Fire Code Appeal, Road Work On Council Agenda

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The Payson Town Council will return from a brief holiday pause on Thursday to find that a host of simmering issues still crowd its agenda, including a controversial street extension, a plaintive fire code appeal, a new contract for the town manager and host of updates about ongoing projects.

The council meets Thursday Jan. 10 at Town Hall at 303 N. Beeline Highway. Residents can get a copy of the full agenda from the town's Web site at www.ci.payson.az.us/.

Two of last year's chronic debates will pop back up on the council's agenda at the first meeting of the new year -- the fire code problems of the Red Elephant Bakery and the traffic problems of the extension of Mud Springs Road.

Red Elephant Baker owner Leonie Dobbins will return to the council for a second time, seeking an exemption from town fire codes so she can cook soup on her stove without outfitting it with a $15,000 commercial hood with a built-in system for putting out grease fires. She has slogged through a confusing bureaucratic process in the 11 months since the town's fire marshal declared that the bakery needed the special hood setup required for all commercial stoves.

The last time Dobbins came before the council, the council members sent her back to the Building Advisory Board to work out a possible compromise. However, building department officials said they had no authority to waive the building code and the Building Advisory Board said it had no authority to hear Dobbin's appeal, so the matter has now returned to the town council.

The second potential controversy centers on a request to award a $42,000 contract to begin design work on a $1-million extension of Mud Springs Road to Highway 260. Mayor Bob Edwards has vigorously opposed the extension, arguing it will increase traffic in a residential neighborhood and near an elementary school, mostly to give out-of-town travelers a shortcut to get from the Beeline Highway to Highway 260.

The town's traffic advisory committee and previous council majorities have supported the extension to improve circulation and give a bottled-up neighborhood easier access to a proposed new roundabout connector to the highway.

Mayor Edwards predicted vigorous debate on a number of issues, in part because of the council and mayoral elections now under way.

"We're into the election season now. This council has been an extremely logical, good council -- but when you get into the silly season, it changes."

Other issues on the agenda include:

  • A proposal to offer interim Town Manager Debra Galbraith a regular contract at an annual salary of $125,000.
  • A plan to approve road realignments as part of a sometimes-controversial bid to create a new Payson Event Center, including an arena, an equestrian area, a conference center in conjunction with the tribal casino and a Hilton-run hotel on town-owned land leased rent-free for 15 years.
  • A proposal to buy back $380,000 worth of impact fees from a developer who abandoned plans for a 97-home subdivision -- so that the town can then sell the right to build to future developers for about twice the price. The more than $700,000 would then be added to the town's reserve fund for building a pipeline from the Blue Ridge Reservoir, which would nearly double Payson's current water supply.
  • A proposal to remove several stop signs to speed traffic flow, including one at the intersection of Phoenix and Ash streets.

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