Payson Gives Back Main Street Grant

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A seven-year effort to spruce up Main Street came to an ignominious end Thursday when the Payson council voted unanimously to give back a $300,000 grant for lack of local matching funds.

The council voted to give up the already-awarded grant, but to reapply whenever the town can scrape up the necessary matching money.

Councilor John Wilson said “the intent of the motion is to not let this fall through the cracks.”

But Councilor Mike Vogel observed, “When you say we’ll reapply ‘when money is available’ — that could be 20 years from now.”

The town first applied for a state grant to make a short stretch in the middle of Main Street pedestrian friendly with planters, sidewalks, landscaping and other changes back in 2002.

Happily, the town landed the gas-tax funded state and federal grant. The grant required matching town funds of about $17,000. It also wouldn’t have covered the cost of drawing up some of the plans and extra costs, like moving utilities. Town officials estimated such extra costs could go as high $80,000.

But before the town could draw up plans, the recession forced deep budget cuts.

Advocates for Main Street had pleaded with the council to play for more time.

The final straw was a letter from that committee saying it would look favorably on a future application that might involve a much smaller town match if the town gave up the money now — freeing it up for some other town with matching money. So Thursday night the council swallowed hard, grimaced and put the long-suffering project out of its misery.

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