The lease of Payson parkland for a YMCA recreation center appeared headed for a big loss in preliminary results released 8 p.m. Tuesday.
A total of 2,913 voted against the proposed lease of 5 acres in Rumsey Park, overwhelming the 2,068 yes votes.
The results announced Tuesday night do not include 747 votes received on Monday and Tuesday. However, even if all of those votes favor the partnership with the YMCA, the measure would still fail.
The decisive 60 percent no vote caps a two-year struggle to bring a YMCA to Payson. A group of parks advocates two years ago concluded the town would never have enough money to build needed facilities and convert Taylor Pool to year-round use and so recruited the Valley of the Sun YMCA to move to Payson.
After two years of negotiation, the town council agreed in principle to a 30-year lease, to enable the YMCA to make the pool year round and build a gym, fitness center and teen center, with $5.6 million in privately raised money.
In return, the YMCA agreed to pay a nominal lease and continue offering open public swim hours in the summer, a savings to the town of $140,000 annually.
However, a citizen’s group, Friends of Payson, objected to the use of park land for the non-profit youth organization and gathered enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot. The YMCA initially successfully blocked the vote based on irregularities in the paperwork. However, the town and the citizen’s group appealed that decision and the state appeals court reinstated the ballot measure.
On Tuesday evening when the vote tallies were announced, only one person showed up at Town Hall.
Annie Boisvert said she represented Friends of Payson.
“However it turns out this whole thing could have been avoided if instead of writing this lease and shoving it down our throats,” the town council had conducted some sort of a straw poll of citizens, she said just before the results were announced.
“It just seems to me they could have gone about it with more concern for the residents – and for existing businesses,” Boisvert said.