With a slew of shovel-ready projects approved, the Rim Country is raking in the grants from the federal stimulus plan, and other state grants to improve highways, update the emergency call system and build a water pipeline.
Payson Mayor Kenny Evans gave an impromptu and informal state of the area address Thursday afternoon announcing the region has secured roughly $25 million in federal stimulus projects while waiting for First District Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick to arrive for a planned speech at The Rim Club.
Evans answered questions from the audience made up mainly of chamber members and small-business owners, most of which centered on the economy.
Evans said the region has secured $25 million in federal stimulus funding, with another $10 million in the works. Secured funding includes $3 million for thinning the forest, $10.5 million to finish repairs on the existing pipeline from the Blue Ridge Reservoir to Washington Park, and $8.6 million for transportation improvements between Pine and Payson.
In the works is a green library in Pine, and changing out septic tanks along area creeks including Tonto and Christopher creeks.
Evans also mentioned the town recently received an $800,000 grant to improve the 911 system at the Payson Police Department.
Chief Don Engler said funding received from the Arizona Department of Administration would update the existing system from analog to digital.
The current system, which has been in place for 15 years and is used throughout the state, cannot handle text or video messages, which have become standard features on most cell phones.
“This will develop a fully functional system that recognizes calls anytime, anywhere from any device,” Engler said. “It is an IT based network that is a more robust 911 that can handle voice, text and video.”
Payson was selected as the first rural agency to receive the system statewide.
“The communication division is really excited about it,” Engler said.
“We were picked as a model agency so other rural agencies will likely come look at it.”
Engler said the $820,000 system should be up and running by the end of the year.
“This is a really exciting time for us,” he said. The police department serves as the initial response center for all 911 calls in the area. Calls for the sheriff’s office or DPS are transferred through the communications office.
Besides the plethora of new projects, Evans said increased foot traffic in the area could signal a turnaround in the economy.
“One of the tell-tell signs of a pickup is foot traffic,” Evans said, “and we are getting more foot traffic.”
Evans continued to answer more audience questions until Kirkpatrick arrived some 45 minutes late after her vehicle was stuck behind an accident that closed Highway 87.