Town Council Faces Hard Budget Choices

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So this optimist fell off the 20th floor.

We know he was an optimist -- because as he fell past the 13th floor he was heard to say: "So far so good."

Mind you, we admire that optimistic spirit.

But it's not the ideal frame of mind for considering town budgets.

So while we admire Payson's reach -- it seems a good moment to consider the town's actual grasp.

Unfortunately, we suspect that process must start with the glittering vision of a pool and gym big enough to accommodate all of the town's legitimate recreational needs.

The town council right now has three choices.

#1: Hand over Taylor pool and a surrounding chunk of land to the YMCA to ensure residents have an affordable place to swim and shoot hoops into the distant future.

#2: Go it alone by raising $11 million to build a gym big enough to support existing and future recreation programs and a pool big enough to host a school swim team.

#3: Keep Taylor pool going for as long as possible, in hopes we can afford what we really want in five or 10 years.

After years of nudging and fudging the possibilities -- it's time to settle. Let us not revisit the parable of the dog and the bone -- and drop the benefits the YMCA offers in grabbing for the reflection of the gym we wish we could afford.

Although Recreation Director Rick Manchester with the help of the Friends of Payson Parks and Recreation has done a great job of fleshing out the dream facility -- we think that the town should grab the YMCA by the hand, shake vigorously and make the deal.

Of course, it would be nice if we could tweak the deal one more time and wind up with a swimming pool big enough to host a swim team at the high school -- but the town's effort to somehow lure the YMCA into building the ideal town pool has probably stalled the partnership long enough.

Besides, even if the town could raise $11 million, we don't think that a pool and gym of the right size are as important as some of the other big ticket items on the town's wish list -- including revamping the event center, attracting a convention hotel, revitalizing Main Street, adequately marketing the town, completing the comprehensive trails system and building the Blue Ridge pipeline.

Unfortunately, taking the most cost-effective deal on the pool and gym is just the down payment on fiscal realism that the new town council will have to embrace to get through the next two years.

We think that the town council is cutting it unreasonably close on the current budget, for instance -- making as few hard decisions as possible in hopes that budget projections won't prove as disastrously wrong in the upcoming fiscal year as they proved in the current fiscal year. Don't forget, the town doesn't have the cushion of the rainy day fund that prevented the budget from actually jumping off the rooftop in the current fiscal year.

In the meantime, the town finds itself chewing big bites it can't afford to swallow -- with Main Street, the event center, the highway roundabout and a host of other projects stuck in our figurative throats. It's like blowing the budget on a really, really nice shirt -- then finding that you can't afford pants to wear to the wedding.

So we urge the council to make the best deal it can with the YMCA, then move on to the next hard choice.

It is all well and good to admire the view in the course of the fall.

But it would be better to whip out the cell phone and have some firemen with a net meet you at the bottom.

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