town Council managed to hoard a week's worth of controversy and shoehorn it all into one of the last meetings for the existing council lineup.

The agenda reads like a greatest hits from controversies of the last three months -- from designing highway roundabouts to council appointments -- with water conservation rules, a pricey parks master plan, the town manager's contract, a new financial officer, and assorted odds and ends thrown in for good measure.

The meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. in Town Hall on Thursday -- with the proclamation of a National Day of Prayer, which could be just what the council needs as the evening wears on. Major issues confronting the council include:

Roundabout Design: The council will once again consider whether to award a $47,000 contract to design a highway roundabout in the event that Mud Springs Road is extended to connect to Highway 87.

The roundabout design contract has been caught in a bewildering back and forth struggle over whether to extend Mud Springs, but the council postponed action on the contract at its last meeting after learning the need for a roundabout would be determined by a traffic study that should be completed this week.

Previously, the council had thought that the Arizona Department of Transportation wanted a roundabout if the road did connect only to discover after months of debate that it all depends on the traffic study.

Town Manager's Contract: On a split vote, the council had previously awarded Town Manager Debra Galbraith a temporary permanent new contract -- after she'd done the job for months to rave council reviews as the interim town manager.

Several council members objected to offering Galbraith a permanent contact without going through an open application and search process, similar to the process the town went through before promoting Police Chief Don Engler last year. The council voted to award a contract pending a salary study.

Water Conservation: The council will consider recommendations from the water department that would essentially institutionalize some of the water conservation measures now authorized during water emergencies, like the restrictions on landscape watering.

Payson imposed some of the most stringent water use restrictions in the state when concerns about future water supplies prompted a series of growth restrictions. Some argue that the wet winter and the prospect of getting new water from the Blue Ridge Reservoir might justify easing those restrictions, but water department staff has urged year-round restrictions that don't require a specific declaration of an emergency.

Council Appointments: The council will once again consider a suggestion that the vice mayor rather than the mayor should have the power to appoint people to boards and commissions.

Mayor Bob Edwards' recommendations for people to serve on various town committees have spurred debate in recent months. Outgoing Vice-Mayor Tim Fruth has suggested that since the vice mayor doesn't have much to do, it would make sense to make the vice mayor responsible for recommending appointments to the council. Mayor Edwards objected and the question was tabled at the last council meeting.

Chief Financial Manager: Galbraith is recommending the council approve the hiring of Douglas Hill as the town's new chief financial officer.

Parks Master Plan: The council will consider a recommendation from Parks and Recreation Director Rick Manchester that the town spend $94,000 to hire a consultant to develop a master plan for the development of existing and future park sites. The study would not include the Event Center and the rodeo grounds or a proposed joint project between the town and the YMCA to develop a year-round pool and gym complex.

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