No doubt about it — the special election ballot about the YMCA pool and gym complex now in the hands of Payson voters raises a tough and puzzling question.
No, not whether the town should do a deal with the YMCA. That’s obvious.
Instead, the real head-scratcher posed by this election is this: How on earth could anyone oppose the proposed partnership?
Even after paying careful attention to all the arguments of the opponents in this $40,000 boondoggle of a special election, we’re baffled by the debate.
On the one hand, the benefits seem so obvious.
Here’s the deal as proposed: The town gives the YMCA a long-term lease on five acres of land the Forest Service donated on the condition we use it only for recreation.
In return, the YMCA will raise at least $5.6 million and then turn the aging Taylor Pool into a good-as-new year-round pool. As a bonus, residents get an urgently needed recreation center, which will include a gym, weight room, teen center, recording studio, computer room and other amenities.
Doesn’t cost the town a dime. In fact, the YMCA will pay $10,000 annually and assume the cost of offering summer public swim hours — a $130,000 savings.
It will serve families, give kids something healthy to do — and no doubt become a social hub for retirees as well. Mind you, the town these days can’t even afford to fix streets, much less build such a wonderful facility on its own.
It’s the YMCA or nothing
Clearly, it’s the YMCA or nothing.
We’ve followed the tug and pull of negotiations for a year now. Maybe we wish the complex had ended up somewhere else in the park. Maybe we wish the plan had included a bigger gym and more hours under the control of the town’s booming recreation programs, so often looking for a place to happen.
But the town opted for a deal that cost it nothing, while still offering residents everything.
Opponents really only have one argument: Don’t give away park land.
That just makes no sense.
First, the town isn’t giving away the land. It’s a lease and the town will not only retain ownership, but at the end of the lease term will own the whole facility.
Moreover, the town will turn a profit on the deal — $140,000 annually in payments and savings. Of course, since the town can’t sell the land, it’s hard to put a value on it. But if you assume the land is worth $1.5 million — then you’ve got to figure the YMCA is paying a fair price for its use.
That $140,000 annual payment would certainly cover the cost of a 30-year mortgage on $1.5 million — except at the end of the term the town not only owns the land, but the facilities on it.
So now after all the debate and negotiations and lawsuits and furor — the question rests in the hands of the voters.
Mail-in election only
And that means, for starters, not being confused about the vote itself. This is a mail-in election only. Payson residents should have already gotten the ballot. You have to fill it out and get it into the hands of the town clerk by Nov. 4. If you haven't mailed it by the first of November, hand-carry your ballot to Town Hall.
We hope you will not be confused by all the talk of a give-away of town land.
Because even if you ignore the fact that our kids need this recreation center.
Even if you set aside the great new facilities for seniors and other Rim Country residents.
Even if you don’t care that the deal will attract more than $5 million in donations to benefit residents.
The lease represents a smoking deal for the town.
And that brings us back to the original question: Why on earth would anyone vote against this deal?
Do kids just bug them?
Do they not understand the facts?
We confess — we’re baffled.
But don’t let that mystery stop you from acting on behalf of this community — and the kids into whose hands we must deliver the future. Whatever your decision, please vote, and we hope you will vote yes on Proposition 401.