Main Street Upgrade Back In Happy Limbo

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Oh. Good. No decision necessary.

That means Payson won’t give back a $300,000 federal grant to spruce up a short stretch of Main Street, for lack of about $17,000 in local matching money.

The decisive non-decision caps weeks of back and forth debate about whether to give back money to make the stretch of Main Street between the two intersections of McLane more pedestrian-friendly.

The Arizona Department of Transportation awarded the grant several years ago, when Payson was flush and had big plans for turning Main Street into tourist central.

The town ambled along drawing up a master plan for Main Street, a mile-long string of businesses interspersed with vacant lots and empty storefronts. The vision has long called for the development of a distinctive identity and pedestrian friendly environment, connecting the highway to the lush amenities of Green Valley Park.

Then the economy tanked, stalling one long-sought luxury condominium project just off Main Street, shutting down business pillars like the Main Street Grille and raising doubts about the once ambitious plans.

The $300,000 grant ended up stranded on the beach after the economic tide went out. So when ADOT sent a sternly worded letter asking whether the town intended to put up a local share variously estimated at $17,000 to $60,000 to secure the grant, it touched off a round of meetings and second thoughts.

The drop in sales tax revenue had prompted the town to eliminate almost all road projects and curtail even routine street maintenance. Therefore, the council balked at putting the matching money into the budget.

Some council members argued the town should give back the grant, in hopes the committee in charge of doling out the federal gas tax dollars for street projects would appreciate the gesture and re-approve the grant later.

Instead, the town staff sent off another letter seeking clarification on whether the town could simply wait another year or two before starting construction on the already approved project.

Last week, a new letter from ADOT suggested the town could, in fact, wait a year or more before starting construction.

So the council happily grabbed the chance not to make a decision and tucked the street improvement project back into limbo, in hopes the economy will recover in the next year.

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