State Of The Town... January 17, 2008


State of the Town... January 17, 2008

To all you who are here and those who are watching on channel 4 or listening on Radio. I welcome you to the second annual State of the Town report for Payson.

Tonight I want to talk about five things...

1. Citizen Government

2. Volunteers and those who serve you

3. Organizational changes

4. Key issues facing Payson

5. New initiatives

At the conclusion of my comments I will answer questions submitted by the editors of the Gazette and the Roundup newspapers.

And I will stay around after that if any citizens have questions.

Citizen Government

When a government is created it is granted some powers... it is critical, that we as elected officials, clearly understand that those powers do not belong to us... but to the citizens... and that our only role as elected officials is to oversee the responsible use of those powers.

Government's only legitimate purpose... is to set rules to allow us to live together and to protect our way of life.

While our role, as elected officers, is limited... the role of citizens is large and must be taken very seriously if we are to assure that our government remains a government "of the people".

You must constantly remind us, that we are not "the position we hold" but we are just the people serving in that position for a short period and you must never walk away and leave us in control.

Volunteers and those who serve you

Payson is fortunate to have a large number of people with vast talent and giving spirit. I have never witnessed a community of such giving and caring people.

When addressing the state of our Town, I would be remiss in not mentioning those who serve.

Department Volunteers...

Fire... 11 who aid the firemen on the scene

3 who provide education

10 paid on call volunteers

Police... We have 55 dedicated police volunteers that have given over 12,000 hours

Parks... Trails we have 30 volunteers helping construct the trails

Recreation has 135 volunteers coaching and helping with special events

Library... 36 friends of the Library who run the sales desk

40 volunteers who do a variety of tasks within the library

Streets... 94 sections of street have been adopted in the "Adopt a Street" program

In & Out Landscaping Service volunteered $1,240 worth of landscaping service around the "Welcome to Payson" sign

14 Town Committees and Boards... with 105 citizens who volunteer their time and talent to serve.

Task forces... a year and a half ago, I put out the call for people to serve on task forces in a number of areas and was overwhelmed by the response and the quality of talent and have continued to be overwhelmed by their dedication and results.

To date we have had 21 task forces with over 150 volunteers serving. The cost saving to the Town has been vast...

Affordable housing... resulted in the formation of the "Housing Commission"

Airport ... resulted in the "Airport Authority" saving the Town thousands of dollars per year

Alternate Route... has placed us very strongly on ADOT's radar screen for a relief route around Payson.

Business Development... held listening sessions with businesses and contractors to find the answer to the question of why Payson is considered unfriendly to business.

Citizens Generated Goal Plan... led to the creation of goal plan system that allows the citizens to set Town Goals. The plan is being updated for the second year as we speak.

Community Trails Task Force... helping with the creation of the Payson Area Trails System. This will be great for the health and enjoyment of our citizens and will be a large economic boast to our town.

Design Review Committee... resulted in the creation of the Design Review Board

Ethics... resulted in an update of the ethics policy for staff and elected officials and the first ever campaign pledge that we hope will allow Payson to never repeat the type of election we witnessed in 2006.

Finance... helped define a budget reporting system that is understandable and aided the Town in the search for a new CFO.

Fire Safety... aiding the Fire Department in the creation of fire safe communities.

Image committee... resulted in the creation of an image statement (A Mountain Town with a Western Heritage) that has been adopted by the Council.

Recycling... resulted in a new plan for recycling paper and cardboard that will save the town approximately $45,000 per year.

Rodeo Oversight Committee... has brought coordination and cooperation to the Rodeo effort maximizing the impact of their efforts.

Streets... inventoried all streets in Payson for use in the creation of street improvement plan.

Tourism... working with the new Tourism Director to make Payson the new Tourist capital of Arizona

Water... they set out with the goal of determining and reporting the current water status, estimating the future water need and defining the best sources to answer the need. All three goals have been achieved.

Water Conservation... resulted in an updated conservation awareness program for our Town.

We now have three new Task Forces...

