So it looks like Payson will be the first community in the state to actually spend its federal stimulus money – thanks to the marathon efforts of the town staff, spearheaded by Mayor Kenny Evans.
Moreover, adroit grant writing on the town’s part means we can use a small portion of the $10.8-million Blue Ridge pipeline grant to help make the East Verde one of the region’s signature attractions.
The stimulus grant will enable the town to quickly start work on the engineering and impact studies and pipe purchase. It represents about 20 percent of the money handed out for water infrastructure projects statewide. Moreover, the town has won the preliminary award of a $1.8 million grant to use water from the Tonto Apache Tribe’s now moth-balled sewage treatment plant to create a new park and lake near the Event Center. The town might not get the go ahead to start spending that money until next year – which provides material for ironic comment on the government’s ability to do anything fast enough to stimulate the economy, but then, that’s another editorial.
The town is still waiting to hear on some other, long-shot, but possible grants to build a new fire station, upgrade the existing fire station, hire two new firefighters and build a new animal shelter.
But clearly the community already owes a debt of gratitude to the town staff – especially Mayor Evans. He journeyed down to the governor’s office once or twice a week for several months to shepherd the town’s applications through the bewildering stimulus process. He put to work on behalf of the community the personal and political contacts made during his years of influence on state agriculture policy.
In the meantime, the town staff led by Mike Ploughe and Buzz Walker in the water department performed heroic service in preparing an application that ran to 1,500 pages. The town did such a good job of crossing all the necessary t’s (not forgetting to dot the i’s) that at the last minute the governor’s office called and asked the town to apply for an extra $35,000.
Moreover, the town slipped in $200,000 to do some studies on making the East Verde River a “world class” trout stream. That money will underwrite impact studies and some small pilot programs to help create more deep trout pools and riffles along the East Verde – which will also soon benefit from the release of the Salt River Project’s share of Blue Ridge water. Already, both the US Forest Service, the Arizona Department of Fish and Game and the US Fish and Wildlife Service have shown a wonderful flexibility and creativity in considering some ideas to both upgrade and improve that riparian corridor.
We believe that the East Verde River has a vital role to play in the town’s future, which will rely heavily on the money interjected into the local economy by tourists seeking family and outdoor adventures. The Rim communities sit astride some of the best and most accessible streams in the state, including the East Verde and Tonto Creek. Making full use of those precious riparian areas – while also protecting them – will serve us all.
So way to go guys.
Big score on this one.
The Gipper would be proud.