Payson Postpones Bonita Street Rebuilding Plan

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Caught by state cutbacks, the Payson Council Thursday agreed to postpone the reconstruction of Bonita Street for at least a year.

Payson had been posed to start construction on a $1.2 million project to rebuild the decaying major roadway while adding sidewalks and a bike path.

The council had won about $760,000 in gas tax supported state grants to cover the bulk of the cost, but then the state budget crisis intervened. The legislature scooped up various local road building funds to balance the state budget. State officials recently warned Payson that the money it was supposed to get next year wouldn't become available for several years, if it ever turned up at all.

LaRon Garrett, town engineer, said the town could borrow the $1.2 million cost of the project from a special state fund, but might get stuck paying off that loan on its own if the state never restored the promised road-building money.

If the state didn't provide the money, the town would have to pay off the loan in two or three installments, said Garrett.

Mayor Kenny Evans said the state has once again balanced it's budget at the expense of local government -- well after the council had made tough decisions about cutbacks.

"I feel like someone who is working very hard to make ends meet -- and finally does it -- and then they move the ends," said Evans.

He noted that the state also recently dealt a blow to the town's precariously balanced budget by retroactively billing the town's police department $73,000 for use of the state's crime lab.

However, Garrett recommended that the town simply put off the project for a year, which might reveal whether the legislature will put back the money it took out of local road funds this year. In the meantime, he recommended that the town buy up strips of land from 51 houses along the road to make room for the bike path and sidewalks. He estimated that buying up the necessary land will cost about $80,000.

The council approved both the postponement of the project and the purchase of the needed right-of-way from 31 homeowners on a 7-0 vote.

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