County Facilities Task Force... they are doing a real look at all possible sites for the new Northern Gila County facilities and identifying financing sources.

Build out number ... will do a more accurate estimate of our population at build out for our use in planning.

Beautification... will look into ways to improve the look or our Town.

And of course the charities... I do not have a count of the number of people who give so much but our community is greatly aided by their efforts.

When thanking those who serve... I would be remiss if I did not mention our dedicated staff.

Our government employees get looked down upon and criticized too often... I have met with and worked with your Town staff for a year and a half... I have found them to highly motivated and very dedicated. We are fortunate to have this staff.

Finally let me also give an enormous thanks to our Council members... they put in an amazing amount of time serving you and have taken the successful lead on many issues. While we have our policy disagreements, which is a healthy thing, they are all dedicated to serving Payson and I consider each member a true friend of mine and the a friend of the citizens of Payson.

Organization Changes

In the past year we have had three of our Town leaders retire... our Town Manager, our CFO, and our Police chief. In addition our Main Street manager left to lead the Marketing Department at the Casino.

Deborah Galbraith was hired after a nationwide search to replace our CFO Glenn Smith.

Don Engler, our former police commander, was hired to replace Police Chief Gordie Gartner.

And at the January 10th Council meeting Deborah Galbraith was promoted by the Council to the position of Town Manager.

We will be starting an immediate search for a new CFO.

In the past year we have also made some needed organizational changes... we moved Human Resources into the Finance Department and have expanded the Main Street Manager's position to a Department Head with the expanded the role of Tourism and Economic Vitality and hired Cameron Davis to head the Department.

Key Issues Facing Payson

Water... Arizona's 900 pound Gorilla. Thanks to the efforts of our Water Task Force and our Water Department and our Town legal staff I can report to you tonight we are very close to taming this Gorilla.

Water status... we are currently well below safe yield and our projection is that we will remain so all the way to build out assuming we keep the "Smart Growth Plan" in place. At build out we project we will be well below safe yield and will have emergency backup sources in place.

Future need and future sources... the task force and the Water Dept have reviewed all possible sources of real water and all rumored sources of water and have developed a plan to insure our future water supply. There are basically three sources of new water.

Effluent... because of the foresightedness of our Water Department in the development of Green Valley Park we recycle approximately 325 acre feet of water to our system each year... we will continue to maximize the use of effluent.

Drilling wells in the forest... while additional wells in the Forest are attractive from a cost standpoint, they are impractical because of the enormous difficulty of securing the rights.

Blue Ridge... through the efforts of our Town Staff and the assistance of Senator Kyl, Congress has granted northern Gila County the rights to 3500 acre feet per year of water from Blue Ridge. Over the past year we have been negotiating with SRP to lock down an agreement to receive that water. As of tonight we are very close to a final agreement.

When that agreement is in place we will be able to guarantee our future generations a permanent water supply.

Streets... in the past two years we have increased the streets capital budget by 37% and the street maintenance budget by 28%.

We have had some successes and some disappointments. The good news is we have completed Easy St. and Evergreen upgrades. We have completed the extension of Mud Springs to Granite Dells. We are currently in the process of upgrading St. Phillips and Bonita to Bentley and that contract now includes Frontier from Mud Springs to St. Phillips.

We are planning on completing Bonita from Bentley to the Beeline in the next fiscal year.

We had hoped to get Manzanita completed this year but due to the sluggish economy the developer has had to postpone it for now. This still remains a high priority.

Drains... This past year Mother Nature sent us a real test of our drain systems and we fared relatively well.

Through savings in other areas this Council has increased the budget for drains by 370%

The new Ash Street drain between Phoenix St and Aero St, performed great, this had been a source of real concerns.

This month we have finalized the agreement between Payson Pines, Payson Ranchos and Terra Capital, the developer of the property behind the Home Depot. This will allow us to solve the severe flooding problem at the southwest corner of Payson Ranchos.

While we still have some other serious drain issues... with the Payson Ranchos fix we will have solved all of the areas that threaten damage to homes and buildings.

