A great-hearted band of community activists has raised $54,000 to provide a safe and supportive place for hard-pressed kids in this community to gather after school.
Now all they have to do is raise another $10,000 to $15,000 to pay various fees to Payson and the Northern Gila County Sanitary District.
Last week, the Payson Town Council thought hard — and on a split vote, reduced its own hefty fees by $1,700.
“It’s a hardship,” said Jim Leubner of the effort by Payson Community Kids to raise enough money to not only remodel a house to serve as an after-school center but to also come up with the cash to pay the various development and street-improvement fees. The former engineering manager for Queen Creek, Leubner retired to Payson a year ago and is now helping the group get its new facility up and running.
Fortunately, the house already has a water line, so it won’t have to pay the town’s $7,500 water impact fee.
The advocates for kids in the community have spent the past year regrouping after the tragic and unexpected death of founder Marcy Rogers, who had offered an after-school refuge for kids in her own home for years.
The group resolved to build on her efforts and have now opened a youth center at 409 S. Tonto St., where children attend after-school programs staffed by volunteers. Some 90 kids have signed up, but only about 35 attend on a regular basis. Currently, the group offers most of its programs outdoors — since they can’t have more than six children in the house at any one time.
The renovations will provide a bigger, more flexible facility.
Providing they can swing the fees.
That includes about $5,000 worth of street improvements, a $5,000 fee to the sanitary district to add two bathrooms, and about $2,300 in permit fees to Payson.
The group had pleaded with the council to waive the permit fees.
Back in the boom days, the council often waived fees for the school district and non-profit groups. The fees are intended to recover most of the town’s staffing costs to review plans and inspect construction.
However, when town revenues collapsed and the council cancelled most street and maintenance projects and resorted to hiring freezes and furloughs, it also became much more reluctant to waive fees, even for worthy causes.
Last week, when the council considered Payson Community Kids’ request, several council members expressed immediate opposition.
“I’m all in favor of helping a nonprofit,” said Councilor Ed Blair. However, he said he felt Payson Community Kids will have to work with the planning commission and the design review board to improve access to the property in a tight space on a narrow street.
Councilor Su Connell said “Payson Community Kids has done a wonderful thing” by saving the program. “However, I cannot support this request,” she added, noting that the town had previously waived another $1,000 fee for the group. “We would be setting a precedent for all the other non-profits. We need to make sure they cover the expenses — so I cannot support this.”
Councilor Rick Croy agreed. “I feel the same way. I cannot support a waiver of fees.”
But Councilor Fred Carpenter disagreed. “I don’t think we’d be setting a precedent,” he said, before moving to approve the request.
Payson Mayor Kenny Evans then intervened. “I’m struggling to see if there’s some way to reach out and waive some of these fees,” he said.
The rest of the council quickly fell into line behind a compromise that would reduce the $4,000 total by $1,744.
They moved quickly to a vote, with only Connell voting against the reduction.