Payson To Ymca: Go Back To Square One

Thursday study session will give new council a chance to start all over on partnership with YMCA for year-round pool, gym complex

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Payson's plan to team up with the YMCA to build a gym and pool complex will stumble back to square one in the course of a council work study session Thursday at 3 p.m. at Town Hall.

This time newly elected Mayor Kenny Evans hopes that a public discussion of the gritty details will finally haul the plan up from the bottom of the well into which it has fallen.

"We either need to have something agreed upon or turn them loose and let them do something somewhere else -- the notion we can keep talking ad infinitum is not good for them and it's not good for us."

Evans said that after three years of confusing, on-again, off-again negotiations, "everything is back on the table."

The town staff and representatives of the Valley of the Sun YMCA had spent several years negotiating to arrive at the first well-developed plan.

In that plan, the YMCA would have raised maybe $5-7 million with the help of various Payson groups to build a gymnasium and recreation center near the present site of the Taylor Pool in Rumsey Park.

The project on town-owned land would have converted the existing town pool to a covered, year-round facility, Payson would have controlled the gym and pool 40 percent of the time and contributed the roughly $150,000 annually it now pays to operate the pool.

The YMCA would have handled the fund-raising and covered most of the operating costs, in return for controlling the facility 60 percent of the time. Operating costs for the facility could total $400,000 to $500,000 annually, which the YMCA would recoup through monthly memberships.

But after a closed meeting by the old council, town negotiators asked the YMCA to come up with a new plan for a gym and pool complex on five acres of undeveloped town-owned land in Rumsey Park.

At that time, town officials said they were also exploring a private fund-raising campaign to perhaps underwrite a town-owned pool and gym facility.

But the deal lurched again with the election of three new council members, including Mayor Evans. Former Mayor Bob Edwards had been critical of the idea of a partnership with the YMCA, questioning the use of public funds to help a private business. Evans says he's open to the right deal.

"We're back to square one in part because we really do not have the money to operate Taylor Pool the way the public wants it operated," said Evans.

The 3-5 p.m. study session on Thursday is intended to explore all the possibilities and get enough feedback from the council for the town staff and the YMCA to come up with a new plan -- one that may or may not include taking over the operation of Taylor Pool.

"The town obviously does not have a lot of cash, which is a kind way of saying it," said Evans. "There was a sense on the council that the other proposals that have been discussed were not going to end up with a net result that provided the kind of service we wanted at a price that the town and the citizens could afford to pay. From my point of view, we're willing at this point to entertain any notion that makes sense."

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