Drugs... this is an area where, due the work of our police drug detectives we have made some impressive gains. However, it is an area that we need to do better... where, we as citizens, need to become their eyes and ears. We are a small town, we need to pay attention to what is happening in our neighborhoods and report it. We need to have 16,000 deputies helping detectives.

Crime... this past year we had a series of burglaries that frightened a lot of our citizens. I am pleased to report that due to the work of dedicated police officers we have arrested three of people involved and anticipate charging more. It was drug and valley related. We clearly need to let it be known that Payson is an unfriendly place to do business if you are a drug dealer.

Open Government... we have made great gains in this area. We now have citizens setting the goals for Payson, we have open Council meetings, over 150 people have come forward to work on 21 task forces and special committees and we have a new E Gov system where you can enter and track your own problems from your home computer. But, now we need to make sure this becomes a permanent part of our Town operating procedure and not just a temporary event.

Fire Safety... we have a fire break around town that which gives us a new level of protection. The Forest Service is working aggressively to create more breaks further out from the Town. But we now need to enlist volunteers in an effort to keep the fire breaks clear with an "Adopt a Break" program.

Growth... Payson has roughly 19 square miles within its borders. A large part of that is Forest land including most of the outer ring of Town which the Forest Service has indicated they prefer to keep as forest land and which we have designated as such. They do have a few parcels in Town that will, at some point, be transferred. In our planning we need to understand that it is not a question of whether that land will be built on but when and how. It is for that reason, that this Council passed the "Smart Growth to Build out Plan" and then voted this year to make it permanent.

New initiatives

Economic Growth... to maintain our attractive mountain town image it is critical that we manage growth carefully. While we need additional good paying jobs to attract and maintain a viable middle class, we must make sure the businesses we attract fit our image.

Tourism... this is, in my opinion, our gold rush... it is waiting in the fields for us to pick up. While we need to also manage it so it doesn't become oppressive, it can add great fun to our Town while providing us the sales tax revenues to improve our streets and drains.

Can we attract tourists... to that I answer... without a doubt. We are located directly in the center of Arizona, a short beautiful trip from the 5th largest population center in America, with beauty and excitement surrounding us... so if we don't succeed, it is our fault. Nature and the Beeline Highway have done their part... it is now up to us.

Cameron Davis, our new Tourism and Economic Vitality director has been aggressively working with John Stanton, the new executive director of the Chamber, Carol McCauley, the Tonto Apache Tribe's marketing director and Barbara Ganz of PREDC, who, sadly, we will be losing to the valley, to define how we will market Payson. Our new tourism web site will be going on line in February.

We are expanding the big four festivals... the Car Show, the Bike Race (Payson Stampede), the Rodeos and the winter festival (Magic on the Mountain) and are looking to add an October festival to follow on the tracks of the very enjoyable and successful 125th celebration.

Event Center... we have formed a Payson Event Center Technical Advisory Committee (PECTAC) to guide the development of a master plan for the event center.

Budget... we will be employing a totally new approach to the budget process. We will be installing a new financial computer system this spring that will allow us to better track and report the budget to you and Council in a readable form.

We will put a true "Rainy Day Fund" in place so economic downturns, like we are currently facing, will not threaten us.

We will be setting up a Capital Improvement Plan so we can truly plan our future and get away from the "mud on the wall" form of planning.

We will be defining legitimate Town expenditures and will develop and put into place a budget game plan.

General Plan... this should be real and not just a plan we create and put on the shelf or something we bring out if it supports our cause and ignore if it doesn't. We will be putting together a task force to review it in total and update it as needed. This needs to become the Constitution of Payson. It should be the overarching guide to our actions that our more specific annual goal plan is checked against.

Area Cooperation... we are continuing to achieve a good working relationship with our area partners, the Tonto Apache Tribe and Star Valley.

Finally... the most important initiative... we need to continue to build your faith in our Town Government.

Thank you... for listening and for caring about our great Town.

I will now take questions from Jim Keyworth of the Gazette and Tom Brossert of the Round up

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