Manzanita Drive Decay Brings Road To Top Of Repair List

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A cartoon depicts two vultures sitting on a tree branch. One vulture turns to the other and says: To heck with waiting, let's kill something.

Essentially, Payson's Surface Transportation Advisory Committee agrees -- at least when it comes to rebuilding narrow, pot-holed, heavily trafficked Manzanita Drive.

Committee member Jack Jasper led an irritated revolt against the town's road building priority list to suggest the town council move Manzanita to the top of its to-do list.

Currently, the town maintains two different priority lists for major street repairs, rebuilds and extensions. One list includes projects funded mostly by the town. The other list includes projects on which the town anticipates contributions from developers.

The town had hoped that phase two of the Bison Ranch condominium project across the street from Town Hall would pay to lay down a new base on Manzanita, while widening it and adding curbs, gutters and a bike path. However, the housing slump has postponed phase two of the project indefinitely.

Jasper objected vociferously to letting the road repairs linger in limbo.

"Manzanita has been waiting for repair as long as any other street in Payson. I've heard excuse after excuse after excuse. I'm not voting for any other street on the east side of town until Manzanita is taken care of."

Curtis Ward, a staffer in the town's engineering department, said the developer would probably be happy to donate the wider right of way for the road, if the town paid for the roadwork.

STAC Chairman Tom Loeffler said if the town did pay for the upgrade from taxpayer funds, the town council could require the developer to pay the town back when it approved phase two of the development -- providing that took place within 10 years. After that, the town would have to absorb the cost itself.

Preliminary estimates suggest that the upgrade would cost $500,000, although several committee members questioned whether that would cover the full cost.

"We've been circling around this for 20 years," complained Jasper. "We should find a way no matter what it is to fund this road."

Committee member Bruce Van Camp then suggested the committee recommend the town council move Manzanita to the top of its priority list for town street funds immediately, since the council will be considering the capital improvements budget for fiscal '08-'09 in the next few weeks.

Loeffler argued against the motion, on the grounds that the committee should ask for a complete study of the priority list that would include traffic counts, a cost-benefit calculation and some sort of objective way of prioritizing different projects.

"We need to make a decision based on facts, not emotion. To do this one road at a time without the facts before us isn't the way to go. I can list 20 roads in this town that need work."

"I can, too," snapped Jasper, "but I can't name one that's been waiting for 20 years."

Loeffler gaveled the argument to a close and called for a vote.

The other four committee members all joined Jasper in recommending the move of Manzanita to the top of the town-funded priority list immediately.

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