Critics Of Ymca Plan Push For A Public Vote

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The Payson Town Council hasn't yet signed on the YMCA's dotted line, but a hastily formed citizen's group is already gathering signatures to force a town-wide vote on the plan to build a $5.6 million pool, health center and gym complex on town-owned land.

Residents Vicki Lucan and Judy Shafferkoetter read about the YMCA's plan to raise money to build a year-round swim pool, play pool, fitness center and gym on a five-acre chunk of town land in Rumsey Park where the Taylor Pool now sits.

The town council on July 2 approved the key terms of a deal hammered out by the YMCA and a town negotiating committee.

That deal would give the YMCA a long-term lease of the Rumsey Park land, providing the organization builds and operates a recreation program, which would continue public use of the pool in the summer and host town programs on a space-available basis. The YMCA hopes to sign up at least 800 members, with monthly dues of $35 to $75.

"My biggest problem is five acres of Rumsey Park," said Lucan. "I don't have a problem with the Y coming in, I really don't. But if they're going to do that, they need to buy their own land."

Representatives of the YMCA have said they couldn't make the project work economically without the lease arrangement with the town.

Petition backers have less than 30 days now to gather signatures. If they succeed, a measure rejecting the lease of the town land would appear on the November ballot.

YMCA representatives said if the measure goes on the ballot, they will campaign actively to win approval.

A proposed lease agreement is expected to come before the council for approval within the next month.

Lucan said she has already gathered about 19 signatures and given 15 other people petitions to circulate. The group has a month to gather 500 signatures calling for a referendum, which is 10 percent of the vote total in the last general election.

"If the town is essentially giving away land for a Y, then why shouldn't they also give away land for the Humane Society or any other group?" Lucan said. "I think that the voting taxpayers should have a say in whether or not this happens."

Payson has been negotiating with the YMCA about the proposed facility for nearly two years, but the stalled negotiations got jump started after the last election, when a new council majority took over. Most of the council members at the last meeting strongly supported the proposed arrangement, arguing that the deal would save the town the $160,000 it spends now to operate Taylor Pool and provide good, relatively low-cost recreation the town could never afford on its own.

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