Public Can Sound Off On Roundabout Idea

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The Arizona Department of Transportation on June 10 at 6 p.m. in Town Hall will hold a hearing to get public input on a proposed $1.2 million roundabout at Highway 87 and Airport Road.

But that hearing could be overshadowed by a mushrooming Payson budget crisis that touched off a recent council debate about whether the town can afford its $390,000 share of the cost.

During the open house meeting, ADOT traffic engineers will answer residents' questions about the proposed roundabout at Highway 87 from both Airline and Airport roads.

Although many Rim Country drivers have complained about the stress and confusion of using a roundabout, studies indicate that roundabouts cause fewer car and pedestrian accidents and keep traffic moving more smoothly than stop lights.

The engineers will use maps and exhibits to detail the advantages of roundabouts for the public. The Payson Town council had already voted to support the construction of a roundabout and promised to pay a portion of the cost, plus assume responsibility for any landscaping.

However, that was before the town council changed hands with the seating of three new members and the departure of Mayor Bob Edwards. At the first meeting of the new council, Town Finance Manager Doug Hall revealed that revenues have lagged far behind spending this year, which consumed the town's reserves. The council is contemplating a 15 percent overall cut, a freeze on hiring and overtime and the cancellation of almost all the capital improvement projects that aren't financed by some sort of outside state or federal grant.

The proposed roundabout at Airport Road posed a particularly difficult choice for the newly seated council. The council appeared willing to quickly shelve a long list of street and drainage projects that would have to come out of general town funds. But the roundabout was another matter.

Town Engineer LaRon Garrett pointed out that normally ADOT requires towns and cities to pay half the cost of highway improvements in the town limits. In the case of the Highway 87 roundabout, that would have come to $600,000. Garrett noted that ADOT might well require the town to pay that full 50 percent share, if the town reneged on its promise to provide the negotiated $390,000.

However, the town council committed to help pay for the roundabout several weeks ago, just before the extent of the town's budget crisis was revealed to the newly seated council.

The Town Council is expected to adopt a tentative budget before June 19, which means the June 10 ADOT hearing on the roundabout will likely take place in the shadow of that budget uncertainty.

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