The decisive voter rejection of Proposition 401 has prompted Payson and the Valley of the Sun YMCA to drop further discussions of a future partnership.
“Because of our regard for Payson we will always leave the door open to potential partners and opportunities to serve residents,” said Valley of the Sun YMCA President George Scobas. “However, we respect what the voters had to say and will now be focusing on other opportunities throughout Arizona to help us expand our mission.”
Payson Mayor Kenny Evans said, “The voters spoke. We don’t have the luxury of asking why people voted one way or the other and go back and second guess them. We’ll presume their position was clearly carried out and we’ll go on about our business.”
The opponents of the use of Rumsey Park land for the YMCA hailed the result.
Judy Shafferkoetter, the co-chair of Friends of Payson, said “We are happy.”
Friends of Payson formed to block the YMCA lease and first gathered the signatures to put the measure on the ballot and then defended it from the YMCA’s legal challenge.
“The YMCA should come to town like any other business and compete with a level playing field,” Shafferkoetter said.
The tally had 3,233 no votes and 2,451 yes votes — with a yes supporting the proposed 30-year lease lease of 5 acres of land in Rumsey Park.
The lopsided 56-44 percent rejection of the YMCA put an emphatic end to the two-year effort to bring the Y to town.
It came on the same day as a much narrower rejection of a school budget override. In most communities, such school measures raising the cap on district spending pass easily, as they did in several districts in Globe on Tuesday.
Taken together, the election proved bad news for Payson kids.
“There is a very significant block of folks who basically are of the opinion that they took care of their own needs when they were young and, by golly, they don’t think we have an obligation to try to help the young people today,” said Evans.
The opponents objected to an arrangement that would have turned the existing Taylor Pool over to the YMCA to convert into a year-round pool, on the condition the YMCA continued to offer the low-cost public summer swim hours that this summer attracted 24,000 swimmers.
Ironically, given the town’s current budget problems, Payson probably can’t afford to open the pool next summer, said Evans.
Evans speculated that the YMCA’s effort to block the vote proved a major tactical blunder.
“I think that was a catastrophic mistake on the part of the Y — to fight the vote — just based on polling data before and after. They nudged a lot of people that would have been in favor of the Y to being opposed to the Y on a purely emotional level. Everywhere I went, there was anger that the Y would try to preclude them from having a voice.”
The YMCA seemed resigned to move on.
“We sincerely appreciate the thoughtful consideration Payson voters gave to our desire to bring a YMCA to the community,” said Scobas.
“We want to thank all our supporters who passionately believed in our mission.”