After two years of struggle, more than $50,000 in legal and election costs and a campaign costing nearly $30,000, Payson residents should know by 8 p.m. Tuesday whether the YMCA really is coming to town.
Could be Thursday.
If the vote proves close, Payson may have to wait until Thursday morning to find out how the referendum on the town council’s plan to lease five acres to the YMCA actually turned out.
That’s because the town won’t count the mail-in ballots turned in Monday or Tuesday until 9 a.m. on Thursday, according to the town clerk.
However, if either side opens up a substantial lead, then the election could be decided by the more than 5,100 ballots turned in by last Friday. The town should have those ballots counted by 8 p.m. on Tuesday, an hour after the deadline for stragglers turning in any ballots to Town Hall.
All told, Payson sent out about 9,438 mail ballots. So far, voters have mailed or dropped off 5,139. The nearly 847 ballots dropped off at Town Hall saved Payson $965 in postage.
If the winning margin on the ballots counted exceeds the number of ballots turned in Monday and Tuesday, the election will be decided on Tuesday. If not, it will take another day to count the remaining ballots, said Town Clerk Silvia Smith.
In the meantime, financial report filings have revealed an expensive campaign, with a lopsided advantage to the side hoping voters will approve the proposed lease of park land to build a $5.6 million complex, with a gym, teen center, fitness center and year-round swimming pool.
The YMCA has contributed almost all of the $18,749 raised to support Proposition 401, as reported in its Oct. 16 filing. In addition, the YMCA spent another $5,000 in advertising in the Payson Roundup subsequent to that filing date.
By contrast, the Friends of Payson No on 401 reported raising $4,675 and as of Oct. 16 had just $310 on hand. The group spent almost all its money on legal fees, first defending the signatures in a losing superior court case and then a winning appeal of that decision to the state appeals court.
In addition, the Citizens Awareness Committee reported raising $360 and spending $236 to block the proposed lease of town land for the YMCA. The Citizens Awareness Committee came to prominence in town affairs during the tenure of former mayor, Bob Edwards, mostly supporting his efforts to impose growth limits.
The last filing before the election suggests that the push to approve the town lease had at least a four-to-one spending advantage in the short, fierce campaign to determine whether the town gets a YMCA.
Critics of the proposed partnership have objected to letting the YMCA have a 30-year lease on land in Rumsey Park, which was donated to the town by the Forest Service for recreational purposes.
But supporters of the partnership said the YMCA has promised to continue operating a low-cost public swim program for all town residents and will pay a small annual lease, which will save the town about $140,000 annually. Advocates say the payments and savings actually exceed the value of the land. Moreover, advocates maintain that the partnership represents the only way the cash-strapped town can gain a year-round pool and other recreational programs.
The YMCA spent heavily to convince voters to support the partnership, including a $9,000 donation to the committee and a $3,000 loan. The YMCA made another $6,749 in in-kind contributions.
Major expenditures included:
• $3,077 in advertising in the Payson Roundup (plus $5,000 that will be reported in the next filing).
• $3,077 in advertising in the Rim Country Gazette.
• $7,839 in consulting fees to Rose & Allen PR
• $1,000 in radio advertising.
• $3,500 to Summit Group Survey
• $1,900 to Krause Creative for advertising design fees.
The citizens committee that gathered the signatures to force the election and block the proposed lease with the YMCA spent far less.
Major expenses incurred by the group included $3,701 in attorney fees and $650 in assorted court costs. Printing costs accounted for the bulk of the remaining expenditures.
People who donated $100 or more included Janet Ransom, Dan Adams, Christine Herzig, Gary Bedsworth, Christine Wailand-Harrison, Leon Keddington, David Rutter, Kathleen Patrick-Baas, Jack Jasper, Donna Hickman, Gordon Whiting, Stanley Hathorn, Obie Weaver and Dale Thoen.
The two largest individual contributors at $500 each were Leon Keddington, who was the campaign manager for former mayor Bob Edwards, and Kent and Louise Echols, who own a health club in town.