The Payson Town Council on Thursday cancelled a controversial highway roundabout contract, sidestepped a fight about board and commission appointments and debated major budget issues in an evening marked by quiet discussions and unanimous votes on issues that have previously caused bitter divisions.
One of the most surprising developments was the cancellation of a $47,000 contract to design a roundabout connecting an extended Mud Springs Road to Highway 260. A quiet end to a long fight came when a traffic study suggested the extended Mud Springs wouldn't carry enough traffic to justify anything more elaborate than a stop sign at the newly created intersection with the highway.
The decision validated Mayor Bob Edwards' refusal to sign the contract on the grounds it was premature and a waste of money. However, the underlying traffic study also countered Edwards' assertion that extending the road would turn Mud Springs into a de facto highway bypass.
"At this time, the traffic projects show a signal or roundabout is not needed," said Town Engineer LaRon Garrett. "So at this time, the round about design is not needed."
Councilor Andy Romance said, "so if the traffic warrant study says all we need is a stop sign, why design a roundabout?"
"Do you find these estimates fairly close?" inquired Councilor Mike Vogel.
"I do," said Garrett.
Romance drew the connection between the study saying the extension wouldn't generate enough traffic to require a signal and the complaints by neighborhood opponents that the extension would lure a crush of traffic off the highway. "This is the same document we'll be looking at to expect a certain volume of traffic" when Mud Springs is extended.
The unanimous vote to cancel the once hotly debated design contract marked a sharp change in tone, as the council moved through an agenda crowded with hot-button issues --from the routine approval of a plat plan for a once controversial subdivision to the approval of a permanent $125,000 annual contract for Town Manager Debra Galbraith.
The council agreed readily to shelve outgoing Vice Mayor Tim Fruth's suggestion that the council shift responsibility for nominating people to serve on commissions from the mayor to the vice mayor. Fruth suggested deferring the question to the incoming council.
However, at the Thursday meeting he withdrew his suggestion, saying the new council should make the decision.
And just to underscore the newfound harmony as the current council winds up its last few meetings, the councilors also endorsed Edwards' nomination of a prominent opponent of the Mud Springs extension to the town's traffic committee.
The council had previously balked at appointing Bob Dalby to STAC, mostly because he had been outspoken in opposing the extension.
However, Dalby's promise to recuse himself on votes involving that extension won over the previously skeptical council members.
The council also unanimously approved a $125,000 contract with the town manager, despite previous objections by some council members to promoting Galbraith from her job as finance manager to interim town manager and then to the permanent manager all without open recruitment and competition.
The council based her salary on a survey of pay for other Arizona town managers, provided in an attached salary study. Salaries paid to managers in other towns with populations between 4,000 and 25,000 include $109,000 in Sedona, $128,000 in Queen Creek, $110,000 in Globe, $128,000 in Douglas, $184,000 in Paradise Valley and $102,000 in Pinetop-Lakeside.
In other action the council:
- Approved a $6,700 monthly contract with the Payson Senior Center to provide various services including Meals on Wheels to Payson residents.
- Approved a plat plan for the Flowing Wells subdivision, a once controversial mix of single family homes and townhouses that had spurred substantial neighborhood opposition before the developer agreed to pay for about $200,000 worth of offsite drainage improvements.
- Strongly supported an ad hoc citizen task force recommendation urging Gila County to use a lease-purchase plan to finance a county jail and courthouse complex either next to Town Hall or off Main Street.
- Approved a revision of the town's water conservation ordinance that would essentially adopt year-round conservation measures, even in years with ample rainfall. Those restrictions would continue the ban on planting new sod lawns and the construction of outdoor swimming pools. They would also refine restrictions on things like when people can water and what sorts of irrigation and watering systems they can install.